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.

Yearbook Photos of North Carolina Gubernatorial Candidates

Having a hard time deciding who to vote for for Governor? If the various campaign ads and claims have you confused, here’s a much less contentious way of looking at the candidates.

Both Walter Dalton and Pat McCrory show up in the North Carolina College and University Yearbooks collection available on Dalton was a 1971 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, while McCrory graduated from Catawba College in 1978.

The Dalton photo is from the 1971 Yackety Yack, the McCrory from the 1975 edition of the Sayakini.

Searching for Early Uses of “Tar Heels”

The origin of the nickname “Tar Heel” is one that comes up often whenever North Carolinians are talking with visitors from out of state. Like many colloquialisms, a precise origin is hard to pin down as the nickname was probably used in informal conversation long before it ever appeared in print. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

The best history of the Tar Heel nickname is William S. Powell’s “Why We’re All Called Tar Heels,” available on the North Carolina Collection website. While it’s unclear how early the term was used, we can say authoritatively that it came into regular use during the Civil War when it was applied to soldiers from North Carolina. Whether or not Robert E. Lee actually said “God bless the Tar Heel boys,” the name stuck. Powell and others cite a piece of sheet music published in Baltimore in 1866 as being likely the first printed use of the term “Tar Heel.”

Now that we have digitized versions of many early North Carolina newspapers available online, we have the opportunity to easily search thousands of pages of text — far easier than scrolling through that many pages on microfilm. Even though the optical character recognition software doesn’t do a great job of transcribing early newspapers accurately, I was able to find a couple of uses of “Tar Heel” prior to 1866.

The earliest one I came across was an ad in the Fayetteville Observer published on March 27, 1864 asking for recruits of “brave ‘Tar Heels’.”

In a later issue of the same paper, published on July 21, 1864, we see that the term was in use among the soldiers themselves. One of the Cumberland Plough Boys wrote to the readers back home about conditions in camp and assured friends back home ” that ‘Tar Heels’ do not intend to be subjugated.”

One of the most frustrating things about this kind of research using digitized newspapers is that we have no easy way of knowing what we’re missing. Because we rely on computers to do the transcription there are many mistakes, especially for older papers where there might be irregular printing or smudges or torn pages. But it is a start, and goes a long way toward making these invaluable resources more accessible and easier to use than ever.

Now if only we can figure out the origin of the term Cackalacky.

A Voyage Down the Yadkin – Great Peedee River

At the suggestion of the Davie County Public Library, the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center has just published online one of my favorite little books from the North Carolina Collection: Douglas Rights’s A Voyage Down the Yadkin – Great Peedee River.

The book describes a journey taken by the author in a rowboat down the Yadkin and Pee Dee Rivers from North Wilkesboro to Georgetown, S.C. The trip began in September 1925 and was completed in 1928 (in several stages — he wasn’t on the river the whole time). The sketches included in the book were originally published in newspapers in Winston-Salem. The lively, conversational tone of the writing combined with the glimpses it gives into a very different North Carolina make for a fascinating read.

As an example of fine prose to be found in these pages, here’s a memorable description of a man in a now long-forgotten profession: ferryman. J.C. Corum manned the ferry near Shoals, N.C., located in Surry County between Mt. Airy and Winston-Salem:

“Mr. Corum is a ferryman to be remembered. He reminded us of that famous boatman Charon who transports troubled souls over the river Styx. It is a delight to see him pole a small wooden boat across the river. It is with him a ceremony stately and solemn. Over six feet in height he stands upright in the board, using a sapling pole twice his length. Without bending the knee or winking an eyelash he sweeps one end of the pole into the water. This impulse shoots the boat ahead on a straight line as if it were driven by motor power. Between sweeps he stands poised as a Grecian statue. A dozen powerful strokes bring him safe to the opposite shore where with countenance still unmoved he casts the stay chain over the moorings.”

The ferry described here is probably quite similar to the Cooleemee Plantation Ferry pictured in the Digital Davie online exhibit.

Douglas Rights was a Moravian bishop with a lifelong interest in natural history and Native Americans in North Carolina. His book The American Indian in North Carolina (1947) was an important work on the topic and his collection of Native American artifacts, part of which is housed at UNC-Chapel Hill, is a valuable resource for researchers.

Davie Popular Damaged by 1902 Storm

There are a lot of things wrong with this article, which I found in the August 15, 1902 edition of the Elm City Elevator, from the small town of Elm City, located in Wilson County. To begin with, the tree revered by UNC-Chapel Hill students and alumni alike is referred to as the “David Poplar” and its namesake demoted to a mere colonel. And a lazy one at that, as the article perpetuates the myth that the site for the campus was chosen when “Col. David” stopped to swill a little corn whiskey and said that the location in southern Orange County was “good enough for me.”

But it’s an interesting article nonetheless, showing that in the early twentieth century the Davie Poplar was already a legendary landmark and that, despite the damage done by this and other storms, it was able to endure.

Coming Soon: More 19th and Early 20th Century NC Newspapers Online

Big news from Washington, D.C. And it doesn’t involve tax cuts, jobless numbers or the Presidential campaign. We recently received word from the National Endowment for the Humanities that we’ll receive $303,192 over the next two years to make available online North Carolina newspapers dating from 1836-1922. We’ll be joining the National Digital Newspaper Program, which is a partnership between NEH and the Library of Congress to provide access to historically significant newspaper titles from states around the nation. The newspapers are available through a Library of Congress website, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Although Wilson Library in Chapel Hill will serve as the project’s base, this is a joint effort with the Office of Archives and History in Raleigh. We’ll be digitizing from copies of microfilm master negatives created by Archives and History over the past 50 years. In 1959 the Office of Archives and History (at the time actually known as a Division rather than an Office) had the great foresight to begin microfilming hundreds of North Carolina newspaper titles. In some cases, those microfilms are the only remaining evidence of 18th and 19th century newspapers. We will also benefit from the cataloging and additional microfilming performed by the State Archives and State Library in the 1990s as part of the United States Newspaper Project.

The newspapers we make available online through Chronicling America will augment those already available online through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, a Wilson Library-based initiative to digitize and publish online historic materials from cultural heritage institutions around the state, as well as the early colonial and 19th century newspapers available through the online digital collection of the State Archives. Rest assured that we’ll be planning ways for you to view all North Carolina newspapers at one online location. Please give us some time to work out the details.

Mind you, the NEH grant will allow us to make available online only a small portion of the more than 1,185 N.C. newspaper titles that the State Archives has microfilmed in its collections. Our advisory board will make some tough choices when it meets this fall to select the titles we plan to include. We’re hoping that this grant is merely the beginning of a sustained effort to publish historic NC newspapers online. Please note, that’s our hope. But we can’t promise such.

We’ll be kicking the project into full gear in the next month or so. We’ll keep you posted on our progress and let you know when North Carolina newspapers titles are available on Chronicling America.