In the spring of 1932, Barrow felt he was prepared enough to start his new business, and left Washington, D.C., for Richmond with $50 and an "old Chevy" borrowed from Sarah, to build his restoration shop in cooperation with the Virginia State Library (Davey 1990). in the librarian's annual report of 1932, McIlwaine described his arrangement with Barrow.
In May of the past year an arrangement was made by me with Mr. W. J. Barrow, an expert in the restoration of dilapidated manuscripts by the silk gauze process and other methods and an expert book binder, according to which he is given space for his work in the archival annex in return for a cheaper rate on such of this repair work and binding work as he may do for the archives division than he charges others, he being allowed to do work for others at any time that the library is open. By this arrangement money is saved to the Library and to the patriotic societies that aid in the "restoration" [quotation marks his] of the manuscripts and transportation dangers are eliminated (Report of the State Librarian 1932, 7).
The State Library furnished Barrow with a tiny room to use as his shop that had served as a closet before his arrival (Davey 1990). "The room in which Mr. Barrow does his work is the small room in which is stored the material collected by the Virginia War History Commission and turned over eventually to the Virginia State Library" (Report of the State Librarian 1932, 7). He moved into this closet with all of his equipment: "paste brushes, glue pots, and a marble slab" (Barrow invents unusual job ).
Barrow's relationship with McIlwaine was important to him. Ruth described them as friends, and she confirmed that Barrow formed similar collegial friendships throughout his life. According to Ruth, he could be described as McIlwaine's protégé: "Bill was very close to him, . . . [because McIlwaine] gave him a chance to try" (R. G. Barrow 1987).
Without an allocated preservation budget McIlwaine created simultaneously a document preservation program at the Virginia State Library and started Barrow upon his lifelong career. Barrow's business arrangement with the State Library survived McIlwaine's death in 1934. Restoration work increased each year, and Barrow's business prospered. in 1935, Wilmer L. Hall, McIlwaine's successor as Virginia State Librarian, reported "'Restored' [quotation marks his] volumes total twenty-four this year as compared with thirteen last year and, although this may be a high point, it is heartening to conclude that the idea of such praiseworthy undertakings is growing. As the processes of 'restoration' are technical and expensive, the work is dependent on the generous provision of those who are interested in the permanent preservation of important early records. This 'restoration' has been done in the best manner by Mr. W. J. Barrow" (Report of the State Librarian 1935, 10).
Apparently, Barrow knew what helped businesses grow. From the time of the establishment of his shop, articles about Barrow and his work appeared regularly in the local newspapers, especially in the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch. These news stories featured descriptions of the records and books he restored in his shop, announcements of his achievements or awards, and later in his career, reports of research findings. Barrow was a social acquaintance of Virginius Dabney, the editor of the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch. Their friendship may have given Barrow more access to the newspaper than he would have otherwise had. Even without the assistance of his acquaintances, Barrow proved to be quite adept at publicizing his work. His career was documented in flattering terms in the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch and in other local and regional newspapers. an example of this publicity appeared in 1940 and included a portrait of him as a book historian. "Let a dusty volume come into his hands and from its pages he revives a past that reads something like this: 'The man who mixed that ink put too much vinegar in it, most likely. Or perhaps there were impurities in the copperas. The sand that dropped out of that book did not come from the seashore: it was put there when sand was used in place of blotting paper. There were impurities in the rags from which that paper was made. Each document has a story'" (Barrow invents . . . ).
Barrow was elected to membership in the Royal Society of Arts, London, in August 1936 (Library Expert Elected Fellow of Art Society, . . . 1936 and William Barrow Made Fellow of Royal Society of Arts; . . . 1936). These memberships were another form of self-promotion. The Royal Society of Arts was formed in the late eighteenth century with two goals: first, to support the arts, including mechanical arts and engineering; and second, to facilitate good relationships between the newly independent United States and England. Early members included Benjamin Franklin, although by 1936 the society appeared to function in Virginia as a social club. Barrow may have learned of this society from Morgan Robinson, Virginia State Archivist, who was a member and who also worked with Barrow at the Virginia State Library (William Barrow Made Fellow of Royal Society of Arts 1936). Honors, memberships, and newspaper articles are good for business; and he actively and successfully pursued this kind of publicity.
