The Legend of the Wilson Library Dunce Cap

Have you heard the story that the Bell Tower was intentionally placed right behind Wilson Library so that, when viewed from South Building, the top of the tower looks like a dunce cap on the round dome of the library? … Continue reading

VIew of Polk Place on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

This mid 20th century photo shows the dunce cap effect of the Bell Tower on Wilson Library when viewed from South Building. UNC Image Collection, NC Collection Photo Archives.

Have you heard the story that the Bell Tower was intentionally placed right behind Wilson Library so that, when viewed from South Building, the top of the tower looks like a dunce cap on the round dome of the library?

The dunce cap story has been one of the enduring campus legends for decades. The story originally told was that John Motley Morehead, angered that Louis Round Wilson wouldn’t let him put the tower on top of the new library building, put it right behind to make fun of Wilson. I’ve heard a slightly different version on campus recently, which attributes it to an ongoing battle between two of the university’s “founding families,” the Moreheads and the Wilsons, making them seem like UNC’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys.

As with many campus legends, this one is not true, though some of the stories hint at what really happened.

The Bell Tower was the idea of John Motley Morehead, the Carolina alumnus and industrialist who donated the Morehead Planetarium and established the Morehead scholarships. According to Louis Round Wilson, Morehead’s first proposal was made during the renovation of South Building in the 1920s. Morehead, who had been interested in bringing a tower with chimes to the campus, suggested funding the construction of a tower on top of South Building under the condition that it be renamed the Morehead Building. The Trustees refused, and Morehead looked for other sites.

Morehead turned his attention to the new library building planned for the opposite end of Polk Place, and suggested a bell tower on top of it. This was indeed rejected by librarian Louis Round Wilson. Wilson spoke from his knowledge of bell towers on top of buildings at Cornell University and the University of Illinois. He wrote that, while pleasing to the campus in general, “the ringing of bells and chimes immediately above the reading rooms of the libraries in working hours played havoc with mental concentration and quiet study.”

Morehead had yet another idea: when the university announced a plan to move the large flagpole on campus from McCorkle Place to its current location in the center of Polk Place, Morehead suggested this as the perfect site for the bell tower. The flagpole could be placed on top.

Finally, by 1930, a location was settled. Though initially appearing to be at the very southern end of the campus, long-range plans to expand the university to the south would put the bell tower at the center of the campus, which is where it stands today. The Morehead-Patterson Memorial Bell Tower was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1931.

"Wilson Wears Dunce Cap" article, Daily Tar Heel, August 25, 1975

Daily Tar Heel, 25 August 1975.

It’s not clear when the dunce cap story began. The earliest published reference to it that I could find was in a 1975 Daily Tar Heel article. The author of the story, Dan Fesperman, had the advantage at the time of being able to go straight to one of the sources: 99-year-old Louis Round Wilson was still living in Chapel Hill. Wilson reviewed the debate over the placement of the tower and then addressed the legend directly. “When Wilson was asked if there was even a speck of truth in the Bell Tower legend, he said, ‘It wasn’t designed for that purpose at all.’ He then added, ‘But it does look that way – like a fool’s cap.”

Sources: “The Saga of the Morehead Patterson Bell Tower.” In Louis Round Wilson’s Historical Sketches. Durham: Moore Publishing Co., 1976. https://catalog.lib.unc.edu/catalog/UNCb1408393

Daily Tar Heel, 25 August 1975. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1975-08-25/ed-1/seq-44/

Henry Patrick Merritt, Jr.: An Archival Photo Mystery Revealed

We are pleased to present this guest post from UNC-Chapel Hill student Autumn Linford. Aros Coke Cecil’s photographs could be the work of any UNC undergrad of any era. Playing sports, the Old Well, friends goofing around, socializing with pretty … Continue reading

We are pleased to present this guest post from UNC-Chapel Hill student Autumn Linford.

