North Carolina Biographical Index

We just added 8619 new entries into the North Carolina Collection’s Biographical Index. What is the Biographical Index? Well, I’m glad you asked. It contains citations to biographical sketches about North Carolinians. Over five hundred volumes, primarily from the North Carolina Collection and other libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have been indexed to date.

Take a look at it, and let us know if you have any questions.

From Apple Street to Hollywood and Vine

Death noted: Kathryn Grayson, who brought operatic talent to the golden age of  Hollywood musicals, at age 88 in Los Angeles.

From the Winston-Salem Journal (Feb. 19):

“Grayson was born Zelma Kathryn Hedrick on Feb. 9, 1922, in Winston-Salem. Her family lived on Apple Street. They moved to St. Louis when she was a child, but she… returned several times after she became a Hollywood star.

“In 1949, Grayson sang at Forsythorama, a pageant at Bowman Gray Stadium attended by more than 10,000 people in honor of Forsyth County’s centennial.

“She made reference to her Winston-Salem childhood after she married [crooner Johnnie] Johnston, telling a reporter, ‘You know what I’d like to do? Go back to 1000 Apple Street and have 12 children.’ “

Mad Men made mountains ‘Great’

“Community leaders in Knoxville and Asheville got on the bandwagon — some out of a love of the mountains, some on the belief that tourism would bolster the local economy, some on the hope that a national park would result in better roads for the region.

“A New York publicity firm, brought in by the Knoxville Automobile Club, suggested the group call itself the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association. Soon the mountains themselves were referred to as the Great Smokies.”

— From “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (2009) by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns

‘Ma, I’m goin’ no’th to git me a job….’

“Since nothing travels in the direction of hungry men like news of  work, they started to roll in on foot and in old Model Ts as soon as the contract… to build the world’s biggest smokeless powder plant in Charlestown, Indiana… was announced in the newspaper….

“A man from a small town in North Carolina said, ‘I seen this paper lyin’ there on top of bag o’ potatoes. Well, since the cotton mill shet down, I ain’t seen no kind of decent job. My wife was always takin’ sick, an’  then we had a cyclone come into town. Blowed some families all to pieces, geese, bedstead, fences, ev’thing. We was just skeered near ’bout to death. That was in ’36 or ’37, understan’. So when I seen this thing in the paper, I said, Ma, I’m takin’ th’ automobile ‘n goin’ no’th  to git me a job in that dee-fense factory. Next day I was on my way.’ ”

— From “The American Homefront: 1941-42” by Alistair Cooke (2006). If Cooke’s interview notes ever turn up, surely they belong in the North Carolina Collection.

Float Bridge, Hertford, NC


The real photo postcard from ca. 1906 shows a wooden float (or pontoon) bridge in Hertford, NC.  This bridge was built in 1784, and was attached at one end but only tethered at the other.  If a boat needed to pass through, they would untie the bridge, let it float down river so the boat could continue, and then reel in the bridge and reattach it.  According to one source, the bridge was supported by wooden whiskey barrels (“Town of Hertford Bi-Centennial,” 1958).

The wooden bridge was replaced in 1895 with an S-shaped bridge made of iron.  An excerpt from the message written on the front of the card reads, “An iron bridge now replaces this unique structure.”  The bridge was again replaced in 1929 by the State Highway Commission.

Vastly Improved Roland Giduz Collection Finding Aid now available

Leroy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon, and Ralph Frasier (left to right), all from Durham, North Carolina, on the steps of South Building after completing court-ordered registration at UNC, 15 September 1955. Roland Giduz, photographer, negative 979.

We’ve recently extracted from an in-house database more than 4,500 records representing approximately 19,000 negatives made by Roland Giduz in and around Chapel Hill between 1947 and 1970, and have made that information available through a new finding aid.  Prior to this improved finding aid, researchers only had this degree of subject access by working directly with staff who could search the database.  So please follow the link to the finding aid and explore!

Above is Giduz’s historic photograph of Leroy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon, and Ralph Frasier (left to right), all from Durham, standing on the steps of South Building at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after completing their court-ordered registration on 15 September 1955 to become UNC’s first three African American undergraduate students.  The photograph serves as a tribute to Ralph Fraiser, who will be speaking at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center this Friday, 19 February, from 12:30 to 2:00 P.M.

W.E.B. Du Bois and Durham

Did you know that W.E.B. Du Bois was so impressed with booming African American business and commerce in early twentieth century Durham, he wrote an essay about it?

“Du Bois’s essay ‘The Upbuilding of Black Durham'[…]sounds a hopeful note, praising a North Carolina town in which a flourishing black middle class had developed robust manufacturing and service sectors without white interference. Based on his first-hand observations, Du Bois describes a bevy of black-owned businesses including grocery stores, barber shops, drug stores, a bank, ‘a shoe store, a haberdashery, and an undertaking establishment,’ as well as factories that produced ‘mattresses, hosiery, brick, iron articles, and dressed lumber’ (pp.334-335). He praises the industry and thrift of Durham’s African American residents, noting that they own ‘a half million dollars’ worth of property,’ though their ‘pretty and well-equipped homes’ show ‘no evidence of luxury.'”

Read more about what the Harvard-educated African American activist, historian, and sociologist had to say about Durham in Documenting the American South’s monthly highlight.

Think you know your state? Take this quiz N.C.

Here’s a Tar Heel knockoff of a “Va.” quiz offered by puzzlemaster Will Shortz on NPR.

Limit your responses to only “N.C.” words (Northampton County, for example, or Nextel Cup.)

Spoiler alert: Answers immediately below.

1. As a gubernatorial candidate, Bev Perdue lamented that “Wherever I go, people ask me, ‘Can’t we stop the — –?”

2. Birthplace of  football player Julius Peppers.

3. How Cabarrus County bills itself to tourists.

4. State bird.

5. Charlotte-based steel maker.

6. Bait popular with the state’s fresh-water fishermen.

7.  Athletic Association that sponsors basketball’s Final Four.

8. Bank of America headquarters, tallest building in the state, was previously known as the — — Center.

9. The Alford plea, based on a Forsyth County murder case and invoked by such defendants as former House Speaker Jim Black, is closely akin to this more common plea.

10. Yadkin Valley wine growers hope to emulate the success of….


1. “Negative campaign.”

2. Nash County.

3. NASCAR Country.

4. Northern Cardinal.

5. Nucor Corp.

6. Night crawler.

7. National Collegiate.

8. NationsBank Corporate.

9. Nolo contendere (or no contest).

10. Napa, California

‘More Doctors Smoke Camels’: Recount, please

“As concerns about the health implications of smoking persisted — and then increased — in the 1930s and 1940s, advertising explicitly addressed these anxieties…. R. J. Reynolds fixed on the likely notion that smokers would be attracted to the brand that their physician chose, and that physicians would advocate for a brand that lionized the medical profession….

“The ‘More Doctors Smoke Camels’ campaign was apparently based on the work of A. Grant Clarke, a William Esty ad executive, on loan to R. J. Reynolds to establish a Medical Relations Division. Clarke would distribute free packs of Camels at medical conventions; pollsters from an ‘independent research organization’ would then be sent to ask the physicians what brand of cigarettes they were carrying.”

— From “The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America” (2007) by Allan M. Brandt