Monthly Archives: July 2018

Processing the Bill Harris Papers

[This post was written by Taylor Wolford, a summer intern at the Outer Banks History Center.]

When I began working at the Outer Banks History Center, I was familiar with the name Bill Harris. In 2014, I was a high school student and budding historian in Dayton, Ohio researching the history of flight. My history teacher suggested that I contact local historians in North Carolina to expand the scope of my research. I researched local historians to contact, including Bill Harris, as word had gotten out among researchers regarding his extensive collection of local photographs, oral histories, and documents.

As a graduate student in Archives and Records Management, I am now processing the Bill Harris Papers at the Outer Banks History Center for future researchers. My internship involves processing the collection according to current archival standards and creating a descriptive online finding aid for the collection.

In order to process the collection, I developed groupings, known as series, for the organization of the documents. A notable series in this collection is the Wright Brothers First Flight, which is beneficial for researchers interested in a variety of related topics, including the construction of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Anniversary of the First Flight, and the First Flight Shrine. Bill worked for the Wright Brothers National Memorial as an expert on local history, and documents throughout the collection showcase his work with the National Park Service and First Flight Society. Additional topics covered by the collection include Dare County, N.C. and the U.S. Lifesaving Service Stations.

Bill Harris (right) at the Wright Brothers National Memorial for the unveiling of the Barnaby Plaque on December 17, 1963. The plaque was a gift from the Soaring Society of America.

Perhaps the most impressive series, however, is Local Genealogy. This series contains a large number of oral histories, documents, and photographs that highlight the juxtaposition of an evolving yet deeply rooted Outer Banks community. The Local Genealogy series poses the most difficulties in terms of organization, for local families often intermarried until it was challenging to separate the Baums from the Harrises. As locals tend to say, “Genealogy in the Outer Banks is not a tree, but a vine.” For those interested in researching family histories in the area, the collection provides many opportunities to answer questions and delve deeper into the familial vines that constitute the Outer Banks community.

After two months processing these documents, I can verify that this collection extends far beyond my initial research in aviation history. Bill spent his entire lifetime immersed in the unique culture of the Outer Banks, and the collection certainly reflects his knowledge of the area. As the collection covers a wide range of topics and geographic regions, I am confident that it will continue to contribute to the research community long after it is properly stored in boxes and folders.

Members of Bill Harris’s family explore his newly processed collection with Taylor’s help, July 2018.

Completion of “The Mount Olive Tribune” project

The Imaging Unit of the State Archives of North Carolina has completed a microfilming project of the regional newspaper The Mount Olive Tribune.  A total of 128 reels of microfilm were created from the original newspaper.  The microfilm includes scattered issues starting in 1906 with a more complete run after that year and ending with the year 2014; there were no extant issues for 1921 at the time of filming.  Most of the reels are available to researchers in the microfilm reading room [through 1962] but, due to space limitations, not all 128 reels are in the reading room. However, all 128 reels are available for duplication from the State Archives.

For duplication contact Chris Meekins – chris.meekins <@>

McCrory, Hunt, and Martin Papers added to Governors Papers, Modern

We have added new materials to the Governors Papers, Modern digital collection. The executive orders and proclamations of Governor Pat McCrory are now available, as are the executive orders of Governors James B. Hunt, Jr., and James G. Martin. Governor McCrory’s first executive order was to establish a procedure for the appointment of justices and judges, while his final order at the end of December 2016 was to extend the Substance Abuse Task Force. Governor Hunt’s first executive order establishing his North Carolina Board of Ethics and the rules under which it would operate. Governor Martin’s first proclamation also dealt with the North Carolina Board of Ethics, and is strikingly similar to that of Governor Hunt.

These documents, and more modern governors’ papers can be found in the North Carolina Digital Collections: Governors Papers, Modern.

The online collection contains only a small percentage of the total governors papers in the holdings of the State Archives, which include papers from Richard Caswell (1776 – 1780) through Pat McCrory (2012 – 2016).

For biographies of North Carolina governors and colonial governors, consult NCPedia at

For finding aids for many governors’ papers collections, see the Guides to the Governors Papers on the State Archives website.

