Today marks the 101st anniversary of Hugh Morton’s birth. Despite the difficulties of keeping the blog as active as it once was, this is a day that needs to be remembered.
The number 101 is commonly assigned to introductory collegiate classes. Seems it is also quite the prime number! For A View to Hugh, “Hugh Morton 101” will need to be a return to basics. As my duties have evolved and the photographic collections have grown over the past twelve years to 3.25 million items, it becomes more challenging for me to carve out the time required to work on long-form posts that I truly love to research and write. The pandemic has also hindered Jack Hilliard’s ability to research and write his contributions to the blog.
Nonetheless, there has been noteworthy work completed on the Morton collection behind the scenes. Prior to the pandemic, we had a few thousand Morton negatives scanned at high resolution sufficient to meet the federal preservation digitization standards. While many of these negatives had been scanned when Elizabeth Hull was processing the collection, many others had not—and none had been scanned at high resolution. In fact, there was no accepted standard in the field at the time. We scanned negatives at a moderate level to assist with processing the collection, and also serve many researchers basic needs.
A few years ago, I examined each and every 3×4-inch negative and all 4×5 negatives made prior to circa 1970 in the Morton collection in order to choose what would be digitized. All tallied, more than 4,400 negatives now have preservation-level scans. (For the technologically interested, the file sizes for 4×5-inch negatives routinely exceed 630 megabytes. A future post will dig deeper into the project.) And that is why it is time to get back to basics. By the end of March, I will have completed a plan for making those scans—along with several hundred more made from the Bayard Wootten and the Colvin M. Edwards collections—available to users.
Many of these newly scanned negatives are unidentified, which will enable us to return to the early days of the blog when we could post images for which we knew little to nothing and many people would contribute their knowledge or ideas toward their identification. The scene above is an example of a negative that had never been scanned before and the person is unidentified. Here’s looking forward to an active year at “V2H” as we introduce more Hugh Morton images to the world. Happy 101st, Mr. Morton!
Happy New Year, 2021! It has been essentially impossible to maintain A View to Hugh during the past ten months during the coronavirus pandemic. Our blog entries are stories centered around photographs and negatives from the Hugh Morton collection, but I did not have access to the physical collection while working from home. Also, I have been creating an online exhibition with a team of co-workers that has been very research intensive. As a result, this blog has been hibernating like a bear . . . but during the time of year when bears are not in hibernation.
The good news for 2021 and A View to Hugh is that I will soon be able to access the Morton collection negatives and prints every three weeks on a cyclical schedule starting January 11. During those weeks I will be working inside Wilson Library on the “Digital First” team digitizing Special Collections’ materials requested by remote researchers. After my four-hour shifts, I will have a few hours in the afternoon to work on my typical tasks.
This change in my work environment comes on the eve of the one hundredth anniversary of Hugh Morton’s birth on February 19. As the calendar continues, my next work week inside Wilson Library will be February 1–5. That schedule provides two weeks to prepare blog posts ahead of Morton’s centennial birthday.
Are there new topics you would like us to explore or previous posts you’d like us to revisit? Please let us know and we’ll do our best to cover the topic this celebratory year.
STARK NAKED — Almost everybody around Raleigh and elsewhere was caught with his pants down late last Friday afternoon when Gov. William B. Umstead, as calmly as a man reaching for a glass of water, announced that Al Lennon of Wilmington was his at-long-last choice to succeed Smith as junior U. S. Senator from North Carolina.
To be perfectly frank about it, most of us were not only caught with our pants down. We found ourselves stark naked.
So began Kidd Brewer’s “Raleigh Round-Up” column for the Thursday, July 16, 1953 issue of the Nashville Graphic (in Nash County, N. C.). We need to go back a handful of days to that previous Friday, July 10—actually back to June 26—for the start of this story. For that is the day that North Carolina’s junior senator in the United States Senate, Willis Smith, died while in office from a coronary thrombosis.
Smith’s term was set to end at the close of 1954. He was completing a term begun by J. Melville Broughton on January 3, 1949 that ended abruptly nine weeks later when Broughton died in office on March 6. Newly elected governor W. Kerr Scott appointed Frank Porter Graham to replace Broughton, but Graham lost his bid to retain the seat to Smith in a contentious run-off primary election on June 24, 1950. Smith then handily won the general election on November 7, 1950, earning him the right to complete the remaining four years of Broughton’s term.
Governor Umstead needed to replace Smith, and he kept his selection process very closed-lipped. The state’s then senior senator was Clyde R. Hoey from the western part of the state, so Umstead looked eastward for his appointee. The vacant seat had proved to be like the removable chair in the children’s game Musical Chairs, so Umstead sought an appointee who he believed could begin campaigning almost immediately for the primary that would take place in May 1954—just ten months away—win the primary, and then continue on for a full six-year term.
When Umstead announced that the relatively unknown Wilmington attorney and former state senator Alton Asa Lennon as his appointment—late on a Friday afternoon—there were few photographs of Lennon for the press to print in newspapers. Brewer noted that “there were only one or two photos of the new senator wandering around the State.”
