NCpedia Needs Contributors

The State Library of North Carolina’s online NC Encyclopedia (now called the NCpedia) is live in Beta at:

The State Library is in the the process of revising existing entries and expanding the content. If you or someone you know might be interested in contributing to the NCpedia, you can find information about what they are looking for at the NCpedia Construction Site at:

The original version of the NC Encyclopedia is still online at

You will notice a completely new interface in the Beta version ( as well as the ability to search, add tags, input comments, subscribe to RSS feeds, share articles via, Facebook, MySpace and more!

The State Library is hoping to be out of Beta at the beginning of the traditional school year.

If you have any questions about NCpedia, you can contact Michelle Czaikowski at

Panoramoic Postcards of Raleigh, NC

We’ve recently uploaded several panoramic postcard views of Raleigh to the NC Postcards website.  The cards all date to ca. 1900-1915.  The photo above highlights the format of the card itself, and the photo below gives a sense of how the two postcard-sized halves are attached together.  To see the cards online, click the links below:

St. Mary’s School, Raleigh, N.C. (shown above and below)
St. Mary’s School, Raleigh, N.C.
Panoramic View, A&M College, Raleigh, N.C.
Panoramic View, Capitol Grounds, Raleigh, N.C.

Why Satchel Paige didn’t pitch for Greensboro

“In 1955 an offer came [to Satchel Paige, at age 49] to pitch for the Greensboro Patriots of the Carolina League. The team’s first black player, he was scheduled to pitch at home against Reidsville, a Phillies farm team. But the Phillies’ farm director protested the Paige appearance as ‘a travesty of the game’ and ‘a farce.’

“The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues ruled that Greensboro could use Paige only in exhibition games, [not in the already sold-out game against Reidsville]. When Hurricane Diane deluged the Carolinas, washing away the game, the Patriots decided not to press the case and released him before he had thrown a pitch….

“In 1966 Paige pitched one game, without protest, for the Carolina League’s Peninsula Pilots of Hampton, Va.  — against the same Greensboro Patriots who had been forced to release him in 1955. Attracting over 3,000 fans to Hampton’s War Memorial Stadium, he gave up two runs in the first inning, threw a scoreless second and then left organized baseball, never to return as a player.”

— From “Don’t Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball” by Mark Ribowsky (1994)

In 1971 Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige became the first Negro League player inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He died in 1982.

Home Eckers Trade School, Raleigh NC

We recently uploaded several interesting postcards of the Home Eckers Trade School, located in the Lightner Arcade Building at 122 E. Hargett Street in Raleigh.  The postcard above shows the entrance to the building, showing a sign that reads, “Home Eckers Trade School Hotel Cafeteria.”

I’m not entirely certain what the Home Eckers Trade School was, but it appears that it was an secondary educational institution for African American women that hosted a restaurant and hotel.  The postcard above shows a group of women in a kitchen classroom, and the postcard below shows women lounging in a dormitory common room.

Do you know anything about the Home Eckers school?  Please comment on the blog, we’d love to learn more.  The postcards are dated to ca. 1950s, and the earliest entry I could find in the Raleigh City Directory is from 1949.

‘Athletically it is notable because….’

“The University of North Carolina is noted for being one of the two oldest State universities in the U. S., for having on its faculty George Bernard Shaw’s biographer Archibald Henderson, for the leisurely atmosphere of its green old campus at Chapel Hill.

“Athletically it is notable because the members of its teams, instead of naming themselves after wild animals, are quite content to be called ‘tar heels’; and because its tennis team in the last four years has won 62 consecutive matches.”

— From Time magazine, May 22, 1933

Vote Now! North Carolina’s Top 10 Natural Wonders

What do you think North Carolina’s Top 10 natural wonders are? Mt. Mitchell? Lake Mattamuskeet? Cliffs of the Neuse? Well, here’s your chance to vote! Land for Tomorrow is asking for your input. Visit the link below, but do it soon…nominations end on May 6; judges will narrow the nominees and announce the finalists on May 10. Then, you’ll have until May 18 to cast your votes.

What are North Carolina’s Top Ten Natural Wonders?

Sir Walter Raleigh Collection

Did you know that the North Carolina Collection has a nationally and internationally known collection of material related to our state capital’s namesake? It’s the “Sir Walter Raleigh Collection.”

Consisting of over one thousand titles, the Sir Walter Raleigh Collection preserves writings by Raleigh, materials about Raleigh, and works on English exploration during the Elizabethan Era.

