Virginia Facts and History

Abbreviated as VA on, Virginia is one of the United States of America, named in homage to Queen Elizabeth of England, “the virgin queen”. The territory of the state extends from the Atlantic Ocean (75 ° W longitude) to the Cumberland plateau (84 ° longitude) and from the Potomac River (39 ° 40 ′ N. latitude) to the parallel corresponding to 36 ° 30 ′, which divides it from North Carolina and Tennessee. It has an area of ​​110,399 sq km. and is divided into 100 counties, in turn, subdivided into numerous districts, as well as 24 independent cities that have the same administrative regime as the counties.

A large belt, extending across the state from north to south , Piedmont, is occupied by precambric metamorphic rocks, mostly gneiss, with few and restricted areas of Triassic sandstone. To the west of Piedmont there are rocks from all the Paleozoic periods and to the east of it there are the tertiary layers (clays, sands and marls) of the coastal plain. The mineral resources of this area are very varied. Precambric rocks provide granite and other building stones, slate, and small amounts of iron, manganese, copper, gold, graphite, barite, pyrite, talc, and mica. Triassic rocks are used locally as a building material and contain few strands of coal. Paleozoic rocks range from limestone to sandstone and provide building stones, concrete rocks, coal, iron, lime, salt, barite, plaster, zinc, etc. The tertiary strata of the coastal plain are hard enough in only a few places to provide building stone. They are also important for the water supply through artesian wells.

In 1930, mines and quarries employed 17,332 people in Virginia, or just over 2% of all wage-earners employed in the state. Of the aforementioned people, about 4/5 worked in coal mines, most of which are located in the plateau region at the southwestern end of the territory.

The Blue Ridge, a relief of hard metamorphic rocks, stretches across the state from the northeast  to southwest , along the western edge of the Piedmont region. In the northern half, this mountain system consists mainly of a single range, only about 100m high; but the southern half is higher and more complex: near the southern border of the state it reaches its maximum height of nearly 1740 msm. Immediately to the west of it lies a broad limestone valley, the Shenandoah Valley. The western part of it has numerous ridges of sandstone and other hard rock, parallel to the Blue Ridge, and at the southwestern end is the Cumberland plateau, capped with sandstone. In the valley there are numerous beautiful caves and a natural bridge, which are very popular with tourists.

The Piedmont region is hilly, with a few isolated peaks and ranges in the western part, near the Blue Ridge. The coastal plain, which lies east of a direct line from north to south  and passing through Richmond, is lower and flatter, especially near the coast. In the lowest and flattest part, southwest  of Norfolk, is the Dismal Swamp, a swamp that has an area of ​​about 1900 sq km. and partly extends into the territory of North Carolina.

Rivers generally flow eastward towards the Atlantic coast, except for some which run lengthwise through the Shenandoah Valley, i.e. towards the northeast  or towards southwest , and some others heading towards northwest towards the Ohio River. Those who cross the step which marks the internal limit of the coastal plain towards the hinterland, reach at that point the sea level or almost, and from there to the mouth they are estuaries that feel the tides. Navigation is mainly limited to these estuaries, and the use of water energy to the Piedmont region.

The soil of Virginia has shades of moderate to high fertility. The best soils are those derived from limestone in the Shenandoah Valley, but also in the coastal plain the presence, in many places, of the marls near the surface makes the soil fertile. The poorest soils are those derived from the sandstone on the Cumberland plateau and the sandy ones along the coast.

The climate of Virginia is temperate. The southeastern sector of the state is warm enough for cotton and pistachio to be grown, while the central and western regions are suitable for apple trees. The annual average of snow is about 600 mm. in the mountains and 300 near the coast. Annual rainfall ranges from 1000 to 1100 mm. and are well distributed throughout the year, although the coast is at its peak in summer and the mountains in winter and spring.

Originally, Virginia was almost entirely covered with forests comprising more than 100 tree species. Pines, in three species, predominate in the south and east; oaks and other deciduous trees, in the great valley and around it. Most of the forests have been destroyed by agriculture and the logging industry, but it still employs about 4,000 people in the forests and 15,000 in the sawmills, or about 2% of all workers in the state.

Fishing is important in the bays and estuaries, and ostreiculture is also noteworthy; but both industries have recently undergone a reduction, as rivers and ports have been made impure by cities and factories. The 1930 census found in Virginia 7,622 people employed in fishing, the product of which is worth $ 7.5 million annually.

The aborigines of Virginia, as well as of other states of the confederacy, were Indians, of whom however few remain, and these too have for the most part considerable admixture of black and white blood.

In 1700 its population was estimated at 70,000 residents, Above all of English descent. In 1790, when the first census of the United States was carried out, Virginia had 747,610 inhabitants, which was reduced to 691,737 within the current limits (i.e. excluding West Virginia). It was the most populous state and remained so until around 1812, when it was overtaken by the state of New York. In 1870, after the separation of West Virginia, the inhabitants were 1,225,163 and in 1930 almost double, that is 2,421,851, equal to 22 inhabitants per sq km.