Where on earth was the world going to get photographs of a relatively unknown Wilmingtonian who was destined for the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol? Fellow Wilmington native Hugh Morton, of course! How do we know this to be the case? Later in Brewer’s story we encounter a passage that launched me into a deeper dig to differentiate the numerous negatives made by Morton between Umstead’s announcement and Lennon’s send-off to Washington, D. C. that are extant in the Hugh Morton collection. Brewer wrote,
Hugh Morton, Wilmington photographer and tourist expert who had himself only two hours earlier been reappointed to the State Board of Conservation and Development, rushed to Lennon’s house and began flashing him in every pose but on his head. And the state editors and wire boys were already performing that act. The AP snapped up Morton’s pictures, got its wirephoto services on the ready, and in most late night editions of Saturday morning’s papers, there was old Al smiling out at you from a three-column photo.
Does Brewer’s description of the media blitz match the historical record? Is it an accurate account of how Morton’s negatives came into being? Upon searching the Morton collection finding aid, I found three listings for forty black-and-white negatives surrounding this event, with three broadly defined sets in the Morton collection finding aid:
Lennon, Alton: Wilmington sendoff celebration to U.S. Senate, 14 July 1953
Lennon, Alton: Various portraits, with family, etc., circa 1953
Lennon, Alton: With Governor William Umstead, circa 1953
The first two listings are a jumble of images that span from as early as the evening of July 10 through the “send-off” on July 14, officially proclaimed by the governor as “Alston Lennon Day.” It’s important to note here that many categories of images in the Morton collection are “a jumble.” When processing the collection after its arrival, the quantity of material in the collection and its lack of internal structure did not permit our archivist, Elizabeth Hull, to refine uncounted rough groupings and descriptions for tens of thousands of items. Even today, I am hard pressed to find the time to dig too deep. In this case I needed to sort through the negatives to see what they depicted for the Morton collection preservation digitization project. A fair amount of work went into it, and I needed to write down what I learned to make sense of it all. I felt I could turn that information into a useful and informative post, and so what follows is what I’ve gathered thus far.
Let’s start with the easiest listing first: the negatives depicting Umstead and Lennon together.
News accounts stated that the governor made a surprise visit to Wilmington to meet with Lennon on Monday, July 13 during an “open house” in the offices of Star News Newspapers, the publisher of Wilmington’s two major newspapers. The only update needed for the finding aid for that group of six negatives was a change of “circa” to the exact date.
There are six negatives of Umstead interacting with Lennon, including the following image published as an Associated Press Wirephoto:
The two remaining listings in the finding aid, however, is where confusion reigned. Looking at some newspapers (Wilmington’s Morning Star and The Wilmington News, and their jointly issued Sunday Star News, plus The Charlotte News (to which Morton frequently submitted work) proved to be useful. So, too, did an eye for fashion and a bit of knowledge about photographic film manufacturing. Let’s tackle the film manufacturing process first.
Film manufacturers use notches on one corner of the film so that photographers can quickly and easily determine the emulsion side of the film. Photographers need to know the emulsion is facing the outside of the film holder (i.e., toward the lens) when they insert a sheet of film into a film holder while doing so in complete darkness. As illustrated below (but always done in the dark), if you hold the film in your hand so you can feel the notch(es) with your index finger, then the emulsion is facing upwards. (Of course there wouldn’t be an image on the film when loading new film!) The notch is also is an indication of the specific film. For this information we turn to The Acetate Negative Survey by David Horvath in 1987. According to Horvath’s survey, a single V-shaped notch on safety film made by Kodak indicates that Morton photographed using Super Pan Press, Type B.
Most photographic archivists are familiar with notch codes. But also note the number to the left of the code. Not as many know what that represents, and sheet film negatives do not always have a number there. I’ve seen that number referred to both as a batch code and as a machine code: the former meaning that the manufacturer would be able to identify the emulsion batch, and the latter indicating what machine cut the film into sheets. For archivists, we can use that number to help (it’s not definitive) determine if a photographer made a group of images during the same general time period. How so? Most photographers purchased sheet film in boxes of 25 or 100, so each sheet in a box or boxes purchased at the same time will likely have the same batch/machine code. In this case all but four of the forty negatives have a single notch with the code number 97. For now, hold that thought.
The images made closest to July 10 that I found in the newspapers appeared on Sunday, July 12, meaning that photographers took them on either on the evening of the July 10 or some time on July 11. Here’s one, a “Staff Photo by Ludwig” from The Sunday Star News on July 12:
Morton took a similar group portrait of the family around the same table, but without Lennon’s parents. (You might not be able to tell from the scan from microfilm, but it’s clear in Morton’s negative that while there are rolls on the center platter, everyone’s plates and bowls are empty.) The caption identifies the location of the family portrait as Lennon’s summer cottage in Wrightsville Beach. As seen at the top of this post, The Charlotte News published a portrait of the family seated near a fireplace, wearing the same clothes, on the same page as it ran four portraits across a four-column-wide article. That setting (law office versus home) doesn’t seem to mesh with Kidd Brewer’s description. One of those single portraits may have been published in a Saturday morning newspaper that I’ve not had time to explore. If so, then Brewer’s account could be accurate.
