The best of times: the “Golden Era” at UNC (1945-1950)

With the title caption "A New 'Shot' of the Old Well and South Building" in the October 1946 issue of The Alumni Review, this is Hugh Morton's first UNC scene published in that magazine after WWII—with the columns vertically straightened, its edges cropped on all sides for publication, and accompanied by a long caption about Morton war service. This scan shows the entire negative. This was also on the magazine cover of The State for its October 5th issue, cropped even more tightly at the base of the well to accommodate the magazine's masthead.

With the title caption “A New ‘Shot’ of the Old Well and South Building” in the October 1946 issue of The Alumni Review, this is Hugh Morton’s first UNC scene published in that magazine after WWII—with the columns vertically straightened, its edges cropped on all sides for publication, and accompanied by a long caption about Morton war service. This scan shows the entire negative. This was also on the magazine cover of The State for its October 5th issue, cropped even more tightly at the base of the well to accommodate the magazine’s masthead.

A View to Hugh has been on a summer vacation of sorts as other projects have pressed to the fore.  This week marks the start of another school year at UNC, and the resumption of more frequent posts.  Today, Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back 68 years to another time that many believe was “the best of times” at UNC.

But first . . . some background on the photographs used for this post.  Above is Morton’s first post World War II photograph of a UNC scene published in The Alumni Review. Along with a long caption about Morton’s war service, the image filled an entire page inside the October 1946 issue.  The November issue featured the photograph below on its cover, and its caption states that Morton had recently “presented to the Alumni Office a half dozen new pictures of familiar campus scenes.”  Those photographs, most of which are not in the online Morton collection, illustrate this blog post. (If you are counting, however, you’ll come up with seven after the one above.)

The November 1946 issue of The Alumni Review featured on its cover a cropped version of this photograph of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower.

The November 1946 issue of The Alumni Review featured on its cover a cropped version of this photograph of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower.

It was a heterogeneous group of different ages and experiences—all due to a terrible war which had interrupted or affected the lives of most of us. . . We developed a tremendous school spirit in a very short time, and we were pretty charged up about changing the world and making it better.

Class of 1947 “Revised Yackety Yack” 25th Reunion Edition, May 1972 by Sibyl Goerch Powe

Most UNC alumni consider their time in Chapel Hill as the best.  I grew up in North Carolina during the late 1940s and early ‘50s and I remember that period as being the best.  Many at Carolina, however, describe the years between VJ-Day (“Victory over Japan Day” celebrated on 2 September 1945 in the United States) and the Korean War—the years 1945 through 1950—as UNC’s “Golden Era.”  World War II was finally over and Tar Heels everywhere could look ahead to the better times.

This era was born near the end of WWII when, on June 22, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—forever to be known as the “GI Bill.”  Among its many provisions, Title II Chapter IV revolutionized education in the United States, especially for those returning from service during World War II, because it empowered the federal government to reimburse colleges and other approved educational institutions for “the customary cost of tuition, and such laboratory, library, health, infirmary, and other similar fees as are customarily charged, and may pay for books, supplies, equipment, and other necessary expenses” of qualifying veterans—not to exceed $500 for “an ordinary school year.”  The bill also allotted subsistence provisions of $50 per month for single veterans and $75 per month for those with dependents.

This night photograph of South Building appeared in the November 1946 issue of The Alumni Review with the caption title "Columns of South." The caption writer described this photograph as being "symbolic of the University--old and new" showing "the 'new' side, looking south toward the area of greatest physical expansion of the campus in the years since the building period of the 'Twenties."

This night photograph of South Building appeared in the November 1946 issue of The Alumni Review with the caption title “Columns of South.” The caption writer described this photograph as being “symbolic of the University–old and new” showing “the ‘new’ side, looking south toward the area of greatest physical expansion of the campus in the years since the building period of the ‘Twenties.”

In the seven years following enactment of the GI Bill, approximately 8 million veterans received educational benefits, and of that number about 2.3 million attended colleges and universities. Enrollment at UNC rose to 6,800 which was 2,400 more than any time before.

As one would imagine, this jump in enrollment caused some housing and classroom-size challenges.  An interesting article in October 1945 issue of The Alumni Review discussed the anticipated effects of armistice on UNC’s student housing.  “The exodus of the U. S. Navy Pre-Flight School on October 15 left the University with a surplus of dormitory space for men students for the first time since Pearl Harbor,” the magazine wrote.  “A particular need that developed with the influx of veterans was accommodations for married students.”  The article also noted that Lenoir Dining Hall, which had been reserved for the cadets, could now become “an All-University cafeteria.”

The December 1946 issue of The Alumni Review used this photograph of Manning Hall with a caption that explained the conditions on campus. "Like many other University buildings now, Manning Hall (home of the University's Law School) is crowded with students.  Enrollment in the school is now 217, a sharp rise from the student body of 13 to which the school dropped during the war."

The December 1946 issue of The Alumni Review used this photograph of Manning Hall with a caption that explained the conditions on campus. “Like many other University buildings now, Manning Hall (home of the University’s Law School) is crowded with students. Enrollment in the school is now 217, a sharp rise from the student body of 13 to which the school dropped during the war.”

Quonset huts, trailers and pre-fabs became a way of life, despite the departure of pre-flight school cadets who had occupied ten dormitories.  On south campus, the federal government constructed Victory Village in less than a year on 65-acres at a cost $1.25 million. Many of the returning vets who were married lived there.  The Victory Village address book reads like a who’s who at UNC.  Terry Sanford, William Friday, and William Aycock, along with 349 other families made up the extended neighborhood, which lasted until 1972 when it was torn down to make room for expansion of UNC Hospitals.

For others on campus, cots were set up in the Tin Can and under the seats at Emerson Stadium while many other students lived with Chapel Hill families. The returning veterans along with a normal compliment of high school students presented a conflict of personalities on campus.  Never before had so many students had so little in common—and got along so smoothly together.  Students held dances on special weekends along with fraternity parties and gatherings at the Student Union, which at that time was Graham Memorial. The Big Band Era was still around although winding down and Tommy Dorsey made a return to campus.  He had been a guest, along with Frank Sinatra, in May 1941 prior to our country’s entry into the war.

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This negative is almost identical to the one used for the January 1947 cover of The Alumni Review. The only difference is the hands on the clock, which stand at 6:30. Morton made the negative used for the cover at 6:20. The latter negative survives, but it suffers from severe acetate negative deterioration. Morton use two different film types; this is a film pack negative. Shown in its entirety here, the cover image cropped the bit of light at the spire’s top and the lower portion of the clock and portions of both sides. The light at the top of the tower appears in both negatives, but it is blackened on the magazine’s cover.

