Should Cooperstown find spot for Buck Duke?

“At the same time [James B.] Duke was working to have the Bonsack [cigarette-making] machine perfected, he was installing a print shop in his Durham factory that could employ color lithography….

“Cards freely distributed with each pack of Cameo, Crosscut or Duke’s Best varied from the educational (flags and stamps of foreign countries) to the exotic (actresses wearing the costumes of foreign countries). Sets of ‘actresses,’ usually not fully clothed, were especially popular…. although Washington Duke objected to such ‘lascivious’ pictures….

“According to the New York Times, tobacco dealers like Duke used premiums to ‘entice boys to excessive cigarette smoking… Many a boy under 12 is striving for the entire collection, which necessitates the consumption of nearly 12,000 cigarettes. He will become demoralized and possibly dishonest to accomplish his purpose.’

“This commodity-connected collecting was a lasting innovation that continues today with baseball cards….”

— From “The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product the Defined America” (2007) by Allan M. Brandt

A ship is launched, a ship is lost

“At 19.58 hours on 30 Jul, 1942, the unescorted Cranford was hit by one torpedo 

from U-155 about 250 miles east-southeast of Barbados, as she was proceeding on

a nonevasive course at 8.6 knots because of a lack of fuel and daylight conditions.


“The torpedo struck on the starboard side between #2 and #3 holds. Her cargo

caused the ship to sink bow first within three minutes. The complement of nine

officers, 27 men and 11 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 3in, four .50cal

and two .30cal guns) left the ship in one lifeboat and two rafts, but most men

had to jump overboard. Six officers (among them the master), three crewmen and

two armed guards died.


“U-155 surfaced, questioned the survivors and asked them if they could do anything

for them. Two injured survivors were treated on board the U-boat, and water,

supplies and directions to land were given before U-155 left. Several hours after the

sinking the survivors were picked up by the Spanish steam tanker Castillo Alemenara

and landed at Curaçao on 3 August.”


— From a U.S. Navy account ( of the torpedoing of the

S.S. Cranford, a merchant ship carrying chrome ore and cotton to the U.S.

I’m struck by the U-boat crew’s polite treatment of survivors — do

Miscellany readers know if this was typical?

Pictured: Pinback button distributed at launching of S.S. Cranford

Newspapers wrestled with Catholicism issue

“The more violent forms of hate-peddling [during the 1960 presidential campaign] have come in for attack by major Southern papers [such as] the Greensboro, N.C. News: ‘Organized efforts on the part of respectable Protestant churches to inject venomous, and in many cases false, prejudice into the presidential campaign are in themselves violative of the American tradition of separation of church and state’….  Said the Raleigh News & Observer: ‘Certainly to hold John Kennedy responsible for the Spanish Inquisition is to say the least a little ex post facto.’

“Most papers try not to cover the subject until it hits them in the face. Jonathan Daniels of the  News & Observer states the case baldly: ‘We wouldn’t dream of going out and trying to stir up more debate.’

“The section that causes most concern to Southern editors is the often-neglected letters-to-the-editor column…. The Charlotte Observer… declines to run letters ‘in which members of one faith attempt to recite what members of another faith believe…. We are not prepared, for one thing, to check the authenticity of statements attributed to Catholic authors or clerics. We want to know what our letter writers think, not what our letter writers believe someone else thinks.’ “

Don’t let candidate remain anonymous

This pinback button, now on display at the Charlotte Museum of History,  suffers what may be generously described as “condition issues.”

“In the late 1960s,” explains curator Leslie Kesler, “archaeologists excavated large areas on the grounds of the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander House in Mecklenburg County. They dug this button out of the earthen cellar floor — along with other artifacts ranging from shotgun shells to animal teeth to eighteenth-century pottery sherds. We’d love to be able to figure out who this fellow is, to satisfy our curiosity and also give us a clue about which generation of the house’s resident supported his candidacy.”

The words beneath the candidate’s photo seem to be “For Congress” — does anyone recognize him?


A sign, a door, a connection to past tragedy

“When newspapers reported in 1991 that a fire in a Hamlet, North Carolina, chicken-processing plant had killed 25 workers who were trapped by locked doors, labor historians  recalled the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City, in which 146 garment workers were killed. It was a tragedy that helped bring about modern worker-safety laws.

“We have very little [at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History]  that tells the Triangle story and didn’t want to leave the curators of the future with as little about Hamlet. And so a trip to Hamlet, along with extensive negotiations with state and federal officials, secured a factory sign, one of the infamous locked doors, and other artifacts.”

— From “What Do We Keep?” by curators Steven Lubar and Peter Liebhold in American Heritage, spring 1999

In black neighborhoods, carriers deliver more than mail

” ‘Here comes Uncle Sam!’ is what I used to hear on my mail route in west Durham. Mostly I heard this from older African Americans — along with the usual jokes about bills, junk mail and checks. Almost one-fifth of my customers received Social Security checks, and many of them relied on me to deliver their medications, including on Saturdays.

“What I didn’t fully appreciate until later was the reassurance they got from seeing their letter carrier and the connection I represented to the Postal Service and the federal government. For them, the post office was also quite likely a place where a relative had found employment — enabling a middle-class lifestyle, homeownership and college tuition for the kids.”

— From “What we’ll lose if we lose the post office” by Philip F. Rubio in the Washington Post (July 29) 

The Postal Service’s list of proposed closings includes 20 locations in North Carolina, from Raleigh and New Bern to the Appalachian Trail.

Link dump says thanks but no to coaching vacancy

— Why are Robert E. Lee‘s descendants playing keep-away with historians?

— Four towns remember their minor league pasts, while one longs for a minor league future.

— After Appomattox, a scourge of suicide, divorce and debt.

Montford Point Marines look for recognition given Tuskegee Airmen.

“Seven Wonders of Charlotte” inexplicably omits visitor-vexing intersection.