The accompanying image depicts “Sir Archy” (Sir Archie being the preferred spelling), a champion racer generally recognized by sport historians as a “foundation sire of the American turf.” Foaled in Virginia in 1805, Sir Archie was purchased by William Ransom Johnson in 1808 and moved to Warrenton, N.C., for training. Sir Archie had several other Tar Heel owners. Former North Carolina Governor William R. Davie paid $5,000, an immense sum of money at the time, to add the stallion to his stables at Halifax in 1809. Later, William Amis, the owner of Mowfield Plantation in Northampton County, bought Sir Archie. It is there where the great horse died in 1833, having spent twenty-five of his twenty-eight years in North Carolina.
A prolific stud in retirement, Sir Archie sired many offspring and linked his bloodline to an array of later champions, including Lexington, Fair Play, Man O’War, Display, Native Dancer, and Secretariat. In addition, the current Triple Crown contender, Big Brown, is a descendent. The best reference for learning more about this legendary horse and about North Carolina’s early racing history is The Life and Times of Sir Archie written by Elizabeth Amis Cameron Blanchard and Manly Wade Wellman (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1958).
The year 2008 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Andrew Johnson, one of three U.S. presidents whom North Carolina claims as a native son. Born in Raleigh on December 29, 1808, Johnson was bound for several years as an apprentice to a local tailor. He left Raleigh while still a teenager and relocated to Greeneville, Tennessee, where he soon established his own clothing shop.
Many references pertaining to Johnson are preserved in the North Carolina Collection.
Our earliest book about him is the scarce 1865 edition Speeches of Andrew Johnson. Compiled by New York journalist Frank Moore and released in the months after Lincoln’s assassination, this volume contains a selection of Johnson’s speeches spanning the period between August 1848 and the end of April 1865. The book’s introductory section also provides a forty-eight-page biography on the seventeenth president.
Among the large body of historic material preserved in the North Carolina Collection are thousands of coins and specimens of old paper money, along with hundreds of tokens, medals, and medallions.
This high-relief bronze medallion was produced in 1993 during celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for “Old East,” the first building constructed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The medallion’s obverse is decorated with two campus landmarks: the Old Well and the Davie Poplar, which is positioned to the left in the background. Both the well and this tree have been popular gathering spots for students and many important events in the school’s history. The old poplar, now heavily patched with cement and supported by wire cables, continues to bloom and shade a portion of McCorkle Place. Standing not far from it is “Davie Poplar, Jr.,” a tree planted in 1918 by students, who grafted a shoot from the senior tree onto a poplar sapling. Concerns for the Davie Poplar’s health prompted that planting. Lightning had seriously damaged the tree in 1873, and a windstorm in 1902 had inflicted additional injuries.
This thick, three-inch-wide medallion is exactly like another one preserved in the North Carolina Collection. That piece traveled over 4,500,000 miles aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in September 1994. Dr. Jerry Linenger, a UNC alumnus and Discovery crew member, took the medallion with him on the ten-day orbital mission (STS-64). In compliance with NASA policy regarding astronauts taking personal belongings aboard the shuttle, the university keepsake had to be vacuum-sealed in plastic to prevent any possible contamination to the space vehicle. The medallion remains preserved today in NASA’s original protective packaging.