The common denominator for all on campus, however, was sports.  Leading the Carolina Spirit was Head Cheerleader Norman Sper, Jr.  Leading the Carolina Band was Professor Earl Slocum with featured bandsman Andy Griffith.  And the man on the sideline and court-side with the camera was Hugh Morton.  It was during this post-war period that Morton’s photography blossomed.  Interestingly, Morton did not return to Chapel Hill to finish his final year of college despite the GI Bill.  Instead, he entered his grandfather’s real estate business, Hugh McRae & Co., in Wilmington—but a camera was always close at hand.

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This scan shows the full negative of the scene used by The Alumni Review for its March 1947 cover. Given the vertical format of the magazine, however, they cropped off the right side of the image. The caption reads in part, “We are indebted again to Hugh Morton ’43 for this month’s cover. With the magic of the camera he has pictured Graham Memorial building (at left) and the trees which line the walk toward Old East Building in a romantic scene.”

Many years later, on May 13, 1989, as part of UNC’’s Graduation/Reunion Weekend, the General Alumni Association offered its annual presentation of “Saturday Morning in Chapel Hill.”  The ’89 edition featured a panel discussion consisting of ten Tar Heel athletes from the Golden Era, led by Robert V. “Bob” Cox, UNC Class of ’49, and a Hugh Morton slide show.  The title of the program was “Why Did We Have it So Good and What Made US Different?” It played to a near full-house in Memorial Hall on the UNC campus.

Wilson Library, now the home of the Hugh Morton collection, when it was known as the University Library.  The Alumni Review cropped off the right side of this photograph to create a vertical for the cover of its April 1947 issue.

Wilson Library, now the home of the Hugh Morton collection, when it was known as the University Library. The Alumni Review cropped off the right side of this photograph to create a vertical for the cover of its April 1947 issue.

With coaches like Carl Snavely (football), Bunn Hearn (baseball), Tom Scott and Ben Carnevale (basketball), and Chuck Erickson (Golf)—all under the leadership of Athletics Director Robert Fetzer—Carolina won 32 Southern Conference Championships for the years 1945 through 1950 . . . plus 10 National Champions, 3 basketball and 3 football All Americas, 3 major bowls games and a football National Player of the Year. With names like Bones (McKinney), Hook (Dillon), Harvey (Ward), Vic (Seixas), Art (Weiner), Chunk (Simmons) and Sara (Wakefield).  And of course the poster boy for the era was nicknamed “Choo Choo” (Charlie Justice).

Stellar athletes mingled with the regular student population along Franklin Street, just as they do today.  However, the Franklin Street of 1946 was a lot different than the one the class of 2018 will come to know and love,  One of those businesses from 1946 survives today at 138 East Franklin: it’s the Carolina Coffee Shop.  Also back in ’46 there was Danziger’s with pizza on the menu,  The Porthole “with rolls to die-for,” says Charly Mann on the web site “Chapel Hill Memories,” and Harry’s, with food, New York style.  Also along Franklin was the Varsity Shop, Huggins Hardware, Foister’s Camera Store, and the Intimate Book Shop (the original one with the squeaky wooden floors).  And you could go to the movies for $1.20 at the Carolina Theatre and see Hollywood’s top movie from 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives, from director William Wyler and starring Myrna Loy and Fredrick March.

This photograph of South Building appeared full-page in the April 1947 issue of The Alumni Review with a caption that noted that the building had been renovated in 1925. "Of the University's 40,000 matriculates and ex-matriculates" it continued, "three-fourths of them knew this view of South Building in their student days." The photograph as published is cropped significantly and rotated slightly clockwise to make the columns more vertical.

This photograph of South Building appeared full-page in the April 1947 issue of The Alumni Review with a caption that noted that the building had been renovated in 1925. “Of the University’s 40,000 matriculates and ex-matriculates” it continued, “three-fourths of them knew this view of South Building in their student days.” The photograph as published is cropped significantly and rotated slightly clockwise to make the columns more vertical.

A Sidebar:
UNC’s great All America football player Charlie Justice was a Navy veteran and was eligible for the GI Bill. UNC also offered him a football scholarship. So Charlie asked UNC’s Athletics Director Robert Fetzer if his football scholarship could be transferred to his wife. Fetzer said he didn’t know but would check with the Southern Conference and the NCAA to make sure it would be OK.  Turns out it was, and the Justices enrolled at UNC on February 14, 1946.  Sarah Alice Justice became the first and possibly the only female to study at Carolina on a football scholarship.

Spider, Gumdrop, and the “Morton Mystery” of Apollo 9

Today, July 16, 2014, marks the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 carrying the first men to land on the lunar surface. One of the primary stepping-stones for that mission was the launch and flight of Apollo 9.  Like the Apollo 11 launch, there is an Apollo 9–Hugh Morton connection.  So, on this special anniversary, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard relates a possible scenario for Morton’s Apollo 9 slides.

Apollo9_SlideBoxes

On a recent visit to the Hugh Morton Collection at the Wilson Library on the UNC campus, Photographic Archivist Stephen Fletcher showed me a recent group of slides to be added to the huge Morton photo collection.  Of particular interest were two boxes of color slides marked “Apollo 9.” While I didn’t attend the launch of Apollo 9 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, I remember well following the progress on television.

Apollo 9 was the third manned mission of the Apollo program and the first flight of the Command Service Module (CSM) with the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM).  The Command Module was named “Gumdrop” because it arrived at the Kennedy Space Center wrapped in blue cellophane. The Lunar Module was named “Spider,” because of its awkward, gangly appearance. The mission was the second launch of a Saturn V (Five) rocket.  The three-person crew, Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart, all trained at the Morehead Planetarium on the UNC campus.

The Apollo 9 preliminary countdown began at 5 am on Saturday, February 22, 1969 and proceeded without problems.  The terminal count started on February 27th at 10 pm.  Twelve hours into that count, there was a three hour built-in hold.  During this hold NASA decided to recycle the count to T minus 42 hours which would put the launch no earlier than Monday, March 3rd at 11 am.  The reason for the delay: the Apollo 9 crew had developed colds.  The delay gave the crew time to recover in time for a March 3rd launch.

The crew spent 10 days in low Earth orbit testing and docking the two spacecrafts. At one point, McDivitt and Schweickart flew the Lunar Module 100 miles away from the Command Module.  On board Apollo 9 were special lightweight, lint-free wash cloths and towels developed by the textile school at North Carolina State.

