“The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?”: A. H. Patterson’s 1902 Speech

In researching Professor Andrew Henry Patterson for my last blog post, I came across an interesting document among his personal papers. In 1902, while still a professor at the University of Georgia, Patterson delivered a speech at the centennial assembly of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. titled “The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?” Following this address, the speech was supposed to be stored in a sealed envelope in the Salem Academy archive and reopened in 2002 “to  compare theories in 1902 with those 100 years later.” However, attempts to find the speech at the Salem Academy archives in 1964 were unsuccessful. The speech now held by UNC is a copy of a draft of the original, acquired from Andrew Patterson’s son Dr. Howard Patterson.

It is now fourteen years after Patterson had intended the speech to be reopened, and our knowledge of the planet Mars far surpasses what was theorized in 1902. The most compelling evidence for life on Mars discussed in the speech was the existence of canals on the Martian surface, first observed by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877. Patterson devotes a great deal of his speech to corroborating the existence of these canals by citing other astronomers, concluding that “On the whole, I believe we may consider the existence of the so-called ‘canals’  as proved by most careful and reliable observers in many parts of the world.” Patterson proposes the theory that these canals are artificially created for irrigation. Astronomers of the period also observed that the polar caps of Mars appeared and disappeared according to the Martian season, theorizing that these could be sources of water for the vast irrigation networks. Patterson even imagines just how differently life might have evolved on Mars, stating “what manner of beings thet [sic] may be we lack the data even to conceive.” In his conclusion, Patterson stated his belief “that Mars seems to be inhabited is not the last but the first word on the subject.”

Despite the wide gap in astronomical knowledge between 1902 and today, the accuracy of some theories is impressive. With regards to the difficulty many astronomers had in observing Schiaparelli’s canals, Patterson cites a Dr. Fison, who argues “that these canals have not been seen at the Naval Observatory, Harvard Observatory, Yerkes Observatory and others having far better telescopes than those used by Schiaparelli, who had an 8 1/3-inch glass, and by Lowell, who had a 24-inch, and therefore the canals must be optical illusions.” Fison was ultimately correct about the canals being optical illusions. Patterson also quotes Fison accurately describing the surface of Mars as “a succession of bleak arid deserts over which the rays of the vertical sun would seem to struggle in vain to mitigate the blasting chill of attenuated air.” However, Fison then went on to suppose the existence of “elementary forms of vegetation capable of withstanding the rigors of a climate more than artic [sic] in character.” Patterson addresses the question of polar ice caps by citing scientists who believed “the snow caps to be composed of solid Carbon Dioxide, instead of water. . . . the spectroscope shows no trace, or at least very little, of water vapor on Mars.” We now know that the polar caps are composed of both frozen carbon dioxide as well as water-ice.

114 years after Andrew Patterson delivered his speech on Mars, it is now possible to view the surface of Mars in 360 degrees through a web browser. Using virtual reality technology, it is even possible to see what it would be like to stand on the “bleak arid deserts” of Mars from a first-person perspective.

Posted in Faculty Papers, From the Archives, Uncategorized, University Archives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

From the Archives: James Walker to Robert House: “I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

UNC admitted its first African American students in 1951. While the students were able to enroll in classes and live in a dorm, many of the campus activities remained either closed to African Americans or strictly segregated. We came across an example of the students’ ongoing struggle to participate in normal campus life in a letter from James Walker to Chancellor Robert House in January 1952.

As the law school students planned their traditional spring dance, the question arose about whether the recently-admitted African American students would be able to attend. The student-run Law Association put it to a vote, asking whether the dance should be open to all students. The vote was fairly close, passing 82-63. The Daily Tar Heel reported on the “possible bi-racial dance,” calling it “the first in the history of the University and perhaps in the South” (DTH 1/15/52).

But the possibility of an integrated dance was quickly vetoed by the campus administration. Citing a Board of Trustees ruling prohibiting unsegregated social gatherings, Chancellor House wrote that “no mixed social functions shall be held on the University campus.” (DTH 1/16/52)

The letter shown below is James Walker’s response to House’s ruling. It is from the Chancellor’s records in University Archives, included among clippings and correspondence documenting desegregation efforts at the university, including Walker’s push to end segregated seating in Kenan Stadium.

