Charlotte Observer to visiting drivers: Step on it!

On this day in 1911: The Glidden Tour, a cross-country caravan promoting the automobile, approaches North Carolina from Virginia, where residents have complained about their dogs being run over. The Charlotte Observer, however, doesn’t hesitate to roll out the welcome mat:

“Roaming dogs are not held in high esteem in this community. . . . Speed up and enjoy yourselves. . . . “


Come quick, Pa — it’s a Republican candidate!

On this day in 1908: William Howard Taft becomes the first Republican presidential candidate ever to campaign in North Carolina. His train makes whistlestops in Statesville, Salisbury, Lexington, High Point and Greensboro before continuing on to Virginia.

Taft will easily defeat Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan for the presidency, but another 20 years will pass before North Carolina goes Republican, choosing Herbert Hoover over Al Smith.


You fried what?! recipes from the collection

In honor of the official opening day of the 2015 North Carolina State Fair we bring you fried foods from our cookbook collection.

Clam Fritters-From Coastal Carolina Cupboards

Clam Fritters from From coastal Carolina cupboards.

Fried Racoon, Panamanian Style-The Wild and Free Cookbook

Fried Raccoon, Panamanian Style from The wild and free cookbook.

Orange Fritters - Keepers of the Hearth

Orange Fritters 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.

Fried Eel-The Wild and Free Cookbook

Fried Eel from The wild and free cookbook.

Grove Park Inn's Fried Swiss Cheese in Beer Batter - Historic Restaurants

Grove Park Inn’s Fried Swiss Cheese in Beer Batter from North Carolina’s historic restaurants and their recipes.

Fried Kelp Chips-The Wild and Free Cookbook

Fried Kelp Chips from The wild and free cookbook.

How did Tom Wolfe get into Junior Johnson’s backyard?

And it’s not just attention seekers, like [Ken] Kesey, who throw open the doors to the man in the white suit. [In 1965 Tom] Wolfe writes a piece on the origins of this new sport called stock-car racing and its greatest legend, Junior Johnson. Junior Johnson doesn’t talk to reporters. He’s famously reticent: no one outside his close circle of family and friends has any idea who he really is. Without a word of explanation, Tom Wolfe is suddenly describing what it’s like to be in Junior’s backyard, pulling weeds with his two sisters and watching a red rooster cross the lawn, while Junior tells him everything … and the reader learns, from Junior himself, that NASCAR racing basically evolved out of the fine art, mastered by Junior, of outrunning the North Carolina federal agents with a car full of bootleg whiskey.

“Wolfe’s Esquire piece about Junior Johnson, ‘The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!’ is another sensation — and still no one writes to ask him: How did you do that? How did you get yourself invited into the home of a man who would sooner shoot a journalist than talk to him? (This fall, 50 years after Wolfe introduced the world to Junior Johnson, NASCAR Productions and Fox Sports released a documentary about the piece. That’s the effect Wolfe routinely has had: to fix people and events in readers’ minds forever)….”

— From “How Tom Wolfe Became … Tom Wolfe” by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair (November 2015)

Lewis turns up numerous eye-popping nuggets in his mining of Wolfe’s papers, which became available earlier this year at the New York Public Library.


Virginia Dare, poster child for Lost Cause

“In the hands of its literary interpreters, the Roanoke colony… became the literary property of post-Confederate nostalgia, the ‘lost colony’ linked symbolically to the ‘lost cause.’

“In an 1866 novel called ‘Roanoke; or, “Where Is Utopia?” ‘ Calvin H. Wiley, who had been superintendent of public schools in Confederate North Carolina, set the colony’s descendants in a place where ‘the wild and restless demon of Progress has not yet breathed … its scorching breath on the green foliage of nature,—filial reverence, parental tenderness, conjugal fidelity, neighbourly kindness, and patriotic integrity.’

“In 1875, an anonymous ‘M. M.’ published a story in Our Living and Our Dead, a North Carolina magazine dedicated to Confederate nostalgia and anti-Northern fomentation, in which Indian magic had turned Virginia Dare into an enchanted white doe who haunted the coastal forests for a century and witnessed the Indians’ ‘extinction, and the wide occupation of their forfeited patrimony, by that superior race, the Anglo-Saxon, with their bondsmen, the sable African, the red man’s inferior.’ M. M.’s Virginia Dare also prophesied the Civil War as a national disaster: ‘divided, brave brothers fall beneath the yoke of despotism.’ ”

— From “The Earliest American Heroine” by Duke law professor Jedediah Purdy in the New Yorker (Oct. 10)


A hot beverage perhaps? recipes from the collection

It’s hot beverage season!  Battle that morning chill with one of these recipes.

