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, 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.