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West Virginia has had several state historical societies. The first West Virginia Historical Society existed from 1869 to 1884 and was briefly resurrected as the Trans-Allegheny Historical Society in 1901.

A state historical society with a more enduring impact was the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society, established in January 1890 and incorporated a month later. In 1891, the society asked the West Virginia legislature for funding. An appropriation was forthcoming, and the quasi-private society continued to receive money from the state until the creation of West Virginia Archives and History in 1905. In addition to encouraging research and disseminating information on the state’s history, the society sought to establish a library and depository for historic materials. The group’s goals encompassed the preservation of Native American history in West Virginia as well, and the society attempted unsuccessfully to raise funds for the purchase of Grave Creek Mound. From 1901 to 1905, the society published The West Virginia Historical Magazine Quarterly.

Between 1890 and 1905, the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society acquired thousands of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, museum artifacts, and other materials. At first occupying a committee room in the state capitol, the society was given larger quarters for its museum and library—the third floor armory, the capitol’s largest room—in 1894. The space soon proved inadequate. In 1898, voicing concern for the safety of collections, the group’s secretary suggested the state construct a fireproof building. Although the historical society was among the intended occupants of the Capitol Annex when it was designed in 1899, the collections were not moved until 1905, after the society transferred its property to the West Virginia Board of Public Works for inclusion in the newly created Archives and History. The new state historian and archivist removed the collections to Archives and History’s quarters in the annex, where they served as the foundation of the agency’s collections.

Separate historical societies continued to exist after the creation of Archives and History. In 1925, the legislature created another West Virginia Historical Society, an appointive body, but this short-lived society was not continued by the revised 1931 Code of West Virginia. The present West Virginia Historical Society was organized in October 1940 and incorporated in 1946, for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and promoting West Virginia history. The society collaborated with the State Archives in publishing West Virginia History, the state’s official history journal, until 1979, and it continues to publish the smaller West Virginia Historical Society Magazine. Since its beginning, the society has maintained a close relationship with Archives and History, and its president is an ex officio voting member of the Archives and History Commission.

This Article was written by Mary Johnson

Last Revised on July 12, 2019


Reports & Publications of the West Virginia Historical & Antiquarian Society. 1891-1905.

Reports of the Department of Archives & History, 1905-1906 & 1938-1942, Annual Reports. .

Cite This Article

Johnson, Mary "West Virginia Historical Society." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 12 July 2019. Web. 13 June 2024.


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