Cotton gin tag


After cotton was picked and baled, it was stored at the local gin and tagged with an identifying number linking it to the farmer who owned it. Cotton is highly flammable, so the metal tags were especially important in the event of fire. These “fire tags” had mostly given way to other means of identification by the end of the 20th century.

A busy day at Cochran’s Gin in the late 1940s. 


1. In 1948 citizens of Newport News petitioned Virginia’s governor to close its southern border — why?

2. In 1988 officials at Raleigh-Durham International Airport teasingly distributed pinback buttons asking, “Parlez-vous Francais, Charlotte?” — why?

3. After this educator’s death at the age of 39, Frederick Douglass lamented that “the race has lost its ablest advocate.” To whom was he referring?

4. Duke Ellington composed what 1930s classic at a party in Durham’s North Carolina Mutual Building?

5. The last Confederate veteran in Congress served until 1910, 1920 or 1930?

Answers below





1. North Carolina was suffering the nation’s worst epidemic of infantile paralysis — better known today as polio. In 1959 the state became the first to require children to be inoculated with the new Salk vaccine.

2. RDU had just added an American Airlines flight to Paris — a direct connection then lacking at Charlotte/Douglas International. (American dropped the Paris flight in 1994 and shut its RDU hub a year later.)

3. Joseph C. Price, founder of Livingstone College.

4. “In a Sentimental Mood.” As Ellington recalled: “We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company [treasurer Edward Merrick], threw a party for us….

“I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano.”

5. 1930. Former Confederate major Charles Manly Stedman, elected to the House 10 times by his Greensboro district, died at age 89.


“Among others who called this morning was rather an elderly woman who said she lived in Alexandria. She wanted money to pay her rents and for other purposes. She brought no letters. I did not learn her name. She said she had lived in Alexandria many years. She had a genteel appearance.

“I endeavored to waive her application by treating her civilly and telling her she should apply to her neighbors and friends, who knew her. She became more and more importunate and I was forced at last to give her a positive denial. This did not satisfy her, and she named a sum which would satisfy her. I declined to give it to her and was compelled at last to tell her plainly that I did not know her or that she was worthy. I informed her that I contributed to objects of real charity as far as my means permitted, and asked her again why she had not applied to her neighbors in Alexandria, to which she replied that she did not wish to expose her necessities.

“I note this case to show some of the annoyances to which a President of the US is subjected.”

— From the diary of James K. Polk, Jan. 19, 1849

h/t Winston Blair


Label for Swathmoor Farm Brand Sweet Pickles

“Through various civic activities, [Charles F.] Cates had made the friendship of John Sprunt Hill, an attorney in Durham…. Desiring to do something for his native community of Faison [in Duplin County], Hill persuaded Cates to move his pickle operation there [from Swepsonville in Alamance County], and local farmers were soon persuaded to begin growing the variety of cucumber best for pickling….”

From Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Cates entry by Charles M. Ingram

John Sprunt Hill, catalyst for the North Carolina pickle industry!

In 1989 Dean Foods Co. bought Cates & Sons, but the Charles F. and Howard Cates Farm, also known as Swathmoor Farm, remains — a historic farm complex and national historic district in Alamance County.


1. In the N.C. mountains, what lucrative commodity is known as “sang”?

2. What Catawba County town may have been named after an Italian sculptor?

3. The “Chapel” in Chapel Hill was of what denomination?

4. Whom do the two classic equestrian statues in Greensboro and Winston-Salem honor?

5. Twice — in 1977 and 1991 — two basketball teams from the state have made it to the Final Four. Who were they?

Answers below





1. Ginseng, valued as a tonic. The wild herb’s gnarled roots, dug up with sharpened sticks, are commonly exported to Asia.

2. Conover, after Antonio Canova, whose marble statue of George Washington was destroyed in the Capitol fire of 1831, then copied and reinstalled in 1970.

3. Church of England.

4. In Greensboro, Gen. Nathanael Greene, Revolutionary War hero; in Winston-Salem, R.J. Reynolds, tobacco manufacturer.

5. In 1977, UNC Charlotte and North Carolina. In 1991, Duke and North Carolina.



Bojangle's placemat congratulating 2016 master biscuit makers with photos


Yes, it’s just a fast-food placemat — but what better illustration of the core values of Charlotte-born and -based Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits?

No Southern food goes undebated, of course.


On this day in 1952: “A preacher in Rocky Mount, N.C., announced he would burn a copy of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible to protest the substitution of ‘young woman’ for ‘virgin’ and other changes from the King James version. He also charged that the National Council of Churches of Christ was deriving an ‘unmoral profit’ from royalties on the book. ‘I think their price is a little steep anyhow,’ he added.”

— From “Great moments in bookburning history” by at Sophrosyne (Sept. 10, 2010)


1. Where did Henry Clay write the memorable words, “I had rather be right than be president”? 

2. In a commencement-speaking invitation to what president did Davidson refer to itself as “by far the most flourishing institution in North Carolina since the decline of the State University”?

 3. What was the fate of the women’s suffrage bill introduced in the N.C. Senate in 1897?

4. What British rock group took its name from two Carolinas blues musicians?

5. What religious denomination accounts for the largest share of the student body at Wake Forest University?

Answers below





1. In Raleigh, where Clay was visiting when he composed a letter opposing annexation of Mexico — an unpopular stand that did indeed scuttle his presidential hopes.

2. Andrew Johnson in 1869 (he declined).

3. It was belittled by being sent to the Committee on Insane Asylums.

4.  Pink Floyd, after Pink Anderson, born in Laurens, S.C., and Floyd Council, born in Chapel Hill.

5. Roman Catholics, 24 percent. Baptists, who founded the school, rank second with 6 percent.


License plate with words, "White Lake, Nation's Safest Beach"

“At this beach, the water is free of salt and jellyfish. Most of it is clear as a fountain, covering a little more than 2.5 square miles and reaching a depth of 12 feet. White Lake is technically not a lake but a Carolina bay marketed as the ‘Nation’s Safest Beach.’ The sandy lake floor slopes gently, making no sudden drops, and there are no undercurrents that will drag you away or marine critters that will take a bite out of you. The last alligator, for what it’s worth, was spotted and killed in 1956….”

— From “Town square: Sensibly shabby” by Bryan Mims in Business North Carolina (Aug. 1, 2016)

White Lake was the subject of a 2015 documentary by UNC Chapel Hill student Robert Kinlaw.


1. Thelonious Monk, the jazz great born in Rocky Mount, often wore what in his lapel when playing New York clubs?

2. Whose liver is on display in a pan of formaldehyde at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia?

3. What bird, considered extinct in North Carolina since 1959, was reintroduced in 1984?

4. True or false: California’s Orange County is more than 20 times as populous as North Carolina’s.

5. Among the loose ends of the John F. Kennedy assassination is an unexplained telephone call from Dallas to Raleigh the day after. Who attempted to place it?

Answers below





1. A collard leaf, as a bow to his Southern roots.

2. The liver of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese twins, who after touring the world with P.T. Barnum lived most of their adult lives on adjoining farms near Mount Airy.

3. The peregrine falcon.

4. True. California’s OC is about 3.17 million, vs. North Carolina’s 141,000.

5. Lee Harvey Oswald. Police thwarted the call from the jail to one of two Raleigh-area John Hurts, neither of whom had any apparent connection to Oswald. The next day he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby.


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »