Today over on the DigitalNC blog we’re sharing 10 examples of North Carolina student protests, beginning with the historic Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in on this date in 1960 and continuing up to 2012.
The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is located in Wilson Library and works closely with the North Carolina Collection. We’ll occasionally be cross-blogging some posts that North Carolina Miscellany readers may find interesting.
In 1889, Mr. E. J. Stephenson made an arduous journey from Henderson, North Carolina to Newark, New Jersey via bicycle. At times, Stephenson was unable to ride his bike and resorted to walking along dusty and bumpy roads, sometimes for twenty to thirty miles. At one point, the roads would have been so difficult to travel on that he was advised to take a brief train ride.
During his two weeks of travel, he wrote about his journey documenting the sights and his expenditures as he made his way to New Jersey. He observed the Blue Ridge Mountains, crossed the Shenandoah River, and gazed across the Susquehanna River. In addition to this, he stopped for a day in Washington D.C. to visit many of the sights that are still popular destinations today. Notably, he visited the Washington Monument stating that it “is 500 feet high and took the elevator 8 minutes to get up.”
When he arrived in Newark sixteen days after departing Henderson, Stephenson had traveled 533 miles and spent $13.00 (approximately $340.00 in modern day currency.) The current time from Henderson, North Carolina to Newark by bike is approximately 44 hours since roads can be more easily traversed by bicycles since the year Stephenson made his trek. Read about the adventure, including broken spokes and free pears from farmers, in the published pages of Stephenson’s diary in the September 26, 1889 issue of The Gold Leaf.
The waters off the North Carolina coast have long proved treacherous for ships. By some estimates more than 3,000 vessels have met their fates in the area commonly known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” A particularly dangerous location along the North Carolina coast is known as Diamond Shoals. Here, cool water from the north and warm water from the south collide to create a maze of sandbars, small islands, and inlets extending miles out to sea. Though a lighthouse was constructed at Cape Hatteras in 1802 (the current Cape Hatteras Light was rebuilt in 1870), its light did not project far enough to warn ships away from the outer Diamond Shoals.
In 1889, United States Lighthouse Board officials decided that a lighthouse should be built on the outer Diamond Shoals to augment the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The Board provided $500,000 for its construction.
An article from The Charlotte Democrat, dated September 19, 1890 and available through Chronicling America, relates the excitement with which North Carolina residents and mariners alike greeted the possibility of the new Diamond Shoals lighthouse:
“Should it be a success, it would be a cheap accomplishment at any price, for there is no other place on the seacoast of the United States, where so many noble ships have been lost, so many valuable cargoes destroyed, and so many human beings swept into eternity as in the raging waters of Outer Diamond shoals. Should the enterprise prove successful, all maritime men of every nation and all our countrymen will owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Ransom, of North Carolina, who, placing implicit confidence in the statements made by eminent engineers that the work could be accomplished, and knowing the inestimable boon it would be to humanity and to commerce, employed his great popularity with the older members of both houses of Congress to induce them to pass a bill authorizing this stupendous undertaking, national in design and purposes, but international in its prospective benefits.”
Unfortunately, the same shifting sandbars that made it difficult for mariners to navigate the area also created problems with the construction of the lighthouse. After several attempts, workers abandoned efforts to build the lighthouse and a lightship was anchored there instead. A permanent lighthouse was not constructed on Diamond Shoals until the 1960s. A light remained in that location for more than 30 years. The lighthouse suffered significant damage from Hurricane Fran in 1996, making it difficult for workers to repair. The light was finally extinguished in 2001, though the structure remains and is a popular fishing spot. In 2012, a Minnesota man bought the lighthouse for $20,000 and announced plans to use it as a research, development, and product testing facility.
While browsing The Independent, an historic newspaper from Elizabeth City, I was intrigued by an advertisement for The Shad Man. Although the nickname amused me, I questioned the ad’s presence in a North Carolina newspaper. The advertisement was for a vendor at the Dock Street Fish Market in Philadelphia—some 300 miles north of Elizabeth City!
Why was a Philadelphia fish merchant seeking shad from North Carolina? It’s hard to say with certainty. Clearly there was a demand. That’s confirmed by the number of ads appearing in The Independent from other fish merchants in Philadelphia, as well as those in New York and Baltimore. All are seeking shad.
An article in the June 14, 1925 issue of The News and Observer, hints at one reason the merchants had turned their attentions southward. The writer notes,”The waters here, unpolluted as they are, have a tremendous advantage over the waters of the sounds to the north, with their vast cities.” Pollution, it seems, was causing a decline in shad in the north.
In fact, by the time the article appeared in The News and Observer, shad were already dwindling in North Carolina waters, too. The reduced supply had caused the price to increase from 25 cents to $2.50 per pound, according to the article.