Aros Coke Cecil’s photographs could be the work of any UNC undergrad of any era. Playing sports, the Old Well, friends goofing around, socializing with pretty co-eds: the images in Cecil’s 1917-1918 album wouldn’t seem out of place on a student’s Instagram page today.  There are photos of students studying, photos of students procrastinating, and even one of Cecil and a friend clowning around with a classroom skeleton (see figure 1).

There is only one photo in the album that stands out. A young man, college-aged, stands in a dorm room holding a bucket and broom (see figure 2) Pennants and framed pictures are tacked to the wall behind him. It isn’t the scene that sets this photograph apart. It’s the fact that the young man, who looks at home casually leaning up against a desk with neatly stacked books, is black.

Three photos of campus scenes
Photo of a young man holding a bucket and broom

Black men and women weren’t allowed to attend the university as students until 1951, following a federal court order that led to the admission of black students to graduate programs. African American undergraduates were not admitted until 1955. There were blacks on campus in 1917, but it was strictly in the role of staff, cooking or doing maintenance jobs or, as was likely case of the young man pictured, cleaning. That this man was photographed by a white student is surprising. That his photograph was carefully preserved in a book alongside Cecil’s other college memories seems remarkable.

While we know something about the photographer, nothing was written down about the young man pictured other than the suggestion that he may have been a janitor for the university’s dorms. Was he friends with Cecil? Was he seen as a mascot to the men in the dorm? Did he appreciate being photographed, or dislike it? Was he important to Cecil, or was this a way to finish out a roll of film?

There is so much that we can never know about this man, but I wanted to try to identify him with however much information I could. Utilizing the resources available online and in the Wilson Library’s collections, I was able to identify the young man in question as Henry Patrick Merritt, Jr.

My process was systematic and replicable. I first confirmed the janitor was, in fact, standing in a dorm room by examining other photographs in the collection and finding other shots of the same room. I then went through each page of Chapel Hill’s 1920 census record and found all black men employed on campus. I narrowed the list down to those working in dormitories, and then again to janitors, leaving about 10 men. It is difficult to tell how old the man in the picture is, but a conservative guess suggests he was between the ages of 15 and 35 at the time of the photograph. By eliminating all men whose ages were outside that frame, I was left with only three names: Johnson Merritt, Jr., Lee Baldwin, and Henry Merritt, Jr.

Other photographs in Cecil’s collection showed the college men receiving their draft information for WWI in 1917. I thought it likely that the black men on campus had received their notices at the same time. I looked up all three men in the WWI databases and found each of their war registration cards. In 1917, Johnson Merritt, Jr. wrote in his occupation as gardener for the college. Lee Baldwin listed his occupation as a laborer.  Henry Merritt, Jr., age 19, listed himself as a janitor for the dormitories at the University of North Carolina.

Merritt was born March 15, 1900 in Chapel Hill. His father, Henry Merritt, Sr. was a long-time janitor for the on-campus fraternity Kappa Sigma. Henry Jr. was the oldest of nine children: six sisters and two brothers. With so many younger siblings, the income Merritt made by working at the university would have been crucial to his family’s survival. At the time, janitors on campus were paid $14.93 a week, a wage that covered barely half of the average living expenses for blacks living in town at the time. Despite that, the wage was still considered “relatively high” for people of color at the time.[1]

After the war, Merritt worked for C. and P. Telephone Co. His father continued to work as a janitor at the university and features prominently in several editions of the Daily Tar Heel, including one with a four-column photograph in 1926 (see figure 3).[2]

A newspaper article titled "Five Cheerleaders at the Game Saturday" with a photo a five black men.

fig. 3 Henry Merritt, Sr. is pictured far right. [Click image to view article.]

We don’t know why Cecil took his photograph of Merritt, or why it was important enough for him to keep. We can’t know what Merritt felt while he posed or what he was thinking as he cleaned up after men he wasn’t allowed to call peers. But we do now know his name. In conjunction with the archivists at the Wilson Library, I have already begun the process of updating the system to include Merritt’s name and basic information. It is by treating him with dignity that we can begin to reckon with the past’s efforts to erase him and others like him.

