Frank Marchant, NC Photographer

We’ve recently uploaded several real photograph postcards taken by Frederick “Frank” Marchant (1872-1942), who took documentary-style photographs of the area around Hamlet and Rockingham.

Marchant was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Hamlet, North Carolina in the early 1900s, where he was originally employed by the Seaboard Air Line Railway.  Massengill suggests that Marchant was drawn to Hamlet because it was the hub for the SAL railway, and as a result, was an active town with many technological advancements.

After working for the railroad company for several years in different positions, including as a civil engineer and a photographer, Marchant quit the company in 1907 to open a photography studio in town.

In addition to photographing towns and railroads, Marchant also did a series of real photo postcards about the construction of the dam at Blewett Falls.  The Great Pee Dee Electric & Power Company started work on the dam in 1905.  The dam was finished in 1911, and but water wasn’t flowing until 1912, when the power plant first started producing hydroelectric power.  The power plant and dam were built to supply power to the nearby mills, railways, and telephone and telegraph lines. Below are three photo postcards showing the power plant under construction, a water wheel unit at the power plant, and a view of water almost coming over the dam.




You can view Marchant’s postcards of Blewett Falls, Hamlet, and Rockingham on our North Carolina Postcards Website here.

December 1865: Henry Martin Tupper and the Founding of Shaw University

This Month in North Carolina History

Postcard of Shaw administration building

Massachusetts native Henry Martin Tupper (1831-1893) attended Amherst College and Newton Theological Seminary before enlisting in the Union Army in 1862. After he was honorably discharged, Tupper requested that the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York station him in the South so that he could work with former slaves.

The Tuppers arrived in Raleigh in October 1865. An anecdote recounted in Carter’s Shaw’s Universe reports that after travelling to Portsmouth, Virginia, Tupper and his wife stopped at a train station that had been partially destroyed during the Civil War, and purchased the first two tickets on the train to Raleigh after the tracks had been reconstructed. After establishing himself in Raleigh, Tupper began teaching Bible classes to former slaves in December. The classes were held in the Guion Hotel and aimed to teach African Americans how to read and interpret the Bible to prepare them to be Baptist ministers. In March of 1866, his wife began teaching classes to African American women in the Tupper’s home. Tupper quickly realized the need for education beyond theology courses, and set out to found what would eventually become Shaw University, the first black college in the South.

In February 1866, Tupper purchased land on the corner of Blount and Cabarrus Streets and built a two-story structure there that would serve both as a church and a school. Tupper used $500 that he had saved from serving as a Union soldier to help fund the land purchase. Significant financial assistance for construction was provided by the Freedmen’s Bureau and the New England Freedman’s Aid Society. On January 1, 1869, the Raleigh Theological Institute admitted its first class of fifteen seminary students. A year later, the school had outgrown its facilities and began making plans to expand. Through Tupper’s fundraising efforts and monetary support from Elijah Shaw (a woolen manufacturer from Massachusetts) and the Freedmen’s Bureau, funds were secured to purchase an estate in the center of Raleigh. Upon relocating, the school changed its name to the Shaw Collegiate Institute. In 1875 the school officially became incorporated as Shaw University.

Postcard of women on Shaw campus

Shaw University was co-educational from the beginning. A dormitory for men was built in 1871-1872, and, the first dormitory for African American women – Etsey Hall – was constructed on Shaw’s campus in 1874. Shaw University claims several other firsts, including Leonard Medical School, which was the first medical and pharmacy school that trained African Americans in the state of North Carolina, and, in 1888, the only law school for African Americans in the South. The 1878-1879 Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Shaw University reports that there were a total of 152 males and 115 females enrolled in various courses of study for that particular school year. During the 1878-1879 academic year, the majority of students were from North Carolina, but students from anywhere could enroll – several students were from Virginia and South Carolina, and one was from New Jersey.

Postcard of Leonard Building and medical school

At Shaw Collegiate Institute, Tupper served both as an administrator and instructor of the school and pastor of the church. He taught lessons during the day and night school classes. Managing both the school and the church gave rise to conflict for Tupper, and in 1870, people claiming to be trustees of the Second Baptist Church brought a suit accusing him of defrauding the church. The various charges suggested intrigue and internal politics relating to Tupper’s funding and administration of the church and the school and the wronging of African American church members. The law suit lasted until 1875 when a verdict was given in Tupper’s favor. Despite the lawsuit and other setbacks, Tupper oversaw the growth and expansion of the University and advocated for access to higher education for African Americans until he died in November of 1893. Tupper was buried on the campus grounds, and Dr. Nickolas Franklin Roberts, an African American and a graduate of Shaw University, was named acting president.

Shaw brochure


Carroll, Grady Lee Ernest, Sr. They Lived in Raleigh: Some Leading Personalities from 1792 to 1892. Raleigh, NC: Southeastern Copy Center, 1977.

Carter, Wilmoth A. Shaw’s Universe: A Monument to Educational Innovation. Raleigh, NC: Shaw University, 1973.

