Early photos of Chapel Hill and UNC

Old Well in Battle Album
The Old Well as it appears in the Battle photo album
Image of gym from the Battle album. Phillips Hall currently sits at the site.
Image of gym from the Battle photo album. Phillips Hall currently sits at the site.

There is only one known existing image of the iconic Old Well that dates back past the pillars and marble to when a wooden structure was simply known as ‘the well.’

Taken for former University of North Carolina President Kemp Plummer Battle, and wedged between the pages of a 120-year-old photo album, the faded photo is among a collection of images showcasing 19th century life in Chapel Hill.

‘This is the most comprehensive set of images from a set period of time,’ said Stephen Fletcher, photo archivist for the North Carolina Collection.’This would be the earliest set of town scenes.’

Photograph archivists at the Wilson Library’s North Carolina Collection recently reorganized and relaunched the photo album online to give viewers a full experience of the 19th century artifact. All 74 images of the book have been scanned and formatted into a virtual album, which allows researchers the ability to flip through the book like intended when it was created in 1894.

‘We made a conscious effort to be able to show the album as an album,’ Fletcher said. ‘We didn’t just photograph the individual images. We wanted people to see what the album looks like and be able to recreate the experience of turning the pages and seeing the images.’

“Century-old photo album shows Chapel Hill’s history”
by Brandon Bieltz for “Spotlight” section of UNC-Chapel Hill website. Library staff have experimented with restoring details and color to some of the images in the Battle album. One example is below:

Restored image of Old Well. Image is from the Battle photo album.
Restored image of Old Well. Image is from the Battle photo album.

A pickle low party in Pittsboro

Photo by Dorothea Lange. "Sign tacked to pole near the post office. Main street, Pittsboro, North Carolina," Dorothea Lange, 1939
“Sign tacked to pole near the post office. Main street, Pittsboro, North Carolina,” Dorothea Lange, 1939

Here’s something for you to contemplate over the weekend.

In her trek through North Carolina in 1939, famed documentary photographer Dorothea Lange captured the photo above in Pittsboro. Lange offered no details other than those that appear in the above caption. So it’s hard to know why she decided to turn her camera toward the sign. But I’d hazard a guess that it’s the term pickle low party. Is pickle low merely a misspelling of piccolo? Or does pickle low have something to do with pickles? We’re vexed. And in a quick search around the web, it seems that others who’ve seen this photo are also confused by the term. Can anybody offer some clarification?

Chapel Hill: a place of magic for Thomas Wolfe and his fans

Now about the editor’s note and the ‘small southern college’—if you see anyone who has also read the note, for God’s sake make plain what I think you understand already—that I had nothing to do with it and didn’t see it until it was published. I do not deny that I may be capable of several small offenses—such as murder, arson, highway robbery, and so on—but I do deny that I have that sort of snob-ism in me. Whoever wrote the note probably put in ‘small southern college’ because he did not remember where I did go, or because, for certain reasons connected with the book, he thought it advisable not to be too explicit.

And after all, Ben, back in the days when you and I were beardless striplings—’forty or fifty years ago,’ as Eddie Greenlaw used to say—the Hill was (praise God!) ‘a small southern college.’ I think we had almost 1000 students our Freshman year, and were beginning to groan about our size. So far from forgetting the blessed place, I think my picture of it grows clearer every year: it was as close to magic as I’ve ever been, and now I’m afraid to go back and see how it is changed. I haven’t been back since our class graduated. Great God! how time has flown, but I am going back within a year (if they’ll let me).

–Thomas Wolfe in a letter to UNC classmate Benjamin Cone, July 29, 1929. Look Homeward, Angel, which features the college town Pulpit Hill, was published in October of the same year.

Chapel Hill will serve as the gathering place for Wolfe scholars and fans on May 23-24 as they assemble for the annual meeting of the Thomas Wolfe Society. This year’s conference, themed “Wolfe in His Time, Wolfe in Our Time,” will include a reading by Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina’s poet laureate, in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in the Wilson Special Collections Library at 7:30 pm on May 23. Bathanti’s appearance is free and open to the general public. Other conference programs require advance registration and include talks by Wolfe scholars and enthusiasts. For more information, call 919-962-1172.

Ratification of the 16th Amendment in N.C.

Clip from French Broad Hustler, February 16, 111
French Broad Hustler, Feb. 16, 1911

Lest you need a reminder, it’s tax day. And this year marks the 101st anniversary of ratification of the Constitutional amendment giving the federal government the power to tax your income. With Delaware’s ratification on February 3, 1913, the 16th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution.