References

[1] Dorothy Fahs, report. “Income and expenditure in 28 Chapel Hill Negro Families,” University of North Carolina Wilson Library.

[2] R.W. Madry, “Five Cheerleaders at the Game Saturday.” Daily Tar Heel, November 2, 1926. https://bit.ly/2rLme0j

Did UNC Really Lose to Wake Forest in 1888?

In the University Archives, our work often has us viewing contemporary events with an eye toward the past. So while we look ahead to Friday night’s football game between UNC and Wake Forest, we see it not just as an … Continue reading

In the University Archives, our work often has us viewing contemporary events with an eye toward the past. So while we look ahead to Friday night’s football game between UNC and Wake Forest, we see it not just as an important matchup for the undefeated Tar Heels, but also a chance for Carolina to avenge its loss to Wake Forest on October 18, 1888, in the first football game played by UNC.

Or maybe not. We thought the facts were pretty clear when we looked at newspaper coverage of the game, which was played in Raleigh at the State Fair. The News and Observer mentioned the game in the following day’s paper as part of its coverage of the fair: 

Decidedly one of the most interesting features of the whole fair was the game of foot ball yesterday between Wake Forest and Chapel Hill, resulting in a victory for Wake Forest. The game was exciting and was played by excellent teams on both sides. It was witnessed by a tremendous crowd. The players were uniformed and were a skilled and active set of boys. (News and Observer, 19 October 1888).

Official records have the final score as a 6-4 in favor of Wake Forest. But the coverage of the game by UNC students tells a different story. 

At the time the game was played, there was no student newspaper (the Tar Heel was established five years later, in 1893). The primary student publication on campus was the University Magazine, a professionally-printed periodical that included essays, stories and poetry, and campus news. 

The University Magazine reported on the football game in its next issue, in an unsigned column called “The College World.” At first it seems to match the newspaper story: “A game of foot-ball was played at Raleigh during Fair week between the Wake Forest team and the University Soph. Class team, under a set of improvised rules. The score was two goals to one in favor of Wake Forest.” Then the story gets confusing. The Magazine report quotes the coverage in The Wake Forest Student, which seems to describe three different games (maybe they were three periods in the same game?). The response from the Magazine is pretty direct: 

No one objects to The Student’s exulting over the victory (?), if it can find anything in it to exult over, but it should be fairer towards its opponents. There were many more rules which were strange to the University than to the Wake Forest team. It was by these rules, unfair and peculiar, that Wake Forest got the credit of a victory . . .” (University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p.85). 

The Magazine goes on to compare the game to the one played between UNC and Trinity College (predecessor to Duke University) a month later, which it called the first “scientific” game of football played in North Carolina. It’s certainly understandable that the very first game of what was a new sport to all involved would result in some misunderstandings about the rules. As the debate continued in the student press, the Magazine remained adamant that UNC was the superior team and that the October 18, 1888 victory for Wake Forest did not count. By contrast, the student authors conceded that the UNC team was outplayed in a fair game against Trinity. 

The next issue of the Magazine continued the debate, responding at greater length to more claims from the Wake Forest student paper. It’s worth reading in its entirety. In closing, the author continued to insist that the game against Wake Forest did not count, writing:  

A fair-minded man likes to see merit win, whoever possesses it, and can admire it in an opponent. The University team has played but one game of foot-ball, and was then beaten fairly as this Magazine cheerfully acknowledged. It wished to show that, while in the game with Trinity merit won, in that on Thursday of Fair week it did not. (University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137). 

 While this was clearly a spirited debate at the time, history seems to have come down on the side of Wake Forest. Some long-lasting rivalries have disputed games in their past (see for example, Georgia-Florida), but there is no further record that we could find of the earliest UNC game being contested. In everything we have read online and in print, the October 18, 1888 loss to Wake Forest is widely credited as being UNC’s first football game. To be fair, the UNC and Wake Forest teams definitely played on that date, and the News and Observer report did not refer to it as a scrimmage or unofficial game. In an era well before the establishment of the NCAA or other governing bodies, the very idea of an “official” game would have been an unfamiliar concept. 

