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“Then there’s [Little Rock, Ark., entrepreneur John Rogers'] rediscovery and purchase of over 8,000 glass negatives by the famed early sports photographer Charles Conlon, who shot some of the first ‘action’ sports photography between 1909 and 1930, capturing some of the most iconic images in history. Rogers, who calls Conlon ‘the Matthew Brady of baseball, had been a collector of Conlon prints for years, and set out to find the negatives in the late 2000s. They’d been used to create a book on Conlon by The Sporting News in 1993, but after that, they’d disappeared and nobody seemed to know where they were. ‘They thought maybe they were in a warehouse in North Carolina, or maybe in St. Louis,’ Rogers said.

“Through some detective work, Rogers eventually tracked them down to a warehouse in Charlotte, N.C. He remembers an old security guard leading him to a forgotten closet, where they had been unceremoniously buried under piles of junk. ‘They were down on the floor’” he said. ‘The boxes were water-damaged, and on top of them were coats, phone books, coats, phone books. It was like an archeological dig. He said they did a coat drive every year, and it was literally four years worth: coats and phone books, with the negatives at the bottom.’

“Those negatives, Rogers said, have since been appraised at $18 million.”

– From “John Rogers owns more photos than anyone, anywhere” by David Koon in the Arkansas Times (Oct. 10, 2012)

In recent years Rogers has bought and digitized dozens of newspaper photo archives, including those of the Charlotte Observer.

 

 

“The grainy, black-and-white footage, filmed in 1919 and 1920, documents what has become a classic psychology experiment, described again and again in articles and books. The idea is that the baby [in the experiment] was conditioned to be afraid, instilled with a phobia of all things furry.

“The man in the tie is John Watson, the father of behaviorism, a foundational figure in psychology, a Johns Hopkins University researcher [whose] legacy is forever entwined with the baby nicknamed Little Albert.

“The real identity of that baby has long intrigued students of psychology. Who was he? What happened to him? Did Watson really saddle the poor kid with a lifelong terror of animals?…

“Watson burned his papers before his death, leaving the curious without much to go on. Then, in 2009, Hall Beck, a professor of psychology at Appalachian State University, published a paper that shed new light on the case….

“What [Beck and his fellow researchers] found cast an even darker shadow over Watson’s flawed, ethically dubious experiment. The history of psychology would need to be rewritten…. No one would be able to look at the film, or think about Little Albert, in quite the same way again.

“That is, unless Beck got it wrong….”

On this day in 1945: Helen Keller, advocate of the disabled, arrives in Asheville for a five-day tour of service hospitals.

A Citizen-Times interviewer notes that Miss Keller’s secretary and companion, Polly Thomson, “turned to her and translated the reporter’s first question by touching the palm of Miss Keller’s hand with the tips of her fingers and speaking at the same time. The amazingly alert brain, behind eyes that have been sightless since she was two years old and shut in by ears that have detected no sound for the same period, was like a thirsty sponge, grasping so eagerly for the question that only a few key words were necessary to carry the complete thought.”

 

Was it serendipity? Or the hand of providence?

As the staff of the North Carolina Collection Gallery prepared for our exhibit on the Carolina Playmakers, we contended with a number of difficult decisions about what to include. With dozens and dozens of playbills from which to select, sometimes the choice came down to factors as arbitrary as color.

Whatever the reason for it, we’re glad we selected this 1942 playbill — and we’re not the only ones.

1942 playbill
The playwright of the second play on the bill, A Man’s Game, was Robert Schenkkan, a UNC student from Brooklyn, New York. The role of Countess Stephanie in A Man’s Game was played by the lovely young co-ed Jean McKenzie.

After graduating from UNC, Schenkkan and McKenzie were married and had a son named after Robert. Robert Jr. would go on to become a professional, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Through a lucky twist of fate, a friend of the younger Schenkkan visited the exhibit and saw the older Schenkkan’s name on the playbill. Mr. Schenkkan contacted us and we were pleased to offer him a copy of his father’s play.

Is it any surprise that the third play on the bill is called The Hand of Providence?

Exhibit extended

The exhibit “Making a People’s Theatre: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers” has been extended through June 15, 2014. Who knows — there may be a serendipitous surprise in store for you, too!

Masthead from Tarboro' press.

Tarboro’ press. (Tarborough, (Edgecombe Co., N.C.)), 12 Aug. 1848. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Last Friday, after 190 years, 2 months, and 5 days, the Daily Southerner of Tarboro ceased publication. The publication put down roots in Tarboro after editor and founder George Howard moved the paper from Halifax in 1826. North Carolina Historic Newspapers has digitized issues of the Tarboro’ Press (and its successors under different titles) from January 8, 1848 through December 22, 1876. These issues can be found on Chronicling America. Earlier issues of the Tarboro’ Press can be found on DigitalNC.

Over the course of its 190 years, the Daily Southerner covered all major wars, but also lesser known and long forgotten conflicts such as the Aegean Sea Anti-Piracy Operations of 1825-1828, the Second Seminole War of 1835-1842, and the Paraguay Expedition of 1859.

