New in the collection: Lumberton license plate

Front license plate with the words "Lumberton, The Progressive City."

Just as local license plates once touted friendliness — Randleman, “City of Friendly People,” and Zebulon, “Town of Friendly People” — so too did they claim progressiveness.

While Lumberton basks in today’s Miscellany spotlight, we could have just as easily recognized Ayden (“Progressive Community”), Dunn (“Pattern for Progress”), Simpson (“Together for Progress”) or Ahoskie and Statesville (each a “City of Progress”).


Louis Armstrong + Martha Raye: Uh-oh

“[Louis Armstrong] did get a burst of publicity when Artists and Models was released [in 1937], featuring a blacked-up Martha Raye…. To the surprise of no one, their scene proved to be quite controversial….

“The Theatre Owners of North Carolina and South Carolina Inc. objected to what they described as ‘the appearance of Negroes in movie scenes with white persons on equal social basis….'”

— From “Heart Full of Rhythm: The Big Band Years of Louis Armstrong” by Ricky Riccardi (2020)

New in the collection: Anti-Amendment One pinback

Pinback with the words Against the Amendment.
“The North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Amendment was on the May 8, 2012, ballot as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved [61 percent to 39 percent]. It was later overturned [but remains, unenforceable, in the state constitution].

“The measure defines marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman, and bans any other type of ‘domestic legal union’ such as civil unions and domestic partnerships….”

— From Ballotpedia


‘Epidemic conquered’? Not so fast

“On Nov. 10, 1918, a headline in The Asheville Citizen‘s editorial section declared: ‘An epidemic conquered.’ Evidence, the paper wrote, suggested overall cases of influenza were declining in the city. Within another week, the paper supposed, local health authorities would begin ‘the lifting of the various safeguards which have caused much inconvenience, it is true, but which, nevertheless, saved the community from the ravages of the scourge that has swept the world’….

“With restrictions loosened, influenza spread. On Dec. 1, 1918, The Sunday Citizen revealed that 32 new cases were reported within the previous 24 hours. The article continued:

“The health department states that the increase is undoubtedly due to the numerous gatherings and meetings of various kinds  held this last week. When it was announced that churches, schools and theatres would reopen, the board states, the majority took it for granted that all epidemic danger had passed and governed themselves accordingly. Health officials said little last night but they looked grave.”

— From “How wishful thinking helped spread the 1918 influenza” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (April 21, 2020)

New in the collection: anti-Depression ink blotters

Message on Seeman Printery blotter. It reads "Things we have learned since 1929." And then lists seven things. They are "That trying to keep pace with the Joneses isn't essential to happiness." "That a man may be broke and yet be intelligent and a gentleman. That the largest fortunes can collapse very easily." "That the deflation of our conceit has been considerable." "That no one of us is so terribly important." "That we are all very dependent upon each other for our welfare" "And that these things learned make us more fit for the future and more deserving of the ultimate return of true American standards of living." The list is ascribed to Daniel Rand.

Another part of the blotter. It includes calendar for May 1932 and the message "Stop Talking Deptression: When all the world seems gone to pot and business is on the bum, a two-cent grin and a lifted chin, helps some, my boy, helps some." An additional message reads, "Try a stiff dose of self confidence and see what happens."
The Seeman Printery, whose products included the labels for Bull Durham tobacco, dispatched these promotional blotters into the teeth of the Great Depression.

Despite the Printery’s longevity the best-remembered Seeman may have been Ernest — son of the founder — who left the family business in 1923. He went on to head the Duke Press, to lose his job after doing battle with the administration and to write the Durham/Duke roman a clef American Gold.


Asheville’s ambitious aviatrix

“ ‘Girl Plans Solo Paris Hop as Shopping Trip,’ the Brooklyn Daily Eagle trumpeted, detailing [Uva Shipman] Minners’ hopes of becoming the first woman to make a trans-Atlantic solo flight. (Another rising aviation star, Amelia Earhart, would beat her to the feat a few months later, leading Minners to abandon the gambit.)”

— From “The little-known story of Asheville’s pioneering aviatrix” in Mountain Xpress (Feb. 22, 2020)

New in the collection: Silent Vigil reunion pinback

Pinback with the words, "Sixty-eight silent vigil reunion eighty-eight."

“The largest student demonstration in Duke’s history, which came down to be known as the ‘Silent Vigil,’ developed over the period from April 4 to 12, 1968. They were eight days that changed Duke forever.

“Events began with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on Thursday, April 4, which created ‘a mixture of sadness, fear, guilt and frustration’ on campus, said one contemporary account. As riots erupted across the country, student leaders, principally from campus religious groups, and a growing number of radicals, immediately began to discuss a campus response. One group called for a vigil in front of the chapel; another called for a protest march….”

— From “The Silent Vigil, 1968”  by William E. King, university archivist (1997)


‘Chanteys moved up the Chesapeake…’

“[John Frye, author of  ‘The Men All Singing : the Story of Menhaden Fishing’] suggests that the menhaden chanteys originated in North Carolina, and later inspired regional variations. He quotes Charles E. Williams, a fisherman aboard the Stephen J. McKeever in 1929: ‘The chanteys moved up the Chesapeake Bay and on north.’

“It’s treacherous, of course, to romanticize labor—particularly labor that was often backbreaking, segregated, and poorly paid. But there is, nonetheless, real beauty in the chanteymen’s heavy, rhythmic singing, in the way the crew briefly blurred together, briefly becoming a single body. In a moment where we are looking for escape and communion wherever we can find it, #shanteytok, as it has come to be called, feels like a safe and welcome portal to anywhere but here.”

— From “The Delights of Sea-Chantey TikTok” by Amanda Petrusich in the New Yorker (Jan. 14)

New in the collection: Barry Farber campaign button

Pinback button with the words,"Barry Farber for Congress. Nineteen seventy."

Though Barry Farber, graduate of Greensboro High (’48) and UNC Chapel Hill (’52), would make his reputation as a radio talker, he also ventured into politics on occasion. Most memorable in his 1970 race for House of Representatives was who defeated him: Bella Abzug.