Of historical anniversaries noted large and small, what follows is of the second type and left unremarked, if not here within this very blog. Last Friday was the one hundredth birthday of the first issue of the Princess Anne Times, not a delicate imprint of royal society from a tiny office tucked within Windsor Castle, but a record of life from the southeastern corner of Virginia.
Thirty-three of the 95 counties of Virginia possess a name of royal origin, but Princess Anne is no longer among them. The county disappeared from the map in 1963, closing a 272-year history when it was incorporated into the much larger independent city of Virginia Beach. The chance observation of the newspaper’s birthday suggested an additional incentive to announce its arrival a few weeks ago to Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper archive managed by the Virginia Newspaper Project.
To the person who turns his back to the Atlantic and faces west from the Virginia Beach boardwalk and wonders, “How did this happen?”, the Times offers propitious clues. The current population of Virginia Beach stands near 450,000, making it the state’s most populous city. The reader of the Times in May of 1915 shared residency with about 438,000 fewer. Here’s the complete front page for that first issue (with a stage direction to the far left column).
And now here’s a portion of the lead editorial, page 2. Note at the bottom, the anticipated entry of enormous Federal expenditure–“monster guns etc.”– a springboard to prosperity.
They assigned themselves a mission and it was propelling this county forward economically at nothing resembling a leisurely pace. Why then should the newspaper diminish the gusto by channeling energy to political advocacy? The editor said as much in the finish of that first editorial:
As to his support on behalf “of healthy, independent thought…those who are struggling for light and culture”, this editorial policy extended in a few months to a W. W. Cason to whom space was granted to advertise his “card” announcing his participation in the Democratic primary for County Treasurer:
Populations grow, landscapes alter and so, thankfully, do modalities of “light and culture.” The jolly candidate continues his storytelling for another half page in the same boasting, brutal manner. Curiosity compelled the discovery of the race’s winner. He lost by a 2-to-1 margin, 829 to 368 votes. Regretfully, this result was not pursued in our archive of the Times but in the microfilm record of the neighboring Virginian-Pilot and The Norfolk Landmark. At this juncture in July of 1915, our holding of the Times becomes spotty. Then, there are no issues from 1916, meaning zip, and only teasing reappearances in the latter half of 1917 and the January following. It is gratifying to have anything at all of the Times to introduce to Virginia Chronicle but still, it always stings not have that final issue. In both papers from that January of 1918, you see the following:
Not generally something that can be categorized as a good sign.
It’s unusual that a weekly as the Times finds itself publishing in such close proximity (14 miles) to a vigorous daily like the above-mentioned Pilot and Landmark. That’s a powerful sponge for local advertising revenue. And that makes for less-than-fortunate company for a newspaper whose commercial base, the beach, was only a partially realized draft. The Cavalier Hotel, for example, was nine years in the future.
For the Princess Anne Times however, the future was exhausted. Sometime in 1918 the final issue was published. The exact date of that departure eludes us. Intriguingly, the next year, our reference (Lester Cappon’s Virginia Newspapers, 1821-1935) informs, another Times makes an appearance in Virginia Beach. It has no affiliation we know of to the newspaper discussed here. The exact date of its demise in 1924 is unknown as well. Then in 1925, the Virginia Beach News publishes and establishes a residency for decades to come. If the residency should occur in Virginia Chronicle in a digitized form one day, you will read of it here.
An ad for a soft drink with which we were previously unfamiliar caught our eye in an issue of the Princess Anne Times of 1915:
What was this? Care to purchase a case for a church group picnic? A Satanet (The Drink with a Wink) Google search sent us by circuitous route back to ourselves, a kind of archival loop showing a link to the Virginia Chronicle/Library of Virginia catalog of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It seems they knew a guy, a Spiderman in a business suit (see the bottom of page 5).