Football Banned!

When football arrived on southern college campuses in the late 1870s, it was not without controversy. Some in the South resented the sport’s northern roots, while many others–especially religious leaders–feared that it put players and spectators in unnecessary physical and moral danger. In 1890, the administration of UNC was starting to agree, and after just two seasons of intercollegiate football, the Board of Trustees banned competition with other schools, citing the disorder and injury the game encouraged.

A football game in the early 1900s (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection #P0004, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive)
A football game in the early 1900s (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection #P0004, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive)

UNC organized its first intramural football teams in the 1880s, and by the end of that decade football was one of the most popular sports on campus. In 1888, UNC competed against Wake Forest in the first documented intercollegiate football game in the South. Spectators reported that the game was disorderly and confused, as neither team had a firm grasp on the rules of the game, and UNC lost 6 to 4. Competition was largely unregulated–there were almost no limits as to who could join the team on the field, and games sometimes dissolved into fights. Within the span of a year, three students suffered serious injuries on the football field–the team’s captain, Steve Bragaw, broke his leg in a game against Trinity (now Duke), and in the following season, student George Graham broke his collar bone and another student broke his wrist. In 1889, the university called for all games to be played on college grounds, hoping that greater supervision might rein in the disorder. When this failed, the faculty recommended a ban, and it was passed by the Board of Trustees on February 20, 1890.

The Board explained that while intercollegiate games were said to encourage exercise, foster inter-institutional relationships, and encourage “the boys of the country” to pursue a college education, the “necessary evils” of the sport “over balanced the benefits.” The Board argued that the sport’s impact on exercise was limited as only a few actually played, while many more neglected their studies to sit and watch. Citing player injuries, they argued that the game was physically dangerous and expressed fear that “the furious rivalry engendered by contests in presence of numerous spectators” encouraged brutality, conflict, and “hatreds” between schools. They not only feared for the students’ physical safety but also their morality, citing the “great deal of betting” that accompanied intercollegiate contests and expressing worry that the ” unusual excitement” caused by games might encourage “drinking and rowdyism.”

UNC’s football team in 1891, the first season after the ban was lifted (The Hellenian, North Carolina Collection)

Ten months later, a group of students led by football players George Graham, Samuel Blount, Alexander Stronach, Drew Patterson, and Perrin Busbee circulated a petition to end the ban. The faculty formed a committee to discuss the issue (an early incarnation of the Faculty Athletics Committee) and an agreement was reached. Intercollegiate sports were revived, but under the governance of an advisory committee. This committee, originally composed of a faculty member, a graduate student, and an undergraduate, would be instrumental in the administration and regulation of campus athletics in the coming years. UNC’s 1891 season was discouraging, as the team came away with a 0-2 record. However, over the next few years, the Tar Heels developed into one of the best teams in the South, winning the 1895 Southern Intercollegiate Athletics Association championship and going undefeated in 1898. For two of UNC’s rivals, however, the controversy over football continued. In 1895, both Wake Forest and Trinity, motivated in large part by their religious affiliations, banned the sport. Trinity did not field another team until 1920, while Wake Forest returned to the field in 1907.

Carl Kasell and the Early Years of WUNC

Yackety Yack, 1954
Yackety Yack, 1954

When WUNC began airing NPR’s Morning Edition in 1980, it wasn’t the first time newscaster Carl Kasell’s famous voice had gone out on the station’s airwaves. In fact, when WUNC was dedicated as a student-run FM station in 1953, Kasell (class of 1956) was part of its first staff.  Kasell, who retired from Morning Edition in 2009 and now serves as the official judge and scorekeeper of NPR’s popular quiz show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! is returning to UNC next week to discuss his life and career in “An Evening With Carl Kasell.”

Script for a "Variety Vacationland" ad performed by Carl Kasell and Charles Kuralt in 1953 (Department of Radio, Motion Pictures, and Television Records #40086, University Archives, Wilson Library)
Script for a “Variety Vacationland” ad performed by Carl Kasell and Charles Kuralt in 1953 (Department of Radio, Motion Pictures, and Television Records #40086, University Archives, Wilson Library)

As an announcer and operations manager for the WUNC, Kasell spent much of his time on campus in Swain Hall, where WUNC operated from its founding until 1999. He lent his voice to programs including American Adventure, a series broadcast nationally by NBC in 1955. He announced upcoming segments, played parts in advertisements, and read news (including the outcomes of UNC basketball games).

In 1955, Kasell helped to engineer what was perhaps the first stereo broadcast on radio. While broadcasting a musical performance, WUNC collaborated with local station WCHL to set up a microphone on either side of the performers–one broadcasting to WUNC and the other to WCHL. Listeners were advised to turn on two radios on either side of a room, one tuned in to WUNC and the other to WCHL, and this created a stereo effect.

A 1987 ad for NPR's Morning Edition from Listen! magazine
A 1987 ad for NPR’s Morning Edition from Listen! magazine

Join us Tuesday for “An Evening with Carl Kasell” at the Genome Sciences Building. Materials from University Archives related to Kasell’s time at WUNC–including photos, newspaper clippings, scripts, and more–will be on display during the reception preceding the program. The event is free and open to the public. The reception begins at 5:00, to be followed by the program at 5:30.

Event details for “An Evening With Carl Kasell”

(NB: this post was edited on March 5, 2014.)

New “Water at UNC-Chapel Hill” Exhibit Now in the Virtual Museum

During the droughts of the 1960s and 1970s, water for irrigating athletic fields was brought to campus from surrounding creeks. (Yackety Yack, 1977, North Carolina Collection)
During the droughts of the 1960s and 1970s, water for irrigating athletic fields was brought to campus from surrounding creeks. (Yackety Yack, 1977, North Carolina Collection)

Imagine lining up to draw your drinking water from the Old Well, trekking to Smith Hall (now Playmakers Theater) for a bath, or showering every other day (at the university’s suggestion) to save water during a severe drought.

In connection with the university’s two-year “Water in Our World” theme, University Archives has added a new exhibit to the Carolina Story online museum highlighting the ways water has been a part of campus history—from the founding of the university among an “abundance of springs” to the water conservation efforts of today.

Check out the new exhibit at:

New Online Exhibit on Student Organizations at UNC

When was the first student body president elected? Who’s a Di and who’s a Phi? What’s a Gimghoul?

Loreleis Concert Poster, Courtesy of Margaret Moore Jackson
Loreleis Concert Poster, Courtesy of Margaret Moore Jackson

A new exhibit has been added to The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History that should answer those questions and more. It highlights some of the hundreds of organizations that have been a part of student life throughout the university’s history, including debating societies, student government, performance groups like the Loreleis and the Playmakers, activist groups, Greek organizations,  honor societies, secret societies, and others. Check out the new exhibit here.

Chapel Hill Revolutionary Movement, 1969 (Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Records, #40124, University Archives).
Chapel Hill Revolutionary Movement, 1969 (Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Records, #40124, University Archives).

Alumni–were you involved in student organizations while at UNC? Do you have photos, posters, papers, recordings, or other materials related to your organizations? If you are interested in donating these materials to the University Archives to help document the history of your organizations, please contact Jay Gaidmore (

The Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 at UNC

Letter from parent J.L. Nelson
A parent asks to be notified by telegram if his son catches the flu (University of North Carolina Papers, #40005, University Archives).

In the fall of 1918, students were preparing for battle. In August, Congress had lowered the draft age from 21 to 18, and as part of the Student Army Training Corps (SATC), students  drilled daily, anticipating the day that their numbers would be called. However, before they could be sent to fight in Europe, they found themselves fighting a deadly enemy on their own campus—influenza.

The first wave of the global “Spanish Flu” pandemic began in the spring, followed by a much deadlier second wave in the early fall. By September 1918, it had spread to North Carolina. Concerned parents wrote to university president Edward Kidder Graham, fearful for their children’s health.

Graham's response to a concerned parent
Graham’s response to a concerned parent (University of North Carolina Papers, #40005, University Archives).

The campus was quarantined in October, and second-year medical students and local nurses were recruited to work in the overflowing infirmary. Three students died in a span of less than two weeks, and on University Day, 1918, no public gathering was held. After a few weeks, the situation seemed to be improving. In an October 19th letter to a parent, President Graham noted that there were 30 students in the infirmary and 20 convalescing—significantly fewer than the nearly 130 hospitalized a week before.

