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Issues of “The News Reporter” Highlight Early 20th Century Architecture

A black-and-white portrait of Larry Gantt.
Larry Gantt, editor of The News Reporter. This image was brightened for clarity.

More issue of The News Reporter from Whiteville, N.C. are now available thanks to our partner, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This batch adds issues from 1925-1927 to our North Carolina Newspapers collection and features photographs of some of the architectural marvels from the early 20th century.

These papers were processed from microfilm, meaning that photos from the earliest issues in 1912 are a little bit hard to see. This photo of the paper’s editor, Larry Gantt, was brightened for better visibility.

A black-and-white photo of a two-story, white house with tall columns at the front.
The R.E.L. Brown House in 1912. This image was brightened for clarity.

Despite the darkness of the photos, some of Chadbourn, N.C.’s notable landmarks are still recognizable in the paper. This photo of the R.E.L. Brown House, which still stands at 108 N. Howard Street in Chadbourn, shows the building’s distinctive columns. According to the North Carolina Architects & Builders biographical dictionary, the house was built in 1909. It was designed in the Colonial style by Joseph F. Leitner, an architect known in our state for his work in Wilmington, especially railroad buildings.

A black-and-white image of Chicago's Union Station from 1925.
Chicago’s Union Station, 1925

The popularity of railroads was still going strong more than 10 years later in this 1925 issue, when the paper ran a feature on Chicago’s Union Station called, “Latest Triumph in Railroading.” The article reads, “The station is without a doubt one of the finest and most efficiently designed railroad terminals in the world.” According to the station’s contemporary website, it cost $75 million and 10 years to build (that’s $1 billion in today’s money).

You can see more architecture from the early 1900s in the rest of the available issues of Whiteville’s The News Reporter or explore our North Carolina Newspapers collection by location, type of paper, and date. To see more materials from UNC Chapel Hill, you can visit their partner page and their libraries’ website.


An Unexpected Senator’s Column in “The Coastland Times”

Two adults wearing suits shaking hands.  On the left is Bobby Franklin; on the right is former Senator Sam Erwin.
Bobby Franklin (left) shaking hands with Senator Sam Erwin (right).

More issues of The Coastland Times from Manteo, N.C. are now available in our Newspapers of North Carolina collection thanks to our partner, the Dare County Library. These issues span from September 1963 to August 1964 and touch on many regional events of the coast.

A cartoon of Senator Sam Erwin's bust in front of the capitol building. Next to it are the words, "Senator Sam Erwin Says."

Within this span of issues is a column published by former U.S. Senator Samuel J. Erwin Jr. called “Senator Sam Erwin Says.” Erwin was from Morganton, N.C., and was known during his political career for opposing civil rights legislation. The Coastland Times was one of many N.C. papers that published Erwin’s column, including The Jones County Journal (Trenton, N.C.), The Yancy Record (Burnsville, N.C.), The New Bern Mirror (New Bern, N.C.), and The Transylvania Times (Brevard, N.C.).

Erwin’s column stands out today for how it differs from contemporary political propaganda. For one thing, it was published in local papers, which tend to focus on local and regional news. For example, one column from the September 13, 1963 issue runs next to a news brief headlined, “Sea Hags Will Meet,” referring to a local fishing club.

Another notable quality of Erwin’s column is that it is… relatively boring. Rather than employing inflammatory language or focusing on hot-button issues, Erwin tends to give technical overviews of the mechanisms of the Senate. In the column published on October 18, 1963, the Senator references a “controversial Foreign Aid Bill” and then writes, “Present prospects are that there may be no action taken by the Senate as a whole on the tax bill. There is a growing feeling that action on the tax measure should be postponed until after the President’s Budget message to Congress the first of the year.” Even though it is presumably written for a general audience, Erwin often chooses to use technical language and focus on bureaucratic details rather than argue for a bigger picture or stance.

You can read more of Erwin’s unexpected (by contemporary standards) columns and more of The Coastland Times in this latest batch of issues. You can also browse all of our digital newspapers in our North Carolina Newspapers collection. To see more materials from the Dare County Library, visit their partner page and their website.


Browse Bookbags & Burial Records From Harnett County

Several local history materials have just been added to our site thanks to our partner, the Harnett County Public Library. This batch includes three sets of cemetery records, which may be of particular interest to family genealogists, and three decades of local library newsletters.

