New in the collection: child’s wrestling title belt

Wrestling belt with the name Dusty Rhodes in the middle.

“The late ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes will be inducted into the National Wrestling Alliance‘s Hall of Heroes in his favorite city, Charlotte, North Carolina….

” ‘We arrived in Charlotte in 1984,’ recalled Dusty’s widow, Michelle, ‘which was before the NBA Hornets and the NFL Panthers, and the wrestlers were the biggest stars in the city. At one time, over 200 wrestlers and their families called Charlotte their home….’

“Dusty had great success as a main-event wrestler in the NWA and also as the ‘booker’ — TV producer or creative force behind the wrestling product under the Jim Crockett Promotions banner. The NWA was Charlotte’s home team within the pro-wrestling world that saw intense competition with the rival WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, based in Stamford, Conn.”

— From “Dusty Rhodes to be honored in beloved city of Charlotte” by Jim Ross at Fox Sports (Aug. 2, 2016)

This “World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion” belt for kids is from the  WWE, where Rhodes finished his ring career in 2007 at age 61.

New in the collection: Piedmont Airlines safety card

Cover of Piedmont Airlines seatback safety instructions featuring an image of a captain's hat.

Inside of Piedmont Airlines safety instructions. It includes drawings noting the proper use of drop down air masks, the location of emergency exits, and the method for removing emergency doors.

This seat-back safety instruction folder, likely pilfered from a 1980s Piedmont Airlines flight, proudly announces the captain is at the controls of a Boeing 727-200. Maybe even Lori Cline  — who at age 23 became the youngest airline captain ever for any airline.  “Without a doubt,” she told O.Henry magazine, “my favorite airplane of all time was the Boeing 727 for Piedmont Airlines, which was a workhorse for the industry during the ’70s and ’80s before it was retired for being considered inefficient, fuel-wise, due to its third engine. And to this day, before I retire, if I could get to fly one airplane again, it would be that classic Cadillac.”

Chris Runge, curator for the Piedmont Aviation Historical Society, mentions a feature of the 727-200 that enabled a policy that surely seems fantastical to the put-upon air travelers of 2022: “The 727 has what you call your rear air stairs…. If a passenger missed a flight and the plane was halfway down the tarmac, the agent would call out to the plane, they’d stop, the pilot would drop the air stairs. The passenger would run out on the tarmac, jump up the back of the plane and they’d lift it up and go. Their motto was ‘Don’t leave anybody behind. Ever.’ And they didn’t.”

Footnote: In 1978 Piedmont purchased from Northwest Orient Airlines a used 727-200 with a historic rear exit — the one used by “D.B. Cooper.” 

New in the collection: Blotter from Palms Restaurant

Blotter with words "The Palms Restaurant, Food at its best," and urging customers to "try our 35 cent lunch."

“The Palms restaurant at 305 E. Chapel Hill Street was an institution in Durham from about 1920 until it closed in 1983. An early proprietor of the establishment was Norman O. Reeves, who served ‘sizzling steaks’ and claimed ‘We never close.’

“The Palms was frequented by downtown employees (lawyers had their own table) and was dubbed ‘the bellybutton of Durham.’ ”

— From “Durham, North Carolina: A Postcard History” by Stephen E. Massengill (1997)

This ink blotter is undated, but “Try Our 35c Lunch” seems to narrow the possibilities.

New in the collection: Tobacco warehouse posters

Two men moving tobacco in a warehouse

“Richmond-based painter J. Bohannan was born in New York City in 1950 and moved with his family at age 2 to Hilton Village, [Va.], Newport News and later, as a teenager, to Hopewell. After studying art at the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bohannan worked as a salesman in his father’s art supply store, selling his own original artwork on the side. By his own admission, his paintings of the time were derivative of the European high art and contemporary abstraction he had studied at RPI. Then one day he picked up a copy of Matthew Baigell’s The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930s (1974) from a discount book bin. Until then, Bohannan says, he had never really seen, much less studied, modern American painting, despite four years of formal art education.

