Old Dominion University Libraries

Special Collections & University Archives

Events & Exhibits

Search Special Collections


Monday - Friday:
9 am - 4:30 pm

Other times by appointment


The Special Collections is located on the east side of the Library at the front of the 3rd floor.

Contact Information

Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0256
telephone (757) 683-5350
fax (757) 683-5954


Papers of W.B. Shafer, Jr

Scope and Contents - Series Descriptions - Access - Container List


W. Bruce Shafer was an idealist and a philanthropist. He was an industrious promoter and "booster" of ideas, projects, Norfolk, and even himself. To some he was an eccentric, while others considered him a genius. Shafer was a Methodist and a Mason. He was religious and conservative. He did not necessarily ally himself with either political party. Shafer was more about morals and issues than party.

Shafer was born in 1894 in Norfolk County. His father was a produce broker, and the family business went broke the year Shafer graduated from Norfolk Academy (1912). W. B. Shafer, Jr. went to work shipping produce. A few years later, he and his father jointly founded a firm that became one of Norfolk's most successful produce brokers. In his youth, Shafer served on several bank boards, financed farmers, and wrote books about finance and honesty. Although Shafer himself did not fight in World War I, he still did his part. He originated and financed "The Potato Publicity and Wheat League" which helped farmers and prevented a food shortage. After the war, Shafer originated the World War I Soldier Bonus and contributed $50,000 to the campaign between 1918 and 1936.

Shafer ran for Norfolk City Council in 1928, and claims the election was stolen from him. The experience disenchanted him from local politics. He ran for Congress in 1944 as an independent. He tried again for Norfolk City Council in 1966. Despite his disenfranchisement with politics, he was advisor to two presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, as well as friend and supporter of many Congressmen.

Shafer was a big "booster" of the Norfolk and Southern economic booms. He spent over $100,000 in ads boosting the South. He also wrote books, booklets, flyers, and newsletters promoting Norfolk, Dallas, and the South to realtors, investors, governors, congressmen, and others. He advocated for the local bridge-tunnels, better highways, and the Dismal Swamp Canal to make Hampton Roads more accessible to businesses. His hard work and foresight brought businesses into Ward's Corner and Military Circle. He was also involved with the development of Fox Hall and Norview.

Shafer's other projects included a world peace plan to put a chaplain in each embassy to cultivate friendship, a prosperity plan to bring advertising money to the South, and a "religious reformation" movement. He directed his energy to oppose corruption in government and the Norfolk City Council, the Norfolk news monopoly, "hippy communism", and other things he thought were wrecking America.

Shafer was a prolific writer about his ideas. Besides newsletters, flyers, and correspondence, he wrote several books and booklets including: "How to Make a Fortune Honestly and Quickly", "Go South Young Man Go South Where God Still Lives", "Success and Happiness", "3 Books that Made the South and 1000 Millionaires and 10 Billionaires", and "Washington and the New Economic South".

Despite frequent complaints about his health and age, Shafer lived to the ripe old age of 95. He passed away in 1990. True to his life, his tombstone promotes the ideals and causes he lived for.

Scope and Contents

This collection contains information about the Norfolk and Southern economic booms of the 1950's and 1960's, Shafer's real estate and investing ventures during that same time period, the political issues and causes that he advanced, his charitable donations, books and newsletters that he wrote, and various correspondence. Except for correspondence, much of the material in this collection is undated. The majority of this collection spans the mid-1950's through the end of the 1970's. A small amount of material is dated in the 1930's, 1940's, and 1980's.

Series Descriptions

This collection is broken down into the following series: I. Projects, Issues, and Causes; II. Philanthropy and Religious Charities; III. Correspondence; IV. Books, Essays, and Other Publications; V. Miscellaneous; and VI. Artifacts.

Series I. Projects, Issues, and Causes. This series is divided into four sub-series. Sub-series A: Norfolk Boom and Boosting; Sub-series B: Real Estate and Investing; Sub-series C: Political Issues; and Sub-series D: Politics.

Sub-series A: Norfolk Boom and Boosting. This sub-series contains information about the Norfolk and Southern Economic Booms of the 1950's and 1960's. Information included are Norfolk Boom and Investment maps, flyers, and postcards; correspondence, news, and articles on the Norfolk, Dallas, and Southern Booms; information on the Norfolk,Virginia and Carolina Booster Club; and material on Military Circle, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the Virginia Highway System, and the Dismal Swamp Canal as related to bringing business into the Hampton Roads area.

