Legislators like gold and fast cars

Charlotte Motor Speedway postcard

With the battle over the state budget now behind them, legislators in Raleigh moved on to pondering other weighty matters-like selecting the official state sport and state mineral. In a nod to Junior Johnson, Richard Petty and the Charlotte Motor Speedway (pictured in the postcard above), lawmakers voted to make stock car racing the state sport. Apparently some fans of another sport, the one that claims the attention of many from November to early April, raised some objections. But, alas, they gave up their cause when it was noted that basketball’s birth occurred in western Massachusetts.

Proponents of gold (and who isn’t?) weren’t so eloquent in their argument for making the precious metal the state’s official mineral. But, perhaps, few need convincing that gold holds a special place in Tar Heel history. Conrad Reed’s discovery of gold on his family’s Cabarrus County farm in 1799 set in motion the nation’s first gold rush. Other discoveries followed nearby (the inset below, from an 1850s map of the state, shows the “gold region”) . During the peak years of gold production in North Carolina, between the late 1820s and 1830s, the state’s mining industry employed over 30,000 people and ranked second only agriculture in its importance to the economy.

We’re thinking these two pieces of legislation are veto-proof. Do you think otherwise?

Detail from 1850s map of North Carolina

Artifact of the Month: Made exclusively for the Carolina Inn

This entry is the first in a monthly series highlighting the artifacts held by the North Carolina Collection Gallery. The Artifact of the Month for June is a place setting of the Carolina Inn’s pine-motif china. The Gallery possesses a dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, soup cup, and tea cup and saucer. The salad plate is shown above.

With its official opening on December 30, 1924, the Carolina Inn was meant “to provide for the special wants and comforts of the University alumni, friends of the University and their families, friends of students of the University and University visitors.” In his history of the Carolina Inn, Kenneth Zogry notes that “within ten years of its opening, the Carolina Inn transformed public accommodations in Chapel Hill and became a fixture in both University and town life.” Also, a September 1946 article in the Raleigh News & Observer claimed that the Inn “has become a Chapel Hill institution in the two short decades it has been serving the public.”

A private dining room had been added to the Inn in 1930, and the nationally-known interior decorator Otto Zenke remodeled the room in the late 1940s and called it the Pine Room. Zenke also commissioned custom-made china from the Shenango China Company of New Castle, Pennsylvania for the newly decorated room. Shenango China had been used for the state dining services for Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson, and in 1951, the company created two services for the Carolina Inn. One of these features a pine motif of a pine branch with cones and needles illuminated by the Carolina moon, which fit especially well in the Pine Room. UNC alumna Alma Holland Beers, the first woman hired by the Botany Department as a research assistant, provided the design work. The china service was used by the Carolina Inn for over thirty years. In 1979, the Pine Room was converted into a cocktail lounge, renovated again in 1995, and renamed the Piedmont Room. The Shenango China Company closed in 1991.