The 152-orbit mission ended in the calm Atlantic, in sight of the recovery carrier USS Guadalcanal, on March 13, 1969.  That final day in orbit, however, was a busy one. The crew took pictures of the United States from coast to coast.  The picture taken of the North Carolina Outer Banks has become a classic.

OuterBanks_fromApollo9

From the two boxes of Morton slides shown above, plus two others, we can determine that Hugh and Julia made a trip to Florida about mid-February, 1969.  Morton labelled a third box of slides “Busch Gardens / Tampa horse races”; Kodak processed and date stamped those slides “Feb 69.”  The fourth box, processed in March like the two shown above, Morton labeled “Cypress Gardens / Homosossa River.”  The Homosossa River is on the Gulf Coast not far north of Tampa. Among the Cypress Gardens slides is the scene below.

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The date stamps and frame numbers on the slides suggest the Mortons traveled from the Gulf Coast to Cypress Gardens mid-state near Winter Haven, and then to the Kennedy Space Center.  They took one of the visitor center bus tours of the complex, and there are 34 slides taken at the Space Center.

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On pad A at launch complex 39, Apollo 9 was in place and preparing for a February 28th launch.  The Apollo/Saturn vehicle had been rolled to the pad on January 3rd.  The Mortons were at the pad A press site on February 27th because the Mobile Service Structure (MSS) has been rolled back and the launch vehicle is standing free, and that event occurs the day before a scheduled launch.

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There were about 1,000 other members of the media at the press site and about 10,000 space watchers along the Florida coast.  Among the special invited guests was North Carolina Governor Robert Scott, but his schedule back in Raleigh didn’t permit a KSC visit.

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Now, the mystery part of our story.

While writing posts and comments for A View to Hugh, I have often said, there is an interesting story for each of Hugh’s pictures and the Apollo 9 photographs are no exception.  What makes this set of images interesting is what’s not there.

There are no pictures of Apollo 9 blasting off, instead there are seven slides of a NASA news conference.

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Prominent in Hugh’s news conference images, is Alan Shepard (far left in the photograph above), America’s first astronaut who, in 1969, was head of the astronaut office.  Also, at the new conference desk is Dr. Charles A. Berry (on Shepard’s left), medical director of the US space program and Dr. George E. Mueller, NASA Associate Director of Manned Spaceflight. (There is no name plate for Mueller, so he might be the person holding the microphone, but hidden behind the curtain on the far right).

Dr. Berry, in explaining the delay, said:  “I could guarantee that we would have three sick crewmen on our hands if we launched.”  Dr, Mueller added, “We’d like to launch them when they are well. If there’s any question. I’d rather wait.”

The February 28th launch delay of Apollo 9 was the first time after 18 US man-in-space flights that a launch had been delayed due to crew illness rather than technical issues, and it was “a difficult decision to make,” Berry said.

So, one possible reason for no Morton Apollo 9 launch pictures is that Hugh and Julia got caught up in that delay and were not able to stay through the weekend for the Monday morning launch.

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“The soul of the beholder will determine the revelation of its meaning.”

A landmark on the UNC campus celebrate its 101st birthday today, June 2, 2014.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard and I take a combined look at this Tar Heel icon.

Silent Sam in silhouette

Stephen Fletcher:

Perspective and context are two hallmarks of photography—just as they are with all the arts.  The photographer’s viewpoint shapes a photograph’s subject and how he or she frames the subject (by what it contains and eliminates) narrows the story or emotions that subject conveys.  As a UNC student and alumnus, Hugh Morton photographed UNC’s Confederate Monument, only a sampling of which appears in the online collection.

The Confederate Monument, commonly known as “Silent Sam,” is a controversial landmark on the UNC campus.  Last year—Sunday, June 2nd, 2013—marked its 100th anniversary.  There was no official recognition of this milestone.  All, however, was not quiet for afternoon saw nearly 100 people attend a Real Silent Sam Committee protest rally.  The Friday before, the University Archives blog For the Record posted two documents: a letter written by then-UNC president Francis P. Venable to James G. Keenan expressing his desire that its design not be a monument to the dead “but to a noble idea,” and two pages from Julian S. Carr’s dedication speech laced with Anglo Saxon supremacy and racial violence.

As you approach the statue today, its context is vastly different from those who knew the landscape in 1913.  The monument sets near the edge of wooded McCorkle Place, at the time the only campus quadrangle.  As Jack writes below, “In its park-like setting, many only see Silent Sam as a nice place to sit on a warm spring day and enjoy the beauty of William Meade Prince’s ‘Southern Part of Heaven.’”  As one looks deeper, however, one finds more meaning in the monument’s geographical context and the perspective of those who built it in their place in time.

In 1913 University leaders erected the northwest–facing statue near the northernmost point on the campus. Nearby to the monument’s southwest are three buildings, architecturally connected, named Pettigrew Hall, Vance Hall, and Battle Hall—all completed the previous year.  James Johnson Pettigrew, UNC class of 1843, was a Brigadier General in the Civil War, shot and killed while retreating less than two weeks after playing a major role in the Battle of Gettysburg.  Zebulon Vance was North Carolina’s Civil War governor.  Kemp Plummer Battle, during the Civil War era, was a delegate to the Secession Convention in 1861, president of the Chatham Railroad that hauled coal from mines in Chatham County to Confederate armament factories, and a trustee of the university.  He would later become university president.  The monument, in contextual words, was symbolically set before three Confederate stalwarts.

Jack Hilliard:

More than 1,000 university men fought in the war.  At least forty percent of the students enlisted—a record unequaled by any other institution, North or South.  At their convention in 1909, the North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy decided to honor the 321 UNC alumni who died in the Civil War, as well all students who joined the Confederate Army.  Supporters raised $7,500 to erect a seven-foot statue, commissioning Canadian sculptor John A. Wilson to do the work.

The dedication and unveiling was held 101 years ago on June 2, 1913 with University President Francis P. Venable pulling off the concealing curtain and North Carolina Governor Locke Craig, UNC class of 1880, as principal speaker.  The statue’s dedication plaque reads:  “To the sons of the university who answered the call to their country in the War of 1861-1865, and whose lives taught the lesson of their great commander that Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.”

The youths, buoyant and hopeful that had thronged these halls, and made this campus ring with shouts of boyish sports, had gone.  The University mourned in silent desolation.  Her children had been slain . . . this statue is a memorial to their chivalry and devotion, an epic poem in bronze.  The soul of the beholder will determine the revelation of its meaning. —Governor Locke Craig, from his dedication speech.

