“I was born and reared in a major tobacco-growing and manufacturing state, Virginia, and was educated and lived for a long time in an even more important tobacco state, North Carolina. In that environment it was difficult not to be seduced at an early age into making cigarettes part of one’s way of life.
“Back in the 1940s salesmen from such nearby cigarette-producing citadels as Richmond, Durham and Winston-Salem used to swarm like grasshoppers all over the campuses of the upper South, hustling their wares. Usually dressed in seersucker suits and wearing evangelical smiles, they’d accost you between classes and press into your palm little complimentary packs of four Lucky Strikes or Chesterfields, give you a pep talk and try to sell you their brand. If you were not a smoker, which was rare at a time when cigarettes were not only in vogue but the norm, you would soon become one, made helpless by the unremitting largesse….”
— From “My Generation: Collected Nonfiction” by William Styron (2015)
The North Carolina Collection Gallery has a new exhibit — From Frock Coats to Flip-Flops: 100 Years of Fashion at Carolina — open through June 5, 2016.
While these two pieces have fifty years between them, they share the same Carolina spirit. The sweater is from the 1920s, and the overalls are from the early 1980s. Both were worn to sporting events during their time.
The exhibition focuses on the years 1900 to 1999, although the oldest pieces of clothing come from 1892. Come see what a frock coat, Earth Shoes, and flannel can teach us about the social history of the 20th century.
The Gallery is open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, 9am to 1pm on Saturdays, and 1pm to 5pm on Sundays.
For hours, directions, and parking, see the Library’s Visit Us page.
“As early as 1848 local leaders had advocated [according to Greensboro’s Whig newspaper] ‘a Monument erected to the memory of [Gen. Nathanael] Greene, and devoted to the perpetual Union of these States.’ Who could object to such a monument, ‘connected as it is with the South?’ ….
“Unlike the memorials at other Southern battlefields, that at Guilford Courthouse would ‘make us sacrifice our narrow, sectional prejudices and differences, which are worth nothing, for the preservation and continuance of… brotherly love, and national harmony…’
“Even with lifetime memberships of only one dollar, the Greene Monument Association raised only $600 and never constructed a monument before the Civil War rendered moot its attempt to preserve the union by erecting obelisks.”
.— From “Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic” by Thomas A. Chambers (2012)
“[Charlotte’s] Baptists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians counted on [Harry] Golden to provide the Jewish view on everything from Noah’s ark to Israel bonds.
“True, it was sometimes irritating to give his all to a speech in front of an appreciative church audience only to be asked afterward if he knew ‘Mr. Cohen, who lived next door in New Orleans.’ ‘It never ceases to amaze me how so many Gentiles believe that all Jews meet in some cellar once a week,’ he wrote in 1953.
“But Golden was more often amused by such incidents, which were rooted in efforts to be hospitable and correct. ‘These Southerners are deeply concerned over the possibility that of an “oversight” occurring when there are Jewish guests at their annual banquets. If pork is on the menu, they automatically serve you chicken, without comment or inquiry,’ he wrote. ‘The fact that the chicken was usually fried in butter or lard was beside the point.’ ”
— From “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights” by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett (2015)
“People had initially believed that axing American’s wilderness into fields had improved its climate, as summers apparently became cooler and winters less harsh.
“[North Carolinian] Hugh Williamson, for example — one of the delegates who had visited Bartram’s garden during the Constitutional Convention — had, in 1770, told the members of the American Philosophical Society that forests created an air ‘charged with a gross putrescent fluid,’ creating a desperately unhealthy atmosphere for mankind.”
— From “Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation“ by Andrea Wulf (2012)
Well into the 21st century, scientists and politicians are still debating tree pollution.
With the 88th Academy Awards happening this month, we’ve been dreaming of old-school starlets. Our February Artifacts of the Month are a trio of tobacco cards from the early 1900s featuring actresses from that era.
The tobacco cards came from Duke Cigarettes, a product of W. Duke, Sons & Co., founded by North Carolina tobacco magnate Washington Duke in 1881.
Tobacco cards were first included in cigarette packs in the 1870s, with the purpose of stiffening each pack to lessen the chance that it would be crushed or bent. It wasn’t long before some enterprising soul saw their potential for brand promotion and a new advertising medium was born.
By the mid-1880s, manufacturers were printing themed sets of tobacco cards, with each card in the set bearing a unique image. The idea was to encourage brand loyalty by creating consumers’ desire to complete a set — so the themes capitalized on the popularity of certain cultural interests. Baseball players, boxers, and aviators all appeared on tobacco cards. And so, of course, did beautiful young actresses.
The three cards featured here are just a few in a huge series. Lillian Russell was one of the most famous American actresses at the turn of the twentieth century. Violet Cameron was a British stage actress with a scandalous personal life. And the lovely Lilia Blow remains a mystery to this writer. Students of cinematic or dramaturgical history, please chime in in the comments!
60 years ago today: Front-page headline in the New York Times: “Negro Educator Chosen to Head Department at Brooklyn College. Howard University Professor Will be First of Race to Hold That Rank Here.”
John Hope Franklin‘s appointment marks the first time an African-American has been appointed chairman of any department at a traditionally white institution.
According to the Times, “[Franklin’s] greatest research ambition is… an explanation of the South’s inclination to belligerency and emotionalism.”
In 1982 Franklin will return to North Carolina, where he authored the classic “From Slavery to Freedom” and taught at St. Augustine’s College and North Carolina College for Negroes, to become James B. Duke professor of history at Duke University.
“Just off from the summit [of Mount Mitchell], amid the rocks, is a complete arbor, or tunnel, of rhododendrons. This cavernous place a Western writer has made
the scene of a desperate encounter between Big Tom [Wilson] and a catamount, or American panther, which had been caught in a trap and dragged it there, pursued by Wilson. It is an exceedingly graphic narrative, and is enlivened by the statement that Big Tom had the night before drunk up all the whisky of the party which had spent the night on the summit. Now Big Tom assured us that the whisky part of the story was an invention….
“But what inclined Big Tom to discredit the Western writer’s story altogether was the fact that he never in his life had had a difficulty with a catamount, and never had seen one in these mountains….”
— From “On Horseback” by Charles Dudley Warner (1885)
Despite the best efforts of generations of wildlife biologists, belief that panthers (by whatever name) roam the North Carolina mountains seems inextinguishable. Check out the impassioned responses to this column.