“A period of renewed interest in flight culminated with Charles A. Lindbergh’s nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. The increased flight activity of the late 1920s encouraged recognition of the Wright Brothers.
“At the local level North Carolinians, led by W. O. Saunders, editor of the Elizabeth City Independent, organized the Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association to ensure a proper commemoration of the Wrights’ first flight effort.”
— From “Commemorating the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk” by the National Park Service
This pot-metal souvenir stands 3 inches tall.
“If the South had 40 editors like W. O. Saunders, ” H. L. Mencken wrote, “it could be rid of most of its problems in five years.”
Saunders put out the weekly Elizabeth City Independent from 1908 until 1937. He exposed corruption and bigotry with great courage, but he attracted more attention with his rambunctious humor. A typical editorial page filler reported deadplan that a local political boss had been spotted “in the courthouse with his hands in his own pockets.”
The Independent’s fame and circulation extended nationwide, thanks to such pranks as a full-page satire on a New Deal privy project and Saunders’ pajama-clad stroll down Fifth Avenue in advocacy of more sensible hot-weather clothing. (When a New York reporter asked him how he felt, he admitted, “Like a damn fool.”)
“The truly noteworthy things I have done receive scant notice….” Saunders once lamented. “But when I walk out on the streets in pajamas on a sweltering summer day or print a satire on new-fangled backhouses, the whole country gives me a big hand.”
On this day in 1919: In Elizabeth City, Margaret Sanger delivers the South’s first public lecture on birth control.
Sanger, a New Yorker invited by maverick newspaper editor W.O. Saunders, will recall later that she was skeptical of her reception “in a city in which not even a suffragist had delivered a public lecture. To my delight, however, I found that people, both black and white . . . were so eager to know about birth control that every possible moment of my time was given to speaking. . . .
“Never have I met with more sympathy, more serious attention, more complete understanding than in . . . this Southern mill town.”