Artifact of the Month: Autographed Roanoke Colony first day cover

Sir Walter Raleigh first day cover

Look closely at the autographs on this first day cover and you’re sure to recognize some familiar names. Yes, that does say Jesse Helms, right alongside Terry Sanford and Jim Martin. And that’s Rufus Edmisten and Jim Hunt near the top. The scribble in the middle is John Edwards.

The cover, our April Artifact of the Month, was issued in 1984 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first English colony at Roanoke Island. The cachet (the artwork on the envelope) depicts an English ship next to a drawing of Sir Walter Raleigh, who sponsored the Roanoke Colony.

If you look even more closely, you’ll see that the autographs have dates spanning from 1984 to 2007. The donor of this item carried the cover with him to events and had it autographed by prominent North Carolinians when the opportunity arose. Descriptions of those events are included in the label below, which is framed with the cover.

First day cover label

It took more than twenty years to create, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more purely Tar Heel artifact.

Artifact of the Month: 1930s UNC banner

From now through the end of May, visitors to the NCC Gallery can view the exhibit “A Dialogue Between Old and New: Notable Buildings on the UNC Campus.” A quick stroll through the exhibit reveals how much architectural styles have changed since 1793 — but also how much student life has changed in that time:

  • A 1905 photo of nude male students in the campus pool speaks of a time when women’s access to campus facilities was restricted.
  • A 1930s picture of undergrads playing billiards in Graham Memorial Student Union recalls an era when jackets and ties were typical student attire.
  • And in a photo dated 1970, students lounge barefoot in a dorm room under a poster advocating peace — an image so perfectly of its time that it almost looks staged.

One thing that hasn’t changed with the decades is a spirit of UNC pride in the student body. In that spirit, our Artifact of the Month is a Carolina banner that belonged to John DeWitt Foust, Jr. of the class of 1938.

blue Carolina banner

The banner is made of felt with an interlocking “NC” logo in the lower left. A leather seal in the upper right bears the school’s Latin motto “Lux libertas.” The banner likely hung on the wall in Vance Hall dormitory, where Foust lived for his first year or two at UNC.

yearbook page

As this page from the 1938 Yackety Yack shows, John DeWitt Foust — or J.D., as he was called — earned an Engineering degree. He graduated in the last class before the Engineering department was moved to NC State. After graduating, he worked as a mechanical engineer with Newman Machine Company in Greensboro, which later became Newman-Whitney. In 1944 he married Margaret Langston, who later graduated from UNC-Greensboro. They lived in Greensboro until J.D.’s death in 1988.

This banner was donated by J.D. Foust’s son in memory of J.D. and the NCC Gallery is pleased to preserve and share it. We invite other alumni and their relatives to contact the Gallery if they’re seeking a good home for their UNC memorabilia.

Artifact of the Month: 1936 commencement marshal sash

This blue-and-white sash, the February Artifact of the Month, was worn by Nannie Louise Davis in UNC’s 1936 commencement exercises. Badges at the shoulder and hip ornament the sash and gold tassels hang from the ends, rendering it an appropriately regal piece of regalia.

Davis was a junior when she was elected marshal by her class in 1936. This page from the Yackety Yack shows her with her fellow marshals. If she stands out from her peers on this page, it’s with good reason: Louise was the first woman to hold the position.

Davis was born in Goldsboro in 19241914. She began her college career at Duke and transferred to UNC as a sponsored sophomore. As a UNC student, she lettered in basketball and graduated in 1937 with a B.S. in Commerce. The 1937 Yackety Yack also identifies Davis as the Secretary of the Woman’s Association, Treasurer of the Woman’s Athletic Association, President of the Co-ed Class, and a member of the Glee Club. With a résumé like that, it’s no surprise her classmates selected her for the honor of serving as a commencement marshal.

After graduating, Louise lived in Raleigh with her husband Otis Vance Jones Jr. They raised three children and, in 1950, started the Jones Brokerage Company. Louise died two years ago, on Feb. 16, 2010.

Artifact of the Month: Bags for North Carolina mill products

Reminders of North Carolina’s agricultural roots are spread throughout the North Carolina Collection. One such example serves as the Gallery’s Artifact of the Month for January. A donor recently brought over several bags for different meal products from various mills across the state, and we have selected a few to highlight.

This 11.5” x 4.5” bag for Winkler Gingerbread mix comes from the Old Mill of Guilford. Located in Oak Ridge, North Carolina near the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Guilford County, the Old Mill of Guilford pre-dates the United States. Originally built in 1767, the mill has been through several transformations. The small tub mill for grinding grain into meal was moved 500 feet in 1819 for better access to the nearby dammed pond. It was also converted to an overshot waterwheel mill, which was then converted into a roller mill with a turbine in 1913. The owner brought back the overshot waterwheel in 1954, and the Old Mill of Guilford continues to operate and sell different types of water ground meal.

The Boonville Flour & Feed Mill located in Yadkin County dates to circa 1880 and has also witnessed several transformations. Originally powered by a steam engine and boiler, the mill converted to diesel engine power in the 1920s before adopting electricity as its source of energy. This 15” x 8” bag for Boonville’s Choice Flour features a colorful image of a natural scene while the Old Mill of Guilford’s Winkler Gingerbread mix bag shows the mill itself.

The China Grove Roller Mills in Rowan County was founded in 1896. The building currently in use for the mill operations dates to 1903 and also serves as a general store. The mill uses roller mills that date to 1906 to produce flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, cornmeal, and livestock feed. These 11.5” x 8.5” bags for different types of corn meal provide additional examples of the images common to twentieth century bags for various meal products.

Both the Old Mill of Guilford and the China Grove Roller Mills are on the National Register of Historic Places. Along with the Boonville Flour & Feed Mill, these historic institutions preserve the experience of the local businesses within the agriculture industry that dominated the North Carolina economy for centuries.

Artifact of the Month: Pressed flowers art

Ella Williams Graves Thompson created the December Artifact of the Month: a framed design of pressed flowers. According to a note accompanying the piece, Thompson gathered and pressed the flowers in 1882 during the first year of her marriage to George Nicholas Thompson of Caswell County. While pregnant with the couple’s first child in 1884, Thompson organized the flowers into the current 21×19 inch design. The note says that in Thompson’s artwork is “woven all her hopes and prayers for her firstborn.” Azariah Graves Thompson kept his mother’s gift to him, and his daughter then inherited it in 1977. The message of love was passed onto the donor, Ella’s great-granddaughter, in 2008.

The Gallery received the pressed flowers art from the Southern Historical Collection, which holds two different collections about the Thompson family. One collection contains a diary that George Nicholas Thompson kept while a UNC student in 1851. Thompson earned his degree from the University in 1853 and worked as a lawyer. He served as superintendent of Caswell County schools and from 1885-1887 represented the county in the state legislature. From 1889-1891, he was a member of the UNC Board of Trustees. The other collection concerns some of George and Ella Thompson’s children, particularly Ella Graves Thompson, who attended and taught at Meredith College in Raleigh and also taught at East Carolina Teachers College in Greenville.

The Thompsons represent yet another family that has contributed to the interesting story of the Old North State and to the collections in Wilson Library. You can read more about the Thompsons in The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina.

Artifact of the Month: North Carolina Prison Dept. tokens

The Artifact of the Month for November comes from the North Carolina Prison Department. Several patrons donated a total of ten Prison Department tokens to the NCC Gallery. Supposedly used between 1930 and 1970, the tokens were provided to prisoners in the North Carolina state prison system as canteen money for the purchase of cigarettes, magazines, toiletries, and other personal items from prison shops and commissaries. Donors believe the officially sanctioned form of currency in the state’s prisons established financial equity amongst the inmates because the amount of individual wealth in “the real world” was negated. The tokens also helped prevent inmates from bribing guards to obtain items unavailable in the prisons.

A current employee of the North Carolina Division of Prisons described the current state institutions as “a cashless society.” Nevertheless, popular culture has consistently maintained that the cigarette serves as a form of currency within American correctional institutes, especially as state legislatures progressively ban them in prisons. Recent articles claim that objects ranging from honey buns and cans of mackerel to the use of contraband cellphones possess the most influence for bartering.

