Switchel or Harvest Drink - Progressive Farmer

Switchel or Harvest Drink from The Progressive farmer’s southern cookbook.

Autumn Apple French Toast - North Carolina Bed & Breakfast Cookbook

Autumn Apple French Toast from North Carolina bed & breakfast cookbook.

Fall Cookies - Cooking on the Cutting Edge

Fall Cookies from Cooking on the cutting edge.

harvest fruit mold - Chapel Hill Cook Book

Harvest Fruit Mold from The Junior Service League’s Chapel Hill cook book : tried and tested recipes.

Harvest Skillet Pork Chops - Family Circle

Harvest Skillet Pork Chops from The Family circle cookbook.

Autumn Stuffing - The Cat Who...Cookbook

Autumn Stuffing from The cat who– cookbook.

Harvest Pumpkin Pie - Heavenly Delights

Harvest Pumpkin Pie from Heavenly delights.

Autumn Roasted Chicken with Fruit Compote - Cooking on the Cutting Edge

Autumn Roasted Chicken with Fruit Compote from Cooking on the cutting edge.

On this day in 1865: The Raleigh Daily Standard reports on what may be the state’s first road gang, organized under the military government immediately following the Civil War:

“The military on yesterday picked up a large number of gentlemen of color, who were loitering about the street corners, apparently much depressed by ennui and general lassitude of the nervous system, and, having armed them with spades and shovels, set them to play at street cleaning for the benefit of their own health and the health of the town generally.

“This is certainly ‘a move in the right direction’ for the indolent, lazy Sambo, who lies about in the sunshine and neglects to seek employment by which to make a living, is undoubtedly ‘the right man in the right place’ when enrolled in the spade and shovel brigade.”


Q: You’ve lived in New York over 17 years, but I understand you’re from a small town in North Carolina. Was that a difficult transition?

A: It’s impossible for people who grow up within the orbit of large cities to fully understand how alien and incredible and impossible and overwhelming a place they appear to those far outside their sway. Where I grew up, at the time a dry county in the buckle of the Bible Belt, we’d drive 40 miles to the closest small city to buy alcohol, which had a 24-hour Krispy Kreme, and I’d marvel at its neon sign, conveyor belt — I felt unsophisticated even there.

“Although culture certainly wasn’t kept from us — I knew who Thomas Wolfe was by the time I was 10, but I didn’t see a work of modern art up close until I was 20 years old — it was [Robert] Rauschenberg’s combine painting, ‘Bed,’ and nearby was one of Jasper Johns’ Flag paintings. I stood there frozen for the longest time — I couldn’t speak, tears in my eyes.”

– From “Evan Smith Rakoff: The TNB Self-Interview” (March 14, 2013)

Rakoff, reared in Asheboro and educated at UNC Greensboro, is a freelance writer and associate web editor at Poets & Writers.

Among his essays: a comparison of Andy Griffith to Robert Burns.


“First, half a grapefruit. Cereal — Cream of Wheat. One poached egg on whole wheat toast. No bacon. And coffee, no cream, no sugar.”

– Retired headwaiter Chauncey Mann, having no trouble recalling in 1980 the breakfast ordered by Eleanor Roosevelt at the Hotel Charlotte in 1940.

The First Lady was staying overnight after a controversial speaking engagement at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C.


pirate day

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate day, we bring you the The Sturdy Beggar Fantastic Ship’s Bar.  This postcard ca. 1940-1969 from the Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards reads:

“Sturdy Beggar Fantastic Ship’s Bar Located in the Charcoal Hearth Restaurant at the Holiday Inn is the South’s most beautiful Lounge. Visit the Pirate’s Cove at the junction of Highways 17 & 70 in historic New Bern, N.C.”

