Words per minute? N/A, she explained

The slogan on this button sticks a fork in Rep. Wayne Hays, the once-powerful Ohio Democrat who resigned from Congress in 1976 rather than undergo an Ethics Committee investigation of charges he had put Elizabeth Ray on his payroll to serve as his mistress. Ray, 27 at the time, was born in Marshall in Madison County, North Carolina.

Hays at first denied allegations, telling the Washington Post, “Hell’s fire! I’m a very happily married man.” But Ray, ostensibly a secretary, readily acknowledged that “I can’t type. I can’t file. I can’t even answer the phone.”

More wives — many more — than the law allows

On this day in 1820: The Star of Raleigh reports that serial husband Anthony Metcalf has been jailed in Roxboro:

“It is hoped some of the friends of the numerous women he has married (to say nothing of his other offences) will come forward and prosecute him….

“As far as the history of his life is known, he was raised in Portsmouth, Virg. — when quite young was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment in the Penitentiary for stealing a Pocket Book — married a woman in Hertford county, another in Wilmington, another in Lincoln, another in Pitt, all in this state, and how many others are not known; but if his own confession (made when confined in our jail) is to be believed, he had married 14 wives in 1818, and we have heard of one since — his age does not exceed 30 or 35.”

The loathsome Mr. Lincoln (part 2 of 2)

” ‘He insults every white man by making negroes their equals,’ shouted the Wilmington Journal, ‘and sits at Washington joking over the downfall of a Republic ruined by his vile attempt to carry out the disgusting and beastly doctrine of a miscege nation.’

“The Charlotte Whig…  reported ominously that ‘as soon as Lincoln had sent a message recommending his subordinates to employ persons of African descent as laborers, all the white waiters at Willard’s Hotel were discharged, and black ones took their place.’

“The [Raleigh] Standard could see in the [Emancipatioin] Proclamation only ‘one of the most monstrously wicked documents that ever emanated from human authority….It would consign the whites and the blacks of the North American continent to one common ruin….It would extinguish the black race in less than ten years.’

“In the opinion of the State Journal, ‘ ‘Lincoln’s proclamation…has not freed a slave…but it has declared publicly the savage intentions which had hitherto stamped themselves secretly on the conduct of the war.… It whets the knife and places it in the hand of the slave whom it urges to murder the innocent maiden and imploring child….’ ”

— From “Malice Toward One: Lincoln in the North Carolina Press” by Richard Bardolph (Lincoln Herald, Winter 1951)

The loathsome Mr. Lincoln (part 1 of 2)

“….The epithets ranged from mere familiar cognomens intended to bring him into contempt, like ‘Abraham,’ ‘Uncle Abe’ (cf. ‘Adolf,’ ‘Uncle Joe’) and ‘Old Abe’ to names carrying with them the imputation of meanness of character, physical ugliness, despotic pretensions: ‘The Criminal,’ ‘The Perjurer and Murderer,’ ‘The Widow-Maker,’ ‘Lying Fiend,’ ‘Vulgar Buffoon,’ ‘The Illinois Blackguard,’ ‘Vulgar Imitator of Royalty,’ ‘the detestable, drunken, would-be tyrant at Washington,’ ‘The Northern Ape,’ ‘The Monster,’ ‘The Baboon,’ ‘The Gorilla,’ ‘Fanatic Abe,’ ‘His Sable Excellency,’ ‘The Usurper,’ ‘The Tyrant,’ ‘The Despot,’ ‘King Abe’ and ‘Abraham the First, King of the Northern Nation.’

“Many editors… used the epithet without mentioning his name at all. When the Raleigh Register, for example, announced ‘Another Proclamation From the Tyrant,’ or when the Raleigh Standard called for recruits to ‘drive the hirelings of the Northern Ape back from…sacred soil,’ no further identification seemed necessary.”

— From “Malice Toward One: Lincoln in the North Carolina Press” by Richard Bardolph  (Lincoln Herald, Winter 1951). Tomorrow’s excerpt addresses how the press depicted Lincoln and race.

He was one Progressive Farmer boy

In 1889, Chatham County farm boy Clarence Poe, age 18, became editor of the Progressive Farmer, a struggling eight-page weekly in Raleigh.

In an era when Southern agriculture still paid more heed to phases of the moon than to science, Poe, who had never finished high school, almost single-handedly popularized “book farming.” The Progressive Farmer grew to a circulation of nearly 1.5 million and at one time ran more advertising than any other monthly magazine in the nation.