Men grading tobacco

“Working alongside street artists in Verona and Munich, copying famous Caravaggios and Bouchers in pastel on public sidewalks, Bohannan developed a passion for ‘plastic realism,’ embedding human forms in visual space in a way that is, as Bohannan puts it, ‘more there than right’ — that is, more materially present than technically correct.
People planting tobacco

After his return to Virginia from Europe, Bohannan began developing a latter-day American Scene style, and his career took off in a wave of commissions. In 1995, after an employee of Philip Morris saw one of his paintings in a Richmond coffee shop, the company hired Bohannan to create the artwork for its ‘Keep Tobacco Clean’ poster series, intended for display in its growers’ warehouses.”

— From “Multiple Exposure: Catablog of the Visual Studies Collection @ the Library of Virginia”

“In the 1990s [Philip Morris] began its push for ‘cleanliness’ by furnishing auction warehouses with red garbage barrels and immense red banners [reading], ‘Keep Tobacco Clean’ with white lettering against a red background that mimicked Marlboro packaging.

“At a time when the auctions were still operating and growers were not yet directly contracted with firms, the signs expressed corporate power and subtly implied that more stringent demands were coming down the pike….”

— From Tobacco Capitalism: Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry” by Peter Benson (2012)

New in the collection: Fertilizer company letterhead

Full sheet of stationery with letterhead for Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corporation

Close up of letterhead of Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corporation. It includes an image of a bag of fertilizer and a flag that reads "Make every crop a Victory crop."

Samuel Tate Morgan (1857-1919)… established the Durham Fertilizer Co. with partners Eugene Morehead and L. A. Carr in 1881. The company capitalized on tobacco stems, [which were] waste to smoking-tobacco manufacturers but a rich source of the nutrient phosphorus. Quickly successful, Durham Fertilizer opened branches in Virginia and South Carolina, and in 1895 Morgan combined all fertilizer manufacturing in North Carolina and Virginia. The Virginia-Carolina Chemical Co. became the largest industrial firm in the South, with headquarters in Richmond.

“Morgan lived out his later years in Richmond, but had an avid interest in his former hometown and its history. He bought the former James and Nancy Bennett farm from Brodie Duke (a Continue reading “New in the collection: Fertilizer company letterhead”

New in the collection: Petty-approved snake oil?

VX-6 box with image of Lee Petty and the words "I'd rather race without tires than without VX-6 in my battery."

Verso of VX-6 box with words "The contents of this package will end the number 1 crippling cause of battery failure."

“If you’ve been to enough swap meets, you’ve no doubt spotted a yellow and black [or red and black in this example] box of VX-6, often with the likeness of NASCAR legend Lee Petty endorsing the contents with the phrase, ‘I’d rather race without tires than without VX-6 in my battery.’

“VX-6, produced by National Dynamics (originally of New York), and others like it, is actually cadmium that, in theory, is supposed to prevent or halt sulfation. Those who swore by it insisted that inserting small doses into each cell of a new battery saw improved start time, longer life and brighter illumination of all lights in/on the vehicle. Although some period testing resulted in a finding of ‘no improvement,’ and others insisted that it was just an automotive snake oil [a view strongly suggested by the Federal Trade Commission], it’s hard to overlook the decades of satisfied customers.

“Original VX-6 boxes may have collectibility today — often with $5-$20 asking prices — however, the product has not disappeared with time. Today it’s marketed under the brand name Charge-It Concentrated Battery Additive by Solder-It in a 2-ounce bottle at a cost of $10.99, most commonly through another legend in the automotive world — [now defunct] JC Whitney.”

— From “Keeping the Spark Fresh: A collectible chemical fluid is still offered to extend battery life” by Matt Litwin in Hemmings Motor News  (Jan. 5, 2016)

When Lee Petty plugged VX-6 in the 1950s and ’60s, NASCAR’s endorsement machine had barely started rolling. It took son Richard’s alliance with STP in the ’70s to stomp on the gas.

New in the collection: Transit tokens

Six tokens of various shapes and designs.

“On Monday, the city takes over the bus system. There’ll be a new name, Greensboro Transit Authority, revised routes, some new stops, expanded service and, best of all, a new fleet.