Of the 1930 population, 32.4% lived in cities with more than 2,500 inhabitants; 28.4% in suburbs, smaller cities, villages, etc.; 39.2% in the countryside. As for the ethnic composition, there were 72.1% of indigenous Whites, 1% of Whites born abroad, 26.8% of Negroes and 0.5% of other races (mainly Indians). Of the 23,820 Whites born abroad, 3088 were from England, 2989 from Russia, 2505 from Germany, 1853 from Italy, 1617 from Canada, 1285 from Greece, 1239 from Scotland, 1221 from Poland and less than 1000 from various other countries.. More than 3/4 of the Italians and most of the other whites born abroad lived in the city. There were also 3643 Indigenous Whites with one or both. Italian parents; also these for about 3/4 living in the city.

The main cities, with their respective populations in 1930, are: Richmond (capital, 182,929 residents), Norfolk (main seaport, 129,710 residents), Roanoke (in the Great Valley, 69,206 residents), Portsmouth (suburb of Norfolk, 45,704 residents), Lynchburg (railway center, in Piedmont, 40,661 residents), Newport News (seaport, 34,117 residents), Petersburg (28,564 residents).

The most important economic activity in Virginia is still agriculture, although it no longer absorbs the majority of the inhabitants. In 1930, 39,206 of the population lived on farms, and 39.8% of wage workers were employed in agriculture. Agricultural property occupied 64.9% of the state’s surface and the lands were divided approximately equally between crops, pastures and woods. The main agricultural products are: corn, hay, wheat, tobacco (mostly in the southern half of the Piedmont region), pistachio (mostly in the south-eastern sector), apples (especially in the northern half of the territory), oats, potatoes, cotton (in the southeast), vegetables, rye, sweet potatoes.

Industries, including building construction, sawmills, etc., employed 23.2 percent of Virginia’s workers in 1930. The main industries were, in order of the number of workers employed, those of iron and steel, fertilizers and other chemicals, sawmills, tobacco, furniture and other wood industries and the food and textile industries.

Virginia owns 7160 km. of railways; in recent years an excellent system of large rolling roads has developed. The river navigation in the coastal plain is also noteworthy. Air transport is rapidly growing in importance.


Of the unfortunate colony founded and named Virginia by Sir W. Raleigh in 1584 (see Carolina : North Carolina) nothing remained but the name. On 1 April 1606 James I granted the territory between the 34th and 41st parallel, for 100 English miles inland, to the London Company (see Massachusetts : History).

The statute was simple: everything was subject to the king. A Grand Council of 13 people, residing in London and appointed by the king (Royal Council of Virginia), was to govern; a minor council, residing in Virginia, appointed by the major was to carry out the king’s orders. The inhabitants were supposed to enjoy all the rights that belonged to the kings; their products, on the other hand, were kept in common. This application of the communist idea was to bear sad fruits.

Three years later, the border was widened: it went 200 miles north and 200 miles south of Old Point Comfort (the mouth of the James River) and inland “to the other sea.” This statute, thus modified, lasted, with slight modifications until the federal statute in 1788.

120 emigrants left London on 19 December 1606 and settled in Jamestown (13 May 1607). John Smith, gradually eliminated his colleagues on the council, became head of the colony, but was then deposed and returned to his homeland. The settlers were decimated by malaria and starvation, but received constant reinforcements from the motherland. Thomas West, Lord Delaware, governor in 1610, and his successor, Sir Thomas Dale (1611-1616) established order and created a chain of colonies from Varina to the Ocean.

In 1616, tobacco was planted. In 1612, Bermuda was annexed. In 1618 the leadership of the Company in London passed into other hands, the regime became more liberal and, with the greater freedom, the more flourishing colony. In April 1619 the new governor Sir George Yeardley arrived, and on July 30 the first American representative assembly was held, which consisted of a council appointed by the Company and a chamber elected by the colonists; it is significant, however, that in the same year, in August, the first slaves were introduced.

Relations with the Indians were excellent until 1618. But in 1622 the Indians massacred 347 Whites. The Whites retaliated by luring the Indians to an autumn festival, and so they were able to surprise them and wreak havoc on them. Twenty-two years later, the same Indian chief Opechaucanough staged a new massacre, but he was taken prisoner, and the long war ended.

In 1624 James I revoked the charter and Virginia was again subjected to the crown.

During the civil war, Virginia was the only colony that remained faithful to the crown, at least for many years. Only in March 1652 the governor Sir William Berkeley had to abdicate in favor of the Puritan commissioner Riccardo Bennett. These were then succeeded by Eduardo Digges and Samuele Mathews.

