Category Archives: Just for Kicks

A freshman stands up to being hazed

In our second installment of our “welcome back” series, we feature a letter from Neil A. Sinclair (a freshman) to his mother, 9 September 1882, in which he recounts his experiences with being hazed by the older boys at Carolina. Hazing was frequent during the early years of the University.  In Kemp Plummer Battle’s “History of the University of North Carolina. Volume II: From 1868 to 1912,” available online through DocSouth, you’ll find a lot of description about these hazing practices (starts around page 294 of the electronic version), including descriptions of the “blacking parties” mentioned in Sinclair’s letter below:

There has been [a] good deal of “freshing,” but I’ve been troubled but very little.  The first of the week, while going to supper one evening, a fellow thought he would be smart & stepped up in my path & drew his fist as if he were going to knock me down.  He came meeting me, but I deliberately walked on till we met & ran up against each other, but instead of backing off I stood firm & looked him square in the eyes.  He seemed rather disappointed & after a while asked what I was looking at him so hard for, thinking he would create a laugh, but I said, “I was just going to keel you about 10 ft. out there on the grass if you had touched me,” & I would have done it too.  He saw I was in earnest & he got mighty small & slunk around to one side of me & passed on leaving me in possession of the field.  Then I started on without even looking back & the crowd first yelled at the Sophomore about allowing a Freshman to bully him.  I was not troubled any more till Wednesday night.  About 25 boys came around & told me I had to make them a bow, but I told them I would do nothing of the kind.  They also tried to make me get on the table & speak & to dance but I would not. They said they would black me then.  Ransom & 2 others about drunk were going to do the blacking.  I told them that was one thing I did not propose to allow & that I would not be blacked alive & that the first man that attempted to black me would get that. I told them there was but one thing they could make me do & that was to trot[?], that I would not think of fighting a man for such a thing as that, & I knew they could carry me by force.  So they gave out their blacking notion & we started out & just as we got to the door, Pres. Battle met us & said, “Gentlemen, this devilment has got to stop.”  In five minutes the whole campus was quiet, & for 3 hours before you could have heard the noise for 5 miles….

Beware of fiddlin’ roommates

As our way of welcoming Carolina students back to campus, this week we’ll share a few reflections and experiences of bygone Tar Heels.  These letters and diary entries are rich, funny, often surprising accounts of student life in Chapel Hill.

Take, for example, this 21 January 1834 letter from Charles L. Pettigrew to his father in which junior writes of the challenges in finding (and keeping) a good roommate.

Letter from Charles L. Pettigrew to his father, 21 January 1834 (from Pettigrew Family Papers, #592)

Letter from Charles L. Pettigrew to his father, 21 January 1834 (from Pettigrew Family Papers, #592)

The business of the session has again commenced and I am in a very neat and warm room with out a room-mate, nor do I intend to take a room-mate because good ones are so hard to find; I had one last session, I was compelled to take him his brother wrote to me to take him in my room and there by he would be under some restraint, his brother had just graduated, and had left me his room one of the best rooms and some say the best in college and therefore I felt myself under some sort of obliation [sic] to him, for the first two months he made no noise studied hard and behaved himself well and properly and I liked him very much, the affection was reciprocated, but after a while he got a fiddle and of course got among the fiddlers in college idle and worthless fellows, then he began somewhat to absent himself from his room and finally he went and staid [sic] with one altogether although his trunk was in my room, so we parted and and [sic] very seldom see each other, after he left me he began to drink considerably and to have wines and brandy continually, and boy of about 15, I am afraid he will not do much good in this world…

Portrait of General James Johnston Pettigrew

Portrait of General James Johnston Pettigrew that hangs on an interior wall at the Southern Historical Collection

A portrait of General James Johnston Pettigrew, painted by William Garl Brown in 1866, hangs on an interior wall at the Southern Historical Collection.

Once in a while, the SHC acquires intriguing artifactual items.  Normally these artifacts are acquired during the acquisition of a greater collection of related manuscript material.  One such artifact was acquired at the time of the gift of the Pettigrew Family Papers (SHC Collection #592):  a framed portrait, in oils, of General James Johnston Pettigrew.

James Johnston Pettigrew (July 4, 1828 – July 17, 1863) was an author, lawyer, linguist, diplomat, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was a major leader in the disastrous Pickett’s Charge and was killed a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg during the Confederate retreat to Virginia.

Our records indicate that the Pettigrew portrait was painted by William Garl Brown in 1866.  The portrait hangs on a wall within the SHC Curator’s office suite.  It’s just another great thing about working for the SHC – enjoying the many historical treasures that surround us as we go about our daily work.  We are pleased to offer this “behind-the-scenes” look at this portrait.

What We’re Browsing: Confederate Spies!

Portion of transcription from John Y. Beall Papers (#2533-z)

Portion of court proceedings from John Y. Beall Papers (#2533-z)

Often, while clicking around in the library catalog, we stumble on these intriguing little pockets of content among the holdings of the SHC.  Sometimes it’s a matter of rediscovering what we forgot we had, or finding stuff that seems to be ‘hidden in plain sight.’ These serendipitous finds remind us of the great breadth and depth of the Collection and provide some fun topics to discuss and share.

Consider, if you will, a recent search we did on “Confederate Spies.” Here are two examples of SHC material found on this topic:

  • John Y. Beall Papers – “Two volumes, dated ca. 1865-1899 and ca. 1935-1942, documenting the trial and execution of John Yates Beall, acting master in the Confederate Navy, for espionage and breaking the laws of war.”  According to our biographical information, Beall was accused of attempting to free fellow Confederate soldiers from the confines of the prison at Johnson’s Island at Sandusky Bay, Ohio.
  • Letters concerning Sam Davis, 1863 -  “Three letters, November-December 1863, from Union soldiers in Tennessee, concerning the execution of Sam Davis at Pulaski, Tenn., on 27 November 1863, as a Confederate spy.”

Tickets to the 1937 Inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Following yesterday’s festivities in Washington, D. C., we felt it might be nice to share with you a piece of presidential inaugurations past. Shown below is a ticket to the 1937 inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his second inauguration, and the accompanying invitation to meet with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

From the Frank A. Daniels Papers (SHC Collection #4481, finding aid):

Inauguration tickets from 1937

Invitation to meet the Roosevelts

Invitation to meet the Roosevelts

Name that Signature

Many of the SHC’s collections contain letters, notes, cards, and other writings by individuals of a certain historical celebrity. We have many items signed by presidents, sports stars, famous actors, authors, and more.

A number of these luminaries actually have pretty poor penmanship. So, just for fun, we thought we’d share a few squiggly ones here to see if you, the reader, can guess the name behind the signatures. If you’d like to guess, please do so in the comment box below. Later we’ll share the identities of these mystery folks.

Here’s a clue: all of the following are signatures of famous writers of the 20th century.

1

2

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4

You know what this farm needs? More kudzu.

Kudzu was introduced to the United States at the first World’s Fair in 1876, and was planted by southern farmers to prevent land erosion. During World War II, however, tensions between the United States and Japan resulted in a kudzu shortage…that’s right, a kudzu shortage. I discovered this while perusing a website called Remember Cliffside (the subject of a North Carolina Miscellany post from a while back), which contained an article describing the kudzu shortage in Cliffside, N.C. This information proved integral to my understanding the context of this letter, found recently in the Delta and Providence Cooperative Farm Records (finding aid):

Turn-of-the-century Turkey Cartoons

Here are a couple of Thanksgiving cartoons from a “Winter Stories” scrapbook, ca. 1900, from the papers of Charles L. Coon (finding aid), our friend from the previous post. Coon, an early 20th-century education reformer and teacher, put together a number of scrapbooks like this for use in classrooms.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge