Jack Benny USO Show Photographs, August 1945

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Snapshot of comedian Jack Benny, wearing a leather trench coat, pictured standing in front of the steps of Schloss Wilhelmshöhe

Snapshot of comedian Jack Benny, wearing a leather trench coat, pictured standing in front of the steps of Schloss Wilhelmshöhe—the U.S. Military Government district headquarters—in Kassel, Germany, around August 1945. Benny was on a six-week USO show tour of U.S. military posts in Europe with Ingrid Bergman and Larry Adler. [WWII 73.B5.F5.3], Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina would like to share an interesting find discovered while processing a new collection. Robert J. Pleasants of Wake County, North Carolina, served in the U.S. Navy from 1932 to 1934; in World War II with the U.S. Army with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) from 1944 to 1946 in Europe; and is believed to be the longest-serving Wake County sheriff (1946-1978).

From May 1945 to March 1946, Pleasants was stationed in the Kassel District of Germany, under the U.S. Office of Military Government during the occupation of Germany. He was in the Food and Agriculture Section, responsible for managing and developing food and agriculture supplies, assisting with the growth and planting of crops, and dispersing food to the peoples of Germany in the midst of a massive food shortage at the end of World War II.

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (middle, sitting) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left, sitting), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car.

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (middle, sitting) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left, sitting), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car for the Kassel district in Germany around August 1945. The car is parked next to Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, the U.S. Military Government district headquarters. Bergman and Adler were on a six-week Jack Benny USO show tour of U.S. military posts. [WWII 73.B5.F5.4], Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

I am in the midst of processing, organizing, describing, and preserving Robert Pleasants’ papers. During the processing of a collection, you never know for sure what you are going to find, whether it be a rare document, a personal letter, or a just lot of collectible postcards from another country. You never really know the historical significance of the materials until you go through them systematically, in order that researchers end up with a collection that is arranged to allow easy access and described well enough for people to find all sorts of things they may be looking for.

While working on Pleasants’ papers, I came across several photographs that I had to do some research. Pleasants himself typed descriptions on the back of the images after the war, but you still have to check. Turns out they are three photographs of Jack Benny, movie star Ingrid Bergman, and Larry Adler (one of the world’s best harmonica players). The three performers were in Kassel, Germany, in August 1945 as part of the Jack Benny USO Show, which was conducted over six weeks throughout the summer of 1945 as a morale boost to the wearied U.S. troops in Germany.

Robert Pleasants, as an officer in the U.S. Military Government’s offices in Kassel, helped tour Benny, Bergman, and Adler around in military vehicles while they were performing for the troops there. These three photographs show the three individuals in candid moments around the time of their performances, and offer us a look at a remarkable period in the history of WWII.

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (right) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (right) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car for the Kassel district in Germany around August 1945, shown while they were signing autographs. The car is parked next to Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, the U.S. Military Government district headquarters. Bergman and Adler were on a six-week Jack Benny USO show tour of U.S. military posts. [WWII 73.B5.F5.5], Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Join Us for World War I Social Media Day on April 11

Seven smiling French and American soldiers

Seven smiling French and American soldiers. From the George W. McIver Papers, World War I Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Available online through the NC Digital Collections.

The Smithsonian is coordinating a World War I social media day on April 11, 2017. On that day, they plan to host Q&As, pop quizzes, and other online events while joining with institutions like the Presidential Libraries and the National Park Service to post content related to World War I. A schedule of events is available through the National Museum of American History’s website.

The Smithsonian has also invited other libraries, archives, and museums from around the world to join the discussion on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms using the hashtag #WorldWar1. The State Archives of North Carolina (@NCArchives) and the State Library of North Carolina (@ncpedia) plan to take part, as do several of our sister institutions from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including the NC Digital Heritage Center (@ncdhc), Wilson Library (@WilsonLibUNC), and the North Carolina Collection (@NCCollection).  Other Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (@ncculture) institutions will likely participate as well, which means there should be quite a bit of North Carolina content available on that day.

So please join us on Wednesday, April 11 to learn more about World War I!

Women’s History Month: Ella Currie McKay

[This blog post was written by Stephen C. Edgerton, who donated the collection to Private Collections, Special Collections Section, and is volunteering under the supervision of Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist.]

In Recognition of Women’s History Month (March 2017): Focus on Researching Women in History, from the McKay, McPherson, and McNeill Private Papers (PC.2144)

Farmer’s Daughter

Ella McKay, RN, with a Confederate veteran at the Old Soldiers Home in Raleigh, North Carolina, ca. 1917

Ella McKay, RN, with a Confederate veteran at the Old Soldiers Home in Raleigh, North Carolina, ca. 1917. From PC.2144, State Archives of North Carolina

Ella Currie McKay was born in 1888, the daughter of a progressive, North Carolina farmer with 75 acres of sandy, arable land in Robeson County. A highly resourceful man, her father managed to send four of his nine children—two girls and two boys—to college. Three of them became medical professionals—two doctors and one registered nurse. Ella was that nurse.

At age twenty-four in 1911, Ella graduated from Philadelphus High School. At Red Springs, a mile away, she attended and graduated from Flora MacDonald College for women, and in time, Whitehead-Stokes Sanatorium Nursing School in Salisbury, North Carolina. Her professional nursing career began in May of 1917 at the Confederate Soldiers Home in Raleigh. Her many letters to her family at this time reveal thoughts about her two brothers, doctors serving in the war, and about whether she should join in the fight.

“Oh, this is hell here now”

Just prior to the end of World War I, in September of 1918, Ella joined the U.S. Army as a Red Cross nurse. Her first posting was at the military hospital at Camp Meade, Maryland, nursing the wounded and afflicted soldiers. Within ten days she contracted Spanish Influenza. Too ill to work, she was kept isolated from her patients and others for weeks. Her eyes remained “glued shut,” she said, and her back ached as if it would break. But her symptoms were more merciful than those suffered by the soldiers she encountered once she again took up their care. She surely was now squarely on the front lines of the flu epidemic of 1918, estimated today to have killed more people worldwide in the short time it raged than all those who died in the four years of the First World War.

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Women’s History Month: Carolista Baum

[This blog post was written by Kim Andersen, Audio Visual Materials Archivist in the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Photo of Carolista Baum from the files of the News & Observer, Raleigh, NC

Call number: NO_4710_CarolistaBaum_Fr11. From the N&O negative collection, State Archives of North Carolina; Raleigh, NC. Photo copyrighted by the Raleigh News and Observer. Illegal to use without express permission from the N&O.

Meet Carolista Baum, the woman credited with saving Jockey’s Ridge—the largest natural sand dune on the east coast. Carolista Baum was moved to activism when her children alerted her of construction equipment taking sand from the dune.  She simply walked out and sat down in front of the bulldozer, refusing to move. Baum then started a local campaign that included protests and fundraising that aimed to preserve the natural landmark for generations to come. Her efforts, bolstered by community support, were eventually successful in 1973 when the Division of Parks and Recreation decided to preserve the area as a state park which opened in 1975.

A film documenting her campaign and the community effort to save Jockeys’ Ridge was made in 1976 by then UNC-CH film student Ron Hagell – Jockey’s Ridge for All the People, 1976 [MPF.116]

Thank you, Carolista Baum!

Sunshine Week 2017: Text and Instant Messaging Guidelines Update

Visit our records management blog for an update on text and instant messaging guidance.

The G.S. 132 Files

The State Archives of North Carolina has released an update to its Best Practices for Electronic Communications Usage in North Carolina: Text and Instant Message document. Released in February 2017, this document is an update to the 2012 guidance document for state agencies using text and instant messages in the workplace, including employee responsibilities according to general statutes and records retention and disposition schedules.