Walker writes of his frustration at House’s decision, noting that it was especially cruel for having been announced right before exams. But Walker remains undeterred, writing, “I will never accept the denial of a privilege. I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

Letter from James Walker Jr. (page one), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Letter from James Walker Jr. (page two), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Posted in From the Archives, University Archives, University History | Leave a comment

New Collection Documents the Infamous 1939 Carolina Buccaneer “Sex Issue”

buc1The combination of scandalous content and official censorship makes the story of the 1939 Carolina Buccaneer “Sex Issue” one of the most intriguing in UNC history.

A new collection in the University Archives helps to shed more light on the story of the “Sex Issue” and its hasty suppression by campus leaders. We are pleased to make available for research a small collection from Bill Stauber, who was the editor of the Buccaneer at the time the contentious issue was published. The papers include photos, clippings, letters, and, perhaps most interesting, an original copy of the uncensored cover of the November 1939 issue. The collection was donated by Stauber’s son.

The Carolina Buccaneer was a student humor magazine published on campus from 1924 through 1940. The magazine had colorful covers and a professional layout. It had the appearance of a national glossy magazine, but the content was strictly local. Most of the articles referred to campus personalities and incidents long forgotten, making it often difficult for modern readers to find the humor in some of the pieces. (Anyone interested in exploring for themselves can find a full run of the Buccaneer in the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library.)

The Buccaneer liked to push the limits with its cartoons depicting scantily-clad women and off-color poems and stories. In the fall of 1939, the magazine’s editors finally crossed the line, leading student government to condemn the issue and campus administrators to aid in its destruction.

The content of the November 1939 issue is fairly tame by contemporary standards, though readers today are much more likely to find offense at the treatment of women in the text (which largely survived in the revised edition that was published) rather than the revealing illustrations (which were removed).


Daily Tar Heel, 15 November 1939

The original “Sex Issue” was set for release in mid-November 1939, but campus leaders got hold of it first. Interestingly, it was not university administrators who ordered the suppression of the issue.  Jim Davis, student body president, said “such an issue would seriously and permanently damage the reputation and lessen the prestige of the University in general.” The Student Council ordered the destruction of the issues and asked the editor to revise the magazine before re-submitting for publication. (This raises an interesting question about the approval process for student publications. I haven’t looked to try to determine whether all student publications had to be submitted for review before distribution or if this issue of the Buccaneer was a special case.)

A few days later, the Daily Tar Heel reported that the 4,000 issues of the offending issue were “unceremoniously dumped into the fiery depths of Chapel Hill’s incinerator.”

A revised edition of the November 1939 Buccaneer was published later in the month, with a nearly all-white cover calling attention to the censorship of the student council. Here, for the first time that we are aware, are all three covers of the Buccaneer “Sex Issue”: the original illustration, the cover that appeared on the destroyed issues, and the revised cover.

Original, uncensored cover of the November 1939 Buccaneer "Sex Issue." William Stauber Papers, University Archives

Original, uncensored cover of the November 1939 Buccaneer “Sex Issue.” William Stauber Papers, University Archives

Revised cover of the Buccaneer "Sex Issue." North Carolina Collection.

Revised cover of the Buccaneer “Sex Issue.” North Carolina Collection.

Revised, "Censored Edition" of the 1939 Buccaneer "Sex Issue." North Carolina Collection.

Revised Edition of the 1939 Buccaneer “Sex Issue.” North Carolina Collection.

Posted in Uncategorized, University Archives, University History | Leave a comment

Human Dissection in the Early Years of Medical Education at UNC

The UNC School of Medicine opened in 1879 as a two-year preparatory program under the direction of Dr. Thomas West Harris. As dean of the fledgling school, he was not paid by the University but rather directly by students who took his classes. Dissection of human cadavers was considered an important part of the study of anatomy. The UNC course catalog of 1884 noted, “Dissection is made obligatory on students of anatomy. After the dissections are over, a short course on the operations of surgery is given. Students have the opportunity of making the operations for themselves.”

Dean of the UNC Medical School Dr. Richard Whitehead (center), medical students, and an assistant (front right) pose with a cadaver in the 1890s. From the University of North Carolina Image Collection, North Carolina Collection.

