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“[Naturalist John Muir seems to have had] an underlying ambivalence toward his Eastern associates. A friend once reported that after Muir and [Charles S. Sargent, director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum] reached the top of [Grandfather Mountain] in North Carolina, Muir ‘began to jump about and sing and glory in it all’ before he noticed Sargent ‘standing there as cool as a rock…a half-amused look on his face.’

“When Sargent explained, ‘I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve,’ Muir burst out: ‘Who cares where you wear your little heart, mon! There you stand in the face of all Heaven come to earth…as if to say, “Come, Nature, bring on the best you have. I’m from BOSTON!” ’ ”

— From “John Muir: Brief life of a Scottish-American conservationist: 1838-1914” by Steven Pavlos Holmes in Harvard Magazine (November-December 2014)

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“Redwood timber was in high demand during [World War II] because it not only did not warp but also had insulation properties, soundproofing capabilities and resistance to fire; so Roosevelt and [forester] Nelson Brown experimented with growing redwoods and sequoias on the East Coast….

“Roosevelt wrote Vice President Henry Wallace, ‘As you know, the rainfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or a little south thereof, is the highest in the East and I am going to get the Park Service to try planting them there….’

“The redwoods and sequoias didn’t grow in the Smokies as Roosevelt had hoped….”

— From Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America” by Douglas Brinkley (2016)

I was surprised to learn — thank you, Bland Simpson — that a lone redwood of mysterious origin now towers over Columbia Street in Chapel Hill.

 

 

Forty-five years ago, James Taylor was a young, long-haired songwriter with just a couple albums under his belt. On September 18, 1971 he played a gig at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California. Our September Artifact of the Month is a poster from that appearance.

james_taylor_poster

Taylor, who spent much of his childhood in Chapel Hill, later said of the performance, “When you play the Hollywood Bowl, you have a feeling — like at Carnegie Hall or the Royal Albert Hall in London — that you are playing in a major place, a place that has a lot of weight and is an important part of musical history. You have a feeling of having arrived.” (Source: HollywoodBowl.com)

Visit the new Lew Powell digital collection!

The poster was donated by Lew Powell, author, retired newspaperman, frequent North Carolina Miscellany contributor, and prolific Gallery donor. Miscellany readers are already familiar with Powell’s radar-like attention to the unusual, the offbeat, the compelling — those details that make North Carolina the unique place that it is. It’s a sensibility Powell brings to his collecting activities as well.

We’re pleased to announce the publication of a digital collection of materials donated by Lew Powell. The collection showcases his diverse collecting interests, which include political campaign materials, regional travel souvenirs, protest movements, musical ephemera such as concert posters and tickets, pinback buttons, stickers and decals, advertisements for North Carolina products, college and professional athletic teams, and more.

The collection currently contains about 200 items, with more to be added in the future. We’re excited to expose a broader audience to these materials, which provide a unique window into North Carolina’s cultural, social, and political history through the lens of material culture.

“The Secret Service visited Currituck County High School in Barco and confiscated a poster created for a civics assignment.

“The student who made the poster wanted to illustrate the right to dissent and took a photograph of his hand in a thumbs-down position next to a photograph of George W. Bush that was affixed to a wall with a red tack through the president’s head. A zealous employee in the Kitty Hawk Walmart photo lab where the film was taken for processing contacted the Kitty Hawk Police Department, which referred the case to the Secret Service. The teacher who assigned the project described the incident as ridiculous.”

— From “On This Day in Outer Banks History” by Sarah Downing (2014)

 

John Boyle’s Asheville Citizen-Times column on a Confederate colonel  being stripped of his highway historic marker included a second instance of roadside revisionism:

“The [marker] for Lillian Exum Clement will be coming down for a clarification. Unlike the [Col. Stephen] Lee sign, Clement’s will go back up….

“It seems Clement, the first woman elected to the North Carolina General Assembly and the first woman to serve in any state legislature in the American South, fudged her age.”

Credit for righting the record belongs to Zoe Rhine, special collections librarian at Pack Memorial. Here’s what she wrote for the library’s excellent online exhibit on Clement:

“Close research of the federal census records, the Asheville City Directories, the All Souls’ Parish Yearbook and early newspaper articles leads this writer to believe that Exum [as she is often referred to] changed her birth year from 1886 to 1894. Given the times, as well as her public life at the time, she may have believed that there would have been a negative reaction to her marriage to a man nine years younger than herself….”

