Horse thieves weren’t easily discouraged

“The colonists’ bete noir was the horse thief. A North Carolina act of 1786 provided that ‘for the first offense the culprit should stand in the pillory for one hour, be publicly whipped with 39 lashes, nailed to the pillory by the ears, which were afterwards to be cut off, and be branded on the right cheek with the letter “H” and on the left cheek with the letter “T.” ‘

“Such penalties proved to be insufficient, and four years later the penalty was changed to death without benefit of clergy.”

— From “The Fruited Plain: The Story of American Agriculture” by Walter Ebeling (1979)

Coincidentally, maybe flogging is making a comeback.

Elite make merry, and thousands pay to watch

“Every June since 1880 the Carolina Cotillion Club has given a German which provides fun and frolic for thousands, makes the thriving tobacco town of Rocky Mount a cynosure  for invited guests from many another State. This year’s German, underwritten by the club’s 220 members who paid $10 each, attracted 8,000 guests, was witnessed by 3,000 spectators who paid 50 cents apiece to watch the elite make merry. The party began at 10 p.m. in the lavishly decorated Mangum tobacco warehouse [and was] officially over at 5:15 a.m., but festivities continued informally throughout Saturday [with] swimming, high jinks at the country club and barbecues.

“For days ahead Rocky Mount citizens had outfitted themselves at local stores, were beautified at local barbershops. For weeks to come they will recall the success of their traditional No. 1 social fixture, which derives its name from huge festivals held at watering places in Germany during the 19th Century.”

— From Life magazine, July 5, 1937

Life seemed quite taken with Rocky Mount, printing no fewer than 17 photos. My favorite caption: “Sunday morning found many a pious partygoer in the  First Baptist Church where Pastor J. B. Kincheloe in a rather pointed sermon… referred to the penalties of debauchery. Observe that many of the front pews are conspicuously empty.”

The Russians [Were] Coming! And They Had Maps.

A few years ago, the North Carolina Collection acquired a set of Soviet-made maps, featuring North Carolina towns and dating from the late 1970s. See if you can guess which town is pictured below (and the feature just to the top left of that town). The top image shows the name of the town, and the bottom image shows the town itself.

A tree grew (and grew) in Betty Smith’s garden

“[The ailanthus tree] rarely lives more than 50 years, so any chance of finding [Betty] Smith’s original tree still growing in Brooklyn was out of the question.
“But [Nancy] Pfeiffer told me about the ailanthus her mother planted in the walled-in garden behind her home in Chapel Hill, where Smith lived almost her entire life and where she is buried. Back in 1945, when 20th Century Fox came out with the movie version of Smith’s book (directed by her former Yale classmate Elia Kazan), someone had the clever idea to send ailanthus saplings out to critics….
“Pfeiffer is quite sure the tree [shown in an old photo of the Chapel Hill garden] is one of the saplings from that early publicity campaign. Later on, however, they had to take the tree down when it threatened to topple the garden wall.
“Betty Smith and her family took shoots from the aforementioned ailanthus and planted them around [their] cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In 1993, the cottage and an ailanthus from one of those shoots had to be moved back from the shore because of erosion. The tree continued to grow tall until the house was sold in 2002. Since then the house and tree have been… replaced by a large rental unit.”
— From “Seeds: One Man’s Serendipitous Journey to Find the Trees That Inspired Famous American Writers….” by Richard Horan (2011)

A Garland of roses, a Garland of thorns

Sorry I snoozed through the 50th anniversary (April 23) of Judy Garland’s comeback concert at Carnegie Hall, which she prepped for with winning performances in Charlotte and Greensboro.

In Charlotte she helped hasten demolition of the classic but run-down Southern Railway passenger station, remarking that it was “a helluva station…. What happened to it?”

Four years later, however, a badly diminished Garland bombed at a Democratic Party benefit at the Charlotte Coliseum. “Can you people hear?” she asked the skimpy crowd of 4,000. “Trouble is, I can hear, too, and it isn’t too good.”

Extraterrestrial community had ally in NC native

“The Rev. Kirby Hensley, who ordained millions around the world through a mail-order ministry based in Modesto, Calif., died [March 19, 1999] of cancer. He was 87.

“Rev. Hensley’s Universal Life Church was viewed as something of a lark by many who sent him $5 for ministerial licenses, but it was an intensely serious matter for the Internal Revenue Service, [which] spent years challenging his tax exemption.

“His church had no doctrine other than ‘Do that which is right,’ and its patriarch thumbed his nose at organized religion and government tax collectors. His philosophy: ‘I always stand for freedom, food and sex. That’s all there is. It sets people free.’

“Rev. Hensley started his ministry in 1962 in his garage. By the early 1990s it claimed 16 million members, but he continued to live in a modest home and to work as a carpenter.

“In 1968 he ran for president under the label of the Universal Party. One of his issues: civil treatment for visitors from other worlds.

“Rev. Hensley was born July 23, 1911, in Low Gap, N.C., in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He had preached in Southern Baptist churches by the time he was 20. He and his family moved to Stanislaus County [Calif.] in 1959.”

— From the Modesto Bee (March 20, 1999)

The Universal Life Church survived the death of its founder and now claims “Over 20 million ministers ordained worldwide!”

I suspect “Low Gap” is in fact the Lowgap community in Surry County. (Would you have guessed the Gazetteer lists no fewer than 11 topographic Low Gaps? But no High Gaps?)

