White elite feared rule by ‘dregs of society’

“[In the early days of Reconstruction] North Carolina Conservatives harped upon the specter of integration in the new public schools, where white children would ‘take in all the base and lowly instincts of the African.’

“Racial appeals, however, often went hand in hand with revulsion at the prospect of governments controlled by what North Carolina Governor [Jonathan] Worth called ‘the dregs of society.’ Universal suffrage — government by ‘mere numbers,‘ Worth wrote, ‘I regard as undermining civilization.’ Civilization he defined as ‘the possession and protection of property.’ It was clear that such remarks did not apply to blacks alone….

“If North Carolina’s constitution needed revision, Worth and other Democratic leaders preferred a return to the frame of government of 1776, which contained substantial property requirements for voting.”

– From “Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (2002)


Naming Winston-Salem: A revisionist history

“Winston-Salem was a small city compared to Philadelphia…. We found out that Winston-Salem was where R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was located, which was why we saw all those endless huge fields of tobacco when we were coming down on the train….

“The city itself — and our college, too — was named after Winston and Salem cigarettes, I believe….”

— From “Earl the Pearl: My Story” by Earl Monroe (2013)

Monroe became a sensation on the Winston-Salem State basketball team, averaging 41 points per game his senior year, and later was named to four NBA All-Star teams. 


Medal worthy recipes from the collection.

The Olympics may be over but we have plenty of medal contending recipes.

USE 1955 Cherry Champion Pie - Dixie Classic Fair

1955 Cherry Champion Pie from Dixie Classic Fair for Northwest North Carolina : favorite recipes from friends of the Fair.

USE Sure Winner Sausage and Egg Casserole - Hornets Homecooking

Sure Winner Sausage and Egg Casserole from Hornets homecooking : favorite family recipes from the Charlotte Hornets players, coaches, staff and special fans.

USE Silver cake - Tea Kettle Talk

Silver Cake from Tea-kettle talk recipes.

USE Kathy Camp's Blue Ribbon Fig Preserves - Red's Cook Book

Kathy Camp’s Blue Ribbon Fig Preserves from Red’s cook book : (road kill not included).

USE Prize-Winning Pound Cake - Supper's at Six

Prize-Winning Pound Cake from Supper’s at six and we’re not waiting!

USE gold cake - Gourmet...Eating

Gold Cake from Recipes for gourmet eating : a compilation of favorite tested recipes of housewives of Greenville and out of town friends.

USE Ohio State 1st Prize Winning Chocolate Cake-Home Cookin'

1978 Ohio State Fair 1st Prize Winner Chocolate Cake from Home cookin’.

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.

La Vallee Female Seminary

From the front page of the North Carolina Standard, January 7, 1836
From the front page of the North Carolina Standard, January 7, 1836


Tippoo S. Brownlow, owner of the La Vallee Female Seminary, placed this advertisement recruiting students to his new school in an 1836 issue of the North Carolina Standard.  The school was in operation from 1833-1850, and was located between Halifax and Warrenton, North Carolina.  The La Vallee Female Seminary was run out of a small building behind what is now known as the Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House.  The school building had two floors in which there would have been space for classes to be conducted and for students to eat meals and socialize, and an attic area which was likely the living quarters for the students.  La Vallee Female Seminary was forced to close in 1850, when Brownlow could no longer support the school financially.


The Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House, as pictured in The Historic Architecture of Halifax County, North Carolina
The Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House, as pictured in The Historic Architecture of Halifax County, North Carolina


The La Vallee Female Seminary was benefited by an experienced staff.  Brownlow had also run a school called the La Vallee Academy elsewhere in Halifax County in the late 1820s, before moving his school to the grounds of the Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House.  In addition, the advertisement includes testimonies to the ability of La Vallee’s principal.  Mrs. Emma McElvey had previously taught at a female seminary in Schenectady, New York, and her success in that position is attested to by no less than the mayor and the First Judge of Schenectady, the City physician, and several ministers.

It is interesting to note the course offerings at La Vallee Female Seminary.  The courses one would expect to see offered at a ladies’ finishing school might include subjects like music and painting.  However, La Vallee offered its young ladies courses in chemistry, astronomy, history, geography, and algebra.  The course listings for music and art lessons appear at the end of the advertisement, as these courses incurred extra fees.

