“What Does That Say?” Series, Pt. I

Deciphering the Handwritten Records of Early America

Since beginning my work with digitizing the General Assembly Session Records collection at the State Archives, I have had to do a bit of research on how to effectively interpret 18th century manuscripts in order create the appropriate metadata for the records and improve discoverability of these records in our digital collection. The following sections include a brief history of writing during this time period, characteristics of 17th and 18th century British-American handwriting, and some tips on deciphering the text found within these records. This is the first blog post of a series on how to read handwritten colonial documents.

As a skill most take for granted today, writing was not a widespread accomplishment during this time period; however, with the growth of commerce and industry, the need for this skill became more apparent.

According to Monaghan (1988), reading and writing were considered to be two separate endeavors, as the ability to read was not dependent on the ability to write. Initially, reading was simply a means to an end—a skill that provided direct access to the Scripture. The Bible was this era’s most popular book, so it comes as no surprise that it was the first text children learned to read. Thornton (1998) contends that “reading was taught first, as a universal spiritual need; writing was taught second, and then only to some.”

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Fund the work of Raleigh’s Photo History Detective, Karl Larson

[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 Karl LarsonThe State Archives of North Carolina collects photographs as an important and popular part of the Archives’ mission. Proper identification is key to their accessibility and usefulness. A significant number of the photographs in our collections are only marginally labeled, and some are completely unknown. We are raising money to fund the work of local historian Karl Larson, who is instrumental in our researching and identifying the unidentified photographs in our holdings.

Karl is an expert on the history of Raleigh, especially the built environment. He has a unique knowledge base that is perfectly suited to identifying photos in two of the largest and most valuable collections here in the State Archives—the Albert Barden Photo Collection and The News & Observer (N&O) Negatives. Both of these collections are heavily populated with Raleigh and Raleigh-related images but arrived to the State Archives with sparse or nonexistent descriptions.

There is no appropriated funding for Karl’s work. For many months he has graciously continued to work as a volunteer; however, that is not a sustainable situation long-term for him or for us. The Friends of the Archives, the State Archives of North Carolina’s support foundation, is seeking to raise $9,000, which will fund his position for an entire year!

Please help us continue this work by making a donation today!

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New Amateur World War II Guadalcanal Films Online

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

Lunga Beach (Guadalcanal), Summer 1943 [WWII 40.MPF1]

From the film: “Lunga Beach (Guadalcanal), Summer 1943 [WWII 40.MPF1],” part of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina is excited to announce the availability online of two original short amateur films from World War II. The films, shot by Daniel D. Price of Mount Olive, N.C., were made while Price and his friend Bill Carroll were stationed with the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 38th Air Materials Squadron on Lunga Beach on the island of Guadalcanal in 1943. The rare films are original, unedited amateur footage of island life in the Pacific Theater during World War II from the perspective of a North Carolinian.

The amateur 16mm footage was shot in the summer and fall of 1943, while Price was camped and working along the Lunga Beach Fighter Strip. There is a black-and-white film shot in the summer of 1943, and a very rare color film shot in the fall of 1943. The black-and-white film shows men swimming on Lunga Beach, sitting in tents, and providing paid laundry operations for fellow servicemen; various U.S. Air Force planes on the Lunga Beach Fighter Strip; and other scenes around the camp.

The color film was taken by Price and Carroll during an excursion from Lunga Beach to Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal in a U.S. Army jeep. The film shows the men traveling in the jeep until it gets stuck in a muddy creek. It also shows the interior of Price’s Air Force supply parts depot Quonset hut, with Price himself visible in the film. The original films are a rare look at the life of a North Carolina Air Force serviceman in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of these films is Daniel Price himself, who worked with the Military Collection to describe every scene within the films he shot in 1943. Price’s crisp memory recalls detailed information about the scenes—including names of men pictured in the films—in films which Price had not seen since they were shot in 1943. This rare footage has been digitized, and the original 16mm film reels preserved, through the generous support of a Basic Film Preservation Grant by the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Both films are available online through the State Archives’ YouTube page, with complete scene descriptions included.

We hope the public enjoys seeing these unique pieces of WWII history. A detailed finding aid for the films is available in the State Archives’ public Search Room in Raleigh, N.C.

New Digital Collection: The General Assembly Session Records

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Session of November-December, 1768: Lower House Papers, messages to and from Governor Tryon. Available online through the NC Digital Collections.

The General Assembly Session Records collection is now available online via the North Carolina Digital Collections. This collection features records of early North Carolina state legislatures from the State Archives of North Carolina. The documents consist of bills and resolutions, petitions, committee reports, messages from the governor, legislative messages, tally sheets, election certificates, resignations, and other material related to the work of each session of the General Assembly. The physical collection includes items from 1709 through 1999, but the digital collection will focus on the earliest materials. This digital collection is currently in progress, and more items will be added as they are digitized. Check back for future updates on the status of this project.

While the first official assembly was said to occur around 1665, it wasn’t until 1776 that the first state constitution was ratified by the “representatives of the freemen” and the General Assembly was given full legislative power as well as the authority to choose all state executive and judicial officers. Several amendments have been made to the state’s constitution over time, which has altered the powers and structure of the General Assembly.

For more information on the history of the North Carolina General Assembly, please check out these NCpedia pages developed by the State Library:

Other resources:

For more information on the General Assembly Session Records collection, please search our MARS catalog. Another digital collection of interest includes the Federal State and Constitutional Materials, which highlight North Carolina government’s role in the ratification of federal amendments and its own internal efforts to protect the rights of its citizens dating back to the Declaration of Rights in 1776.

A New Look for the State Archives Website

Carolina Transfer and Storage Company Moving Van, 1936

Carolina Transfer and Storage Company Moving Van, 1936. Photo by Albert Barden (N_53_15_6390).

Changes are coming to the State Archives of North Carolina website! This summer our staff will begin working with IT professionals to get our website ready to move to a new platform. While we are moving content, you will see some changes to our current website including warning banners. While these changes may be an inconvenience, they will be temporary and we hope to have a new website to show you soon.

We will share news about our progress as we can – please bear with us in the meantime.

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist in the Special Collections Section.]

Announcement of Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084, and Tribute to Exum, the American South’s First Female State Representative, and to her Father

Exum and George Clement at in a field, Buncombe County, ca. 1916.

Exum and George Clement in a field, Buncombe County, ca. 1916.

I am very pleased to announce that the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084, are now processed and available for research. These papers are particularly valued because Lillian, known within her family and by most others as Exum, has had a significant legacy as the first female state representative in North Carolina. Notably, she was also the first female legislator in the American South. Following her election in November 1920, Exum has often been quoted as telling a reporter, “I am by nature, very conservative, but I am firm in my convictions. I want to blaze a trail for other women. I know that years from now there will be many other women in politics, but you have to start a thing.” [News and Observer. Jan. 7, 1921].

Much has already been written about Exum, her life and public service. Naturally, a comprehensive history and documentation of her accomplishments goes far beyond the scope of this piece. Instead, I will narrow my focus to what has recently evoked my curiosity about who and what inspired her success. Since Father’s Day is celebrated this month, I thought it would be revealing to shed some light on Exum, alongside her father, George Washington Clement (ca. June 17, 1852–Dec. 1942). And thankfully, the papers do contain a few items that illustrate a strong father and daughter connection. Additionally, a study of the lives of George and his daughter suggests that both shared similar traits. These include very strong determination and a work ethic, along with convictions, faith, and ideals, such as dedication to family, church, and community–surely among the profound influences in her life.

Exum and George Clement at the intake of the North Fork of the Swannanoa River, ca. 1916

Exum and George Clement at the intake of the North Fork of the Swannanoa River, ca. 1916.

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Digital Services Section New Staff Introduction Series

Since the start of 2017, several new staff members have joined the Digital Services Section. All of us will be making regular blog posts on History For All the People, so we thought it would be nice for each of us to introduce ourselves, describe our roles in DSS, and preview the projects we’re working on.

Introducing Rose Fortier: Metadata Archivist in the Digital Services Section

I’m starting my fourth week with the State Archives of North Carolina. It’s an interesting time in this latest chapter of my work history. Things are starting to come together, and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I can contribute to the team here, instead of spending all my time asking questions.

One of the reasons I was excited to start working here was that I knew I’d get to handle all sorts of fascinating historical documents in the course of digitizing them and making them available for access online. The course of my career in libraries and archives is approaching thirteen years (which is a little scary when I sit down and think about it), and I’ve spent much of that time working with digital collections.

I started out as a baby librarian doing work for the Milwaukee Public Library. Yes, that’s Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of beer, brats, and cheese. I’m not from there originally, but that’s where I had my first job fresh out of library school. I was assigned to work in the Humanities Department, a subject unit at the Central Library that worked mainly with local history and genealogy materials. After not too long, I found myself in charge of the Historic Photo Archives there, which led to my first forays in digitization. Eventually, I would become the Digital Projects Librarian, and our digital collections really started to take shape. One of the things I really loved about my work at MPL was how much I learned about the history of the city. Before too long, I had in-depth knowledge of Milwaukee that rivaled that of most life-long inhabitants.

From there, I went to work at Marquette University, also in Milwaukee. In fact, I moved about six blocks west down Wisconsin Avenue. My job there was similar to what I’d been doing for MPL, except the focus was different. Instead of making Milwaukee’s historical materials available, I was working on making the research output of Marquette’s faculty and students more easily accessible. I learned new techniques, got to work with different formats and equipment. It was interesting and important work, and I learned a lot, but I missed the parts where I got to learn about the history of the city.

This is why I’m so happy to be working here. Once again, I find myself somewhere where I’m a stranger. As a Canadian by birth, this is as far south as I’ve ever lived. So not only am I learning a lot about North Carolina, but I’m also learning about the South. The stories I’m running across as I work with documents from the General Assembly during the Revolutionary War are deeply fascinating, and I’ll be sure to share some of the tidbits I find. I’m also working with an unprocessed collection of documents relating to the Future Homemakers of America, and I’m rapidly learning more about that organization (established in 1945, segregated until 1965, details to come). I’m eager to learn even more about the state I now call home, and to see how I can use that knowledge to make its treasures available to the public.