Program from UNC - Notre Dame game, 1949

While we all know about Sherman’s march through the Carolinas, we were not as familiar with North Carolina’s November 12, 1949 invasion of New York City. On that day, slightly over 37,000 zealous Tar Heels descended on New York for the football game between UNC and Notre Dame in the unlikely setting of Yankee Stadium. It appears that the Tar Heel incursion into the Big Apple caused quite a stir. According to the New York Times account, the pre-game festivities of “the Southern forces [have] turned the midtown into a neon-lighted campus.” The spirited UNC fans also “staged a rally that was enthusiastic even by Times Square standards.”

Entering the game undefeated and as the nation’s top-ranked team, Notre Dame proved to be too powerful for the underdog Tar Heels. While the Daily Tar Heel reported that North Carolina “played with utter contempt for the greatness that is Notre Dame,” the Heels ultimately lost to the Irish by a score of 42-6. The DTH went on to report that the exuberant North Carolina fans’ “traditional end-of-game singing of ‘Hark the Sound’ came out with such gusto that several thousand of the rabid New York fans stopped dead in their usually hurried tracks” to listen.

Lost Colony Still Lost

Today’s News & Observer has a story about the continued search for archaeological evidence of the “lost colony” on Roanoke Island. To aid their efforts, I thought I’d present a map showing exactly what the island looked like when the British colonists landed in 1585:

Roanoke Island

Okay, so maybe it’s not going to be the key to finding evidence of the disappearing colonists after all, but it is a nice image. This illustration is a detail from a map in the 1590 edition of Thomas Hariot’s Briefe and True Account of the New Found Land of Virginia. The North Carolina Collection is in the process of digitizing the images from a rare, hand-colored copy of the book. Check back in a couple of months to see a fascinating collection of the earliest published images of North Carolina and of Native Americans on the North American coast.

Topographic Map Database

From the Joyner Library at East Carolina University comes a very useful tool for finding and using topographic maps – the TopoNC Map Database. TopoNC allows keyword searching for places (including crossroads, subdivisions, towns and cities) and features (such as rivers, swamps, mountains, bays, and forests). Click on the link for more information and to begin searching the database!

Thirteen Moons in Cherokee

Sunday’s Raleigh News and Observer reported the interesting news that a section of Charles Frazier’s new novel, Thirteen Moons, will be translated into Cherokee. Apparently, it will be the first novel ever to be published in that language.

The majority of publications in the Cherokee language appeared in the 1840s and 1850s, many the work of the Mission Press in Park Hill, Oklahoma. These were primarily translations of the Bible, religious tracts, and hymnbooks. After the Civil War there were some legal materials published in Cherokee, including a set of the laws of the Cherokee Nation, but publications in the native language dwindled until a resurgence of interest in Cherokee in the late twentieth century.

Many of the more recent publications in Cherokee have focused on language instruction, with some clearly aimed at younger readers: in 1975 the comic strips “Blondie” and “Beetle Bailey” appeared in booklets in the Cherokee language. The University of North Carolina library holds several recent Cherokee language instruction books, including “How to Talk Trash in Cherokee” (Downhome Publications, 1989).

Perhaps with this continued interest in the language, combined with the inspiration and example of Frazier’s novel, it won’t be long before we see a novel composed in Cherokee.

October 1896: Rural Free Delivery

This Month in North Carolina History

On the 23rd of October, 1896, J. B. Goodnight of the United States Post Office set out from China Grove, in Rowan County, North Carolina to deliver the mail. A routine task today, in 1896 Goodnight was taking part in an experiment which would launch the postal service on the biggest and most expensive endeavor in its history and help change the life of rural America.

At the turn of the twentieth century some parts of American mail service had taken on a recognizably modern form. The old system of charging postage based on the number of pages in a letter and the distance it had to travel had been replaced by a flat rate fee. Instead of the receiver of the letter paying the cost, the sender of the letter paid the postage in the form of stamps. For a few pennies one could send a letter from border to border or coast to coast, and, if you lived in a city of 10,000 or more, the mail would be delivered to your door. Postal service in rural areas in the United States, however, had changed little. Postal routes extended outward from towns and cites to small rural post offices which were often part of a store. Many farmers could not pick up their mail more than once or twice a week. and resented their urban cousins who got mail delivered daily to their home. Unhappy farmers complained to their congressmen, and Congress put pressure on the Post Office. In 1896 the Post Office agreed to try an experiment in which mail would be delivered to rural residents over a total of forty-four special routes scattered among twenty-nine states. West Virginia had the first experimental route established, and the second route was created in Rowan County, North Carolina, part of the district of Congressman John Steele Henderson, chairman of the Post Offices and Post Roads Committee of the House of Representatives. In his annual report for 1897 Postmaster General James A. Gary declared the experiment in rural postal service a success. Mail was being delivered daily to enthusiastic recipients. Over the next few years Rural Free Delivery extended to all parts of the country. In the end it was the most expensive program ever created by the United States Postal Service and one of the most popular. Ironically, considering it got the second RFD route in the country, North Carolina was initially less excited about the service than other states. Carrier Goodnight of China Grove complained that farmers on his route were suspicious and unwilling to accept the service. China Grove’s postmaster, J. C. Deaton, reported that he had to “beg the people to let us deliver their mail.” As late as 1901 there were only 11 RFD routes in North Carolina compared with 42 in South Carolina, 93 in Georgia and 142 in Tennessee. In the end, however, Rural Free Delivery was accepted with enthusiasm and, along with the improvement in rural roads that it helped foster, RFD broke down the isolation of rural North Carolina.

Fuller, Wayne E. The American Mail; Enlarger of the Common Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.

Scheele, Carl B. A short history of the mail service. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970.

History of the North Carolina Rural Letter Carriers’ Association. [North Carolina ?: The Association, 1965?]