Also speaking at the dedication was the chair-person of the monument committee, Mrs. Bettie Jackson London.  In her speech she said: “In honoring the memory of our Confederate heroes, we must not be misunderstood as having in our hearts any hatred to those who wore the Blue, but we do not wish to forget what has been done for us by those who wore the Gray.”

Representing the Confederate veterans was Gen. Julian Shakespeare Carr, UNC Class of 1866. Carr, namesake of nearby Carrboro and whose name is on at least one UNC campus building, captured the spirit of the times in his speech.

“The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South.”  Carr went on to say that the “purest strain” of white blood was still to be found in the South at the time, because of the duty performed by Confederate soldiers.

After the speeches, a quartet sang “Tenting on the Old Campground Tonight,” while the estimated crowd of one thousand got a close-up look at the work of art.

In his 101 years, Silent Sam has often been the subject of controversy.  There are those who think the statue is a symbol of racial oppression and there are those who believe it to be a symbol of regional pride.

On his 100th birthday, on June 2, 2013, Silent Sam had to once again endure some shots . . . this time verbal shots from a group of protestors from “The Real Silent Sam Movement,” who said the statue represents a racist past that continues in some places today.

“The reality is that Sam has never been silent,” state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber told the crowd of about 85.  “He speaks racism.  He speaks hurt to women—particularly black women.  And he continues just by his presence to attempt to justify the legacy of the religion of racism.”

From time to time the statue has been covered with graffiti calling for an end to violence and war, as evidenced by Hugh Morton’s photographs from April 1968.  It has often been covered with dark blue paint from Duke or red from State.  Through controversy and vandalism, Silent Sam endures, continuing his watchful eye.  The area around the statue has often been and continues to be a place where students can gather and speak out on issues of the day.  And then there are those who view Silent Sam as simply a nice place to sit on a warm spring day and enjoy the beauty of William Meade Prince’s “Southern Part of Heaven.”

Stephen Fletcher:

Last year when University Archives posted documents from Carr’s speech, then University Archivist Jay Gaidmore wrote: “Over the recent decades, Silent Sam has become a symbol of controversy, caught between those that believe that it is an enduring symbol of racism and white supremacy and defenders who contend that it is a memorial to those UNC students who died and fought for the Confederate States of America. Could it be both?”
At the time of the unveiling, it would seem not.  H. A. London was a one of those students who left UNC to fight for the South.  On June 2nd, 1913 he introduced Governor Craig at the dedication ceremony as Major H. A. London (and husband of Betty Jackson London).  As he concluded his introduction, London harkened the students who pursued their “devotion to duty.”  Of their duty London said, “We thought we were right, and now we know it.
Hopefully in our time we can acknowledge that there are indeed very different perspectives about this monument—especially respecting those whose viewpoints were, by the very nature of their exclusion from speaking at the dedication ceremony, kept silent.

North Carolina’s Tribute to President John F. Kennedy

Back in 2007, I wrote a brief post about the fundraising event held at Kenan Memorial Stadium for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.  Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the event—North Carolina’s Tribute to President John F. Kennedy for the benefit of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library.

Governor Terry Sanford with Hugh Morton and Andy Anderson during a John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Fundraising Committee meeting, 16 April 1964.

North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford with Hugh Morton and E. G. “Andy” Anderson (county chair from Martin County) during a John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Fundraising Committee meeting, 16 April 1964. Hugh Morton chaired the state’s committee. The governor posed for a portrait with each of the county chairs in attendance.  UNC Photo Lab photograph by Jerry Markatos.

Every spring for the past several years, I have pulled together a slideshow for UNC’s Alumni Reunion Weekend for visitors to watch during Wilson Library’s Saturday afternoon open house.  To create the slideshow, I go through the negatives in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection (the UNC “Photo Lab”) for that particular year’s fiftieth anniversary class and select about 100 negatives to be scanned.  This year I came across a familiar face while surveying negatives made during the 1963-1964 academic year.  I used the above image in the slideshow, but not the one below.

Hugh Morton in conversation with then former Governor Luther Hodges, Jr.

Hugh Morton in conversation with former Governor Luther H. Hodges, Jr. (left) and an unidentified person in the Morehead Planetarium. On the far right is UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor William B. Aycock.  UNC Photo Lab photograph by Robert Arndt.

Hugh Morton was the chair of the state’s fundraising efforts—a logical choice given his highly successfully efforts to bring the USS North Carolina to Wilmington.  The North Carolina Collection holds a few items from the state’s tribute to JFK.  Within the Hugh Morton collection are several color slides made by an unknown photographer.  Five of these slides can be seen in the online Morton collection, as can three black-and-white photographs of Governor Terry Sanford and Hugh Morton presenting North Carolina’s $250,000 contribution to Jacqueline Kennedy on December 22nd.

There is a black-and-white image of Lyndon Baines Johnson with Governor Sanford examining a copy of the tri-fold pamphlet made to raise funds trough ticket orders to the event. The North Carolina Collection has copies of the flyer, the front cover of which seen below.

Flyer announcing North Carolina's Tribute to John F. Kennedy.

Flyer announcing North Carolina’s Tribute to John F. Kennedy. (North Carolina Collection)

The Daily Tar Heel, in its last issue of the year, gave a 50/50 chance that LBJ would be able to attend.  Newspaper articles from the Charlotte News and the Durham Morning Herald make no mention of LBJ being in attendance.  Currently we have this image categorized with those made during the tribute on May 17th, 1964.  I think, however, that that photograph is likely from a different event because, if you zoom in, you can see that Sanford is wearing a pin back button that says “MY BRAND’S LBJ”—hardly appropriate to wear during a tribute to JFK.

Also in the North Carolina Collection is a DVD copy of the 16mm film made about the day’s event as a gift for Jacqueline Kennedy.  Additionally, the North Carolina Collection also has two copies of the program from the event.  Copy two of this item also contains several letters and announcements to county chairmen from Hugh Morton.

 

Restless Raleigh

“‘Fortune’s Tennis Ball’: Sir Walter Raleigh as Writer and Subject” will be the topic of a discussion by three speakers at Wilson Library today, Tuesday April 1st, at 3:00 p.m.  The panel will include Christopher M. Armitage, UNC Professor of English and Comparative Literature—who served as the editor to the recently published book Literary and Visual Ralegh (that’s not a typo), published last year by Manchester University Press—and two contributors to the book: Thomas Herron, Associate Professor in the Department of English at East Carolina University, and Julian Lethbridge, Lecturer, English Language and Literature, at the University of Tübingen in Germany.  The North Carolina Collection is sponsoring the talk and will be displaying Raleigh’s History of the World (published at London, and printed for Walter Bvrre, in 1614) and his The history of the world: in five books (one set of this edition belonged to Edward Gibbon, who wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  In diary entries from 1762 and 1763 Gibbon documented his reading of books by and about Raleigh.)  Other items from the NCC’s Sir Walter Raleigh Collection will also be on display.

