‘I am made of iron… and Uncle Sam needs me’

“A captured German cannon was gifted to the city [of Asheville] by returning soldiers at the end of World War I. At first, residents couldn’t agree on where to display the weapon. For a time it was unceremoniously stashed in the rear of the former courthouse yard before veterans won approval to move it to Pack Square in front of the Vance Monument.

“The cannon remained there for nearly three decades before mysteriously vanishing — not once, but twice. The final disappearance was reported in the Asheville Times on Oct. 29, 1942. No one, the paper noted, claimed responsibility. But a note (supposedly written by the cannon) was found at the Pack Square site. ‘There is another World War on, fellow citizens,’ the cannon proclaimed, ‘and this time I am on your side. I am made of iron and steel and Uncle Sam needs me.’ ”

— From “Local historians uncover Asheville’s hidden past” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (July 24, 2019)

The cannon story, attributed to retired head librarian Laura Gaskin, is among those compiled by Zoe Rhine in “Hidden History of Asheville.”


New in the collection: New River, Clinton share pinback

Pinback with words "President Clinton Designates the New River, Ashe County, NC, July 30, 1998"“Officials said it was the first time a president had come to [the West Jefferson] area, best known for Christmas trees, crafts and musicians like Doc Watson, who lives in nearby Deep Gap.

“Many of the people attending the event had fought a generation ago to stop a hydroelectric dam project that would have flooded 40,000 acres in northwest North Carolina. In the early 1960s, Appalachian Power Co. of Roanoke, Va., proposed damming the New River’s South Fork, flooding more than 40,000 acres. President Ford settled the dispute in 1976 when he named a 26-mile stretch of the South Fork a National Scenic River….”
— Associated Press

President Clinton, taking a break from the Monica Lewinsky tumult, went on at some length in designating the New as one of the first 14 American Heritage Rivers.

And of course Hugh Morton was there.

‘Destroyed by the white citizens of Wilmington….’

The attention rightly heaped upon David Zucchino’s “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup Of 1898 And The Rise Of White Supremacy” reminded me of this Miscellany post from seven years ago. (Sorry the eBay image of the printing-press fragment being auctioned hasn’t survived.)

I’ve seen a lot of remarkable North Caroliniana on eBay but nothing as breathtaking as this supposed artifact, inscribed “destroyed by the white citizens of Wilmington,” offered by a dealer in Oreland, Pa.

Here’s a reaction from historian Tim Tyson, who has written extensively about the black-owned Daily Record’s role in the nation’s only coup d’etat: “If it is the real thing, I sure would like to have it myself… I don’t know what it might be ‘worth,’ but I think it belongs well south of Pennsylvania!”

Anyone care to speculate on the initials, which seem to be “J.H.T.J.”?


New in the collection: Tobacco auction poster

Sales card for Smithfield Tobacco Market

By 1973 the Surgeon General’s report had sent North Carolina’s tobacco industry into steady decline, but you couldn’t tell it from this enthusiastic schedule poster for “the market that sells itself.”

WMPM’s call letters once stood for World’s Most Progressive Market.

New in the collection: J. P. Stevens ‘brown lung’ pinback

Pinback with image of Louis Harrell and words "Help Textile Workers Win Justice. Boycott J.P. Stevens."

Louis Harrell was a J.P. Stevens millhand in Roanoke Rapids. In 1978, not long after this photo was taken, he died of byssinosis, a condition caused by cotton dust and commonly known as brown lung.

A similar photo of Harrell appeared on an OSHA brochure issued during the Carter administration but recalled under Reagan as biased toward labor.

Also in the collection: two other anti-Stevens pinbacks.

New in the collection: Winston-Salem newsboy apron

Apron with words "Complete News Coverage, Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel"
This apron was likely intended for use on a Winston-Salem street corner, but it’s way too clean to have seen much action.

Frank Tursi, author of “Winston-Salem: A History,” doesn’t recall seeing one during his 23 years at the Journal but suggests they might also have been worn in the composing room.