All totaled there are nine of the similarly posed Alton Lennon portrait negatives extant in the Morton collection, and at least one other pose made it to print. Lest we forget about Hugh Morton’s other favorite go-to publication, The State, here’s another of the portraits . . .
Below is a photograph published in The Wilmington News on July 13, taken by Morton but uncredited, showing a smiling Lennon with “fellow attorneys” posed in what, after consulting various other negatives in the collection, appears to be his law office in the Odd Fellows Building at 229 Princess Street. Many attorneys had their offices there because it was only a short walk to the city hall and county courthouse. The steps of Thalian Hall were just across the street on North 3rd Street.
There are several negatives made in that room, where the same composite photograph of the 1947 North Carolina Senate members is visible. Lennon was an elected member of the 1947 North Carolina Senate. In some of the negatives, Lennon’s diploma from Wake Forest College can be seen hanging on the perpendicular wall to the left.
Your eye for fashion now comes into play. You cannot tell from the picture above (as reproduced here from microfilm) but what can clearly be seen in the negative is that Lennon is wearing a double-breasted suit jacket. It may be the same as seen in this detail of a negative made by Morton on the steps of Thalian Hall below:
It could very well be, then, that Morton photographed Lennon on that Friday evening after the announcement when he would have been in his office with his fellow attorneys, and also on the steps of Thalian Hall.
At this point in his life, Hugh Morton was the vice president of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. The chamber organized a special “send off” committee and named Morton as its chairman. Festivities on July 14 began with a parade through the streets to the train station. Lennon’s car stopped for him to pose for photographers:
Now what about those four negatives with a different batch/machine code number? Here they are:
The machine code for these is 419 (not 97). Note, too, a portion of a campaign poster on the side of the car (lower right image). And that eye for fashion? Note Lennon is not wearing a bow tie, which he wears in all of the negatives made during the appointment days except during his meeting with Umstead, when he wears a light-colored suit and not a darker shade. There is enough evidence to conclude that Morton did not make these four negatives during events surrounding the Lennon announcement and send off. Lennon began campaigning soon after his appointment so we can date them from 1953 or 1954, but we cannot presume Morton made these four negatives in Wilmington. The top left negative is part of the online collection, and the metadata for that has been updated to reflect the distinction. The finding aid groupings will also be revised to reflect the new findings.
Alton Lennon or his surrogates used at least two of Morton’s photographs during the 1954 primary. Below is a page from the April 24, 1954 issue of The State:
The image above is cropped from one of the many negatives Hugh Morton exposed in Lennon’s law office, one of two with that “Keep America Strong” illustration in the background. It’s the upper portion of a calendar, which explains the last letters of the word “COMPANY” next to his left arm.
Morton’s family portrait of the Lennons seated in front of their fireplace reappears in a political advertisement paid for by Rocky Mount Friends of U. S. Senator Alton Lennon in that city’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, on May 24:
Lennon lost his bid for the full term. He and six other candidates fell to W. Kerr Scott on the Saturday, May 29 election day, with Scott securing 25,323 more votes than second place Lennon.
Belated Happy New Year!
For the past year or so, it has been really difficult for me to write blog posts for A View to Hugh on a regular basis. Thank goodness for Jack Hilliard’s continued interest in writing for the blog! If you are a regular reader, you might be wondering why it has been relatively quiet here. You might even be thinking that, eleven years after this blog’s debut in November 2007, there isn’t much work being done with the Morton collection. If fact, just the opposite is true. I worked extensively with the Morton collection during 2018. In honor of what would be Hugh Morton’s 98th birthday today, let me share with you what I have been doing to extend the life of his photographic negatives.
Morton’s film negatives and color transparencies dating from the late 1930s through the early 1960s are physically made of cellulose acetate film stock. The common name for these various acetate negatives is “safety film” because it replaced cellulose nitrate film stock, which is highly flammable. Many brands of film from that time period have the word SAFETY imprinted onto the edge of the film. Kodak issued its first safety film in 1926, but they became more common in the marketplace by the early to mid 1930s. They coexisted for several years with their cellulose nitrate brethren. Adding SAFETY to the sheet films’ edges distinguished them from their predecessor films made using cellulose nitrate, which then began to have the word NITRATE on their edges.
A keen eye will notice in the negative seen above that its edge has a slight wave. If you follow the links to the Wikipedia entries in the previous paragraph about these film bases, you may read more about how they deteriorate. For acetate films, basically, the negative begins to distort as the cellulose acetate base layer begins to break down, eventually causing its base to separate from the emulsion layer. The first stage of deterioration is a symmetrical curling of the film edges, meaning the curls are the same on opposite sides of the negative. This can go undetected if the collection is not used or inspected routinely.
Typically one’s nose is the first to detect that deterioration has begun. When the chemical composition of the cellulose acetate degrades to a certain level, the film emits the smell of vinegar—acetic acid. The next stage of deterioration is an asymmetrical warpage of the negative: where the curling is “upward” on one edge, it is “downward” on the opposite edge. Often, but not always, small bubbles will appear. Finally, the emulsion layer and the film base separate from each other.
