Another Drought in North Carolina

September 1, 1953 (P082_SN_12)

This isn’t a recent picture of Falls Lake using a black and white setting; this is what the Burlington City Lake/Reservoir looked like in September of 1953. North Carolina was suffering from a multiple year drought that lasted until the extremely active hurricane seasons of 1954 and 1955 provided some relief. 1953 was a year that saw minimal amounts of rainfall and set a record for the longest consecutive 90+ degree days in a row, a record that stood until this past summer. Let me introduce myself and explain how I came across these images. My name is Patrick Cullom and I was hired last year as a Visual Materials Archivist in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives. The first collection with which I have been working is a series of approximately 100,000 images taken by Mr. Edward J. McCauley, a photographer for the Burlington Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina), from 1949-1974.

These are the front pages from the September 1-3, 1953 editions of the Burlington Times-News (McCauley took all images used, note image from above).

Burlington Time-News September 1-3, 1953 (From microfilm)

As I processed images taken in 1950-1953, I noticed that there were multiple images depicting low levels in reservoirs, public conservation campaigns, and construction of water treatment facilities. Since the images with which I work contain almost no descriptive data, except for a year, the Times-News microfilm has been of great assistance as a reference tool as I continue to work with this collection. As I skimmed the Times-News from 1950-1953, I couldn’t help noticing that many of the articles related to the drought document some of the same strains (growth of business and population) and proposed solutions (conservation, importing water, expansion/development of new water sources) being discussed today as the state deals with another exceptional drought.

This is an image documenting one of Burlington’s public campaigns from 1951, early in the 1950’s drought.

Burlington police officer and two residents look at conservation display (P082_51_1231)