New in the collection: Charlotte double-dips

Paper with the words "Visit Charlotte, NC," "1732-1932, George Washington Bicentennial Celebration," and "May 20, 1775, 1932, Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence."

“Thousands of Mecklenburg citizens, many of them direct lineal descendants of signers of the famous document, are expected to gather in the open air theater of Independence Park to celebrate with salvo and song the 157th anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

“A dozen patriotic societies will commemorate the signing of the immortal document… and at the same time will honor the George Washington bicentennial observance in programs throughout the year.”

— From “Open air exercises to mark May 20 observance” in the Charlotte Observer (May 17, 1932)

Outside its home county the Meck Dec has struggled to entrench itself as  an “immortal document,” especially among evidence-demanding historians.

This image is from a poster stamp, intended for promotion rather than postage.

 

‘Constitutional right to work’? No thanks

“The first federal child labor law was passed in 1916…. Less than a year later it was declared unconstitutional by a five-to-four decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, on the ground that it transcended ‘the authority delegated to Congress over commerce,’ and interfered with states’ rights….

“Six years after that decision a Scripps-Howard reporter interviewed Reuben Dagenhart of Charlotte, N.C., the boy whose ‘constitutional right to work’ overthrew the law which sought to cut his hours of labor as a 14-year-old, from 12 to 8 a day. ‘What benefit did you get out of the suit which you won in the United States Supreme?’ the reporter asked.

“ ‘You mean the suit the Fidelity Manufacturing Co. [his employer] won? I don’t see that I got any benefit. I guess I’d been a lot better off if they hadn’t won it. Look at me! I may be mistaken but I think the years I’ve put in the cotton mills stunted my growth. They kept me from getting any schooling. I had to stop school after the third grade and now I need the education I didn’t get… But I know one thing, I ain’t going to let them put my kid sister in the mill.’ ”

— From “Children Wanted” by Beulah Amidon, in Survey Graphic (January  1937)

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)