Posts tagged ‘research’

Doing Some Hardcore Research at UVa.

Last Thursday, I was flipping through a few of my sources looking for more tasty tidbits to include in my time line when I stumbled across a footnote in H.S. Randall’s biography of TJ that pointed to a memoir written by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. This had instantaneously sparked my curiosity, as TJ Randolph was to some extent raised by ol’ grandpa TJ back in the day.

So I had set off to Google books to find a copy  of this work, but to no avail. I then tried various other means to see if it might be in print somewhere, but again no such luck. Was it just me? Was there something that I was missing? I referred back to the endnote, and sure enough it was not a published book but a manuscript deep within the Special Collections library at the University of Virginia. Awesome. Since I had made this discovery fairly late in the day on Thursday, my research had to be put on hold until Monday.

Monday began with a surge of excitement, as I absolutely LOVE going to the special collections section of libraries. I love everything about it – I love the strict procedures for viewing materials, the musty, finely aged smell of the old documents, and that feeling of scholarly officialness when I’m doing my research in these places. It just feels awesome.

As soon as I had checked in, made my requests, and sat down in the chair closest to the bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Awesome! 🙂 ), the friendly librarian brought me my first box of documents to have a look at. As I was leafing through, I couldn’t help but read what TJR had written as a fragmented book of hilariously awesome and sometimes random anecdotes. One story that had caught my eye in particular was the one about the Bishop James Madison (president of William and Mary College, and cousin to the US President, I think) not being able to receive Thomas Jefferson in Staunton at some point, so Bishop Madison’s father received him instead and apparently there were a few others at the place engaged in a heated round of cards in one of the rooms. While those people were playing, the Bishop’s father walked around the room while very discretely leaving a trail of black powder behind him. No sooner than when TJ  and the father left the room that someone inside had said something about sinning and hell, and the father lit the trail on fire with all of the now very alarmed card players  surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke and fire. I found that both hilarious but also very dangerous at the same time, as building fires were a huge problem back in those days.

After I had finished up at UVa,  I unfortunately had to leave immediately due to parking in the Central garage and not having enough cash on hand to stay for another hour to explore the grounds. So I don’t have any good photos of campus to post here just yet, but perhaps I will return before I leave for Massachusetts next week to see the Rotunda and the academic village. However, I am happy to say that I had a good time at UVa and gathered many tasty tidbits to include in my essay, which was pretty awesome since my last visit to a Special Collections yielded nothing that wasn’t available to me via databases already. スゴイ!

Picture of the Day:

Ah! A cute lil cicada outside my window this morning.

Ah! A cute lil' cicada outside my window this morning.


July 28, 2009 at 11:00 am 1 comment

The Totally Elusive Joseph W. Ballard. And Lizards.

Today has been quite the day. I dove in head first into my research today, and unearthed even more info on the legal foundations of UVa. Today I was drawn into the bill passed on January 25, 1819 that transformed the “Central College” of Virginia into it’s flagship state university. It was very interesting to read that it’s passage went through nearly unscathed – as only one amendment was proposed by a Senator Johnson (who also was on the bill’s committee) but NOT passed. The final vote in the Virginia State Senate nearly went off without a hitch as well – but in the final result of 22 Yays and 1 Nay, I wanted to find out who the jerk was that had opposed the bill, and on what grounds. With such a smooth, amazingly written bill (which I think TJ may have penned and his good friend Senator Cabell introduced to the floor) on their hands, and  with it sailing through passage almost flawlessly, why would someone stand up and be the only person to object to it?

Turns out the name of the single-nay bandit was recorded just below the vote in the 1819 Journal of the Virginia Senate – and it was one Senator Joseph W. Ballard, of Isle of Wight county. Grrr.

Now, I had COMBED over Google  and Wikipedia  several times before I realized that not every Virginia State Senator had info readily available about them. Boo. So I headed to the databases, and flipped through nearly every single book on Virginia historical figures that I (and with the databases Eric helped me out as well) could find in the stacks, but to no avail. The only few things that I did find were a few pages which mentioned his heroic fighting in the War of 1812, a PDF of a letter to The American Farmer magazine that he had written so that a “Mr Skinner” could rid his pigs of “vermin”, a few various announcements of signing up your stock with him to help dig  a canal,  some pages from his family bible,  and also an announcement sometime in the 1830’s from a newspaper’s classifieds stating that he had a letter waiting for him at the Macon, Georgia post office. All of these things collectively seem very entertaining and eclectic, but at that point it was getting down right frustrating.  Until some cute little booger (the subject of our Pictures of the Day) caught the corner of my eye.

Pictures of the Day:

The little booger! A cute juvenile striped skink scurried across the floor of the Library to provide comic relief as I was getting frustrated with my work.

The little booger! A cute juvenile striped skink scurried across the floor of the Library to provide comic relief as I was getting frustrated with my work.

It took me about 20 minutes of gentle wrangling and braving the big, hairy, and dead spiders underneath a desk to capture "Lil' Booger" in this trashcan. I then took him outside, where I picked him up and he promptly bit me before scurrying off.

It took me about 20 minutes of gentle wrangling and braving the big, hairy, and dead spiders underneath a desk to capture "Lil' Booger" in this trashcan. I then took him outside, where I picked him up and he promptly bit me before scurrying off.

July 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm 1 comment

Happy Belated Independence Day.

Independence Day weekend was pretty awesome. I didn’t attend any fireworks displays or anything (but I did accidently sleep in for the naturalization ceremony at Monticello 😦 ), but I still had a pretty good weekend.

Saturday I finally was able to sleep in little (but also slightly to my dismay since I missed the ceremony) and did some minor grocery shopping for sushi-making supplies. I got A TON of housework done as well – namely laundry and spiffing up my otherwise disgustingly messy room.  I also put my sushi-making skills (and freshly bought supplies!) to good use by making 4 rolls (each yielding about 7-8 pieces, from my estimate) of it and sending most of it off with my housemates to a cookout. It was a very productive day.

Sunday was pretty boring, so I won’t go there.

Today so far has been pretty good. I had accidentally stayed up too late last night, so I slept in a little this morning and came to the Library around noon. I’ve been working mostly on completing the details of my thesis outline and answering a good portion of the questions that I had posed on it with tidbits from Jefferson’s letters and legislative writings. So far so good, as most of these are all in print or PDF format. Sweeet. 🙂

I haven’t really been getting as much research work done as I’d like to lately, but I’m sure that it’s alright just for today. I plan on pulling up my bootstraps and getting a lot done tomorrow, as I’ll be in at the usual time of 9 AM to begin my days studies. Apart from the lag in work output lately, overall I feel as though I’m doing quite well. I’ve gotten a lot done – I’ve taken A TON of notes, read a bajillion books and articles on the subject matter, and have spent a lot of time and effort crafting an outline and bibliography for my final essay. I’m hoping that everything will turn out just fine and that I finish the essay just before the fall semester starts. So we’ll see.

Nothing else too interesting to report, so that’s all for now, more to come later!

July 6, 2009 at 4:27 pm 2 comments

Thomas Jefferson: Forgotten Legislator

Today has been pretty fascinating. Building off of what I had unearthed yesterday in a letter to TJ from Samuel Stanhope Smith in the second volume of the former’s papers, I had, I guess, re-discovered for myself that somewhere in the ginormous list of TJ’s life accomplishments that he once wrote a few bills for revamping the educational system of Virginia. I’m not sure that this tidbit in particular is part of the grade school history curriculum nowadays (or even in my day, some 15 years ago for that matter) but after I had realized this, a certain feeling of “Wow, how could you NOT know this?” came over me like a tsunami. I mean, I had worked pretty hard last semester on an entire presentation that speculated what TJ might have thought about the recent economic stimulus package (and going as far as to bring in copies of two of the bills from the Senate Printing Office to show the class just how big and nasty those puppies were at 400+ pages a pop) , and for me NOT to have remembered that he wrote some of his own legislation dealing with some economic matters in his day just kind of made me feel like there was egg all over my face.

However, this metaphorical (?) egg was quickly mopped up from my forehead as I had the victory of FINALLY stumbling across the text of his bill on revamping the College of William and Mary into a university (and also a few bits on revenue for the College). The endnotes to Mr. Smith’s letter pointed me to TJ’s Bill no. 79 in the appendix, so I quickly flipped a few hundred pages  to that bill first. This bill does allude to William and Mary becoming a university in an outline of the proposed educational system’s structure, however, no where in the text is the word “university” used. Nor does it mention other goodies such as making the College non-denominal or revamping the board of visitors as I had read that it did in other materials. Crap.