Clement was a woman of numerous accomplishments, but none could have been more challenging than whacking eight years off her supposed age — and getting away with it for close to a century.

 

Image of Thomas Wolfe smoking a pipe. The photo reportedly shows him during his senior year at UNC.

Thomas Wolfe during his senior year.

One hundred years ago today the tall, rather awkward, not quite yet sixteen-year-old Thomas Clayton Wolfe boarded an early morning train in Asheville bound for Durham. There he was met by his brother-in-law who drove him the twelve miles over to Chapel Hill to enroll at the University of North Carolina. Wolfe had longed to attend the University of Virginia. But his father had insisted he go to Chapel Hill, foreseeing a possible legal career and future in politics for his youngest child. Once at Chapel Hill, however, Tom quickly dove into both coursework and campus activities with a passion and focus that quickly made him among the most prominent and popular students on campus.

Upon arrival in Chapel Hill, Tom signed up for room and board at the three-story rooming house of Mrs. Mattie Eva Hardee, a widow originally from Asheville–$15 a month for board and $7.50 for a student’s half of a room. Writing to his brother-in-law a few days later, he declared the food “splendid” but the room rent “exorbitant.” His professors were “all fine fellows” for whom he hoped to “do well in all my studies and my guess is that I’ll have to ‘bone’ up on math.”

During the next four years, Wolfe would do well in his studies—as a junior winning the prize in philosophy for best student thesis and earning multiple A’s that same year from favorite professors Edwin Greenlaw in English, Frederick Koch in dramatic literature, and Horace Williams in philosophy. His achievements in student publications and as a leader of campus organizations were equally outstanding—assistant editor, then managing editor, and finally editor-in-chief of the Tar Heel student newspaper; assistant editor, then assistant editor-in-chief of the University Magazine; associate editor of the Yackety Yack yearbook; member of student council; author of and sometimes actor in plays performed by the campus Carolina Playmakers campus theater company; and class poet.

After graduating from UNC in 1920, Wolfe studied playwriting at Harvard, then moved to New York where he initially did some teaching at New York University. But soon he turned his legendary intellectual energy and passion to fiction writing. In 1929 his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel, was published, winning wide praise among literary critics and creating a sensation because of the thinly-veiled autobiographical nature of the book. The life and experiences of the book’s protagonist, Eugene Gant, are often unmistakably similar to those of Thomas Wolfe. In Look Homeward, Angel, however, young Gant attends the state university at Pulpit Hill, not Chapel Hill. But the sense of adventure, excitement, and intellectual stimulation he experienced there as described in Look Homeward, Angel, echo loudly the fond memories of Thomas Wolfe for a place and time he would later describe as being “as close to magic as I’ve ever been.”

Points of interest clumsily extracted from “The Most Detailed Map of Gay Marriage in America” by in the New York Times (Sept. 12):

Same-sex marriages account for 1.29% of all marriages in the 288 Zip code region (Asheville). This rate is highest in North Carolina, ahead of the 277 Zip (Durham) at 1.03.

No other Zip in North Carolina breaks 0.50. Lowest, at 0.12: 279 Zip (Elizabeth City and environs).

Statewide: 0.26

Nationwide: 0.35

Durham also ranks 15th nationally in percentage of same-sex female marriage — 0.68.

 

On this day in 1962: Carl Sandburg, age 84, makes his final public performance, reading poetry, singing and playing the guitar at Flat Rock Playhouse. To cap off the evening he waltzes in the wings with Maria Beale Fletcher of Asheville, who has just finished her year as Miss America.

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Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.

“More than 100 years ago, when few states had road departments [North Carolina’s dates to 1915], a group of women planned one of our country’s first transcontinental highways, a good deed that over the course of a century has become controversial.

“The road was planned in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  [The Jefferson Davis National (sometimes Memorial) Highway, conceived as a rejoinder to the earlier Lincoln Highway] would run from Washington state, through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, ending in Washington, D.C. It would be ‘beautified and historic places on it suitably and permanently marked.’

“Today, portions of that historic highway remain, dotted with UDC historic markers….”

— From “The twisted history of the controversial Jefferson Davis Highway” by Kelly Kazek at al.com (June 6)

As this 2013 account suggests, not much evidence of the Davis highway remains in North Carolina.  Here’s how it once wended its way through Chapel Hill

(Want to have a North Carolina road, bridge or ferry named for that special someone? Start here.)

 

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