Search Room Display Case Exhibit: Vault Collection

This month, the exhibit case in the search room features records from our Vault Collection. The Vault Collection is an artificial collection created by archivists from material taken from other collections. The collection was created to highlight and protect significant documents in the Archives holdings. Items moved into the Vault Collection are selected based on their rarity, value, and significance to the cultural history of North Carolina and the United States. Items range from North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights, to the North Carolina Constitutional Reader used to assist in African-American voting, and items with historical figures signatures. Many items are available online in the Treasures and Federal and State Constitutional Materials digital collections on North Carolina Digital Collections website.

Commission, William D. Pender

Commission, January 10, 1855, of William D. Pender as second lieutenant in the Second Regiment of Artillery, United States Army, signed by President Franklin Pierce and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. VC.12

The copies of items highlighted in the display case are listed below and available to view online.

“Appointment of Samuel Tredwell signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, February 19, 1793” VC.15

This document is the appointment of Samuel Tredwell as Collector of Customs for the District of Edenton, including the port of Edenton (Port Roanoke). It was signed February 19, 1793 by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, as Washington’s first Secretary of State. Born on Long Island, New York in 1763, Tredwell was the nephew of Samuel Johnston (1733-1816), who served as North Carolina’s governor (1787-1789), U.S. senator (1789-1793), and president of North Carolina’s second Constitutional Convention that adopted the federal Constitution in 1789. Tredwell was also the nephew of Hannah Johnston Iredell, married to James Iredell, Sr., future United States Supreme Court Justice.


“Wearin’ of the Grey written by Tar Heel” Page 1, VC.17

These three pages of sheet music, “Wearin’ of the Grey written by Tar Heel” were first printed in 1866. The attribution to “Tar Heel” is the first known use of the term in post-Civil War published works. The author, “Tar Heel” is obviously a pseudonym. Published in Baltimore by William C. Miller, the piece is arranged for the piano forte with voice and uses the same melody as the Irish tune, “Wearing of the Green.”


“Letter of Marque signed by John Hancock, 1776” VC.22

This Letter of Marque was issued by the Continental Congress on October 24, 1776, to James Powell, commander of the 3-ton schooner, Northampton. It is signed by John Hancock, president of the Congress. A letter of Marque and Reprisal commissioned a privately-owned vessel as a privateer in the service of its country. It granted to the commander the right during times of war to fit out with arms in order to plunder or to capture the enemy’s ships. Shortly after the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the Provincial Congress, forerunner of the Continental Congress, authorized the Colonies to “at your own expense, make such provisions by armed vessels for the protection of your harbors and navigation…”, thereby allowing the colonies to grant Letters of Marque to private ships. Without this protection, the commanders and crews of these ships would be treated as pirates if caught. By April of 1776, the Continental Congress issued its own commissions, including strict rules about prizes, prisoners, and reporting. Congress also required that one-third of the crew be landsmen-possibly to protect the fledgling navy from losing too many enlistees to privateering. When the bearers of the Letters of Marque sold their prizes, some of the profit went to Congress. During the Revolution, both sides freely commissioned privateers. Despite having a large public navy in place, Britain was thought to have employed almost as many such vessels as did the colonists.


“North Carolina Constitutional Reader, Being a Hand Book for Primary Use in One Part” VC. 25

A scarce African-American imprint by G. Ellis Harris, Principal of a school at Littleton, with the title: North Carolina Constitutional Reader, Being a Hand Book for Primary Use in One Part (Raleigh: Printing Office, St. Augustine’s School, 1903). The volume was designed to overcome the burden placed on African-American voters by the provisions of the Permanent Registration Act of 1901 (the “Grandfather Clause”) by enabling them to read and construe any part of the Constitution with which they might be confronted by poll officials; and, as such, it is an important piece of evidence of the African-American response to the Act.


“Albemarle County Papers, 1678-1714, undated” Page 78, VC.46.4

Document from Governor Thomas Cary’s administration, related to a meeting between North Carolina and the House of Burgesses, the colonial Virginia legislature, from 1708. At the time Lady Anne was Queen of England.


C.S.S. Shenandoah Log Book number one” Page 5, VC.50.1 [This item is located in the Civil War digital collection]

Log Book number one, of the C.S.S. Shenandoah, Chronicling the voyage of the C.S.S. Shenandoah between October 20, 1864 and July 22, 1865. The Shenandoah was commanded by James Iredell Waddell of North Carolina, and was one of the most famous “commerce raiders” commissioned by the Confederate navy to destroy northern merchant ships during the Civil War.