We detected that some acetate negative deterioration had already taken place in the Morton collection before it arrived at Wilson Library, although the problem was not widespread. We removed those negatives that were already deteriorated and those that exhibited the early stages of deterioration into a separate box during archival processing. We did that in order to isolate the bad from the good, because the deterioration process is autocatalytic and thus can cause nearby good negatives to deteriorate. If you look in the Morton collection finding aid, you will see several entries with the phrase “removed to Sheet Film Box P081/BW-11 due to acetate deterioration.”
Storing negatives in a warm and/or humid environment exacerbates the deterioration process. A cool, dry environment slows down the process; only storage at zero degrees Fahrenheit, however, will impede the process.
Acetate deterioration became known to film manufacturing industry in the late 1940s. Manufacturers developed a replacement made from polyester during the early 1960s. Polyester films are remarkable stable.
The traditional method to preserve images on nitrate and acetate film negatives has been to make duplicate film copies using the interpositive method. An unexposed polyester film negative is placed in direct contact, emulsion to emulsion, to the acetate or nitrate negative, then properly exposed to light and chemically developed using archival film processing techniques. A negative film stock exposed to a photographic negative, produces a positive, which is then used to expose it to another sheet of unexposed film to make a duplicate negative—hence the word interpositive.
Vendors who make preservation duplicates using film today are rare and the cost is prohibitive because film and processing chemistry are no longer readily available. As you probably guessed, the duplication method has been replaced by digital technology. But it was not until September 2016 that an agreed upon standard—the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI)—determined specifications deemed acceptable for preservation digitization. That high level of preservation digitization is called FADGI 4-star.
In mid November 2016, the North Carolina Collection received a significant donation from the Ellis and Rosa McDonald Fund for Excellence to provide continued support of the Hugh Morton collection preservation project. I embarked on a pilot project with Chicago Albumen Works using a representative sample of negatives of different formats (3×4-inch negatives, 4x5s, 35mm, as examples). After completing the pilot project, I decided to focus on Morton’s earliest work, typically 3×4 negatives before he routinely used 4×5 starting in the early 1950s. I then moved to the 4×5 negatives made until the transition from acetate film to polyester film stocks in the early 1960s.
For both formats I needed to determine the negatives’ condition and—because we couldn’t possibly digitize every negative in the collection—the importance of their subject matter and the image quality of the negatives. To keep track of selections sent to the vendor, I created a spreadsheet that also helped me to standardize the file names for the scans to be typed by the vendor during production. In summary, Chicago Albumen Works digitized nearly 2,950 negatives at FADGI 4-star quality.
All that represents a significant amount of work that kept me from putting together blog posts. One post did emerge from the process when I discovered the negatives of Gerald P. Nye’s visit to UNC, and another post about Alton Lennon is waiting in the wings. This post is getting a bit long, however, so I’ll stop here and save additional details about the preservation digitization project for a future peek “Behind the Scenes.”
Today, October 27th, UNC head football coach Larry Fedora leads his 2018 Tar Heels into historic Scott Stadium for a continuation of “the South’s Oldest Rivalry.” This game between the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia marks the 123rd meeting between the two old rivals. Over the years, since the first meeting between the two in 1892, Carolina has won sixty-four times while UVA has won fifty-four; four games ended in a tie. Of the fifty times Carolina has played UVA on the road, the game in 1948 not only provided Carolina with a highly significant win, it also provided an interesting sidebar story. Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look back at the game in Scott Stadium on November 27, 1948 between the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers.
Arguably the best UNC football team was the 1948 squad that finished the season undefeated and ranked third in the Associated Press poll. The ’48 Tar Heels started off the season at home with a historic win over the University of Texas, 34 to 7. (Many old-time Tar Heels still like to talk about this game.)
The weekend following the Texas win, Charlie Justice had his best day as a Tar Heel down in Georgia with a win over the Bulldogs. Then came wins over Wake Forest, NC State, LSU, and Tennessee. A tie with William & Mary on November 6th was the only blemish on the ‘48 schedule. Following wins over Maryland and Duke, it was time to close out the historic season—a season that had seen Carolina ranked number one for the first and only time.
With bowl talk in the air, Head Coach Carl Snavely took his team into Scott Stadium for that finale. An overflow crowd of 26,000+ turned out on November 27, 1948, a day that could have very easily been called “Charlie Justice Day.” Here’s why:
He got off runs of twenty-two and eight yards in the initial Carolina touchdown drive.
He passed thirty-nine yards to receiver Art Weiner for the second Tar Heel score.
He cut off left guard on a delayed spinner and outran the field to cross the Virginia goal eighty yards away.
He passed thirty-one yards to end Bob Cox for Carolina’s fourth touchdown.
He returned a UVA punt, in a straight line, fifty yards for Carolina’s final touchdown of the day.
In summary: Justice carried the ball fifteen times for a net total of 159 yards—that’s almost 11 yards per carry. He completed four of seven passes for 87 yards. He returned two punts for sixty-six yards. He punted five times for a 40.8 yards per punt average. And oh yes, he intercepted a Virginia pass, had a 49-yard touchdown pass called back as well as a 21-yard run. Needless to say, Carolina won the game 34 to 12 and went on to play in the 1949 Sugar Bowl.
