UNC’s popular (and sometimes controversial) Carolina Summer Reading Program began in 1999. However, UNC experimented with the idea of an assigned summer reading book for students as early as 1962.
Students entering Carolina in the fall of 1962 were required to read Look Homeward, Angel, UNC graduate Thomas Wolfe’s classic coming-of-age novel featuring a young man from western North Carolina who attended a familiar-sounding college in the town of “Pulpit Hill.” Orientation Chairman Bob Madry told the Daily Tar Heel that the book was “a difficult assignment,” but appropriate because “exposure to it plus the analysis and discussion in the seminars will give new students some idea of the type of work they can expect in the months to come.”
As part of the orientation program, students would attend a discussion session led by members of the Phi Eta Sigma scholastic honorary society. English professor Hugh Holman prepared a guide to the text. Unfortunately, the records in the archives don’t tell us how the discussions went, or how many incoming students made their way through the entire 626-page book.
Looking back on the required reading assignment, a committee charged with evaluating the orientation offerings wrote, “The seminars on a book (tried experimentally last year) should be repeated, but the book should be a shorter work such as Animal Farm.”
Long before Tinder and Match.com, students at UNC and other schools looked to a computer for help finding dates with a program called “Operation Match.”
Operation Match was founded by students at Harvard and Cornell in 1965. Students would send in a questionnaire with a $3.00 fee. Their answers were transferred to punch cards, processed on a five-ton mainframe computer in Massachusetts, and then the students were sent a list of names and phone numbers of potential matches.
The program came to UNC in time for the fall 1965 semester. A Daily Tar Heel editorial asked, “Are you willing to let a big machine with flashing lights and flying cards tell you how to run your personal social life?” Apparently many students were.
The program ran an interesting promotion on campus in October 1965. Patsy Puckett, who was then Miss Mississippi, filled out an Operation Match questionnaire and then went on a date with Carolina student she was matched with.
According to the DTH, several hundred students used the service in its first month. While Operation Match apparently led to several successful dates, there were some unusual matches, including that of a UNC sophomore who was matched with his sister, a student at Duke. This was notable not just for the fact that they were related, but, according one of the student’s friends, “They are as different as night and day.”
The program lasted at least through the next school year. In February 1966 Operation Match was advertising for a “North Carolina District Manager” to help with promotion and outreach. By the fall of 1966, the DTH declared “Electronic match-making is here to stay.”
In the University Archives, we’re interested in tracking down one of the questionnaires that the students were asked to fill out. We haven’t been able to find one in our records (yet). If any former students are reading this and have suggestions, please let us know [Edit 1/12/2017: Thank you to Emanuele Berry, a producer for the podcast Undone, who sent us an Operation Match survey from 1966! She turned up the survey while doing research for an episode on Operation Match.]
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has many symbols associated with it, from the Tar Heel footprint to the silhouette of the Old Well. One of the most formal UNC visual components is the University’s ornamental seal. While you may see images of the seal around campus (more on this later) use of the seal is primarily reserved for official University documents, such as diplomas or transcripts. The seal is an emblem of the University, designed for formal occasions to represent the ideals of this home of higher education.
The official ornamental seal of the University has gone through four major revisions since it was first created. Provision of the seal dates back to a meeting of the Board of Trustees held at Fayetteville from November 15 through 27 in 1790. On motion of John Hay, a committee was appointed to form a device for the common seal. This committee included seven men, including Hay and Chairman William Lenoir.
By July 20, 1791, the seal had been designed, completed and delivered. They chose the face of Apollo, the God of Eloquence, and his emblem the rising sun “as expressive of the dawn of higher education in our State.” This first seal of UNC was used on documents and diplomas until 1895.
On the seal, the face of Apollo was placed at the center facing straight ahead and surrounded by rays of light. Around the outside read the Latin inscription “Sigil Universitat Carol Septent” (literally meaning “The Symbol of the University of North Carolina”).
