New in the collection: King Rat brochure

Flier from Infallible Rat Exterminating Company featuring illustrations, including one of King Rat sitting on a throne,.

“Mr. J.W. Stephenson, a native of Winston-Salem, has for many years given his entire time and attention to the war on King Rat, working in some of the largest cities in the country and being present during the memorable fight on rats in New Orleans when the city was forced to kill all the rats in order to save herself from being wiped out by bubonic plague….
“Winston-Salem has the chance to become known as a ratless city. Will she embrace the opportunity or will she continue to harbor this filthy, disease breeding pest and retain her reputation of having the highest death rate, per capita, of any city in the United States?”
— From a brochure for the Infallible Rat Exterminating Co. (1917)

I can find no record of Winston-Salem taking up Stephenson’s offer (or, for that matter, of the city’s suffering such an appalling mortality rate). Forty-five years later, however, city government awarded a $9,600 contract for a one-year program that “involved the carefully supervised placing of poison bait in the sanitary sewer manholes to destroy rats and was considered very successful.”


New in the collection: Mocksville Telephone Co. receipt

Mocksvile Telephone Company receiptThe first telephone exchange in the state opened in Raleigh in 1879. Service to less urban areas came slowly – Mocksville’s began in 1904.  If I’m reading this 1919 receipt correctly, it shows that a three-minute call from  Sanford Motor Co. in Mocksville to C. L. Sharp Co., a produce dealer in Winston-Salem, cost 30 cents.

New in the collection: key fob from Hotel Robert E. Lee

Key fob for Hotel Robert E. Lee in Winston-Salem

“The Robert E. Lee hotel was a gleaming 10-story symbol of Winston-Salem’s boom time when it opened its doors in 1921….

“The Robert E. Lee came as the city and the tobacco industry were growing rapidly. The U.S. Decennial Census listed Winston-Salem as the state’s largest city….

“The Robert E. Lee finally shut its doors in 1971. To many, its closure represented the changing pace of modern life. Longtime waiter Bernard Cardwell blamed ‘motels and hamburgers.’ ”

— From  “Stories of a lost landmark” by Paul Garber in the Winston-Salem Journal (March 25, 2012)

As Lee looked on, King’s movement recast classroom

“In the late ’60s, I had a high-school English teacher who was, shall we say, getting on in years, and she kept paintings of [Robert E.] Lee and Stonewall Jackson hanging on the wall of her classroom. What’s interesting about this is that the high school where she taught [R. J. Reynolds High in Winston-Salem] was the most successfully integrated institution I have ever known. Because the high school was located in the geographical center of the city, the student body was made up of black and white, rich and poor and middle-class kids. Because the Methodist orphanage was located across the road from the school, we even had orphans.

“It was a true cross section of society, but somehow everyone co-existed amicably, or the students did, at least. The administration and much of the faculty, especially the older teachers, seemed to view integration more grudgingly, as though it were a trick played on them. Historically speaking, of course, their behavior was unexceptional.

“Until the ’60s, our city had been two societies, one black and one white. I grew up with color-coded water fountains, a black balcony at the movie theater, and neighborhoods clearly segregated by race. African-Americans had their own cab and bus services. Before school integration, the only major social event in which both blacks and whites participated equally was the city’s Christmas parade, and even then there was no mingling. Black high school bands marched separately from white school bands.

“The Civil Rights movement changed a lot of that, thanks to the guts and determination of people like Dr. King. I seriously doubt that any teacher in any school in my hometown today has a picture of Robert E. Lee on the wall of her classroom.

“That said, I’m sure there are still teachers who would put up a portrait of Lee if they thought they could get away with it….”

— From “On MLK Day, Two Versions Of The South Collide” by Malcolm Jones at the Daily Beast (Jan. 19)


Naming Winston-Salem: A revisionist history

“Winston-Salem was a small city compared to Philadelphia…. We found out that Winston-Salem was where R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was located, which was why we saw all those endless huge fields of tobacco when we were coming down on the train….

“The city itself — and our college, too — was named after Winston and Salem cigarettes, I believe….”

— From “Earl the Pearl: My Story” by Earl Monroe (2013)

Monroe became a sensation on the Winston-Salem State basketball team, averaging 41 points per game his senior year, and later was named to four NBA All-Star teams. 


Could Richmond have become ‘Camel City’?

“The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., formerly one of the largest subsidiaries of the American Tobacco Co., contemplates entering the cigarette manufacturing field.

“The main plug and smoking tobacco factories of the company are located at Winston-Salem, N.C., but it has not definitely decided as yet whether or not to locate the cigarette manufacturing end of its business in that city. The uncertainty is due to the fact that a bill framed to prevent cigarette manufacture is before the North Carolina state legislature.

“The company has two large warehouses in Richmond, and in the event of unfavorable legislation in North Carolina, the cigarette manufacturing for the company will be undertaken in Virginia.”

– From “If Legislation is Unfavorable in North Carolina, Plant May Be Located in Virginia” in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 22, 1913)

I haven’t found details on the proposed ban on cigarette manufacturing, but it must not have turned out to be a problem — just a few months later Reynolds’ Winston-Salem plant would be turning out 425 million Camels per year.


Link dump arrives in egg, Miscellany fans go gaga

Break-in at Central Prison!

— Muskogee, Paducah or Chapel Hill?

— Reel-to-reel of MLK in Winston-Salem makes digital debut.

— Sorry, just couldn’t resist writing “Dateline: Spearfish.”

— Would historic Skyco be better remembered if it didn’t have to share its name with a mobile home builder, a paragliding outfitter and a supplier of knuckle boom grapple trucks?

Money’s to burn when you yearn for a churn

“The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C., has focused for a few years on expanding its holdings of antiques from the western edge of the Southeast. In October the museum set an auction record for Kentucky pottery: at Case Antiques in Knoxville, Tenn., it spent $55,200 on an eight-gallon butter churn [scroll down to No. 229] with “Kentucky 1836” in blue script and the stamped name of the potter, Isaac Thomas. The piece, the earliest known ceramic vessel made in Kentucky, will be exhibited in a gallery about westward expansion, tucked between Kentucky cherry furniture and silverware.

“The auction estimate was $3,000 to $3,500, but the museum ended up in a bidding war with a private collector. The final price ‘caught us a bit by surprise,’ said the museum’s chief curator, Robert Leath, ‘but when you’re determined, you’re determined.’

“Mr. Leath added that the two-foot-tall churn was ‘a fantastic self-promoting object.’

“ ‘It’s really shouting out its identity,’ he said. ‘It tells you everything you could want to know about it, all in cobalt-blue decoration, on a monumental scale.’ ”

— From The New York Times (Dec. 23)

Although the Times rates the butter churn among “the year’s more intriguing auction lots” (along with a Roy Rogers saddle and a folk predecessor of the Monopoly game), the sale seems not to have merited a mention elsewhere — even on the MESDA site. C’mon, newspeople — historical significance aside, what reader wouldn’t be curious about a churn that cost more than a new Porsche?

Sunday link dump knows how to swivel its hips

— Winston-Salem wowed by early look at Elvis.

— “If western North Carolina was so pro-Union, why didn’t more men join the Union army?”

— More guerrilla artistry from the city that brought us the Barrel Monster.

Susan Stamberg’s cranberry relish is so 1621. Count on Krispy Kreme to rescue your contemporary Thanksgiving fail.