Among those 26,000+ fans in Scott Stadium that afternoon was an eleventh grade student at Woodberry Forest, a prep school in Madison, Virginia. His name, Clemmie Dixon Spangler, Jr. from Charlotte, North Carolina. Spangler, along with several of his school buddies, had made the trip over to Charlottesville for the game. (Clemmie Dixon Spangler, Jr. would become known as C.D. Spangler, Jr. and would lead the University of North Carolina system from 1986 until 1997.)
On one of those great Charlie Justice plays mentioned above, Justice’s #22 jersey was torn. He came over to the Carolina sideline where equipment manager, “Sarge” Keller, quickly got out a new one . . . tossing the torn one over behind the bench into an equipment trunk. In a 1996 interview with A.J Carr of Raleigh’s News & Observer, Spangler described the 1948 Charlottesville scene:
“Charlie was a hero of mine. It was one of his greatest college games. On one play, a linebacker grabbed him, but he twisted away as he often did, ran another 10-15 yards and his jersey was torn.”
“He came over, the trainer helped him put on another and they put the torn one in the trunk. I said: ‘That old jersey would be nice to have.’”
After the game, Spangler got the attention of a Carolina cheerleader and explained that he wanted the Justice jersey. He then offered the cheerleader ten dollars to go and get the jersey out of the trunk. The deal was completed and as Spangler walked out of the stadium, some Carolina fans offered him one hundred dollars. Spangler said, “No deal.”
He displayed the jersey on the wall while in high school and after graduation he kept it in a “safe place.”
“I wouldn’t take anything for it,” Spangler continued. “It’s a piece of history that meant something to me.”
“My mother offered to wash it and sew it. But I said we would not wash it, that we’d keep the lime marks and grass stains and leave it torn.”
“(Charlie Justice) is very symbolic of someone who did well, was a hero and he lived a really good life. He lived up to all expectations and has been a fine representative for North Carolina,” Spangler added as he closed the interview.
Morton also used the images in his slides shows, saying: “…the only university president who freely admits to bribery and stealing.”
On April 30, 1984, the Charlotte chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation staged a Charlie Justice Celebrity Roast and one of the roasters was Justice’s dear friend, teammate, and business partner Art Weiner. One of Weiner’s roast stories went something like this:
We knew that Charlie was competing with SMU’s great All America Doak Walker for the 1948 Heisman Memorial Trophy. When we read in the papers that Walker had a jersey torn up during one his games, we decided, in the huddle, to tear up one of Charlie’s . . . just to make things look equal. But on November 27, 1948, the tear was for real and C.D. Spangler, Jr. got a “Priceless Gem for Only 10 Bucks.”
Some recent searching for “Hugh Morton” on newspapers.com led to a book review titled “Look Looks at The South in Pictures” by Bob Sain in the 19 October 1947 issue of The Daily Tar Heel. The very last paragraph parenthetically reads:
(Incidentally, North Carolina came off badly in space allotment; tobacco process shots took most of our space while Chapel Hill was ignored. There was one picture of the Duke campus. However, we recognized one photograph by Carolina man Hugh Morton: a misty Smoky Mountain shot.)
Of course I needed to know which Hugh Morton photograph, so I looked for the book in the University Libraries catalog. Surprisingly UNC does not hold that book, so I submitted an interlibrary loan request and it arrived late last week. Titled The South, the book is part of a series with nine volumes titled “Look at America” that was compiled by editors from the magazine Look with each book “written in collaboration with” various authors. David L. Cohn is the author for The South. [UNC does, after all, have the book; see the clarification below, which I added after I published this post.]
The photograph above shows Hugh Morton’s photograph on page 81. I immediately recognized it because I seriously considered printing a scan made from the negative for inclusion in the Hugh Morton retrospective exhibition (currently at the North Carolina Museum of History). As much as I liked the image, it just didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the exhibition.
Upon closer inspection, the photograph in the book does not seem to be the exact same image as the negative. You can see in the scan above that many of the leafs are moving. Morton may have made an additional negative at that location, but there’s not another similar negative in the collection, at least that I could find.
The comparison between the printed page in the book and the negative scan is a good example of two challenges we faced when printing the exhibition: cropping and representation. Should we crop an image or print it fully? We usually printed the negatives as fully as we could, but sometimes minor cropping enhanced the image. I would turn to published photographs when known, but many times publishers crop photographs despite what photographers submit—often to fit the format the book or the allocated space for a page spread in a magazine or newspaper. Had I seen this book before designed the exhibition I may have printed it that way, but with the “uncommon” theme I may have printed the full negative for its wider view. The other consideration, representation of the negative as a print, usually concerns the print’s tonality. For example, should a print have more or less contrast? Likewise, should an image printed be darker or lighter? Notice the difference between the darker printed page in the book and the lighter version we created. When working on the image, we tried to stay “true” to the negative. We also tried to recreate the foggy atmosphere of the forest by contrasting it to the silhouette of the foreground tree. The book’s version has a darker mid and foreground, conveying a sense of the woods’ denseness in comparison to the sky’s lightness.