The number of shad continued to decline into the 1930s. Writer and conservationist Rachel Carson was among those who raised the alarm. As a junior aquatic biologist for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, Carson was responsible for studying fish populations and writing brochures and pamphlets to educate the general public. An article she penned on shad appeared in the February 28, 1937 edition of The News and Observer. She wrote:
Many of the major rivers of New England, where shad once furnished a commercial catch of two million pounds are no longer considered shad streams. From New York to Delaware the catch has dropped from nearly 22 million pounds in 1901 to less than a million in 1934. Shad fishermen of the Chesapeake, center of the industry, took 17 million pounds annually in the late 1890s; in 1934 the catch failed to total five million pounds. On the South Atlantic coast the yield had dropped from 11 million to 2 1/2 million pounds.
The amazing picture of depletion is the product of the triple menace of overfishing, obstructing dams and polluted waterways. In narrow-mouthed bays and river estuaries the maze of nets and traps obstructing the passage upstream takes a heavy toll of fish before they have spawned. Dams for industry and navigation have spelled the destruction of the shad runs in the upper and middle reaches of the rivers. Fishways, providing a graded ascent, have been built into certain of the dams, but the shad, in contrast to the aggressive salmon, is a shy and retiring fish and will not use the ladders. In other areas lumber mills have dumped sawdust into the streams, choking their channels; silt washed from eroded hillsides covers the spawning beds, smothering the eggs and fry; industrial and municipal pollution has poisoned other waters so that shad will not enter or spawn in them.
As the shad population dwindled, state and federal officials along with fishermen attempted to find remedies. Their solutions included altering the length of the fishing season and restricting the types of nets that could be used. Some even suggested killing cormorants, a protected bird known to attack the nets of caught shad.
Today, thanks to federal and state regulations as well as the removal of some dams, shad are again returning to North Carolina waters. And each spring shad lovers can again enjoy their favorite fish and its roe. Perhaps there’s even a shad man somewhere in Philadelphia at this very moment doing his best to find some North Carolina-caught shad.
Tippoo S. Brownlow, owner of the La Vallee Female Seminary, placed this advertisement recruiting students to his new school in an 1836 issue of the North Carolina Standard. The school was in operation from 1833-1850, and was located between Halifax and Warrenton, North Carolina. The La Vallee Female Seminary was run out of a small building behind what is now known as the Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House. The school building had two floors in which there would have been space for classes to be conducted and for students to eat meals and socialize, and an attic area which was likely the living quarters for the students. La Vallee Female Seminary was forced to close in 1850, when Brownlow could no longer support the school financially.
The La Vallee Female Seminary was benefited by an experienced staff. Brownlow had also run a school called the La Vallee Academy elsewhere in Halifax County in the late 1820s, before moving his school to the grounds of the Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House. In addition, the advertisement includes testimonies to the ability of La Vallee’s principal. Mrs. Emma McElvey had previously taught at a female seminary in Schenectady, New York, and her success in that position is attested to by no less than the mayor and the First Judge of Schenectady, the City physician, and several ministers.
It is interesting to note the course offerings at La Vallee Female Seminary. The courses one would expect to see offered at a ladies’ finishing school might include subjects like music and painting. However, La Vallee offered its young ladies courses in chemistry, astronomy, history, geography, and algebra. The course listings for music and art lessons appear at the end of the advertisement, as these courses incurred extra fees.
This advertisement comes from the oldest issue of a North Carolina newspaper that has become available on Chronicling America thus far. View the full advertisement here.
From the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America newspaper site, we selected an issue of the The Watauga Democrat that was published 99 years ago to see what was on the minds of North Carolinians in 1915. In addition to debates familiar to us now about “pistol-toters” and the best ways to avoid the common cold, there was also a debate concerning child labor laws.
Millennial is currently a buzz word in the media. In an age where children are “born digital,” it is understandable that people are concerned about the social and psychological development of the next generation. But what were our thoughts on the rising generation a century ago? During this time, child labor was heavily debated. Laborers served a vital function in the newly forming companies and trades. Because of the need of workers, arguments such as “children are better fitted for some trades than adults” and “children are much better off employed in the factories than idle and out of school” were considered valid points for a growing economy. Take a closer look at the article here and discover more about the history of child labor laws in North Carolina.
On this day in 1862: Private D.L. Day, Co. B, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, writes in his diary at Hatteras Inlet:
“A schooner came alongside today and left us rations of steamed pork, hardtack and condensed sea water. This was a very timely arrival as we have been very short of water for two or three days and pretty much everything else. Rattlesnake pork will taste pretty good again after a few days fast. Condensed sea water is rather a disagreeable beverage, but still is a little ahead of no water at all. I think, however, it might be made palatable by adding about nine parts whiskey to one of water.
“This water and pork is all manufactured here on the spot. They have a sort of rendering establishment where they make it, but I cannot believe that the pork would take a premium in any fair in the country unless it was for meanness. … “