An advertisement postcard from the Durwood Barbour Collection.
On this date in 1961 Maria Beale Fletcher of Asheville, a former Radio City Rockette, became the only Miss North Carolina ever chosen Miss America.
This pinback button from the collection shows her parents, Beale and Peggy Fletcher, who founded Asheville’s Fletcher School of Dance in 1948.
Take a look at the video about Wilson Library’s new exhibit:
You can come see the exhibit in person until September 30.
The exhibit is in conjunction with the North Carolina Literary Festival, which runs from September 10 to September 13. We hope to see you there!
I had an interesting experience while researching the 81st Infantry Division last week. The unit, which was formed during World War I, was made up of recruits from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Training was held at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, near Wildcat Creek. During training, it was decided that patches could make it easier for the soldiers to identify one another in battle. So the patches were made; naturally, the wildcat was the emblem used. The 81st infantry division’s patches were deemed such a success that the Army implemented them for all units.
If that wasn’t interesting enough, I stumbled across this nugget of information the very same day: former North Carolina Governor William B. Umstead was a member of the 81st Infantry Division–the very same Wildcats! I rarely remember details when it comes to military ranks and divisions, so I was quite surprised (and pleased) to put together those two pieces of information. Serendipitous, you might say.
“On the same afternoon [in 1908 that President Theodore Roosevelt] declared the Grand Canyon a national monument, he began threatening to do the same with large parts of the Appalachian and White Mountains, an action certain to cause tremendous resistance by congressmen from Maine to Georgia. One notable exception was Gov. Robert Glenn of North Carolina, who committed himself politically to Roosevelt’s conservationist crusade, hoping that the Great Smoky Mountains would emerge as a national monument.”
— from “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America” by Douglas Brinkley.
A few months later Glenn would tell the National Governors Conference, “Our forests are being denuded…. Our people… have been living only for the present, thinking of themselves and not of their children and their children’s children.”
“The scheme is so transparently impossible, so plainly a gold-brick proposition, that ordinarily the inmates of a school for the feebleminded could not be induced to part with their coin for a certificate of membership…
“But running through the whole scheme is a wicked appeal to race prejudice. There is a hark back to the lawless time that followed the Civil War…There is no need for any secret order to enforce the law of this land…Just now all of us need to be considerate and kind and trustful in our dealings with the Negro.”
— Gov. Thomas Bickett, circa 1921, responding to the revival of the KKK inspired by The Birth of a Nation. Bickett was quoted in an NAACP handbill calling on citizens not to “allow Ku Klux Klan propaganda to be displayed in the movies in New York City.”
The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography describes Bickett as “a traditionalist in his attitude toward race relations [who] nonetheless manifested a sympathy for the lot of the blacks uncommon among Southern politicians of his time.”
We recently uploaded the first postcard of Pilot Mountain to the North Carolina Postcards digital collection. Otherwise known as as Mt. Pilot to the viewers of The Andy Griffith Show, Pilot Mountain is a popular destination for rock climbers and one of the state’s most distinctive geological features.
Pilot Mountain is a monadnock – a small mountain that abruptly rises out of an otherwise planar surface. It’s name derives from the translation of its Native American name, which means “guide” or “pilot.” Because the mountain was visible from great distances, it became a popular landmark for people traveling. The name signifies the mountain’s role.
“Game was abundant on the upper Yadkin [in North Carolina]…. According to one local story, Bear Creek, near the Yadkin forks, took its name when [Daniel] Boone killed 99 bear on the creek in a single season.
“Deer were even more numerous. Boone and another hunter reportedly killed 30 deer in a single day…. Deerskin was a major part of the local economy. In 1753 over 30,000 deerskins were exported from North Carolina. As early as 1700, an average of 54,000 deerskins were being exported each year to England from southern Carolina. There was so much trade in deerskin that a ‘buck’ — a dressed skin weighing about two and a half pounds, worth about 40 cents a pound — became the synonym for a dollar in the American colonies.”
— From “Frontiersman” (2008) by Meredith Mason Brown. (Hat tip to delanceyplace.com)
In honor of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth year, I thought I’d mention two more sources that discuss the myth and controversy of Abraham Lincoln’s paternity.
The Abraham Enloe Papers that are housed in the Southern Historical Collection contain a copy of a letter written in the 1960s that claims that North Carolinian Abraham Enloe fathered Abraham Lincoln out of wedlock. And Edward Steers’ book, Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President devotes an entire chapter to dismissing the claims that Enloe was Lincoln’s father.
As a native of the Land of Lincoln, I respectfully decline taking sides in the debate. If you’d like to, feel free to leave a comment. (We all remember the brouhaha of a previous post, Abe Lincoln’s Carolina Roots.)
Read Harry McKown’s latest installment in the ever-popular This Month in North Carolina History series—”The Birth of O. Henry.”