Bringing home the (Kevin) Bacon to Mayberry

Now that Google has made playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” simple and instantaneous, I couldn’t resist checking out the Bacon numbers for

Andy Griffith

Don Knotts

Ron Howard

Frances Bavier

Jim Nabors

George Lindsey

Howard McNear

Aneta Corsaut



Drawbridge accident claims life of former UNC star

On this day in 1958: New York stockbroker George “Snuffy” Stirnweiss, a former football and baseball star at the University of North Carolina, dies when a commuter train plunges through an open drawbridge into Newark Bay. He is 39 years old.

Stirnweiss played second base on three New York Yankees’ world championship teams but is most remembered for winning the 1945 league batting championship by the smallest margin in history – .30854 vs. the .30846 of Chicago’s Tony Cuccinello.


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)


Check out what’s new in the North Carolina Collection.

Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.

If you had a cause, DNC vendors had a button

From vendors, a sampling of pinback buttons from the Democratic National Convention. The Occupiers didn’t achieve much success in the streets, but their designer showed considerable talent.

Speaking of unproductive protests, here’s my own.


Industrial recruitment, 1943: We speak English only

“Nie Dym… Nessuno Fumo… Nem Szabad Pibalni…Me Tzukhek… No Fumen…No Smoking…

“One language is enough in North Carolina….

“Which is simply another way of saying that workers in North Carolina are 99% native-born, loyal Americans…. willing, efficient and cooperative. The supply is ample to take care of new industry moving to North Carolina.”

— From a 1943 magazine ad placed by the Commerce and Industry Division, Department of Conservation and Development


She won the crown but couldn’t beat the pageant

“In 1961, Miss North Carolina, Maria Beale Fletcher, was named Miss America. A former A-student in high school, Maria was also the daughter of professional dancers and had been a Rockette herself. After winning the title she expressed an interest in opening up a dancing school rather than going to college. The possibility so appalled the Pageant that four Miss Americas, who had returned for the ceremonies , were sicked on Miss Fletcher to give her some of that old-time Pageant religion. Eventually, Maria gave in and subsequently used the scholarship at Vanderbilt University, where she enjoyed an outstanding academic career.

“The point is not primarily what she finally elected to do; it is in the reaction of the Pageant to the idea that anyone might wish to deviate from the academic schedule. But anyway, for proof that Maria certainly made the right decision, it cited that she found and married an outstanding young doctor at Vanderbilt. As the Pageant will explain, over and over, a formal education is a most valuable American commodity.”

— From “There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America” by Frank Deford (1971)