Sir Walter and His Lewd Friends

The varied portraits of Sir Walter Raleigh has been on our minds recently. Earlier this month we played host to Raleigh-scholar Mark Nichols, co-author of the recently published Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life & Legend. Nichol’s talk inspired a few of us to wonder how Raleigh has been depicted over time.

The Elizabethan courtier has shilled for tobacco, sold cars and appeared on book covers. Of course, Raleigh has also served–mostly with distinction–as a subject for a few artists.

Francis Vandeveer Kughler placed Raleigh at the center of one of his murals at the School of Government on the UNC campus. Dean Cornwell, a renowned illustrator of the mid 20th century, also depicted Raleigh. Twice.

As part of the New Deal efforts to create jobs for artists, the federal government commissioned Cornwell to create murals for the U.S. Post Office in Morganton. And, in 1938, the artist completed Sir Walter Raleigh and First Landing on North Carolina Shore. The murals covered the walls over the door to the postmaster’s office. Sadly, Cornwell’s works were destroyed during renovations of the post office in 1963.

Cornwell’s work in Morganton followed on the heels of a project in New York City in 1937. Publisher William Randolph Hearst hired the artist to create murals for the Raleigh Room, a restaurant in the Hearst-financed Warwick Hotel. Cornwell painted scenes of Raleigh receiving his charter from Elizabeth I in 1584 and Raleigh landing at Roanoke Island (clearly a case of artistic license). The murals were not quite complete when Hearst and Cornwell quarreled, most likely over the artist’s pay. Angered, Cornwell changed his paintings to include a man urinating on Elizabeth I, another man urinating on Sir Walter Raleigh and a Native American with his bare backside facing the viewer.

After the dispute was resolved, Cornwell altered one of the objectionable images, but he kept the others as they were. His decision prompted management to keep parts of the murals covered for 40 years. In 2004 the restaurant was remodeled and re-opened under a new name. Murals on 54 gives prominent play to Cornwell’s works. The restaurant’s promotional literature mentions the dispute between Hearst and Cornwell and the recent remodeling. But it’s unclear whether the work in 2004 included giving the murals a G-rating. It’s hard to tell from the photos. Perhaps an NC Miscellany field trip to New York City is in order.

Cherokees had to fight Raleigh to wear gray

“In western North Carolina, some members of the Eastern Cherokee band expressed a willingness to serve with the Confederacy, but racism nearly kept them out of the ranks. William Thomas, an influential friend of the Cherokees, tried to get a state bill passed authorizing him to raise a Cherokee battalion. The legislature voted it down, citing fears [it] might confer citizenship on the Cherokees.

“In fact, the Cherokees were already citizens of North Carolina, though rarely treated as such, by virtue of previous treaty agreements. One of the bill’s leading opponents quipped that he would as soon be seen alongside free blacks in a voting booth as to associate with Cherokees.

“Undeterred, Thomas sought Jefferson Davis’s permission to enlist Cherokees. Davis readily agreed, giving Thomas a colonel’s commission…. From early 1862 through the war’s end, Thomas’s Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders ranged through the mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, enforcing conscription, impressing supplies and rooting out Union sympathizers.”

— From “Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War” by David Williams (2008)

In Fayetteville, no welcome mat for Colin Powell

“Their worldly possessions jammed into the back of his Volkswagen, Colin [Powell] and his pregnant wife were on their way to Fort Bragg. [In 1962] there was no on-base married housing for temporary, Vietnam-bound trainees; they planned to rent a furnished house or apartment in Fayetteville….

“After a frustrating day of house hunting, the Powells concluded that there were no middle-class rental accommodations available for blacks in Fayetteville. All Army posts were well integrated by the mid-1950s, but military desegregation meant nothing when black soldiers ventured outside the gates, particularly in the South. At dinner that night at the home of a friend… Colin’s anger rose as he related their experience with local real estate agents.

” ‘You talk to people on the phone,’ and everything’s fine, he said. ‘Then you walk in and they see you’re black, and immediately they’ve got a section of town they’re going to take you to.’ Among the several offerings had been an empty shack in the middle of an overgrown field that had been turned into a trash dump.”

— From “Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell” by Karen DeYoung (2006)

The Powells ended up spending the next six weeks in a children’s room (with bunk beds) at their friend’s Army duplex.

Godfrey loved Chesterfields, he loved them not….

“Upset at the Chesterfield people for some reason, [Arthur Godfrey] once avoided doing a commercial through the entire program. Just as he was about to sign off, he said, ‘Oh, and today we’re brought to you by Chesterfields. They’re cigarettes’….

“One day he departed from the script he was handed for a Chesterfield ad and said, ‘You know what? Don’t buy ’em by the pack. Buy ’em by the carton. It’s probably cheaper.’ Six months later Liggett & Myers had to build a new factory…. They couldn’t keep up with demand….

“When Godfrey stopped smoking in 1953, he told his longtime sponsor, ‘I can’t sell your product when I don’t believe in smoking any more. I think it’s a terrible thing.’ Millions of dollars left CBS’s balance sheet that day.”

— From “Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster” (2000) by Arthur J. Singer

I’m surprised Godfrey has held up so well on the Ngram Viewerhe was the Oprah of his time, but before the comments from Stephen and Jack in A View to Hugh, I can’t recall the last time I saw his name.