Sub-series B: Real Estate and Investing. This sub-series contains information about the real estate and investing ventures of Shafer. Included are property deeds, contracts, and survey maps; correspondence and promotional material related to real estate; information on the Greater Norfolk Investors and other investment companies; investing information on railroads, steel plants, and shopping centers; and real estate and industrial directories.

Sub-series C: Political Issues. This sub-series contains information on local and national political issues and projects advanced by Shafer. Topics include potato and produce overheads and exports, the Shafer Peace Plan, the Shafer Prosperity Plan, the Peace Temple at Cape Henry, Religious Reformation of America, Employment for War Veterans, gasoline prices, abortion, race relations, the poll tax, unions, the American monetary system, Vietnam, communism, bond issues, the Norfolk news monopoly, Norfolk Gardens, and an art museum at Military Highway. Also included are newspaper clippings and letters to newspaper editors on these and other issues.

Sub-series D: Politics. This sub-series contains information on local and national politics, as well as correspondence between Shafer and various political figures including City Councilmen, Congressmen, Senators, Governors, and Presidents. Content of these letters includes the Norfolk and Southern booms, real estate and investing, communism, letters of support, and other subjects of concern to Shafer. Additional topics include corruption in the Norfolk City Council, Shafer's bid for Norfolk City Council, Mafia involvement in the government, Watergate, the 1976 Presidential election, the Republican party, and congressional reform. Of particular note in this sub-series are a signed Christmas card from President Jimmy Carter, as well as letters written to several presidents and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Series II. Philanthropy and Religious Charities. This series includes information about various charities and religious organizations that Shafer supported. Included are entries and information on the W. b. Shafer Award Competition Contest for high school students; Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour, Liberty Baptist College, and Mercy Ship; other schools, churches, and religious organizations; and Cal Farley's Boys Ranch.

Series III. Correspondence. Although there is a great deal of correspondence scattered throughout this collection, this series contains both personal correspondence and correspondence that does not readily fit into the other series. This series includes correspondence between Shafer and banks, corporations, and attorneys on various issues; invitations, cards, and letters regarding Shafer's health. Also included in this series are blank greeting cards, blank Western Union and Postal forms, blank holiday cards from charitable organizations, and Shafer's stationary and mailing labels.

Series IV. Books, Essays, and Other Publications. This series is divided into four sub-series. Sub-series A: Essays/Newsletters; Sub-series B: Shafer's Books; Sub-series C: Newspapers and Magazines; and Sub-series D: Advertising.

Sub-series A: Essays/Newsletters. This sub-series includes essays and newsletters written by Shafer. Topics include real estate and investing; political corruption; drugs and hippy communism; the Norfolk News monopoly; the Peace Prayer Temple at Cape Henry; Shafer's contributions; Religious Reformation; and other issues of concern to Shafer.

Sub-series B: Shafer's Books. This sub-series includes book publicity; requests for his books and thank you letters for their receipt; requests for essays to be included in future books; information on book publishers; rough drafts for the book "How to Make a Fortune Quickly & Honestly"; and final copies of Shafer's books "How to Make a Fortune Quickly & Honestly", "Investment Success & Happiness", "3 Books that Made the South and 1000 Millionaires and 10 Billionaires"; "Go South Young Man Go South Where God Still Lives".

Sub-series C: Newspapers and Magazines. This sub-series contains copies of newspapers and magazines related to politics, religion, veterans, and real estate and investing.

Sub-series D: Advertising. This sub-series contains receipts for the printing of some of Shafer's promotional material; advertising rates and information for "The Spotlight"; other newspapers and magazines; television and radio station advertising policies; and receipts for air time. Also included are a few copies of classified ads that were placed by Shafer on the Norfolk Boom, gasoline prices, and religious reformation.

Series V. Miscellaneous. This series contains material that does not necessarily fit into any of the other series of this collection. The most notable items in this series are the photographs, including photos of Shafer's tombstone, and a rough draft of his last will and testament. Also included in this series are information on Shafer's trip to Hot Springs; various receipts, warranties, and instruction manuals; information on psychics; miscellaneous notes, lists, articles, and booklets; and other miscellaneous material.

Series VI. Artifacts. This series contains artifacts that are a part of this collection. Included are a ministry audiocassette by Jerry Falwell; a refill for a Pallotine Pen by Pallotine Missionaries; and "Easy Do" remote switch; and a "Wm. Crooks-Minnesota Pioneer" limited run lithograph.


Gift from W.B. Shafer, February 1982.


Open to researchers without restrictions. Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.


9 Hollinger Document Cases, and 1 Oversize Box

Revised: 7/14/08