Dean of the UNC Medical School Dr. Richard Whitehead (center), medical students, and an assistant (front right) pose with a cadaver in the 1890s. From the University of North Carolina Image Collection, North Carolina Collection.

However, at this time it was difficult to procure cadavers for dissection, and medical schools were notorious for using bodies disinterred by graverobbers or “resurrectionists.” These men preyed on the graves of marginalized people – in the South, primarily African Americans. It is unclear how the University obtained cadavers in the earliest days of the Medical School, but students operated almost exclusively on on the bodies of African Americans, some of which may have been stolen.

At the time the Medical School was founded, there were no laws in North Carolina against graverobbing. In his history of the University, Kemp Plummer Battle, who was president during this period, recalled that one night, a woman who had worked as his father’s cook came to his house. She told him that a body had been stolen from a cemetery and a group was coming to search the University. Battle then confronted Dr. Harris, who only responded, “They will not find anything.” Battle reported that the body was not found and the culprits never identified, and professors assured the community that their students would not steal bodies. In 1885, the state made graverobbing a felony. According to Battle, this was in part due to local anxiety about dissection at the medical school.

After six years at UNC, Dr. Harris resigned to continue practicing medicine full-time in Durham and the Medical School closed. It reopened in 1890 under the leadership of Dean Richard Whitehead. In a letter Whitehead wrote to Professor Francis Venable shortly before beginning his tenure as dean, he emphasized the importance of dissection in his teaching.

Believing that only nature’s drawings are true, the instruction in [anatomy] will be eminently practical. The statements made will be proven by actual demonstration upon the cadaver, bones, and prepared specimens, and the student will be required to verify these statements for himself by dissecting and studying the dissected cadaver, as this is the only way in which a useful acquaintance with anatomy can be obtained.

According to Warner Lee Wells’ “Medical Education at Chapel Hill,” Whitehead was “vigorously opposed” to graverobbing and, once, when he learned a body had been disinterred, demanded that it be properly reburied. Whitehead instead purchased bodies, but they were often hard to obtain. Wells says that when cadavers were scarce, Whitehead would dissect one half of the body as a demonstration and then allow the students to dissect the other half.

In his 1891 annual report to the Board of Trustees, President Battle explained that new legislation might improve the situation:

If the bill now pending in the General Assembly which is like those of many other states, giving to this school the unclaimed bodies of convicts shall become law, there will be abundance of material for dissection. If not such material must be obtained as heretofore, at considerable expense, from a Western City.

It’s unclear which “Western City” Battle is referring to – the report Whitehead submitted to Battle the week before Battle presented to the Board says that cadavers were being bought from New York.

Soon after, a bill did pass granting medical schools in the state the unclaimed bodies of convicts. When the law was repealed in 1899, Whitehead lamented that the school’s “existence [was] in jeopardy . . . unless dissecting material can be obtained, it will be necessary to close the school.” He lobbied for a new bill, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. On January 19, 1899, the News and Observer reported:

[Whitehead] said that there are two methods by which bodies can be obtained: One by systematic robbery of graves; and one is by law. He didn’t think the law ought to apply to any one except outcasts.

The proposed bill, he said, was a copy of the law in operation in a neighboring State. ‘I have been buying bodies in Northern States, but I can no longer do that. All the States now have laws forbidding the exportation of bodies, and no one can be found bold enough to undertake it. When I was able to get them they cost $40 apiece. Now I can’t get them at any price, and personally I’m not going into the grave robbing business.

So you will see some such law as this is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the medical schools of the State. Anatomy cannot be taught properly without the dissection of human bodies. For my school about nine bodies a year are required. I do not know how many are required for the other two schools – Davidson and Shaw.’

Dr. Whitehead thought under this law the bodies would cost about $10 each.

In his statement to the Judiciary Committee, Whitehead also revealed that UNC’s medical school, like many others, especially in the South, relied almost exclusively on the bodies of black men and women. According to the News and Observer, Whitehead testified that “only one white person had ever been dissected in his school. That was a young white man, about 18, that died in the criminal insane department.”




