The Queen City Of Manliness

A former student employee of the NC Collection (and occasional NCM blogger) emailed us about this one:

Charlotte named “America’s Manliest City”

Really? I’ve been to Charlotte many times and never really felt any manlier than I already do…though maybe it doesn’t rub off on you if you are just spending a few nights in town.

What do our readers think? Is Charlotte the “manliest city” in America?

Mountain music man shattered expectations

“[Bascom Lamar Lunsford] turned out to be just the opposite of what I expected. He sings like an old mountain reprobate, full of glee and friendliness. He turned out to be a reactionary aristocrat. The first question he asked us was ‘Are you Communists?’ He claims that hundreds of Communists have been going around the country with tape recorders and collecting songs and using them for progressive causes.

“Telling him we were friends of Pete [Seeger] and Woody [Guthrie] and from New York didn’t help….”

— Folk singer Guy Carawan, recalling a 1953 visit to Asheville (as quoted in “Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940-1970” [2002]  by Ronald D. Cohen).

Stone Walls

This ca. 1888 image shows one of the many stiles used to cross over the stone walls surrounding campus. The stone walls were constructed under the direction of Professor Elisha Mitchell in 1838 in an effort to enclose the campus and replace the rail fences currently in place. These walls were constructed in the New England fashion with the use of mortar and served the dual purpose of preventing live stock from grazing on campus grounds and to enhance the picturesque campus setting. The construction of the stone walls surrounding campus would continue until the 1850’s

Where Nixon was the one, a last hurrah


On this day in 1989: Richard Nixon, driven from office 15 years earlier by the Watergate scandal, addresses a fund-raiser for Gov. Jim Martin at Winston-Salem’s Benton Convention Center. It will be the 76-year-old Nixon’s final appearance in North Carolina, a state that twice gave him its presidential electoral votes.

“When I was in Washington, D.C., a couple days ago, I saw one of my friends in the press,” he tells the crowd of 300 campaign contributors. “The other one was out of town.”

Wilmington perch too small for ‘Nightingale’

“The railway [from Richmond] to Wilmington bears the reputation of being one of the very worst, if not the worst, in the United States. It had, however, been newly laid, and, save for a short distance on which the old timbers of the road were plainly to be felt, struck me as remarkably easy.

“The cars… were more like remnants from the last century than the cars used in the more northern States.  [In Weldon], however, we had a new car provided, which  approximated more the style of conveyance in vogue among the more civilized.

“The room arranged for [our supper] was not large, and about a hundred travellers entered it. Scarcely were these seated than a horde of strangers — well-dressed ladies, with or without their bonnets, gentlemen in every description of habiliment, and even boys and girls — crowded in.

“One pertinacious and ill-bred, and slightly colored (with a brush be it observed), but remarkably pretty woman, dressed in mourning, raised her eye glass to her brow, and standing at about three feet distance, and exactly opposite where the fair Swede was sitting, contemplated every mouthful eaten by her…. Mademoiselle Lind possessed considerably more modesty, or suffered more from bashfulness, than her admirer, and disappeared in a few minutes, so uncomfortable had she been rendered by this unceasing examination.”

— From “Jenny Lind in America” (1851) by C. G. Rosenberg.

Under the management of P. T. Barnum, “the Swedish Nightingale” gave an enormously successful series of opera concerts in the United States in 1850-1852. En route south to Charleston, the troupe stopped in Wilmington, but Barnum denied fans an impromptu concert because no hall was large enough.

Weekend link dump: Banana trees to bateau poles

— Might those be banana trees in the supposed photo of North Carolina slave children?

— “We thought it was just a stick,” recalls the Draper woman who pulled an iron-tipped, 19th century bateau pole from the Dan River.

— On the wish list of the revived and relocated North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis: a glass elevator from which visitors can view the nearby Dale Earnhardt statue.

— “If the waitress calls me sweetie and the place is full of old people telling stories,” confesses historian and omnivore blogger David Cecelski, “I’m going to say it’s the best place ever, even if I hear can openers in the back.”

