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Nicholson family papers

Identifier: SCL-MS-12533

Consisting chiefly correspondence between members of the J.C. Nicholson family of Camden, S.C., and their loved-ones and friends, the Nicholson family papers provide an in-depth view of daily life at the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, Md.), Winthrop College (Rock Hill, S.C.), and the University of South Carolina (Columbia, S.C.) as well as news of happenings in and around Camden and Columbia, S.C. Other letters are descriptive of life at U.S. naval base stations prior to, during, and immediately following World War II. The Nicholson family papers include three years of courtship correspondence exchanged between Virginia Nicholson and Alexander Salley ("Sandy") Heyward, Jr. These high school sweethearts continued their courtship via the mail when Sandy left Camden for the Naval Academy in the summer of 1926. They kept writing on an almost daily basis while Virginia attended Winthrop College (1927-1929) and the University of South Carolina (1929-1930). Sandy=s letters describe all aspects of student life at the Naval Academy: the plebe system, uniforms, roommates, liberties, watch duty, punishments, and social events. His letters always mention the latest scores or the Academy's standing in a particular sport, like football, rifling, or water polo. They also comment on traditional events at Annapolis, including Hundredth Night, June Week, House Party, and the Farewell Ball. Sandy also discussed, in detail, the summer cruises in which he participated while he attended the Academy (1927-1929).

While Virginia and Sandy were away at college and writing to one another almost every day, Virginia kept in close contact with her parents. The letters she wrote them frequently ended with such phrases as "please send more money" or "I really need a new dress for the social this week," but they also focus largely on school activities, with details of classes, social clubs, activities, roommates, trips, sororities, social activities, and exams.

After the couple was married in 1930, Virginia remained in close touch with her parents. Her letters furnish a revealing account of daily life as the wife of "Navy man." While Virginia informed her mother and father of the Heyward family news, Mrs. Nicholson updated Virginia on the latest family and local news. Mrs. Nicholson's letters also discuss the economic problems which the family faced during the years preceding and following the Great Depression.

Throughout the letters, correspondents mention noteworthy events taking place across the state of South Carolina: a fire in Camden (5 Jan. 1914), the Kershaw County Fair (11 Nov. 1926), the York County Fair (15 Oct. 1927 and 28 Oct. 1928), the execution of Ruth Snyder (14 Jan. 1928), the first May Day celebration at Winthrop College (1 May 1929), attempts by an African- American student to enroll at the U.S. Naval Academy (19 May 1929), a Camden store destroyed by fire (10 Apr. 1935), an outbreak of measles in Charleston (23 Nov. 1942), and the opening of DuPont in Camden (3 May 1948). The collection also includes postcards from Virginia=s journey westward to meet Sandy in San Pedro, Ca., in 1930, plus high school graduation announcements from Camden High School and Denmark High School.

The collection is housed in an archival storage carton (105 file folders). There are approximately 1, 046 items in the collection dating from 16 Jan. 1908 to 20 Jan. 1956. The primary correspondents include Mr. & Mrs. J.C. Nicholson, Virginia Nicholson Heyward, Alexander Salley ("Sandy") Heyward, Jr., Mary Nicholson Boyd, Jeff W. Boyd, George Nicholson, Samuel Nicholson, and Sandra Heyward.


  • 1896 - 1956


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.


1.25 Linear Feet