A black-and-white photo of graves askew after a storm. The tallest grave stone on the right says "Wade."

Graves after a storm, Harnett County

The three collections of cemetery records document are from the Colonial Dames of America in Wilmington. The Cemetery Records of Cumberland, Harnett, and Iredell Counties is a compilation of records from 1939; this copy of the Richmond County Graveyard Record is from 1969. The Cemetery Records of Mecklenburg County are undated, but the records seem to begin in the 17oos and extend into the late 1800s.

For Lillington community members and library lovers, these issues of The Bookbag (from 1977-2007) are full of local stories and excellent library programming. One program that deserves a shoutout is the pet memorial project from 2002, where patrons could donate to the library in honor of a beloved pet and have their pet’s name inscribed on a bookplate. Of course, this raises the timeless issue of whether your pet shares your last name (looking specifically at Bee Bee Davis and Crook Tail Rosser here). 

A black-and-white photo of Garfield the cat sitting in a Christmas wreath

From the January-March 1984 issue of The Bookbag

The library newsletters also give a historic glance into popular technology over the last few decades, as evidenced by this article on the “New Microfiche Printer/Reader” from the January-March 1985 issue.

The full batch of materials is available here and under all of the materials from Harnett County Public Library. To see even more materials from Harnett County, check out their partner page and their website.


Mitchell CC Video Tackles the Mystery of Marshal Ney

A black-and-white image of a French military officer looking toward his right shoulder. He has a long face and is posed with one hand on his hip.
Marshal Michel Ney

The myth of Marshal Michele Ney, Napoleon’s trusted lieutenant, has long fascinated North Carolina storytellers. Thanks to our partner, Mitchell Community College, we now have a video version of the story, told by Bill Moose, a Mitchell CC alumnus and former instructor.

The romantic myth, first told by one of Peter Stewart Ney’s former students, says that Michel Ney escaped his own execution and fled to the United States, living out the rest of his days as the school teacher Peter Stewart Ney in North Carolina. The legend pulls in the life of the real Peter Stewart Ney, a teacher who happened to share the Marshal’s last name and who was an immigrant to South Carolina near the time of Michel Ney’s execution (though records suggest he was from Scotland rather than France). Peter Stewart Ney’s grave in Rowan county reads, “a native of France… and soldier of the French Revolution… under… Napoleon Bonaparte,” and his birth year is listed as 1769, the year Michel Ney was born. Though many storytellers have attempted to explain the ways that Michele Ney could have escaped and the similarities between the two men, historians have established that Peter Stewart Ney was not the Marshal.

Moose’s version tells how Michele Ney faked his own execution and was able to escape France by ship. Once in America, Moose theorizes that Ney could have connected with friends in Philadelphia. According to Moose, Michele Ney’s son, Eugène Michel Ney, was trained as a doctor in Philadelphia, and Peter Stewart Ney may have visited him. Moose also focuses on the oft-repeated story that Peter Stewart Ney allegedly attempted suicide when he heard of Napoleon’s death, though the source of that story is unclear.

The Ney myth runs so deeply in NC history that Peter Stewart Ney’s body was exhumed in 1887 and examined for evidence that he was the Marshal. In Moose’s telling, the lack of evidence found on the body (which was mostly decomposed) allowed the myth to continue.

Though he was not Napoleon’s lieutenant, Peter Stewart Ney did receive some acclaim as a teacher and scholar, according to Moose’s version. He developed a shorthand writing style and designed the seal and motto of Davidson College, Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas. Sadly, not much is known about the early life of Peter Stewart Ney.

You can see the full batch of videos from Mitchell Community College, including the Mystery of Marshal Ney, here. You can also browse all videos from Mitchell CC and our other partners in our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection. To see more from Mitchell Community College, you can visit their partner page and their website.


Ads From Sylva’s “The Ruralite” in 1932 Show Some Familiar Products

A newspaper ad for Velveeta cheese with an illustration of a Velveeta blockWhat year would you guess Velveeta cheese was invented? The answer: 1918—making it 104 years old. It was bought by Kraft Foods Inc. in 1927, and that’s how we came to see this advertisement in the February 23, 1932 issue of The Ruralite from Sylva, N.C. This issue is one of the many from a batch of papers that was just uploaded to our site thanks to the Jackson County Public Library. This batch contains issues from 1926-1935—a great time period for newspaper advertising, apparently.