Which leads to another possibility for the question “Or is it?”: that it is the same negative, from which Morton printed a darker interpretation with a bit more contrast to mask the mirroring effected created by the leaf movement. In the book, you cannot differentiate the branches from the leafs where they overlap; in the negative, however, you can clearly distinguish the lighter leafs from the tree. Combined with the printing technique for the book which makes the leafs and branches essentially black, the leaf movement may have just disappeared.
As in so many instances, we may never know which is the case—but now you know some of the considerations archivists and curators make when we create a exhibition of modern day prints from historical negatives. Clarification:
As I was returning the book to Interlibrary Loan, I discovered that UNC has the book after all. One UNC catalog record is for the “Look at America” series that states there are nine volumes but with no mention of the book titles for each of nine volumes. After some exploration in WorldCat, where I found four different base catalog records for the book, I went back to the UNC catalog and discovered the North Carolina Collection does indeed have the book.
I updated the story soon after its initial publication to reflect the book’s proper short title as “The South” and not “Look at America: The South,” which is what is printed on the very first printed page after the flyleaf. The full title of the book is likely The South: A Handbook in Pictures, Maps and Text for the Vacationist, the Traveler and the Stay-at-home. Here’s a photograph of the title page from the NCC’s copy, showing the long title and confusing title page:
I am a jazz fan, so Hugh Morton’s negatives of jazz musicians have interested me from the first time I saw them. Morton began photographing jazz musicians when he was in high school and he continued throughout his life. Clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman was his favorite musician. In 1988 Morton wrote in Making a Difference in North Carolina:
Illustrative of my loyalty to Benny Goodman, I saw him and his band in the ’30s and 40’s in Washington, D. C., Baltimore, Detroit, New York, and Raleigh, and in 1979 in Greensboro and 1983 in Wilmington. Each time I took pictures, and I deeply regret the cameras and film in the early days did not measure up. It was virtually impossible to snap candid shots that are up to today’s standards.
It may be better to contextualize that statement with a bit of clarification. I believe the camera technology was available, but perhaps not to a teenager. In 1937, Leica 35mm cameras had been available since 1925, so I don’t think that cameras were the issue. Morton photographed during this time with a camera that used the 127 film format, which is larger than the 135 format and its film cartridge that came to market in 1934. Black-and-white negative films during that time, however, did not have sufficient light sensitivity (film speed) to capture an image without blurring caused by shaking a hand-held camera set with the slower shutter speeds needed to get a proper exposure. Below is one of Morton’s negatives made at that Washington, D.C. concert . . .
. . . and here’s a cropped portion of the negative that illustrates softness from camera movement. (Look at the “G” on the music stand.)
Until very recently, the location and date Morton made the marquee poster negative was unknown. A project I’m working on brought his jazz negatives to my attention, so I began to sort the Benny Goodman negatives into groups based upon the stage settings. Luckily the marquee poster exposure is on a negative strip that also has an interior view of Goodman performing inside the theatre, so that group of images with the stage seen above formed the Washington batch.
Next I spent some quality evening and weekend time digging around for clues that might lead to more information. For historical information I checked out the Music Library’s copy of Ross Firestone’s biography Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman. (It was also a good excuse to borrow the 2-CD set Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, 1938to listen to while researching!) But the definitive answer came from the University Libraries’ online catalog access to historical issues of The Washington Post. A search through that newspaper revealed where and when Morton made that group of negatives. The Washington Post column “Nelson B. Bell About The Show Shops” for June 5, 1937 covered Goodman’s gig in an article with a long title that begins, “‘Kid Galahad’ and Benny Goodman Score at the Earle.” A bit more searching through other issues of the newspaper pinpointed that Goodmen and orchestra opened a one-week engagement at the Earle Theatre on June 3, 1937. Bell listed in his review the performers’ names in the exact order they are printed on the marquee poster. His list also revealed the proper spelling of the name Peg LaCentra (not Gentra, as in the poster). Bell also noted that he believed it was Goodman’s “first visit to a Washington stage,” which is very similar to the wording on the poster.
Bell reported, “On the stage at the Earle this week, Benny Goodman and his orchestra are winning an ovation at every performance—and they are being put on so often they must think it is a continuous act they are doing. The Goodman band goes in largely for ‘swing’ rhythms and plays them with a zest that knocked the audience right out of their pews yesterday afternoon.” The performance Bell attended suffered from a loudspeaker failure that prevented him from hearing the performers names as Goodman’s voice only carried to the sixth row and he sat farther back in around the twentieth. The music, however, must have been loud and clear.
Firestone’s biography does not mention the Washington venue; it only states that the band left New York in the beginning of June destined for its third engagement at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles at the end of the month. He noted that “aside from a few theater dates” the month was almost entirely one-nighters spread through Pennsylvania and several midwestern states. Firestone’s book does, however, provide some prior context. On March 3, just three months before the Earle Theatre performances, Goodman’s orchestra started a two-week engagement at the Paramount Theater on Times Square in New York City.
