Charlotte’s ‘salt-and-pepper’ era

“What few people know is that the South wasn’t always so segregated. During a brief window between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century, black and white people lived next to each other in Southern cities, creating what [Charlotte] historian Tom Hanchett describes as a ‘salt-and-pepper’ pattern.

“They were not integrated in a meaningful sense: Divisions existed, but ‘in a lot of Southern cities, segregation hadn’t been fully imposed — there were neighborhoods where blacks and whites were living nearby,’ said Eric Foner, a Columbia historian and expert on Reconstruction. Walk around in the Atlanta or the Charlotte of the late 1800s, and you might see black people in restaurants, hotels, the theater, Foner said. Two decades later, such things were not allowed.”

— From ” ‘Segregation Had to Be Invented’ “ by Alana Semuels in The Atlantic (Feb. 17)

New in the collection: Swinging bridge pinback

Pinback featuring a colored image of the swinging bridge and the words "I crossed the Mile High Swing Bridge. Grandfather Mountain, N.C."

“The swinging bridge was one of two options when [Hugh] Morton decided to get visitors from the gift shop-museum parking lot to the rocky overlook. ‘We had to have some way to get them across, and we could either have a stationary bridge or a swinging bridge,’ he said. ‘We decided the swinging bridge would be more fun, and would make a good conversation piece.’
“Some 30 percent of women visitors, and a smaller percentage of males, however, think it best not to cross the bridge.”

— From the Greensboro Daily News (Oct. 1, 1978) via A View to Hugh

 

Ideals too big to fit Constitution

“The mystic Herman Husband had perhaps the furthest-reaching vision of American democracy. Having grown up a pampered and willful child on his parents’ Maryland plantation, he [later became] an abolitionist and apostle of nonviolent protest. By the 1760s he was living in the western wilds of North Carolina, a full-time activist against the creditor class and the corruption of government.

“Because Husband was both land-rich and a democratic idealist, he served as a bridge between the truly poor and the landowning class that could vote. His neighbors elected him to the North Carolina assembly in the provincial capital of New Bern, where he spoke so uncompromisingly against the corruption of the assembly that he was repeatedly jailed. Soon he was a leader of the North Carolina Regulation, an uprising that took over court towns, roughed up officials and tore down buildings. Husband tried to moderate the violence, but by the time the royal governor sent in troops, he was a marked man; he fled on horseback right before the Battle of Alamance….  In the grip of biblically inspired visions, Husband began developing and writing down his plans for a unified American nation founded on egalitarian principles.

“The national plan that Herman Husband devised does not resemble the U.S. Constitution written in 1787. It resembles the New Deal of the 1930s, the Great Society of the 1960s, and measures yet to be achieved even now….”

— From “Our Chief Danger: The story of the democratic movements that the framers of the U.S. Constitution feared and sought to suppress” by William Hogeland in Lapham’s Quarterly (Fall 2020)

New in the collection: Lizard Lick Towing plaque

Football shaped plaque with the embossed words, "Lizard Lick Towing."

” ‘Lizard Lick Towing’ makes ‘Jersey Shore’ look like a Martha Stewart episode.

“Drawing its name from the nearby crossroads community about 20 miles east of Raleigh, Lizard Lick Towing & Recovery is the enterprise of Ron and Amy Shirley…

“Wendell’s Chamber of Commerce isn’t trumpeting the news of a cable show being taped in its precincts, and the antics of the stars can’t be expected to pull many viewers off PBS.

“But for the low-falutin’ crowd, it’s the place to be. Brawls, bash-ups and a tow truck, too — too good to be true. And after a few minutes, you’ll doubt that is.”

— From “Out of Lizard Lick, something tasteless” by Mark Washburn in the Charlotte Observer (Feb. 12, 2011)

“Lizard Lick Towing” is long gone from cable, but this oddball, perhaps homemade wooden plaque remains. And so does the business itself.

 

FDR’s bank holiday passed Engelhard by

“The stock market crash in 1929 was met with a run on banks by depositors who wanted to pull their money out because they didn’t trust that it would be there later. In response, President Franklin Roosevelt, just two days after taking office, ordered all banks across the country to close for three days to allow the public’s mood to calm down. Off the beaten track, East Carolina Bank [also known as the Bank of Engelhard] remained open because bank officials didn’t receive the order until after banks were reopened….”

— From “The bank of Engelhard finally closes its doors” by Sandy Semans Ross in the Outer Banks Voice (May 25)

Details on North Carolina’s banks that did close.

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.