Payday at the Mill

The other day, in the North Carolina Collection stacks, I found a small packet labeled “Harriet-Henderson Mill Pay Envelopes, 1926-1927.” Inside were a bunch of small, manila envelopes that had at one time contained the weekly pay of textile mill employees. On the outside of each envelope was the employee’s name, the date, and a short account of the amount due to be paid.

These envelopes are fascinating artifacts from a time when the mill was of paramount importance in the lives of its workers, providing not just employment but housing, food and supplies, and even medical care. After all these were subtracted from the paycheck, the employees were often left with very little cash to take home, as the examples below demonstrate.



The G. A. Kohler

A 1933 hurricane pushed the G. A. Kohler, a four-masted schooner from Baltimore, ashore just north of Cape Hatteras. The wreck remained on the coast until World War II, when the wooden ship was burned in an effort to recover scrap iron from her hull. The image of the intact ship was made sometime between the wreck and 1945.
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The color image, which comes from a postcard in the Durwood Barbour Collection, is not dated but is thought to have been created in the 1950s or 1960s.


Jack and the Giant, North Carolina Style

I’m pretty sure that “Jack and the Beanstalk” is an English fairy tale, but the location of the story may have to be changed to western North Carolina. On September 1st of this year, Boone-based Appalachian State University shocked the college football world by upsetting perennial powerhouse Michigan…in “The Big House,” no less. Not to be outdone, on November 7, the Boiling Springs-based Gardner-Webb University men’s basketball team went to Rupp Arena and soundly defeated Kentucky, which not only has seven national championships to its name but also has more all-time wins than any other Division I program.

Sorting through the Morton Photos

The extensive archive of noted North Carolina photographer Hugh Morton (shown below in the early 1940s) is one of the most exciting acquisitions to come to the North Carolina Collection in recent years. The staff of the NCC Photographic Archives are currently hard at work in sorting through and cataloging a lifetime’s worth of work. Follow their progress on “A View to Hugh,” a blog about the processing of the Hugh Morton photographs and films.


November 1997: Cherokee Casino Opens

Harrah's Cherokee Casino, 2000. Detail from a brochure in the North Carolina Collection Swain County Ephemera Collection.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, 2000. Detail from a brochure in the North Carolina Collection Swain County Ephemera Collection.

This Month in North Carolina History

On November 13, 1997, the first major casino in North Carolina opened on the reservation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the western part of the state. The opening was the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of negotiation and compromise between tribal, state, and federal officials.

In 1988, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act, which allowed federally-recognized tribes to open casinos on tribal property, but limited the casino offerings to games that were already allowed under state law. This opened the door for the Cherokee to build a casino in western North Carolina.

Tribal Chief Jonathan “Ed” Taylor worked closely with Governor Jim Hunt to develop a plan for a casino that would meet state laws and satisfy local and tribal concerns. Some Cherokee leaders were not enthusiastic about the idea, most notably the tribe’s spiritual leader, Walker Calhoun, who said in 1995 that gambling would be the Cherokee’s damnation. Residents of the surrounding area were also concerned about the type of visitors that a casino would draw, and feared that the presence of a large group of gamblers would discourage the “tried and true” family vacationers who had been coming to the area for decades.

In the early 1990s, the tribe opened a small casino that offered electronic versions of bingo and poker, as well as pull-tab machines that offered cash prizes. Challenged by the Asheville U.S. Attorney, who argued that the tribe was offering a form of gambling that was not legal elsewhere in the state, the casino was forced to remove everything but bingo.

Worried that such a limited offering would not draw the crowds they hoped to see, tribal leaders continued negotiations with Governor Hunt, and finally arrived at an agreement under which the casino would be able to offer electronic games that required “skill or dexterity” and with a maximum jackpot of $25,000. Table games, or games featuring live dealers, were prohibited. Alcohol would also be prohibited in the casino, in accordance with existing reservation laws. As part of the agreement, one half of the casino earnings were to be divided among all members of the tribe, distributed as an annual bonus.

On opening day, the casino’s first visitors waited in line outside, in steady rain, for hours just to get inside of the casino. As the day went on, the crowds grew so large that casino officials made a public appeal for people to stay away. The casino’s popularity has remained steady, earning $155 million in annual payouts in 2004, which provided $6,000-dollar annual bonuses to every member of the tribe.

Barrett, Mark. “Gambling to change Cherokee’s image: Will it increase prosperity, or drive away traditional tourists?” Asheville Citizen-Times, 28 August 1994.

Buggs, Shannon. “Betting with reservations” The News & Observer, 19 October 1997.

Horan, Jack. “Miss. firm to build N.C. casino.” The Charlotte Observer, 7 January 1995.

Nowell, Paul. “Casino at heart of conflict.” The News & Observer, 28 March 2004.

Voorhis, Dan and Bob Scott. “Cherokee ordered to remove video gaming machines.”Asheville Citizen-Times, 20 July 1994.

Williams, Bob. “Cherokee casino opens” The News & Observer, 14 November 1997.

Williams, Bob. “Tribe hits jackpot with new casino.” The News & Observer, 13 April 1998.

Wilson, Trish. “Gambling the reservation.” The News & Observer, 12 March 1995.