New in the collection: ‘Nifty gifty’ made in Hickory

Hyalin Dish shaped like North Carolina with Spruce Pines noted.

Verso of Hylan dish shaped like North Carolina, with "Emrich's State of the Union by Hyaln" stamped on it.

From 1946 to 1997, Hyalyn Porcelain was a prominent manufacturer in Hickory — well chronicled here by the

Catawba County historian and collector Barry Huffman suggests an answer:

“Hyalyn produced a series of these small pieces, apparently thinking of a series of states, although I have seen only North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. I believe it is likely Spruce Pine commissioned the application of the city name.

“Les Moody, founder of Hyalyn, chose Hickory in part because of its location near resources he would use to achieve the clay formula he wanted. Hyalyn purchased feldspar from [the Spruce Pine area] and surely had contacts there who were familiar with the kinds of things they made. [Georgia and Michigan have also been mentioned as sources.] This sort of object probably fell in the category of ‘nifty gifties,’ so named by employees.”

More here about Spruce Pine’s remarkable geology.


Spruce Pine makes the world go round….

“Spruce Pine, it turns out, is the source of the purest natural quartz—a species of pristine sand—ever found on Earth. This ultra‑elite deposit of silicon dioxide particles plays a key role in manufacturing the silicon used to make computer chips. In fact, there’s an excellent chance the chip that makes your laptop or cell phone work was made using sand from this obscure Appalachian backwater….”

— From “The Ultra-Pure, Super-Secret Sand That Makes Your Phone Possible” by Vince Beiser in Wired

Fascinating story! And it even mentions the bunkers at Augusta National.


A Hayloft Sweetheart goes to Raleigh

On this day in 1974: Myrtle “Lulu Belle” Wiseman, twice voted America’s most popular female radio entertainer in the 1930s, is elected to the N.C. House.

Before retiring to Spruce Pine in 1958, she and her husband, Scotty, had performed for almost a quarter-century as the Hayloft Sweethearts on the “National Barn Dance” on Chicago’s WLS, hosted a daily TV show for eight years and made seven Hollywood movies.

The Wisemans wrote or co-wrote such classics as “Good Old Mountain Dew” (with Bascom Lamar Lunsford), “Remember Me” and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”

In her two terms in the legislature, Lulu Belle Wiseman will make her most dramatic impression when, arguing for the death penalty for rapists, she tells her stunned colleagues about her own rape 10 years earlier.