“Pretty as a Christmas card”

Here's a scan of the entire 4" x 5" black-and-white negative of the summit of Grandfather Mountain as shot by Hugh Morton.

A vertically cropped detail from the left side of this scene of the Mile High Swinging Bridge and Visitor Center at Grandfather Mountain, made by Hugh Morton, graced the December 1, 1970 cover of THE STATE. This is a scan of the entire black-and-white 4″ x 5″ sheet film negative.

Some of you may have seen the comment I wrote recently about the North Carolina State Library making issues of The State and Our State magazines available online.  Last Friday, the Our State Twitter feed tweeted the magazine’s December 1, 1970 cover, which was drawn from the above Hugh Morton photograph.  The issue’s cover caption on page 2 of the magazine begins, “Pretty as a Christmas card,” and identifies

  • the UNC Educational TV tower on Grandmother Mountain in the background to the left of the left bridge tower, and
  • Wiseman’s View, the peak fifteen miles away seen above the left bridge tower.

We made a nice large scan of the black-and-white negative just in case anyone would like to order a print.  I made a 16×9 crop for my computer desktop:

P0081_NTBS4_15531_16x9_585pxWide

There’s also a color version in the online selection of Morton photographs.

Fantascope lens

Mile High Swinging Bridge photographed with Fantascope lensThe Mile High Swinging Pathway?  You certainly get that impression from the photograph above!  Hugh Morton made this photograph, and several others of various subjects, using a “Fantascope lens.”  The distorting effect of placing one of these lenses on a camera seems to be one of scrunching the image.

I’ve had no luck finding information about Fantascope lenses . . . which are not to be confused with the Phantascope, a nineteenth-century device that created the impression of a moving image, nor the Fantoscope, a 1799 patented “magic lantern on wheels” by Ettienne-Gaspard Robert.

Rather than speculate, is there anyone out there who can tell us about Fantascope lenses?

View of Grandfather Mountain summit made with Fantascope lens.

Summit of Grandfather Mountain with view of Mile High Swinging Bridge, with image distorted by Fantascope lens, August 1969.

The Mile High Swing Bridge has been getting lots of publicity this month, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary on September 2nd, so I picked two Fantascope images that are a bit different than the usual views.  The distortion in the photograph above gives the bridge a Manchu Picchu-like setting!

Intrigued? Take a peek at other scenes made by Morton using a Fantascope lens.  All of the images (35mm slides) date from August 1969.

 

Hugh Morton’s first daily newspaper assignment

The previous post on A View to Hugh features a Hugh Morton photograph of Grandfather Mountain, published without credit on the cover of the 8 March 1941 issue of The State.  As the blog post revealed, I suspect the photograph dates from 1940 or earlier, which is relatively early in Morton’s career as a photographer.  January of that year saw Morton beginning his second semester as a freshman at UNC.  His camera had been stolen shortly after arriving on campus in the autumn of 1939, and it was not until sometime around January or February 1940 that he bought his next camera.  So, I wondered, “How early in his career would that have been?”  Today’s exploration unravels an uncertainty and mystery that I didn’t even have until two days ago.

This is an important photograph in Morton’s career.  At the time he made it, Morton was a UNC student with a summertime job as the photography counselor at Camp Yonahnoka.  Here’s one of his accounts about the photograph, quoted from the preface of his 2003 book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina:

In 1940, at nearby Linville, a fourteen-year-old kid from Tarboro named Harvie Ward embarrassed a lot of adults by winning the prestigious Linville Men’s Golf Tournament.  Burke Davis, sports editor of the Charlotte News, contacted the Linville Club for a photograph of Harvie Ward, and I was called to come up from camp to carry out what was my first photo assignment for a daily newspaper.  Davis liked my Harvie Ward pictures, and this led to many photo assignments for the Charlotte News during my college years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Because this assignment helped launch Hugh Morton’s career as a news photographer, and the early view of Grandfather Mountain was also likely made in 1940, I wanted to know when the Charlotte News published the Ward photograph(s) (two negatives are extant in the Morton collection) relative to publication of the early Grandfather Mountain view in The State.  I searched the Web for information on the Linville golf tournament and Harvie Ward for 1940, but only found a few bits and pieces—and nothing that said when they played the tournament.  So . . . off to the microfilm room.

I scanned through issues of the Charlotte News, Tarboro’s Daily Southerner, and Rocky Mount’s Evening Telegram published during the “golf-able” summer months through mid September, by which time Morton would have returned to Chapel Hill from Camp Yonahnoka and Ward would have already returned to Tarboro in time for their classes.  Nothing . . . at least not that mentioned Harvie Ward winning the tournament in 1940.

I turned next to Morton’s booklet, Sixty Years with a Camera published in 1996, which I recalled also included the portrait of Ward.  As The Jetsons cartoon dog Astro would say, “Ruh Roh . . . .”

The first picture I took on assignment for a newspaper (the Charlotte News) was of Harvie Ward when he won the 1941 Linville Men’s Golf Tournament.  This was a very competitive event, and it was a surprise to everybody that a 15-year-old kid from Tarboro would win it.

Two different statements of fact.  What to do?  Well, I turned to a different newspaper, the Charlotte Observer and here’s what I found: Harvie Ward didn’t win the Linville Men’s Invitational Tournament in 1939, 1940, 1941, nor 1942.  (I didn’t go further, because Morton was in the army in 1943).  A detailed listing of the entrants in the Charlotte Observer revealed that Ward didn’t enter the 1940 tournament; he did, however, defeat Ed Gravell of Roaring Gap to win the “second flight” of the 1941 tournament.  I also found a congratulatory paragraph in the Daily Southerner on August 4, 1941 “for taking first place in second flight in Linville invitational golf tournament.  Harvie is having great time knocking off the little fellows.”  [For golf historians, Sam Perry emerged victorious in 1939, Charles Dudley won the championship flight in 1940, Hub Covington won the 1941 tournament, and Billy Ireland won the event in 1942.]

To be thorough, I searched for both years (1940 and 1941) through mid September.   There are no photographs of Ward in the Charlotte News.  I now even wonder if the newspaper ever published one of these portraits of Ward by Morton.

So in all likelihood, Hugh Morton had it right the first time in the 1996 booklet: the Harvie Ward, Jr. photographs probably date from 1941.  And here’s some supporting evidence: photographs began appearing in the Charlotte News sports section’s “Pigskin Review” articles with the credit line “News Photos by Hugh Morton” in mid September 1941, which is in agreement with Morton’s statement that the Ward pictures “led to many assignments.”  Morton photographed members of the 1941 football teams of UNC (published September 12th), Duke, (September 13th), NC State (September 15th), and Wake Forest (September 24th), plus two photographs made during and after UNC’s season opener on September 20th against Lenor-Rhyne that featured UNC’s standout running back Hugh Cox.  By comparison, there are no photographs in the newspaper credited to Morton in late summer or early autumn of 1940.

My conclusion? So far, the earliest Morton photograph that I’ve discovered to be published in a non-UNC publication is the early view of Grandfather Mountain.  Now, please tell me why I believe the story probably doesn’t end there?!

An early Morton view of Grandfather Mountain

The State, 8 March 1941, cover

It’s been quiet at A View to Hugh of late, as research for a news photography exhibit opening October 6th has become my primary focus the past several weeks.  There will most definitely be Morton photographs in that exhibit, but I’ve been digging into the 1920s and early 1930s which mostly predates Morton.  One item of interest for the exhibit that overlaps with Hugh Morton’s career, however, is The State, a weekly magazine launched by Carl Goersch on 3 June 1933.  Jack Hilliard and I will be writing about The State next year on the magazine’s 80th anniversary, which readers today know as Our State.

As I have explored Morton’s early career, I have looked at each issue of The State—page by page—from 1945 up to early 1963 (thus far).  I chose 1945 as the starting point because it marks Morton’s return from the South Pacific during World War II.  We have referred often in past blog posts to the Morton images that appeared in The State, and I’ve updated many images in the online collection as I’ve discovered them in the magazine.

Researching for the news photography exhibit, I jumped back to volume one, issue one, again looking at every page to see what I could learn about the magazine’s role in the development of news photography in North Carolina.  When I got to the 8 March 1941 issue, I saw what felt like a familiar Morton image on the cover, shown above.  The photograph is uncredited, so I searched the online Morton collection, but did not find it.  I then dove into the negatives for Grandfather Mountain . . . Bingo!

Read carefully the caption on the magazine cover.  Note again the date of the magazine, plus the leaves on the trees (and their tonalities) and the lack of snow!  All those clues suggest to me that Morton made this negative in the autumn of 1940 (or earlier) and not early March 1941.  If my deduction is correct, it’s one of Morton’s earliest published images.