The next revision appeared in 1895 under President George Winston. The seal kept the face of Apollo, but turned his head to profile. The Latin inscription changed just slightly from “Sigil” to “Sigillum” and Apollo gained a crown of leaves on his head. This seal was used only briefly in the Catalogue, from 1894 through 1896.
In 1897, Dr. E.A. Alderman became President and called for a new seal. The June 1, 1897 minutes for the Board of Trustees describe the proposed new look for the seal: “On a tinted circle there appear the words Sigillum Universitat Carol Septent. Within the open space there is a tinted shield with a diagonal white band. One the shield are the words “Lux” and “Libertas.” In the open spaces there are burning torches.”
Thus Apollo was removed from the shield for this third revision. It also added the University motto of “Lux Libertas” meaning “Light and Liberty.”
This seal was nearly identical to the seal used today, but a keen eye may decipher one key difference. This third iteration of the seal was used from 1896 through 1944. At this point, controversy arose over the band on the shield included in the seal.
In traditional heraldry, the “bend” denotes the stripe running across the shield. A traditional bend is supposed to run from the upper dexter corner of the shield (the bearer’s right side and the viewer’s left) to the lower sinister corner of the shield. This is called a “bend dexter.” By some mistake, the bend included on the University seal shield was crossing in the wrong direction, from the upper sinister corner to the lower dexter.
This is referred to as a “bend sinister” and has popularly but incorrectly been thought to imply the stigma of illegitimacy for those who bore such a shield. In actuality, it meant that the bearer was a second or later son who could not inherit his father’s estate. However, the stigma was popular and so many people complained to the university that they changed the direction of the bend in 1944. The change was made under the direction of Controller William D. Carmichael Jr. who wished to remove all implications of illegitimacy, however erroneous, concerning the bend.
This is the current University seal that has been in place since 1944. The seal used by the University Press on its bookplate actually changed prior to the University’s seal (in around 1925). The University Library also changed their bookplate design prior to 1944.
However, an eagle-eyed visitor to the University campus may be able to spot the third version of the seal (with the bend sinister) in a few locations. One such location is on the front of Wilson Library, which was built in 1929. It is engraved in the columns above the front porch. At the time of its engraving, this was the officially correct seal but it now stands as a testimony to the prior design and the unique history of this seal. An alumnus wrote to a local newspaper in 1974, complaining about the “bend sinister” seal on Wilson Library, writing: “Beloved Alma Mater should always be scrupulously legitimate.”
African American students were prohibited from enrolling at the University of North Carolina until 1951, when a court decision forced the university to begin admitting African American students to the graduate schools. African American students joined the undergraduate population in 1955.
The number of African American students enrolled at UNC has increased steadily since the 1950s. In Wilson Library, we frequently receive requests asking for statistical data on the historic enrollment of African American students at UNC. The table below represents our best efforts to determine enrollment numbers and statistics. With changes in campus administration and frequent reorganization, there was not a single place we could look to easily find all enrollment numbers from the past 65 years. For some years, we have not been able to find any statistics on African American enrollment, but we are still looking and will update this table whenever we have additional information. These statistics are also available in an Excel spreadsheet that includes numbers by student type (undergraduate / graduate / professional) and full citations for each year’s figures.
Looking through old copies of the Yackety Yack, I’m often struck by the large number of private clubs and societies on campus. Some, like the Order of the Gimghoul and the Golden Fleece, have lasted to the present, but many others, including the Order of the Sheiks, the 13 Club, and Order of Invisible Stygians, have not appeared on campus in years (or else they’re doing a very good job of keeping their activities secret).
But by far the most intriguing one that I’ve come across — and easily the most creatively-named — is the Society for the Preservation of Buck Taylor’s Mutton and Shoats. The group was founded in late 1965 or early 1966. Described as a dining and humor society, it was essentially an excuse for a group of young men (it doesn’t appear that they ever had women members) to get together, eat heartily, drink, and tell jokes.