Statue of Sir Walter Raleigh in downtown Raleigh, N. C.

Statue of Sir Walter Raleigh in downtown Raleigh, N. C. photographed by Hugh Morton in April 1979.

With that shameless plug out of the way . . . here at A View to Hugh, I couldn’t pass up the chance to show Hugh Morton’s photographs of Sir Walter Raleigh.  Well, not the gent born more than 200 years before the conception of photography, but more recent incarnations caught by Morton’s camera.

First up—the statue of Sir Walter in downtown Raleigh, photographed in 1979.  Talk about a tennis ball . . . this statue has been relocated several times since its dedication on December 3rd, 1976.  You can learn some of its history by reading this statue’s entry in “Commemorative Landscape,” a website published by UNC Library’s Documenting the American South.  Seems like the London’s statue of Raleigh has had to endure relocation, too.  Maybe better heads will prevail and these statues will continue to stand statuesquely in their final resting places.

Andy Griffith as Sir Walter Raleigh with other cast members of "The Lost Colony" outdoor drama, circa late 1940s-early 1950sNext . . . Sir Walter, Mount Airy style.  Andy Griffith played the role of Raleigh in The Lost Colony, which we blogged about back in 2012.

There’s also a photograph of the British queen receiving Raleigh.

Luther Hodges presents statue of Sir Walter Raleigh to Qeen Elizabeth IIThere are a couple handfuls of other related “Raleigh” images by Morton in the online collection.  Take a gander!

 

300 posts

Spider web on barbed wire fence.   Scanned and cropped from a negative by Hugh Morton.

Spider web on barbed wire fence. Scanned and cropped from a 4×5-inch negative by Hugh Morton.

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World Wide Web (not the Internet—that’s twenty years older!)  The Web has grown from static webpages to the interactive “Web 2.0,” without which it would have been impossible to create A View to Hugh.  Now talk abounds about what “Web 3.0″ might become and yet I can still remember buying (I may even still have it!) my first guide to using Mosaic!  “Huh?” you may be asking.  Well, NSCA Mosaic was the Web browser that was the precursor to Netscape that was the precursor to Firefox.  (If you want to learn more about Mosaic, click on the hyperlink—that once magic and now routine function of the Web for Wikipedia’s version of that browser’s history.)

What better day than today, then, to publish the 300th blog post here at A View to Hugh.  Since beginning on November 1st, 2007, we have tried over the past six-plus years to create our own magic on the World Wide Web through the photographs of Hugh Morton—from the raw first days of processing the sizable and unruly collection; through the evolving finding aid for the 250,000-item collection of motion picture films and photographic prints, negatives, and slides; to the development of the digital collection of 8,000 online images; and, most recently, to the polished first retrospective exhibit of Hugh Morton’s work that debuted at Appalachian State’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts.

This scene comes from a group of negatives labeled "Road (Linville-Boone)."  The road sign on the left reads "PINE RUN RD" however, and the only road name matching that description (when searching Google Earth) runs between US 421 and Ridge Road  east of Boone.  Can anyone identify the location?

This scene comes from a group of negatives labeled “Road (Linville-Boone).” The road sign for the road on the left before the barn reads “PINE RUN RD”  and the only road name matching that description (when searching Google Earth) runs between US 421 and Ridge Road east of Boone. Can anyone identify the location?

So what lies ahead?

Two weeks from tomorrow, Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective will open for its second showing, this time at Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center in Cullowhee, North Carolina.  There will be an opening reception at 7:00 P.M.—you can “join” or “like” the event at the Mountain Heritage Center’s Facebook page for the event.  That evening I will be giving a presentation titled, “Hugh Morton’s Rise to His Photographic Peak.”  Earlier in the day I will be meeting with a class to talk about curating the exhibit.

And after that?

There’s a third venue set for the exhibit: this time in the eastern part of the state later this year.  Beyond that we are looking for other venues for 2015.

Anything else?

That’s a question I would like to pose to you.  Are there any subjects we haven’t touched on that you would like us to explore?  Any topics that you would like to address?  If so, please leave a comment.  Now that the World Wide Web is several years into its interactive phase I’d love to have a conversation about it.  Or, if you prefer, feel free to contact me using the CONTACT link above.

From Richmond to Chapel Hill . . . from Charlotte to the Moon

February 20, 1962 was an important day in United States space history.  On that day, US Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.  On that same date thirty-six years earlierFebruary 20, 1926an unsung hero of the United States space program was born in Richmond, Virginia.

On this February 20th, Morton collection volunteer and blog contributor Jack Hilliard takes a look at the life and times of that hero: Julian Scheer, who would have turned 88 today.

Julian Scheer posed next to Scheer Bluff sign

Julian Scheer posed next to the Scheer Bluff sign on Grandfather Mountain, date unknown.  This scan of a portrait by Hugh Morton comes from a machine-made print in the Morton collection.  The processing code on the back of the print includes the date 5 September 2001, just four days after Scheer’s death.)

The TV picture was slightly out of focus.  It was black-and-white and the camera was tilted a little. By 2014′s standards of high tech, high definition television, it would likely be branded “NBQ”—not broadcast quality.  Despite all of that, more than 700 million people around the world watched as US Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon.

And we almost didn’t get to see it.

In the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) chain of command during the lead up to the launch of Apollo 11, the first trip to land a man on the surface of the moon, one man stood firm with his commitment that a TV camera would be part of the lunar luggage: Julian W. Scheer from Richmond, Virginia, a UNC Tar Heel, and a friend of Hugh Morton and family.

At age 17, Scheer joined the merchant marine and later served in the Naval Reserve. Following that World War II service, he enrolled at the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1950 with a degree in journalism and communications.  He then became UNC Sports Information Director Jake Wade’s assistant, a position he held for three years, before joining The Charlotte News in 1953.  (In 1956 another UNC Tar Heel joined the staff at The Charlotte News.  His name: Charles Kuralt.)

