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Several new titles just added to “What’s New in the North Carolina Collection?” To see the full list simply click on the link in this entry or click on the “What’s New in the North Carolina Collection?” link under the heading “Pages” in the right column. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the North Carolina Collection Reading Room.

Cussing with Impunity

Cover of Herbert Hyde recording

You may have heard about an Orange County Superior Court judge’s recent ruling that a 98-year-old state ban on profanity is unconstitutional. The news has traveled far and wide. The story has also caused some to recall another time when the state ban came under scrutiny.

In 1973 two state senators proposed an amendment calling for Swain County’s removal as one of two counties exempted from the ban (the other is Pitt County). The possibility that cursing would be outlawed in Swain County led Buncombe County representative Herbert Hyde, a son of Swain County, to take to the floor of the House chamber in defense of his native county’s exemption. Hyde, who was known for his oratorical skills, quoted the Bible and Shakespeare in his 8-minute speech and discoursed on Cherokee culture. The Cherokees, he said, do not curse and their language does not include swear words. But Hyde’s oration is best remembered–and often titled–for words that he didn’t utter: “Mr. Speaker, there oughta be somewhere a person can cuss without breaking the law.”

Nevertheless, when Hyde ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1976 his campaign distributed a recording of the famous speech using the apocryphal lines as its title. The liner notes for the recording point out that “a specific price tag has not been placed on the recording. However, Herbert Hyde will be most grateful for the contributions you make to his campaign.” The flimsy disc itself is attached to the sleeve on top of a picture of Hyde.

Hyde portrait

The Buncombe County representative’s bid for lieutenant governor was unsuccessful. But his oration may have played a part in keeping Swain County a safe haven for cussin’.

We’ve got Hyde’s full speech digitized and ready for your ears.

Moses Cone’s monetary mischief

“In the controversy over whether the country should remain on the gold standard or convert to silver [Greensboro industrialist Moses] Cone was ardently pro-gold….

“In June 1896 he decided to pay his finishing mill employees in Mexican silver dollars. These coins had a bullion value of 54 cents, and Cone handed them out as 50-cent pieces. His goal was ‘to demonstrate in a practical way the inconveniences of a dollar that does not represent a hundred cents.’

“Puzzled local merchants… were probably reluctant to refuse the coins, since the Cones were so powerful. In the end, some redeemed the coins at 50 cents, [but] others unwittingly took a loss and redeemed them  at their face value of one dollar. The Greensboro Patriot reported, in what was probably an understatement, ‘Opinions are divided as to the  success of his scheme.’ ”

— From “A Mansion in the Mountains: The Story of Moses and Bertha Cone and Their Blowing Rock Manor” (1996) by Philip T. Noblitt