Tag Archives: University of North Carolina

Dad, send money. I need pantaloons. (1846)

[Our final installment of our "welcome back" series.]

Ah, it’s a phenomenon old as time:  college-age sons and daughters contacting home to ask for more money.  The following letter was sent from James Johnston Pettigrew to his father Ebenezer Pettigrew on 8 February 1846.  J.J. needed some money for some new duds.  (This letter comes from the Pettigrew Family Papers, SHC #592):

James Johnston Pettigrew, circa 1855

James Johnston Pettigrew, circa 1855 (from the 1898 book "Lives of distinguished North Carolinians")

Although it is early in the session, I presume it will not be out of place to make a statement of the clothes I shall want, more especially since my wardrobe is nearly exhausted.  The present underclothes are the ones I had when I left Hillsboro [sic], with the exception of four bosoms and collars, which I bought two years ago.  Most of these, that is to say, shirts, drawers, stockings, collars, handkerchiefs, & cravats, are either worn out or have become too small.  The same is the case with my outer clothes, with the exception the two pairs of pantaloons, which were purchased at Raleigh last summer, and are bothe [sic] too small by this time.  In the article of shirts, I am almost certainly deficient.  My present cap has lasted two winters, and Sister Mary can inform you with regard to its shabby appearance during the vacation.  This I mention, merely to show, that I am not diposed to be extravagant in my dress.  The following is a list which I have made out of my probable wants.  I have only one coat for this winter, so that it will be better to get another for Commencement.

  • One Coat.
  • One pair of Pantaloons.
  • Two vests. (I am entirely out of vests, also.)
  • One hat.
  • Shirts.
  • Drawers.
  • Stockings.
  • Two or three handkerchiefs.
  • One or two cravats.
  • Shoes.

There is in addition to these another want, which may appear trifling, but which in my situation is absolutely necessary as a Marshal for Commencement, namely, a cane.  Judging the price of these articles from my clothes last summer and the summers before, the amount will probably be $70 or $80, a very large sum, but I do not see how it is to be avoided, without an appearance which I wouldn’t wish to show.

An illusionist comes to town, gunplay ensues (1845)

(Part 3 of our “welcome back students” series…)  It seems that Chapel Hill has seen quite a parade of entertainers and other characters come through town over the years.  One such visit from an intriguing 19th-century illusionist named the “Fakir of Ava” is described in the letter below.

[detail] William Bagley to Mose G. Pierce (from William Bagley Letter Books, SHC #863-z)

(detail) William Bagley to Mose G. Pierce, from William Bagley Letter Books, SHC #863-z.

William Bagley to Mose G. Pierce, 13 February 1845 (from William Bagley Letter Books, SHC #863-z)

A fellow, calling himself the “Fakir of Ava” came through here the other day with a boy & girl proposing to give a grand scientific entertainment to the inhabitants of Chapel Hill; after procuring a house & getting in readiness about a hundred of the students went down & the house I understood was crowded to such an extent that the “Fakir” had very little opportunity for “showing off” & the students being rather noisy he dismissed the assembly, gave them tickets & told them that on the next night he would have a better place & consiquently a better chance for exhibition, but the next morning he left having made some forty or fifty dollars at the expense of the students, several of them followed him to Hillsboro [sic] & I expected that an engagement would have taken place there but as he was exhibiting he let the students go in which I supposed pacified them one of them however, while there became intoxicated & with some other fellows went to one of the taverns & began to be rather noisy & the landlord came out & ordered them off & to enfore his command raised a chair at one of them & this fellow immediately shot him, the ball went into his arm near the shoulder but they say his life is not endangered; the name of the fellow that shot him is Ruffin, he was a member of the sophomore class & lives in Alabama, I believe he has not been heard of since the occurrence.

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…

The Photographs of Alexander Rivera

Harvey Beech (left) and J. Kenneth Lee

Harvey Beech (left) and J. Kenneth Lee

The image:  two young men stride through two large open doors.  Each man is carrying a packet of papers.  The men are smiling and seem confident.

I had seen this image many times before.  In fact, we have a print of this photograph in the SHC’s collection of J. Kenneth Lee Papers.  From our description of the photograph in the finding aid for the Lee Papers and from the other images that accompanied it in the collection, I knew that the photograph depicted the historic moment, on the morning of June 11, 1951, when Harvey Beech and J. Kenneth Lee entered South Building on UNC’s campus to complete their registration in the UNC School of Law, thereby becoming the first ever African American students to enroll at the University.

What I didn’t know, until this morning, was that this photograph was taken by Alexander M. Rivera Jr.  Thanks to a news release from the NC Department of Cultural Resources regarding the mounting of an exhibit featuring Rivera’s work at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia, N.C., I now know the correct attribution for this image.

Alex Rivera was a nationally renowned and prominent photojournalist.  He also established the public relations office at North Carolina Central University, and served as the office’s first director.

Beech and Lee were both students at Central’s Law School who, through a lawsuit supported by the NAACP, were able to argue that their educational opportunities at Central were not equal to those that they would receive at Carolina.

So, it would follow that Rivera would have been present to document this moment as two of N.C. Central’s top law students transferred from Central to enroll as the first African American students at Carolina.

Last October, Alex Rivera passed away in Durham, N.C. at the age of 95.  His legacy lives on in the historic photographs that he captured during his amazing life.  Now, you have another chance to view some of these photographs. The exhibit, “Bearing Witness: Civil Rights Photographs of Alexander Rivera,” is on view the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum until August 15, 2009.

[One last note:  You can listen online to Harvey Beech speak about his experience at Carolina.]

Newly Revised and Described (18 April 2008)

Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Records (#4687)

The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (Knight Commission) was established in 1989 with the purpose of drafting a reform agenda for the administration of intercollegiate sports. The Commission was dissolved in February 1996.

Karen L. Parker Diary, Letter, and Clippings (#5275-z)

The first African-American woman undergraduate to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Karen L. Parker was born in Salisbury, N.C., and grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C. Parker worked for the Winston-Salem Journal before attending UNC-Chapel Hill. She majored in journalism and was elected vice-president of the UNC Press Club and served as editor of the UNC Journalist, the School of Journalism’s newspaper, in 1964. After graduating in 1965, Parker was a copy editor for the Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Mich. She also worked for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers before returning to the Winston-Salem Journal. The collection is Karen L. Parker’s diary with entries 5 November 1963-11 August 1966. The Addition of February 2008 consists of a letter from Katherine Kennedy Carmichael, Dean of Women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to Karen L. Parker’s mother, F.D. Parker, concerning Karen L. Parker’s arrest on 19 December 1963. Also included are newspaper clippings about Karen L. Parker’s accomplishments as a journalism student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Nicholas Phillip Trist Papers (#2104)

Nicholas Philip Trist, student at West Point, 1818-1821; Louisiana planter, 1821-1824; United States State Department clerk, 1828-1834; consul to Havana, Cuba, 1834-1840; State Dept. chief clerk, 1845-1847; and chief negotiator of treaty ending Mexican War, 1847. Trist was also a lawyer and worked as paymaster for the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company, and postmaster at Alexandria, Va. He married Virginia Jefferson Randolph (fl. 1818-1875), Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter, in 1824 and lived at Monticello. The collection contains chiefly family correspondence of the Trist and Randolph families.

University of North Carolina Miscellaneous Diplomas (#3050-z)

The collection consists of diplomas and certificates from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., some issued by the Dialectic Society and some by the Philanthropic Society, both literary societies at the University. Most are from the nineteenth century.