This photograph also appears (again uncredited) in the 27 February 1943 issue of The State as an illustration to the article “Grandfather Mountain” written by Lula M. Weir.  In a prescient statement, Weir wrote “That the Grandfather-Linville area may be acquired for a state park someday is now regarded as a certainty.”  That “someday” did come true.  Grandfather Mountain officially became a state park in 2009.

Doc Watson, 1923–2012

Legendary, inimitable, iconic . . .  Today will be a day filled with adjectives as people describe guitarist Doc Watson, born eighty nine years ago in Deep Gap, North Carolina.  Watson passed away yesterday in a Winston-Salem hospital.

Doc Watson and Jack Watson

Hugh Morton’s photograph above of Doc Watson, seated, and Jack Williams in 1953 appears in his book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina with a caption stating that Watson and Williams “were members of a band that played for small dances and family gatherings . . .”  That caption is all we know about this photograph.  Morton made this photograph very early in Watson’s career—the year Watson and Williams first met, eleven years before Watson’s first recording.

The original 35mm slide or a color negative has not turned up in processing the Morton collection.  There is, however, an inkjet print and the low resolution digital file within a PowerPoint presentation shown here, in the unprocessed files of non-original items.  Morton’s portrait of Watson playing a guitar in front of a woodpile, published in Making a Difference in North Carolina, has also not surfaced.  To date, fifteen photographs of Doc Watson can bee seen in the online collection.

The Uncommon Laureate with the Common Touch

Some fans of “CBS News Sunday Morning” may not know that the television program began airing regularly on January 28th, 1979—thirty-three years ago this weekend—originally hosted by North Carolinian Charles Kuralt.  Jack Hilliard present a profile of Kuralt and his long-time friendship with Hugh Morton.

It wasn’t unusual for Hugh Morton to get a call from a CBS News producer wanting to set up an interview with North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges during the Democratic National Convention in July, 1960.  After all, Morton was the governor’s campaign publicity manager and Governor Hodges was leading the North Carolina delegation at the convention.  When Morton and Hodges arrived at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, they met the youngest correspondent that CBS News had.  Twenty-six-year-old Charles Kuralt would be doing the interview.

Charles Kuralt interviewing Luther Hodges

Charles Kuralt (right) of CBS News interviewing North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges during the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Photographs cropped by the editor.

Charles Kuralt interviewing Luther HodgesCharles Kuralt interviewing Luther Hodges

While Kuralt conducted the interview, Morton did what he liked to do—he took pictures.  Hugh was impressed with Kuralt’s questions and his ability to handle himself during the interview.  After the questions were all answered, Morton and Kuralt struck up their own conversation, and discovered that not only were they fellow Tar Heels from UNC, but were both born in Wilmington.  Morton likely didn’t realize it at the time, but he and Kuralt would become close friends for the next 37 years.

Charles Bishop Kuralt had been with CBS News only three years when he was assigned to a 250-person staff of correspondents, news producers, reporters, directors and technicians for the 1960 conventions and election.  In those days, the three major networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, each covered the national conventions and each competed for its share of the TV and radio audiences. CBS with anchorman Walter Cronkite, and NBC with anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were fierce competitors.

Following the 1960 elections, in the spring of 1961, CBS assigned Kuralt to a Friday evening, prime time program called Eyewitness to History, an in-depth look at the top story of the week.  One of his first programs was broadcast on Friday, May 5, 1961—the day America put its first man in space with Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital ride from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  “Eyewitness” proved to be a popular program, and Kuralt called it “the best job I’ve ever had,” but a management change at CBS sent Kuralt to Latin America as a one-man bureau—not exactly what he had dreamed of doing.  From there, Kuralt completed four tours in Vietnam and then it was back to the United States and the West Coast bureau.  During these career changes, Kuralt and Morton stayed in touch and when he could get away, Kuralt would visit Grandfather Mountain, a place he dearly loved.

Charles Kuralt in "On the Raod" RVThen, in 1967, Kuralt floated an idea to CBS News President Dick Salant about an “On the Road” series.  Salant was willing to try it.  So in October of 1967, Kuralt hit the road and as they say “the rest is history.”  From Loafers’ Glory, North Carolina to Albertville, France and the ’92 Winter Olympics, Charles Kuralt picked up thirteen Emmy and three Peabody awards, was often compared to Edward R. Murrow, and was called by Time magazine “laureate of the common man.”  In addition he returned each weekend to New York to anchor “CBS Sunday Morning.”  Oh yes, he wrote six books also.