The ten tokens ranging in denominations worth 1¢ to $1.00 highlight one of the NCC Gallery’s collection strengths: numismatics. The Gallery holds a large assortment of bank notes, coins, tokens, and scrip. Some of the collection has been digitized for the Historic Moneys of North Carolina digital exhibit.

Artifact of the Month: Surgical instrument

October’s Artifact of the Month is a surgical instrument used by Dr. Benjamin Abel Sellars (1816-1896), a native of Alamance County. An aging identification tag indicates that the tool may have been used in the 1850s when B.A. Sellars, as the doctor was more commonly known, moved to Randolph County to practice medicine.

According to Alamance County: The Legacy of Its People and Places, Sellars’ father, Thomas Jr., was a prominent cotton planter in Orange and Alamance counties during the late eighteenth century. Sellars attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation in 1844, he moved to Randolph County to practice medicine. There he met his wife, Frusannah Elizabeth Kime (1833-1922). The two had eleven children (depicted in the photograph below). Records indicate that Sellars also practiced for an unknown length of time in Guilford County, perhaps during or after working in Randolph County.

from Alamance County: The Legacy of Its People and Places edited by Elinor Samons Euliss

Sellars moved to Company Shops, North Carolina by the early 1870s and opened up a small store there. Remarkably, the store would stay in business until the 1980s, lasting through the city’s evolution from Company Shops to Burlington.

And so, this story brings us to this ambiguous artifact…

This tool could have been used as a surgical probe, which allowed doctors to examine a particular area of interest, or a cauterizing tool, which would be heated and then applied to an open wound to encourage healing. Barbara Tysinger, the Cataloging and Resources Manager for UNC’s Health Sciences Library, suggests that the tool could have been used in a procedure known as trephination, the process of carving a small hole in an individual’s skull with the purpose of relieving pressure. Our handheld instrument may have in fact been an awl used to aid in this process.

Regardless of whether it is a probe, an awl, a cauterizing tool, or something else, the origins of this item are a testament to the remarkable people and objects that make our Tar Heel past so memorable in the present.

Artifact of the Month: 1931 scholarship certificate

No matter what the economic climate, work-study programs have historically helped students attend UNC. Clyde Morris Roberts of Marshall, North Carolina graduated with a degree in education in 1931 after having worked as a Student Salesman with the Delineator College Scholarship Plan. The Gallery recently received some items belonging to Roberts, including the September Artifact of the Month: a 9.5″ x 5″ leather billfold embossed with the word “Delineator” on the front that contains a certificate noting Roberts’ status as a Student Salesman.

The Delineator was a women’s magazine published by the Butterick Publishing Company between 1873 and 1937. The magazine contained sewing patterns of the latest fashions as well as short stories. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, published a series of short stories known as the Animal Fairy Tales in the Delineator in 1905.

While at UNC, Roberts sold subscriptions of the Delineator to earn his tuition. The 1930-1931 University of North Carolina Catalogue lists the total cost of tuition and fees per quarter for North Carolina residents as $49.66. The above June 1931 issue of the Delineator sold for 10¢. A subscription likely cost less than $1.20. It’s unclear how much Roberts earned from selling a subscription or how the scholarship program worked.

Another item that the Gallery received from Roberts’ time at UNC is an embossed leather 25″ x 12.5″ Carolina pennant.

Artifact of the Month: Mantel clock given to 1922 School of Pharmacy alumna

This Artifact of the Month post highlights a mantel clock given to School of Pharmacy alumna Adeline Bush Bradshaw Pegram. The Bulova clock’s face features a metal relief of the Old Well circumscribed by the University’s name. The donor believes that this clock was given to Addie Bradshaw at the time of her graduation in 1922; however the name plate at the base of the clock includes the recipient’s married name, which seems to indicate that the gift was presented at a later date. The clock’s original mechanics have been replaced with electric parts.