But the student authors of the Magazine were persistent in their claims. What do you think: does Wake Forest really deserve credit for their 1888 victory over Carolina? Will “Avenge 1888!” be the rallying cry that leads Mack Brown and the Tar Heels to victory tomorrow night? Here’s hoping so. Go Heels.

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p. 185.

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p. 185.

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137

 

New Collection: Danny Bell Photographs

We have just opened a new collection for research: photographs from Danny Bell. Bell has been at the heart of American Indian life at UNC since the late 1980s. He was one of the founders of the American Indian Studies … Continue reading

We have just opened a new collection for research: photographs from Danny Bell. Bell has been at the heart of American Indian life at UNC since the late 1980s. He was one of the founders of the American Indian Studies program and has worked closely with the Carolina Indian Circle. Bell’s photos document performances, lectures, and classes, and include many images of Carolina Indian Circle events.

The photos now available for use in Wilson Library.

Carolina Indian Circle performance and beading workshop, ca. 1996-1997. Photo by Danny Bell.

Carolina Indian Circle performance and beading workshop, ca. 1996-1997. Photo by Danny Bell.

UNC Students Study Nike, 1998

In the mid 1990s, Nike and other apparel companies drew criticism for labor practices in overseas factories they owned or used. UNC students and faculty were at the heart of the debate in the spring of 1998 when an entire … Continue reading

Daily Tar Heel, 29 April 1998.

In the mid 1990s, Nike and other apparel companies drew criticism for labor practices in overseas factories they owned or used. UNC students and faculty were at the heart of the debate in the spring of 1998 when an entire class looked at Nike and its role in the global economy.

UNC began its relationship with Nike in 1993, when it signed its first agreement with the company to provide shoes and other athletic apparel for Carolina athletes and coaches. It was a new era for the basketball team in particular, which had worn Converse shoes since the 1960s.

When the University began negotiating a renewal of the contract a few years later, students began to bring up concerns about Nike’s labor practices. In the summer of 1997, student Marion Traub Warner started the Nike Awareness Campaign to educate other students about concerns over Nike’s labor practices. This was not just a UNC issue. Other universities with apparel deals with Nike, including Michigan, Ohio State, and the University of California, collaborated with an independent study of working conditions in factories used by Nike. In the fall of 1997, business students at Dartmouth released a study of pay rates at factories in Indonesia and Vietnam. Workers were found to be poorly paid and subject to dangerous environmental conditions.

Inspired by UNC student interest and an opportunity to study and learn from a current, global issue, UNC faculty members Richard Andrews, Nick Didow, and James Peacock offered a class in the Spring semester 1998 entitled “Economics, Ethics, and Impacts of the Global Economy: The Nike Example.”

The course drew national media attention, including a mention on ESPN. At the end of the semester, the faculty arranged for a staff member from Nike to be present for the students’ final presentations, which included recommendations for the company. They were all surprised when the company representative turned out to be Nike CEO Phil Knight. Nike took steps to address labor concerns in its factories and the University continued to renew its apparel contracts with Nike.

This topic and the class are covered at length in a new collection in the University Archives. The collection includes materials gathered and saved by Dr. Raymond (“Pete”) Andrews. It is a terrific resource for anyone interested in studying labor practices of apparel companies in the 1990s and the ways that college students at UNC and around the country helped to engage and possibly influence the practices of a major international corporation.

UNC faculty and students with Nike CEO Phil Knight (third from left), 1998. From the Richard Andrews Collection on The Nike Class, UNC University Archives.

Exploring the History and Legacy of Slavery at the University of North Carolina

In 2005, the University Archives put on an exhibit on the history of slavery at UNC. The exhibit materials provided evidence of the use of enslaved laborers in the construction of early campus buildings, as servants for students and faculty, and showed how proceeds from the … Continue reading

In 2005, the University Archives put on an exhibit on the history of slavery at UNC. The exhibit materials provided evidence of the use of enslaved laborers in the construction of early campus buildings, as servants for students and faculty, and showed how proceeds from the sale of slaves were used to finance the University. It was an important exhibit, one of the earliest of its kind, but it was only a first step.

