C. Vernon Eddy

C. Vernon Eddy (1877–1963)

C. Vernon Eddy was the first librarian of Winchester's Handley Library, serving from 1913 until 1959. The Winchester native began his professional career when he ran a printing company with his brother while still in school. The enterprise grew into one of the state's largest publishers until it went bankrupt in 1904. He later moved to Philadelphia and eventually learned the library trade. In 1912 the board of trustees of the new library, built with funds provided by benefactor John Handley named him its librarian. Dealing with a limited budget, Eddy emphasized the acquisition of family papers while creating an accessible atmosphere for patrons. He also became known for cataloging the maps and papers of Jedediah Hotchkiss, a cartographer and topographer for Confederate generals Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Eddy died of heart disease in 1963. MORE...

 

Early Years

Charles Vernon Eddy was born in Winchester on September 13, 1877. He was the son of Florence Alberta "Bertie" Snapp Eddy and James Clarkson Eddy, a millwright who died of tuberculosis in 1888. He and his brother established a printing business in 1892 while students at the Shenandoah Valley Academy, from which Eddy graduated in 1896. He married Katharine Graham Kurtz on March 22, 1905. They had three sons, one of whom died in infancy.

The Eddy Press, as the business was later named, expanded to become one of the state's largest printing operations and included an office in New York, but financial difficulties led to a declaration of bankruptcy in 1904. The company was later sold. Eddy remained with the Eddy Press until about 1907, when he moved with his family to Philadelphia and became an assistant manager of a printing house there.

At the Handley Library

Eddy returned to Winchester in January 1913 to take charge of the Handley Library. The result of an 1895 bequest from John Handley, a Pennsylvania judge, the library was established as a free public institution in the city. After many legal and financial complications the building was completed in 1909, but it was not until June 13, 1912, that the Handley Fund's board of trustees named Eddy as librarian at an annual salary of $1,200.

He spent time studying with John Thomson, head librarian of the Free Library of Philadelphia. As a result of his training, Eddy made the decision to implement open stacks at the Handley Library rather than follow the original plans for closed stacks. His first task as librarian was to order furniture, shelving, and books for the Handley Library, which was formally dedicated on the evening of August 21, 1913. Staff members began issuing library cards and checking out books the next day.

During the library's first four months of operation Eddy reported that the collection held 2,345 books, that 820 cards had been issued, and that there had been 15,445 visits. On the library's twentieth anniversary, in August 1933, he announced that it held about 23,000 books and boasted that there had been more than 1.2 million visits to the library and more than 1 million volumes borrowed during that time.

Throughout his forty-six-year tenure as librarian Eddy kept the library open with a small staff and limited funds. For many years the library's only revenue came from interest derived from the Handley Fund. The city of Winchester began providing some funding in 1929, but did not take over administration of the library until after Eddy's retirement in 1959. As librarian he added two additional glass book-stack levels to accommodate more volumes and ensured that activities, programs, and new books were well publicized. During both world wars he headed up drives to collect books for soldiers. He also served as secretary to the Handley Fund's board of trustees from 1920 to 1960 and as treasurer from 1931 to 1960.

Eddy encouraged the donation of family manuscripts and collections to the library and in 1925 the widow of Holmes Conrad, president of the board of trustees, donated more than 1,500 books and pamphlets from his private collection. The historical reference collection continued to grow, and during the 1970s the Handley established an archives. Eddy may be best known for his work with the maps and papers of Jedediah Hotchkiss, who during the Civil War served as cartographer and topographer for Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

Eddy learned in 1928 that Hotchkiss's papers were located in Staunton and in 1938 began cataloging the maps. Eddy spent the next decade working to ensure that researchers would have access to these invaluable maps and papers. He made many trips and engaged in extensive correspondence with anxious heirs and prospective buyers until the Library of Congress purchased the collection in 1948. Eddy was lauded for his work in making the Hotchkiss maps available to a wider audience, and in gratitude for all of his endeavors the cartographer's granddaughter gave three Hotchkiss maps to the Handley Library.

Eddy advocated increasing the number of libraries in Virginia and he stressed the importance of ensuring that they were child- and youth-friendly to encourage their interest in reading. He supported the work of the segregated branch of the Handley Library for African Americans during its operations from 1921 until it closed in 1955, two years after the Handley was opened to all city residents regardless of race. He served two one-year terms as president of the Virginia Library Association in 1923–1924 and 1938–1939, and he was Virginia's representative on the American Library Association's governing council in 1934–1936 and 1939–1940.

A Freemason since 1899, Eddy held many offices in his local Masonic lodge and was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1937. He was elected secretary of the local Red Cross chapter in 1917 and held that post for more than thirty years. In 1921 he was a founding director of the Winchester Rotary Club, and in 1930 was the founding secretary of the local historical society.

Later Years

Eddy suffered poor health and largely withdrew from public affairs before he died of heart disease in a Winchester nursing home on October 17, 1963. He was buried next to his wife, who had died on March 5, 1953, in the city's Mount Hebron Cemetery.

Time Line

  • September 13, 1877 - C. Vernon Eddy is born in Winchester.
  • 1888 - James C. Eddy, a millwright and the father of C. Vernon Eddy, dies of tuberculosis.
  • 1892 - C. Vernon Eddy and his brother establish a printing business while students at Shenandoah Valley Academy, in Winchester.
  • 1895 - John Handley, a Pennsylvania judge, makes a bequest to establish a free public library in Winchester.
  • 1899 - C. Vernon Eddy becomes a Freemason.
  • 1904 - The Eddy Press, owned by C. Vernon Eddy and his brother, declares bankruptcy.
  • March 22, 1905 - C. Vernon Eddy and Katharine Graham Kurtz marry. They will have three sons.
  • 1907 - C. Vernon Eddy leaves the Eddy Press and moves with his family to Philadelphia, where he becomes an assistant manager of a printing house.
  • 1909 - Construction of the Handley Library, in Winchester, is completed.
  • June 13, 1912 - The board of trustees of the Hadley Fund names C. Vernon Eddy as librarian of the Handley Library, in Winchester.
  • January 1913 - C. Vernon Eddy returns to Winchester to take charge of the Handley Library.
  • August 21, 1913 - The Handley Library is formally dedicated in Winchester.
  • 1917 - C. Vernon Eddy is elected secretary of Winchester's chapter of the Red Cross. He will hold the post for more than thirty years.
  • 1920–1960 - C. Vernon Eddy serves as secretary to the Handley Fund's board of trustees.
  • 1921 - C. Vernon Eddy becomes founding director of the Winchester Rotary Club.
  • 1921–1955 - A blacks-only branch of the Handley Library, in Winchester, is open.
  • 1923–1924 - C. Vernon Eddy serves as president of the Virginia Library Association.
  • 1925 - The widow of Holmes Conrad donates more than 1,500 books and pamphlets from his private collection to the Handley Library, in Winchester.
  • 1928 - C. Vernon Eddy, librarian of the Handley Library, in Winchester, learns that the papers of Jedediah Hotchkiss, a Confederate cartographer, are located in Staunton.
  • 1929 - The city of Winchester begins providing some funding to the Handley Library.
  • 1931–1960 - C. Vernon Eddy serves as treasurer, in addition to secretary, to the Handley Fund's board of trustees.
  • August 1933 - On its twentieth anniversary, the Handley Library reports that it holds about 23,000 books and has had more than 1.2 million visits.
  • 1934–1936 - C. Vernon Eddy serves on the American Library Association's governing council.
  • 1937 - C. Vernon Eddy is elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Virginia.
  • 1938–1939 - C. Vernon Eddy serves as president of the Virginia Library Association.
  • 1938 - C. Vernon Eddy, librarian at the Handley Library, in Winchester, begins cataloging the maps of Jedediah Hotchkiss, a Confederate cartographer.
  • 1939–1940 - C. Vernon Eddy serves on the American Library Association's governing council.
  • 1948 - The Library of Congress purchases the papers of Jedediah Hotchkiss, a Confederate cartographer.
  • 1953 - The Handley Library, in Winchester, opens its doors to all patrons, regardless of race.
  • March 5, 1953 - Katharine Graham Kurtz Eddy, the wife of C. Vernon Eddy, dies.
  • 1959 - C. Vernon Eddy retires as librarian of the Handley Library, in Winchester.
  • October 17, 1963 - C. Vernon Eddy dies of heart disease in a Winchester nursing home.

References

Further Reading
Handley Regional Library: The First One Hundred Years. Winchester, Virginia: Handley Regional Library, 2012.
Quarles, Garland R. John Handley and the Handley Bequests to Winchester, Virginia. 2d ed. Winchester, Virginia: Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, 1998.
Roper, Peter W. Jedediah Hotchkiss: Rebel Mapmaker and Virginia Businessman. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Publishing, 1992.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Ridgeway, T., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. C. Vernon Eddy (1877–1963). (2015, May 28). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Eddy_C_Vernon_1877-1963.

  • MLA Citation:

    Ridgeway, Trish and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "C. Vernon Eddy (1877–1963)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 28 May. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: May 5, 2015 | Last modified: May 28, 2015


Contributed by Trish Ridgeway and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography