Noteworthy Firsts: Vermont C. Royster

At the University Day celebration on October 11, 2016, Chancellor Carol Folt announced a new program to name scholarships after notable “firsts” in UNC history. In recognition of the individuals recognized as pioneers at UNC, the University Archives is publishing blog posts with more information about each of the twenty-one “firsts.” This post is part of that series.

When Vermont C. Royster began his studies at UNC in 1931, he was no stranger to the campus.  He was born in Raleigh, and his father, Wilbur Royster, was a professor of Greek and Latin at the university. Although Royster did receive his degree in Classics, his mark on UNC as a student, alumnus, and professor was made through his journalism — writing for the Wall Street Journal and later teaching at the School of Journalism. Royster was one of the first UNC alumni to receive a Pulitzer prize in 1953 (the same year as W. Horace Carter), and he later received a second Pulitzer in 1984.

Royster’s profile in the 1935 Yackety Yack.

Royster began his journalism career at UNC, where he worked for several campus publications, including The Daily Tar Heel and The Student Journal.  During his senior year, he revived and wrote a column in the Daily Tar Heel titled “Around the Well,” which highlighted and described various campus happenings and gossip.

In addition to being drawn to journalism at UNC, he was also an active writer and participant in the Department of Dramatic Arts.  As part of a play-writing course, he wrote and staged two plays — Shadows of Industry and Prelude — both of which can be found in the archives.

After graduating, Royster went on to begin the journalism career for which he is well known.  He moved to New York and began working for the Wall Street Journal in 1936.  He retired from the Wall Street Journal in 1971 and joined UNC’s School of Journalism as a faculty member later that year.  Over the course of his career — both as a professional journalist and university professor — he won two Pulitzer Prizes: the first in 1953 for Editorial Writing and the second in 1984 for Commentary.

Royster died in 1996, and his personal papers are housed in the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library. In addition, Royster published several books over the course of his life — including My Own, My Country’s Time, A Pride of Prejudices, and Journey Through the Soviet Union — all of which can be found in UNC Libraries.

Sources & Additional Readings:

Collection of “Around the Well” columns

“Vermont C. Royster (1914-1996),” written by Will Schultz.  North Carolina History Project. http://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/vermont-c-royster-1914-1996/.

Vermont Royster papers #4432, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Essential Royster: a Vermont Royster reader. edited by Edmund Fuller. Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 1985.

My Own, My Country’s Time: a journalist’s journey. Vermont Royster. Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 1983.

A Pride of Prejudices. Vermont Royster. Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 1984.

Journey through the Soviet Union.  Vermont Royster. New York, D. Jones [1962].

“The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?”: A. H. Patterson’s 1902 Speech

In researching Professor Andrew Henry Patterson for my last blog post, I came across an interesting document among his personal papers. In 1902, while still a professor at the University of Georgia, Patterson delivered a speech at the centennial assembly of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. titled “The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?” Following this address, the speech was supposed to be stored in a sealed envelope in the Salem Academy archive and reopened in 2002 “to  compare theories in 1902 with those 100 years later.” However, attempts to find the speech at the Salem Academy archives in 1964 were unsuccessful. The speech now held by UNC is a copy of a draft of the original, acquired from Andrew Patterson’s son Dr. Howard Patterson.

It is now fourteen years after Patterson had intended the speech to be reopened, and our knowledge of the planet Mars far surpasses what was theorized in 1902. The most compelling evidence for life on Mars discussed in the speech was the existence of canals on the Martian surface, first observed by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877. Patterson devotes a great deal of his speech to corroborating the existence of these canals by citing other astronomers, concluding that “On the whole, I believe we may consider the existence of the so-called ‘canals’  as proved by most careful and reliable observers in many parts of the world.” Patterson proposes the theory that these canals are artificially created for irrigation. Astronomers of the period also observed that the polar caps of Mars appeared and disappeared according to the Martian season, theorizing that these could be sources of water for the vast irrigation networks. Patterson even imagines just how differently life might have evolved on Mars, stating “what manner of beings thet [sic] may be we lack the data even to conceive.” In his conclusion, Patterson stated his belief “that Mars seems to be inhabited is not the last but the first word on the subject.”

Despite the wide gap in astronomical knowledge between 1902 and today, the accuracy of some theories is impressive. With regards to the difficulty many astronomers had in observing Schiaparelli’s canals, Patterson cites a Dr. Fison, who argues “that these canals have not been seen at the Naval Observatory, Harvard Observatory, Yerkes Observatory and others having far better telescopes than those used by Schiaparelli, who had an 8 1/3-inch glass, and by Lowell, who had a 24-inch, and therefore the canals must be optical illusions.” Fison was ultimately correct about the canals being optical illusions. Patterson also quotes Fison accurately describing the surface of Mars as “a succession of bleak arid deserts over which the rays of the vertical sun would seem to struggle in vain to mitigate the blasting chill of attenuated air.” However, Fison then went on to suppose the existence of “elementary forms of vegetation capable of withstanding the rigors of a climate more than artic [sic] in character.” Patterson addresses the question of polar ice caps by citing scientists who believed “the snow caps to be composed of solid Carbon Dioxide, instead of water. . . . the spectroscope shows no trace, or at least very little, of water vapor on Mars.” We now know that the polar caps are composed of both frozen carbon dioxide as well as water-ice.