According to a Daily Tar Heel article from February 28, 1966, which described the society’s second dinner, the founding of the group was necessitated by the inability to find a proper multi-course French meal in Chapel Hill. So they would hire a chef, book a private room at the Villa Tempesta (an actual building on Franklin Street now housing Whitehall at the Villa Antiques), and have a five- to eight-course meal with multiple wines and brandy. There was an educational component to the event described by the DTH: UNC faculty member Hugh Lefler was invited to address the attendees on life at the university in the 18th century. Dinners were sometimes followed by the members piling into a mule-drawn cart and travelling around the town singing.
Membership looks to have been limited to around 20 men. Many prominent North Carolina names appear in the membership lists; the elaborate dinners suggest that this would not have been a cheap organization to join. After its first few dinners, the society received only occasional coverage in the Daily Tar Heel, and did not have a page in the Yackety Yack every year. The latest I could find was 1979.
The name came from John “Buck” Taylor, who served as the first steward at UNC in the 1790s and who left the university in anger after students reacted unfavorably to his mutton and shoats (a shoat is a young hog). The dining society, sensing that the dismissal may have been unjust, set out to, somehow, restore Buck Taylor’s honor through their joke-filled dinners. The founders of the club were especially fond of quoting a letter from Buck Taylor to one of the Trustees, in which Taylor offered to resume his post as steward: “I shall have but littel to do next yeare and I want to be doing Something as I have don nothing Sence I have beain heare.” The true story of Buck Taylor, as far as it can be ascertained through the archival records, will have to be the subject of a later post.
The latest edition of Southern Cultures includes a very interesting article by Bruce Baker on the origins of the “Tar Heel” nickname. Baker, a lecturer at Newcastle University in England and a graduate of UNC (Ph.D., History, 2003), did extensive research in newspapers and other sources to uncover a great deal of interesting and, as far as I am aware, new information about the history of “Tar Heels.”
Countering some of the often-repeated stories about the phrase, while it was adopted into popular use during the Civil War, its origins go back several decades earlier. Baker describes how the phrase “rosin heels” was in frequent use among the pine-rich turpentine-producing regions of the United States, including North Carolina. The phrase “tar heel” emerged later, used first as a derogatory term for politicians and later applied to African Americans, including Frederick Douglass, who was called a “Tarheel” in an 1852 newspaper article.
While initially used as a derisive nickname for North Carolina soldiers during the Civil War, the North Carolinians apparently decided to embrace it. By the time Governor Zebulon Vance referred to “Fellow Tar-Heels” in 1863, the name had stuck.
When African American soprano Dorothy Maynor performed at UNC on January 19, 1947, she sang in front of what was probably the first integrated audience in Memorial Hall. An editorial in the Daily Tar Heel published a couple days later declared, “For the first time, to our knowledge, a Negro and white audience attended a concert in Memorial Hall without any segregation in the seating arrangement.”
Maynor was a popular soprano who toured the country, performing songs from famous operas. While her solo concerts were hailed by critics and audiences, she was never offered the opportunity to perform in a major opera. The Metropolitan Opera in New York would not cast its first African American soloist until 1955.
The integrated audience at Maynor’s UNC concert did not occur by accident. Maynor stipuated that she would not perform in front of a segregated audience. The proposed concert was debated by campus administration. The decision ultimately went to university system president Frank Porter Graham, who insisted that the performance go ahead without any restrictions on seating.
The Daily Tar Heel editorial praised the UNC community for its “liberal, progressive attitude” following the concert. The editorial made no mention of the fact that African Americans were still prohibited from attending the university. UNC would not admit its first black student until 1951.
The Pit, the beloved gathering place at the heart of the UNC campus, was once home to the university’s primary athletic field. Emerson Field was completed in 1916 and was used for football, baseball, and track. The football team quickly outgrew the space, moving to Kenan Stadium when it was completed in 1927, and track events moved to Fetzer Field in 1935, but Emerson Field continued to host home baseball games until 1965.
