Edward Gorey and Thomas Wolfe

doodleToday’s Google doodle commemorates the birthday of author and illustrator Edward Gorey. Gorey, whose odd but simple stories and gothic illustrations remain quite popular today, designed book covers early in his career. His iconic artworks grace the covers of a series of paperbacks published by Anchor Books. The wide-ranging series includes authors from Chaucer to Henry James to (perhaps more appropriately for Gorey) Franz Kafka, and features two late novels by Thomas Wolfe.

Fans of Gorey work will recognize his work on the covers of these editions of The Web and the Rock (Anchor, 1953) and You Can’t Go Home Again (Anchor, 1957). Both are from the Thomas Wolfe Collection in the North Carolina Collection.webandtherock


Battle of the State Songs

I found this interesting article in the June 4, 1926 issue of The Pilot, then published in Vass, N.C. When I saw the headline about the state song, I assumed it would be about William Gaston’s well-known “The Old North State,” which we wrote about a few years ago in This Month in North Carolina History. It turns out that there may have been some competition.

S. M. Kendrick’s appeal to state pride was played before Governor Angus McLean in an effort to have the song chosen to be played at the Chorus of the States, which was to be part of the national Sesquicentennial celebration in Philadelphia in July 1926. Kendrick’s piece is praiseworthy enough, but, in my opinion, lacks the poetry and charm of Gaston’s song, with its memorable line “the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her” and the reference to North Carolina’s “daughters” as “the Queen of the Forest resembling.”

I haven’t yet looked around for any more about this, deciding to appeal instead to NC Miscellany readers first. What do you think — was Kendrick’s song indeed sung at the Chorus of the States? And was this challenge what led the legislature to decide to adopt “The Old North State” as the official state song less than a year later?

New NC ECHO Search Brings North Carolina Digital Collections Together

The new NC ECHO statewide search makes it easier than ever for users to find local and state history resources online. Through a single, simple search interface, users can find historic photos, maps, postcards, genealogies, yearbooks, oral histories, and much more. The statewide search was developed by NC LIVE, the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and the State Library of North Carolina.

NC ECHO searches content freely available online in multiple digital collections. Selected collections from Johnson C. Smith University, UNC-Greensboro, the New Hanover County Public Library, Western Carolina University, East Carolina University, UNC-Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources are currently available through NC ECHO.

A previous program by the same name was run out of the State Library of North Carolina from 1999-2012, with the intent to identify and digitize local cultural heritage collections. The newly revived NC ECHO program continues with the same spirit, to build connections and improve access to these collections of historic materials. Over the coming year, the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center will continue to work with cultural institutions across North Carolina to add new materials to this statewide search.

The online NC ECHO institutional directory is still available online through the North Carolina State Government Website Archive. Plans are underway to have the directory online again soon through the Department of Cultural Resources’ North Carolina Connecting to Collections website.

Read the press release at NC LIVE for more information.

Wright Brothers in the News, 1903

Our friends at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources remind us that today is the anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Here’s how the story was reported in the Chatham Record published on December 24, 1903:

The story goes on to describe the dramatic scene, but, unfortunately, the microfilm that was digitized was quite faded, making the story difficult to read. Aviation aficionados may still want to give it a shot — by zooming in all the way on the text, it’s possible to make out just about every word. The story is on page two, at the top of the page.

Santa Claus in North Carolina

We’ve been mining the collections at DigitalNC for references to and images of Santa Claus in the Tar Heel state. We put together a Flickr set with some of our finds, which include some terrific images of Santa in Rocky Mount, Pinehurst, Burgaw, and Ashe County, lots of ads, and my favorite, a photo of Santa on mop duty at the Overseas Relocation Depot in Greensboro in 1944.

I was particularly interested in looking through the old newspapers we’ve digitized to see how early I could find a reference to Santa Claus in North Carolina papers. The oldest I could find was from 1848, a quarter-century after Clement Clarke Moore first published “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

The Lincoln Courier from January 20, 1848 ran a piece by a “Major Jones” about hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve. It was written in dialect, and did not have any clear local connections, so I’m assuming this was reprinted from another publication. Major Jones writes,

When I was a boy I never used to miss hanging up my stockins, and I’ll have to be a good deal older than I am before I forget with what hopeful morality I used to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, or with what eager expectation I used to wake in the mornin to count over the ginger-cakes and lasses candy which I was always sure to git from good old Santa Claus.

The earliest reference I could find with a definite local connection was from an issue of the Wilson Advance published on December 16, 1881. A correspondent from Whitakers, N.C., described as “one of the liveliest little places on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad,” writes,

Santa Claus is seen in every store and shop window, and from all appearances the little ones will awake on Christmas morn with full stockings and glad hearts.

Early UNC Catalogs Now Available Online

Early course catalogs from UNC are now available online at DigitalNC. Ranging in date from 1822 through 1870, these catalogs contain lists of required courses as well as rosters of faculty and students at the University. Recent graduates won’t have a hard time finding differences between the great variety classes offered now and the significantly more restrictive course of study in the 19th century. Here were the required courses for students entering UNC in 1822:

Do any UNC students read Sallust anymore? (I admit to having to look him up.)

In addition to what they tell us about the evolution of higher education, these catalogs are helpful for genealogists tracking down ancestors who went to UNC, and are full of interesting tidbits of campus history (annual expenses for the 1849-1850 school year were $185, which included tuition, room and board, servant hire, and candles).

Senior Superlatives from North Carolina High Schools

There’s great material throughout the yearbooks in the North Carolina High School Yearbooks collection on DigitalNC. We’ve pulled out a few of our favorite senior superlatives for a Flickr slideshow.

The superlatives range from Most Studious to Most Vivacious and include great photos from high schools in Fayetteville, Burlington, Mocksville, and a handful of other towns around the state.

Charlotte Businessmen Enjoy Thanksgiving Feast for the Ages on 1911 Trip

I found this impressive Thanksgiving Day menu in the December 3, 1911 issue of The Charlotte News. The feast was served to a group of Charlotte businessmen who traveled to Savannah as guests of the Indian Refining Company, which was engaged at the time in applying “liquid asphalt binder” on the macadam roads in and around Charlotte. A longer description of the trip, and the road-building process, was in the December 2, 1911 paper.

The menu begs lots of questions. Has anyone ever had a “Liquid Asphalt Cocktail”? What’s in a “Southern Salad”? Are any NC Miscellany readers planning to include “Young Opossum” on their Thanksgiving tables?

1898 Plymouth Newspaper Gives Endorsements in Verse

Flipping through some issues of the Roanoke Beacon (Plymouth, N.C.) from 1898, I found their endorsements for the coming election, which were given entirely in verse. I don’t recall see anything like this in other papers. What a shame that it didn’t catch on.

From the Roanoke Beacon issue published November 4, 1898.

McCrory v. Dalton: The Yearbook Photos, Take Two

As the election season heats up, not even a simple post about yearbook photos can avoid accusations of partisanship. In the interest of fair representation for both of our state’s major party gubernatorial candidates, here are both the freshman and senior yearbook photos of Walton Dalton (top) and Pat McCrory (bottom). The placement of the photos was determined by coin toss.

The Dalton photos are from the UNC-Chapel Hill Yackety Yack from 1968 and 1971. The McCrory photos are from the Catawba College Sayakini, from 1975 and 1978.

These and many more yearbooks can be found in the North Carolina College and University Yearbooks collection.