Kearns, Kathleen, and Dayton, Michael J. Capital Lawyers: A Legacy of Leadership. Birmingham, AL: Association Publishing, 2004.

Shaw University. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Shaw University, 1878 and 1879. Raleigh, NC: Edwards, Broughton & Co., Printers and Binders, 1879.

Image Sources:

Shaw Building, Shaw University, Raleigh, N. C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Shaw University for the Colored, Raleigh, N.C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C.“, Wake County, North Carolina Postcard Collection (P052), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Shaw University brochure 1974, from [Shaw University Announcements, Bulletins, Programs, etc.] VC378.9 M67 Shaw 1874-.

This Month in North Carolina – Henry Martin Tupper and the Founding of Shaw University


Check out our latest installment of This Month in North Carolina History here!

In December 1865, Henry Martin Tupper began teaching Bible study classes to African Americans studying to become Baptist ministers. The courses he and his wife taught would quickly expand in scope and student body, and Shaw University was established as the first black college in the South.

There are several postcards of Shaw University up on North Carolina Postcards, and Jason Tomberlin wrote a post for NCM about Shaw University’s med school, the Leonard Medical School that is also worth checking out.

Turkey Quarters – Pender County, NC


This excerpt of Ogilby’s 1671 map, “A new discription of Carolina by the order of the Lords Proprietors,” shows an area named Turkey Quarters, located in what is now Pender County, but at the time, Clarendon County.  According to Powell’s North Carolina Gazeteer, the area was named “by Barbadian explorers in 1663 becuase of the many turkeys killed here.”

Morton Finding Aid – Series 2 Now up!

Series 2 of the Hugh Morton finding aid is now available online! Visit the finding aid here to check out the addition of People and Events, late 1920s-early 2000s (bulk 1940s-1990s).

To see photos from Series 2 online through the Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films, click here.

More information on the addition is available through our sister blog, A View to Hugh.

Courtship in the Carolinas – Take Her for a Drive, but No Dancing

In an undated 20th Century essay by Olive F. Gunby titled “Courtship in Carolina,” the author describes the socially appropriate way of wooing a proper North Carolina lady.

The courtship, as described by Gunby, should naturally begin when the gentleman invites the lady for a ride in his buggy after church.  As the relationship progresses, the gentleman may drop by her house to visit her, and manages to speak directly to all members of the household except her.   And because dancing is “an amusement indulged in only by the sinful and depraved,” the only social interactions between the pair can occur while playing games at a gathering.  Actually proposing marriage requires a year or two of gathering courage.

Despite my toungue-in-cheek paraphrasing of Gunby’s treatise, what’s interesting to me is that much of the action of bringing the couple together seems to be fueled by town gossip regarding the public development of the relationship.  Gunby writes that after the post-church buggy ride, news of the interaction will be discussed by neighbors and friends across town over lunch.  If the man’s horse is seen tethered in front of the girl’s house, news of this will also spread, designating the lady as off-limits for other suitors.  Gunby writes:

“Mike Brown’s bay was hitched in front of Aunt Mary Ann’s gate when I came by” is announced at sundry supper tables that evening, and soon it is whispered around that Mike Brown is “going after” Loretta … no one in that neighborhood will dream of interfering with Mike’s plainly evinced intentions.  (174-175)

Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have any thing else in the NCC about 20th Century courtship, although there were two North Carolina Historical Review articles written about Antebellum courtship and 19th Century courtship.

George Masa’s Mountain Postcards

masa card

Above is a postcard published by the Asheville Postcard Co., which was likely made from a photograph taken by George Masa.

The writers of NC Miscellany recently got a tip that Buncombe County Public Libraries has an online display of several of George Masa’s photographs paired with the postcards that were printed from them.  You can view the collection here.

One neat thing about the way they’ve displayed the postcard with the photograph is that you can see how postcard publishers often manipulated small details in the photograph.

Masa was born in Japan, and moved to the United States sometime around 1906 after his father died suddenly.  He traveled to several US cities before coming to Asheville in 1915 on a student tour group.  He remained in Asheville for the next 18 years of his life, employed in various capacities.  He photographed guests at the Grove Park Inn in the beginning, and later opened the Photo-Graft Shop (which would be come the Asheville Photo Service).  He loved being in the Smoky Mountains, and frequently photographed scenic views of the area.  He was an early advocate of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail.  (adapted from Powell, William S.  Dictionary of North Carolina Biography.  University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1991.)

Unfortunately, we have not been able to identify any of the postcards in our collection as the work of George Masa (except for possibly the one above). You can browse for items published by the Asheville Post Card Company, which published postcards from the photos of Masa and other photographers from the 1920s and on.

This Month, November 1879: Colored Industrial Association Fair

Be sure to check out the new This Month in North Carolina, in which Harry McKown examines the Colored Industrial Association Fair.  The Colored Industrial Fair occurred occurred on November 18, 1879, in Raleigh and displayed the achievements of the African American population in North Carolina.

… This makes an interesting follow-up to last month’s essay on the history and origins of the NC State Fair, which you can read about here.