Charlotte’s ‘salt-and-pepper’ era

“What few people know is that the South wasn’t always so segregated. During a brief window between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century, black and white people lived next to each other in Southern cities, creating what [Charlotte] historian Tom Hanchett describes as a ‘salt-and-pepper’ pattern.

“They were not integrated in a meaningful sense: Divisions existed, but ‘in a lot of Southern cities, segregation hadn’t been fully imposed — there were neighborhoods where blacks and whites were living nearby,’ said Eric Foner, a Columbia historian and expert on Reconstruction. Walk around in the Atlanta or the Charlotte of the late 1800s, and you might see black people in restaurants, hotels, the theater, Foner said. Two decades later, such things were not allowed.”

— From ” ‘Segregation Had to Be Invented’ “ by Alana Semuels in The Atlantic (Feb. 17)

President Taft took a seat (but not this one)

“The story goes that President William Howard Taft sat in this plain wooden chair — specially procured for his outsize stature — in 1909 while delivering a speech at Johnson C. Smith University, then known as Biddle University. Except Taft never really sat in this chair at all.

“Brandon Lunsford, university archivist and digital manager, says that the truth is widely accepted. ‘It’s a cool little artifact and just a fun story,’ he explains. The whereabouts of the actual Taft chair remain a mystery.”

— From “19 Hidden Treasures at North Carolina’s Universities” by Chloe Klingstedt in Our State (January)

Among the eclectic selection of treasures: Miles Davis’s trumpet, Elisha Mitchell’s pocket watch and Southern Culture on the Skids’ flaming La-Z-Boy.

 

New in the collection: 1910 Charlotte convention

Pin featuring a tar heel in the center, the North Carolina and US flags on the side, and the words eighth annual convention of the U.S. League of Local and Building Loan Associations, Charlotte NC, 1910.

“It was a wonder to me….  how popular these associations were in your city. Of course we naturally feel that there cannot be any town equal to Philadelphia in building association matters, but I am afraid that if we were to make a careful comparison, to use classical language, ‘you would have us beaten to a frazzle.’ “

— From a letter from George W. Clippe, delegate to the convention of  the U.S. League of Local Building and Loan Associations, published in the Charlotte Observer

North Carolina, especially the Piedmont, was indeed a hotbed of building and loans in 1910.

An image not often seen: North Carolina’s tar heel overlaid on Mecklenburg’s hornets nest.

New in the collection: Postcard of office made of coal

Postcard of exterior of F&R Coal Company building in Charlotte

Hat tip to the Mary Boyer Collection at J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte, for this background:

“The outer walls were covered in coal, and the roof was red-tiled. Beside the building, one can see some of the red delivery trucks. Founded in the 1920s, the company also traded in gasoline, motor oil, solvents and kerosene. The ‘house’ was part of an advertising gimmick in the ’20s to construct buildings of coal, [as survive in] Williamson, W. Va., and Middlesboro, Ky.

Although F. & R. Coal & Oil Co. boasted that “We believe in our coal enough to build an office out of it,” its coal-clad testimonial is long gone, replaced by a tailgating lot for Carolina Panthers games. The four-story industrial building behind it survives as offices.

 

New in the collection: State’s first skyscraper in the making

Images of building under construction surrounded by scaffoldEven if it weren’t scarce, this would be my favorite Charlotte postcard. The tinted image of “Progressive Charlotte — Getting her new streets and skyscraper” puts us present at the clangorous creation of what would become today’s million-pushing metropolis.

The 12-story Realty Building (later the Independence Building), the state’s first steel-framed high-rise, was imploded in 1981.

 

New in the collection: Bob Dylan Charlotte concert poster

Poster that includes a photograph of Bob Dylan and reads "Cricket Arena, Sunday, February 10th, 8pm, in show and concert, Bob Dylan and His Band, In person."

“The crowd of at least 5,000 welcomed the new and old Dylan, dressed in a dark suit and white cowboy hat. The show was general admission, so hundreds of people packed the arena floor, some dancing and others sitting along the perimeter nodding their heads appreciatively.

“Dylan’s influence on music is undeniable, from his political folk songs of the early ’60s to his electrified folk-rock of the mid-’60s. Sunday’s show attracted a range of fans representing his impact, from hippie throwbacks dancing next to tie-dye Phish fans to yuppies with young children….”

— From “Band steals show as Dylan delights fans of all ages” by Tonya Jameson in the Charlotte Observer (Feb. 11, 2002)

New in the collection: Durham Soap Box Derby pinback

Pinback button that reads "Go 'Lucky Seven,' Kenny Walker, Durham, 1978

 

Soap Box Derby used to be be big, both nationally and in North Carolina. Today the derby apparently survives in the state only in Morganton, where it has its own track at the Burke County Fairgrounds under the sponsorship of the Morganton Optimist Club.

Newspaper archives offer a look back at the race’s glory days in Raleigh and in Charlotte.

In 1970 a Durham contestant won the national championship. Less illustriously, a 1993 champion from Huntersville — perhaps influenced by the local culture? — was stripped of his title for using unapproved materials.

 

New in the collection: handbill for George Wallace speech

“About 450 attended, compared with about 1,500 in Asheville Wednesday and an even larger crowd in Raleigh Tuesday.

“Out of deference to UNC-Charlotte’s televised basketball game [against N.C. State in the NIT], Wallace spoke a little more than 20 minutes….

“Wallace was joined on the Park Center stage by Barry Worley, who was shot in 1974 as a Charlotte park policeman on duty outside a Memorial Stadium rock concert.

“Worley, like Wallace, is partly paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

” ‘Your former patrolman… is a typical example of what happens if we don’t get a handle on this problem of crime,’ Wallace said. ‘What we need is to return to the electric chair to get some people off of society.’

“He also touched on his familiar campaign themes — tax reform, welfare reform, the importance of military strength and the evils of ‘big government.’ ”

— From “Wallace: No Plan to Bolt” by Jerry Shinn in the Charlotte Observer (March 19, 1976)

Wallace’s loss to Jimmy Carter in the next week’s Democratic primary, 54 to 35 percent, virtually ended his fourth and final bid for the presidency.