A Collection in
Collection Number Ms2010-045
Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversitySpecial Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Phone: (540) 231-6308
Fax: (540) 231-3694
© 2010 By Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.
Processed by: Julia Viets Special Collections Staff
Collection is open to research.
There are no restrictions.
Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Chapman J. French Diaries, Ms2010-045, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
The Chapman J. French Diaries were purchased in 2009.
The processing, arrangement, and description of the Chapman J. French Diaries were commenced and completed in June, 2010.
Chapman Johnston French was born on August 15, 1880 and died in Troutdale, Virginia on July 6, 1964. His parents were Charles D. (born January 8, 1850) and Annie C. Johnston French (born November 24, 1853 and died in August, 1934).In 1902, he graduated from Virginia Tech and became a civil engineer for Norfolk & Western Railway. He was a dedicated worker, who often spent the weekends in the office and traveled extensively around Virginia and West Virginia for his job. During this time, he lived in Narrows, Virginia with his first wife, Lela Lee Weatherly French. Later, Chapman and his wife moved to Roanoke. After Lela's death, which occurred sometime prior to 1930, Chapman married Mildred Greer and retired in 1950.
Chapman was a member of several organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, Elks, the Knights of Pythias, the Groundhog Club, the National Geographic Society, the Dramatic Order of Knights of Knorassan, the Blue Ridge Game and Fish Association, and the VPI Alumni Association. As a young man, his main interests were dancing, ice-skating, photography, hunting, and listening to baseball on the radio; as he grew older, he became an avid gardener and bridge player. Chapman was close to his parents throughout his life: he often drove them to church. Additionally, he was a frequent visitor of his sister's family and an animal lover who owned various cats and dogs.
This collection consists of twenty-three diaries written by Chapman J. French during the years of 1906-1912, 1928-1935, and 1937-1944. Each diary meticulously details Chapman's day-to-day life, including the weather, work projects, social outings, leisure activities, and travel information. In the back of each diary, there are cost accounts; addresses; major league baseball scores; births, deaths, and marriages lists; Christmas shopping lists; work notes and equations; and recipes, mostly of the alcoholic drink variety. Most diaries commence with a reward offer if the diary is lost, ranging from 50 cents to a dollar.
Some notable diary entries include lyrics to, "Starkle Starkle Little Twink" by Charlie Drake in a 1944 diary and a political advertisement depicting an elephant farting with the words, "Prosperity is in the air The G.O.P. Brand" in a 1932 diary. Although Chapman's journal entries usually relate just the facts of the day, he pens a strong opinion about golf in the back of a 1928 diary: "A useless game that needlessly prolongs the worthless lives of unnecessary citizens." In a 1911 diary, various word puzzles are scattered throughout the entries. In a January 4 entry of the same diary, Chapman writes, "Eat, drink, be merry, seize the present hour, know not the future holds a fairer flower. What is remembered dies, what is written lives. (Guess this won't die)."
This collection is arranged chronologically.
Chapman J. French Papers, 1903-1957, Ms2009-034. Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.