Poe not only battled cattle ticks, hookworm and hog cholera (and encouraged youngsters to grow more corn, as in this pinback button from the collection), but also took stands against child labor, usury, and lynching. He remained actively involved until suffering a fatal stroke in 1964 at age 83.

The decline of the small farm gradually undercut the circulation and influence of the Progressive Farmer—in contrast to its extraordinarily prosperous 1966 offshoot, Southern Living magazine.

Do myths hold secret to eternal life?

Before we’ve wandered too far down the road from Michael Hill’s call for “major myths of North Carolina history” (June 19 Miscellany), let’s consider three myths that make up in stubbornness whatever they lack in size:

  • “Pulitzer” for Lamar Stringfield, founder of N.C. Symphony
Myth: “In 1928 his ‘From the Southern Mountains’ won the Pulitzer Prize for Composition.” (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography).
Reality:He was awarded a Pulitzer traveling fellowship for his promising work in music composition….” (ncsymphony.org).
  • Nicks in the Capitol steps
Myth: “During Reconstruction, carpetbaggers and scalawags… left permanent nicks in the capitol steps from the whiskey barrels rolled up for the thirsty legislators.” ( WPA Guide to the Old North State and currently mobiltravelguide.howstuffworks.com)

Reality: “A recent investigation determined that the edges of the steps actually had been damaged from beneath. The visible damage was likely caused by the iron-rimmed wheelbarrows used by enslaved (and later free) African Americans as they carted heavy loads of wood upstairs to fuel the fireplaces. Records indicate that more than 300 cords of wood were used during a regular legislative session….” (nchistoric sites.org).
  • Hospital’s alleged refusal to treat Dr. Charles Drew
Myth: “When [a white soldier resists a transfusion of “black” blood], Hawkeye tells him about Charles Drew, the black doctor…refused treatment at a whites-only hospital in the South after an accident.” (“Watching ‘M*A*S*H,’ Watching America” by James H. Wittebols, 2003)
Reality: “On April 1, 1950, Drew died after an auto accident in rural North Carolina. Within hours, rumors spread: the man who helped create the first American Red Cross blood bank had bled to death because a whites-only hospital refused to treat him. Drew was in fact treated in the emergency room of the small, segregated Alamance General Hospital. Two white surgeons worked hard to save him, but he died after about an hour.” (UNC Press blurb on “One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew” by Spencie Love, 1997)

Charlotte vs. Raleigh for “social supremacy”

On this date in 1951, 23  Charlotte debutantes, “looking as gracious as any ante-bellum belles,” appear on the cover of Life magazine.

Inside, Life devotes a four-page spread to Charlotte’s recent challenge to “the social supremacy” of Raleigh:

“For many a decade an old social tradition has plagued North Carolina’s country belles: the only affair that would surely stamp them debutantes was Raleigh’s big Terpsichorean Ball. Once every year young ladies all over the state would keep a wistful eye on the mails for Raleigh’s cherished invitation. Then, hearts aflutter, a few of them would set out for the capital and twirl around for a while in white-gloved elegance at the one dance that really counted.

“But others thought it unfair that Raleigh should set itself up to be the social arbiter of the state. So last year the ladies of Charlotte decided to throw off the yoke. Charlotte, they reasoned, was bigger, richer and nicer than Raleigh, and should have a say of its own. They seceded from Raleigh society and announced their plans for the Charlotte Debutante Ball.

“This June the ball’s second staging proved Charlotte was ready to give the Terpsichorean a real race for prestige. Charlotte’s debutantes were every bit as dainty and decollete [as Raleigh’s], Charlotte’s young men were just as gracious.”

Footwear for Southerners of all kinds

“The South is hypersensitive to criticism which emanates from the outside, and professional Defenders-of-the-South never fail to take advantage of every opportunity to aggravate this unfortunate psychopathic condition.

“Symptomatic of this was the reaction which followed the remark by Frances Perkins that a ‘social revolution would take place if shoes were put on the people of the South.’  ‘Why, even the mules of the South wear shoes!’ indignantly rejoined Senator [Josiah] Bailey of North Carolina.

“‘There is a considerable colored population in the South who would regard it as a distinct punishment to be required to wear shoes,’ added Senator Duncan Fletcher of Florida.”

[from Southern Exposure by Stetson Kennedy (1946)]

(This episode goes unmentioned in Kirstin Downey’s just-published The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’S Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience.)