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“North Carolina, which came to be known as ‘Poor Carolina,’ went in a very different direction from its sibling to the south. It failed to shore up it elite planter class. Starting with Albemarle County, it became an imperial renegade territory, a swampy refuge for the poor and landless. Wedged between proud Virginians and upstart South Carolinians, North Carolina was that troublesome ‘sinke of America’ so many early commentators lamented. It was a frontier wasteland resistant (or so it seemed) to the forces of commerce and civilization. Populated by what many dismissed as ‘useless lubbers’ (conjuring the image of sleepy and oafish men lolling around doing nothing), North Carolina forged a lasting legacy as what we might call the first white trash colony. Despite being English, despite having claimed their rights of freeborn Britons, lazy lubbers of Poor Carolina stood out as a dangerous refuge of waste people, and the spawning ground of a degenerate breed of Americans.”

— From White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” by Nancy Isenberg (2016)

The pejorative “sinke of America,” coined in 1681 by Virginia Gov. Thomas Culpeper, foreshadowed by 60 years William Byrd’s even more enthusiastically scornful “History of the Dividing Line.”

 

“Professors registered as Democrats outnumber those registered as Republicans by a ratio of roughly 12 to 1 at UNC Chapel Hill – and in 16 departments zero registered Republican professors can be found….

“The College Fix researched the party registrations of 1,355 Chapel Hill professors using the public voter database maintained by the State Board of Elections….

“Spokesman Jim Gregory said via email that the university ‘does not hire faculty based upon their political affiliation, but instead upon academic merit.

“ ‘That said, we also feel that it is important for students to be confronted with views that they may not agree with or have not previously been exposed to, which we believe leads to the development of critical thinking skills….

“ ‘Our primary effort is to ensure that our faculty, regardless of their backgrounds, are sensitive to and respectful of the various beliefs and viewpoints raised by each of their students,’ Gregory said, adding the university does attempt to ‘achieve a measure of diversity across all domains’ but described achieving a perfect balance as ‘extremely difficult.’ ”

— From “At UNC Chapel Hill, 16 departments have zero registered Republican professors, analysis finds” by Alec Dent at the College Fix (June 20)

 

“It’s one of the more glamorous stories of the Cape Fear coast: Confederate spy  Rose O’Neale Greenhow, widow of a minor Washington bureaucrat and a sometime diplomat, is riding a blockade runner back into Wilmington. Her ship runs aground and she drowns in the Atlantic — weighed down by treasure sewn in the linings of her gown.

” ‘I kind of hate to bust people’s bubbles,’ said Chris Fonvielle,  historian at the University of North Carolina Wilmington….”

— From “Romantic story of shipwrecked Confederate spy is true, mostly” by Ben Steelman in the Wilmington Star-News  (June 9)

 

“[A. Scott Berg, biographer of Maxwell Perkins] said that when [Thomas] Wolfe wrote a book that detailed how Perkins had hewn his novels from dense forests of Wolfean prose, ‘Perkins begged him, in vain, not to publish it. Max always said that if editors were too well known the public would lose faith in writers, and that, above all, writers would lose faith in themselves. And that is exactly what happened to Thomas Wolfe.’”

— From “Ghost Editor” by Tad Friend in the New Yorker (June 20)

Berg’s  “Max Perkins: Editor of Genius” (1978) underlies the new movie “Genius,” in which Perkins is played by Colin Firth and Wolfe by Jude Law.

A local aside from Mountain Xpress previewer  Ken Hanke: “Now, you might want to know that, no, none of the film takes place in Asheville (apart from one brief bit that’s supposed to be Riverside Cemetery), but considering that it only covers 1929-1938 that’s hardly surprising. “

 

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.

They are tall and lean, with short waists and long limbs, sallow complexions and languid eyes, when not inflamed by spirits. Their feet are flat, their joints loose and their walk uneven. These I speak of are only peasantry of this country, as hitherto I have seen nothing else, but I make no doubt when I come to see the better sort, they will be far from this description. For tho’ there is a most disgusting equality, yet I hope to find an American Gentleman a very different creature from an American clown. Heaven forfend else.–Janet Schaw, on North Carolinians, 1775

In the North Carolina Collection at UNC’s Wilson Library, a fascinating 18th century manuscript contains the first-hand account of a young Scotswoman, Janet Schaw, and her travels across the Atlantic that landed her right smack in the middle, or rather at the absolute peak, of tensions culminating in the American Revolution. The manuscript, which is a handwritten transcription of letters sent from Schaw to an unknown recipient back home, starts from the moment she set foot on the departing ship in Scotland, on to the Caribbean Islands, and then, particularly for those interested in the state’s history, the Cape Fear region of North Carolina.