Barrow married Ruth Abbott Gibbs on 6 April 1935. She was the daughter of Morris Winston Gibbs, M.D., and Willie Neolia Abbott; she was born 24 December 1912 in Bedford County, near Lynchburg, Virginia, and near Randolph-Macon Academy. Although Ruth did socialize with the boys at the Academy during her teens, she was too young to have met Barrow while he was a student there. Ruth described one of their similarities: "what's funny is that my father was a country doctor too" (R. G. Barrow 1987).
Ruth was a student at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, when her father died. She decided to attend secretarial school in Richmond to learn marketable business skills, and like Barrow, she too left college before graduating. The Virginia State Department of Education employed Ruth immediately following her graduation from secretarial school. She was able to support herself, thus easing the financial burden she felt she had become on her newly impoverished family. Sarah recalled that before they met both Ruth and Barrow were interested in and belonged to many patriotic societies, and they both knew Martha Hiden; Sarah believed Hiden introduced them to each other (Davey 1990).
Barrow's business was his life. Ruth described this by saying, "If you knew him, you knew it." Ruth was therefore involved in the restoration shop from the day she married, but she denied any real knowledge of the business when she stepped in to run it after Barrow's death in 1967 (R. G. Barrow 1987).
Gregory Minnick, their long-time employee and proprietor of the shop after Ruth, said "Mrs. Barrow had the business head in the family". Barrow, according to Minnick, "was always giving away stuff". Minnick believed Ruth was an active participant in the business from the beginning, although she always said she was not (Minnick 1988). One of their twin sons, James Abbott Barrow, described her as a strong-willed, active, outgoing woman who ran the business well, "despite the advice of her sons". the other twin, William Archer Barrow, described Ruth as a "silent partner" because "she worked at home, which allowed him to do his work in the lab" (Ex-president of restoration business dies 1988). The "silent partner" description was certainly not the case, if it ever was, from mid 1930s to early 1940s before the twins were born. From the date of her marriage and for the following decade, Ruth used her business and secretarial skills in the service of the shop. She typed all of Barrow's voluminous correspondence. According to Sarah, Barrow had only two secretaries his entire career and one was a "close family member" (Davey 1990). Ruth therefore was familiar with the shop's business aspects as well as its restoration practices.
Why would Ruth deny participation in what was so large a part of her shared life with her husband? in the society to which the Barrow family belonged, a successful man was one who was the sole support of his family. Women did work outside their homes and did contribute to the support of their families when it was necessary; however, in the ideal situation a wife should be occupied with the care of her family and home, entertaining friends, and volunteering in activities sponsored by patriotic societies. Ruth may have perceived her role in the restoration business as an implied criticism of her husband's ability to support her and the family on his own. in any case, Ruth and Sarah appeared to be embarrassed when describing or denying Ruth's participation in the shop while Barrow was living (R. G. Barrow 1987, Davey 1990).
When Ruth was raising their three sons, she still contributed to the business indirectly as a member in many patriotic societies that supported restoration (Minnick 1988). She was honorary president of the National Society of Daughters of Colonial Wars, former second vice president of the Order of the First Families of Virginia, and former state registrar for the Daughters of the American Revolution. in addition, she was a member of the Colonial Dames of America, National Society of Colonial Daughters of the Seventeenth Century, National Society Daughters of the American Colonists, Order of the Crown in America, and Order of the Daughters of the Barons of Runnymede. She participated in various historical societies, including the Virginia Historical Society, and was a life member of the Jamestowne Society and the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (Ex-president of restoration business dies 1988). Ruth encouraged these groups to bring documents and records to the Barrow Restoration Shop (Minnick 1988).
Sarah tells a story that exemplifies the relationship of Barrow's family to his restoration business: "[Their eldest son] Bernard Gibbs Barrow was born in 1937, the same year as the creation of the laminator. for years, the family joked by puzzling over which was the more important event of 1937" (Davey 1990).
