The Case of the Missing Hornet

We often blog about interesting items we find in our collection, but recently an email request sent us looking for an intriguing item which we turned out not to have at all. Published in Davie County, NC, by W. Henry Davis in the early to mid twentieth century, The Hornet advertised itself as “The Hottest Paper For Free-Thinkers in America” and proclaimed “Ultimate Victory for all TRUTH is certain; Final Defeat of all Falsehood is Inevitable.” It turns out that the State Library of North Carolina, the State Archives, and Appalachian State University have issues for some years, but nobody has a complete run. We don’t have a single copy. If any of you have been saving The Hornet and are looking for a good home for your collection, let us know.

Did Dr. Leuchtenburg just say “Eureka!”?

“I was doing research at a Florida library in the papers of a former United States senator. The papers were on microfilm, and I cranked the machine wheel hour after hour to find that apparently every extant document had been faithfully filmed but that they consisted only of tedious transcript records of rivers and harbors legislation. Then, abruptly, I came upon a…note to the senator:  ‘If you don’t come across with the money, I’m telling your wife everything.'”

–William E. Leuchtenburg, Kenan professor emeritus of history at UNC Chapel Hill, recalling (in a 2003 address) a memorable moment of microfilm serendipity.

Vote for the Sanborn Maps You Want to See Online Next

UPDATE: The people have spoken! We will digitize Sanborn maps from Winston-Salem next. It’s a great set — we’ll include maps from 1885, 1890, 1895, 1900, 1907, 1912, and 1917. The 1917 set is especially rich, covering the whole city and surrounding industrial areas on 112 sheets. Look for these to start appearing soon, with Durham and Hillsborough to come a little later. The full tally of votes is below.

The North Carolina Maps project is continuing to grow, with a big focus of the current year being the digitization of all of the pre-1923 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in the North Carolina Collection. These are fantastic resources, showing towns and cities from around the state in incredible detail. Designed to be used by insurance agencies and local fire departments, the maps show the footprint, size, and purpose of most buildings in the city. The downtown areas are especially interesting as they show what kinds of businesses were located in each building. This example shows a block along South Front Street in Wilmington in 1904:

We’ve finished the sets of maps for Kinston, Wilmington, and Charlotte, and we’re working on Greensboro right now. Keep up with our progress on the Sanborn Map page on our website.

In an effort to democratize the digitization process, I’d like to have your help in choosing what city to work on next. All of the cities and towns for which pre-1923 maps are available will be done eventually, but if you can’t wait to see these fascinating maps for your hometown, cast your vote in the comments section below. For a full list of the cities and towns that are available, see the list of Sanborn maps on the NCC website.

Once we’re done with Greensboro (It’ll probably be about a week and half), I’ll count the votes and the city that has the most will be the one we work on next.

Grits Forever

Several years ago David Perry and the late Bill Neal published a brief tribute to a great dish: Good Old Grits Cookbook. I don’t make grits much any more. I don’t have time in the morning for slow cooked grits; I don’t much like quick cooked; and I can’t abide instant. Neal and Perry reminded me, however, that grits are not just for breakfast and fit in nicely with a main dish. I was particularly struck by “eggplant creole,” essentially a vegetable stew served over hot cheese grits. The dish may be a little warm for the summer, but it is at the top of my list for the first cool days of fall.

Watch Winston-Salem grow (sorry, Charlotte)

“The spirit of growth was so pervasive that the motto of Winston-Salem during the early years of the 1900s was ’50-15,’ or 50,000 inhabitants by 1915. That goal was nearly met, for by 1920 the population was 48,375—a 113 percent increase from the population of Winston and Salem in 1910…From about 1915 to 1930, Winston-Salem was the largest city in North Carolina.”

–From From Frontier to Factory: An Architectural History of Forsyth County by Gwynne Stephens Taylor (1981).

Bring your playbook, see you in the funnies

On this day in 1975: Brian Dowling, the former Yale star who inspired the “hit” B.D. character in Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury,” started at quarterback in the Charlotte Hornets’ World Football League opener.

The Hornets, formerly the struggling New York Stars, fled to Charlotte in the middle of the 1974 season and lasted until the league folded in the middle of the 1975 season. Dowling, who had been cut by three NFL teams, fared little better in the WFL, throwing for one touchdown in both ’74 (with five interceptions) and ’75 (with six interceptions).

Creek Lights and Lightships

In addition to the traditional lighthouses along the North Carolina coast, here are two alternative examples used to keep ships and sailors safe during their night travels:

Above is a postcard from ca. 1905-1915 showing children playing on a creek lighthouse located in Southport, Brunswick County.  This lighthouse was likely built in 1849.

Below is a postcard of the Diamond Lightship stationed off the coast of Morehead City, NC, where it would stay moored in place and make use of its large warning lights.  This card dates to ca. 1948.

Words per minute? N/A, she explained

The slogan on this button sticks a fork in Rep. Wayne Hays, the once-powerful Ohio Democrat who resigned from Congress in 1976 rather than undergo an Ethics Committee investigation of charges he had put Elizabeth Ray on his payroll to serve as his mistress. Ray, 27 at the time, was born in Marshall in Madison County, North Carolina.

Hays at first denied allegations, telling the Washington Post, “Hell’s fire! I’m a very happily married man.” But Ray, ostensibly a secretary, readily acknowledged that “I can’t type. I can’t file. I can’t even answer the phone.”