USED 10-9-15 Beverages Image - Kitchen Kapers

Image from Kitchen kapers.

USED 10-9-15 Cock-A-Hoop - The Lost Colony Cookbook

Cock-A-Hoop from The lost colony cookbook : 400 years of fine food & feasts in the Old World & the New.

USED 10-9-15 Apple Cider - A Taste of the Old and the New

Apple Cider from A Taste of the old and the new.

USED 10-9-15 Hot buttered lemonade - Classic Cookbook of Duke Hospital

Hot Buttered Lemonade from Classic cookbook.

USED 10-9-15 Yaupon Tea - Progressive Farmer

Yaupon Tea from The Progressive farmer’s southern cookbook.

USED 10-9-15 Lump Milk - Nightingales in the Kitchen

Lump Milk from Nightingales in the kitchen.

USED 10-9-15 Chocolate - Capital City

Chocolate from Capital city cook book : a collection of practical tested receipts.

USED 10-9-15 Hot Spiced Grape Juice - Cook Book

Hot Spiced Grape Juice from Cook book.

A familiar name among Lusitania survivors

On May 7, 1915 off the coast of Ireland at 2:10 in the afternoon, on the final days of its trans-Atlantic journey to Liverpool, a torpedo fired by a German submarine slammed into the side of the RMS Lusitania. A mysterious second explosion ripped the passenger ship apart. In the chaos, many jumped into the water in an attempt to save themselves and were dragged down with the ship. Within 18 minutes the giant ocean liner slipped beneath the sea. One thousand one hundred ninety-eight of the 1,962 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.

Stories about the catastrophe and tales of the survivors soon appeared in North Carolina newspapers, including The High Point Review on May 13, 1915.
High Point Review article on Lusitania sinking, May 13, 1915

One of the passengers aboard the Lusitania was a native North Carolinian with a well-known last name. Owen Hill Kenan was grandson of Owen Rand Kenan, Confederate congressman; great-grandson of Thomas Stephen Kenan, North Carolina senator and United States representative; and great-great-grandson of General James Kenan, a military leader during the American Revolutionary War and an early senator of the state of North Carolina. He was also cousin of William Rand Kenan Jr., a scientist, businessman and benefactor of the University of North Carolina. Owen and William were roommates at UNC in the 1890s.

Owen Kenan, a physician and seasoned traveler, was aboard the Lusitania on the first leg of his journey to Paris, where he planned to meet his niece, Louise Wise. The young woman was in boarding school and Kenan was due to escort her home to the U.S.

Kenan described the sinking in a letter to relatives, reprinted in the Wilmington Star on June 23, 1915. When the torpedoes struck the Lusitania, Kenan had just left his cabin and was heading to the Boat Deck. Once on deck, he wrote,

I saw third class passengers piling into life boats without order or command. As the boats which could not be or were not lowered filled up the bottoms pulled out and this mass of humanity was spilled 40 or 50 feet into the sea. I looked over the rail and saw nothing but hands and arms in the water below. The air was rent with their screams but there was nothing one could do. The boat was sinking and all this was transpiring most rapidly.

Kenan recounted that he returned to his cabin, put on his life jacket, and then headed outside to the deck.

After a few minutes I realized that the good ship was going and I went to the starboard and jumped into the sea, only to be carried down to a great depth by a terrible and strong suction. It was in this plight that I barely missed suffocation by drowning and being crushed to death by two life boats and debris deep under the surface. When the suction subsided I realized that I was caught under something. I had a feeling that my head was expanding and the thought flashed through my mind that perhaps I was losing consciousness.

I can’t tell why but I put my hands up over my head and, as if walking on the wall, pushed myself along until I felt the edge and pushed myself from under and began to come up. I kept my eyes open and when I began to see the light through the water I felt I should be saved though I was nearly done for and could feel myself swallowing great gulps of salt water. I came to the surface and gasped for breath. I looked up and I was directly under the forward smoke stack which was sticking out of the water at an acute angle and I said to myself that this would finish me. I went down again almost at once and my memory is blank.

When I opened my eyes again the entire boat had disappeared and the scene surrounding me of dead, drowning and struggling humanity mixed with a great quantity of broken debris I cannot describe. After four hours in the water I was taken aboard a torpedo boat destroyer almost frozen and much maimed.

Kenan was aboard the Lusitania with Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a member of the wealthy American family, and Ronald Denyer, Vanderbilt’s valet. Kenan reported that after the torpedo strike he saw Vanderbilt leaning against a door and calling out, “They’ve got us now.” Several accounts suggest that Vanderbilt, who could not swim, handed off his life jacket to a young mother and helped numerous women and children into lifeboats. Neither he nor Denyer survived the sinking.

The torpedo boat destroyer that picked up Kenan and other survivors left them ashore at Queenstown (now known as Cobh), Ireland. Kenan remained in the town for several weeks as he recuperated from a severe case of tonsillitis. Reports suggest that Kenan had been suffering from the ailment prior to the sinking of the Lusitania and that his time in the water exacerbated his symptoms. Eventually, Kenan headed for Paris, met his niece, and the two returned to the U.S.

As the fighting in Europe continued, Kenan headed back to France and volunteered for the French army’s ambulance corps. For his service at Verdun, he received France’s Croix de Guerre. Kenan later joined the American Expeditionary Force’s medical corps and eventually was awarded the rank of colonel. Kenan’s time in Europe included medical relief in Turkey and Russia during the Revolution. Upon returning to the U.S. in the early 1920s, Kenan devoted his time to providing medical care for Kenan family members and wealthy friends and collecting art. In 1931, he donated one of his art purchases, a wooden statue of Sir Walter Raleigh, to the UNC Library. The statue is on view in the North Carolina Collection Gallery.

During his life, Kenan maintained homes in Palm Beach, New York, Wilmington and Paris. He died at age 91 in 1963.

Owen Hill Kenan watch

Among the items to survive Kenan’s near-drowning on the Lusitania was his pocket watch. Its hands are frozen at 2:33, a short time after the initial torpedo strike. The watch is now in the collection at Liberty Hall, a Kenan family home in Duplin County.

Owen Kenan’s life and art collection was celebrated in “A Wilmingtonian Abroad, The Remarkable Life of Colonel Owen Hill Kenan,”, an exhibition mounted at the St. John’s Museum of Art (now the Cameron Art Museum) in Wilmington in 1998-1999.

Cooperation essential for Swannanoa Gap convicts

“….We as a culture are more accepting of people of all races and backgrounds, and yet we’re not connected. You see a group of four or five people together and they’re all looking at their own individual cellphones….

“[By contrast, the convicts in the late 1800s who built the Swannanoa Gap tunnel showed] respect for each other at a time when you had to cooperate. Even when they were being transported from Central Prison to Henry Station [near Old Fort], they were connected, handcuffed on each side in groups of five and leg-shackled. They’re on a boxcar, and in one corner there’s a hole in the floor for ‘necessary purposes.’ It’s night and people are trying to sleep, and then you’ve got a guy who has to go to the bathroom. He’s attached to four other guys — they all got to go to the hole, whether they need to use it or not….

“This was horrible, just absolutely horrible. Yet they persevered.”

— From “How convicts conquered the Swannanoa grade; a chat with railroad historian Steven Little” by Max Hunt at Mountain Xpress (Sept. 23)

Little, author of Tunnels, Nitro, and Convicts: Building the Railroad that Couldn’t be Built,” performs the  one-man show “Railroad Convict.”


About great-grandma, the supposed Cherokee ‘princess’

“….W why have so many Americans laid claim to a clearly fictional identity? Part of the answer is embedded in the [Cherokee] tribe’s history: its willingness to incorporate outsiders into kinship systems and its wide-ranging migrations throughout North America. But there’s another explanation, too.

“The Cherokees resisted state and federal efforts to remove them from their Southeastern homelands during the 1820s and 1830s. During that time, most whites saw them as an inconvenient nuisance, an obstacle to colonial expansion. But after their removal, the tribe came to be viewed more romantically, especially in the antebellum South, where their determination to maintain their rights of self-government against the federal government took on new meaning.

“Throughout the South in the 1840s and 1850s, large numbers of whites began claiming they were descended from a Cherokee great-grandmother. That great-grandmother was often a ‘princess,’ a not-inconsequential detail in a region obsessed with social status and suspicious of outsiders. By claiming a royal Cherokee ancestor, white Southerners were legitimating the antiquity of their native-born status as sons or daughters of the South, as well as establishing their determination to defend their rights against an aggressive federal government, as they imagined the Cherokees had done.

“These may have been self-serving historical delusions, but they have proven to be enduring….”

— From “Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood? The history of a myth” by at Slate (Oct. 1)