How Belk kept shoppers cool before air conditioning

“[In the late 1800s] fan systems — steam-driven, then electric — became the norm for the well-dressed department store. But they offered little in the way of cooling…. Belk Brothers of Charlotte, North Carolina, maintained a barrel filled with ice water at their store’s front entrance; five tin cups were tethered to the barrel for customer convenience.”

— From “Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything” by Salvatore Basile (2014)


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.

Artifact of the Month: Counterfeit bank note, 1856

What’s the downside to having beautiful money? Not knowing whether it’s real.

currency note

Our September Artifact of the Month is a counterfeit bank note, supposedly from the Commercial Bank of Wilmington. The bank was real, but it had nothing to do with this note.

Before the Civil War, coins were scarce and the federal government printed very little paper money. Paper money printed by banks, merchants, and local governments served as common currency. These private and local issues were typically embellished with artwork in the form of vignettes, or pictorial elements. The variety and beauty of these vignettes is the subject of the NCC Gallery’s current exhibition.

composite currency vignettes

While mid-nineteenth-century printing technology did assist in deterring some counterfeiters, the wide variety of available notes presented opportunities for fraudsters.

Our featured note, with its dramatic whaling vignette, was a genuine note from a New Jersey bank. When the bank folded, its paper money became worthless. As was typical in that era, some enterprising criminal altered the note so it bore the name of the Commercial Bank of Wilmington.

Because banks issued so many different designs, this fraudulent note could be passed off easily, with its recipient none the wiser.

Gallery event

If you’d like to know more about the art that appeared on North Carolina money, join us in the North Carolina Collection Gallery for an open meeting of the Raleigh Coin Club on Tuesday, September 16, 2014. The meeting will include a guided tour of the exhibition hosted by its curators Bob Schreiner and Linda Jacobson.

7:00 pm: Exhibit viewing and gallery tour
7:30 pm: Meeting

‘Manteo to Murphy’ yielding to ‘Murphy to Manteo’

” ‘Manteo to Murphy’ is a phrase often used in reference to the entire east-west width of North Carolina, particularly when describing a phenomenon that touches all regions of the state.

“The phrase was famously applied to the 1876 gubernatorial campaign between Zebulon B. Vance and Supreme Court Justice Thomas Settle Jr., in which Vance’s victory set off ‘rejoicing by Democrats “from Manteo to Murphy.” ‘ This followed from the fact that Vance and Settle had toured the state in a series of debates that resulted in the largest Democratic majority (over 13,000) in any election between 1868 and 1900.

“The phrase is actually a symbolic and not literal rendering of the extreme east-west width of North Carolina, since neither Manteo (Dare County) nor Murphy (Cherokee County) is situated precisely at the state’s borders.”

– From “Manteo to Murphy” by Wiley J. Williams in NCpedia

A Nexis search of newspapers dating back to 1987 turns up 179 references to “Manteo to Murphy” — but almost twice as many (335) to “Murphy to Manteo.”

What happened? How did this historic expression come to be so often reversed? Did our habit of reading text left to right carry over to the state map? Or is it, as my wife suggests, that “Man-te-o” delivers a “stronger, more musical” ending than  “Mur-phy”?


There’s an Ad for that…cookbook advertisements from the collection.

Want to make that dream kitchen a reality?  Looking for a cure to what ails you?  On the hunt for ice cream?  Look no further than your local community cookbook for the latest in modern kitchen conveniences, commodities, and local services.

USE Patronize Merchants Advertized in this Book - Fries Memorial Moravian Church

Image from Fries Memorial Moravian Church : history, customs, recipes.

USE Any Recipe is Better When Cooked Electrically - A Collection of Favorite Recipes

Carolina Power & Light Company ad from A collection of favorite recipes.

USE GE Refrigerator Ad - Capital City Cook Book

General Electric  Refrigerator ad from Capital city cook book : a collection of practical tested receipts.

USE Sold Ad - Keepers of the Hearth

Terriff’s Perfect Washer ad from Keepers of the hearth : based on records, ledgers and shared recipes of the families connected with Mill Prong House, Edinborough Road, Hoke County, North Carolina.

USE Carolina Power and Light Co. Ad - Capital City Cook Book

Carolina Power & Light Company ad from Capital city cook book : a collection of practical tested receipts.

USE Mexican Mustang Ad. - Keepers of the Hearth

Mexican Mustang Liniment ad from Keepers of the hearth : based on records, ledgers and shared recipes of the families connected with Mill Prong House, Edinborough Road, Hoke County, North Carolina.

USE Baker's Cocoa and Chocolate Ad - The Raleigh Cook Book

Walter Baker & Co. ad from The Raleigh cook book.

Ice Cream Ad Ad - The Raleigh Cook Book

W. Furman Betts ad from The Raleigh cook book.

Wolfe escaped ‘noise… tumult… too many people’

On this day in 1937: Author Thomas Wolfe writes from New York to his mother in Asheville:

“Yes, I suppose there are more modern and up-to-date places around Asheville with electric lights, new beds, etc. but I did not have time to look for them and I honestly thought that the Whitson cabin was . . . the best place that I saw. . . .

“As to your own fears of loneliness — and not liking to be alone out in the country at night — I know of no way in which you can get peace and seclusion, and not get it, at the same time. What I need desperately at the present time is to get away from the noise and tumult of New York, to get away from towns and cities and, for a few weeks at least, to get away from too many people.”


Close call! Outer Banks eyed as nuclear test site

“When the United States chose Nevada as the site for atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons four decades ago, Government officials knew the choice would mean that more people would be exposed to radiation than at an alternative site in North Carolina, a new study asserts.

“But officials chose the Nevada site because it was already under Government control and could be used sooner and because it was closer to bomb production plants….

“The study cites documents of the Atomic Energy Commission, the predecessor to the Department of Energy, from 1948 that it says show a preference for testing nuclear bombs on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where prevailing winds would carry the fallout over the ocean. But in the midst of the Cold War, the Government believed it could begin tests more quickly in Nevada, because the site was already in military hands.”

— From “Study Says U.S. Rejected Safer Nuclear Test Site” in the New York Times (May 17, 1991)

As Rob Christensen reminds N&O readers, North Carolina would suffer an even scarier nuclear moment in 1961.

Read more here:

Fried chicken recipes from the collection.

Somehow in the years we’ve been posting recipes from our cookbook collection, we have never done a dedicated fried chicken post.  Today we rectify this affront to our southern heritage!

Southern fried chicken poem - Kitchen Kapers

Poem from Kitchen Kapers.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken - Well, Shut My Mouth!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Well, shut my mouth! : the Sweet Potatoes Restaurant cookbook.

Chickens Fried With Cream-The Young Housewife's Counsellor and Friend

Chickens Fried with Cream from The young housewife’s counsellor and friend : containing directions in every department of housekeeping; including the duties of wife and mother.

Lazy Man's Fried Chicken - Best of the Best

Lazy Man’s Fried Chicken from Best of the best from North Carolina : selected recipes from North Carolina’s favorite cookbooks.

Fantastic Fried Chicken - Mountain Elegance

Fantastic Fried Chicken from Mountain elegance : a collection of favorite recipes.

Fried chicken - Hyde County Cookbook

Fried Chicken from Hyde County cook book.

Almond-Fried Chicken-Love Yourself Cookbook

Almond Fried Chicken from Love yourself cookbook : easy recipes for one or two.

Fried Chicken-Hallelujah! The Welcome Table

Fried Chicken from Hallelujah! the welcome table : a lifetime of memories with recipes.

Pamlico schoolchildren get to ride in ‘rabbit box’

On this day in 1917: Pamlico County inaugurates North Carolina’s first motorized school bus service. Previously the few state schools that ferried children used horse-drawn vehicles.

School officials have concluded that it will be cheaper to pay $1,379 for a bus to haul 26 pupils from 7 miles away than to open a second school.

Children are seated on long plank benches along each side of the bus, inspiring the nickname “rabbit box.”


Three Million Pages of Historic North Carolina Newspapers Now Available Online

We are pleased to announce that there are now more than three million pages of historic North Carolina newspapers available through the website This is currently the largest online collection of North Carolina newspapers and is a tremendous resource for students, teachers, genealogists, and historians.

The UNC-Chapel Hill University Library has been working with, a subsidiary of the popular genealogy site, on this project over the past year. The North Carolina Collection, which holds the largest collection of North Carolina newspapers on microfilm, loaned copies of the film to, where staff members quickly digitized, transcribed, and published the papers online.

The more than three million pages now online come from 970 different titles from all across the state and range in date from 1751 through the early twentieth century. Newspapers large and small are there, including long-running urban papers such as the Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News and Observer, and Asheville Citizen. These are searchable online alongside hundreds of smaller papers, many of which are represented by only a few surviving issues, such as the Rutherfordton Democrat (two issues, 1896) and the Bixby Hornet (one issue, 1908).

Access to these and other papers is available to subscribers (see their website for subscription information). Members of the UNC-Chapel Hill community and users accessing the website on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus have free access to the papers contributed by the UNC Library. Free access for these papers is also available to users at the three statewide locations of the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, Manteo, and Asheville.