Posted in Uncategorized, University History | Leave a comment

New Addition Explores Changing the Undergraduate Curriculum at UNC in the 1980s


Daily Tar Heel, 14 April 1980, via Newspapers.com

A new addition to the University Archives documents work and discussions around a major revision of undergraduate course requirements at UNC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The “Committee to Review the Undergraduate Curriculum” was formed in 1978 and was chaired by English professor Weldon Thornton. The “Thornton Committee,” as it was often called, proposed expanding general education requirements for all undergraduates. The committee’s recommendations were the subject of debate (and sometimes protest) on campus as students and faculty discussed the role of the university in determining the path of each student’s education.

After many meetings and a full revision of the report, the committee’s recommendations were approved by the faculty council in 1981. These records provide an in-depth look at the complicated and contentious process to reform the curriculum at UNC.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Exam Spoilers…for Fall 1885

Could you pass finals in 1885?

While looking through the University Papers this week, I found these exams administered at the end of the fall semester in 1885. There is one for Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics and English. Some of the questions would be familiar to a student today, but others, not so much. Can you tell us “what are the defects of our Alphabet?”

Exams administered December 1885 (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

Posted in From the Archives, Student Life and Student Organizations, Uncategorized, University Archives, University History | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Update: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Cuban Club, a short-lived club for Cuban students at UNC in the early 20th century. This week, I came across a letter written just months after the Spanish-American War in which Major General Joseph Wheeler, president of the Cuban Educational Association, tells UNC President Edwin Alderman that he “note[s] with pleasure that you state that the University of North Carolina would easily give scholarships, remitting all tuition to several [Cuban students].”

The Cuban Educational Association operated from 1898 to 1901 and partnered with colleges across the United States to send Cuban and Puerto Rican college-age students to school in the United States. Universities and colleges offered one to two students a full scholarship to cover books, tuition and fees. The students and their families had to cover the cost of living, usually $200 – $300 annually. Therefore, most of the students coming to the United States were from the middle and upper classes. The scholarship mandated that the students return home after graduation.

Over the four years it was in operation, the Cuban Educational Association and its over 50 partner institutions helped to send over 2,500 students to school in the United States. When these students returned home, most became teachers, doctors and lawyers in their communities.

This letter was written 10 years before the Cuban Club appeared in the Yackety Yack, but it suggests that the influx of students from Cuba in the early 20th century may have been related to work begun by the Cuban Educational Association.

Letter to Dr. Alderman from Joshua (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

Original Post: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

Posted in From the Archives, Student Life and Student Organizations, Uncategorized, University Archives, University History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New Research Guide on the UNC Confederate Monument (Silent Sam)

A Guide to Resources About UNC's Confederate Monument

A Guide to Resources About UNC’s Confederate Monumen

The Confederate Monument on the UNC campus, known commonly as Silent Sam, has stood on McCorkle Place for more than 100 years. For at least the past half-century, it has been a source of controversy. In response to continued interest about the origins, purpose, and reactions to Silent Sam, the University Archives has prepared a detailed guide to assist researchers seeking archival materials related to the monument.

The largest section of the guide is the Archival Resources section. In this section, we provide links to hundreds of digitized documents related to the planning, construction, and dedication of the monument. The guide also includes links to related archival and manuscript collections available for use in Wilson Library.

In addition to the list of resources, the website contains a timeline of major events related to Silent Sam, from the first mention of an on-campus monument in 1908 to student protests in 2015.

The necessity and meaning of the Confederate Monument at UNC has been debated at least since 1965. For as long as it remains in its prominent location on campus, it is likely to continue being a source of discussion among students and community members. Our intention in building this website is to help inform these discussions by making it easier than ever to find, read, and reference primary sources from the University Archives.

Posted in University Archives, University History | 4 Comments

New in the Archives: Research and Biography on Edwin Greenlaw

Edwin Greenlaw, ca. 1920s. From the Portrait Collection (P2), NCC Photo Archives.

Edwin Greenlaw, ca. 1920s. From the Portrait Collection (P2), NCC Photo Archives.

A new collection containing correspondence, research, and writings about legendary UNC English professor Edwin Greenlaw is now available in the University Archives.