This advertisement comes from the oldest issue of a North Carolina newspaper that has become available on Chronicling America thus far.  View the full advertisement here.

Clemens said he took name of N.C. native (he didn’t)

” ‘Mark Twain’ was the nom de plume of one Captain Isaiah Sellers, [an Iredell County native] who used to write river news over it for the New Orleans Picayune: he died in 1863 and as he could no longer need that signature, I laid violent hands upon it without asking permission of the proprietor’s remains. That is the history of the nom de plume I bear.”

— From a letter by Samuel L. Clemens to a California newspaper in 1877, supposedly revealing the origin of his pen name 

In reality, according to this article in the Los Angeles Review of Books (Sept. 26), the Sellers claim was just another of Clemens’  prankish deceptions: “No record of the name ‘Mark Twain’ exists in Times Picayune archives, nor those of any newspaper in the region. Isaiah Sellers always signed his river reports ‘I. Sellers.’ And the captain died one year after Clemens adopted that pen name, not before.”


Is that a wedding bell in Charles Baskerville’s Circus Backlot?

North Carolina Miscellany‘s Charlotte bureau, a.k.a. a certain Mr. Powell, recently came across a post on the Circus Historical Society’s message board seeking information about circuses operating in North Carolina in 1942. The individual who posted the message is trying to determine the circus featured in the Charles Baskeville painting titled Circus Backlot and pictured above. The words June 1942 are written on the rear of the canvas. The post also suggests that North Carolina is included in the title.

A little digging in the vast stacks of the North Carolina Collection and lots of searching on the Web may have yielded an answer. But we’re hoping that readers of North Carolina Miscellany can confirm our theory. And, if nothing else, we’re happy to share with you the story of a once renowned artist with North Carolina roots.

Charles Baskerville Jr. rose to prominence in the 1930s as a portraitist and muralist for the rich and powerful. Those who sat for his portraits included Jawaharlal Nehru, the King of Nepal, Bernard Baruch, William S. Paley, Helen Hayes, the Duchess of Windsor and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. His murals decorated the main lounge and ballroom of the ocean liner S.S. America, the bathrooms of New York’s “21,” the Wall Street Club and the homes of such wealthy and famous individuals as boxer Gene Tunney and New York Mets founder Joan Whitney Payson.

Through his work Baskerville, who was born in Raleigh in 1896 and the son of a UNC chemistry professor, became a darling of the wealthy and hobnobbed with high society. His friends included New York socialite Brooke Astor and John Ringling North, who inherited Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus from his uncles in the 1930s. Baskerville’s friendship with North brought him entree into the world of circus performers and backlots. And he began to travel with the circus, creating backdrops for acts, sketching performers and producing paintings of the animals. During the 1950s, Baskerville produced several covers for Ringling Brothers programs. The 1952 cover features a shapely tiger handler and her charge. And, as Ernest J. Albrecht notes in A Ringling by Any Other Name: The Story of John Ringling North and His Circus a Baskerville painting hung for many years in Jomar, North’s private railway car on the circus train.

So, could it be the Ringling Bros. circus in the Baskerville painting above?

The Ringling Bros. Route Book for 1942 suggests that the circus visited 26 states. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t provide of list of them. The route book does record the cities and towns where Ringling Bros. had stands of two days or longer and no place in North Carolina is included. But it’s also possible that North Carolina was the site of a one-day stand. There were 68 of those in 1942.

The route book also lists the acts or displays that the circus included in 1942. Display 14 reads, “Bridal Bells Ring Out in Clownland. A Mighty and Merry Travesty in Which Pomp and Panoply Have Their Roles-and Rolls.” Then it notes, “The Wedding of Gargantua and Toto.” Is that a wedding bell in the middle of the painting?

As for the wedding….Gargantua and Toto were gorillas. Following the hype that resulted from the release of the film King Kong in 1933, North bought a gorilla for the circus in 1937. Although originally named Buddy, the gorilla was renamed Gargantua by Ringling Bros.’ press department in an effort to make him fit his billing as “the world’s most terrifying living creature.” Indeed, the gorilla could be menacing. His upper lip was curled in a permanent sneer, the result of scarring that occurred when a drunken sailor threw acid at him when he was being transported from Africa as a young animal. Gargantua also occasionally displayed aggressive behavior. He is said to have bitten several who ventured too close, including North in February 1939. Nevertheless, North turned to the animal to give the floundering circus a boost in attendance.

In 1940, hoping to keep alive excitement about Gargantua, North bought Toto, a female gorilla, to serve as the male’s mate. Although the two animals never produced offspring (in fact, they may not have had as much as a one-night stand) the circus billed them as Mr. and Mrs. Gargantua the Great and displayed them in back to back, identical cages inside a specially-designed tent.

The wedding between Gargantua and Toto billed as part of the 1942 Ringling Bros. show didn’t actually include the gorillas. Instead, the clowns staged their own comic interpretation of how such an event might have appeared. Incidentally, the 1942 show also featured the “Ballet of the Elephants,” a dance performed by 50 tutu-clad elephants and 50 ballerinas. The ballet was choreographed by George Balanchine and featured his wife, Vera Zorina, as the principal ballerina. Igor Stravinsky composed the score, which he titled “Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant.” Could the elephants in Baskerville’s painting be waiting for their tutus?

Wanna know more about Baskerville? Read on…..

Baskerville was born in Raleigh and, through his mother, a descendant of William Boylan, an early settler of town and one of the publishers of the North-Carolina Minerva. Baskerville’s father, also Charles, had a distinguished undergraduate career at UNC before joining the faculty there. The senior Baskerville was a star fullback for the football team and the first editor of the Tar Heel, as the student newspaper was known then. As a chemistry professor, in 1903 he garnered attention with announcement of his discovery of two previously unknown chemical elements, which he named carolinium and berzelium. Those claims, refuted by later research, proved sufficient enough to attract the attention of administrators of the City College of New York, who invited him to start a chemistry department there.

With the senior Baskerville’s acceptance of that job, the family moved to New York City. Eventually Charles Jr. headed off to Cornell to study architecture. But, with the publication of several of his drawings in the college humor magazine, Baskerville turned his career plans toward art.

The budding artist had yet to complete his studies at Cornell when the U.S. entered World War I. Baskerville joined the Army as a first lieutenant and headed off to France, where, during summer 1918 he was injured by shrapnel and then a short time later gassed. He spent the remaining seven months of his service recuperating in a French hospital and overseeing German prisoners of war. Baskerville also used that time to create a portfolio of battlefield sketches, which Scribner’s Magazine published in July 1919, some five months after he returned from France.

Back at Cornell Baskerville continued his art studies, entering a work in a contest sponsored by the nationally-circulated, satirical magazine Judge. His entry won first place and was featured on the cover of Judge. That work, in turn, led to other jobs as cover illustrator for such magazines as Life, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Upon graduation from Cornell, Baskerville returned to New York City, where he took classes at the Art Student’s League and roamed Broadway speakeasies dressed in top hat and tails. One of those who joined Baskerville in his explorations of the city’s night life was Harold Ross, whom the artist had met during his service in France. When Ross founded The New Yorker in 1925 he tapped his fellow roamer, Baskerville, to write about the nightclub circuit. Baskerville’s short-lived column,”When Nights are Bold,” made its first appearance in the April 11, 1925 issue of The New Yorker under the pen name “Top Hat.” The columns were accompanied by pen and ink drawings of dancers and performers signed by Baskerville. The column ended with the July 11, 1925 issue, when Baskerville sailed for an extended sojourn in Paris.

Eventually Baskerville’s travels took him to such far-flung destinations as India, Morocco, Russia, Japan, China and Bali. In each locale he recorded the sights with paint, pen and ink, always returning to his home base of New York with detailed sketches and sometimes finished works. During the 1930s Baskerville’s star rose in New York social circles and among industry titans. He was the favored portraitist and muralist for the Astors and the Vanderbilts. In fact, Baskerville, a lifelong bachelor, would develop a long friendship and serve as occasional social escort for Brooke Astor.

