And the Winner Is …

Something tells me that the new president will not be wearing this outfit at any of the events next Tuesday. Flyers for this fundraiser were posted around Carrboro and Chapel Hill in October. The image is eye-catching and humorous, a nice light touch that contrasted with the many heavy, negative messages that bombarded us at that time. The event is a good example of the grassroots organizing that marked the Obama campaign. And the folks who put this flyer together knew their audience. Hope! Change! Beer! Food! Raffle! Bands!—these are words that bring smiles to the faces of the many young voters who populate these parts.

Election Ephemera Runner-Up

In an earlier posting on political ephemera, I mentioned my preference for homegrown materials. This seed packet fills the bill. It was distributed by the Ronnie Ansley campaign. A co-worker picked this one up at the state fair. Ansley, a Democrat, ran for Commissioner of Agriculture, attempting to unseat the Republican incumbent Steve Troxler.

It’s a beautiful image, tied to a slogan that is appropriate for the office Ansley sought. The slogan also evokes the theme of change that both parties used in the national campaign as the election drew closer. The packet contained seeds for these flowers: bachelor buttons, baby’s breath, annual blue flax, scarlet flax, Shirley poppies, and candytuft. We’ve removed the seeds and will be saving just the packet.

Ronnie Ansley did not beat Steve Troxler. (The voters went for Troxler, 52.05% vs. 47.95% for Ansley.) If Mr. Ansley runs again in four years and if the economy is still in the tank, maybe he can hand out packets of vegetable seeds—something that voters might find very useful.

A Slop Joint?

Take a look at the postcard below. It’s an image of downtown Leaksville (now Eden), North Carolina. It was mailed from Leaksville to Yonkers, New York, in 1941 by someone who was presumably visiting the area.

My interest in the card stems from a portion of the sender’s comment on the back:

“9/30/41 – Tue P.M. Just had lunch in the Washington Restaurant, another slop joint. I guess I am getting too fussy. It is alright if I chew lots of gum after each meal to kill the taste…”

Wow! Was the Washington Restaurant really that bad? Does anyone remember eating at the Washington Restaurant? Can anyone defend it from these charges? Is it just another Northern slight against a Southern institution?

The Leopard’s Spots

Described by the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography as a “minister, writer, lecturer, lawyer, playwright, producer, director, actor, legislator, and clerk of the federal court for the eastern district of North Carolina,” Thomas Dixon, Jr. was a man of many professions. Born near Shelby, North Carolina, on this day in 1864, Dixon is best known as the author of The Clansman, which started as a book, was made into a play, and then a movie called The Birth of a Nation. He also wrote The Leopard’s Spots: A Romance of the White Man’s Burden, 1865-1900, which historian Joel Williamson describes as a “twin plea for the exclusion of the [African American] from American society and for a reunion of North and South.” The image above is a publisher’s circular from ca. 1902 that can be found among the North Carolina Collection’s broadsides. To view other items about Dixon at the UNC Library click here. To view items written by Dixon click here.

Gubernatorial Ephemera, Part 2

My favorite piece of gubernatorial ephemera from the Democratic side of things was this one produced by the State Employees Association of North Carolina:

I particularly enjoy it because the image reminds me of some advice I received years ago, “If you want to sell something, use cute pictures of puppies or small children.” Since dogs were used to support Kay Hagan, it seems that Perdue’s supporters decided to go with children. If you look closely you can see that the poor little kid is nowhere near hitting the nail with his hammer. Plus, the tool belt is huge and it looks like he could topple over at any minute! You can click on the image to see a larger version.


Frustrated by the exponentially growing amount of Blue Ray Discs on the shelves this past holiday season? Having flashbacks of the depressing death of the VHS tape and the emergence of the DVD? Scared your 2002 Honda Civic just doesn’t make the cut compared to your neighbor’s shiny Hybrid-/Electric-/Hydrogen-/food scrap-powered car?!

Then, this postcard is for you!

What appears to be an ordinary street scene in Concord, North Carolina (ca. 1911) is actually a fascinating real photo view of many things at “work.” If you look at the center of this postcard, you can see three modes of transportation: two men driving an automobile, a trolley car going down a rail, and a horse-drawn cart. This everyday scene is actually a fascinating signifier of the early twentieth century’s rapid developments in the area of transportation technology—and, like today, the difficulty for people to keep up with the times!

Try looking for the fourth form of transportation (hint: nearby the trees…and no, Concord is not near Kitty Hawk!)

