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.

A Man and his Mountain; Worth 1,000 Words concludes

It is with both sadness and relief that I announce the final installation of our Worth 1,000 Words essay project . . . sadness because I’ve so enjoyed each new essay and the varying perspectives our authors have brought to the Morton collection, and relief because, wow, this has been a lot of work! (I have a whole new respect for editors/publishers).

But perhaps the sun hasn’t gone down for the last time on this project. All along, our intention with these essays has been to demonstrate the usefulness of Hugh Morton’s images beyond their obvious value as “pretty pictures.” As we stated in our original grant proposal to the North Carolina Humanities Council:

“Photographs are rich primary sources in themselves, full of historical detail, and as visual records, offer immediacy not available through text — a direct visual link to the past. Photography is also, of course, an art, one of which Hugh Morton was a master. The beautiful and communicative documents he created hold almost endless possibility for study, research, and exhibition. They also contain great potential for educational use at all levels, from grade school to graduate school.”

We heartily encourage researchers, journalists, students, teachers, history buffs, etc. to take up the mantle of our Worth 1,000 Words authors and continue to put Morton’s photos to work in the creation of new knowledge. We hope to find ways to encourage that in the future, e.g., through collaborations with media outlets and educators (here on UNC campus and/or in the public schools). We’d love to hear your ideas on ways to accomplish this.

And now to the final essay, entitled The Grandfather Backcountry: A Bridge Between the Past and Preservation, written by RANDY JOHNSON, the originator of Grandfather Mountain’s trail system. In this essay, Johnson provides his first-hand, behind-the-scenes perspective on the changing attitudes towards managing and providing public access to Grandfather’s backcountry. Combining Johnson’s piece with four of our other essays, by Drew Swanson, Anne Whisnant, Richard Starnes, and Alan Weakley, provides a fascinating, nuanced analysis (from multiple, sometimes conflicting perspectives) of the complex balancing act between profit and conservation at “Carolina’s Top Scenic Attraction.”

I’ll conclude with a final plug for our second (and last) Worth 1,000 Words event in Boone on Tuesday, August 10, which will feature both Johnson and Starnes. Come on out!

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 5:30 p.m.
Watauga County Library, Boone
Information: Evelyn Johnson, ejohnson@arlibrary.org, (828) 264-8784

“Unto These Hills”

Note from Elizabeth: Sixty years ago today, the historical drama “Unto These Hills” premiered at Cherokee, NC. We’re thrilled to present a guest post on the topic by Worth 1,000 Words essay author Andrew Denson of Western Carolina University.

This month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the outdoor historical drama “Unto These Hills,” which debuted in Cherokee on the evening of July 1, 1950. A vivid recounting of Cherokee history from European contact through the Removal era, the play was an immediate success, drawing large audiences throughout its first season. “Huge crowds have been present,” The State magazine proclaimed in its July 15, 1950 issue, and “everyone who has seen it thus far is enthusiastic.” Drawing more than 100,000 viewers in its first season alone, the drama quickly became one of Western North Carolina’s premier tourist attractions. In a significantly revised form, it remains popular today.

Hugh Morton captured some of the excitement of those early performances in a series of striking color images, now preserved in the Morton digital collection. The play’s dance sequences, in particular, seem to have drawn his photographer’s eye. He documented the “harvest dance” seen at the beginning of the drama and meant to express the Cherokees’ respectful relationship with the land (they “possessed it with gentleness and humility, with peace,” reads the script by Kermit Hunter). He also recorded the athletic “eagle dance,” which reviewers of the drama invariably cited as one of play’s most arresting moments. With modern choreography by UNC drama professor Foster Fitz-Simons, these performances bore little resemblance to traditional Cherokee dance, but they certainly gripped viewers’ attention. Fitz-Simons’ version of the eagle dance, in fact, became an all-purpose emblem of the drama, appearing in advertising for “Unto These Hills” for years to come.

