Artifact of the Month: 1940s UNC plate

This UNC plate — our June Artifact of the Month — has traveled all around the country, three times from coast to coast, and survived a near calamity in 1994. Seventy years after beginning its journey it has come to rest back in Chapel Hill.

UNC plate

The plate was a gift to Charles Gremer and Grace Towery, Class of 1946. The two married four months after graduation and began the peripatetic life of a military family as Charles pursued a career in the Navy.

Charles Gremer & Grace Towery
Grace Towery and Charles Gremer in their senior class photos in 1946.

After transferring from Great Lakes, Illinois to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard in New York, Charles and Grace visited an aunt named Jenny, who gave them the plate in honor of their status as Tar Heels.

The family kept the plate through many moves and life events, taking it from Staten Island to Norfolk, Virginia, where it stayed during Charles’ time in Korea on the Battleship New Jersey; cross-country to Monterey, California; back across the country to Norfolk; then to Charleston; then San Diego; and finally to Los Angeles, where Charles began civilian life.

In LA, the plate held a place of honor perched atop a grand china cabinet. On January 17, 1994, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake just five miles from the Gremer home sent the plate sailing eight feet to the floor. It barely missed a ceramic tile table and, miraculously, suffered only a chip.

Grace took it to a professional restorer who repaired it and the family returned it to its place on the china cabinet — now with earthquake securing.

Charles and Grace Gremer today
Charles and Grace Gremer today

Twenty-three years later, Mr. & Mrs. Gremer write, “Now it is time to part ways. Charles and Grace are now moving to a smaller home and the plate is ready for a new home of its own. It has been a good companion with lots of shared memories. But it is a Tar Heel and we know that UNC will welcome.”

We’re pleased to include this storied piece in our collection, and to give it a new home in seismically stable Chapel Hill.

Artifacts of the Month: Jubilee program and button

The arrival of commencement weekend gives us a welcome opportunity to look back at spring traditions at UNC. The NCC Gallery honors those traditions with a display of Carolina traditions, including this Jubilee program and pinback button — our May Artifacts of the Month.

Jubilee program

Jubilee button

Jubilee was an annual concert that celebrated the end of the spring semester at Carolina from 1963 to 1971. What began as a small concert featuring a few acoustic performers in front of Graham Memorial in 1963 grew to become a can’t-miss festival-style rock show at Navy Field in 1971.

Over the years, Jubilee brought performers in a variety of genres to UNC, including Johnny Cash and June Carter, Neil Diamond, the Temptations, Joe Cocker, the Association, B.B. King, the Chambers Brothers, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears — as well as lesser-known (or less remembered) acts.

The 1969 UNC Yearbook, the Yackety Yack, called it “The biggest weekend of the year — of the past three years.”

The program from that year describes the event in these groovy terms:

Jubilee program close-up

Jubilee ’69 is not a series of concerts, but an environment for activity. The key ingredient is the creative energies of those who come to it. The concept behind this year’s planning is to encourage students to meet and mingle, to create their own experience out of an environment of color, form, and ideas.

Two years later, in 1971, Jubilee imploded under its own excess.

In advance of the ’71 event, the Daily Tar Heel reported that Jubilee would have a new, small stage in addition to the main stage. The small stage would provide “entertainment ranging from cartoons to concerts featuring standouts at the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention,” as well as the UNC Jazz Lab Band and Durham soul act Shamrock.

Headliners would include the Allman Brothers, Chuck Berry, Spirit, Cowboy, the J. Geils Band, Tom Rush, and Muddy Waters.

According to the article:

In addition to the major concerts and the entertainment on the small stage, Jubilee ’71 will include an Astro-bounce, a slip and slide, balloons, soap bubbles, three large foam rubber piles and all kinds of food.

Carolina Union President Richie Leonard was quoted by the DTH saying he hoped the activities “will keep as many people as possible involved at all times.”

Leonard got his wish: The crowds at Jubilee ’71 peaked at 23,000 on Saturday night.

The event, which had been getting larger and more unruly for a few years, had reached maximum mayhem. Gatecrashers tore down fences, the huge crowds damaged the grounds at Navy Field, and noise complaints multiplied.

A week afterward, the Student Union Activities Group called an end to Jubilee, recommending that it be replaced by smaller events spread throughout the year.

The University Archives holds a film from 1971 Jubilee in the Records of the Student Union. A short clip from the beginning of the film is available here:

For the next two years, students argued for Jubilee’s revival, with student government candidates making its reinstatement part of their election platforms.