Julian Scheer wading through debris after Hurricane Hazel (1954)During his early days in Charlotte, Scheer covered sports and news stories.  In 1954 he went to the North Carolina coast, along with a group of other North Carolina reporters, to cover Hurricane Hazel.  Also in that group was photographer Hugh Morton who, near the peak of the storm, took a picture of Scheer struggling against the rising water.  The picture earned Morton a prestigious award.  In the 1996 booklet, Sixty Years with a Camera, Morton described the circumstances on October 15, 1954:

Hazel was a very stormy thing.  And when it came ashore at Carolina Beach, Julian Scheer and I were covering it for The Charlotte News.  I asked Julian to walk through my picture, and the photo won first prize for spot news in the Southern Press Photographer of the Year competition.

That photograph is also on the front cover of the first edition of Jay Barnes’ 1995 book, North Carolina’s Hurricane History.

In 1956 Scheer received an invitation from an old college friend.  Nelson Benton, who first worked at Charlotte radio station WSOC following his UNC graduation in 1949 and then joined WBTV Channel 3 News (also in Charlotte), asked Scheer if he would like to join a group that was going to visit Cape Canaveral, Florida.  At that time, there was an Air Force base there and a few rockets had been tested, but very little news had come from the Cape. Scheer made the trip and was fascinated with what he saw and asked his editor at the “News” about a story of what was going on there. The editor didn’t show much interest, so Julian returned on his own time with his own money and did a series of stories.

As the space race heated up and with the creation of NASA in 1958, more and more stories turned up in the papers and on TV.  In 1959 Scheer wrote a book, along with NASA engineer Theodore Gordon titled First into Outer Space. The book was a best seller, but Scheer said the Pentagon took out some important content.  (This was Julian Scheer’s third book.  He teamed with Hugh Morton and Bob Quincy in 1958 for the Charlie Justice biography, “Choo Choo: The Charlie Justice Story.”  That book was published by Orville Campbell in Chapel Hill.  Also in ’58 he wrote Tweetsie, the Blue Ridge Stemwinder.)

Before he completed chapter one of his novel, he got a call from NASA administrator James Webb wanting him to come to Washington.  Webb was very familiar with Scheer’s reporting on the US space program and wanted to hire him as his public affairs assistant.   “We need your help,” said Webb. “I want you to write a plan for coordinating media coverage of the missions,” he added.

Scheer spent the next thirty days back in Charlotte formulating a grand plan that would shape the structure and policies of NASA into a team approach and would be responsible for getting the astronauts out of their flight suits and into the public consciousness.  Scheer never lost sight of the importance of the fact that media includes both broadcast and print.

He sent the plan to Webb and was soon called back to Washington.  When he walked in the door, Webb said, “I accept your offer to go to work for me.”  Both men laughed, before Scheer finally said yes.  “I want you to run this program just as you’ve outlined it.  You’ll work directly for me,” said Webb.

Julian Scheer outside NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 1965.

Julian Scheer outside NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 1965. (This is a slightly different pose than the image in online collection. Photograph cropped by the editor.)

Scheer arrived back at Cape Canaveral just in time for the final mission of Project Mercury, astronaut Gordon Cooper’s two-day stay in orbit in May 1963.  Cooper would be the final US astronaut to go into space alone, because Project Gemini was next and would consist of ten successful two-man flights starting in March 1965 and continuing until November 1966.  Project Apollo and the moon would be next.

On Friday, January 27, 1967 the Apollo One crew, consisting of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, was training at the Cape for the first Apollo launch when tragedy struck.  A spark ignited a fire in the spacecraft, killing all three astronauts.  Scheer was faced with a media crisis.  To his credit, he withheld information until all the families involved were properly notified.

Twenty-one months would pass before Apollo would actually fly.  On October 11, 1968 US Astronaut Wally Schirra checked out a new system in Apollo 7.  The US space program was back on track and headed for the moon.  Apollo 8 flew around the moon on Christmas Eve 1968.  Who could forget Commander Frank Borman and crew reading from the Bible on that cold December night on live television?  In an interview after the Apollo program, Commander Borman would say, “the (Apollo) program was really a battle of the cold war and Julian Scheer was one of its generals.”

Apollo 9 in March of ‘69 and Apollo 10 in May were the dress rehearsals for the moon landing which would be next.

The blueprint for Apollo 11 has Julian Scheer’s fingerprints all over it.  He was responsible for naming the Apollo 11 command module “Columbia.”  He participated in discussions over whether the astronauts would place a US flag on the moon and he helped determine the wording on the lunar module plaque that reads in part, “We came in Peace for All Mankind.” But perhaps his biggest achievement was his fight with NASA engineers to get a television camera on board the lunar lander “Eagle.” Weight was a critical issue for “Eagle” and the engineers said a TV camera would just be extra weight.  Said Scheer, “You’re going to have to take something else off.  The camera is going to be on the spacecraft.”  And so it was.

Wednesday, July 16, 1969 began at 4 AM for about 150 CBS News personnel at Cape Canaveral. Preparations were underway for the launch of Apollo 11.  Two hours later, at 6 AM (EDT) came this:

“This is a CBS News Special Report, ‘Man on the Moon: The Epic Journey of Apollo 11.’”

It was the voice of CBS legendary announcer Harry Kramer in New York.  Anchors Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra were on the air three hours and thirty-two minutes before the launch at the cape. The countdown went well as about 3,500 news personnel watched from the Complex 39 press site at Cape Kennedy (now it’s the Kennedy Space Center).  Among them was Hugh Morton. (According to the Morton collection finding aid, however, only seven 35mm slides are extant.)

An estimated half million space watchers lined the surrounding Florida beach areas.
Then at 9:32 AM (EDT) the mighty Saturn V (five) rocket, powered by 7,500,000 pounds of thrust, carrying Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins began a slow climb to the moon.

As Cronkite watched on his TV monitor, he jubilantly cried out,

Oh boy, oh boy, it looks good Wally . . . What a moment! Man on the way to the moon!

Most of the CBS launch team then headed back to New York to get ready for the biggest show of all on Sunday, July 20, 1969.

As CBS signed on at 11:00 AM (EDT) on the 20th, the first voice we heard was that of Charles Kuralt, Julian Scheer’s co-worker at The Charlotte News in 1956:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  Some five billion years ago, whirling and condensing in the darkness, was a cloud of inter-stellar hydrogen, four hundred degrees below zero, eight million miles from end to end.  This was our solar system waiting to be born.

Kuralt had recorded his essay days before because on this day he would fly across the United States, stopping along the way getting people’s thoughts on this historic day.  His program would be called A Day in the Life of the United States, and would air on September 8, 1970.

