Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Viewing entries tagged "moving images"


The Real-Life “Hamilton” Sequel Set in Nags Head

If you’re a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton (based on the life of Alexander Hamilton), you may remember the song that Aaron Burr sings about his daughter, “Dear Theodosia.” But what you may not know is that Theodosia Burr’s story comes to a head (that joke will make sense in a minute) in North Carolina.

An illustration of three horses trotting over sand dunes

Theodosia Burr was primarily raised by her father and received the kind of education that was typically reserved for the men of her time. She had a strong relationship with her father and admired him greatly, according to her letters. Among the country’s early framers, Aaron Burr was one of the few early defenders of women’s rights (7:18) (due partially to the influence of Theodosia Prevost, Theodosia Burr’s mother).

Aaron Burr’s dedication to Theodosia’s education helped her become one of the most distinguished women in early American society—and one of the most sought-after. She was apparently pursued by the artist John Vanderlyn and the writer Washington Irving. Vanderlyn allegedly painted Theodosia’s eye as a “memento of his love” (10:32) and wore it on his lapel. The most appealing suitor, though, was Joseph Alston, who would go on to become governor of South Carolina. They were married in February 1801 in Albany, New York (11:34). In 1802, Theodosia gave birth to a son, Aaron Burr Alston (15:09).

In 1807, Aaron Burr was tried and acquitted of treason, leaving his political reputation in a sorry state. To escape the negative attention, he went into self-imposed exile in England, where he stayed for four years. The separation was apparently hard on Theodosia, who didn’t see her father during that period. Then, in 1812, her son died of malaria at the age of 10 (19:50), leaving her even weaker and and more depressed.

When Aaron Burr finally returned to New York in June of 1812, Theodosia was desperate to reunite. However, her poor health made her family worry about travel on land, and the ongoing war meant that most ships had been seized by the Navy to fight the British (20:14). Finally, in the fall of 1812, Alston secured a small pilot boat, The Patriot, to take Theodosia up the East Coast from Charleston to New York. As Oscar Stradley explains (5:26), the boat was designed to sail close to the shore and arrive in New York in 5 to 6 days. Theodosia and the crew of The Patriot left Charleston on December 30, 1812.

A quick sidebar is necessary here to explain what happened next—and it involves our old friend Hamilton. As many North Carolinians know, the Outer Banks has a long history as a treacherous area for sailors, especially on dark nights, when the coastline is hard to see (not to mention the threat of pirates, which we’ll get to in a minute). Alexander Hamilton, who was personally familiar with the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” used his influence within the Washington and Adams administrations to get funding for lighthouses (1:50). He was successful in securing funding for one famous gal in 1794: Cape Hatteras.

A portion of a map of the Outer BanksAlthough Cape Hatteras provided some light for ships around Hatteras and Ocracoke by the time it was lit in 1803, by 1812, there still wasn’t good lighting around Nags Head, which is to the north (close to Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills). This set up the perfect opportunity for land pirates in the area.

On dark nights (which are especially common in the fall and winter in the Outer Banks), pirates would lure ships aground with a sneaky trick: they would tie a lantern to the neck of the ponies commonly found on the islands and lead them up and down the hills (6:48). From the perspective of boats on the water, this looked a lot like the light on another ship bobbing nearby (a “nag” is a name for an old horse). 

Although the details of what happened to Theodosia and the crew of The Patriot are still a bit of a mystery, accounts of pirates that surfaced in the 1830s led people to believe that the boat was taken in by this trick at Nags Head. Stradley notes that the crew may have been trying to determine their location when they accidentally ran ashore and fell victim to pirate murder (8:20).

The reason that we think Theodosia made it to the Outer Banks comes down to one enticingly-vague clue: a portrait that is probably of Theodosia. In Stradley’s telling, Theodosia escaped the initial pirate attack with the portrait of herself, which she intended to give to her father when she arrived in New York. The pirates may have left her on the beach, he posits, because of superstition surrounding people with mental illness, or people “whose minds had been taken by God” (10:59)

The portrait was rediscovered by Dr. William Poole, a physician from Elizabeth City who made a house call to a small fishing cabin on Nags Head in 1869 (12:06). Apparently, the owner of the cabin gave the portrait as payment for medical treatment. The portrait has a strong resemblance to Theodosia’s earlier portraits, and when it was discovered, some of her surviving family members confirmed the likeness (39:10)

Stradley tells this part of the story as if Dr. Poole was called to treat Theodosia herself (who, in 1869, would have been in her late eighties). Before Dr. Poole could take the portrait, however, Theodosia allegedly grabbed it off the wall, ran out of the cabin, and disappeared into the night (she was a sprightly eighty-six) (12:55). The portrait was later found washed up on the beach, and Theodosia was assumed to have drowned. 