The name Jubilee was eventually revived for a new annual spring concert — but not until 2015, when the Carolina Union Activities Board brought hip-hop act Rae Sremmurd to Hooker Fields. But the smaller, more contained 21st-century Jubilee resembles its wild namesake in title only… for now.

If you’re curious about other spring traditions at Carolina, stop by the Gallery and see our exhibit!

Artifact of the Month: WWI winter service jacket of William B. Umstead

It’s been 100 years since the first war that consumed the entire world. The North Carolina Collection Gallery explores the local implications of that global war in its current exhibition, “Doing Our Bit: UNC and the Great War.” Our April Artifact of the Month, William B. Umstead’s winter service jacket, is featured in the exhibition.

William B. Umstead's winter service jacket

William B. Umstead (1895-1954) was born on a farm in Durham County. He graduated from UNC in 1916 with a bachelor’s degree in history. After a year teaching high school history Umstead volunteered for the army when the US declared war. He saw combat in France and achieved the rank of first lieutenant.

Umstead later served as a representative in the US House, a US senator, and governor of North Carolina.

In a diary entry dated August 29, 1917, Umstead poignantly describes saying goodbye to his elderly parents before heading off to war:

Probably the saddest time I have ever spent was Mon. night. Aug 27 when I left home. I left father and mother in tears, and it almost wrung my heart from within me. To leave them, old and feeble at home alone was the most difficult task of my life. It is easy enough to go to the execution of one’s duty, when that duty can mean death, when there is no one but yourself, but to leave parents whose joy in life rests in their paternal interest in you, is the saddest and most trying of all tasks.

You can see Umstead’s jacket, diary, campaign hat, and UNC yearbook photo in the exhibition until June 11.

Artifact of the Month: Photograph of textile workers with Calvin Coolidge

In May 1926, roughly 150 female textile mill workers from Charlotte and Gastonia paid a visit to President Calvin Coolidge in the White House. A photograph from their visit is our January Artifact of the Month.

white house photo

The newspaper accounts we’ve found don’t reveal how the visit was initiated, but they do tell us that the girls and women worked hard to fund their trip, “producing plays, selling movie tickets, staging parties, making and selling candy, and in a dozen other ways” — in addition to the hard work they were undoubtedly doing in the mill.

At the White House, the delegation presented the president with Charlotte-made cloth and Gastonia spun yarns from the Chadwick-Hoskins and the Highland Park Mills. The question on everyone’s mind was whether Coolidge would meet the women personally; he hadn’t shaken any hands since his father’s death months before.

But Coolidge shook the hand of every member of the group — to the delight of the women and of newspaper headline writers, who gushed effusively:

Coolidge Gives Carolina Girls Genuine Thrill
Shakes Hands with 150 Piedmont Textile Workers

Young Women Having Time of Their Lives
Worshiped Sunday in Same Church with President and Mrs. Coolidge

142 Carolina Industrial Girls Honored in Washington
Appearance and Conduct Make Hit in National Folk

The other men in the photo are US Senator Lee Slater Overman and US Congressman A.L. Bulwinkle, both from North Carolina, with whom the delegation met. Bulwinkle also acted as the group’s official escort in Washington.

white house photo detail

For firsthand perspective on the event, one newspaper article quotes a young women identified as “pretty 16-year-old Beulah Crouch, who, with the aid of her brother, supports her mother, younger sister and invalid brother by her work in the Nebel Knitting Mills of Charlotte.” Crouch says, “This trip has taught us many things, and one of them is how to act in a large crowd, and to be proud of our country. We shall have lots and lots to look back to in the future.”

We’re grateful to Charlotte Observer librarian Maria David for salvaging this photo and donating it to the North Carolina Collection, as well as to Lew Powell for conveying it to us. Thanks, too, to NCC Photographic Archivist Stephen Fletcher for research help and for overseeing the proper care and housing for this unique photographic treasure.

Artifact of the Month: Goody’s Headache Powder store poster

It’s hard to believe that, in more than thirteen years of this blog, we haven’t once mentioned Goody’s Headache Powders. But a search through our archive suggests that may well be true. We’ll remedy that [pun sheepishly intended] with our December Artifact of the Month, a Goody’s Headache Powder store poster.

Goody's Headache Powders sign

According to NCPedia, headache powders have traditionally been popular in North Carolina and throughout the South. Marketed as fast-acting because there’s no pill to dissolve, these remedies were originally formulated as powders because they were cheaper to produce than pills.

The Goody’s brand was born in Winston-Salem in 1932 when tobacco and candy wholesaler A. Thad Lewallen bought the formula from pharmacist Martin C. (Goody) Goodman.