While Velveeta cheese (or, technically, “pasteurized prepared cheese product”) almost seems anachronistic for 1932, it isn’t the only familiar item advertised in the pages of The Ruralite. Since we’re in cold and flu season, you may be considering a trip to the drug store for a little medicine—and you might even buy the same item as your parents or grandparents.

A newspaper ad for Vick's with an illustration of a woman putting medicine underneath her nose with a dropper.It’s unclear whether today’s VapoRub is the same as 1935’s Va-tro-nol, but the cost of Vicks has certainly changed over the past 87 years. And medicine isn’t the only product that has gotten pricier; a list of goods from Sylva Supply Company, Inc. from 1932 lists “Kellog’s” corn flakes for $0.15/two boxes, Gerber’s “strained fruits and vegetables” for $0.11/can, and bath towels for $0.09 each.

There are also advertisements for Bayer aspirin and Camel cigarettes (of course). While it has changed media, perhaps advertising retains some of the characteristics it had in the 1930s.

You can see all of our digital issues of The Ruralite here or browse our North Carolina Newspapers collection by location, type, and date. To see more materials from the Jackson County Public Library, you can visit their partner page and their website.


Videos Offer Glimpse of Old Washington, Including Now-Demolished Patrician Inn

A marching band parading down the street in Washington, N.C., with large crowds on either side.A batch of four videos of Washington, N.C. has been added to our collection thanks to our partner, the George H. and Laura E. Brown Library. Two of the videos, which are silent but in color, show footage of Washington from 1939, including notable buildings, Warren airport, boats on the water, and tulips in bloom. They also have footage of the Tulip Festival parade, which features floats, marching bands, and several excellent costumes. Since the annual festival is no longer celebrated, these videos give us an idea of what it looked like in its most popular era.

An old-fashion sign reading "The Patrician Inn"

Speaking of bygone Washington cultural touchstones, the other two videos focus on the Patrician Inn, a popular place to stay founded by the Pickle family. One video offers a tour of the rooms, which feature several antiques and items of unique furniture. The second video provides some context to the inn’s collection in an interview with Mrs. Ellen Vincent Pickles and Emily Pickles Williams. Although the camera operator takes some artistic liberties that we probably wouldn’t see today, we do get even more footage of the treasures in the room as Mrs. Pickles tells some of her stories. 

Since the Patrician Inn has since been converted to a parking lot, we will probably never encounter the subject of one of her most intriguing stories: the ghost(s) that haunted the inn (4:47). Mrs. Pickles tells the story of a couple of guests who claimed to have seen “the most beautiful ghost that [they’d] ever seen in [their] life,” who was apparently wearing a “white wig and a blue satin jacket” and “silver buckles.” This was not the ghost that Mrs. Pickles was familiar with; her usual ghost was named Paul Bregal (spelling unclear), and he liked to snuff out her candles on the end of the mantle. He, apparently, did not wear such finery, and he usually lived in a closet rather than a guest room.

You can watch all of the videos here or explore our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection. To see more from the Brown Library, you can visit their partner page and their website.


Materials From NCCU Include Student Boycott Papers, Hillside High School Memorabilia, and More

A group of three students gathered around their advisor, seated, all looking at a piece of paper.

Ex Umbra Editorial Conference [1965]

An exciting assortment of materials from our partner, North Carolina Central University, has just been added to our site! This batch includes several issues of the NCCU’s student newspaper The Campus Echo from 1970-2010, copies of the student literary magazine Ex Umbra, a university yearbook from 2011, men and women’s student handbooks, and some programs advertising the university and its departments. There are also several photographs of the Ex Umbra staff from the 1960s, as well as correspondence from the Student Government Association (SGA) boycott in 1970.

A white yearbook cover with a large, blue "72," a cartoon hornet, and the word "Hornet" written vertically.Along with materials about the university are materials from some of the historic Black high schools in Durham, especially Hillside High School. This batch has seven issues of the Hillside High School yearbook The Hornet (plus one yearbook from John R. Hawkins High School and two from the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing). It also has several reunion programs and speeches, alumni directories, building and land records, a copy of the Hillside History Book, and two issues of the student newspaper The Hillside Chronicle. Though our partner did not have many issues of the Hillside High School student newspaper on file, we hope members of the community will be willing to contribute any issues they have saved to help make our digital collection more complete.