Senate Audio 1977-1978

senateThe Senate Audio digitization project has begun a new chapter. Current audio holdings cover the years 2006 through 2012. We recently began digitizing the State Archives’ extensive Senate Audio cassette collection, starting with the 1977-1978 biennium. Cassette recording of senate sessions started on the 79th day of the 1977 session. Currently, recordings available on Internet Archive (linked from our digital Senate Audio collection) run from May 2, 1977-June 16, 1978. The collection continues to grow as we start the 1979-1980 biennium.

Recordings of years not yet digitized are held at the State Archives and made available through a fee-based, digitization-on-demand basis. Additional information regarding fees can be found here. More Senate-related materials found in the Archives include the Senate Clerk’s Office journals (SR 66.28) which provide the daily minutes from 1777 through 1981.

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 Anna Spencer: Summer Intern in the Digital Services Section

Hi! I’m an intern with the digital services section through the State of NC Internship. The State of NC Internship is run by the NC Council for Women & Youth Involvement. The internship provides an opportunity for students to gain experience in state government workplaces, by placing students in a variety of positions across the state for a 10-week period.

I am currently a graduate student in the dual degree archival program between NC State and UNC. I will be at State until this spring working on a Master’s in Public History, and in the spring I will go to UNC to start working towards a Master’s in Library Sciences. I earned my Bachelor’s of Science in History with a concentration in Public History in May 2017 from Appalachian State University. While at Appalachian State, I worked at a historic house and community center, which provided many opportunities to interact with the public and learn more about local history. This internship is my first professional foray into archives, and I have been enjoying it immensely.

Social Hour Hostess Alabama Jeanes Teacher

The only know instance of a peanut in the State Archives collections.

I am working with the African American Education Digital Collection, digitizing files from the Division of Negro Education. So far, I have digitized the correspondence of the Director of the Division of Cooperation in Education and Race Relations and the papers of the State Supervisor of Elementary Education. It has been very interesting to see how race relations changed during the mid-twentieth century, as well as seeing how involved universities in the Triangle were in these efforts. My research focus is postwar African American urban history, so learning more about the history of African American education in the state has given me new perspectives to consider as a researcher.

Treasures of Carolina: Bill of Rights

The first Wednesday of each month features a document or item from the State Archives considered a treasure because of its significance to the history and culture of our state or because it is rare or unique. Sometimes the featured item just illustrates a good story. The items highlighted in this blog have been taken from the exhibit, “Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives” and its companion catalog.

Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights, 1989. Vault Collection

Long before the State Archives of North Carolina existed, the Secretary of State kept important government documents in the State Capitol building in Raleigh. Among them was North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights, drafted by federal clerks in 1789 and given to each of the original thirteen colonies for ratification.  The document remained in the State Capitols secure and safe for more than eighty years.

In April 1865, Union troops occupying Raleigh were encamped around the State Capitol grounds and building. Against orders, Union soldiers looted whatever they wanted, one returning home to Tippecanoe, Ohio with the Bill of Rights in hand, selling it to Charles A. Shotwell who lived in the same Ohio county.

By 1897, North Carolina became aware of the theft through a Raleigh News and Observer article that had been picked up from the Indianapolis News, where Shotwell was living at the time. Through both secretaries of state, North Carolina tried to reclaim its property—as a public record the document belonged to the state—but Shotwell refused to give it up without payment and disappeared. Another attempt was made to recover the document in 1925 when it was offered for sale by a Pennsylvania attorney on behalf of a client who remained unidentified.

Wayne Pratt, Inc. purchased North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights from two of Shotwell’s descendants in 2000 for $200,000. In the meantime, several experts had authenticated the document as the copy given to the state of North Carolina and Pratt was well aware of the findings. A couple of years later North Carolina was offered the opportunity to purchase the piece. Again, the state refused to buy its own property but later acquiesced. Unbeknownst to the seller, his agents, and attorneys, the FBI had orchestrated a sophisticated sting operation whereby North Carolina would go through the motions of offering $4 million for the manuscript. Once the check “cleared” electronically and the Bill of Rights was brought to the table, federal agencies seized the document and it remained in federal custody. After a two-year court battle, during which time a federal judge ruled that the manuscript was indeed a public record belonging to the state, North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights returned home.