Another version, explained by Marjorie Berry, historian for Pasquotank County, says that Dr. Poole was called into the cabin of Mrs. Polly Mann, a fisherman’s widow (27:30). The portrait stood out in the otherwise plain cabin, so Dr. Poole asked where it came from. Mrs. Mann explained that her old beau, Joseph Tillet, had been one of the ship’s wreckers, and that he had gifted her two black dresses and the portrait, which he had taken as his share of the loot. (In this version, the wreckers had found the ship already empty when they arrived.)

In contrast, the report that Aaron Burr received, according to Berry, was that Theodosia was drowned by a storm. Since British ships were waiting off the coast of North Carolina (they were, after all, in a war), one admiral sent Burr a message describing a rough storm that hit the Outer Banks on January 2, 1812—around the time that The Patriot would have been there (29:44). The fact that there was a huge storm in the area is a detail missing from all the pirate confessions that came forward, leaving some doubt as to their veracity.

Horses in a fenced area surrounded by low trees

Horses on Ocracoke Island

Whatever happened to Theodosia Burr, the story of her life and disappearance has been told and retold in Northeastern North Carolina many times; a copy of her portrait is on display in the Our Story Exhibit at the Museum of the Albemarle. You can hear the Oscar Stradley’s full version of the story here (courtesy of Mitchell Community College) and Marjorie Berry’s version in the recording of “History and Highballs: Theodosia Burr” from the North Carolina Museum of History. 


Variety of Person County Materials Now Available

Thanks to our partner, Person County Public Library, a batch of materials including a variety of North Carolina maps, a video of Bill Clinton’s visit to the state in 2008, pamphlets and books about North Carolina history, and more are now available on our website.

An older Black woman sits on the porch of her home.

Morse Gardner

An interesting work from this batch is the book, Let me tell you ’bout … when I was growing up. It contains transcribed interviews with older members of the Person County community which were conducted by elementary school students using tape recorders. The recordings were later transcribed and published into this book. The interviewees in this book were quite a diverse and exciting group. The interview with Morse Gardner (pictured above) being one of the most gripping. In her interview, Morse Gardner goes into great detail about her education and family, old medicinal remedies, her thoughts on segregation, and her community growing up.

To learn more about Person County Public Library, please visit their website.

To listen to oral histories available on our website, please click here.


Videos from Mitchell Community College now on DigitalNC

Over 30 videos from Mitchell Community College are now on DigitalNC.  They include fall convocations, variety shows from the 1990s, and even a set of commercials that promoted Mitchell Community College programs such as computer technology that aired in 1990.  

Two students sit at a table looking at notebooks with bookbags on the table.

Two students in the library in a clip from footage shot around Mitchell Community College’s Statesville campus.

To view more content on DigitalNC from Mitchell Community College, visit their partner page.

To view more community college content from across NC, visit our Community College exhibit here. 


Over 100 videos from UNC-Pembroke now on DigitalNC

Over 100 videos from UNC-Pembroke, transferred primarily from U-Matic and VHS, are now available on DigitalNC. Thanks to our colleagues in the Southern Folklife Collection, these audiovisual materials were digitized utilizing funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

screenshot from WPSU-TV promo showing a graphic of the main UNCP building

Screenshot from a WPSU-TV promo that aired in 1995

The films cover a range of topics, from promotional films about degree programs at the school, to graduation videos from the 1980s and 1990s.  Some of the films document a trip to Georgia to do a cemetery cleanup at the Croatan Indian Memorial Cemetery.

A substantial portion of the videos are from student produced programming including the Pembroke Forum, and Crosscurrents.

There are also several shows produced by students at Robeson Community College, including RCC Today and Robeson Watch.

To view all materials on DigitalNC from UNC-Pembroke, visit their partner page here.  To view more films and other audio-visual materials from around NC, visit our Sights and Sounds collection.