In early 1935, several circumstances forced Barrow to seek a new location for his shop. First, his business had outgrown his closet in the State Library building. Second and more important, the Virginia State Library was to get a new building through the Federal Public Works Program. Barrow probably had an agreement with the State Librarian, Wilmer Hall, to return to larger quarters in five years when the new building would be ready for occupation. Barrow's move was noted in the State Library's Annual Report for 1935: "W. J. Barrow, who had working quarters in the Archives Division, . . . was compelled in May to transfer his work to the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia, . . . larger quarters and better facilities were provided [there] for his increasing work. His removal is felt as a great loss to the library and its staff. Although he is continuing this work in his new quarters, intimate contact with the Archives and Photostat division is lost, and adjustments and special arrangements for the work must be made" (Report of the State Librarian 1935, 10).
Even with the move, Barrow accomplished a great deal of restoration work during 1935: "about 100 volumes have been restored....Most were paid for by gifts from various patriotic organizations including: Daughters of the American Revolution; Colonial Dames; Daughters of 1812; Daughters of the Seventeenth Century; Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities; Daughters of the American Colonists; National Society of the Daughters of the Barons of Runnymede; Daughters of the Founders and Patriots; Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Virginia; Sons of the Revolution in the State of Virginia; Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution" (State Archives Rich in 'Buried Treasure' ).
Hiden, a resident of Newport News, played an integral part in making the arrangements for Barrow's move by securing him a place for his shop in the Mariners Museum. She also facilitated the operation of the shop directly by transporting documents and records between his shop, the patriotic societies, and the State Library (R. G. Barrow 1987). Since the museum was new, its library and archives had unused space. in addition, Mariners wanted his services because from its beginnings it acquired rare books and archives that were in need of conservation. He probably joined into an arrangement of services in exchange for rent with Mariners similar to the one he had the State Library.
The move was not a hardship for Barrow or his restoration business. The technical environment of the Mariners Museum provided him new opportunities to develop his restoration processes, widen his circle of advisors, and advance his career.
Hiden's influence with many prominent citizens meant that she could facilitate desired outcomes with just a word. She brought Barrow's need for temporary shop space to the attention of Homer Lenoir Ferguson, President of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company and President of the Mariners Museum. He had a reputation for hiring local young men of good character from good families, regardless of their qualifications for the job (Evans 1955,150). Ferguson was, probably, positively inclined toward Barrow as much by his family as by his bookbinding and restoration skills. Hiden may have approached Ferguson to suggest that Mariners could use Barrow's restoration services in their rapidly developing library and archives in exchange for space in the new building complex (R G. Barrow 1987, Davey 1990). the original floor plans for the Museum's library included a bookbinder's office. Barrow's shop location though was probably an empty area in the stacks (Trask 1989). Barrow was a welcomed addition to the new museum's staff and flourished there (Sniffen 1989).
Shortly after their marriage in 1935, the Barrows moved to Newport News and settled in a small row house on a narrow street near the shipyards. This housing had been built during World War I for shipyard workers. The neighborhood was modest, but respectable.
Archer Milton Huntington, owner of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, founded the Mariners Museum in part to keep his highly skilled shipbuilders employed during the Depression making models of historic ships for the Museum. in Newport News, Barrow met and worked with manufacturers and engineers who, in addition to influencing his professional activities, were responsible for his reputation as an inventor. Harold S. Sniffen, Curator and Barrow's contemporary at the Museum, reported that Barrow was very well liked, and especially so by the engineers in the model shop. Barrow was a close friend of S. W. Besse who was Chief Shipyard Engineer and Head of the Mariners Museum Model Shop. in addition to Besse, two other engineers who were on leave from the shipyard and temporarily employed at the Museum's Model Shop were James Clark, Engineer, and Donal Gay, Materials and Purchasing Agent. The three engineers designed and built the roller-type lamination machine (Dunlap 1937) that Barrow patented in 1942 (Barrow United States patent number 2,301,996) as part of his restoration process. They accompanied him on some of his trips to Washington, D. C. to consult with paper chemists at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). They built machines to test paper characteristics, like those used at the NBS, which he used to develop his system of lamination and his earliest exploration into the nature of paper characteristics (Sniffen 1989). The four friends met every week for a poker night (Besse ). The friendship between Barrow and these three shipyard engineers tapered off and ended when Barrow moved back to Richmond and preparations for war drew the engineers back one by one to the shipyard (Model shop discontinued . . . 1950, 255).