Another great day at Wimbledon

Althea Gibson

As you may have heard, Greensboro native John Isner entered the record books today as one of the competitors in the longest match in professional tennis. Over the course of three days, Isner and Frenchman Nicholas Mahut slugged it out at Wimbledon for a grueling 11 hours 5 minutes. Their momentous achievement calls to mind another great day at Wimbledon —one in which another individual with Tar Heel connections played a part.

In 1951 Althea Gibson became the first African-American to compete in the All-England Tennis Championships, the formal name for Wimbledon. Six years later, in 1957, Gibson became the first African-American to claim a Wimbledon title. She defeated fellow American Darlene Hard 6-3, 6-2 to claim the women’s singles championship.

Born in South Carolina and raised in New York City, Gibson moved to Wilmington as a 19-year-old to train with Hubert A. Eaton, an African-American doctor and civil rights pioneer in the city. Eaton (pictured above with Gibson) was also a nationally-ranked amateur in the American Tennis Association, the main organization for African Americans in the segregated world of tennis.

Gibson, too, had earned some notoriety in the world of African-American tennis. But in so doing, she had neglected her studies. She arrived in Wilmington in 1946 without a high school diploma. Consequently, while training with Eaton and living with his family, she enrolled in Williston Industrial High School. Gibson was older than most of her classmates, but nevertheless sought to participate fully in school activities, joining the band on saxophone, singing with the choir and playing basketball. Still, she later wrote, she felt out of place. She “wasn’t much for dressing up,” and preferred to spend her time playing sports with the boys. “I showed off on the football field because throwing passes better than the varsity quarterback was a way …to show that there was something I was good at.”

Being good at tennis helped Gibson garner 5 women’s singles Grand Slam titles and 6 women’s doubles Grand Slam titles. Gibson retired from amateur tennis (and there was no professional women’s tennis circuit) in 1958. Her post-tennis life included small roles on television and in the movies, a recording contract and time on the women’s golf tour. In 1975 she was appointed New Jersey’s state commissioner for athletics, a post she held for 10 years. She died in 2003 at the age of 76.

The city of Wilmington is seeking to honor Gibson with a tennis center named for its one-time resident. Officials broke ground for the Althea Gibson Tennis Center at Empie Park in September 2009.

Photo of Althea Gibson from Tom Biracree’s Althea Gibson: Tennis Champion.

Photo of Althea Gibson and Hubert A. Eaton from Eaton’s autobiography, Every Man Should Try.

J. P. Morgan, your railroad is a crime

“I wish that someone would lock [J.] Pierpont Morgan up for homicides already committed on his Southern roads…. One of my boys pulled out fourteen spikes with his fingers on a two mile stretch on the Atlantic Coast main line, in North Carolina…. You are going after the New Haven [Railroad] people right.”

– California Congressman William Kent in a 1913 letter to “People’s Lawyer” Louis Brandeis, who was mounting an epic challenge to Morgan’s railroad monopoly. (Brandeis wrote back to Kent, a fellow reformer: “I note what you say about the condition of the Atlantic Coast main Line. It is, as you say, Morganatic.”)

Politcal Cartoons In North Carolina, 1840 Style

Cartoon placed by Democrats in the North Carolinian (Fayetteville), October, 10, 1840.

This image is included in Dr. H. G. Jones’s North Carolina Illustrated and includes the following caption:

“Martin Van Buren supporters countered with a cartoon portraying Whig symbols—log cabin, hard cider, and a raccoon mascot—as tricks to catch ‘honest’ Democrats.”

When nation goes to war, kids go to work

“Booming war industries have already increased child labor….  During 1941 North Carolina issued 10,000 new labor certificates to 17- and 18-year-olds, 1,000 to 12-to-15-year-olds. ‘The situation,’ observed State Labor Commissioner F. H. Shuford, with a dead pan, ‘is as healthy as the war that brought it on.’ ”

— From Time magazine, June 15, 1942