Our April Artifact of the Month is a poster, donated by Lew Powell, advertising cruises from Morehead City on the M.S. Stockholm.

poster advertising M.S. Stockholm

When this travel poster was created, the M. S. Stockholm was a slim young 12,000-ton ocean liner with a yacht-like profile. The ship, which was owned by the Swedish America Line, began sailing in 1948. The Stockholm provided regular service between Scandinavian ports and New York City during an era when crossing the Atlantic by ship was gaining in popularity — despite the growing availability of transatlantic air service.

Designed to provide comfort and intimacy rather than luxury for its passengers and crew, the Stockholm was the smallest passenger liner on the North Atlantic route. Due to its slim hull and initial lack of stabilizer fins, the ship quickly gained the reputation as the “worst roller on the North Atlantic.”


Partly in response to the vessel’s lively behavior in the rougher northern seas, the Swedish America Line scheduled the Stockholm for a series of four cruises originating at Morehead City, North Carolina, with Havana, Nassau, and Bermuda as destinations in the autumn of 1953. As local newspapers reported, North Carolinians took advantage of this opportunity, with the first cruise being occupied almost entirely by about 400 members of the North Carolina Academy of General Practice physicians and their families. The departure from Morehead City was postponed by one day while Hurricane Hazel roared ashore. The October 23rd cruise to Bermuda included a convention of North Carolina livestock Feed Dealers.

The Stockholm has subsequently led a long and eventful life.

On the foggy night of July 25, 1956, the eastbound Stockholm collided with the much larger luxury liner and pride of the Italian Line fleet, the Andrea Doria, near the Nantucket lightship. A fourteen-year-old girl was catapulted from her berth in the Andrea Doria onto the deck of the Stockholm. The girl survived. But the Andrea Doria sank eleven hours later. Between the two ships, fifty-one lives were lost.

The Stockholm after its collision with the Andrea Doria. Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Australia.

The Stockholm after its collision with the Andrea Doria. Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Australia.

The bow of the Stockholm was repaired, and the ship was placed back into service. Since then, the vessel has experienced a considerable series of changes of ownership and name.

Sold to East German government. Renamed Völkerfreundschaft. Operated as an ocean liner for fifteen years.
Transferred to a Panamanian company. Named shortened to Volker. Laid up in Southampton, United Kingdom, in 1986. Then renamed Fridtjof Nansen. Served as a barracks ship for asylum seekers in Oslo, Norway.
Sold to an Italian company, which rebuilt it as a modern cruise ship from the waterline up. Renamed Italia 1, then Italia Prima, then Valtur Prima while providing service to Cuba. Laid up in Cuba in 2001.
Purchased by Festival Cruise Line. Renamed Caribe. Sailed on the Cuba route.
Sailed for Classic International Cruises. Renamed Athena. Attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on December 3, 2008, but the ship’s crew and a U.S. Navy patrol aircraft drove the pirates off.
A 2011 photograph of the ship then known as the Athena. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

A 2011 photograph of the ship then known as the Athena. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

Bought by a Portuguese company, Portuscale Cruises. Renamed Azores. Conducted charter cruises.
Scheduled for long-term service by the Cruise and Maritime Voyages company. The ship once known as the Stockholm will be 67 years old in 2015.

[James] Leloudis added that Powell’s collection of writings has been so valuable toward historical literature that North Carolina tends to be ‘over-represented,’ in part due to Powell’s work.”

— From “NC historian William S. Powell dies at 95″ in the News & Observer (April 11)

Dr. Leloudis’s comment about the distorting effect of Bill Powell’s prodigious output piqued my curiosity. Is such “overrepresentation” a bad thing? Certainly, other states thought so when they protested the manuscript forays of J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton (and dubbed him “Ransack”).

“It’s a good thing,” Dr. Leloudis clarifies. “My point — which the reporter didn’t quite get — was that the North Carolina Collection is in a class by itself, and that the depth and comprehensive character of the holdings make it a particularly fruitful site for research. No wonder, then, that a disproportionate share of the historical scholarship on the South has a North Carolina focus.”


On this day in 1955: I. Beverly Lake Sr., assistant attorney general of North Carolina, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that the state should be given no deadline to desegregate its schools:

“Race consciousness is not race prejudice. It is not race hatred. It is not intolerance. It is a deeply ingrained awareness of a birthright held in trust for posterity. . . .

“The majority of North Carolinians have been taught from infancy, and they understand, how it came about that Israel became a great nation, while Edom faded into oblivion, and they agree with the great Disraeli, who said: ‘No man will treat with indifference the principle of race, for it is the key to history.’ “


[John Archibald] Wheeler struggled to mend a rift in physics between general relativity and quantum mechanics—a rift called time. One day in 1965, while waiting out a layover, Wheeler asked colleague Bryce DeWitt [at UNC Chapel Hill] to keep him company for a few hours. In the [Raleigh-Durham International] terminal, Wheeler and DeWitt wrote down an equation for a wavefunction, which Wheeler called the Einstein-Schrödinger equation, and which everyone else later called the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. (DeWitt eventually called it “that damned equation”)….

“His work on the physics of black holes had led him to suspect that time, deep down, does not exist. Now, at the airport, that damned equation left Wheeler with a nagging hunch that time couldn’t be a fundamental ingredient of reality. It had to be, as Einstein said, a stubbornly persistent illusion….