The original “Unto These Hills,” it must be said, was rather poor history. Kermit Hunter, who wrote the script as a UNC graduate student, knew little about the Native American or Appalachian past, and his research seems not to have extended much beyond a cursory reading of James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokee. Hunter portrayed Cherokees sympathetically, as honest people who loved and defended their land, yet his Indian characters were little more than stereotypes. Seeking to appeal to a broad audience, Hunter relied on familiar images like the “noble savage,” turning fascinating figures like Sequoyah and the Cherokee leader Drowning Bear into flat caricatures. The play depicted real events, but only in a form devoid of historical complexity.

But perhaps that judgment is unfair. The creators of “Unto These Hills” transformed a somewhat obscure historical subject into compelling popular entertainment, which was no small feat. In the process, the drama may have accomplished something more. For all of its flaws, “Unto These Hills” ensured that several generations of visitors to the mountains departed knowing that Western North Carolina was the Cherokee homeland and that Cherokees had persisted there. That was a message worth broadcasting. Sixty years later, it remains so.

–Andrew Denson

REFERENCES

Beard-Moose, Christina Taylor. Public Indians, Private Cherokees: Tourism and Tradition on Tribal Grounds. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009.

Finger, John R. Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Hunter, Kermit. Unto These Hills: A Drama of the Cherokee. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1951.

The State, July 15, 1950.

It’s official…NC has a bunch of official symbols.

With a hat tip to our pals at North Carolina Miscellany, we inform you that North Carolina lawmakers have managed to find time in their busy schedules (state budget, anyone?) to name the Outer Banks’ wild mustangs as the official “state horse.” Hugh Morton was fond of photographing these charming ponies as they wandered through the harbor at Ocracoke.

From this AP article I learned the interesting tidbits that in addition to well-known symbols like the state dog (the Plott hound) and the state flower (dogwood), there is also a state insect (the honey bee) and a state BEVERAGE (milk).

So, I decided to try and determine how many of NC’s official state symbols Hugh Morton photographed. The answer: quite a few! I created the nice thumbnail gallery below to showcase some of the highlights. Hope you enjoy.

NOTE: If you’re a fan of all things North Carolina, you simply must check out the newly-launched website for materials published by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center: DigitalNC.org.

Food for thought

I noted a recent announcement from Grandfather Mountain that as of next week, they will be closing the “Bear Hut” (where visitors have been able to purchase food to feed the bears in the Mountain’s black bear habitat). Among other reasons cited for no longer allowing the public to feed the bears, staff say that the closure should improve the bears’ health (as they will receive a more consistent diet) as well as their temperament (as they will no longer have to compete with each other for food).

This reminded me of Morton photos I’ve seen from a time when ideas about the diets of bears in captivity were perhaps less enlightened.

It’s a little tough to make out, but in the photo above, the famous Mildred is enjoying a refreshing Orange Crush soda. (I cropped the original to make it easier to see).

Granted, this was a special occasion, but I suspect bears in the wild don’t have much opportunity to feast on birthday cake (except for perhaps the occasional trash-can raid):

And finally, here’s Mildred enjoying a more nutritious snack (again, cropped for full effect):

Here’s to the new plan for happier, healthier and more “natural” bears at Grandfather.

The Mountain: before, during, and after Morton

As I hope you noted in my last post, the almost 71,000 Hugh Morton images from the Grandfather Mountain Series are now part of the collection’s online finding aid and are open for research. These images date from the late 1930s through the early 2000s, and thoroughly document Morton’s intimate, life-long connections to the Mountain.

In the latest essay in our Worth 1,000 Words series, scholar DREW A. SWANSON explores this relationship and also reminds us that the Mountain was there long, long before the man, and will exist long, long after. How did tourism and development affect the Mountain’s ecosystems before Morton inherited it? What impacts did his actions, in the areas of both development and conservation, have? What can we expect in its future as a state park?