Janet arrives on the coast of North Carolina in February 1775. Her first stay is in Brunswick, a town that was already in decline at the time of her visit, then razed by British troops the next year and never rebuilt. Her first host was Richard Quince, owner of the ship Rebecca that had transported Janet and her group to the coast. From there, she travels the short distance to her brother Robert’s plantation, Schawfield. During the rest of the summer, she makes short trips to Wilmington and other plantations in the immediate area. Her brother, a Loyalist, with others who supported Governor Martin and the Crown, were finally forced to take refuge off the coast on a British warship by October 1775. For context, note that the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was signed May 20, 1775.

Plantations on the Lower Cape Fear

H. de W. Rapalje’s map of plantations near Wilmington showing the location of Schawfield, 1725-1760

As the situation deteriorated over the summer and tensions rose, Janet provided sharp political insight to the recipient of her letters, although biased to the Crown and disdainful of the violence already surging in the colonies. She also took the time to include incredibly vivid and detailed observations about her surroundings and environment, from how gardens were kept (or not, in her strong opinion) to the flora and fauna along the Cape Fear that were new to her. Janet’s writing style, tone, and unfiltered opinions indicate an impassioned, engaged, and thoughtful traveler. As a result, the manuscript is not only a pleasure to read, but this first-hand account is incredibly informative for understanding what took place during a tumultuous time in American history.

Schaw excerpt

Page 217 from the original Schaw manuscript describing trees in the Cape Fear area

The manuscript itself has an intriguing story. On page 391, there is a date: 8th Decr. 1782, indicating when it was created. The copy held by the NCC was bought in the early 1970s, and before that time, only three others were known to exist. To produce the well-known transcription, of which there are a number of editions, Charles and Evangeline Andrews only consulted the copy of the manuscript at the British Museum, which is now understood to be lost.

For those interested in the context of Schaw’s visit and the history of the time period in North Carolina, other writings such as James Sprunt’s Chronicles of the Cape Fear River 1660-1916 would be an excellent resource. There are details about the town of Brunswick, descriptions of prominent members of society, and plantations along the Cape Fear. Janet’s brother Robert Schaw is only mentioned briefly. He was, however, a known and prominent citizen, and close with another distinguished Scottish family, the Rutherfurds, that had settled at the Cape Fear. Janet Schaw traveled to North Carolina with three of John Rutherfurd’s children who had been in school in Scotland. Mentions of Robert can be found in the Colonial and State Records online at Documenting the American South, for example a receipt for a horse used by the army against the Regulators (and never returned) and the Ordinances of the Provincial Congress 1776.

To gain an idea of how a plantation contemporaneous to Schawfield would have operated, the Hayes Collection (in the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson) would be an excellent resource. The North Carolina Collection Gallery also has a replica of the the Hayes Plantation library. Not much criticism of the manuscript has been produced, however the few that have been written are very useful in understanding the text, for example, an analysis by Sue Fields Ross, plus a fascinating analysis of foodways in the Schaw manuscript by Sue Laslie Kimball.

The tall but narrow little pamphlets inevitably catch one’s eye on the shelf: each is only about 6 pages in length, and they are printed in bright colors and intriguing fonts on good paper. With almost four decades’ worth of issues, there is a lot to peruse. The series, Tips, is filled with sayings, words of wisdom, insider tips to succeed in business, and jokes. Such a charming and unusual publication provides the lure to discover much more about its story and reveals a much larger insight into life in Asheville, NC around the turn of the century.

From the first issue of Tips, 1909

From the first issue of Tips, 1909

Tips served as the long-lived house organ for the prolific Asheville-based publishing company The Inland Press. While Tips was the company’s house publication for some decades, with the first issue appearing in April 1909, the company also printed hundreds of books and pamphlets over many years, from collections of poetry to travel industry pamphlets, plus general kinds of office supplies, labels for products, and really anything that could be printed on paper. The North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library holds dozens of their publications.

From the earliest days of The Inland Press, the business garnered industry attention and accolades. The Typographical Journal (July 1, 1902, Volume 21, page 121) has a full-page feature advocating Asheville for the location of the 1903 convention of the International Typographical Union of North America. B. George Barber is stated to be the president of the union at this time, and the author asserts, “Our new president, Mr. Barber, is an artistic jobman, and is now doing a neat little business ‘on his own hook.’”

The Hill Directory for Asheville from 1904/05 has one, if not the earliest, city directory listing for a B. George Barber, printer, and Inland Press. Later directories and newspaper articles about the business would show that his brother, Frank, also joined the business and helped to run it for some time. Census records also show that B. George Barber was an Englishman and had immigrated to the States in 1881 when he was just a small child.

Asheville_Gazette_News_Tue__May_12__1914

May 12, 1914 clipping from the Asheville Gazette-News

The city residents were apparently interested in the activities of The Inland Press, as local newspaper coverage over the years would indicate. In 1914, the Asheville Gazette-News reported that the shop had moved to no. 10 Market Street. Details abound as far as the layout of the building and the type of equipment found: six Platen presses, a monotype machine (said in the article to be the first in the state), and a “cutting edge” Babcock Optimus flatbed press. “The plant in its entirety is one that the owners are exceedingly proud of and one that brings credit to the city.”

