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

” ‘Manteo to Murphy’ is a phrase often used in reference to the entire east-west width of North Carolina, particularly when describing a phenomenon that touches all regions of the state.

“The phrase was famously applied to the 1876 gubernatorial campaign between Zebulon B. Vance and Supreme Court Justice Thomas Settle Jr., in which Vance’s victory set off ‘rejoicing by Democrats “from Manteo to Murphy.” ‘ This followed from the fact that Vance and Settle had toured the state in a series of debates that resulted in the largest Democratic majority (over 13,000) in any election between 1868 and 1900.

“The phrase is actually a symbolic and not literal rendering of the extreme east-west width of North Carolina, since neither Manteo (Dare County) nor Murphy (Cherokee County) is situated precisely at the state’s borders.”

-- From “Manteo to Murphy” by Wiley J. Williams in NCpedia

A Nexis search of newspapers dating back to 1987 turns up 179 references to “Manteo to Murphy” — but almost twice as many (335) to “Murphy to Manteo.”

What happened? How did this historic expression come to be so often reversed? Did our habit of reading text left to right carry over to the state map? Or is it, as my wife suggests, that “Man-te-o” delivers a “stronger, more musical” ending than  “Mur-phy”?


Want to make that dream kitchen a reality?  Looking for a cure to what ails you?  On the hunt for ice cream?  Look no further than your local community cookbook for the latest in modern kitchen conveniences, commodities, and local services.

USE Patronize Merchants Advertized in this Book - Fries Memorial Moravian Church

Image from Fries Memorial Moravian Church : history, customs, recipes.

USE Any Recipe is Better When Cooked Electrically - A Collection of Favorite Recipes

Carolina Power & Light Company ad from A collection of favorite recipes.

USE GE Refrigerator Ad - Capital City Cook Book

General Electric  Refrigerator ad from Capital city cook book : a collection of practical tested receipts.

USE Sold Ad - Keepers of the Hearth

Terriff’s Perfect Washer ad from Keepers of the hearth : based on records, ledgers and shared recipes of the families connected with Mill Prong House, Edinborough Road, Hoke County, North Carolina.

USE Carolina Power and Light Co. Ad - Capital City Cook Book

Carolina Power & Light Company ad from Capital city cook book : a collection of practical tested receipts.

USE Mexican Mustang Ad. - Keepers of the Hearth

Mexican Mustang Liniment ad from Keepers of the hearth : based on records, ledgers and shared recipes of the families connected with Mill Prong House, Edinborough Road, Hoke County, North Carolina.

USE Baker's Cocoa and Chocolate Ad - The Raleigh Cook Book

Walter Baker & Co. ad from The Raleigh cook book.

Ice Cream Ad Ad - The Raleigh Cook Book

W. Furman Betts ad from The Raleigh cook book.

On this day in 1937: Author Thomas Wolfe writes from New York to his mother in Asheville:

“Yes, I suppose there are more modern and up-to-date places around Asheville with electric lights, new beds, etc. but I did not have time to look for them and I honestly thought that the Whitson cabin was . . . the best place that I saw. . . .

“As to your own fears of loneliness — and not liking to be alone out in the country at night — I know of no way in which you can get peace and seclusion, and not get it, at the same time. What I need desperately at the present time is to get away from the noise and tumult of New York, to get away from towns and cities and, for a few weeks at least, to get away from too many people.”


“When the United States chose Nevada as the site for atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons four decades ago, Government officials knew the choice would mean that more people would be exposed to radiation than at an alternative site in North Carolina, a new study asserts.

“But officials chose the Nevada site because it was already under Government control and could be used sooner and because it was closer to bomb production plants….

“The study cites documents of the Atomic Energy Commission, the predecessor to the Department of Energy, from 1948 that it says show a preference for testing nuclear bombs on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where prevailing winds would carry the fallout over the ocean. But in the midst of the Cold War, the Government believed it could begin tests more quickly in Nevada, because the site was already in military hands.”

– From “Study Says U.S. Rejected Safer Nuclear Test Site” in the New York Times (May 17, 1991)

As Rob Christensen reminds N&O readers, North Carolina would suffer an even scarier nuclear moment in 1961.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/09/06/4124288_christensen-ncs-brush-with-annihilation.html?sp=/99/100/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

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