“For the first time since 1934 the Duke Power name won’t be on buses. Before 1934, Southern Public Utilities, with ties to Duke Power, ran the public transit service — whose origin dates to the 1890s when a tired old mule pulled a trolley along Elm Street.

“Electric streetcars came in 1902 and disappeared in 1934. Overhead trolleys became extinct here in 1956. Now, it’s goodbye to Duke’s buses.

“Duke Power leaves behind many memories, good and bad: Tokens, transfer slips, longtime route names such as Pomona-Bessemer and White Oak-Glenwood and those dreadful signs that long ago greeted black passengers when they stepped aboard: ‘Colored must step to the rear.’ ”

— From “Duke Power takes its last ride” by Jim Schlosser in the Greensboro News & Record (Oct. 4, 1991)

Before buses came to dominate public transit, Duke Power also had owned streetcar systems in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, High Point, Salisbury and Durham in North Carolina and in Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson in South Carolina.

But Duke Power held no statewide monopoly, as demonstrated by these additional tokens from Gate City Transit Lines (Greensboro), Shelby Transit, Power City Bus Lines (Albemarle), Safety Transit (Rocky Mount) Gastonia Transit and M and B Transit Lines (Burlington).

Despite its limiting name, Chicago Transit & Railfan offers remarkably detailed information on North Carolina

New in the collection: Greensboro wooden nickels

Four wooden nickels with images of John Motley Morehead, O'Henry, General Nathaniel Greene, and Captain John Sloan.

Verso of wooden nickels with words Greensboro Sesquicentennial.

“Fifty years ago this month, the city’s 150th anniversary celebration featured a little bit of everything, including lots of trouble and a funny name.

“‘Even the kids know how to pronounce sesquicentennial,’ one editorial writer quipped. ‘(But) not one in a thousand can tell you what it means.’

“Over 10 days in May, sesquicentennial meant things like a nightly outdoor pageant complete with a cast of 1,250; simulated atomic bomb blasts; a dog that walked a 15-block parade on its hind legs; merchants handing out wooden nickels [with Nathanael Greene‘s name misspelled]; a marching band playing ‘Dixie;’ and pie-eating, beard-growing and husband-calling contests.

“Organizers even ‘prohibited’ women from wearing makeup and jewelry in public unless they bought certificates that allowed them to.

“‘It was like Mayberry,’ said Gayle Fripp, the Guilford County historian. ‘Andy Griffith could have been there.’

“But the headline turned out to be the weather. Because of heavy rains and sparse crowds, the celebration wound up mired in red ink and mud to match….”

— From “’58 festivity a washout” by Donald W. Patterson in the Greensboro News & Record (May 17, 2008)

By the time the city’s bicentennial celebration rolled around, the agenda reflected enormous civic and cultural upheaval. “Dixie” had disappeared from the playlist, for instance, and if wooden nickels had been issued they probably wouldn’t have been limited to dead white men.

New in the collection: Dixie Fire Insurance blotter

Dixie Fire Insurance, chartered in 1906, is long lost into a series of industry mergers, but its handsome headquarters — at five stories, once Guilford County’s tallest skyscraper — remains as the nominally truncated Dixie Building.

Now that Winston-Salem has renamed the Dixie Classic Fair the Carolina Classic Fair and Winn-Dixie has beaten a retreat from the state, the Dixie Building may be the Triad’s most prominent bearer of the increasingly-contentious name.

Also from Dixie Fire Insurance’s store of desk accessories: this eye-catching mirror/paperweight from World War I.

New in the collection: FCX pinback

Pinback with words "FCX Farm and Garden, 50th Anniversary, 1934-1984"

“FCX Inc., then known as Farmers Cooperative Exchange, opened its first outlet in Burlington in 1934. Seven more stores quickly followed… during the Great Depression.

“In the 50 years since then FCX has grown into an operation with 95 centers and gross sales of about $500 million a year. In 1984, it ranks as the No. 1 farm supplier in North and South Carolina.”

— From “FCX Marks 50 Years of Self-Help Success” by Eugene S. Knight in Carolina Country (March 1984)

Alas, by this time the declining farm economy had already pushed FCX to the brink of bankruptcy, and in 1986 it accepted a buyout offer from Richmond-based Southern States Cooperative.