The Linotype Bulletin, “Linotype Specimens Received” feature (March 1918, volume 14, page 109) states: “Effectiveness of the new lining gothics is well shown by a number of job specimens from B. George Barber, proprietor of the Inland Press, Asheville, N.C. Mr. Barber is a tasteful printer and directs the work of his Model 14 Linotype with skill and judgement. The little house organ, Tips, an entire Linotype product issued by the Inland Press, has this motto: ‘An idea at work is worth two in your nut.'”

The Asheville Citizen-Times continued to feature news about Inland Press. An article from May 3, 1919 announces that brother Frank A. will join the company, stating that the business had “steadily grown during the past few years until this firm has become one of the largest in the state.” Over the years, the paper would continue to document the growing business, including expansion. For example, July 8, 1919’s issue detailed the purchase of property from Edwin George Carrier to build a “three or four story modern printing establishment” on Spruce Street in Asheville. Other fascinating events in the history of the press include a 1921 union walkout. The striking printers said that the shop owners employed non-union members and refused to negotiate new contracts. A March 11, 1921 Citizen-Times article states that Mr. Barber has “only the kindest feelings for the union men who quit,” “but realized they were forced to do so.”

The growth of The Inland Press and the role of the Barbers in Asheville’s business and entrepreneurial community in the early 20th century is as fascinating a story as one that was printed in their shop. Tips can be found in the North Carolina Collection at call number C655 I56t.

“Legend has it that Alexander Hamilton, the early American statesman [and current Broadway cynosure], gave the Outer Banks its colorful moniker, one that over time came to romanticize what mariners once dreaded. According to author Ben Dixon MacNeill in ‘The Hatterasman,’ published in 1958, Hamilton ‘passed Cape Hatteras on a summer night in 1773 and thereafter remembering the night’s terror, he spoke of that portion of the sea as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.’

“Hamilton’s story was a creation of the imaginative MacNeill, said Kevin Duffus, author of the 2007 ‘Shipwrecks of the Outer Banks, An Illustrated Guide.’

” ‘Nowhere in Alexander Hamilton’s personal writings did he ever say that he was in danger of being shipwrecked off the Outer Banks,’  Duffus said. ‘There is absolutely no credible evidence that he had anything to do with Cape Hatteras or concerning the phrase Graveyard of the Atlantic….

” ‘Unfortunately, many, many writers and historians have repeated this’….”

— From “What’s in a name? — Graveyard of the Atlantic” b

 

On this day in 1918:  Gov. Thomas Bickett warns wartime slackers that “I have instructed our police officials to rigidly enforce vagrancy laws. All men . . . who refuse to work five days in the week, after having been given notice by the County Council of National Defense, should be prosecuted . . . the idle rich as well as the idle poor.”

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Every artifact tells a story. One of the most dramatic stories represented by one of our artifacts is the story associated with our June Artifact of the Month: Elisha Mitchell’s pocket watch.

pocket_watch500

Elisha Mitchell was a professor of geology, mineralogy, and chemistry at UNC in the 19th century. In 1828 he observed a peak in the Black Mountain range that he believed to be the highest point in the eastern United States. He returned three more times to gather data in the 1830s and 40s.

In 1855, Mitchell entered a two-year public debate with state senator Thomas Clingman — a former student of Mitchell’s — about the resolution of the highest-mountain question. In an effort to settle the matter, Mitchell made a final, fatal trip to the Black Mountains in 1857.

On that trip, he slipped, hit his head on a rock, and fell into a pool at the base of a waterfall. The blow to his head knocked Mitchell unconscious and he drowned in the pool.

… And that’s where our artifact comes in.

Mitchell carried this pocket watch on his journey and it still tells the time of his supposed death: June 27, 1857, 8:19.

The Mitchell pocket watch and the state parks

Mitchell’s life was cut unduly short, but his legacy is part of the North Carolina landscape. The mountain Mitchell identified was eventually verified as the tallest peak in the eastern United States, and it was named Mount Mitchell in his honor.

In 1916, Mount Mitchell and the land surrounding it were purchased to become North Carolina’s first state park. This year the state park system celebrates its 100th anniversary with events at every park.

In April, Gallery staff took the Elisha Mitchell pocket watch to Fort Macon State Park for an event attended by 25,000 people. In August the watch will travel to Mount Mitchell — a homecoming of sorts.

We’re delighted to share one of our favorite artifacts with audiences beyond Chapel Hill, and proud to be part of the state parks’ anniversary celebration. If you’ll find yourself near Mount Mitchell at the end of August, please join us!

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