In the 1922 Yackety Yack, Adeline Bradshaw of Lenoir, North Carolina is described as “a regular good sport.” According to Anderson’s 1983 Heritage of Caldwell County, Volume I, Bradshaw played on the University’s first female basketball team, which was “only allowed to play on an outdoor graveled court” (p. 457). The volume also alleges that Bradshaw was the only girl in her class and the first woman to graduate from UNC’s School of Pharmacy, which could have possibly inspired the presentation of the mantel clock. The Yackety Yack appears to contradict this claim though since Beatrice Averitt of Fayetteville was also a member of the School of Pharmacy’s class of 1922. Averitt and Bradshaw served together as Pharmacy School representatives in the UNC Woman’s Association during the 1921-1922 school year.

After graduating from the School of Pharmacy at the age of 21, Addie returned to Lenoir and worked in Ballew’s Pharmacy. She met a recent State College graduate who worked at the Caldwell Creamery and married Calvin Winchester Pegram in 1923; they had four daughters. The family moved to Blacksburg, Virginia where Calvin was a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (commonly known as Virginia Tech). At some point, the family returned to North Carolina and lived in the Triangle area. Calvin was appointed chief of the dairy division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture by Governor Kerr Scott, and Addie owned and managed a drug store in Apex. Anderson’s book claims that “many farm families came to her for medical advise [sic] and assistance” (p. 457). Addie passed away on October 17, 1987 at the age of 87. The true origin of her mantel clock remains unknown, but her contribution to the University’s legacy carries on.

Addendum to Artifact of the Month

This newspaper article mentioned in the July Artifact of the Month post contains the transcript of a letter written by Union Private Samuel Patton to his wife, Nellie. Published in The Wooster Daily Record in Ohio on January 20, 1938, Patton’s letter includes many observations and details about his surroundings in 1863 central southern Tennessee. To make the letter easier to read, we have transcribed it below:

July 5, 1863

Dear Nellie,

I sit down once more to write you a few lines, not knowing when I will have an opportunity to send a letter, but I can write it and put it in the post office and when a wagon train goes to Nashville it will go with it. I wrote you a few lines in a hurry the other day but I don’t know whether it went or not, it was dated July 1, but it makes but little difference at any rate as General Rosecrans issued an order on the 22nd of June prohibiting the mail from being taken out of his department for fifteen days.

On the morning of the 22nd we started out at daylight to drill an hour or so as usual before breakfast, when we received order to pack up immediately, get our breakfast and be ready to move. We soon after started in the direction of Murfreesboro, our brigade taking the advance. It is customary to let the brigades each take their turn in the advance, and then the next day fall back in the rear and let the next take the lead. The first day we saw nothing of the enemy, but the next day we turned south, and about 10 o’clock the frequent discharge of artillery announced that our advance had stirred up the enemy. We kept slowly advancing all day though the road had been rendered extremely muddy by the heavy rain, which had commenced to fall in the morning. The firing became quite rapid toward evening but had nearly ceased at dark. An occasional shot was heard, however, until about midnight when we camped for the rest of the night on a flat piece of ground which resembled a swamp more than anything else. The rain poured down in torrents all the rest of the night. We got up at daylight to find the ground nearly covered with water. We ate our breakfast, wrung the water out of our blankets and started forward again. About 10 or 11 o’clock we reached the pike that leads from Murfreesboro to Shelbyville and about eight or ten miles south of the former place. It had continued to rain all morning and when we reached the pike we camped to await further orders, Gen. Rosecrans having moved out on another road with his main army. We stayed there a day or two and then again moved forward, this time on the pike toward Shelbyville. Immediately after starting, skirmishing commenced, and increased as we advanced. About 5 o’clock our cavalry drove them out of their entrenchments and pursued them to this place, by which time the enemy were falling back in great confusion, thinking, no doubt, that the whole of Gen. Rosecrans’ army was at their heels. Here the cavalry made a general charge, driving them before like a flock of frightened sheep.

The panic was complete. Our cavalry captured their stores, five hundred prisoners, and a battery of artillery. Large numbers of them were drowned in attempting to swim Duck river, while others crowded the bridges, pushing each other off into the water, 20 or 25 feet below. The citizens say the scene was one that beggars description. Gen. Bragg in his hasty retreat was compelled to leave his private carriage and retreat on horseback, though it is said his health is so poor that he looks like a ghost. The carriage is built in the style of those used by the ‘upper ten’ in large cities and probably cost about a thousand dollars before the war commenced. It was built in New York City. I took off one of the silk curtains from one of the windows, wrapped it in a newspaper, and sent it to you by mail. I should like to know if you get it.

The citizens say that the rebels claimed to have 60 or 70 thousand men here, but that they don’t believe that he really had more than 20 or 25 thousand. Gen. Bragg had his headquarters at this place, had built very extensive fortifications on the pike about three miles north of the town on the road to Murfreesboro. An immense amount of labor had been expended on them but they were abandoned on our approach almost without striking a blow. Gen. Rosecrans is still after Bragg, who at last accounts was straining every nerve to get out of his reach. His men are deserting him at every opportunity. When the rebels left here, a number of conscripts concealed themselves in the houses of their friends and thus got away from the rebel army. I have seen a number of persons who it is said have been concealed in the woods for six months to escape the rebel conscription. Most of the citizens of this place are Union, and many of them have friends in Gen. Rosecrans’ army. Some of the boys were diving in the river a day or two ago to get guns lost there by the rebels in crossing, and one of them found the rebel mail bag. It was filled with letters written home by their soldiers. They were of the most gloomy character. Most of them seem to have little or no hope of the ultimate triumph of the South. They say they must finally submit and they sooner they do so the better, as they are bound to be whipped in the end. They tell their families that they cannot send them any money nor can they get away to go home to do anything for them. In fact, they seem to see nothing ahead but want and the certainty that their families will sooner or later become beggars or be reduced to starvation. How men can fight with such a future staring them in the face, and from which no good can possibly result to them from it, is more than I can imagine.

The people here say that by the time Gen. Bragg crosses the southern boundary of Tennessee, he will have lost one third of his army by desertion, but such predictions are to be taken with considerable allowance, but still I know large numbers of them desert whenever an opportunity offers. But one thing I think can be relied on, and that is our armies in the west will not be allowed to fool away any more time this summer, notwithstanding the ill success of our army in the east I have more hopes of a speedy termination of the war than I ever had before. Bragg may be retreating to some stronghold in the south where he hopes to fight Gen. Rosecrans and have all the advantages on his own side, but I have the utmost confidence in old ‘Rosa.’ The rebels have been in the habit of calling him ‘the dog Rosecrans.’ I think before they get through with him they will find he combines the qualities of the bulldog and bloodhound with the cunning of the fox. I think he will fight Bragg as long as Bragg has the vestige of an army.

Everything here has been selling at extravagant prices, calico at from three to four dollars per yard, coffee six dollars per pound and everything else in proportion. I saw a man today wearing a pair of shoes that he said he paid $45 for. They would cost about two dollars and a half in the North.

The Fourth of July passed off very quietly here. There was no demonstration at all to remind an American of our national birthday. We had camped outside of the town but moved in yesterday and took up our quarters in a large three story brick building. The lower story had been used for a store, but our boys occupy the entire building from the counter to the lower shelf behind it. On these we spread our blankets and in short, so far as appearance goes, live quite aristocratic for soldiers. I received a letter from you on the 4th, dated June 18. I had not received any for some time, I believe the last one before that was dated the 6th or 7th of June, but perhaps it was well enough I didn’t get any before, for if I had known Minnie was sick I should have been very uneasy.

Morning, July 6. A train of wagons starts for Nashville this morning. It was the 23rd instead of the 22nd of June we started from Trynne. I can’t tell you when we will leave here, but will write again the first opportunity I have. I got my paper and envelopes wet on the march. This is written on some paper I confiscated. I managed to get enough I think, to do me until the war is over.

Your husband,

Samuel Patton

The donor of the July Artifact of the Month and the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Patton, Dr. William H. Race, and I recently noted that Bragg’s Tullahoma campaign coincided with the battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, leading to a true turning point in the war; however, unfortunately for Patton and the other soldiers, the war would still continue for nearly two more years.