Although television ads for the U.S. Senate race have been at saturation level since early summer, the traditional campaign season started just this month. Before long our mailboxes will be filled with postcards, letters, and flyers touting or demonizing one candidate or another. You may not love this, but we in the North Carolina Collection do. The North Carolina Collection attempts to document the heritage of the state—and that includes our politics. Would you save the political postcards, letters, and flyers that you receive and send them to the North Carolina Collection?
We’re interested in races at all levels—county sheriff to senator. We would like our collection to be representative of the whole state, both geographically and ideologically. Those of you who are registered as independents are likely to get the most mailings. People who are registered with a party affiliation will get fewer, but many of us have family members or friends who are independents or whose politics differ from ours. Would you consider asking them for the mailings that they get? Whatever you collect can be put in a box or envelope and send them to:
North Carolina Collection
P.O. Box 8890
CB 3930, Wilson Library
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27515-8890
We collected over 1,400 pieces of campaign ephemera relating to the 2008 election and somewhat more than that in 2012. Let’s do it again!
“In the eyes of some, passenger pigeon parts [beyond the feathers used for stuffing pillows and beds] held one more valuable property: medicinal.
“Dr. John Brickell, writing on the natural history of North Carolina in 1737, stated that the blood was effective in the treatment of the eyes and, when swallowed, ‘cures bloody fluxes.’
“He also had a good word for the dung, saying it could relieve most anything that ails, including headaches, pleurisy, apoplexy and lethargy. How the physician administered the dung is left obscure.”
— From “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction” by Joel Greenberg (2014)
For everything you could ever imagine wanting to know about the passenger pigeon in North Carolina, check out Greenberg’s Project Passenger Pigeon.
On this day in 1865: The Raleigh Daily Standard reports on what may be the state’s first road gang, organized under the military government immediately following the Civil War:
“The military on yesterday picked up a large number of gentlemen of color, who were loitering about the street corners, apparently much depressed by ennui and general lassitude of the nervous system, and, having armed them with spades and shovels, set them to play at street cleaning for the benefit of their own health and the health of the town generally.
“This is certainly ‘a move in the right direction’ for the indolent, lazy Sambo, who lies about in the sunshine and neglects to seek employment by which to make a living, is undoubtedly ‘the right man in the right place’ when enrolled in the spade and shovel brigade.”
Q: You’ve lived in New York over 17 years, but I understand you’re from a small town in North Carolina. Was that a difficult transition?
A: It’s impossible for people who grow up within the orbit of large cities to fully understand how alien and incredible and impossible and overwhelming a place they appear to those far outside their sway. Where I grew up, at the time a dry county in the buckle of the Bible Belt, we’d drive 40 miles to the closest small city to buy alcohol, which had a 24-hour Krispy Kreme, and I’d marvel at its neon sign, conveyor belt — I felt unsophisticated even there.
“Although culture certainly wasn’t kept from us — I knew who Thomas Wolfe was by the time I was 10, but I didn’t see a work of modern art up close until I was 20 years old — it was [Robert] Rauschenberg’s combine painting, ‘Bed,’ and nearby was one of Jasper Johns’ Flag paintings. I stood there frozen for the longest time — I couldn’t speak, tears in my eyes.”
— From “Evan Smith Rakoff: The TNB Self-Interview” (March 14, 2013)
Rakoff, reared in Asheboro and educated at UNC Greensboro, is a freelance writer and associate web editor at Poets & Writers.
Among his essays: a comparison of Andy Griffith to Robert Burns.
“First, half a grapefruit. Cereal — Cream of Wheat. One poached egg on whole wheat toast. No bacon. And coffee, no cream, no sugar.”
— Retired headwaiter Chauncey Mann, having no trouble recalling in 1980 the breakfast ordered by Eleanor Roosevelt at the Hotel Charlotte in 1940.
The First Lady was staying overnight after a controversial speaking engagement at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C.
In honor of Talk Like a Pirate day, we bring you the The Sturdy Beggar Fantastic Ship’s Bar. This postcard ca. 1940-1969 from the Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards reads:
“Sturdy Beggar Fantastic Ship’s Bar Located in the Charcoal Hearth Restaurant at the Holiday Inn is the South’s most beautiful Lounge. Visit the Pirate’s Cove at the junction of Highways 17 & 70 in historic New Bern, N.C.”
The Sturdy Beggar was a sloop of war ship active during the American Revolutionary War. In a September 17, 1777 letter to then Gov. Richard Caswell, Joseph Leech, a prominent figure in New Bern and a colonel in the Craven County minutemen, credited the mere presence of the Sturdy Beggar and another ship, the Pennsylvania Farmer, with momentarily saving the day from two British ships sailing near New Bern. These British ships had been sailing around the North Carolina sounds capturing various vessels. Thanks to the Sturdy Beggar being unexpectedly delayed in New Bern for maintenance reasons and the Pennsylvania Farmer arriving to port, John Leech surmised that the two British ships thought twice before coming up river where two armed ships were currently housed.
In searching through Newspapers.com for early uses the word “bunkum,” one of our state’s greatest (perhaps the greatest?) contributions to the English language, I found an interesting article from the Philadelphia World reprinted in the Asheboro Southern Citizen of July 26, 1839.
Regular readers of our “This Month in North Carolina History” series remember that “bunkum” grew out of a 1820 speech by Felix Walker in the U.S. House of Representatives when he said he was “speaking for Buncombe.” While initially ascribed to overblown and empty political speech, we now know it to refer to any sort of nonsensical claim.
But in the 1839 article, bunkum is used as a superlative:
Many of our readers have doubtless heard of this used as a superlative, without knowing its origin. Thus a buncum horse or buncum fellow, which means a horse or fellow of superior quality is frequently used in some parts of the country, and occasionally heard in all. It is a corruption of Buncombe, the name of the largest and most westerly county of North Carolina. As this county is larger than any three or four others in the State, the North Carolinians have long used it as a standard of comparison; and therefore when they wish to designate any thing as particularly large, or excelling, they say it as as large as, or equal to Buncombe, which they pronounce Bunkum.
Unfortunately for our friends in Asheville, who no doubt would have preferred to have this more positive use of their county name widely adopted, I don’t think anyone today would want to be called a “bunkum fellow.”
“On 1902, a shoeless boy from the Great Smoky Mountains stood before the dean at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine…..His name was John Romulus Brinkley, he was 17 years old, and he wanted to be a doctor. The dean surveyed the boy and cruelly laughed. He said the boy had better run on home to North Carolina [Jackson County], because doctors weren’t made from people like Brinkley….”
— From “The Strange, True Tale of the Old-Timey Goat Testicle-Implanting Governor” by Penny Lane in the Daily Beast (Sept. 16)
Doctors, no — giants of quackery, yes.
You can help director Lane complete her “seductive and entertaining as hell” biopic on Dr. Brinkley — pithily titled “NUTS!” — by pledging at Kickstarter.