However, just two days later President Graham himself fell ill. Within days, he developed pneumonia as a complication of influenza. As the campus grew concerned about his condition and hoped for his recovery, the SATC commander asked that students not disturb Graham by marching or performing drills near his house. After less than a week’s illness, Graham died.

Portrait of Edward Kidder Graham
A memorial to President Graham printed as a frontispiece to the Dec. 25, 1918 High School Journal(Edward Kidder Graham Papers, #00282, Southern Historical Collection).

The next day, all classes and military drills were cancelled, and students were asked to “demean themselves in a quiet manner” in respect for the president. On October 31, Dean Marvin Stacy was appointed chairman of the faculty and assumed leadership of the university. Over the next two months, the war ended, the SATC disbanded, and the health crisis began to wane. However, influenza remained a serious threat. In January, 1919, Stacy also died of pneumonia as a complication of influenza, just less than three months after the death of his predecessor by the same illness.

By the spring, the global pandemic was ending. Over the course of the epidemic on campus, over 500 were treated for influenza in the infirmary and seven died—students William Bunting, Larry Templeton, and Kenneth Scott; nurse Bessie Roper; President Graham; Mrs. W.J. Hannah, a mother who caught the disease while caring for her son; and Dean Stacy.


November, 1975: Smoking Banned in UNC Classrooms

1943 Classroom Scene
In this March 1943 classroom scene, several students have cigarettes in hand (Hugh Morton Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive).

On today’s campus, where smoking is not permitted inside or within 100 feet of any university buildings, it may be hard for students to imagine that a little less than 40 years ago, many students and faculty smoked during class.

Prior to 1975, some departments and individual faculty members had barred smoking in their classes, but the rules were not always enforced. One student, writing to Chancellor Ferebee Taylor, complained that he “[had] one class with four ‘no smoking’ signs posted in it” but “the professor continually ignored the enforcement of these signs while students continue[d] to smoke.” He also described attending a program in Memorial Hall where despite “no smoking” signs, dozens of students smoked, “leaving many in a cloud.”

In March 1975, students from the School of Public Health began pushing for a ban on all smoking in classrooms, citing the unpleasant environment it created for nonsmokers as well as growing evidence that “passive smoking” (second-hand smoke) was a health hazard.  NC State and Appalachian State already had policies banning smoking in classrooms, and students had successfully lobbied for a smoking ban in the UNC School of Public Health.

Memo from Chancellor Taylor
Chancellor Taylor explains his position on the proposed ban and shares the results of the advisory referendum (Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina: Nelson Ferebee Taylor Records #40023, University Archives).

John Sawyer, a student at the School of Public Health and a member of the Campus Governing Council (CGC), wrote to Chancellor Taylor asking for his support and proposed to the CGC that the issue be put to a student vote the following fall. Randall Thomas, another student in the School of Public Health and the chair of the Campus Committee to Ban Classroom Smoking, joined Sawyer in meeting with Chancellor Taylor in April. The Chancellor indicated in the meeting and in subsequent correspondence that he felt it was an issue best left to the faculty, as it affected their classrooms, but that the faculty should consider student opinion.  Some criticized Taylor for not explicitly supporting the ban, but students focused their efforts on gaining faculty support.

In the days leading up to the referendum vote, the Daily Tar Heel encouraged students to vote in favor of the proposed ban. In an editorial, a student explained: “We do not dispute the rights of smokers to consume tobacco and the pollutants it contains [. . .] However, that right ends at the end of the other people’s noses, veins, and lungs.” The newspaper explained that while there was not enough data at the time to prove that “passive smoking” (second-hand smoke) was dangerous, being exposed to smoke in enclosed classrooms was at the very least an annoyance to nonsmokers.

DTH Smoking Ban Cartoon
The Daily Tar Heel suggests ways smokers might cope with the proposed ban (The Alumni Review, Nov. 1975, North Carolina Collection).

On October 15, 3,535 students voted, and 2,801 (80%) supported the ban. Students then petitioned the Faculty Council to vote on the issue. Two plans were proposed to the Faculty Council: one completely banning smoking in classrooms, and one calling for individual classes to decide whether or not smoking would be allowed in the class that semester. When the faculty met on November 24, the first proposal passed overwhelmingly, banning all smoking in classrooms.