One especially exciting record from NCCU is the collection of boycott and student protest materials, which includes leaflets and a letter from a 1961 business boycott by the NAACP Youth Councils and College Chapters and correspondence from the 1970 SGA boycott. The 1961 boycott letter lists several recognizable stores that the NAACP YCCC successfully boycotted, and it makes an interesting mention of the role of race as an admission factor at Durham Academy. Separately, the demands of the SGA boycott (1970) are spelled out more clearly in this collection of correspondence between then-SGA President Phillip Henry and then-University President Albert Whiting. In the first document, students announce their intention to boycott classes until their “grievances and demands have been met to the satisfaction of the student body.” The organizers recommend the formation of a committee of students and faculty—where each have equal voting power—to implement solutions. For students looking for models of collective action and bargaining, these papers would be a good place to start.

A red and white cover with a majorette marching and a flag that reads, "Twenty-Seventh State Band Festival."In terms of high school materials, one unique item from this batch is the Twenty-Seventh State Band Festival Program from 1961. The festival welcomed bands to Fayetteville State Teachers College and recognized some of the band directors from around the state. Former and current band kids may appreciate the list of pieces approved for the 1962 festival as well as the (somewhat familiar) rating system below. 

You can see the full batch of photos, programs, and other documents here, and the full batch of yearbooks and literary magazines can be found here. You can also see all issues of the North Carolina Central University student newspaper here and all issues of the Hillside High School student newspaper here. To see all materials from NCCU, you can visit their partner page and their website.


50 Years Later, “Carteret County News-Times” Headlines Aren’t All That Different

Black-and-white photos of commercial streets flooded.Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like the problems of today are unique to our time and place, but this latest batch of the Carteret County News-Times (1960-1963) demonstrates that people have been working through similar problems for at least 50 years. One issue, from March 16, 1962, somehow touches on big storms flooding the area (and the difficulty of insuring coastal property), U.S. House elections, and redistricting—almost as if it were printed in 2022.

Luckily, no one died in the nor’easter that hit Morehead City and the rest of the coast in March 1962, but the storm did cause quite a bit of damage. A paper from the preceding week (March 2, 1962) pictures flooding along some of the commercial streets and describes buildings that were not up to code to withstand the storm. One commissioner reported that an insurance firm in New York abstained from insuring the area because of the building code problems. A week later, a headline reads (perhaps unsurprisingly): “Red Cross Says Best Way to Help Dare Is Give to Local Red Cross.”

Another front page story describes a bid for the 3rd Congressional District by Morehead City resident S.A. Chalk Jr. Chalk Jr. ran against incumbent David Henderson in the Democratic primary (though in a much different Democratic party than we think of today). He accused Henderson of voting for “policies that are bound to cause even further trouble,” saying, “He claims he’s conservative, but his voting records do not bear this out.” Chalk Jr. still lost the primary, apparently, as Henderson went on to represent the district until 1977.

Aside from the familiar arguments of House elections, the article also mentions that Harnett County was added to the district in 1960. And while the headlines haven’t changed much over the last 50 years, the list of counties included in the 3rd District certainly has. In 1962, the district included 10 counties: Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Harnett, Jones, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Sampson, and Wayne. In 2023, the district will expand and morph to contain parts of 15 counties: Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico, Pitt (partly), Sampson, and Wayne (partly). For visual thinkers, an interactive map of NC’s congressional districts can be found here.

You can see the full batch of the Carteret County News-Times here and explore all of our digital newspapers in our North Carolina Newspapers collection. You can also explore more materials from the Carteret County Public Libraries on their partner page and their website.


Eight Decades of Roanoke’s “The Lost Colony” Programs Feature Some Familiar Faces

A collage of covers of the Lost Colony souvenir programs

Many North Carolinians are familiar with the story of the lost colony, a group of English colonists brought to modern-day North Carolina by Sir Walter Raleigh who mysteriously vanished. Perhaps fewer are familiar with the symphonic drama The Lost Colony, which has been performed in Manteo, N.C. since 1937. Thanks to our partnerships with Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill and the Roanoke Island Historical Association, we now have the souvenir programs (1937-2019) available on our site.

The Lost Colony, written by Paul Green, has been a cultural touchstone of the Outer Banks since the late thirties; several of our digitized newspapers from the area make references to it (you can read one blog post about The Nags Tale and another about The Dare County Times). Some sources say it is the longest running symphonic drama in the country.

