Letter from Richard A. Wise to Edward Valentine, December 19, 1873

Collections in the Classroom

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Time Period

1871-1899: Post Reconstruction


Jim Crow, The Lost Cause Myth

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Primary Source

Download Collections in the Classroom: Letter from Richard A. Wise to Edward Valentine, December 19, 1873

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  • Describe Richard A. Wise’s reaction to praise he read about Edward Valentine’s Uncle Henry sculpture.
  • What kind of statue does he suggest Edward Valentine should create more of to be displayed in people’s homes? Why?
  • Why would Wise feel comfortable sharing his openly racist opinions with Edward Valentine in 1873? What does this letter tell us about possible attitudes toward Black citizens at the time?
  • Uncle Henry was produced as artwork to be displayed in people’s homes. What is the connection between artwork displayed in people’s homes and political beliefs?
  • What does Wise mean when he says “Be the historian in clay & marble of the deeds of Virginia.“?


Richard Aslop Wise wrote this letter to Edward Valentine in 1873 after hearing about Valentine’s new sculpture, Uncle Henry. Wise was born in Philadelphia, but raised and educated in Virginia, graduating from the Medical College of Virginia. He served in the Confederate Army under J.E.B. Stuart and then under his father and former Virginia Governor, Henry Alexander Wise. As a member of the Republican party, he served in the Virginia General Assembly, the U. S. House of Representatives and attended every state convention from 1879 until his death in 1900. At the time of this letter, he was teaching chemistry at the College of William and Mary.