IM and texting are methods of communication that can make communication fast and easy regardless of when or where the participants in a conversation are. They can be quick exchanges to arrange meeting for lunch, or they can be long exchanges about complex topics. But while IM and text messaging can make day-to-day communications easier, when they are used in the conducting of public business—and therefore the creation of public records—they can also make records management more complicated. GS 132 defines public records by content, not…

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Women’s History Month: Mary Bayard Morgan Wootten

[This blog post was written by Kim Andersen, Audio Visual Materials Archivist in the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

It’s Women’s History month! Today we highlight photographer Bayard Wootten.

Bayard Wootten posing near sand dunes at Nags head, NC,

Bayard Wootten posing near sand dunes at Nags head, NC, Dare County, c.1920’s. Courtesy Ms Louise Morgan, Brevard, NC. (N_95_1_68) From the General Negatives, State Archives of NC.

Mary Bayard Morgan Wootten (1875–1959) was an American photographer and pioneering suffragist born in New Bern, N.C. Also a competent painter, she is credited with designing the first trademarked logo for Pepsi-Cola. Wootten was adventurous and unflinching in all aspects of her life, especially business. She owned several photography studios and was known to set out on solo trips across the state in her 1920s Ford to photograph North Carolina’s people and landscapes.  She continued to photograph well into her seventies and operated her photo studio until 1954. A trailblazer for women photographers in the South, Wootten overcame economic hardship, gender discrimination, and the obscurity of a small-town upbringing to become the state’s most significant early female photographer. She died in 1959 in Chapel Hill at the age of 83.

Wootten was adventurous in finding new angles for images, once dangling off a cliff to take the perfect photograph of Linville Falls. In 1914 she became one of the first female photographers to engage in aerial photography when she flew in an open-air Wright Brothers Model B airplane and took pictures of the landscape below.  She was also the first woman in the North Carolina National Guard.

Photographer Bayard Wootten with camera in front of cypress tree in Great Lake, Craven County, NC, 1909

Photographer Bayard Wootten with camera in front of cypress tree in Great Lake, Craven County, NC, 1909. Photo by H. H. Brimley. (PhC42_Bx16_Great Lake_F1-2) From the H. H. Brimley Photo Collection, PhC.42, State Archives of NC.

Originally trained as an artist, Wootten worked in photography’s pictorial tradition, emphasizing artistic effect in her images at a time when realistic and documentary photography increasingly dominated the medium. Traveling throughout North Carolina and surrounding states, she turned the artistry of her eye and lens on the people and places she encountered and is perhaps best known for her photographs of people living in impoverished rural areas in her home state of North Carolina.

Many of her photographs were used as illustrations for six books, including Backwoods America by Charles Morrow Wilson, 1934; Cabins in the Laurel by Muriel Sheppard, 1935; Old Homes and Gardens of North Carolina by Archibald Henderson, 1939; and From My Highest Hill by Olive Tilford Dargan, 1941.  UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library is home to the Bayard Morgan Wootten Photographic Collection which includes over 90,000 images and other materials created by Bayard Morgan Wootten and the Wootten-Moulton studios. Formats include glass negatives, film negatives, photographic prints, lantern slides, artwork, and some manuscript materials.  The State Archives of North Carolina houses only a few copies of some pieces of her work, but is fortunate to have several original photographs of Wootten working with H. H. Brimley photographing in eastern North Carolina in the first decade of the 20th century.

For more complete biographical information on Bayard Wootten, please see:

Alfred Fowler and the Vietnam War

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Snapshot of Alfred Fowler standing next to an artillery gun in a bunker in Vietnam

VW 1.B2.F12.1: Snapshot of Alfred Fowler standing next to an artillery gun in a bunker in Vietnam at an unknown location in June 1968, during his service with B Battery, 321st Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Photograph sent to his wife Cynthia Fowler with a June 23, 1968, letter. From the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

In honor of Black History Month, the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina wants to feature one of its most important collections from the Vietnam War—the Alfred Fowler Papers.