The world has changed in numerous ways since George Howard first began printing his paper in 1824, not the least of which is the dramatic evolution of technology. The Daily Southerner’s last communication was a tweet during the early afternoon on May 30.

“Of all the major American dialects, South Mouth is the most consistently difficult to translate.

“Among the most amusing examples is the expression a fade barn that the editors of the Dictionary of American Regional English tried to track down for a couple of years. The editors knew that the expression existed because field interviews had recorded it in North Carolina without establishing its meaning.

“When a Raleigh newspaper joined in the search, the answer was quickly apparent. Dozens of correspondents chided the editors for not knowing, in the words of one North Carolinian, that ‘a fade barn is whar you stow fade (feed) for the livestock.’”

– From “The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms”  by Robert Hendrickson (2000)

 

Earlier this week, we ran across New York Times article about Ida O’Keeffe, the younger sister of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Intrigued by the mention of some time spent teaching in North Carolina, we did some investigating of our own.  O’Keeffe taught art at Pembroke State College (now University of North Carolina at Pembroke) during the 1941-1942 school year.

Ida O'Keeffe photo

A course catalog suggests O’Keeffe taught not only drawing and painting but also weaving, basketry, and art appreciation. She’s featured in the 1942 yearbook Lumbee Tattler as the art professor and as advisor of the art club.  We don’t know exactly how long O’Keeffe was at Pembroke, but by 1945 a different art professor is listed.

Ida pembroke art club

The waters off the North Carolina coast have long proved treacherous for ships.  By some estimates more than 3,000 vessels have met their fates in the area commonly known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  A particularly dangerous location along the North Carolina coast is known as Diamond Shoals.  Here, cool water from the north and warm water from the south collide to create a maze of sandbars, small islands, and inlets extending miles out to sea.  Though a lighthouse was constructed at Cape Hatteras in 1802 (the current Cape Hatteras Light was rebuilt in 1870), its light did not project far enough to warn ships away from the outer Diamond Shoals.

In 1889, United States Lighthouse Board officials decided that a lighthouse should be built on the outer Diamond Shoals to augment the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  The Board provided $500,000 for its construction.

An article  from The Charlotte Democrat, dated September 19, 1890 and available through Chronicling America, relates the excitement with which North Carolina residents and mariners alike greeted the possibility of the new Diamond Shoals lighthouse:

“Should it be a success, it would be a cheap accomplishment at any price, for there is no other place on the seacoast of the United States, where so many noble ships have been lost, so many valuable cargoes destroyed, and so many human beings swept into eternity as in the raging waters of Outer Diamond shoals.  Should the enterprise prove successful, all maritime men of every nation and all our countrymen will owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Ransom, of North Carolina, who, placing implicit confidence in the statements made by eminent engineers that the work could be accomplished, and knowing the inestimable boon it would be to humanity and to commerce, employed his great popularity with the older members of both houses of Congress to induce them to pass a bill authorizing this stupendous undertaking, national in design and purposes, but international in its prospective benefits.”

The Charlotte Democrat, September 19, 1890

The Charlotte Democrat, September 19, 1890

See the full article on Chronicling America here.

Unfortunately, the same shifting sandbars that made it difficult for mariners to navigate the area also created problems with the construction of the lighthouse.  After several attempts, workers abandoned efforts to build the lighthouse and a lightship was anchored there instead.  A permanent lighthouse was not constructed on Diamond Shoals until the 1960s.  A light remained in that location for more than 30 years.  The lighthouse suffered significant damage from Hurricane Fran in 1996, making it difficult for workers to repair.  The light was finally extinguished in 2001, though the structure remains and is a popular fishing spot.  In 2012, a Minnesota man bought the lighthouse for $20,000 and announced plans to use it as a research, development, and product testing facility.

“Richard Schmidt at Newton-Conover [in the Western Carolina League] was a first baseman who ended the [1960] season hitting .333 with 14 triples. He repeatedly told his teammates his ambition in life was to become a bank robber. Little did they know, as they chuckled away, that he had already begun robbing small-town banks around western North Carolina, an activity that continued after the season and eventually landed him in prison.

“Jim Poole [manager of the Rutherford County Owls] told me later it was a crying shame that because there were so few jobs in baseball Schmidt had to go into robbing banks. I joined in lamenting the paucity of jobs in baseball but suggested there might have been something for Schmidt between bank robbery and baseball.”

– From “The Continental League: A Personal History” by Russell D. Buhite (2014)

The Western Carolina League was the primary minor league for the short-lived Continental League, Branch Rickey‘s attempt at forming a third major league.

Buhite, now professor emeritus of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, played first base and left field for Rutherford County.

 

On this day in 1942: Charlotte-born John Scott Trotter conducts the orchestra for Bing Crosby’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The record will sell more than 30 million copies — the best-selling single in history.

Trotter, the roly-poly son of a wholesale grocery salesman, launched his career as pianist and arranger in fellow Charlottean Hal Kemp‘s band at Chapel Hill. In 1936 he left for California, where he began his long association with Crosby by scoring the movie “Pennies From Heaven.”

 

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