Virginia History

John Lee Pratt's Frigidaire

 This sizzling summer seems a fitting season to recall the almost forgotten story of John Lee Pratt and the Frigidaire, one of the first "mechanical" refrigerators.

In 1919 Mr. Pratt, a King George County boy who would become a multi-millionaire and owner of Chatham Manor, was a General Motors engineer.

That same year GM had produced the Frigidaire, one of the first mechanical refrigerators for home use. They were called "mechanical" because some were powered by electricity, others by gas.

Downtown Hotels Abounded in the 19th Century

Today, Fredericksburg ponders the building of a single downtown hotel, but during the 19th century, Fredericksburg was known as a town of hotels.

Some were large and elegant. Some catered to specific clienteles. All left their mark on Fredericksburg’s history.

Most people traveling from Washington to points south stopped over in Fredericksburg. So did those who were on their way to the Virginia springs.

Saturday Night on Pleasure Island "Where the Birds Sing and the Cool Breezes Blow"

There are Fredericksburgers living today who well remember the carnival activity of Scott's Island. Most of those interviewed had difficulty pinpointing the exact dates of its beginning and end; however, judging from a handbill from the 1920s, the emphasis appears to have centered around Saturday night.

William Forrest Halsey: Silent Scenarist of Fredericksburg

Forrest Halsey (who did not utilize the "William" assigned by his parents at his birth in New Jersey on the ninth of November, 1878) was a grandson of John and Martha Whittemore, onetime residents of Fredericksburg's imposing Hanover Street mansion, Federal Hill.

Well-known both in Fredericksburg and in international literary circles during the two decades of 1910-1930, he is to most--like his silent movies--a nearly forgotten shadow.

Fighting for Civil Rights: A Battleground in the Old Dominion

From October through the end of December, 2006, the Fredericksburg Area Museum hosted a traveling exhibit, Civil Rights in Virginia.

Teachers were encouraged to bring middle and high school students to the museum to come face to face with this turbulent time in the state's history. An excellent exhibition curriculum guide, The Story of Virginia: Becoming Equal, is available for educators.

Fit for a Queen: The Legacy of Sidney E. King

Sidney King: "It's a colorful country of ours. I've made it my business to make sure Mr. and Mrs. America get a glimpse of things as they happened." - from James A. Crutchfield 's Tribute to an Artist, the Jamestown Paintings of Sidney E. King

John Adams Elder: Fredericksburg's Artist of the Civil War

Image Courtesy of The Library of Virginia

On October 6, 2007, the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, 907 Princess Anne Street, opened a retrospective exhibit of the paintings of Fredericksburg artist John Adams Elder, "Fredericksburg's Artist of the Civil War."

The retrospective exhibit, the first of Elder's work since 1947, included portraits, landscapes and paintings of the Civil War and Southern life. It was on view until September 7, 2008.

Park Skating Rink

In Fredericksburg, the block on Prince Edward Street south of Hurkamp Park, between George and Hanover streets, is today occupied by large brick mansions.

In 1909, the lot, owned by Judge A.T. Embrey, was vacant until May. A month before, Messrs. Rudasille and Johnson, experienced in the establishment of skating rinks, were in Fredericksburg making preparations for one here.

Gari Melchers: Stafford County's Artist in Residence

In 1916, Gari Melchers, an internationally famous painter, purchased the Belmont estate in Falmouth, Virginia. With the exception of some European travel in the 1920s, he made this his permanent home during the last decades of his life. Area residents and visitors are privileged to be able to visit this gem of a museum which combines a glimpse of the artist's home life as well as a tour of his studio.

General Lewis Littlepage: Soldier, Spy, and King's Confidant, 1762-1802

To the Spaniards, he was known as young Litlpese. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette knew him as the charming Little Peche. In Russia, to Catherine the Great and her favorites, he was the clever and ambitious Litlpaz. The doomed monarch, Stanislas Augustus of Poland, knew him as his loyal Litelpecz. Whatever the name, this often penniless Virginian's brilliant intellect and exquisite manners won him entry into the chambers, gaming tables, and salons of the last decades of Europe's Age of Enlightenment.

The Young and Orphaned Genius