Films from Forest History Society are now on DigitalNC

Fourteen films about various aspects of the forestry industry and forest conservation are now online from the Forest History Society.  The films date from the 1920s up to one about the Yellowstone National Park fires in 1988. Thanks to our colleagues in the Southern Folklife Collection, these audiovisual materials were digitized utilizing funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


 

To view more materials from the Forest History Society, visit their partner page.  To learn more about our partnership with the Southern Folklife Collection, read this post.  And to view and hear more audiovisual materials on DigitalNC, visit our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection.


87 films from Mars Hill University’s collection now on DigitalNC

87 films have been digitized out of Mars Hill University‘s Southern Appalachian Archives and are now widely accessible on DigitalNC.  The films primarily are of the Byard Ray Folk Festival and Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival, which is still held annually today in Mars Hill.  Thanks to our colleagues in the Southern Folklife Collection, these audiovisual materials were digitized utilizing funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To view more materials from the Mars Hill University, visit their partner page.  To learn more about our partnership with the Southern Folklife Collection, read this post.  And to view and hear more audiovisual materials on DigitalNC, visit our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection.


Women in Leadership Panel discussion from Mitchell Community College now online

DigitalNC has a hit a new milestone – a virtual panel held during the COVID era is now part of the NCDHC collection, thanks to our partner Mitchell Community College.  

screenshot of a google form

From the Google form used to sign up to attend the virtual panel

Recorded using the software Blackboard Collaborate, the panel hosted by the community college library featured four Iredell County women Dr. Porter Brannon, Dr. Camille Reese, Sara Haire Tice, and Dorothy Woodard, who answered questions about what inspires them, how they overcame obstacles along their career paths, and more.  You can watch the panel yourself here

To view more materials from Mitchell Community College, view their partner page here.  To view more audiovisual materials on DigitalNC, visit our collection North Carolina Sights and Sounds


“Chinese Girl Wants Vote” film now on DigitalNC thanks to Levine Museum of the New South

Black and white photograph of a woman

Still from the film “Chinese Girl Wants Vote”

A film created as part of the exhibit “Counting UP: What’s on Your Ballot” at the Levine Museum of the New South to highlight the importance of voting is now on DigitalNC.  “Chinese Girl Wants Vote” was created by Jinna Kim to tell the story of suffragist Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee and touches both on the themes of voter rights and immigrant rights in light of the political environment of 2020 and in honor of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment.  

To view more materials from the Levine Museum of the New South, visit their partner page here and their website here.  To see more audio-visual content on DigitalNC, visit North Carolina Sights and Sounds.  


Oral histories and other audio-visual materials now online from Methodist University

42 audio recordings, including 35 oral histories, and 1 silent video showing Methodist University (then College) in the late 1970s or early 1980s are now online.  Thanks to our colleagues in the Southern Folklife Collection, these audiovisual materials were digitized utilizing funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

three adults sitting at a table

Video still from a silent video taken on Methodist University’s campus in the late 1970s or early 1980s

The oral histories including the batch are with various faculty and other staff who worked in the early days of Methodist University’s history.  There are also 9 other audio recordings that include building dedications as well as fun items such as promotions that ran on the radio for theater productions at the school and a feature called Methodist College Report.  

To learn more about our partner Methodist University, visit their site here.  To learn more about our partnership with the Southern Folklife Collection, read this post.  And to view and hear more audiovisual materials on DigitalNC, visit our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection.


Over 200 films from Appalachian State University now on DigitalNC

Three adults playing instruments on a stage

Appalachian Mountain Girls and the Kruger Brothers at Mountain Music Jamboree

Thanks to our partner Appalachian State University and our friends at the Southern Folklife Collection, 243 films documenting music and religious traditions in the Appalachian mountains and surrounding region are now on DigitalNC.  The digitization of the materials for preservation and online access was funded through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The films come from two collections at Appalachian: William R. and John W. Turner Concert and Dance Videos and the C. Howard Dorgan Papers. The Turner collection consists of films and audio recordings taken at bluegrass and old time music festivals, fish park gigs, and concerts in primarily the North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia mountains.  The Dorgan collection contains films and audio taken at churches, mostly of Baptist affiliation, in Appalachia.  Sermons, singing, and revivals are all documented in the films.

Thanks to the hard work of the staff of the Southern Folklife Collection these films are now much more accessible for both our partner’s use and a wider internet audience.  

To learn more about our partner Appalachian State University, visit their Special Collections’ page here