American historians love to tell that in 1658, that is, two years before the fall of the Commonwealth, Virginia recognized King Charles II, thus acquiring the remaining name of “Old Domain”: this is not exactly true, and what it really is. happened is shrouded in much uncertainty. What is certain is that during the interregnum following the abdication of Richard Cromwell in April 1659, and after the death of the Puritan governor Mathews, the assembly, still purely monarchical, re-elected the old governor Berkeley before the return of the Stuardi in England. The new governor, forced to acknowledge the vacancy of every established power in the motherland,

After the return of Charles II, the Berkeley was reconfirmed, and ruled Virginia for another sixteen years, in a manner recognized as too reactionary and authoritarian by its own sovereign. The Berkeley was exclusively in the interest of the wealthy landowners of the eastern part of the colony, neglecting and oppressing the larger and less affluent population that lived along the western frontier and (it is claimed) refusing above all to defend this frontier against the Indians. But he attracted real hatred above all because he restricted the suffrage, extended by the Puritan regime to all “free men” to the owners of real estate, evidently to the full advantage of the aristocratic party. Nataniel Bacon (grandson of a cousin of the great Bacon) put himself at the head of the less affluent class and defeated, without the governor’s authorization, the Indians in the battle of Bloody Run. He was banned, but he was able to resist with various success for several months, also beating the government troops and burning even Jamestown, the capital, but he died in October, it seems of malaria and not of poison; the Berkeley triumphed by hanging 23 followers of her opponent and then sailed to London to defend her work in liquidating this “Masaniello”, as she called him in one of her reports. Charles refused to receive him, and he died in London the following year. The aristocrats, however, remained in power even after the advent of the house of Orange. Middle Plantation became the capital in 1691, and in it the following year the cleric James Blair, famous for his fight against the arbitrariness of the governors,

Meanwhile, continuous immigration from Pennsylvania and Europe (Germany, Scotland and Ireland) had enormously increased the sober and democratic population of the mountains, so that after the Seven Years’ War they could finally avenge Bacon, and, under the leadership of Riccardo Henry Lee and Patrizio Henry, put an end to the centuries-old rule of the slave aristocrats in 1765. To these two leaders was added, in 1769, Tomaso Jefferson. The three in May 1776 issued a declaration of independence, and formulated a new statute, which they failed to impose on the convention. Although the suffrage was fairly liberal, if not universal, the slave owners, who made up one third of the voters, were sure of two thirds of the seats in the assembly. Richmond, which had become the capital in 1779, it was taken by the English commanded by the Marquis Ch. Cornwallis in the same year and set on fire; but the war in the state ended with the surrender of Cornwallis to Yorktown. Virginia’s rights to the north-west territories were ceded in 1783 to the Union, in which Virginia continued to have a preponderant part for many years; it gave it many important officials (among which the great judge John Marshall stands out), and many of its first presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Madison (during 32 of the first 36 years the president was a Virginian). Several attempts by the western populations of the state to obtain a proportionate parliamentary representation aborted, and in 1850 they succeeded in obtaining the raid only of the lower house; and so at the outbreak of the civil war the state split into two parts (Western Virginia). In April 1861, Eastern Virginia opted to secede from the Union and Richmond became the capital of the Slaver Confederacy. Most of the major battles of this war took place in Virginia, which ended with Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. A week earlier, Richmond had fallen prey to the flames.

Virginia was readmitted into the Union on January 26, 1870. For four years an attempt had been made to impose a government of “carpet-baggers” (immigrants from the north in union with the Negroes), but the white population rebelled against this misrule in 1869. The statute voted in 1776 has been changed 5 times; the last is in 1902. The state of Virginia has always voted for the Democratic presidential candidate with the sole exception of 1860, when it voted for the candidate of the Constitutional Union, John Bell, and 1872, when it preferred the Republican U Grant to the old abolitionist H. Greeley.

Virginia Facts and History


According to, Richmond is a city of the USA (202,002 inhabitants in 2008; 1,240,000 inhabitants in 2009, considering the whole urban agglomeration), in Virginia, the state capital. It is located on both banks of the river James, near the falls downstream of which navigation begins. Important cultural center (College of William and Mary, Union Theological Seminary, Poe Foundation, etc.) and commercial, road and railway junctions, with well-equipped port. Industrial activities are also noteworthy, especially in the mechanical, pharmaceutical, chemical, textile and tobacco manufacturing sectors.

Designed in 1733 by W. Byrd, was built in 1737 in the locality of a commercial emporium dating back to 1637. The Capitol (1785) on a project by CL Clerisseau, in collaboration with T. Jefferson and inspired by the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, and the church of S. Giovanni (1741). Among the museums we mention: the Confederate museum, the Valentine museum, the Virginia museum of fine arts.


City of the USA (146,439 residents In 2007), in south-eastern Virginia, with a port along the estuary of the river James, in front of Norfolk. Canned fish and fertilizer industries. Home of the Langley research center, NASA aeronautical research complex.

About the author