Best Gubernatorial Campaign Ephemera

North Carolina will officially welcome its new governor into office this weekend. In honor of this event I thought I would share a few of my favorite pieces of gubernatorial campaign ephemera from 2008. I’ll post about my favorite Democratic ad tomorrow, but one of my favorites from the Republican end of the spectrum is this one:

It was created by RGA North Carolina 2008 PAC, a political action committee created by the Republican Governor’s Association. What struck me first about this ad’s image is that it is obviously at least four (and quite possibly five) images blended together to make one composite. You can click on the image to get a closer look. The different levels of focus, varying degrees of pixelation, and strange white marks around components give it away…and having the man on the left “climbing” over the velvet rope did nothing to make it look more authentic. Quality aside, however, the image certainly gets the group’s point across about a hot-button topic.

Saint John Coltrane

From The Lost Colony to the latest innovation at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina has laid claim to many great literary and technological achievements. For example, a glance at any North Carolina license plate will tell you North Carolina is the birth place of modern aviation. But make a pilgrimage to 1286 Fillmore Street in San Francisco, and you may be surprised to learn that North Carolina is also the birth place of a modern saint.

The saint in question was born in the town of Hamlet, North Carolina, on September 23, 1926, and died on July 17, 1967. Most know him from his work with the tenor sax. However, for the congregation of Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco, John William Coltrane is much more. He is their connection to oneness with the Divine.

The founders of the church are Archbishop Franzo King and Reverend Mother Marina King. Their moment of inspiration came during the mid-1960s at a live concert by Coltrane in San Francisco. Archbishop King, who was raised in the Pentecostal tradition, refers to their experience as a “sound baptism which touched their hearts and minds.” According to the website, “Seeing John Coltrane and hearing his sound that night was that familiar feeling he knew since childhood. It was the presence of God.” Eventually, this “sound baptism” would lead to the founding of Saint John Coltrane Church.

In addition to its ties with the African Orthodox Church, Saint John Coltrane Church embraces the work and experiences of “post-1957” Coltrane, otherwise known as the “Risen Trane.” Archbishop King explains this further on the Mission page of their website:

The ascension of St. John Coltrane into one-ness with God is what we refer to as the Risen Trane. In dealing with the Saint, John Coltrane, we are not dealing with St. John the man but St. John the sound and St. John the Evangelist and Sound Baptist, who attained union with God through sound. From the standpoint of the biography of John Coltrane, the Risen Trane is the post 1957 John Coltrane. He who emerged from drug addiction onto a path of spiritual awakening and who gave testimony of the power and empowerment of grace of God in his life and in his “Psalm” on A Love Supreme, and in his music thereafter.

It should be noted that “post-1957” Coltrane embraced elements of both Western and Eastern religions. For Archbishop King and the congregation, this means that the experience, philosophy, and spiritual legacy of Saint John Coltrane are universal in their ability to “touch the lives of people of many different faiths, creeds, and religions.” With this universality in mind, King recognizes a role for the Christian faith in utilizing the music of Coltrane. In this regard, he writes “in this time and place, we are grateful for the opportunity to lift up the Name of Jesus Christ through Saint John Coltrane’s music.”

So, is Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church just another tourist attraction or a place to actually encounter the Divine? The answer probably differs for each visitor. But whatever the answer may be, the church is more than just a shrine to a jazz musician from Hamlet. It is also a reminder that music can be a phenomenon that both embraces and transcends the personal experiences of the lives it touches.

For further information on the life and music of John W. Coltrane, we invite you to browse UNC Library catalog for materials held in the North Carolina Collection. For further information on Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church, you can visit their website at and The New York Times online at

Favorite 2008 Campaign Ephemera

In October, we asked our loyal readers to send us the political mailings that were filling their mailboxes, along with buttons, posters, and whatever else the candidates put out. Y’all came through! We received over 700 pieces of campaign ephemera. Thank you. Between now and Inauguration Day, I want to share with you a few of my favorites. This selection is subjective in the extreme. These are items that caught my eye based on the image, or how an issue was framed, or the humor. Don’t read politics into my choices—this is more a popular culture exercise than a political one.

So, today, here is my third most favorite:

It’s all about the dog. Who won’t be stopped in his tracks by this image? This is one of the best visuals on any mailing that I received. It would have been higher up on my list of favorites if the dog pictured was a Plott hound, our state dog, rather than a bloodhound. I know that the bloodhound is universally recognized as a tracker, but the failure to use our state dog tipped me off to the fact that the group that produced this card was “not from around here.” We like our political mailings homegrown. (The mailing came from Change to Win, a pro-labor advocacy group based in Washington, DC.)

Check back on Tuesday and Thursday next week for my choices for runner-up and best ephemera from the 2008 elections.