This sign was part of a donation brought to us by retired journalist and frequent Miscellany contributor Lew Powell, who visits the Gallery every December with a delightful aggregation of North Carolina ephemera.

He shared our amusement at the slogan “They are good,” which its creators considered so profound they rendered it in quotation marks.

Lew Powell
Lew Powell lays out his amazing finds.

Based on the price — 2 powders for a nickel, 12 for a quarter — Powell’s educated guess is that the sign dates from 1932 to 1950. We’d welcome comments from any readers in the know who could narrow that down further.

We’re grateful to Lew for another fantastic trove of North Caroliniana. Readers who are interested in seeing more can view the Lew Powell digital collection. It contains only a fraction of the huge collection, but we’ll continue adding to it!

Artifact of the Month: Poster from Herbert Hoover’s 1928 campaign

With all the media attention on North Carolina’s role in the 2016 election, it seems fitting to feature an artifact that represents the Ghost of Campaigns Past. Our October Artifact of the Month is a poster from Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign of 1928.

Herbert Hoover campaign poster

The text of the poster reads:


The above WHITE MEN AND WOMEN will not vote for Herbert Hoover for President, November 6, 1928, because Pet Denton, Smith Registrar, of Zebulon, Wake County, N.C., refused to register them. Some were refused on the ground of EDUCATIONAL DISQUALIFICATION, and others under a false claim of non-residence.

All have lived in the State all of their lives and in Denton’s precinct for more than seven months; some for many years.

============= EACH OF THEM BEGS YOU TO =============

Cast a Vote for Hoover for Them
Tammany System of Politics in North Carolina

The poster decries the consequences of discriminatory voting restrictions that had been established in North Carolina at the turn of the twentieth century. Remarkably, the poster doesn’t condemn the laws for being racist; instead it objects to their discrimination against white people.

In 1900 the state legislature had passed laws limiting the nearly universal male suffrage established by the North Carolina constitution of 1868. The laws made North Carolina one of many Southern states to enact poll taxes and literacy tests as a requirement for voting.

Poll taxes and literacy tests were used to deny voting rights to African Americans and American Indians. And while poll taxes were prohibited by the North Carolina legislature in 1920, literacy test laws remained on the books, excluding many potential voters from participating in the 1928 election.

Such laws, of course, can be only so targeted in their discrimination. The creator of this poster laments the laws’ unintended effects — namely that they had prevented white, lifelong North Carolinians from voting.

The poster ties such practices to those of New York’s Tammany Hall political organization, widely condemned for its corruption. Democratic candidate Al Smith lost the election to Hoover partly on the basis of his association with Tammany Hall — although his anti-Prohibition stance and his Catholic faith also played significant roles in his defeat.

Literacy tests were widely used in North Carolina until the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the federal government began to supervise state voting practices.

Visit the new Lew Powell digital collection!

This poster is part of the Lew Powell Memorabilia Collection, which we wrote about in September. You can see the poster and other items from the Lew Powell collection in the Lew Powell digital collection.

Artifact of the Month: James Taylor Hollywood Bowl poster

Forty-five years ago, James Taylor was a young, long-haired songwriter with just a couple albums under his belt. On September 18, 1971 he played a gig at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California. Our September Artifact of the Month is a poster from that appearance.


Taylor, who spent much of his childhood in Chapel Hill, later said of the performance, “When you play the Hollywood Bowl, you have a feeling — like at Carnegie Hall or the Royal Albert Hall in London — that you are playing in a major place, a place that has a lot of weight and is an important part of musical history. You have a feeling of having arrived.” (Source:

Visit the new Lew Powell digital collection!

The poster was donated by Lew Powell, author, retired newspaperman, frequent North Carolina Miscellany contributor, and prolific Gallery donor. Miscellany readers are already familiar with Powell’s radar-like attention to the unusual, the offbeat, the compelling — those details that make North Carolina the unique place that it is. It’s a sensibility Powell brings to his collecting activities as well.

We’re pleased to announce the publication of a digital collection of materials donated by Lew Powell. The collection showcases his diverse collecting interests, which include political campaign materials, regional travel souvenirs, protest movements, musical ephemera such as concert posters and tickets, pinback buttons, stickers and decals, advertisements for North Carolina products, college and professional athletic teams, and more.

The collection currently contains about 200 items, with more to be added in the future. We’re excited to expose a broader audience to these materials, which provide a unique window into North Carolina’s cultural, social, and political history through the lens of material culture.

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of North Carolina’s state parks on Saturday

In 1916, Mount Mitchell became North Carolina’s first state park. This year, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources celebrates the centennial of the state park system, which now encompasses dozens of parks and recreation areas.

Centennial events have been happening at parks across the state throughout the year. The signature centennial event will be held this Saturday at Mount Mitchell State Park — and the North Carolina Collection will be there!

We’ll host a special display dedicated to the mountain’s namesake, Elisha Mitchell, showcasing Mitchell’s pocket watch.


For more on the significance of the pocket watch in Mitchell’s life and death, read our June Artifact of the Month post.

We’re looking forward to celebrating this milestone in our state’s history. If you’ll be nearby, we’d love to see you there!

Artifact of the month: Caroline Lee Hentz’s lap desk, 19th century

Ideas about what constitutes portability have changed dramatically over the past 150 years. One piece of evidence for this (extremely non-controversial) claim is our July Artifact of the Month, a 19th-century lap desk.


Lap desks, popular in the 19th-century, enabled their owners to do their writing on the go. A lap desk provided an expansive flat writing surface that folded up neatly into a (relatively) compact box, as well as storage for ink wells, sand wells, pens, and quills.

Lap desk, open
Lap desk, open

This particular example belonged to Caroline Lee Hentz, an author and anti-abolitionist from Massachusetts. A prolific writer, Hentz produced a long list of poems, plays, romantic novels, and short stories — some of them, perhaps, written on this desk.

Image from the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives' Portrait Collection.
Caroline Lee Hentz. Image from the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives’ Portrait Collection.

Hentz moved to North Carolina with her husband when he began a position as a language professor at UNC. In Chapel Hill, Hentz met the enslaved poet George Moses Horton and became a great supporter of his work. Hentz’s 1833 novel Lovell’s Folly included an enslaved poet named George, who was openly based on Horton. She served as a benefactress to Horton, helping to edit, promote, and support the publication of his work.

Historical marker commemorating the life of George Moses Horton.
Historical marker commemorating the life of George Moses Horton.

Oddly, Hentz was also one of the era’s most influential defenders of slavery. Her widely-read novel The Planter’s Northern Bride is a direct reply to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist work Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In Lovell’s Folly, George, admired for his poetry, is granted his freedom. However, as a plot device that reinforced Hentz’s belief that benevolent masters offer slaves a good life, the character George chooses to stay on the plantation.

The real Horton worked tirelessly in an effort to buy his own freedom.

Works by Hentz and Horton, including one of Horton’s poem manuscripts, can be seen in the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s current exhibition. Set in the Southern Part of Heaven: Chapel Hill Through Authors’ Eyes features 35 books by both professional and amateur writers. Included are historical accounts, short stories, mysteries, and even a fantasy-tinged romance with scenes that take place in Gimghoul Castle. Full details can be found on the Library’s blog.

Artifact of the Month: Elisha Mitchell’s pocket watch

Every artifact tells a story. One of the most dramatic stories represented by one of our artifacts is the story associated with our June Artifact of the Month: Elisha Mitchell’s pocket watch.


Elisha Mitchell was a professor of geology, mineralogy, and chemistry at UNC in the 19th century. In 1828 he observed a peak in the Black Mountain range that he believed to be the highest point in the eastern United States. He returned three more times to gather data in the 1830s and 40s.

In 1855, Mitchell entered a two-year public debate with state senator Thomas Clingman — a former student of Mitchell’s — about the resolution of the highest-mountain question. In an effort to settle the matter, Mitchell made a final, fatal trip to the Black Mountains in 1857.

On that trip, he slipped, hit his head on a rock, and fell into a pool at the base of a waterfall. The blow to his head knocked Mitchell unconscious and he drowned in the pool.

… And that’s where our artifact comes in.

Mitchell carried this pocket watch on his journey and it still tells the time of his supposed death: June 27, 1857, 8:19.

The Mitchell pocket watch and the state parks

Mitchell’s life was cut unduly short, but his legacy is part of the North Carolina landscape. The mountain Mitchell identified was eventually verified as the tallest peak in the eastern United States, and it was named Mount Mitchell in his honor.

Image source

In 1916, Mount Mitchell and the land surrounding it were purchased to become North Carolina’s first state park. This year the state park system celebrates its 100th anniversary with events at every park.

In April, Gallery staff took the Elisha Mitchell pocket watch to Fort Macon State Park for an event attended by 25,000 people. In August the watch will travel to Mount Mitchell — a homecoming of sorts.

We’re delighted to share one of our favorite artifacts with audiences beyond Chapel Hill, and proud to be part of the state parks’ anniversary celebration. If you’ll find yourself near Mount Mitchell at the end of August, please join us!