Artifact of the Month: North Carolina souvenir scarf

There’s so much to love, and so much to say, about our September Artifact of the Month.

North Carolina scarf

This head scarf from the mid-1950s features a brightly-colored pictorial map of North Carolina.

Elizabeth Stinson, who donated the scarf, describes acquiring it during a childhood moving around between Greenville, South Carolina and Cooleemee, Ridgecrest, Black Mountain, and Greensboro, North Carolina. She writes:

Our family, especially my father, liked to visit western NC. (Mother, coming from Charleston, preferred flatlands, though she gained the respect of my brother and me by passing a big truck on a winding mountain two-lane.) We would picnic at a concrete table set up on the roadside by a stream, investigate the water, and we always had to stop at a country store for apples and souvenirs. While at Greensboro, we traveled to Fontana Village. Sometime along the way between Cooleemee and Greensboro, I acquired the headscarf, probably earlier than later.

scarf close-up
Click on the image for a larger version.

The images on the scarf speak volumes about North Carolina’s popular attractions in the post-World-War-II era, from “fine tulips” to Bridal Veil Falls (where “your car passes under.”)

Looking at this artifact is like traveling back to a more wholesome (and admittedly imaginary) time, when giant bears roamed freely through Hickory, and a person had nothing more urgent to do than while away the hours in Rockingham, cooking over an open fire.

The scarf is all the more charming for the things it doesn’t get quite right:

Orville and Wilbur Wright, sitting cheerfully side by side on their first flight…

scarf: Wright Brothers

… and the first state university in the country, known here as “N.C.U.”

scarf: colleges and universities

But what’s most appealing about this scarf is knowing its history. Envisioning the childhood road trip to Fontana Village, and the excitement of picking up this colorful souvenir, makes this artifact come to life in a rare and rich way. Many thanks to Elizabeth Stinson for sharing both this scarf and her memories.

Tree shelled by N.C. troops became memento

“The shards of wartime trees… were fragments to own and display…  in the parlors and cabinets of veterans and battlefield tourists.

“One such war fragment is a three-foot-high tree trunk, smooth and shiny but for a single shot lodged in its surface. North Carolina artillerists fired that shot… on July 2, 1863, in an assault on Big Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.

“The tree withstood the cannon fire and lived for almost half a century longer before falling in a 1906 thunderstorm. It was then removed from Big Round Top, and the section containing the shot was cut away. Workers peeled its bark, varnished its surface and then attached a plaque explaining the tree’s provenance and the likely origin of the shot. Only then did they mount a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln on top.”

— From “Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War” by Megan Kate Nelson (2012)