“In recent years, Stephen Hawking… has been developing an approach known as top-down cosmology…. By applying the laws of quantum mechanics to the universe as a whole, Hawking carries the torch that Wheeler lit that day back at the North Carolina airport….”

— From “Haunted by His Brother, He Revolutionized Physics” by Amanda Gefter at Nautilus magazine (Jan. 16, 2014)


“Thomas Kunkel’s biography adds some telling details to what [Joseph] Mitchell’s readers already know about his childhood as the eldest son of a prosperous cotton and tobacco grower in North Carolina. Perhaps the most striking of these is Mitchell’s trouble with arithmetic—he couldn’t add, subtract, or multiply to save his soul—to which handicap we may owe the fact that he became a writer rather than a farmer. As Mitchell recalled late in life:

You know you have to be extremely good at arithmetic. You have to be able to figure, as my father said, to deal with cotton futures, and to buy cotton. You’re in competition with a group of men who will cut your throat at any moment, if they can see the value of a bale of cotton closer than you. I couldn’t do it, so I had to leave.

“Mitchell studied at the University of North Carolina [1925-29] without graduating and came to New York in 1929, at the age of twenty-one….”

— From “The Master Writer of the City” by Janet Malcolm in the New York Review of Books (April 23)

But the reddest meat in Kunkel’s  Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker” is the revelation of how much fiction Mitchell infused into such classic works as “Joe Gould’s Secret” and “Up in the Old Hotel.” (“Does It Matter?” some ask.)

Earlier: Kunkel on Mitchell’s Fairmont roots.





Before the regulation of optometry in North Carolina, the practice took place in a number of surprising settings. E.E. Hight, of Henderson, practiced optometry alongside jewelry and watchmaking. Dr. G.W. Raby, of Blowing Rock, was an optician and a druggist. See these ads in the May 23, 1907 issue of the Henderson Gold Leaf and the January 7, 1904 issue of the Watauga Democrat.

Minnesota passed the first state optometry laws in 1901, and in 1909, legislators in North Carolina approved regulations governing optometry. North Carolina’s laws called for the creation of a board of examiners and required an examination for all new practitioners. Existing practitioners could register with the board in lieu of taking the examination.

In the March 14, 1918 issue of the Watauga Democrat, Dr. Alfred W. Dula advertises that he “voluntarily took the full examination before the State Board” and proclaims himself “licensed and pronounced competent to test eyes and fit glasses by three State Boards, N.C., S.C. and Tennessee.”


“On the morning of October 10, 1905, thirty miles off Cape Fear, gunfire erupted in the engine room of the schooner Harry A. Berwin, bound to Philadelphia from Mobile, Alabama. The gunman, a black sailor, methodically shot all of the ship’s white crew members and calmly threw the dead and dying men overboard. Then he ordered the surviving members of the crew to sail the ship toward Cape Fear.

“The violence aboard the Berwin was the most notable act of shipboard violence committed by blacks upon whites in American maritime history….”

— From “Washed Down in Blood: Murder on the Schooner Harry A. Berwin” by Vann Newkirk in  the North Carolina Historical Review (January 2014)

And that’s just the beginning! The story [digitally available at Pardon Power] also comes to include Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft; H.B. Warner, the actor who played the drunken druggist in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and — in a very loosely adapted 1958 movie version — James Mason, Dorothy Dandridge and Broderick Crawford.


On this day in 1930: A throng estimated at 30,000 to 50,000 is on hand for Charlotte’s first air mail delivery. The carrier is Eastern Air Transport, later to be Eastern Air Lines.

The story in the next day’s Observer begins: “Roaring out of the darkness of the south, Gene Brown, intrepid air flier of the night skies. . . . “


“[Southern] towns prided themselves on their new water works and sewers….When a new water system came to Salisbury, North Carolina, in the late [1880s], Hope Chamberlain recalled, ‘Some of the younger married folks put in bathrooms. We girls called them “The Bath-Tub Aristocracy.” ‘ Those ‘aristocrats’ mentioned their new conveniences as often as possible, deeply irritating those ‘who had not yet graduated from the class with the tin-tub-on-the-back-fence, to be brought in with cold water and warm, in pails for the semi-weekly rite.’ ”

— From The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction by Edward L. Ayers (2007)


French Broad hustler and Western Carolina Democrat. volume (Hendersonville, N.C.), 10 Feb. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

French Broad hustler and Western Carolina Democrat. (Hendersonville, N.C.), 10 Feb. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.


In March 1915, a bill was passed in both houses of the State Legislature naming Mount Mitchell as the first state park in North Carolina. The bill was largely encouraged by Governor Locke Craig, the 53rd Governor of North Carolina. He acted in response to concerns from the citizens of North Carolina regarding deforestation.

The namesake of Mount Mitchell was Dr. Elisha Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell, a science professor at UNC, measured elevations of the Black Mountain region until he met an untimely and unfortunate death after falling off a cliff over a large waterfall. Mitchell is buried on the summit of the mountain. Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The second highest point, Mount Craig, was named in honor of Governor Craig. Read more about North Carolina’s first state park in Chronicling America and on the website of the N.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. Additional information about North Carolina woodlands is available from The Forest History Society.



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