North Carolina was the 20th state to ratify the Constitutional change. And the amendment’s passage through the North Carolina legislature in early 1911 was mostly uneventful.

Clip from Wilmington Morning Star, Jan. 25, 1911
Wilmington Morning Star, Jan. 25, 1911

Senator Barnes introduced a resolution supporting ratification of the amendment in the state Senate on January 6, 1911. The resolution emerged from committee unchanged on January 17 and came before the full Senate for a vote on January 24. After passing 42-1 in the Senate, the bill was sent to the state House for consideration.

Clip from Wilmington Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1911
Wilmington Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1911

Although the Wilmington Dispatch reported that the bill passed the state House by a 98-4 vote on February 8, the number of ayes was, in fact, only 88. Unfortunately, neither the House Journal nor contemporary news accounts provide further details about Representative Dillard from Cherokee and his failure to appear for the vote.

Clip from Raleigh Times, February 10, 1911
Raleigh Times, Feb. 10, 1911

With the bill’s enrollment by the House clerk on February 11, the 16th amendment was officially ratified in North Carolina.

Admittedly, there are some who question whether the 16th Amendment was legally ratified in North Carolina and elsewhere. But thus far those arguments haven’t stopped the I.R.S. from demanding its due on April 15.

Aunt Betsy Holmes, root seller and postcard subject

Postcard of Aunt Betsy, Uncle Bill and Joe the Bull

We pride ourselves on quick responses in the North Carolina Collection. But in one instance (and I’d like to believe it’s just one), we failed.

In April 2010, we featured this postcard of Aunt Betsy Holmes, Uncle Bill and Joe the Ox on North Carolina Miscellany. We have several different postcards of Aunt Betsy, her bull and the carriage. And four years ago, my colleague Bridget Madden asked if anyone could supply more information about Aunt Betsy (sometimes spelled Betsey). Three months later Pearl Bell Follett suggested that we check the papers of Alfred Mordecai in the Southern Historical Collection here at Wilson Library. Follett said that we could find mention of Aunt Betsy in a paper on medicinal plants written by Mordecai.

We failed to follow up on Follett’s lead. And we may have never done so if we hadn’t gotten a gentle nudge from Adrienne Berney, a colleague in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. She posted a comment on the original blog post asking,”Has anyone in the library followed up with Ms. Follett’s reference to learn more about Aunt Betsy?” Then she added, “If so, please continue blogging on the topic! We need local color (and memories of it) in Raleigh.”


Mordecai was a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and based at Fort Benning, Ga., when he wrote “Common Plants of Medicinal Interest, Fort Benning Reservation” in 1934. The paper was prepared for the garden section of a women’s club at Fort Benning. And Mordecai, a Raleigh native and a descendant of Moses Mordecai, dedicated his work to Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy Holmes. He describes them as “a gentle and lovable old couple of the colored-race; ex-slaves and relics of plantation life before the days of 1865.”

Aunt Betsy, according to Mordecai, was a familiar site at the Raleigh city market, where she ran a small stand selling garden herbs and medicinal plants. Market goers might find such items as thyme, sage, hoar-hound, rosemary, lavender leaves, red peppers, sassafras roots and hearth brooms made of field straw or sedge.

In winter she had holly with pretty red berries; sometimes mistletoe and teaberries. In the spring there were little posies of trailing arbutus. In the summer big bunches of daisies; and, in autumn, goldenrod and bunches of brightly colored autumn leaves along with a few pumpkins.

Mordecai adds that Aunt Betsy kept her carriage, with Joe the ox still attached, nearby. And from there, he writes, “she ran the more serious business of crude drugs, such as Snake-root, Pink-root, Lions-tongue, Indian-physic, Cramp-bark, Cat-nip, Golden-seal and the like.” Aunt Betsy’s customers for these items were mostly African-Americans. “But curiosity led the whites there, too,” according to Mordecai. “And no doubt many an intelligent citizen laughed in ignorance at the funny assortment which they regarded as so much conjure.”

Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy lived near Marsh Creek about three miles north of Raleigh. The rafters of their house contained bunches of drying herbs and gourds “filled with interesting things belonging to her trade.”

As a boy, Mordecai recalls, he visited Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy. “What are those funny roots, Aunt Betsy,” he asked. “They smell sort of sweet, but aren’t they dried up and ruined?”