A black-and-white headshot of actor Andy Griffith.A black-and-white headshot of Barbara Edwards Griffith.Of the many notable figures who have participated in the annual play season, one of the most recognizable and beloved is actor Andy Griffith. Griffith was born in Mount Airy, N.C. and acted in The Lost Colony for seven seasons (1947-1953), starring as Sir Walter Raleigh for the later five. He may have been the subject of one of the souvenir program’s best covers (1952), which is reused as a dedication to him in 2013 just after he died. In fact, Griffith is buried on Roanoke Island.

What makes these souvenir programs even more interesting is that Griffith’s first wife, Barbara Edwards, was also in a starring role of The Lost Colony for several years. She played Eleanor Dare, mother of Virginia Dare (famously said to be the first English child born in the Americas). Edwards Griffith was the first native North Carolinian to play the female lead and was “the most successful actress to portray the difficult role” thanks to her “excellent voice and splendid acting ability,” according to the 1953 program.

The two were married in 1949, one of the years when they co-starred in the play. They also both seem to have left the production at the same time after the 1953 season. Afterwards, they adopted two children and stayed together until 1972. During their relationship, in 1964, Edwards Griffith apparently appeared in one episode of The Andy Griffith Show as the character Sharon.

You can see the full collection of The Lost Colony souvenir programs here. To learn more about the Roanoke Island Historical Association, you can visit their partner page and their website.


Drama in the Classified Ads in the Latest Batch of Asheboro’s “The Courier”

A newspaper clipping of the banner above the classified ad section

More issues of Asheboro’s The Courier are now available on our site thanks to our partner, the Randolph County Public Library. The new issues, digitized from microfilm, range from 1925-1937. One of the ways that these issues give us a slice of life from Asheboro in the early 20th century is through their classified ad sections.

The classified ads in the February 28, 1929 issue of The Courier have an interesting overlap with the ones we might see in newspapers or online today. Some still seem relevant, like the one selling a hot water tank, the one advertising an auction of personal property (“Household and kitchen furniture, organ, bedsteads, mattresses, quilts, sewing machine, blankets, cooking utensils, and other things too tedious to mention”), or the one searching for a lost gold watch. Others seem like they have been mostly displaced by contemporary markets, like the one selling “Good old homemade Alabama can sugar syrup,” or the one advertising a stay at a private home for “Transient visitors to Washington, D.C.” And, like any good classified ad sections, there are the unexpected; one reads: “Will pay the highest cash prices for opossum, muskrat, mink and raccoon hides.” The intended use of the hides is unspecified.

A black-and-white photo of a farmer in overalls holding a cabbage plant

Marshall Hedrick holding a cabbage plant with 52 small heads that he found in his garden. He purchased Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage seeds, but the outcome led him to believe they were not that variety. (Catawba County, 1941)

The real star of this classified ad section, though, is cabbage. Five of the ads are for cabbage plants, including the two longest. This may be partly due to the time of year and the fact that these cabbage plants are apparently frost-proof; one reads, “Frost Proof Cabbage Plants, Early Jersey and Charleston, the kind you need to head early.” Another sounds similar: “FOR SALE—Front Proof Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage plants.” A more detailed one advertises, “Over 30 Acres Frostproof Cabbage Plants not pulled over yet to select from that has not been stunted much by cold and guaranteed to reach you alive and stand the cold in Randolph county.”

But the best ad by far takes a more narrative approach. R.O. Parks’ ad begins: “In 1910 I sowed half pound cabbage seed. People laughed at me. They said cabbage plants can’t be grown in Randolph county. They grew nicely and I have some fine plants.” He goes on, sticking it to his doubters, “Since them [sic] I have been growing plants with unusual success. I sow thousand pounds of seed each year. I grow sweet potato plants and tomato plants. I will have genuine purple top Porto Rico potato plants, the first ever offered in Randolph county, ready May 1st.”

R.O. Parks, despite the hate he got for his ambitious cabbage planting, does not hold a grudge against his potential buyers; he notes that his early tomato plants are “guaranteed to please” and that “If your plants get killed by cold I will replace free.”

You can read even more classified ads, as well as the rest of the news, in the full batch of issues of The Courier here. You can also explore our full collection of digital newspapers by location, type, and date in our North Carolina Newspapers collection. To see more materials from the Randolph County Public Library, you can visit their partner page and their website.


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