Greenlaw came to UNC in 1913 during a period of significant expansion and intellectual growth.  Although only here for a dozen years (Greenlaw accepted a job at Johns Hopkins in 1925), he led the English department through a period of rapid change, tripling the number of faculty members, starting a department of Comparative Literature, and helping to found the UNC Press. His legacy on campus is reflected in Greenlaw Hall, still home to the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Thomas Wolfe, UNC alumnus and author of Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again, took classes with Greenlaw and credited him as being a major influence on his development as a writer. A fictionalized version of Greenlaw appears in Wolfe’s novel The Web and the Rock.

The collection was compiled by Edwin Greenlaw’s brother Lowell Greenlaw. Lowell Greenlaw woked for years on a biography of his brother, drafts of which are included in the collection. The collection also includes extensive correspondence between Lowell Greenlaw and many of the people who knew and worked with his brother. These materials were carefully preserved by Carter Greenlaw Baker, Ailsie Baker McEnteggart, and Georgia Lowell Baker, the grandchildren of Lowell M. Greenlaw.  Shirley Greenlaw Baker, daughter of Lowell M. Greenlaw, had been the keeper and organizer of the collection until it was donated by her children to UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Lowell Greenlaw Papers on Edwin Greenlaw are a terrific resource for anyone who wants to learn more about this important and influential scholar and teacher and his role in building and shaping the English Department at UNC.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“All Dances Will Be Suspended”: The Effect of Prohibition at UNC in 1925

While national prohibition was voted into law in 1919 with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, North Carolina had been dry since it passed a state-wide prohibition law in 1908. As the sale and consumption of alcohol in North Carolina had already been banned for twelve years when enforcement of the 18th Amendment began in 1920, prohibition had little direct effect on the University.

German Club Executive Committee, from the 1926 Yackety Yack, http://digitalnc.org

German Club Executive Committee in the 1926 Yackety Yack, from DigitalNC

However, a 1925 German Club dance held around Thanksgiving prompted a harsh response from President H.W. Chase. Despite its name, the German Club was not related to the nation of Germany or the German language. Rather, the club, organized in the late nineteenth century, planned formal dances and other social events for its members. A ‘German’ was a kind of social dancing that became popular following the Civil War.

The incident caused by this dance was investigated by Andrew Henry Patterson, a professor of physics and Dean of the School of Applied Sciences. In his report to President Chase, Patterson noted that the conditions for illegal drinking were perfect as there were, “hundreds of visitors brought here by the game, and many of them with liquor. The wonder is that more drinking was not done[….]” The game to which Patterson referred was the annual Thanksgiving Day game against the University of Virginia. According to Patterson, “no estimate on the part of anybody as to the number of men who had taken a drink would run over 20 or 25% of those present,” and that “no shadow of a rumor that any girls were drinking has been found, which is encouraging.”

Patterson to Chase

Report on German Club dance incident by A.H. Patterson, from  University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives

On the day this letter was sent to President Chase, December 4, 1925, he delivered an address to students in chapel discouraging the use of alcohol. Chase emphasized “the problem of the influence of drinking on the future business and social relations of the young men who make up the student bodies in our colleges today.” He went on to state “his opinion that drinking is now a thing for the vulgar and lower classes to indulge in” and that alcohol use was something “invariably leading to unmannerly and indecent conduct.”

This incident and its investigation prompted President Chase to suspend all dances at the University until the end of Easter holidays. This suspension also extended to “the giving of any dance by any University organization or student at any place outside the University campus.” When the suspension ended in April of 1926, the German Club adopted new bylaws that made its executive committee responsible to the University for the conduct at all dances, regardless of the clubs or groups hosting them. According to the Daily Tar Heel on April 15, 1926, these bylaws also imposed regulations on dances. These included no smoking on the dance floor, no girls leaving the dance hall without a chaperone, and strict end times for dances. Most dances were required to end by 1:00 AM, while Saturday night dances had to end by midnight. Some German Club dances were permitted to last until 2:00 AM. The German Club continued to organize dances and concerts until the late 1960s.

[President Chase’s letter to the German Club suspending all dances, from the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives]

Posted in From the Archives, Student Life and Student Organizations, University Archives, University History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment