Viewing entries posted in November 2016

What were students reading in Wilson 100 years ago?


The circulation records of an ambitious student

What books were popular in school libraries over 100 years ago? New material from the Wilson County Public Library give us a fascinating glimpse into the reading habits of young people around the turn of the century. A book of circulation records from Wilson School’s Spring 1899 term details loan records from more than 250 students, showing what they read and when. Popular choices included books still well-known today such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, as well as less currently read volumes such as Young Maids and Old by Clara Louise Burnham.

Wilson County Public Library has also contributed a set of portraits of Reverend Owen L.W. Smith, and his wife Dora Oden Smith. Reverend Smith was born as an enslaved person 1851, but as a young man ran away to join the Union Army when General Sherman marched through the south. He had an impressive and varied career as a school teacher, a Justice of the Peace, a lawyer, a preacher, and the Consul General to Liberia for two terms. He passed away in 1926 in Wilson County.

To learn more about Wilson County Public Library, and see other materials they’ve contributed to DigitalNC, visit their partner page.


Reverend Owen L.W. Smith

Newspapers Selected for Digitization, 2016

The following microfilmed newspapers have been selected for digitization in 2016-2017. Around 70 reels were chosen from over 1,100 nominated reels, according to our Criteria for Selecting Newspapers to Digitize from Microfilm.

Title Years Nominating Institution
Carolina Indian Voice (Pembroke, N.C.) 1996-2005 UNC-Chapel Hill
The Cherokee Scout (Murphy, N.C.) 1923-1943 Murphy Public Library
The Daily Advance (Elizabeth City, N.C.) 1923-1927 Pasquotank County Public Library
Farmville Enterprise (Farmville, N.C.) 1914-1941 Farmville Public Library
The Franklin Times (Louisburg, N.C.)  1909-1924 Louisburg College
The Future Outlook (Greensboro, N.C.) 1941-1972 UNC-Greensboro
The Roxboro Courier (Roxboro, N.C.) 1922-1929 Person County Public Library
State Port Pilot (Southport, N.C.) 1935-1949 Margaret and James Harper Jr. Library
Washington Daily News (Washington, N.C.) 1909-1916 George H. and Laura E. Brown Library

The Flavor Lasts! Wrigley’s Ads from 1914-1918

Wrigley's Ad 1914 The EnterpriseAfter catching sight of the bizarre Wrigley’s gum ad seen above (cools your mouth! heartburn and flatulence disappear!), I dug up a number of interesting Wrigley’s ads in North Carolina newspapers from the years before and during World War I.

Before the War, ads focused on the health-related claims made by the manufacturers:

Ads from 1914-1918 show the Spearmint/Pepsin variety, then add Doublemint (a peppermint flavor) and finally Juicy Fruit.

The “Wrigley Spearmen” brand mascots begin appearing around 1915, especially in ads that suggested the gum as a “goody” for children. You could send away for a Wrigley’s Mother Goose book, with the Sprightly Spearmen featured in favorite fairy tales and encouraging gum chewing.

Two Wrigley's Spearmen, from 1917 (L) and 1915 (R)

Two Wrigley’s Spearmen, from 1917 (L) and 1915 (R)

Wrigley's Ad 1915 Polk County News

Then, beginning in 1917, ads turn to Wrigley’s gum as a comfort and aid to soldiers abroad. One ad claims “All the British Army is chewing it” and the one shown below says it’s the “great wartime sweetmeat.”

Wrigley's Ad 1918 Brevard News

According to the ads, soldiers from the Arctic to the Southern Cross chewed Wrigley’s. The company also announced its substitution of waxed paper for tin foil to assist with the war effort.

From the Wrigley website, I learned that the company invested heavily in marketing in the early 20th century. The proliferation and variety of ads I found definitely supports this. Most of the other ads in newspapers of the time period are smaller, with the largest ones promoting local businesses like banks and stores rather than individual products. Few of the ads have the eye-catching and detailed illustrations of the Wrigley’s ads, which is probably why these caught my eye.

I’ll close with this last ad from 1916, which adopted an image of the “caveman” character that had entered American popular culture a few years earlier. This ad has a very different style from the others I located from the early 20th century. Perhaps Wrigley was trying out a different direction, only to return to more traditional pitches during the War.

Wrigley's Ad 1916 Sylvan Valley News

This post was greatly facilitated by our Advanced Search page, which helped me narrow down my search by year. Feel free to browse a variety of front pages from 1914-1918, or my original Wrigley’s search.

New Yearbooks from Braswell Memorial Library now online

The Hi-Noc-Ar [1967], page 32

The Hi-Noc-Ar [1967], page 32

The Hi-Noc-Ar [1966], page 29

The Hi-Noc-Ar [1966], page 29

Two editions of the Hi-Noc-Ar from Rocky Mount Senior High School are now available on DigitalNC. Thanks to our partner, Braswell Memorial Library, users can now access the 1966 and 1967 issues of this unique publication. While DigitalNC hosts yearbooks from many colleges and high schools throughout North Carolina, the Hi-Noc-Ar often features some of the most creative and witty images.

Access the newest additions at the links below:

To view nearly 30 years of creative students from Rocky Mount Senior High School please click here. To find yearbooks from your county, please visit the North Carolina Yearbooks Collection. For more information about Braswell Memorial Library, please visit their contributor page or their website.

The Rocking Chair Marathon of 1933


I was poking around in the newspapers on our site looking for mentions of “Mickey Mouse” (it’s his birthday today) and did a double-take when I noticed the headline above. Dance marathons? Yes. Running marathons? Of course. Rocking chair marathons? Do tell.

Rocking_Chair_Marathon_AdElkin, NC (Wilkes County) held a rocking chair marathon in June of 1933, billed as the “second of its kind” in one issue and the “first of its kind” in another*. Contestants had to keep their chairs rocking 50 minutes out of every hour, 24 hours per day, for as long as possible. The last person standing (swaying?) and the runner-up would each receive a portion of the gross receipts from the minimal admission price charged to spectators.

This event featured a new entertainment each evening, including Garley Foster “the human bird,” a “Mickey Mouse” circus on a tiny stage, a baby bathing beauty contest, and all sorts of exhibits. Master of ceremonies was Lippincott the Magician. Area businesses capitalized on the festivities, offering specials like the one mentioned at right (a free cheese sandwich with each bottle of beer)!

The rockers (mostly men and boys, along with a single woman) were still going strong after more than 48 hours, and the organizers decided to extend the festivities until all but one were eliminated. I really regret to inform you that I couldn’t find out who won the contest. I didn’t see any follow-up in any of the adjacent Elkin newspaper issues. If anyone has any ideas regarding where I might dig up such a small detail about 1930s Elkin, please let me know!

*Decatur, Ill. held a rocking chair marathon in 1929.

Newest batch of Benson Museum photos


Crowd at the 1946 State Singing Convention


Honey Ellen and Itha Mae Stephenson, 1945asdasd

More photos from the Benson Museum of Local History are now available on DigitalNC. The subjects of this batch range from formal family portraits, to candid snapshots of daily life in Benson, to photos of community dinners and gatherings.

There are also many photographs documenting musical events in Benson, including WTVD’s “Saturday Night Alive” show during the 1940s and 50s, and Benson’s State Annual Singing Convention, an event that started almost a hundred years ago, and still occurs annually. According to the Convention’s website, “The State Annual Singing Convention… began modestly in a tobacco warehouse in 1921. About 200 people listened to two choirs that day. Since that time, the State Annual Singing Convention has grown and become one of the largest and oldest gospel sings in the United States.” In this new set of photos, you can see images of the Convention through the years.

To see other materials from the Benson Museum of Local History, visit their contributor page, or take a look at their website.

Cleveland County Genealogy Books now full text searchable

mauney1    mauney2

Above images: The Heritage of Cleveland County Vol. I, page 2 and 3

Thanks to our partner Mauney Memorial Library, genealogy history from Cleveland County is now available on DigitalNC.

Created by the Cleveland County Historical Association and Museum, these volumes document the histories of families and institutions that might have otherwise been lost with the passing of older citizens. County citizens, churches, schools, civic clubs, and other entities were invited to submit stories and material for publication. The volumes include helpful indexes for easy searching and are also full-text searchable, making genealogy research faster and more efficient. This could also be useful resource for teachers working with North Carolina or Cleveland County history.

The first volume is linked below:

To learn more about Mauney Memorial Library please visit the contributor page or the home page. To access more great resources for genealogy and family research, please visit the North Carolina Memory Collection, which contains many items that are also full-text searchable.

Edited December 13, 2016 – At the request of the contributing institution, Cleveland County Heritage Vol. II has been removed from our website at this time.  We hope in the future to have it available to the public.  

Military and Veterans History on DigitalNC: Best Ways to Search

Group of Soldiers Posed with Firestone Officials, from the Gaston Museum of Art & History.

Group of Soldiers Posed with Firestone Officials, from the Gaston Museum of Art & History.

This Veterans Day, we thought we’d mention some best bets for finding and searching materials on DigitalNC related to military history. Some time periods and subjects have better representation than others, so we’ve focused on the five wars that have the most related materials.  This post has been updated in 2022 to show the most recent systems for our content.

Tip 1: Search by Subject

To isolate materials that are predominantly about a particular war, you can use the subject specific links listed below.

You can use the Advanced Search (see below where to find in the search window) to narrow your search.

screenshot of search results on the DigitalNC page with a red arrow pointing to where the advanced search is

Use the Advanced Search to further narrow your query

If you click one of the links above and then go into the Advanced Search, you can use more terms to further narrow your search.  Using “partial phrase” is the best option to get the widest set of options that might fit that term.  (see the graphic below that illustrates this)

You can also do a full text search that combines (1) your research interest (perhaps a name, a topic, or an event) in conjunction with (2) the name of a particular war. This may yield a lot more results, depending on your research interest, but it could also zero in on your target faster.

Only interested in photographs? Try this search, which is limited to photos that contain the word “military” or “soldiers” as a subject.

Tip 2: Search by Date Range

Another tactic is to search or browse items that were created during a particular war. These don’t always have that war as a subject term, but they often deal with wartime issues or society regardless.

A list of alumni and students killed or missing in action, from the 1944 UNC-Chapel Hill Yackety Yack yearbook, page 12.

A list of alumni and students killed or missing in action, from the 1944 UNC-Chapel Hill Yackety Yack yearbook, page 12.

Keep in mind that doing a full text search will be ineffective about 98% of the time when it comes to handwritten items on our site, as most do not have transcripts. This is just to let you know that you may need to read through handwritten items pulled up in one of the searches above if you believe they may contain information you’re interested in.

Our partners have shared a lot of yearbooks on DigitalNC and, while they may not be the first thing that comes to mind for military history, many colleges and universities recognized students who served. Especially for the Vietnam, Korean, Gulf, and Afghan wars, yearbooks document campus reactions and protests. You currently can’t search across all of the yearbooks available on DigitalNC; our site has high school yearbooks published up through the late 1960s, and college and university yearbooks and campus publications through 2015.

Tip 3: Newspapers!

Searching the student and community newspapers on DigitalNC can yield biographical information about soldiers, editorials expressing local opinions about America’s military action, as well as news and advertisements related to rationing and resources on the homefront.

The Newspapers Advanced Search is your friend here! You can target papers published during specific years. You can also narrow your search to specific newspaper titles.


Screenshot of the Newspapers Advanced Search page, with the search phrase “Red Cross” and limiting the results to papers published from 1914-1918.

We now have so many military newspapers on our site, we have a whole exhibit dedicated to them, which you can view by going to our Military Newspapers in North Carolina page. 

The titles include:

  • Air-O-Mech, published by servicemen stationed at Seymour Johnson Field, 1943-1944
  • Cloudbuster, published at UNC-Chapel Hill to share news about the Navy pre-flight school held on campus, 1942-1945
  • Hot Off the Hoover Rail, published by the community of Lawndale for servicemen from their city, 1942-1945
  • The Caduceus, published by the Base Hospital at Camp Greene (Charlotte, N.C.), 1918-1919
  • The Caromount, published the community at Caromount Mills in Rocky Mount “solely for the benefit of all former Blumenthal employees now in the service of our country,” 1943-1955 (later years published for the mill community itself rather than those in the military)
  • The Home Front News, published by the Tarboro Rotary Club for servicemen from their city, 1943-1945
  • Trench and Camp, published by The Charlotte Observer for Camp Greene, 1917-1918

Bonus Resource: Wilson County’s Greatest Generation

One of the largest exhibits on our site is Wilson County’s Greatest Generation, an effort by the Wilson County Historical Association to document the service men and women of Wilson County, North Carolina who served in World War II. Documentation is organized by individual, and includes personal histories, photos, clippings, and other ephemera.

We hope this information can guide you through researching military history on DigitalNC. If you have any of your own tips or questions, please let us know by commenting below or contacting us.

A peek into the 1780s from the Kings Mountain Historical Museum

Crowders Mountain Mining Co. Invoice

Crowders Mountain Mining Co. Invoice

Six new artifacts and two newspaper titles are now available on DigitalNC from our partner, the Kings Mountain Historical Museum.

The items date from as early as the 1780’s and reflect depth of the collection of this unique partner institution. The Kings Mountain Heritage Museum began as a storage space in the attic of the old city hall and moved to local homes and offices until a new location could be secured. The museum now resides in the former city post office and houses collections that foster a deeper understanding of the material culture of North Carolina’s Piedmont region.

The items that relate to land grants and court appearances in the surrounding area. Some of the locations mentioned in the documents may be familiar to locals and offer interesting stories about the area. These items could be useful for anyone interested in genealogical research or anyone looking for teaching tools about contracts and agreements from the period.

You can see all of this batch at the links below:

In addition, two newspaper titles have also been added. Several issues from the Kings Mountain Herald are now available, including two from 1914, more two decades earlier than the next issues. Also available is a new title, the Progressive Reformer, with an issue from 1894.

To learn more about the Kings Mountain Historical Museum please visit their contributor page or their homepage.

New Materials from the New Bern-Craven County Library

By-Laws Governing District Councils of the Improved Order of Red Men of North Carolina, page 5

By-Laws Governing District Councils of the Improved Order of Red Men of North Carolina, page 5

Thanks to our partner, the New Bern Craven County Public Library, DigitalNC has published nearly twenty items from several chapters of the Improved Order of Red Men in North Carolina. This fraternal order, based on the images of Native Americans used by the Sons of Liberty during the Boston Tea Party in 1773. This batch contains many materials surrounding groups based in New Bern, Greenville, and Raleigh.

Reasons Why You Should Become a Member of the Improved Order of Red Men

Reasons Why You Should Become a Member of the Improved Order of Red Men

Included in the batch are six minute books that cover nearly forty years of the groups’ activities. These could be useful for researchers interested in genealogy, especially within the New Bern area. The print materials also include information about the club’s structure and activities, including the “Department of Death Benefits.”

Perhaps the items from the Improved Order of Red Men offer us another alternative to a rather dramatic election year with a suggestion from their By-Laws, mentioned in the image above.

To learn more about the New Bern-Craven County Public Library, please visit their contributor page or the website.

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