For a more detailed description of the collection, see the following link (written by the NC Collection’s curator, Robert Anthony.): The Raleigh Collection at Chapel Hill.

To view digitized titles from the Raleigh Collection, click here.

‘There’s no place like Charlotte’ (and he’s glad)

On this day in 1986: New York architect Robert A.M. Stern, host of PBS’s “Pride of Place” series, tours downtown Charlotte and pronounces it “the ugliest collection of third-rate buildings in America. Charlotte has defined a type unto itself — a town that has grown very fast in a very mediocre way. There’s no place like Charlotte.”

May 1888: William Henry Belk Opens First Store in Monroe, N.C.

This Month in North Carolina History

Postcard of Main Street, Monroe, NC, includes Belk store in foreground

In the late 19th century, many of the large retailers we know today were establishing their first stores and offering new goods and services to middle class consumers. Macy’s doors opened in New York City in 1858; Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia opened in 1861; and Sears and Roebuck founded their business in Chicago in 1886.

After the end of the Civil War, country and general stores became popular in the South, and in 1874, William Henry Belk began working in a dry goods store in Monroe, NC. Henry Belk, as he was called, was only twelve years old when he started. He worked as a store clerk for more than a decade, and the skills he learned and the money he saved allowed him to open his own store.

During the Post-Reconstruction period, the Southern farm economy was in shambles–especially the credit system— because farmers received such low prices for their crops. Belk saw an opportunity to create a new type of store that was not based on the credit model of the Southern general store. On May 28, 1888, he opened the New York Racket on the corner of Main and Morgan in Monroe’s business district. The Racket’s business model was cash only, accept no credit, offer low prices, and provide excellent customer service. Belk was able to keep prices low because the store was not carrying the weight of the customer’s credit. As a result, he could afford to pay producers in full, which in turn lowered his cost. At the end of his first year of business, Belk’s Monroe store had turned a profit of $3,000. As the store became busier and more successful, Belk began looking for a partner and found a likely candidate in his brother, John, who left his medical practice in 1891 to join Henry in running the Monroe store. They changed the name of the store from New York Racket to W.H. Belk and Bro. They advertised aggressively in newspapers, heralding their low prices and scheduling sales when they knew they could draw a large crowd, for instance, during town parades and large celebrations.

The Belk brothers enjoyed success in their retail ventures and continued to make decisions that encouraged growth. For example, they would invest in textile mills in order to sell the cloth in their stores for less than what competitors were charging. However, in 1894, economic setbacks for the Belks became the subject of town gossip in Monroe. Henry was so insulted that he considered moving his business to Texas, but his mother convinced him to stay in North Carolina. Charlotte seemed to be the best option to open a new store–at the time, Charlotte was North Carolina’s second largest city, a commercial center for textile production in the state, and just a short train ride from Monroe. Belk opened his Charlotte store on East Trade Street in September of 1895. His brother John remained in close touch as the manager of the Monroe store.

Postcard of East Trade Street, Charlotte, NC with Belk store in center of image

The Belk stores quickly expanded throughout the southeastern United States, and often formed strong partnerships with store managers, many of whom worked their way up from being clerks. This process resulted in the opening of Belk stores with names like Belk-Park, Belk-Hudson, and Belk-Leggett. The Belk leadership was flexible and innovative in that bulk purchasing was organized through the Belk headquarters so as to afford lower prices, but indvidual stores maintained independence to mangage their store’s promotions and services. By the mid-twentieth century, Belk stores had become a fixture of the downtown landscape in towns all over North Carolina and the Southeast.

Bridget Madden
May 2010

Henderson, Belk. Early Belk Partners: Ordinary People Who Did the Extraordinary. Cramerton, NC: The Belk Press, 1994.

Blythe, LeGette. William Henry Belk: Merchant of the South. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1958.

Covington, Howard E., Jr. The Company and the Family That Built It. Belk, Inc., Charlotte, NC: 2002.

Image Sources
“Main Street, looking North, Monroe, N.C.” Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.

“East Trade Street, Charlotte, N.C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.

This Month in North Carolina: Henry Belk Opens First Store, May 1888

Read all about it in the latest installment of This Month in North Carolina:

On May 29, 1988, William Henry Belk opened his first store at the corner of Main and Morgan in Monroe, N.C.  This shop evolved what would become the regional Belk department stores.

The postcard below shows Main Street, Monroe, from ca. 1930-1945.  A Belk Bros. store is visible at the left.