A sold-out crowd saw that opening night’s first performance “and the audience of restless youngsters was in unusually high spirits.” They greeted the orchestra, Firestone recounted, “with an ear-shattering roar of clapping and whistling and stomping and yelling that sounded, Benny remembered, ‘like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.’ ‘It was exciting, [Goodman] recalled, ‘but also a little frightening—scary.'”
Firestone vividly described the band’s performance, then wrote,
It was apparent to everyone . . . that something truly momentous had just taken place, that the Goodman orchestra’s brief forty-three-minute sojourn on the Paramount stage was some kind of breakthrough that topped, and was different from, all its previous successes. What started out as just another stage show had turned into a kind of celebration of the spirit, a love feast of communal frenzy that was, as Variety observed, “tradition-shattering in its spontaneity, its unanimity, its sincerity, its volume, in the childlike violence of its manifestations.”
Firestone then accounts for what he believed was the performance’s “stunningly obvious” cause. “The school kids were among Benny’s most zealous fans, and this was the first chance they had to hear him in person,” he wrote. Goodman’s usual New York venue was The Hotel Pennsylvania, which was “completely beyond the reach of the legions of ordinary youngsters who, up to now, could only listen to Benny on the radio or spring for an occasional record.” A multitude of kids had lined up starting before seven in the morning to buy a twenty-five cent ticket. By the end of the day, the Paramount has sold 21,000 admissions.
The orchestra’s next theater date was at the Metropolitan Theater in Boston in May, and they encountered there the same high-octane enthusiasm as inside the Paramount. The Boston Morning Globe wrote that it seemed like the Metropolitan Theater held “every boy and girl in Greater Boston who could beg a school ‘absent’ excuse from a tolerant parent. Benny Goodman, King of Swing, is in town, which means that the youngsters of the city are in their seventh heaven of rapture. What shrieks of joy as he played ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ in his own swingy rhythms! What yells and whistles and stampings followed Gene Krupa’s drumming exhibitions!”
And so it must have been in the pews of Washington’s Earle Theatre during the first week of June. Nelson Bell concluded his Washington Post review with, “Don’t miss this one.” Sixteen-year-old Hugh Morton did not.
On February 19, 2017, Hugh Morton would have turned 96 years old. And with this post, Hugh Morton collection volunteer and contributor Jack Hilliard is celebrating a personal “View to Hugh” milestone.
. . . you could not contain him [Hugh Morton]. . . There was never any negativism. He was creative, forward thinking. . . As a promoter, he was North Carolina’s best. His first love outside Grandfather Mountain was this place [UNC]. He loved this place with a passion.
Dr. William Friday, Windows (Fall 2007)
On February 19, 1921, 96 years ago today, Hugh MacRae Morton was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Morton’s first published photograph appeared in Time when he was fourteen, and over the next seventy-plus years, he took well over two hundred thousand pictures of life in “his” North Carolina and beyond.
Upon his return from the war, Morton picked up where he left off, taking pictures across his native state. His work has been featured in hundreds of publications including Life, National Geographic, Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, and Collier’s. Two magnificent books of his photographs have been published, so far…one in 2003 titled Hugh Morton’s North Carolina and a second one titled Hugh Morton: North Carolina Photographer, published soon after his death on June 1, 2006.
It was at his memorial service at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro on June 9, 2006 that I learned from Dr. William Friday that Morton’s photographic archive was going to be donated to the University of North Carolina and was to become a part of the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library on the UNC campus. My first thought was that the Library would most likely just store the boxes of photographs, negatives, and slides in a safe place. And that was a comforting feeling, knowing that the images would indeed be safe.
Then, in early fall of 2007, I received my copy of Windows, a UNC library publication published by the Friends of the Library. The lead, front-cover-story was about the Hugh Morton photography archive coming to the North Carolina Collection. The magazine called the estimated 530,000-item-collection a stunner and North Carolina Collection Curator Bob Anthony said it was the largest collection ever given to the library (to date).
The amazing article also indicated that the photographs would be cataloged, identified, and filed for easy use. North Carolina Collection archivist Stephen Fletcher along with his assistant Elizabeth Hull would lead a team of students and volunteers in doing the work. A sidebar article called “Processing the Morton Collection (Wrestling the Bear)” told of the challenges the team faced, since many of the photographs did not contain identifying captions. (Elizabeth wrote a blog post on the subject on November 7, 2007 titled “A Processor’s Perspective.”)
As I read through the article, I thought, “What a great job, going to work each day and your duties included looking at Hugh Morton photographs.” So I wrote Stephen and Elizabeth an email on December 12, 2007 and offered to help identify some of the football pictures since I have been a UNC fan since the age of 6. I received a reply that said the team had not gotten to the identifying point yet, but I might be able to help later. The article also mentioned the “processing blog” that offered readers an opportunity to comment. I immediately logged in and read each entry and comment starting with Fletcher’s first entry on November 1, 2007. Then on January 21, 2008 I added my first comment. I have continued to add comments when I thought I could offer something of interest.
When the 2008 football season started, I suggested a blog topic. Since Carolina was playing Notre Dame in Chapel Hill on October 11th, why not look back to the first meeting between the two teams in November of 1949. Morton’s pictures from that day are classic. Stephen accepted the idea and wrote two really good posts about the game: “The Tar Heels against the Fighting Irish in the Big Apple” and “Justice’s Prayer.”