Baskerville’s works were exhibited throughout the United States. According to Jim Vickers, who penned a remembrance of the artist for the December 18, 1997 Spectator weekly, Baskerville was the first living American to have a one-man show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Other museums in Washington, as well as those in Palm Beach, San Francisco and Springfield, Massachusetts also featured the artist’s works. Baskerville even received recognition in his home state. In 1967 his paintings highlighted the dedication of a gallery at the Greenville Museum of Art.

Vickers wrote that Baskerville produced art “first to please himself, secondly to please his clients, and thirdly to earn a lucrative income.”

As noted in his 1994 New York Times obituary, Baskerville sold paintings until the end of his life and on the day he died he had signed his name to one of his works. John Russell, a former art critic for the Times , told the paper that Baskerville “did not flatter his sitters, but he sent them home from the studio in high good spirits.” And the artist, himself, once said that “people want to be painted the way they actually look. This business about having to flatter them is nonsense.”

Tar Heels take on the Blue Devils – recipes for the big game.

We’ve patiently waited for a week and the weather is finally cooperating.  Make sure to stay fueled while you cheer on the Tar Heels!

Tarheel Crocks - Best of the Best

Tarheel Crocks from Best of the best from North Carolina : selected recipes from North Carolina’s favorite cookbooks.

Tar Heel Okra and Tomato Gumbo - The Carolina Collection

Tar Heel Okra and Tomato Gumbo from The Carolina collection.

Tar Heel Pie-Welkom

Tar Heel Pie from Welkom : Terra Ceia cookbook III, a collection of recipes.

Dean Smith's Spiced Ground Meat-Tarheels Cooking for Ronald's Kids

Spiced Ground Meat from Tarheels cooking for Ronald’s kids.

Woody Durham's Bourbon Pecan Pie-Tarheels Cooking for Ronald's Kids

Bourbon Pecan Pie from Tarheels cooking for Ronald’s kids.

Bob McAdoo's Zesto Pesto Sauce from Italy-Tarheels Cooking for Ronald's Kids

A “Zesto” Pesto Sauce from Italy from Tarheels cooking for Ronald’s kids.

Devil Dip-The Panty Shelf

Devil Dip from The Pantry shelf : 1907-1982.

Devil Dunk - The Clockwatcher's Cookbook

Devil Dunk from The clock watcher’s cook book.

Artifact of the Month: “The Elvis Note”

Everyone knows that Elvis Presley had an immense influence on popular music and culture from the mid-twentieth century to the present. But who knew that he had a presence in the first part of the nineteenth century?

Evidence of his early life is found in an image on an 1837 bank note from Philadelphia’s Manual Labor Bank.

bank note
Click on the image for a larger version

Private paper money was ubiquitous before the Civil War. The federal government hadn’t yet issued currency, and coins were often in short supply. Notes issued by banks, merchants, and others emerged in a great proliferation. Issuance of private paper money was not illegal, but nevertheless, some notes were much easier to receive in transactions than to spend later. The Manual Labor Bank was one of the many enterprises of Thomas W. Dyott, a purveyor of patent medicines. He needed bottles for his concoctions (which included “Infallible Worm Destroying Lozenges” and “Vegetable Nervous Cordial”), and he acquired and expanded a glass factory near Philadelphia.

bank note vignette
Click on the image for a larger version

The central image (or vignette) on the one-dollar note shows workers in a glass factory, perhaps modeled after Dyott’s own enterprise. Right in the middle is Elvis with his white jump suit and sideburns, rolling out molten glass on the end of a blow pipe. It remains for future investigators to learn how Elvis progressed from glass blower to cultural icon.

Beginning of the unending: The MacDonald case

On this day in 1970: The pregnant wife and two young daughters of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald are murdered at their Fort Bragg apartment. MacDonald blames drug-crazed hippie intruders who chant, “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs,” but prosecutors will contend it was he who clubbed and stabbed his wife and 5-year-old in a fit of rage, then killed his 2-year-old to cover up his crime.

In 1979 a federal court in Raleigh convicts MacDonald on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder. The case inspires a TV mini-series, “Fatal Vision,” and numerous books debating his guilt.
MacDonald remains in federal prison but continues to appeal his conviction.