114 years after Andrew Patterson delivered his speech on Mars, it is now possible to view the surface of Mars in 360 degrees through a web browser. Using virtual reality technology, it is even possible to see what it would be like to stand on the “bleak arid deserts” of Mars from a first-person perspective.

Caption This! Vote For Your Favorite!

Thank you everyone for your submissions to our latest caption contest! We had a ball reading all of the captions! Now it’s time for you to vote for your favorite. We’ll announce the winner next week!

Click on the captioned photographs to view larger images.

Vote for your favorite!

Happy 120th birthday, Paul Green!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so lots of people are wearing green. But at UNC, we’re celebrating another kind of Green—playwright Paul Green, who was born 120 years ago today.

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Author  Paul Green (from the UNC Press Records, #40073, University Archives).

Paul Green, born in Lillington, North Carolina, enrolled at UNC in 1916. However, his academic career was interrupted by World War I—he enlisted in 1917 and served overseas before returning to UNC in 1919. During his time at UNC, he was a student of Fredrick Koch, the head of the UNC Department of Dramatic Arts and the founder of the Carolina Playmakers. He graduated in 1922 with a degree in philosophy. The same year, he married a fellow student of Koch, Elizabeth Lay. In 1923, after his graduate studies, Green returned to UNC as a professor of philosophy.

During this time, Green published many acclaimed works, including In Abraham’s Bosom (1929), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The House of Connelly (1931) , Roll Sweet Chariot (1935), and Johnny Johnson (1937), which featured music by Kurt Weill. In 1941, he collaborated with Richard Wright to adapt Wright’s Native Son for the stage. Many of his works addressed themes of racism, and poverty, and war, reflecting his lifelong activism for human rights.

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A scene from an early production of the Lost Colony in which Sir Walter Raleigh speaks with Queen Elizabeth I (from the UNC Press Records, #40073, University Archives).

While Green’s work was well-received on New York stages, one of his greatest contributions to American theatre happened far from Broadway. In 1937, he published The Lost Colony, a “symphonic drama” about the ill-fated Roanoke Island Colony to be performed on the island itself, off the coast of North Carolina. The play, first performed in 1937 as part of the celebration of the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare’s birth, is still running today. Having only suspended production during the years of World War II, it is the longest-running outdoor drama in the country. The Lost Colony established the genre of outdoor drama in the United States, and Green went on to write 14 more plays of this type.

From 1939 to 1944, Green worked as a professor of dramatic arts at UNC, then devoted himself solely to writing. His work includes not only plays but essays, short stories, screenplays, radio dramas, two novels, and music.

In 1968, UNC built the Paul Green Theatre, which is named in his honor.  In 1979, Green was named North Carolina Dramatist Laureate. After his death in 1981, Green was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame (1993) and the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame (1996), reflecting his impact on the literary world on both a national and local level.

Poetry from the Archives

Sitting in the backlog of the University Archives, the records of General Administration’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs contain materials on the many partnerships that UNC researchers have formed to fund their projects. Among these records, however, are some surprising items. Jasper Memory, Vice President for Research from 1986 to 1998, not only facilitated these sponsorships but also wrote poems. The University Archives likes this one in particular, entitled “Ground Level:”

#40238 General Administration, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs

While we don’t expect to receive the lost notebooks of Leonardo in our next acquisition, we do encourage all departments to continue sending us their gems.

New Accession: Dr. Herbert Bodman Papers

The University Archives recently acquired the papers of Dr. Herbert L. Bodman, Jr., a UNC professor of Islamic studies who passed away in 2011. Dating from the early 1950s when Bodman was studying in Lebanon, the papers deal primarily with his dissertation research on community identities in the Syrian city of Aleppo during the eighteenth century. To this day, Aleppo is considered the largest city in Syria and has been the site of many historical conflicts, both ancient and modern, from the Crusades to the current civil war.

A multi-linguist, Bodman’s research spans English, French, and Arabic and sheds light on his exhaustive use and translation of a variety of sources. More abstractly, it offers a window into the research process before the time of computers when copious indexing was necessary. Below are some interesting notes from a meeting he had with Arab political leaders–one of whom appears to be Akram al-Hawrani (or Hourani), a leading member of the Baath Party–on March 5, 1953, in which they discuss the idea of Arab unity:

Meeting Notes
“Meeting with Akram Hourani & al-Afflah, 5 March 1953,” Dr. Herbert Bodman Papers, #40388, University Archives

Faculty papers occupy an essential place in the university’s history and, as Herbert Bodman’s papers demonstrate, also offer insight on the world at large.

Upcoming Event for Retiring Faculty: Preserving your Intellectual Legacy at UNC

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Retiring UNC faculty are invited to attend Preserving Your Intellectual Legacy at UNC: An Information Session for Faculty and Staff Nearing Retirement tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. More info can be found here.

If you are interested in this topic but unable to attend the event, please contact UARMS’ staff for a consultation at (919) 962-6402 or recman@unc.edu. We are happy to meet with UNC faculty and staff anytime to discuss this important topic!