So after huffing about not finding any pot ‘o golden information at the end of that rainbow, my eyes suddenly darted to the next bill – no. 80, which is titled “A Bill for Amending the Constitution  of the College of William and Mary, and Substituting More Certain Revenues for Its Support”.  DING DING DING! I knew I had a winner, but I also felt like a total idiot for not noticing it earlier. Honestly, how can several modern scholarly articles mention one “act” or “bill”, all heralding about the same magic content, and then somehow I can’t find it? Wow. Don’t get me wrong though – I’m ecstatic that I did find it, but just a little disappointed that it was in a roundabout way.  I guess we all have our off days though. 😛

So I had finally found my pot o’ gold, and I’m currently pouring over it and gobbling up all of the glittering details. One thing that I’ve noticed is that TJ’s bills are almost like legislative poetry, giving the reader a synopsis of the College’s history and the major figures involved before getting to his point –

“And, whereas the experience of near an hundred years hath proved, that the said College, thus amply endowed by the public, hath not answered their expectations…”

OH SNAP! There he abruptly ends the serene poetry and throws down the gauntlet right in the College’s face for all of the state to read (well, had the printer actually printed and distributed the bill like he was supposed to, but that’s a different story). It is especially tasty to have read that considering that the governance of the College (the board of visitors, the rector, president, trustees?, even the archbishop of London, etc. etc.) had done almost nothing but bicker at each other since the first president, James Blair, had left; and since then there was A LOT of chaos and student (and sometimes even faculty) rioting that had been going on at the College even while TJ was studying there.

Thus, it has been speculated, based on what TJ has said in his Autobiography and in his letters (I currently have a migraine and thus can’t think of any specific letters in particular at the moment, but may come back to fix it later), that a good part of the reason he wanted to revamp William and Mary was because he had so much distaste for the chaos that had occured there in his day. Delicious.

Pictures of the Day (a twofah! :)) –

Today was a pretty rainy, stormy day.

Today was a pretty rainy, stormy day.

This cute lil' booger attacked my leg today when I was putting his bed to proper DDR usage.

This cute lil' booger attacked my leg today when I was putting his "bed" to proper DDR usage.

July 1, 2009 at 4:16 pm 2 comments

Thar Be Thesis Gold!

Yesterday went pretty well at the library. I didn’t do a whole lot of work (perhaps a case of the Mondays?), but I did strike gold with my thesis, as it was Anna-approved. 🙂

Today has been the day of work, as I’m currently plowing through the indices and volumes of the Thomas Jefferson Papers to get some good quality primary source material for my eventual, massively awesome documented essay. It feels pretty good to get back to the nitty gritty of historical research after my semi-vacation with Scott last week (I did take Thursday off, after all! :P).  So we’ll see how this progresses.

I don’t really have much to report today in terms of tasty tidbits (I really should copyright the phrase). But there has been some nasty grass pollen floating around in the Charlottesville atmosphere lately that has my sinuses all ‘a hurting and my arms (for whatever reason) all ‘a itching. Boo. It’s nothing a little Claritin can’t fix though.

That’s all for now, more to come later!

P.S. – I know that some of my readers come here for the Picture of the Day, and that I have been slacking in that area. I just haven’t had any good photos lately, but I will make up for it soon. There is just only so much of cute Charlie photos that one (even I) can take! 😛


June 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

Still Buzzing.

As has been the norm for the past week or so, I’ve been very, very busy with my research and working at the bookstore. Things are still going quite well, even in light of some confusion on my part last week. While I was studying the people in TJ’s life during his schooling years, I realized with some fear that I hadn’t even developed a thesis for my essay yet! So I sat down with Anna and discussed where I was heading with the project and what needed to be done. I recieved some very valuable (albeit I’ll admit a little confusing) input from her and an ICJS research fellow, and it helped calm me down a bit.

I also called Scott with my concerns as well, and he informed me that I just needed to sit back, relax, and start cracking open more books. Which is basically what Anna and the research fellow had said, but when I was talking it all over with them my head was spinning in 50 different directions of “oh s***” and I had to struggle to pay attention.

Anyways, what I also had learned from the experience was that one must do A TON of background reading on their subject before they can even think of crafting a thesis on their own. I was embarassed to admit that in trying too hard but also taking the matter too lightly I had just expected that a thesis would just pop up out of nowhere and fast. I realized that if I was going to create a stellar essay on (in my opinion) an understudied facet of Jefferson’s life, that I needed to get my act together and start plowing through the book that Professor Miller had lent me (if you’re reading this, thank you so much – it’s been a massive help! :)) and also through the several books that I had checked out of the library.  So this is most of the reason that I’ve been so busy lately, with the other being that I fell waaay behind in my Kanji studies, so that’s been eating a massive chunk of my free time as well.