Then, Cronkite and Schirra and about 1,000 CBS News team members began a “32-hour day” live from Studio 41 in New York. Among those team members was Julian Scheer’s old college buddy Nelson Benton, who was stationed at Bethpage Long Island at the Grumman Corporation where a full scale model of the Lunar Module was set up. Benton worked with Engineer Scott MacLeod who had tested the module.

During the next five hours, Cronkite and Schirra were at the center of a media frenzy as they introduced feature segments, interviewed space experts, and tossed to CBS News Correspondents around the world.

At 4:08 PM (EDT) the astronauts were given a final “go” for the flight down to the surface of the moon. It took nine minutes and forty-two seconds. Then came Armstrong’s famous words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here.  The Eagle has landed.” Cronkite sat speechless, glasses in hand, shaking his head from side to side.  Schirra wiped a tear from his eye.
In six hours, thirty-eight minutes, and thirty-eight seconds, a 38-year-old American astronaut from Wapakoneta, Ohio would set foot on the surface of the moon.

At 10:25 PM (EDT), Cronkite held up a copy of Monday’s New York Times with the banner headline “Men Land on the Moon.”  Never before had the Times printed a headline in such large type. Then came this exchange between Houston and Neil Armstrong:

Armstrong: “Okay Houston, I’m on the porch!”
Houston:  “Man, we’re getting a picture on the TV, we see you coming down the ladder now.”
Cronkite:  “Boy! Look at those pictures.”
Armstrong:  “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

It was 10:56:20 PM (EDT) on Sunday, July 20, 1969.

Cronkite:  “Isn’t this something! 238,000 miles out there on the moon, and we’re seeing this.”
Schirra:  Oh, thank you television for letting us watch this one!”

Schirra could have said . . . perhaps should have said (in my opinion):  “Thank you Julian Scheer for letting us watch this one!”

Following the Apollo 11 crew’s return safely to earth on July 24, 1969 after eight days, three hours and eighteen minutes, Julian Scheer was awarded NASA’s highest recognition, the Distinguished Service Medal. He then led the crew in exploiting its public relations potential. He orchestrated and led round the world tours. In a 1999 USA Today article, Scheer said, “The Apollo mission was the chance to show off U.S. technological superiority. Clearly the Russians were going to the moon. We were head-to-head. We emphasized that.”

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, said, “He (Scheer) understood the needs of the media and also the needs of the flight crews. He was, in many cases, able to accommodate both.”

Following a successful Apollo 12 mission, Scheer was faced with another crisis during the flight of Apollo 13.  Two days into its flight an oxygen tank exploded crippling the service and command modules.  The lunar landing was cancelled, and for the next six days there was wall-to-wall media coverage until the crew landed safely on April 17, 1970.

When Apollo 14 launched on January 31, 1971, Hugh Morton along with wife Julia and daughter Catherine, were guests of Julian Scheer at the Cape. This mission saw astronaut Alan Shepard, America’s first man in space, return to space and land on the moon.
As it turned out, Apollo 14 was Julian Scheer’s final flight at NASA. Two days after his 45th birthday, on February 22, 1971, he left NASA and would become campaign manager for Terry Sanford’s 1972 run for the presidency.  Scheer remained a consultant to the space program in Washington and was a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Group portrait of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse committee members,  possibly outside the Carolina Club on the UNC campus. Left to right: Jim Heavner (CEO, The Village Companies of Chapel Hill and broadcaster); James G. (Jim) Babb (Executive VP, Jefferson Pilot Communications); Dr. William Friday (UNC President); unknown; unknown; Julian Scheer; and Hugh Morton.

Group portrait of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse committee members, possibly outside the Carolina Club on the UNC campus. Left to right: Jim Heavner (CEO, The Village Companies of Chapel Hill and broadcaster); James G. (Jim) Babb (Executive VP, Jefferson Pilot Communications); Dr. William Friday (UNC President); unknown; unknown; Julian Scheer; and Hugh Morton.

Julian Scheer and Hugh Morton crossed paths again in 1981 when Morton formed the “Save the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Committee,” in response to the growing concerns about the safety of the 129-year-old structure.  The committee read like a who’s who in North Carolina and brought together some of the best public relations/media minds in the world.  And of course Julian Scheer, with more experience with government agencies than anyone else Morton knew, topped the list.  The committee offered an alternative to moving the lighthouse as the US Corp of Engineers wanted to do. But Morton’s committee wasn’t able to keep the landmark in its seaside location.

On April 30, 1984, UNC’s great All-America legend Charlie Justice was the subject of a charity roast in Charlotte for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Scheer wasn’t able to attend the event in person, but he sent an audio tape poking fun at his dear friend. The audience loved it when Scheer said he and co-author Bob Quincy would have to answer “for all the lies we told” in that 1958 Charlie Justice biography.

In an interview in 2000, Julian Scheer said, “in my mind . . . I was always writing.  It never left me.  I always got a charge out of seeing my byline in the paper . . . .” Also that year Scheer wrote two children’s books, A Thanksgiving Turkey and Light of the Captured Moon.  He had previously written two other children’s books: Rain Makes Applesauce (1965) and Upside Down Day (1968).

The tragic news from Catlett, Virginia on Saturday, September 1, 2001 was that Julian Scheer had died in a tractor accident at his home.  He was 75-years-old.  The world will forever remember “the small step and giant leap” made by Neil Armstrong 238,000 miles away on Tranquility Base at 11:56:20 PM (EDT) on July 20, 1969; and the award-winning reporting by Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra to millions of viewers watching CBS-TV; but neither of these historic events would have captured the imagination of the world without that seven-pound TV camera and the strong will of Julian Weisel Scheer, a true unsung hero of Project Apollo and the American space program.

Frank Borman at Scheer Bluff, Grandfather Mountain

Frank Borman at Scheer Bluff, Grandfather Mountain. Scanned from a print that’s not included in the online collection (cropped by editor).

An Epilogue:
In the early 1960s Hugh Morton paid tribute to his dear friend Julian Scheer by naming a nice overlook at the 5,000 foot level at Grandfather Mountain, “Scheer Bluff.” The Scheer family would often visit Grandfather Mountain and in the early 1980s, to his surprise, Scheer received a photograph of astronaut Frank Borman standing at the “Scheer Bluff” sign.  Said Borman, “Julian, this is the first time I’ve called your bluff.  We’ve been through a lot together and I’ve always valued your advice . . . many years of happiness to a true friend.”

If you check the dictionary for the word “bluff,” you’ll find this definition among others:  “rough and blunt, but not unkind in manner.”

Correction: March 14, 2014:  An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the CBS announcer.  It is Harry Kramer, not Ted Cramer.  Kramer’s name is misspelled in a 1968 phone roster.

