Beach Movies

Surf Movie Screen, Wrightsville Beach

I found this picture in a railroad schedule from 1925. It’s kind of hard to tell how this worked, but I’m guessing that when it came time to watch the movie, people gathered on the embankment and saw the film to the accompaniment of the crashing waves. Or maybe it was more like a watery drive-in (a float-in?) at high tide, with viewers rowing up or simply paddling in on their surfboards. It sounds wonderfully dramatic, but I would imagine that with all of the noise and the motion it would be a little hard to follow the story. It could be that there was a reason why this was the world’s only one.

Yack Laments Dewey

You don’t see the library showing up too often in old student yearbooks, other than dramatically-lit shots of the building or the occasional photograph of students studying (or, sometimes, sleeping) in the stacks. So I was surprised to find an entire page in the 1970 Yackety Yack, the UNC student yearbook, devoted to the library’s transition from the Dewey Decimal to the Library of Congress classification system. It begins:

Everyone under the legal voting age in 1970 has been subjected to, for every single year of his or her life, three influnces of varying importance–Richard Nixon, Lucille Ball, and the Dewey Decimal System.

The first two are still going strong, finding new fields to work in. The Dewey Decimal System’s number is up, however, as campus libraries, under the watchful eye of University Librarian Dr. Jarrold Orne, are converting to the more abcedarian Library of Congress system.

The piece discusses the advantages of LC over Dewey, but closes with a fond remembrance:

Do you remember the time you first tred in awe down the narrow aisles in the stacks? How you rounded the turn that separated 808.7 from 808.8? Your finger running fearfully down the row of book spines? No single Great Moment in Sports can match the joy of finding a book in a library with over a million volumes bearing the same number that you clutched in your hand. But such sacrifice is the cost of progress.

Goodnight, Mr. Dewey, wherever you are.

What’s for Dinner?

Table Layout

Having a hard time deciding what to make for dinner tonight? Why not give your family and guests a proper spread, such as the one shown here? I found this diagram in The Young Housewife’s Counsellor and Friend, by Mrs. Mary Mason (New York: E.J. Hale & Son, 1875). If any of the avid readers of this blog have had “potted partridge,” I’d be curious to hear about it.

Encyclopedia of North Carolina

I just got a sneak peek at the new Encyclopedia of North Carolina, coming out this November from UNC Press. The book looks fantastic, a ready answer to all Tar Heel questions from A to Z, “Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad” to “Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.” The Encyclopedia, edited by William S. Powell, will combine with his North Carolina Gazetteer and Dictionary of North Carolina Biography to complete a series of reference works that will surely be the envy of any state.


The North Carolina Collection clipping files continue to turn up gems. I just found an article filed under “tooth-jumping.” I thought at first it referred to some primitive sport, and a not very difficult one at that — how hard can it be to jump over a tooth? “Jumping” a tooth, it turns out, was a term used in the North Carolina mountains for a quick and (hopefully) painless extraction.

The article is from John Parris’s “Roaming the Mountains” column in the Asheville Citizen-Times, May 23, 1992. Tooth-jumping dates from the days when anaesthetics were either too expensive or nonexistent and the most sought after quality in a dentist or a surgeon was speed. John Parris writes, “To jump a tooth . . . the chisel was placed against the ridge of the tooth, just under the edge of the gum, and given a quick but hard lick with the hammer.” Ouch.

Parris quotes his grandfather, who remembered the practice well: “‘Uncle Eli always said it was a heap sight easier to get rid of a tooth with a hammer an’ chisel than with a pair of nippers. He said it took a lot of wrestlin’ to get a tooth out with nippers and give a feller a lot more pain. He never used a pair of nippers in his life. He stuck to chisel and hammer. And he was might good with ’em. Why, he could jump a dozen teeth while a feller with nippers was strugglin’ to get one out.'”

As fun as that sounds, I don’t think I’m ready to give up my dental plan just yet.

June 1870: The “Kirk-Holden” War

This Month in North Carolina History

Broadside published by the Randolph County Executive Committee of the Republican Party on June 1, 1870. Find it in the North Carolina Collection.

On June 6, 1870, Governor William Woods Holden, a Republican from Wake County, issued a five-hundred-dollar reward for the arrest or information leading to the capture of individuals involved in the deaths of John W. “Chicken” Stephens, Wyatt Outlaw, and several other North Carolinians.

The proclamation, which also detailed various other acts of violence against African Americans and white Republicans, attributed the crimes to the Ku Klux Klan and was one of the many events leading to the “Kirk-Holden War.”

Following its formation in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Klan quickly spread across the South. In North Carolina, the Klan was not a monolithic organization; rather, it was a loose conglomeration of secret societies, which used terror and vigilante tactics in an attempt to reverse Republican electoral success and maintain white supremacy. While Klan activity occurred throughout North Carolina, it was particularly active in the Piedmont counties of Alamance and Caswell. Governor Holden attempted to use local authorities to control the violence, but in many cases county and community leaders were members of the Klan or sympathetic to its activities.

As events began to spiral out of control, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the “Shoffner Act,” introduced by Alamance County Republican senator T. M. Shoffner. The law enabled the governor to declare a county “to be in a state of insurrection, and to call into active service the militia of the state to such an extent as may become necessary to suppress such insurrection” if the local officials were incapable–or unwilling–to do so. Holden declared martial law in Alamance County on March 7, 1870, and in Caswell County on July 8.

Holden selected former Union colonel and cavalry leader George W. Kirk, who was born and raised in Greene County, Tennessee, to lead the state militia troops. Kirk’s infamy and reputation as a Union “bushwhacker,” whose Federal units terrorized Southern mountain communities, resonated deeply throughout the state. The newly constituted force of state militia, predominately consisting of men from eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, arrived in Alamance and Caswell Counties in July and arrested over 100 individuals, mostly without incident.

The prisoners were jailed in Caswell County, while awaiting trial before a special military court. Holden and Kirk ignored writs of habeas corpus that were issued by a state judge, and the defendants and their supporters turned to the federal judiciary for assistance. Support for the governor’s controversial measures faltered, and President Ulysses S. Grant warned Holden that the national government would no longer support his actions. The suspected Klan leaders and members were released in late August, and, in November, Alamance and Caswell Counties were declared to no longer be in a state of insurrection.

The events of the “Kirk-Holden War,” as it came to be called by those opposed to Governor Holden’s actions, and the subsequent electoral collapse of the state Republican Party in 1870 were substantial factors in the December 1870 impeachment and March 1871 conviction of Holden.

Suggestions For Further Reading:

William C. Harris. William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.

Carole Watterson Troxler and William Murray Vincent. Shuttle & Plow: A History of Alamance County, North Carolina. Alamance County Historical Association, Inc., 1999.

William S. Powell. When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County, North Carolina, 1777-1977. Durham: Moore Publishing Company, 1977.

State of North Carolina. Trial of William W. Holden: Governor of North Carolina, Before the Senate of North Carolina, On Impeachment by the House of Representatives for High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Raleigh: “Sentinel” Printing Office, 1871.

William Woods Holden. Memoirs of W. W. Holden. Durham: The Seeman Printery, 1911. Also available on Documenting the American South.