Hugh Morton and Charles Kuralt

Hugh Morton with Charles Kuralt at 40th anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge on summit of Grandfather Mountain, NC. Cropped by the editor.

Kuralt continued to return to North Carolina when he could—sometimes to write and sometimes to just relax . . . and sometimes for special occasions.  On September 2, 1992, he accepted Hugh Morton’s invitation to speak at the 40th anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge.  He had fun with his old friend.  ” . . . the Mile High swinging bridge, which is NOT a mile high, is not swinging either.  So, what we have here is the 80-foot-high, Tethered Bridge.  Big Deal.”

On May 21, 1993, Kuralt returned to Chapel Hill for a reception and banquet honoring him on the occasion of his acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award.  That Friday night at the Carolina Inn, Kuralt’s younger brother Wallace delivered the keynote speech.  It was titled, “The Uncommon Laureate:  Sketches in the Life of Charles Kuralt.”  During his talk he recounted,

“Early on Charles exhibited a penchant for journalism and broadcasting . . . he would sit in the front yard and announce: They’re up to the line, and here’s the play.  It’s Justice to Weiner, Justice to Weiner . . . down the sideline . . . TOUCHDOWN!

On October 12, 1993, Charles Kuralt spoke at UNC’s bicentennial celebration:

“What is it that binds us to this place as to no other?  It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls or the crisp October nights. . . . No our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.”

Editor’s note: last week, the Daily Tar Heel ran an article accompanied by a photograph of students protesting proposed tuition increases.  One of the protesters carried a sign bearing words from that very quotation, even crediting Kuralt on the placard.

Charles Kuralt at Grandfather Mountain, 1994

Charles Kuralt at Linville Bluffs overlook, with Grandfather Mountain peaks in background, May 28, 1994.

On April 3, 1994, after thirty-seven years at CBS, he did his last “Sunday Morning.”  Charles Kuralt was ready to return home . . . this time for good:

Farewell, my friends.  Farewell and hail.
I’m off to seek the Holy Grail.
I cannot tell you why.
Remember, please, when I am gone
‘Twas aspiration led me on.
Tiddly-widdly-toodle-oo.
All I want is to stay with you.
But, here I go.  Goodbye.

Kuralt then spent much of his time researching and writing his final book, Charles Kuralt’s America.

On December 8, 1995, he spoke at Hugh and Julia Morton’s 50th wedding anniversary”:

We should thank them (Hugh & Julia) for bringing us (Duke and Carolina) together.  There aren’t many things that bring us together, but Julia and Hugh can do it.

And on June 6, 1996, he paid tribute to his friend of thirty-six years as Hugh Morton accepted the 1996 North Caroliniana Society Award for his service to North Carolina:

Hugh Morton is North Carolina’s greatest promoter—always, however, of things that ought to be celebrated: the natural wonder of his mountain, the flaming beauty of Wilmington’s azaleas. Or of things that ought to be saved: the Battleship North Carolina, the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras.  Or of things that ought to be changed:  the laws which permitted disfiguring development on the mountain ridges, the laws which permit acid rain to fall, the constitution prohibition against our governors from succeeding themselves in office.  Our famous promoter never promotes himself.

When Hugh Morton visited with Kuralt in June of 1997 at Belmont Abbey College, he was appalled at Kuralt’s weakened condition.  He had been diagnosed with Lupus and the treatment had taken a severe toll.  Morton begged him to come up to Grandfather and recover, but Kuralt said he had too much to do.  Morton wasn’t surprised when the phone call from Kuralt’s assistant Karen Beckers came on July 4th telling him that “Charles is gone.”  Charles Kuralt was only sixty-two years-old.

Following his death, the University of North Carolina commissioned a series of oral histories with Charles Kuralt’s friends.  His dear friend Hugh Morton said this:

Charles really had the common touch.  He was so genuine and sincere.  I really believe he was the most loved, respected and trusted news personality in television.

Charles Kuralt at Grandfather Mountain, 1994

Charles Kuralt at Grandfather Mountain, May 1994.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newt Gingrich within arm’s reach of goal

We like to stay current here at A View to Hugh as much as possible, pairing historical images with current events or anniversaries of notable occasions.  This past weekend’s news just begged for today’s featured Hugh Morton photograph (which I have been secretly chomping at the bit to post for several weeks).  Carpe Diem!  The winds of politics shift quickly, so today we bring you . . . Newt Gingrich and Gerry.