Final weeks for “Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective”

Just wanted to float a reminder out there that the exhibit “Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective” is entering its final two weeks at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University.

Are you going to be in the mountains for a bit of skiing this weekend, but the weather forecast calls for rain on Saturday?  Just looking for something to do in Boone?  Swing on over to the Turchin Center, view the fabulous photography by Hugh Morton, and stay dry!

Emmett Kelly, Jr. at the 1968 Azalea Festival Parade

Emmett Kelly, Jr. at the 1968 Azalea Festival Parade in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Perhaps the world’s most recognizable clown, Emmett Kelly, Jr. sprung into international fame soon after completing his four-year apprenticeship in 1964. Hired by Kodak as the attraction for its pavilion during the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, the company employed Kelly as a touring Ambassador of Goodwill for the following four years. During that time period, Kelly was the most photographed clown in the world, including this one by Hugh Morton—a founder and organizer of the azalea festival.

Here are the gallery hours at the Turchin Center:

  • Tue: 10am – 6pm
  • Wed: 10am – 6pm
  • Thu: 10am – 6pm
  • Fri: 12noon – 8pm
  • Sat: 10am – 6pm

Can’t make it to Boone before the exhibit’s last day on January 25th?  Fear not!  We have two additional venues in the works for this year: one farther west this spring and another in the east during the late summer and autumn.  I’ll be posting more information as the details unfold.

“Tar Heel Camera Man: Hugh Morton Remembered” to be viewable live on the Internet

Hugh Morton and hawk on movie camera

Hugh Morton at movie camera with hawk perched on top, most likely during filming of Morton’s 1981 film THE HAWK AND JOHN McNEELY.

As swift as a hawk, tomorrow’s (Saturday, October 5th) panel discussion “Tar Heel Camera Man: Hugh Morton Remembered” featuring Woody Durham, Jack Hilliard, and Betty Ray McCain, is upon us!  The event is open to the public, and will be held at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, in conjunction with the exhibit Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective.

The program begins at 2:00 P.M, and we would absolutely love to see you there (here are the details), but if you are far afield and cannot make the journey, fear not!  Appalachian State will be streaming the event live for viewing on the Internet.  Just click on the previous sentence, and the link will take you to the proper webpage.

“Greatest Fire in Wilmington’s History Rages on the Waterfront”

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR HOLOCAUST — The costliest fire in Wilmington's history—the Great Fire of Sunday, Feb. 21, 1886, devastated an estimated $1 million in property—was variously estimated last night to have consumed, in flames and smoke, from $10 to $30 millions worth of property.  [sic]  The fire started at 8:55 A.M.  By 10 A.M., when this picture was made from a plane, smoke billowed thousands of feet into the air and could be seen from at least 25 miles away.  The ship in the foreground is the Norwegian freighter Max Manus, which was towed from the docks when the fire started. . . . Photo by Morton.

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR HOLOCAUST — The costliest fire in Wilmington’s history—the Great Fire of Sunday, Feb. 21, 1886, devastated an estimated $1 million in property—was variously estimated last night to have consumed, in flames and smoke, from $10 to $30 millions worth of property.  The fire started at 8:55 A.M. By 10 A.M., when this picture was made from a plane, smoke billowed thousands of feet into the air and could be seen from at least 25 miles away. The ship in the foreground is the Norwegian freighter Max Manus, which was towed from the docks when the fire started. . . . Photo by Morton. (As captioned in the Wilmington Morning Star, 10 March 1953, page 1.)

Back in 2009 Elizabeth Hull wrote a post on the anniversary of the Wilmington Terminal Company fire, which occurred sixty years ago on March 9th, 1953.  The images she selected for that post are 4×5 color transparencies.  Hugh Morton also made several black-and-white negatives of the catastrophe, two of which made the front page of the Wilmington newspapers.  There are seven black-and-white negatives in the collection, plus the puzzler at the end of this post, are not currently in the online collection.

The headline for this post is the headline that accompanied a photographic essay of the event by the staff photographer(s) in the same issue of the Wilmington Morning Star.  The photograph above was on the front page of the March 10th issue.  It’s presented above as cropped for the newspaper, and below without cropping.  (The stain in the upper right portion of the frame does not seem to be in the published version.)

View of Wilmington Terminal Warehouse fire, with ship Max Manus in foreground.

According to the caption in the Wilmington Morning Star, Morton made these fire scenes approximately one hour after the fire began.  The image below made the front page, top center, of the same day of the fire in that afternoon’s Wilmington News.  The paper’s headline spanned the full page: “ADVANCE OF DOCK FIRE HALTED.”

Aerial view of the Wilmington Terminal Company fire.

FREIGHTER SAVED — A tug pulls the Norwegian freighter Max Manus from a flaming dock at the Wilmington Terminal Co. Smoke was visible for 20 miles. Photo by H. Morton. (As captioned in the Wilmington News, 9 March 1953.)

The microfilm for the two newspapers doesn’t capture the quality of the photographs very well, so these are my visual interpretations of the images; the crops are as close as I could estimate to those used by the newspapers.  Here’s the above photograph without cropping.

P081_NTBS4_015202_01

A sampling of other images made by Morton follow.  I have not had an opportunity to check other newspapers to see if any of the images shown here may also have been published.  Some of the negatives have pre-exposed numbers on one edge, giving you a clue to the order in which Morton photographed the event.  Other negatives, however, are not numbered, so it may be that he had more than one camera with a different lens and/or film combinations. (Remember he shot color transparencies, too.)

Wilmington Terminal Compay fire, with downtown Wilmington in the foreground.

This photograph gives a good perspective on the fire and its proximity to downtown Wilmington.

I wondered as I worked with these photographs what made Morton take to the air.  Did his military photography experience speak to his sense of the best perspective for the story?  Did Morton recognize that the local newspapers’ staff photographers would flock to “ground zero” and so knew that his aerial views would be unique?  Maybe both?

P081_NTBS4_015200_06The last photograph (below) is a bit of a puzzler.  It is a 3×4-inch negative—all the others are 4×5—and there is no sign of fire.  The negative envelope is labeled “Fire, Waterfront” but I suspect the negative is much earlier—perhaps prior to WWII, as Morton tended to use the 4×5 format after the war, and the 3×4 format before.  That’s not to say, however, that he didn’t use the smaller format after the war.  Maybe someone with expertise on the Wilmington waterfront can explore this image and provide an accurate or estimated date.  The bridge on the far right may also assist in dating the negative.

Wilmington waterfront, date unknown.

Wilmington waterfront, date unknown.