Emerson Field was cleared in 1967 in preparation for the construction of new buildings to house a student union, bookstore, and undergraduate library. The bookstore, known then as the Book Exchange or “Book-Ex” was completed in time for the opening of the fall semester 1968, much to relief of students who had long complained of lines and delays at the store’s former location in the Campus Y. Construction continued into the semester on the library and union, leaving students and others on campus faced with a problem that became more acute during the rainy spring: the construction crews left a large dirt pit in front of the new bookstore.
In February 1969, articles in the Daily Tar Heel made reference to the “muddy, basin-like area in front of the Book-Ex” and the “man-made mud crater.” In April, it was still a “big, ugly mud hole.” By later in the spring, the campus grounds crew had come up with a solution. The DTH reported on the plan in its June 26, 1969 paper:
“The vast, dusty pit in front of the UNC Book Exchange has been the subject of much campus inquiry recently. The Campus and Grounds Department has designed, and begun construction on a sunken brick patio surrounded by brick steps. Two shade trees will be planted in the center.”
That article was possibly the first time in print that it was referred to as “The Pit.”
By the fall semester 1969, the work was completed and the Daily Tar Heel, following the lead of the student orientation handbook, christened the space “The Pit.” In an editorial headed, “The Pit is the Pit and We Like It,” the DTH wrote, “We sort of expect officials in South Building to come up with something like the Frank Edward Jones Memorial Square . . . Personally, we like ‘The Pit.'”
Apparently the rest of the campus, including the administrators in South Building, liked it, too. It has been called The Pit ever since and has become an essential part of the UNC landscape.
One of the enduring myths of UNC history is that there is a provision in the founding documents that says that descendants of the families who donated land to the university may attend school free of charge. While this would have been a very generous (and complicated) offer, it is not true.
The confusion may come from the fact that there are sections, both in the act establishing the university and the early trustees minutes, where free tuition is mentioned.
Chapter 20 of the 1789 Laws of North-Carolina was entitled “An Act to Establish a University in this State.” The act named the original trustees, defined their powers and responsibilities, and included, toward the end, a “Benefit granted to subscribers.” This said, in part, “That every person who within the term of five years shall subscribe ten pounds towards this university . . . shall be entitled to have one student educated at the university free from any expence of tuition.”
So the free tuition for early donors did exist, but it applied only to a single student that they would select.
There is a similar enticement to donors in the earliest minutes of the Board of Trustees in 1792. At the meeting on 5 December 1792, the trustees voted unanimously to place the university in Chapel Hill (or “Newhope Chappel Hill” as it first appears in the minutes). The minutes list the names of nine people* who donated land in Orange County for the university and said that they “shall have the respective privilege of having one Student educated at the said University free from any expence of tuition.”
As in the act establishing UNC, the provision is clear that the donors may select only one student to attend school free of tuition. While this benefit does not pass down the generations, what has extended through to the present is the enduring gratitude of all of the students who have had the privilege of living and studying in Chapel Hill.
* Who were the original donors of land? Many of the last names are familiar from streets and buildings in and around Chapel Hill:
John Hogan, 200 acres
Benjamin Yeargin, 51 acres
Matthew McCauley, 150 acres
Christopher Barbee, 221 acres
Edmund Jones, 200 acres
Mark Morgan, 107 acres
Jonathan Daniel, 107 acres
Hardy Morgan, 125 acres
William McCauley, 100 acres
Most of these donations were contingent upon Chapel Hill being chosen as the site of the university. While the donors were certainly generous, they were not without self-interest: the establishment of a university would greatly increase the value of their remaining lands, which, with the hilly landscape and rocky soil, were poorly suited for large-scale farming.
The site, built on the DH Press tool developed by the Digital Innovation lab, takes an in-depth look at 12 campus buildings, providing thorough histories of the structures, their uses, and the people they were named for. The site also includes summary information and visualization tools for the more than 250 “major” buildings on the campus. The visualizations are especially interesting for looking broadly at trends in the uses of campus buildings and the types of people they’ve been named for.
This project is another example of the terrific work on campus history being done by undergraduates and exemplifies the continued interest among current students in studying, challenging, and engaging with the history of UNC.