The Sturdy Beggar was a sloop of war ship active during the American Revolutionary War. In a September 17, 1777 letter to then Gov. Richard Caswell, Joseph Leech, a prominent figure in New Bern and a colonel in the Craven County minutemen, credited the mere presence of the Sturdy Beggar and another ship, the Pennsylvania Farmer, with momentarily saving the day from two British ships sailing near New Bern. These British ships had been sailing around the North Carolina sounds capturing various vessels. Thanks to the Sturdy Beggar being unexpectedly delayed in New Bern for maintenance reasons and the Pennsylvania Farmer arriving to port, John Leech surmised that the two British ships thought twice before coming up river where two armed ships were currently housed.

bunkumIn searching through Newspapers.com for early uses the word “bunkum,” one of our state’s greatest (perhaps the greatest?) contributions to the English language, I found an interesting article from the Philadelphia World reprinted in the Asheboro Southern Citizen of July 26, 1839.

Regular readers of our “This Month in North Carolina History” series remember that “bunkum” grew out of a 1820 speech by Felix Walker in the U.S. House of Representatives when he said he was “speaking for Buncombe.” While initially ascribed to overblown and empty political speech, we now know it to refer to any sort of nonsensical claim.

But in the 1839 article, bunkum is used as a superlative:

Many of our readers have doubtless heard of this used as a superlative, without knowing its origin. Thus a buncum horse or buncum fellow, which means a horse or fellow of superior quality is frequently used in some parts of the country, and occasionally heard in all. It is a corruption of Buncombe, the name of the largest and most westerly county of North Carolina. As this county is larger than any three or four others in the State, the North Carolinians have long used it as a standard of comparison; and therefore when they wish to designate any thing as particularly large, or excelling, they say it as as large as, or equal to Buncombe, which they pronounce Bunkum.

Unfortunately for our friends in Asheville, who no doubt would have preferred to have this more positive use of their county name widely adopted, I don’t think anyone today would want to be called a “bunkum fellow.”

“On 1902, a shoeless boy from the Great Smoky Mountains stood before the dean at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine…..His name was John Romulus Brinkley, he was 17 years old, and he wanted to be a doctor. The dean surveyed the boy and cruelly laughed. He said the boy had better run on home to North Carolina [Jackson County], because doctors weren’t made from people like Brinkley….”

– From “The Strange, True Tale of the Old-Timey Goat Testicle-Implanting Governor” by Penny Lane in the Daily Beast (Sept. 16)

Doctors, no — giants of quackery, yes.

You can help director Lane complete her “seductive and entertaining as hell” biopic on Dr. Brinkley —  pithily titled “NUTS!” — by pledging at Kickstarter.


“[In the late 1800s] fan systems — steam-driven, then electric — became the norm for the well-dressed department store. But they offered little in the way of cooling…. Belk Brothers of Charlotte, North Carolina, maintained a barrel filled with ice water at their store’s front entrance; five tin cups were tethered to the barrel for customer convenience.”

– From “Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything” by Salvatore Basile (2014)


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.

What’s the downside to having beautiful money? Not knowing whether it’s real.

currency note

Our September Artifact of the Month is a counterfeit bank note, supposedly from the Commercial Bank of Wilmington. The bank was real, but it had nothing to do with this note.

Before the Civil War, coins were scarce and the federal government printed very little paper money. Paper money printed by banks, merchants, and local governments served as common currency. These private and local issues were typically embellished with artwork in the form of vignettes, or pictorial elements. The variety and beauty of these vignettes is the subject of the NCC Gallery’s current exhibition.

composite currency vignettes

While mid-nineteenth-century printing technology did assist in deterring some counterfeiters, the wide variety of available notes presented opportunities for fraudsters.

Our featured note, with its dramatic whaling vignette, was a genuine note from a New Jersey bank. When the bank folded, its paper money became worthless. As was typical in that era, some enterprising criminal altered the note so it bore the name of the Commercial Bank of Wilmington.

Because banks issued so many different designs, this fraudulent note could be passed off easily, with its recipient none the wiser.

Gallery event

If you’d like to know more about the art that appeared on North Carolina money, join us in the North Carolina Collection Gallery for an open meeting of the Raleigh Coin Club on Tuesday, September 16, 2014. The meeting will include a guided tour of the exhibition hosted by its curators Bob Schreiner and Linda Jacobson.

7:00 pm: Exhibit viewing and gallery tour
7:30 pm: Meeting

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