Newt Gingrich and Gerry at Grandfather Mountain

New Gingrich and Gerry during a visit to Grandfather Mountain on 29 August 1995.

No insider political treats here: Mr. Gingrich has had a longtime love for animals and zoos, and his website “Gingrich Productions” even has a webpage called “Newt’s Favorite Zoos“—which includes the North Carolina Zoo that he describes as “the best kept secret in the zoo world.”

Like Newt, Gerry is still alive and kicking.  According to the Grandfather Mountain website, “Even at age 20, Gerry is still very spry and acts like a bear half her age.  Even though she is very patient, she does not hesitate to let her keepers know when they aren’t moving fast enough with her very distinctive and adorable moaning.” Perhaps Newt and Gerry are kindred spirits?

You can “adopt” Gerry through the Grandfather Mountain’s Adopt an Animal program. I don’t believe Mr. Gingrich is similarly available, although heading into the Florida Republican Party primary, I’m certain he’d accept donations, too.

 

‘Ghost Cat’ confirmed as ghost

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that the Eastern Cougar (a.k.a. puma, mountain lion, catamount, red tiger, or “ghost cat”) is officially extinct — i.e., there have been no wild breeding populations of the species since, probably, the 1930s. Officials blame continuing, numerous mountain lion sightings in the eastern states on mistaken identity (either another animal entirely or a migrating Western Cougar), or on big cats escaped from captivity — though they may have trouble convincing many locals of that!

This sad news does provide an opportunity to highlight some of Hugh Morton’s striking photos of cougars in the wildlife habitats at Grandfather Mountain.

I’m not entirely sure when the first cougars came to Grandfather (circa late 1970s-early 1980s), or of the impetus for creating a habitat for them — perhaps some of the staff at Grandfather can shed light on that story? But I believe the image below to be one of those inaugural cougars, named Terra and Rajah, possibly upon arrival at the Mountain (judging from the ropes and the unhappy attitude). (Of these two, only Terra, shown in the photo at the top of this post, was an Eastern Cougar — Rajah was Western).

Mr. Morton was obviously taken with the animal’s extreme elegance and athleticism. He tried repeatedly to capture that perfect “cougar leap” image. I’m particularly fond of the shot below (taken in 1982 of the cougar named Judy).

Two cougars, Nakita and Aspen, currently live at Grandfather (though the website doesn’t say whether either or both of them are Eastern Cougars). At least, through captivity programs like Grandfather’s, we can take comfort that not all of these incredible animals will become “ghosts.”

Linville and the MacRaes meet Introduction to Public History

Sam Leonard, a 2009–2010 graduate student research assistant who worked on the Hugh Morton collection and has previously contributed to A View to Hugh, is the author of today’s post. Her post highlights some of the historical MacRae family photographs of early Linville, North Carolina from copy negatives made by Morton.  Thanks, Sam, for sharing your academic experience utilizing the Morton collection!

Linville pamphlet

Last year I had the pleasure of working on the Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films as Elizabeth Hull’s research assistant, scanning negatives and adding descriptions to the images for the online collection of Morton “highlights.” It has been months since I worked on the collection, but I still see evidence of Hugh Morton’s work in my daily life. I saw Hugh Morton images working for the local television station UNC-TV, where I created a photographic archive. I see Hugh Morton’s photography in hallways and on the news. I have also had the pleasure of learning about Hugh Morton’s legacy in my classes.

This past Fall semester, I completed the class “Introduction to Public History” at UNC-Chapel Hill taught by adjunct associate professor Anne Mitchell Whisnant—author of the book Super Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History, and contributor of the essay “Roads Taken and Not Taken: Images and the Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘Missing Link’” to the View to Hugh “Worth 1000 Words” project. Students in Whisnant’s class had the opportunity to write essays for the website Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, a new Website under development in the University Libraries’ Web publishing endeavor Documenting the American South. Whisnant serves as the scholarly advisor for “Driving through Time,” which presents and interprets archival material—including photographs—related to the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"Grandfather Mountain, 1890s, Copy of photos by Donald MacRae"

Growing up in Greensboro, N. C., I always enjoyed our family trips to the area surrounding Boone, N. C. On our way to visit Grandfather Mountain, we would stop by the quaint town of Linville for lunch. I was excited by the prospect of learning more about Linville, so for the public history class my group wrote an essay entitled, “Logging, Tourism, and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Linville, North Carolina.” By exploring this topic, my group (consisting of Ben Beidler, Morgan Jones, and myself) learned a lot about the MacRae family’s influence on Linville.

Copy of historic photograph of men and women sitting on fallen tree in or near Linville, NC, from 1890-1920 era.

While writing this essay, I learned how the MacRae family participated in the town’s development through the Linville Improvement Company.  The history of Linville starts in 1887, when Donald MacRae purchased a large amount of land in western North Carolina. MacRae started the Linville Land, Manufacturing and Mining Company, which eventually became the Linville Improvement Company.  Donald MacRae’s son Hugh MacRae took over the Linville Improvement Company soon after its founding, and Linville was created alongside the Linville Improvement Company in the late 1800s (Covington, p. 9). The MacRaes also developed resorts to bring upper class tourists to Linville to become known as “a playground for wealthy Northeasterners” (Swanson, p. 3).

Copy of photograph by Donald MacRae of people, carriage, and horses going over stone bridge in Linville, NC.

In the 1800s, the Linville Improvement Company had a goal to make Linville appealing for tourists, landowners, and investors.  Sometime between 1888 and 1910, the Linville Improvement Company published an advertising pamphlet entitled Linville (cover shown above) to attract people to the area. By describing what amenities the Linville Improvement Company wanted to provide in the town, this pamphlet provides a perfect example of how intertwined the Company and community were.  For example, the pamphlet states “the Improvement Company will aid liberally in the establishment of first-class institutions of learning, libraries, museums, and whatever else is practicable and desirable for the welfare of the community.” This quotation shows how the Linville Improvement Company not only how it hoped to bring Linville profit, but it created resources for the local people. Therefore, the community became dependent on the Linville Improvement Company to take care of their town.

Copy photo of farm, house, and dirt road from the 1890s-1900s, Linville, NC.

Hugh Morton influenced many people throughout North Carolina and America, and by writing this essay for my class, I realized that Hugh Morton’s family history is a great source of learning for students and anyone who is passionate about North Carolina’s history. For anyone that is interested in the history of North Carolina, it is important to remember the history of the MacRae family, whose influence with the Linville Improvement Company was and is evident in Linville, NC. So next time you are driving through scenic western North Carolina, remember to stop by and walk around the attractive town of Linville and appreciate the area that Hugh Morton’s family helped establish.

Works Cited:

Covington, Howard E. Linville: a mountain home for 100 years. Linville, NC: Linville Resorts, Inc., 1992.

Linville Improvement Company.  Linville.  [pamphlet] 1888-1910. North Carolina Collection, Louis Wilson Round Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Swanson, Drew A. “Marketing a Mountain: Changing Views of Environment and Landscape on Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina.” Appalachian Journal 36, 1/2 (2008-2009): 30-53.

NC is clog wild

I just happened to catch a news item that current Miss North Carolina Adrienne Core won the talent portion of the 2011 Miss America Pageant with “a fast-paced, contemporary clogging routine.” Many may already know that clogging is NC’s official state folk dance. I remember doing a bit of clogging (terribly) in my youth in Boone, and seeing some pretty amazing performances by clogging troupes, but I know nothing of the dance’s origins. According to Wikipedia,

Clogging is a type of folk dance with roots in traditional European dancing, early African-American dance, and traditional Cherokee dance in which the dancer’s footwear is used musically by striking the heel, the toe, or both in unison against a floor or each other to create audible percussive rhythms. Clogging was social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century.

Fascinating to consider how those European, Cherokee and African American influences might have come together! From Wikipedia I also learn the interesting tidbit that “in the U.S. team clogging originated from square dance teams in Asheville, North Carolina’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (1928), organized by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in the Appalachian region.” (Mr. Lunsford has been discussed on this blog a few times in the past, including in detail in one of our “Worth 1,000 Words” essays).

Hugh Morton took many photos of the world-renowned Grandfather Mountain Cloggers troupe, including the one above, which shows the Cloggers performing during halftime of a 1974 UNC-Maryland basketball game, and those below taken at the 1977 White House Easter Egg Roll and during the taping of a segment of Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road.”

I’m curious to learn more about the origins of the Grandfather Mountain Cloggers. Who founded the troupe? What became of it? Internet searches turn up little except for a very small Facebook group, whose description intriguingly invites “all those who were members back when clogging was a precision dance.” Is it no longer considered as such? Are there raging stylistic debates in the world of clogging? I’m dying to know.