After the exhibit came down, scholars and many UNC students have continued to explore the history and legacy of slavery at the University. Last semester, Professor Jim Leloudis led an undergraduate seminar focused on slavery at UNC. The students dug deep into the archives, looking through correspondence, account books, and campus and government records in search of documents that could help further our understanding of the history and legacy of slavery in the building and funding of the university from its founding in 1789 through the end of the Civil War.

This month, we will begin to share some of their findings. Caroline Newhall, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History, has been sorting through the materials that the students in the undergraduate seminar uncovered and will be preparing short articles describing what they found and talking about the research process. As these articles are completed, we’ll share them on this blog. Caroline’s first post, about an 1829 runaway slave advertisement, was posted last week. Her work this semester is supported by the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History.

As with the 2005 exhibit, these articles will tell only a small part of the story of slavery at UNC. By sharing these documents and stories, we hope to provide a starting point and to encourage others, including faculty, researchers, family members, and especially students, to continue to explore the history and legacy of slavery at UNC.

Dean Smith Papers Now Available for Research in Wilson Library

We are thrilled to announce that the personal papers of Dean Smith are now available for research in Wilson Library. Donated by Coach Smith’s family earlier this year, the papers include materials from his youth in Kansas, scrapbooks kept by … Continue reading

Publicity photo for Smith’s biography, A Coach’s Life, first published in 1999. [Folder 129, Biography: Photographs of Dean Smith]

We are thrilled to announce that the personal papers of Dean Smith are now available for research in Wilson Library. Donated by Coach Smith’s family earlier this year, the papers include materials from his youth in Kansas, scrapbooks kept by his parents for many years, and files kept by Smith in his retirement. The collection offers the opportunity to learn more about Smith’s life and interests, his work after he left coaching, and the lasting impact he has had on his players, fellow coaches, and Carolina fans everywhere.

The papers contain materials going as far back as 1946, with a report Smith wrote on his hometown of Emporia, Kansas. (He got an A.) There is a program from the NCAA champion 1952 Kansas men’s basketball team, of which Smith was a member, along with copies of his yearbooks from the University of Kansas.



For those interested in learning more about Smith’s career at UNC, there is a wealth of information available in scrapbooks that were maintained by his parents over several decades. These include newspaper clippings and programs and are a great way to follow the progress of some of Smith’s legendary Tar Heel basketball teams.

The largest part of the collection is the files from Smith’s retirement office (as he often said to his correspondents, after retirement he still went to the office every morning, but he left whenever he felt like it). The retirement files include lots of correspondence with friends and coaches. Smith faced a seemingly endless number of invitations to speak and to accept awards. He accepted some, participating in ESPN’s 25th anniversary celebration and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award. Perhaps of more personal importance, he traveled Kansas in 2001 to accept the Kansan of the Year award and returned again in 2007 for the 55th anniversary of the 1952 basketball team. His papers show that he kept up with many longtime friends and family members in Kansas.



Smith’s papers reflect his interest in faith and social issues, including a number of articles he was reading and discussing. There are a few files on political fundraising he participated in and a very interesting folder on discussions he had about running for U.S. Senate in 1990. The papers also include drafts of his autobiography, A Coach’s Life, first published in 1999, along with audio cassette recordings of interviews conducted with Smith by John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins, who collaborated with Smith on a revised edition of the book.



If you have questions about the collection, or if you’d like information about using the Dean Smith Papers, contact Wilson Library at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu.

Guide to Good Times: Summer Fun in Chapel Hill in 1979

Chapel Hill has always slowed down in the summer. Even with a growing population of summer school students and programs, the campus and town remain comparatively quiet in the months between commencement and the start of fall classes. The summer … Continue reading

Chapel Hill has always slowed down in the summer. Even with a growing population of summer school students and programs, the campus and town remain comparatively quiet in the months between commencement and the start of fall classes.