Excerpt from Alfred Mordecai paper

Mordecai, who later served as health officer in Davie, Yadkin and Stokes counties, writes that on his visits to the couple’s house, he often found Uncle Billy sunning by the back door.

Uncle Billy Holmes

Mordecai recalls that Uncle Billy, who had served as carriage driver for Henry Mordecai during the ante- and post-bellum periods, was “well in his nineties” when he visited. But the old man still would led the young boy on hunts for rabbit.

Excerpt from Alfred Mordecai paper

Mordecai provides no other details about the couple. But he credits them with inspiring his interest in “crude drugs” and botany.

Perhaps there are other stories about Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy. Please let us know if you come across them.

Sir Walter Raleigh as movie star

Sir Henry Yelverton, the king’s attorney general, was no friend to Sir Walter Ralegh. Yelverton owed his office to the influence of the Howards, the great and powerful Catholic family, secret pensioners of the king of Spain and long-time virulent enemies of Ralegh. And yet, in the attorney’s solemn address before the King’s Bench at Westminster on October 28, 1618, expressing His Majesty’s pleasure that Ralegh should die, there is a strange note of piety, of awe even, in the face of Ralegh’s destiny: ‘He hath been a star at which the world hath gazed; but stars may fall nay they must fall when they trouble the sphere wherein they abide.’ These words catch the sense, felt even in his own day, that Ralegh’s life had a very special quality, something almost mythic, something usually found only in the creations of art, which set it apart from the lives of other men. Ralegh himself did everything in his power to encourage such a feeling, for he was an actor, and at the great public moments of his career he performed unforgettably.

–from Sir Walter Ralegh: The Renaissance Man and His Roles by Stephen J. Greenblatt.

Greenblatt paints Ralegh (to use one of numerous ways to spell the man’s name) as an actor. Here at N.C Miscellany, we’d like to turn that around. How many actors have played Sir Walter on film and television?

In these days of the Web and IMDB it’s not too hard to find the answer. But before you go there, try to name as many as you can.

And why are we thinking about Sir Walter as a film character? Because Ralegh as a subject in film and literature is one of the topics of discussion for an event we’re sponsoring on April 1. We’re marking the 400th anniversary of publication of Ralegh’s The History of the World with a discussion among three men who’ve looked at aspects of Ralegh’s life and work. Christopher Armitage, who teaches in UNC’s Department of English, recently edited a volume titled Literary and Visual Ralegh. He’ll be joined by two contributors to the volume–Thomas Herron of East Carolina University and Julian Lethbridge of the University of Tübingen in Germany. Their discussion takes place at 3 pm in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library, just down the hall from the North Carolina Collection. We hope you can join us.

Is that a wedding bell in Charles Baskerville’s Circus Backlot?

North Carolina Miscellany‘s Charlotte bureau, a.k.a. a certain Mr. Powell, recently came across a post on the Circus Historical Society’s message board seeking information about circuses operating in North Carolina in 1942. The individual who posted the message is trying to determine the circus featured in the Charles Baskeville painting titled Circus Backlot and pictured above. The words June 1942 are written on the rear of the canvas. The post also suggests that North Carolina is included in the title.

A little digging in the vast stacks of the North Carolina Collection and lots of searching on the Web may have yielded an answer. But we’re hoping that readers of North Carolina Miscellany can confirm our theory. And, if nothing else, we’re happy to share with you the story of a once renowned artist with North Carolina roots.

Charles Baskerville Jr. rose to prominence in the 1930s as a portraitist and muralist for the rich and powerful. Those who sat for his portraits included Jawaharlal Nehru, the King of Nepal, Bernard Baruch, William S. Paley, Helen Hayes, the Duchess of Windsor and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. His murals decorated the main lounge and ballroom of the ocean liner S.S. America, the bathrooms of New York’s “21,” the Wall Street Club and the homes of such wealthy and famous individuals as boxer Gene Tunney and New York Mets founder Joan Whitney Payson.

Through his work Baskerville, who was born in Raleigh in 1896 and the son of a UNC chemistry professor, became a darling of the wealthy and hobnobbed with high society. His friends included New York socialite Brooke Astor and John Ringling North, who inherited Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus from his uncles in the 1930s. Baskerville’s friendship with North brought him entree into the world of circus performers and backlots. And he began to travel with the circus, creating backdrops for acts, sketching performers and producing paintings of the animals. During the 1950s, Baskerville produced several covers for Ringling Brothers programs. The 1952 cover features a shapely tiger handler and her charge. And, as Ernest J. Albrecht notes in A Ringling by Any Other Name: The Story of John Ringling North and His Circus a Baskerville painting hung for many years in Jomar, North’s private railway car on the circus train.

So, could it be the Ringling Bros. circus in the Baskerville painting above?

The Ringling Bros. Route Book for 1942 suggests that the circus visited 26 states. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t provide of list of them. The route book does record the cities and towns where Ringling Bros. had stands of two days or longer and no place in North Carolina is included. But it’s also possible that North Carolina was the site of a one-day stand. There were 68 of those in 1942.

The route book also lists the acts or displays that the circus included in 1942. Display 14 reads, “Bridal Bells Ring Out in Clownland. A Mighty and Merry Travesty in Which Pomp and Panoply Have Their Roles-and Rolls.” Then it notes, “The Wedding of Gargantua and Toto.” Is that a wedding bell in the middle of the painting?

As for the wedding….Gargantua and Toto were gorillas. Following the hype that resulted from the release of the film King Kong in 1933, North bought a gorilla for the circus in 1937. Although originally named Buddy, the gorilla was renamed Gargantua by Ringling Bros.’ press department in an effort to make him fit his billing as “the world’s most terrifying living creature.” Indeed, the gorilla could be menacing. His upper lip was curled in a permanent sneer, the result of scarring that occurred when a drunken sailor threw acid at him when he was being transported from Africa as a young animal. Gargantua also occasionally displayed aggressive behavior. He is said to have bitten several who ventured too close, including North in February 1939. Nevertheless, North turned to the animal to give the floundering circus a boost in attendance.

In 1940, hoping to keep alive excitement about Gargantua, North bought Toto, a female gorilla, to serve as the male’s mate. Although the two animals never produced offspring (in fact, they may not have had as much as a one-night stand) the circus billed them as Mr. and Mrs. Gargantua the Great and displayed them in back to back, identical cages inside a specially-designed tent.

The wedding between Gargantua and Toto billed as part of the 1942 Ringling Bros. show didn’t actually include the gorillas. Instead, the clowns staged their own comic interpretation of how such an event might have appeared. Incidentally, the 1942 show also featured the “Ballet of the Elephants,” a dance performed by 50 tutu-clad elephants and 50 ballerinas. The ballet was choreographed by George Balanchine and featured his wife, Vera Zorina, as the principal ballerina. Igor Stravinsky composed the score, which he titled “Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant.” Could the elephants in Baskerville’s painting be waiting for their tutus?

Wanna know more about Baskerville? Read on…..

Baskerville was born in Raleigh and, through his mother, a descendant of William Boylan, an early settler of town and one of the publishers of the North-Carolina Minerva. Baskerville’s father, also Charles, had a distinguished undergraduate career at UNC before joining the faculty there. The senior Baskerville was a star fullback for the football team and the first editor of the Tar Heel, as the student newspaper was known then. As a chemistry professor, in 1903 he garnered attention with announcement of his discovery of two previously unknown chemical elements, which he named carolinium and berzelium. Those claims, refuted by later research, proved sufficient enough to attract the attention of administrators of the City College of New York, who invited him to start a chemistry department there.

With the senior Baskerville’s acceptance of that job, the family moved to New York City. Eventually Charles Jr. headed off to Cornell to study architecture. But, with the publication of several of his drawings in the college humor magazine, Baskerville turned his career plans toward art.

The budding artist had yet to complete his studies at Cornell when the U.S. entered World War I. Baskerville joined the Army as a first lieutenant and headed off to France, where, during summer 1918 he was injured by shrapnel and then a short time later gassed. He spent the remaining seven months of his service recuperating in a French hospital and overseeing German prisoners of war. Baskerville also used that time to create a portfolio of battlefield sketches, which Scribner’s Magazine published in July 1919, some five months after he returned from France.

