When caricature isn’t just a laughing matter

Death noted: David Levine, incomparable caricaturist for The New York Review of Books, at age 83 in New York. Levine was a personal hero of mine, especially for his work during the Watergate and Vietnam War eras — he may be most widely remembered for depicting LBJ pulling up his shirt to reveal a gallbladder scar in the shape of Vietnam.

Until macular degeneration degraded his output in recent years — a sad story indeed —  Levine’s unblinking eye and unerring hand captured the seriocomic essences of thousands of newsmakers past and present. Here are three examples from North Carolina:




‘Dances with Wolves’ meets Cherokee

“Christine [a student in Hofstra professor Douglas Brinkley’s experimental six-week cross-country history class] was disheartened. It wasn’t just Cherokee’s Santa Land, where in some weird equivalence Geronimo and Kris Kringle both hand out lollipops to the kids; or the collared black bear cubs in the pits behind Saunooke’s Trading Post, or the FIVE DOLLARS TO MEET A REAL INJUN sign that so dejected her, or even that people paid money to participate in such commerce.

“Some local Cherokee boys in Bugle Boy jeans, NBA basketball T-shirts and Nikes… brought home to her the extent of her Native American fantasies, and she was embarrassed. Fueled by ‘Dances with Wolves,’ she had envisioned the Cherokees as mighty warriors chanting sacred songs and swapping animal stories by a roaring fire. She wanted them to be riding horses, not driving Chevrolets. Instead… the young Cherokees on the reservation were no different from the kids back on Long Island.”

— From “The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey” (1993) by Douglas Brinkley

New Towns uploaded in December

During the month of December, we added just one new town to our North Carolina Postcards digital collection:


Skyland, Buncombe County

The real photo postcard above shows a hotel located at mountain spring in Buncombe County, was was photographed by Herbert W. Pelton ca. 1903.  Pelton later collaborated with NC Photographer George Masa in the 1920s at the Photo-Craft Shop.

Despite December’s lack of novel towns, after scanning through our monthly updates of newly added towns, I can estimate that in 2009 we added over 60 previously unrepresented towns.  Hooray!  I’m curious to see what 2010 will bring.

European visitors needn’t pack alarm clocks

“Until developments of the 1830s [such as the rise of the mercantile economy] elevated the importance of clock time in the South, foreign travelers … from wage-labor, industrializing regions tended to transmute, quite wrongly, Southerners’ [attachment] to nonclock time into a cultural and social quirk, which they usually labeled as lazy.

“German itinerant Johann David Schoepf certainly interpreted the practices of North Carolina’s ferrymen in this way in the 1780s: ‘When at last on the fourth day the expected boat for ferrying over the horses arrived, the next morning was fixed for the passage, [but] we found ourselves deceived again…. At 8 o’clock the gentleman who kept the ferry was still sleeping… Travellers therefore must have a good supply of interest if they are not to be outdone.’ ”

— From “Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery and Freedom in the American South” ” by Mark M. Smith (1997)

‘Save me, Joe Louis’: MLK had it wrong

“One of the stock stories about Louis… is apocryphal — that a young black man on death row in North Carolina cried out, ‘Save me, Joe Louis! Save me, Joe Louis!’ as he was asphyxiated.

” ‘Not God, not government, not charitably-minded white men, but a Negro who was the world’s most expert fighter, in this last extremity, was the last hope,’ Martin Luther King Jr.  wrote about the episode [in “Why We Can’t Wait” (1963)].

“In fact, 19-year-old Allen Foster, the first man to die in the state’s new gas chamber in January 1936, said no such thing, nor had the room been miked, as King claimed. Instead, chained down in the frigid room, wearing only a pair of boxing shorts and speaking through glass that forced eyewitnesses to read his lips, Foster apparently told of sparring with Louis as a boy in Birmingham, clenching and moving his fists to demonstrate. Twice prior to the execution he’d told reporters the same thing.

“But there is no record of young Louis ever having been in Birmingham, let alone fighting anyone there, and even Foster’s mother conceded that her son was ‘half-crazy.’ The embroidered version may date from a story in the Daily Worker a month later, and it probably took hold because it seemed so plausible. ‘I’m in death row, and I got only six more weeks to go,’ stated a letter Louis did receive from a black inmate in a Southern penitentiary in the summer of 1935. ‘Your picture hanging on the wall will make me feel better as I wait for the electric chair.’ ”

— From “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink” by David Margolick (2005)

“Christmas” As A Keyword in the NC Collection

Just in case you have already opened all your presents and eaten all the turkey, here’s a neat link to follow:


I searched for the keyword “Christmas” in the UNC Library’s online catalog, and I narrowed the results to just those items that appear in the North Carolina Collection. We have several very interesting items in this list, but my favorite is:

The night before Christmas in North Carolina

Don’t understand why? Click on the link and take a look at the cover of this book.

‘….and a PlayStation 3 Blu-Ray Disc Remote….’


In their heyday Christmas Clubs, a creation of the Depression, lured bank customers with a disciplined way to save for holiday shopping. They paid little or no interest, but if you were lucky you might come away with a nifty premium such as this pinback button from a now-defunct bank in Burlington. Although Christmas Clubs still exist, they have largely succumbed to the credit card culture.

New Hours For The NC Collection Reading Room

Starting on January 4, 2010, all special collections reading rooms (NCC, RBC, SHC/SFC/UA) in Wilson Library will follow this schedule:

Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

For a list of dates that the reading rooms will be closed for University holidays, please see: Holiday Schedule – Closed Dates