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Staunton newspaper history featured at R.R.Smith Center

newspaperWHO: The Augusta County Historical Society
WHAT: Exhibit opening, reception, book signing, and lecture
WHEN: Thursday, January 23 at 6-8 p.m.
WHERE: R.R. Smith Center for History and Art, 20 South New Street, Staunton in the
CONTACTS: Katharine L. Brown, exhibit curator, 540-886-5979
History Gallery and the Lecture Hall: Nancy T. Sorrells, ACHS president, 540-292-4170

The Augusta County Historical Society launches an exhibit, a lecture, and a book signing at the Smith Center on Thursday, January 23 to celebrate the history of newspapers in this community.

A reception begins at 6 p.m. in the history gallery at the Smith Center, 20 South New Street, to open the exhibit and launch the latest book the historical society has published.

The lecture, which begins at 7 p.m., focuses on the life and career of Kenton Harper, founder and longtime editor and publisher of the Staunton Spectator and General Advertiser. The Spectator was the principal newspaper in Staunton for most of the 19th century. The speaker is Thomas Tabb Jeffries, III, of Stevensville, Maryland, author of the biography, Kenton Harper: Editor, Citizen, Soldier. The historical society is publishing the Harper biography with the assistance of a grant from the Gannett Foundation, a part of the parent company that publishes The Daily News Leader, and with contributions from Exxon/Mobil and other donors.

Jeffries will be available to autograph copies of the Harper biography at the reception and after the talk. The 468-page hardback book is well illustrated with photographs and maps, and tells the life of Harper, one of Staunton and Augusta County’s leading citizens. In addition to founding and editing the paper, Harper served on the board of Staunton Academy, was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, led the Augusta County troops who served in the Mexican War, was appointed agent to the Chickasaw nation by Secretary of the Interior A.H.H. Stuart, and became a general in the Civil War, serving under Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

The exhibit not only features Harper and his role in Staunton newspapers, but looks at the history of newspapers in Virginia and especially in Staunton. Examples of early newspapers in the state and in the community are featured, as well as artifacts on loan from The Daily News Leader from the days of hand-set type.

This is the first public event of the year-long celebration of the Golden Anniversary of the Augusta County Historical Society, which was founded in 1964. The public is welcome to the reception, exhibit, and book signing free of charge. Members of the society may attend the lecture free and there is a modest fee for non-members.

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