Back at Cornell Baskerville continued his art studies, entering a work in a contest sponsored by the nationally-circulated, satirical magazine Judge. His entry won first place and was featured on the cover of Judge. That work, in turn, led to other jobs as cover illustrator for such magazines as Life, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Upon graduation from Cornell, Baskerville returned to New York City, where he took classes at the Art Student’s League and roamed Broadway speakeasies dressed in top hat and tails. One of those who joined Baskerville in his explorations of the city’s night life was Harold Ross, whom the artist had met during his service in France. When Ross founded The New Yorker in 1925 he tapped his fellow roamer, Baskerville, to write about the nightclub circuit. Baskerville’s short-lived column,”When Nights are Bold,” made its first appearance in the April 11, 1925 issue of The New Yorker under the pen name “Top Hat.” The columns were accompanied by pen and ink drawings of dancers and performers signed by Baskerville. The column ended with the July 11, 1925 issue, when Baskerville sailed for an extended sojourn in Paris.

Eventually Baskerville’s travels took him to such far-flung destinations as India, Morocco, Russia, Japan, China and Bali. In each locale he recorded the sights with paint, pen and ink, always returning to his home base of New York with detailed sketches and sometimes finished works. During the 1930s Baskerville’s star rose in New York social circles and among industry titans. He was the favored portraitist and muralist for the Astors and the Vanderbilts. In fact, Baskerville, a lifelong bachelor, would develop a long friendship and serve as occasional social escort for Brooke Astor.

Baskerville’s works were exhibited throughout the United States. According to Jim Vickers, who penned a remembrance of the artist for the December 18, 1997 Spectator weekly, Baskerville was the first living American to have a one-man show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Other museums in Washington, as well as those in Palm Beach, San Francisco and Springfield, Massachusetts also featured the artist’s works. Baskerville even received recognition in his home state. In 1967 his paintings highlighted the dedication of a gallery at the Greenville Museum of Art.

Vickers wrote that Baskerville produced art “first to please himself, secondly to please his clients, and thirdly to earn a lucrative income.”

As noted in his 1994 New York Times obituary, Baskerville sold paintings until the end of his life and on the day he died he had signed his name to one of his works. John Russell, a former art critic for the Times , told the paper that Baskerville “did not flatter his sitters, but he sent them home from the studio in high good spirits.” And the artist, himself, once said that “people want to be painted the way they actually look. This business about having to flatter them is nonsense.”

Abe Lincoln a Tar Heel? This evidence suggests no.

Charlotte Democrat, September 4, 1876
Charlotte Democrat, September 4, 1876

We’ve seen much ink spilled in these parts on the question of whether Abraham Lincoln has North Carolina roots. In short, the most commonly-told story goes this way. Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, arrived in North Carolina as a teenager. She lived with Abraham Enloe (also spelled Inlow) and his family in Rutherford County. At some point Enloe got Hanks pregnant. Ashamed of having fathered a child out of wedlock, Enloe moved with his family to Kentucky. He eventually sent for Hanks and paid Thomas Lincoln to marry her. Although details of the first years of Lincoln’s life are a little sketchy, his date of birth is generally accepted to be February 12, 1809. And, as this article from the Charlotte Democrat seems to suggest, that’s 2 1/2 years after a marriage certificate was issued for his parents.

Does this controversy sound vaguely familiar? Perhaps a certain New York real estate magnate-cum-television personality could look into this one. Ah, but could we trust a “Yankee carpetbagger?”

Yesterday’s N.C. Headlines Available Today Online


It’s unclear whether Governor David S. Reid’s offer of a $300 reward resulted in the arrest of the three members of Johnson & Co’s People’s Circus charged with killing Milton Mathis. But perhaps the answer lies in a subsequent edition of William Woods Holden’s Semi-Weekly North-Carolina Standard. Consider this your invitation to search.

I’m happy to report that your search may have just gotten easier. The Standard and a host of other North Carolina newspaper titles are now available online and searchable via Chronicling America, a joint project by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities to make available online historic U.S. newspapers published from 1836 through 1922. The North Carolina Collection and its partner, the N.C. Office of Archives and History, received funding in 2012 to scan microfilm of titles from the Old North State and prepare them for publication on Chronicling America. It’s a slow process. But in the coming months you should gain online access to 100,000 pages from 21 North Carolina newspapers.

Pages from various years are already available from The Charlotte Democrat and its successor publications, The Tarboro’ Press, The Tarboro’ Southerner, the Watauga Democrat and The Asheville Citizen.

In the coming months you’ll find issues of The Independent of Elizabeth City; the New Bern Weekly Progress; the Rockingham Post-Dispatch; the Fisherman & Farmer of Edenton and Elizabeth City; The Review of High Point; The French Broad Hustler from Hendersonville; The Durham Daily Globe; The Semi-Weekly Messenger from Wilmington; The Sun from Fayetteville; the Journal of Freedom from Raleigh; The Gold Leaf from Henderson; The Weekly Caucasian from Clinton, Goldsboro and Raleigh; the Wilmington Journal; and the Cherokee Scout of Murphy.

The titles were chosen by an advisory board that included historians, librarians and even a representative from the N.C. Press Association. I know that you probably have your favorite newspaper that you’d like to see online. We have ours, too. And we hope to add more in the coming years. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, get reading and searching. You’ve got to solve the Mathis murder.

Celebrating Robbie Burns in N.C.

Article on Burns Anniversary Celebrations in Wilmington, Jan. 23, 1921
Wilmington Morning Star, Jan. 23, 1921.

Like their Scot and sassenach ancestors almost 100 years ago, McCords, McGraws and McClellans will gather in the Port City in the coming week to mark the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns and celebrate all things Scots.

The Ploughman Poet, as Burns was known, was born in the Scottish lowland town of Alloway on January 25, 1759. Although the son of tenant farmers, Burns gained an education and, by all accounts, was an avid reader. He found the pen more enticing than the plough and, at 27, published his first collection of poems. Such works as To a Louse, To a Mouse and The Cotter’s Saturday Night garnered Burns fame and he moved to Edinburgh where he was celebrated in literary and social circles. Burns continued to write poetry while also enjoying plenty of drink and female companionship. He fathered several children out of wedlock.

Portrait of Robbie Burns
From The works of Robert Burns: with an account of his life, and a criticism on his writing….Published in Philadelphia in 1804. A copy of the three-volume set is available in the North Carolina Collection’s Hayes Library.

Burns’s time as solely a poet was brief. He spent much of his earnings from published poetry over an 18-month period and, consequently, he was forced to take a job as a tax officer in the town of Dumfries. Though working, he continued to write poetry as well as songs. He also resumed his relationship with Jean Armour, a women with whom he had twins. Over time, however, Burns’s health declined and he died on July 21, 1796. He was 37. Burns was buried with military and civilian honors.

The tradition of Burns Night or the Burns Supper is believed to have started several years after the poet’s death. A group of his friends gathered on July 21 to celebrate his life. Over time fans of Burns’s poetry formed clubs and began holding celebratory meals on the date of his birth. These days the Burns supper often follows a prescribed order with “The Selkirk Grace,” penned by Burns, preceding the parade of the haggis, during which a bagpiper leads someone bearing the haggis to the table. The host of the supper then recites Burns’s “To a Haggis.”

Stanzas from Burns' "To a Haggis"

Along with haggis, celebrants dine on neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Wine or ale accompanies the meal. Whisky (to use the Scottish spelling) has often been used during the cooking of the haggis. After the meal participants listen to the “Immortal Memory,” a recitation of Burns’s biography and a toast to the poet. Then there is a toast to the lassies. More poems and songs may follow before the evening concludes with guests rising to join in singing Burns’s “Auld Lang Syne.”

The Burns supper had made its way to the United States by the mid-19th century. A New York City celebration of the 100th anniversary of Burns’s birth, in 1859. reportedly drew large numbers. It was held at the Astor House hotel and featured an oration by Henry Ward Beecher.

It is unclear when the first Burns supper took place in North Carolina. As Celeste Ray points out in Highland Heritage: Scottish Americans in the American South, celebrations of Burns’s birthday began as a lowland Scots tradition. Consequently they were likely, at least initially, an uncommon occurrence among the Scots-Irish (many originally from the Scottish highlands) who settled in North Carolina in the 18th and early 19th centuries. But, as the clipping from the Wilmington Morning Star suggests, by the early 20th century North Carolinians of Scottish descent had latched on to Burns’s birthday as a way to celebrate their heritage. The state was home to St. Andrews societies and, eventually, Burns societies. Donald F. MacDonald, a one-time Charlotte News reporter who played a crucial role in the founding of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, helped form a Robert Burns Society in Charlotte in 1955. In fact the publicity surrounding that group and its Burns supper is said to have played a part in connecting MacDonald with Agnes MacRae Morton, the mother of Hugh Morton and another key figure in the founding of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

These days Burns suppers take a variety of forms on this continent and back in Scotland. Ray writes of a Burns supper she attended at Old Salem that featured homemade haggis in a deer stomach. And the 2014 Big Burns Supper in Dumfries will feature three days of music and performances as well as the release of Hamish the Haggis