When the processing team got to the point where they could begin identifying UNC football photographs, I received an email on October 8, 2008, asking if I would like to become a volunteer. Of course my answer was yes and I began to make weekly Friday visits to the collection starting on October 31, 2008. Each Friday there would be a group of negatives for me to try to identify. There was something exciting about holding the very negative that had been used to print a newspaper picture that, as a little kid, I had clipped out of the paper and pasted in a scrapbook. I continued those Friday visits until August 17, 2010, and I still make periodic visits to the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.
As the football season progressed, it looked like the 2008 Tar Heel team would be going to a bowl game, so I made a second suggestion: Why not do a piece on Carolina’s first bowl game played in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1947? Elizabeth liked the idea and added, “Why don’t you write it?” I was surprised, but agreed to do it, but only if Stephen and Elizabeth would carefully review and edit it. So on December 22, 2008 my first piece for “V2H” was posted . . . surprisingly enough with very little editing. At the time I made the suggestion, I thought that Morton photographed that game, but it turned out that weather conditions prevented him from getting there. Four years later, a post on December 28, 2012 revealed the “Morton mystery” surrounding the ’47 Sugar Bowl.
In early 2009, Elizabeth suggested that I do a piece on Morton’s run for governor. I did that piece, which was posted on March 24, 2009. By now I was really hooked and I started to look for ideas to write about—and surprisingly I found some. So, on this special day, the day Hugh Morton would have turned 96, this post is the 100th for me. With special thanks to Bob Anthony, Stephen Fletcher, and Elizabeth Hull . . . it has been a fun ride. I hope it can continue. It is indeed a genuine privilege and honor to help celebrate Hugh Morton’s magnificent photographic work.
One part of the Hugh Morton Collection that we do not seem to utilize as much as we should is Hugh Morton’s film footage. Today marks the annual observance of UNESCO World Day for Audio Visual Heritage, so it’s an apt day to explore the films of Hugh Morton.
The Morton collection finding aid lists holdings by subjects within broad categories. The audiovisual materials, however, are listed in a spreadsheet accessed through a link in the finding aid. From the finding aid, click on the phrase “Information for Users” in the left column and look for “Additional Descriptive Resources.” Clicking on that link opens a PDF of a 107-page spreadsheet that itemizes the component parts of the audiovisual material holdings.
The main reason we cannot do more with video at A View to Hugh is the 25MB upload file size limitation for videos set by the blog software, WordPress. Thus far we have made 16 film-to-digital transfers from footage in the Morton collection, but only a couple do not exceed the upload limit. One file is a 30-second spot for Grandfather Mountain, shared for the first time on this blog. The other can be seen by visiting a previous post titled “Film of John F. Kennedy in the Morton collection.”
Beyond these two titles, you may explore the PDF and let us know if there is footage that looks promising for your research. If it hasn’t already been transferred, we will investigate ways to make it available for use. Approximately 85 of the 107 pages describe 16mm film footage, with the bulk of the remaining pages listing audio on 1/4″ or cassette tapes.
To use more footage at A View to Hugh, it looks like I’ll need to learn the art of extracting excerpts from the large files to use as snippets in topics yet to be explored.
Recently there has been a significant increase in comment spam here at A View to Hugh. Most of the time you as a reader never see it, because a filter catches the spam before it has a chance to go live. Occasionally, however, irrelevant comments slip past the spam filter. This blog is not moderated so that a lively discussion can take place when people are so moved. Moderating all comments just slows down spontaneity, especially during non-work hours. Non-moderated blogs, however, are vulnerable to comment spam making it live. On the flip side, the spam filter can trap legitimate comments. When that happens I can easily approve them.
The past few months have seen an amazing surge of comment spam—a dozen or so spam comment per day were making it live, and where once there were a few hundred captured spams there are as many as 2,000 a day. It used to be reasonable to spend about 20 minutes a day to go through the spam trap, looking for legitimate comments that had been accidentally captured, and making them live. This is no longer the case. The receipt of blog comment spam now exceeds one per minute on average. From late Friday to Monday afternoon, for example, the spam filter trapped 7,700+ spam comments!
A couple weeks ago I quietly added a new Comment Policy page, announcing a few changes to help combat this problem. Spam continued to accelerate through the remainder of the month, however, necessitating a stricter policy effective today, 1 October 2014. Here are the details:
Your first comment at A View to Hugh will not appear immediately upon hitting the submit button; it will, instead, be sent to a “Pending” file for approval. After I approve your first comment, your subsequent submissions will post immediately. The setting in the anti-spam software applies this rule uniformly, even to those who have commented prior to the implementation of this policy.
Comments with more than one link are immediately marked as spam by the anti-spam software.
All comments trapped by the spam filter will be deleted without review—meaning that I will no longer review comments in the spam trap to look for legitimate comments inappropriately marked as spam. As a precaution, you may wish to save your comment as a text file on your own computer before submitting it to the blog. That way, if your comment does not appear within a day (or after a weekend) you can then copy and paste your comment and resubmit.