As for the weekend, I worked at the bookstore and then picked Scott up at the Richmond airport late Saturday night. He is visiting me (yay! :)) for pretty much the entire week, and thus far it’s been fabulous having him around. He is a large wealth of knowledge and fun, as well as a great source of comfort. I’m hoping to do some minor historial sightseeing while he is around, so hopefully I’ll be able to drag him either up to TJ’s place on the mountaintop for a while or to James Madison’s Montpelier for a poke around to see all the new and exciting renovations that have been put in place since the last time I had been there two years ago. Back then the house was stripped down to its colonial skivvies – nothing but the original brick and old wooden framework on the inside, so it’ll be exciting to see the house finally restored to what it may have been like when Mr. and Mrs. Madison were living there.

Onward to today, things have been running smoothly as per usual, with the minor side task of trying to wake Scott up, at his request, at 8 AM (no doubt he has fallen back asleep by now, kid’s a heavy sleeper). I myself am currently at the library, digging through the interesting find of a book on Mr. Jefferson written by one David Saville Muzzey. I somehow was fortunate enough some years ago to have obtained a 1911 copy of his infamous textbook American History as a gift from my mom, after my copy of James P. Boyd’s 1888 Political History of the United States was ruined. Muzzey’s book  apparently is well-known in educational circles as “the book” that defined how American history is percieved by the masses in general today. From what I’ve read it had been used as a standard textbook up until the 1940’s. There is a decent blurb here about the book.  Given the apparent patriotic and intellectual idol worship nature of Muzzey’s writing in that volume (and fascinating lack of political correctness, as one passage compares the Native American to “the Mississippi negro” who “loved to bask idly in the sun” [Muzzey, pg. 20, available on Google Books]), I’m not too keen just yet on citing his work on Jefferson. But it seems to be decently written thus far, minus the complete omission of foot- or end-note documentation. Hmm. We’ll see.

Pictures of the Day (As promised, a two-fah):

Ah, the relaxing view from... my parking spot. :)

Ah, the relaxing view from... my parking spot. 🙂

Majestic Charlie.

Glowing Charlie.

June 22, 2009 at 12:12 pm 1 comment

Learning About Jefferson’s Musical Passions and a Blurb about Sunday.

Once again, I have most unfortunately fallen behind a day in keeping my daily blog. I’ve been super, super busy lately with many, many things, so I haven’t had much time at night lately to write anything up. But we will get to that later.


Sunday was a pretty good day. Nothing much of note happened, except that my other housemate Jenna had finally settled in to join myself and Megan. She also brought her adorable and sweet puppy Lady, much to Charlie’s chagrin.


Everything started fantastic as usual, I started my morning routine and made it to the Library (which now I have a habit of calling it “work” even though it’s a super fun internship) on time. I continued my studies of Jefferson’s life at William and Mary by taking more notes from the first volume of the Marie Kimball set. I would also like to note that  Anna was dead on in stating on the Library’s blog that “Kimball’s research [was] assiduously documented”, as I’ve been very busy lately in hunting down the sources of the letters and other works that the author has cited. Not that I’m complaining, I’ve come to find that “chasing information”, or as Anna put it – “gathering pearls”, is definitely my cup of tea. I love it. 🙂

In my note-taking time, I also learned a little bit about Jefferson and his passion for music. Apparently he loved the popular European works and was very disappointed in the colonies’ lackthereof, as he states to a French friend in a letter dated June 8th, 1778:

If there is a gratification which I envy any people in this world, it is your country and its music. This is a favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism” (letter cited in Kimball, pg 54. Also cited in the first Randall volume, pg 132).

This is very interesting to keep in mind while reading through Kimball’s well-documented portrait of Jefferson’s musical interests. I had some idea beforehand that Jefferson had played the violin at some point, but I had no idea that he had owned quite a large chunk of music over the course of his life, some even copies in his own handwriting. It is also sad to note, however, that when one of his great-granddaughters had possession of these handwritten copies, a servant boy had tossed a good portion of them into a hearthfire instead of the old newspapers that he was given for that purpose (Kimball, pg 59). This is just one of the many infuriating injustices done to TJ’s papers, but thats another blog entry.

I don’t have a Picture of the Day for today or yesterday, so that means that tomorrow must be an unprecedented Three-fer!

June 8, 2009 at 10:37 pm 1 comment

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