Preface to the Second Printing

We have taken advantage of this new printing of The Virginia Guide to include appendices of 1940 population figures, recent changes in highway routes and numbers, a list of radio stations with the latest frequency allocations, and an enlarged index, which has discarded the topical plan used in the first printing. Minor errors that, in a book dealing with many minutiae, were inevitably discovered by our staff and by specialists in various fields of Virginia history, have been carefully assembled for the second edition, which we hope will be published in the not too distant future.


As The Virginia Guide is about to be transformed into a book through the alchemy of printer's ink, the staff of the Virginia Writers' Project finds an alloy in its pleasure. We are thinking not so much of what has gone into the book as of all that was necessarily omitted. Compressing the story of Virginia within the covers of one volume was a painful task--particularly for the State supervisor, whose duty it became to delete more words than she allowed to remain. As first written, the Guide was perhaps four times its present length and then, according to the judgment of some of our staff, not long enough to do justice to our country's oldest commonwealth. Through amputations gradually and torturously performed, the book was reduced to meet the publishers' practical demands. We hope we have said much in few words. To those Virginians, however, who are saddened by our omissions, we promise to make the reserved material available in other books. The deleted passages are not dead; they merely sleep in files carefully guarded by Pauline Davis.

The Virginia Guide is the result of many people's efforts. A collaboration it certainly is; a mosaic we hope it will appear, with its component parts so fitted together as to present an accurate picture of our State's yesterday and today. This book was begun in April 1937 and finished three years later. Parts of the essay section were contributed by generous specialists; the city and highway sections, however, are wholly the products of workers on the Virginia Writers' Project. Men and women in the field gathered data that were sent to the office in Richmond and carefully checked and amplified by a dozen or more workers in the State Library. After the material had been assembled and the points of interest listed with their approximate locations, workers traveled along the highways and byways and visited every city, town, and hamlet, checking mileages, taking notes on the contemporary scene, and gathering stories unavailable in histories or musty records. All the writing was done in the Richmond office, and in its final form represents the craftsmanship of five writers, with the state supervisor as co-ordinator.

No manuscript that went into the making of the book--no highway tour, no essay, no city, description--is in its entirety the work of one person, for within the office we developed experts who through emphasis upon their special fields became as useful to the co-ordinator as they were sometimes annoying. John Sherwood Widdicombe, a graduate of the University of Virginia and of Oxford and a student of architecture, wrote the descriptions of all our important houses; H.Ragland Eubank, a graduate of the College of William and Mary, made us toe the mark of historical accuracy; and Frank A. Browning contributed all that the Guide has to say about battlefields, wars, and rumors of wars and much more that can be exhumed from the files for a military history of Virginia. Fortunately, Fillmore Norfleet, having a law degree and a doctor's degree in French, having taught languages, having worked upon biographies, and failing--though a native Virginian--to take his State too seriously, frequently brought his cynical pedagogism to the aid of the harassed supervisor. Likewise, Ann Heaton--still more Irish than Virginian--refrained from specialization and injected color of sorts into the tours she touched with her Hibernian hand. The essay on the Negro and Negro sections of several other essays are the work of Roscoe E. Lewis, of Hampton Institute and the staff of the Virginia Writers' Project.

Altogether we have become authorities on Virginia history--not infallible perhaps, yet capable of blasting many an error and tradition oftrepeated by our forerunners. Whatever of untruth our specialists have allowed to remain in the telling of Virginia's story, we hope to correct in subsequent editions of The Virginia Guide, for in a book filled with the minutiae of history we have surely been guilty of minor errors here and there.

The essays in their final form are largely the work of the editorial staff. Those contributed by experts in their several fields were of necessity cut and adapted to the requirements of the book. For Agriculture and Farm Life we are indebted to Wilson Gee, Director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences at the University of Virginia; for Industry, Commerce, and Labor to George Talmage Starnes, associate Professor of Commerce and Business Administration at the University of Virginia; for The Theater to Helen Clarke, Business Manager, Richmond Theatre Guild; for Natural Setting to Arthur Bevan, State Geologist, C.O.Handley, Leader Virginia Co-operative Wildlife Research Unit in the United States Department of Agriculture, and R.J.Holden, Professor of Geology; for Architecture to H.I.Brock of The New York Times; for material on social life and racial elements incorporated in History to Thomas P. Abernethy, associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia, and Richard Lee Morton, Professor of History at the College of William and Mary; and for source material used in Transportation to John B. Mordecai, Traffic Manager for the Richmond ' Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad. We are grateful also to Fiske Kimball and Eugene Bradbury, who checked many architectural descriptions.

Members of the advisory committee appointed by our sponsor, Governor James H. Price, gallantly read and constructively criticized the manuscript of the book, which was parceled out to them in sections. So we extend our gratitude and the Governor's to Wilmer Hall, State Librarian; H.J.Eckenrode, Director of the Division of History and Archaeology for the Virginia Conservation Commission; Sidney B. Hall, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction; Blake Tyler Newton, division Superintendent of Schools, Westmoreland and Richmond Counties and Member State Board of Education; E.G.Swem, Librarian of the College of William and Mary and author of Swem's Index; and F.B.Kegley, historian of Southwest Virginia. This heroic committee read carbon copies on onion skin paper and sent to us no complaint.

Virginians must have wanted a book that tells the story of Virginia, where dramatic episodes of history were enacted, for people all over the State were quick to respond to our requests for co-operation. State departments opened to us their doors and their files. Though we must have annoyed the Highway Department no end, daily using their graphs and getting up-to-date information on new routing and surfacing of roads, the officials continued agreeably helpful. Draftsmen from the department prepared two maps used in the Guide. The State Library, that happy hunting ground of historians and genealogists, never lost patience with our painstaking research workers. The Conservation Commission gave us facts and pictures and always a hearty welcome. The National Park Service drew base maps for us and gave us much battlefield information. The State Chamber of Commerce and chambers in Virginia cities were unstinting in their co-operation; local historians everywhere answered our queries and checked our manuscripts; houses were opened to us, and we were given pictures or allowed to take them. We are sorry that it is not possible to make our gratitude more specific.

Withal, we have tried to write without bias of a Virginia that worked for democracy through Colonial years, whose statesmen led the fight for freedom from British autocracy and for the establishment of a republic, of a Virginia that lost its leadership in 1825 and in subsequent years has striven to regain a place among the commonwealths, of a Virginia that passed through its commemorative era and seems about to launch upon new accomplishment. We welcome the traveler to our shrines, and we shall always share with him our spoonbread, Smithfield ham, Brunswick stew, peanuts, and tobacco if he will but listen to the tales we like to tell of our worthy ancestors. In our book we have striven to record the exploits not only of those 'not born to die,' but also of those 'to fortune and to fame unknown,' who but for us would not have escaped undeserved oblivion.

Eudora Ramsay Richardson
State Supervisor