Artifact of the Month: Pressed flowers art

Ella Williams Graves Thompson created the December Artifact of the Month: a framed design of pressed flowers. According to a note accompanying the piece, Thompson gathered and pressed the flowers in 1882 during the first year of her marriage to George Nicholas Thompson of Caswell County. While pregnant with the couple’s first child in 1884, Thompson organized the flowers into the current 21×19 inch design. The note says that in Thompson’s artwork is “woven all her hopes and prayers for her firstborn.” Azariah Graves Thompson kept his mother’s gift to him, and his daughter then inherited it in 1977. The message of love was passed onto the donor, Ella’s great-granddaughter, in 2008.

The Gallery received the pressed flowers art from the Southern Historical Collection, which holds two different collections about the Thompson family. One collection contains a diary that George Nicholas Thompson kept while a UNC student in 1851. Thompson earned his degree from the University in 1853 and worked as a lawyer. He served as superintendent of Caswell County schools and from 1885-1887 represented the county in the state legislature. From 1889-1891, he was a member of the UNC Board of Trustees. The other collection concerns some of George and Ella Thompson’s children, particularly Ella Graves Thompson, who attended and taught at Meredith College in Raleigh and also taught at East Carolina Teachers College in Greenville.

The Thompsons represent yet another family that has contributed to the interesting story of the Old North State and to the collections in Wilson Library. You can read more about the Thompsons in The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina.

Chapel Hill nightclub takes turn in literary spotlight

“It was maybe an hour before midnight at the Avalon Nightclub in Chapel Hill, and the Miz [a player on the MTV reality show “The Real World”] was feeling nervous. I didn’t pick up on this at the time — I mean, I couldn’t tell. To me he looked like he’s always looked, like he’s looked since his debut season, back when I first fell in love with his antics: all bright-eyed and symmetrical-faced, fed on genetically modified corn, with the swollen, hairless torso of the aspiring professional wrestler he happened to be and a smile you could spot as Midwestern American in a blimp shot of a soccer stadium.”

— From “Pulphead” (2011), a collection of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan reviewed in The New Yorker (December 19)