Alfred Fowler was born on September 26, 1942, in Whites Creek Township in Bladen County, North Carolina. His parents were John Edd and Laney (Shaw) Fowler. Alfred’s mother died when he was five years old, leaving him to be raised by his father, with whom he was not very close. Alfred’s mother gave birth to nine living children, the oldest of whom—Mary Lee—worked to raise Alfred and his siblings. Growing up, Alfred was very close to his youngest sister Mabel.

Alfred Fowler would meet Cynthia L. Bryant while the two were in New York in the 1960s. Bryant was from Sanford, North Carolina. Alfred Fowler married Cynthia in August 1966, and they remained in New York until January 1967. In January 1967, the couple moved to Sanford, and lived with Cynthia’s parents on South Horner Boulevard.

Alfred Fowler worked at the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics plant in Sanford prior to his service in the Vietnam War. Seattle-founded Cornell-Dubilier, a pioneer in producing capacitors for radios and other electronics, opened a Sanford plant in 1955. Fowler worked in a laboratory at the company testing its products.

Prior to moving to North Carolina, Alfred Fowler had attempted to enlist voluntarily in the U.S. military, but was rejected three times by the military—likely due to his having high blood pressure. When the Fowlers relocated to North Carolina, however, Alfred received his draft board notice about six months later on July 3, 1967. Partly due to the Fowlers’ recent relocation, Alfred would receive draft notices from three different local draft boards between August and October 1967, as different localities were trying to claim him for draft quotas. He received his final draft notice, which indicated his date of induction would be in November 1967.

Alfred Fowler was inducted into the U.S. Army as a private on November 28, 1967. He entered basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in December 1967, where he remained until February 1968. Alfred was assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, in the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Bragg. He would be transferred to Fort Sill near Lawton, Oklahoma, arriving there between February 9 and February 10, 1968. While at Fort Sill, Fowler was a member of Battery E of the 3rd Training Battalion at the U.S. Army Training Center-Field Artillery command. It was during his nearly three-month stay at Fort Sill that Fowler learned how to operate a variety of field artillery guns, which he came to utilize in the jungles and mountains of Vietnam.

Certificate for Alfred Fowler’s Bronze Star Medal

Certificate for Alfred Fowler’s Bronze Star Medal. From the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Serving with Battery B of the 2nd Battalion, 321st Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Alfred Fowler was sent to Vietnam with his regiment between the end of April and the first week of May 1968. He was promoted to corporal by July 3, 1968. Fowler’s overseas service ended in April 1969 after a year-long term in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Fowler’s artillery unit participated in regular firefights with the Viet Cong. Upon returning to the United States, he was transferred to Fort Carson in Colorado—rather than his preferred location of Fort Bragg—sometime in May 1969. Fowler served at Fort Carson until being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on November 26, 1969.

Alfred Fowler returned to work at his job with Cornell-Dubilier, and would attend Central Carolina Community College in Sanford for a couple of years. Fowler’s family recollects that he suffered mood swings and mental distress from his service in Vietnam, believing this to be what today is identified as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He never would openly discuss his service, shielding his family from the horrors of what he experienced in Vietnam. Alfred had changed quite a bit upon his return from service, and the letters he wrote from Vietnam indicate some of the struggles he was going through during combat.

Since they had been newlyweds when he left for the U.S. Army, Alfred and Cynthia Fowler would have to relearn to live with each other, facing the challenges of adjusting to the drastic personal and cultural changes of the late 1960s as an African American couple in North Carolina. The Fowlers would remain together until Alfred’s death on July 17, 2004. He was buried at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake, North Carolina.

You can learn more about Alfred Fowler from his collection, the Alfred Fowler Papers (VW 1) in the Vietnam War Papers of the Military Collection, that contains more than 180 letters written between him and his wife during Fowler’s service in the Vietnam War.

You also can currently see Alfred Fowler’s Vietnam War Army uniform on display in the North Carolina Museum of History’s “Call to Arms” Gallery on the Third Floor of the Museum in the Vietnam War section of the exhibit.