The summer staff of the Daily Tar Heel in 1979 took on the challenge of finding a summer activity for every letter of the alphabet. Presented below, from the issue published on May 31, 1979, is the “Guide to Good Times,” the ABCs of summer entertainment in Chapel Hill.

Guide to Good Times: Summer Fun in Chapel Hill in 1979

Chapel Hill has always slowed down in the summer. Even with a growing population of summer school students and programs, the campus and town remain comparatively quiet in the months between commencement and the start of fall classes. The summer … Continue reading

Chapel Hill has always slowed down in the summer. Even with a growing population of summer school students and programs, the campus and town remain comparatively quiet in the months between commencement and the start of fall classes.

The summer staff of the Daily Tar Heel in 1979 took on the challenge of finding a summer activity for every letter of the alphabet. Presented below, from the issue published on May 31, 1979, is the “Guide to Good Times,” the ABCs of summer entertainment in Chapel Hill.

Women Students in the Summer Normal School at UNC

In the summer of 1877, the University of North Carolina offered classes in the summer for the first time. It wasn’t just a continuation of the regular course offerings: UNC was host to a statewide “Summer Normal School,” providing teacher … Continue reading

An Act to Establish Normal Schools. North Carolina General Assembly, 1877.

In the summer of 1877, the University of North Carolina offered classes in the summer for the first time. It wasn’t just a continuation of the regular course offerings: UNC was host to a statewide “Summer Normal School,” providing teacher education to primary school teachers (and aspiring teachers) from around the state.

The Normal School was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in March 1877, allocating $2,000 for the program, which was to be jointly administered by the University and by the North Carolina Board of Education.

The act creating the school specified that it was “for the purpose of teaching and training young men of the white race for teachers of the common schools of the state.” The act also mentioned the possibility of creating a separate school to train African American teachers.

While the UNC administrators did not appear to object to the limitation of the program to white teachers,* they did argue that the school should open its doors to women. In his early history of UNC, Kemp Battle, who was President of the University in 1877, wrote:

 An important question came up at the outset. The Act authorizing the school confined its benefits to male teachers and those desiring to be teachers. It was exceedingly important that females should be included. The Board of Education took the ground and the University concurred, that while the public money could not be paid to females, there could be no objection to their attending the sessions, and they were accordingly invited to take advantage of all the exercises. Their presence contributed much to the success of the school. (Kemp Plummer Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, vol. 2.)

Ad for the Normal School in the Western Sentinel (Winston-Salem), May 31, 1877.

The Hillsborough Recorder reported on the new program on May 30, 1877. The paper called attention to the fact that women would be allowed to attend, writing: “Although the law requires that the moneys paid by the State shall be devoted to the use of males, yet females are cordially invited to attend all the exercises of the school free of charge.”

Of the 235 students enrolled in the six-week program, 107 were women. The presence of women on campus as students was especially significant as it would be another 20 years before UNC admitted its first women students. The inclusion of women was hailed by Cornelia Phillips Spencer, who wrote that she hoped the state would “do as much for her daughters as she has done for her sons.”

The following summer, Emily Coe, a teacher from New York, joined the Normal School faculty, making her the first woman to teach on the University campus. Coe specialized in training kindergarten teachers at a time when formal preschool education was still fairly rare in the United States. Battle thought that Coe’s course in the 1878 Summer Normal School was the first Normal kindergarten class in North Carolina.

Women continued to make up a substantial number of the Summer Normal School attendees each year, and the number of women on the faculty slowly increased.

Education remained a focus of the summer school for decades, but the University gradually began offering courses in other areas. In 1914, summer school classes were able to be counted for credit toward a degree, which led to even more integration with the regular UNC curriculum.

* The Summer School, like the rest of the University, would not be integrated until 1951, when four African American law students enrolled.

Programme for the Closing Exercises of the University Normal School, 1877. UNC Ephemera collection.