The Barrow family, including 3-year old Bernard, moved back to Richmond in 1940 when the new State Library building was completed. Ruth remembered that "We lived [in Newport News] about five years....Dr. Hall asked if he would come back and what kind of space he wanted....They gave [the space he requested] to him" (R. G. Barrow 1987).
The new workroom room included another closet that Barrow was to use as his research laboratory for the next twenty years. He filled his new space with bench-height tables, arranged alongside his prototype model of the laminator, and along one wall he installed small but deep sinks for washing and chemically treating documents (see Chapter 10). a wall of windows let in natural light and heat. There was no air conditioning or even cross ventilation in the room. He put up a wall-sized map of the world that completely covered the wall closest to a small desk that he shared with his secretary. The Barrow Restoration Shop, under various managers, remained in the space behind the Archives Reading Room, unchanged from the way he left it until the late 1980s.
Barrow was described as completely dedicated to his work. This dedication affected his family in both trivial and serious ways. Ruth was expected to entertain business associates when they visited him in Richmond. He invited almost everyone he met at NBS and the Government Printing Office (GPO) as well as many of his customers, potential customers, and the merely curious. "People would come in to see him and he'd call me and say, at the last minute, 'I'm bringing someone home for dinner.' There I was with three children and this little bitty place. I had two sets of slipcovers for this furniture. Bill would call me and say someone's coming and I'd rush in and take the dirty ones off and put the clean ones on. I had to do something like that. Because you never knew when it would happen and I always had to have something [for dinner] I could prepare right quick" (R. G. Barrow 1987).
She was often alone with their sons while Barrow spent almost all his time on various aspects of his work. Ruth remembers that he spent most of his evenings and weekends reading about paper, ink, and chemistry (R. G. Barrow 1987). Their son, William, recalls growing up with a father too busy have much time for the family and his own frustration when he wanted to go fishing or spend time with his father (W. A. Barrow 1987).
Barrow was interested in doing research throughout his life. He stated his ideas on the value of research in a review of a NBS research report. "Test data . . . should be of considerable interest to those engaged in the repair and restoration of records and if possible [tests] should be carried further" (Barrow "Review of 'Protection of documents with cellulose acetate sheeting'" ).
A newspaper article reported that he spent "about 10% of his income each year upon research". The result of Barrow's creative approach was his invention of a chute to bring the laminated documents around to the front of the machine again, thus saving him steps. "The engineers said the plan wasn't feasible, but he proved to them it was". Barrow wanted to make other improvements to the equipment, because "'It isn't perfect yet, and I'm glad it isn't, if it were, I'd lost interest in it'....He also cited the sources of his scientific knowledge. Not all the credit for his rise from the ranks of the unemployed does he take upon himself. Much of it he apportions to Dr. McIlwaine, to the NBS, to the Mariners Museum, and to engineer friends who helped him by supplying both advice and criticism" (Barrow invents unusual . . . ). Barrow apparently neglected to continue to cite these sources, as will be made clear in chapters 7 through 10.
Sarah characterized Barrow's career as starting out slowly with old books, and then really moving along when he started his work on paper (Davey 1990). Between 1935 when he left Richmond and 1940 when he returned, Barrow had turned from bookbinding to an active professional interest in paper. He, himself, also changed dramatically. He moved from being a document restorer who practiced traditional conservation techniques to repair existing damage to a self styled researcher who worked not only to repair but also to prevent damage. His close association with engineers of the Mariners Museum helped to bring about his transformation. His years in Newport News are important to an accurate interpretation of Barrow's lifelong achievement.
The sources of knowledge and practice in conservation and in paper chemistry that Barrow used will be detailed in the next two chapters.
Timestamp: Sunday, 23-Nov-2008 15:20:18 PST
Retrieved: Thursday, 23-May-2013 20:14:56 GMT