Read Drew’s essay, entitled Grandfather Mountain: Commerce and Tourism in the Appalachian Environment, and let us know your thoughts about these issues.

Capturing Cherokee, NC

The latest in our series of essays inspired by photographs from the Hugh Morton Collection focuses on images made of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, whose Qualla Boundary lands are primarily in eastern Swain and northern Jackson Counties, just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The essay, “More than Tourism: Cherokee, North Carolina, in the Post-War Years” is by Andrew Denson, Assistant Professor of History at Western Carolina University. Denson specializes in Native American history and the 19th-century United States.

Happy Birthday, Parkway

In case you haven’t heard (perhaps you’ve been hibernating), 2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Numerous events throughout the year will help mark this occasion, including a symposium next week at Appalachian State University, at which UNC Libraries’ Natasha Smith, Elise Moore, and faculty advisor Anne Mitchell Whisnant will unveil the exciting Driving Through Time digital project! (More on that after it’s launched).

Luckily, we were able to steal Dr. Whisnant (author of the 2006 book Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History) away long enough to write an essay for our Worth 1,000 Words project. It’s now available, and is entitled Roads Taken and Not Taken: Images and the Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘Missing Link.’

It’s no secret that determining the route for the last leg of the Parkway was a protracted, complicated, and divisive process, but one that ultimately resulted in the much-celebrated (and photographed) Linn Cove Viaduct (shown from the air at left). In her essay, Whisnant uses some of Morton’s own images to shed new light on this conflict. She also provides a crucial backdrop for some of Morton’s later environmental work, which will be examined in future Worth 1,000 Words essays.

We look forward to receiving your thoughts and comments!

Picturing the Port City

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With the 63rd Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival kicking off next week, it seems an appropriate time to highlight the festival’s home turf: Wilmington, NC. Not only was Hugh Morton was born and raised in Wilmington, but he and his family played a major role in shaping the tourism industry and infrastructure of the charming, historic Port City.

Here to help us is another Wilmington native, author, and purveyor of all things Wilmington history-related, Susan Taylor Block. Susan is the author of a whole bunch of books and articles (including photographic histories) on Wilmington’s past, culture, and some of its residents. She’s also behind the latest entry in our Worth 1,000 Words series, entitled Wilmington: Faded Glory to Fresh Achievement.

We hope you’re enjoying the growing variety of the essay offerings, and the opportunity they offer to delve a bit deeper into the riches of the Morton collection.

Daniel Boone was a man. Yes, a big man!

The entertainment community is mourning yesterday’s passing of actor Fess Parker (1924-2010), best known for his portrayals of manly pioneers Davy Crockett and (most relevant to the Morton collection) Daniel Boone. According to Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker,

In his prime, Parker was a big, rangy man who grew up in a small farm in Texas; his voice retained a warm Texas twang. He shot to a singular pop-culture fame in 1954, when Walt Disney’s Disneyland series broadcast “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter.” With his buckskin jacket, long rifle, slow drawl, and his coonskin cap, Parker was an immediate sensation. Kids could not get enough of his unique mixture of warmth, toughness, humor, and taciturn wisdom.

After his Crockett years, Parker went on to embody the role of Daniel Boone from 1964 to 1970. When I saw Turner’s article, I couldn’t help but steal the embedded YouTube video he included, of the opening credits of “Daniel Boone”:

In July or August of 1966, Parker paid a visit to Boone, NC’s own “Horn in the West” outdoor drama, and of COURSE, Hugh Morton was present with his camera. (Parker is shown below with Horn actor Glenn Causey; more images of his visit can be viewed here).

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Parker and the Horn crew apparently took a trip up Grandfather Mountain during this same visit (more images can be viewed here). You may also recall from a previous post that Parker’s TV son “Israel” (Darby Hinton) also visited Grandfather — whether it was at the same time as Parker, I can’t say.

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If anyone knows additional details from these events, please share!