Category Archives: Outer Banks History Center

Family Traditions of Service: Cape Hatteras Lifesaving Station, ca. 1900

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

In 1848, U.S. federal government funds were committed to limited lifesaving operations along America’s coastline. Volunteers staffed scattered facilities for over twenty years before a professional lifesaving service was created in 1871, as a unit within the U.S. Treasury’s Revenue Marine Bureau. In June 1878, the U.S. Lifesaving Service was made an independent unit of the U.S. Treasury Department. It went on to build an extraordinary history of service and heroism before becoming part of the new U.S. Coast Guard in 1915.

This photograph speaks to the early role of North Carolina families’ military service in coastal operations and rescue services prior to World War I. Construction of a lighthouse at Cape Hatteras was first authorized in 1794 when Congress recognized the danger posed to Atlantic shipping. Construction did not start until 1799. The first lighthouse went into operation in October 1803. This liCapeHatteras_LifesavingStationghthouse was not tall enough to effectively warn ships of the dangerous Diamond Shoals along the North Carolina coast, and in 1853, 60 feet was added to the height of the lighthouse to make it more visible to ships. By the 1860s, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was in dire need of extensive repairs. Instead of repairing the failing structure, a new lighthouse was opened on December 1, 1870. The 1803 lighthouse was demolished in February 1871. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse received its black and white stripe day-mark pattern in 1873. The United States Lifesaving Service established a lifesaving station just one mile south of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, near Cape Point, North Carolina, in 1882.

The following description of the operation of a life-saving station comes from the National Park Service:

“When a new station was established, the head lifesaver, called the ‘Keeper,’ was selected first and given charge of the station. He would then seek out appropriate candidates, often from the local community, for the other lifesaving positions. These men, called ‘surfmen,’ were given a numerical ranking based on experience, which assigned them specific duties. Surfman #1, for example, was usually a veteran lifesaver and the Keeper’s second in command, while Surfman #8 was often the newest man and given more menial duties. This pecking order was essential to the station’s smooth operation. Training was, by necessity, the lifeblood of the service. Each day of the week was set aside for a particular drill. Without the proper knowledge and skills, the lifesavers would have little control over a rescue attempt and could endanger everyone involved, including themselves. A shipwreck was often a chaotic scene requiring immediate action in severe conditions. Men were better prepared to deal with the merciless ocean, raging storms, and their own fears if they were well-trained.” (http://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/historyculture/lifesaving-service.htm)

Pictured here around 1900 at the Cape Hatteras Lifesaving Station are: (left to right) Urias Williams, Edward Midgett, Baxter Miller, John Howard Midgett, Issac [should this be Isaac?] Jennette, Ed Stowe, Dave Barnett, their dog Rover, and Keeper Capt. Pat Etheridge. The two men standing on the porch are Dr. Josh J. Davis and Theodore Meekins. In the background in front of the small outbuilding is the cook, Charlie Olsen.

Credit line: United States Coast Guard and United States Lifesaving Service Portraits Collection, Sarah Owens Collection, Outer Banks History Center.

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This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.

 

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Family Traditions of Service: Cape Lookout Teletype Roll Section [Roll 4], October 17, 1944

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

Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944

Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944

The Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station Teletype Rolls consist of more than 65 original brittle, rolled, brown paper teletype rolls that were found at the U.S. Coast Guard Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station boathouse on Harkers Island, North Carolina. The rolls were created between 1938 and 1945. In 1957, the U.S. Coast Guard sold the Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station boathouse to a family, who discovered these teletype rolls in the boathouse. The rolls had suffered from water, rat and mice chewing, and mold damage. The family donated them to the State Archives in 2010.

Teletypewriters or teletype machines are electro-mechanical typewriters that were used to send and receive typed messages over radio signals and telephone landlines among communication stations and ships. In World War II, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard used these machines for military communication, monitoring potential enemy submarine communications and vessels in distress along the U.S. coastline. Finding this many original mostly intact teletype rolls from WWII is very rare. Usually, teletype operators tore off messages from the roll after a communication was received.

This section of one of the teletype rolls (temporarily numbered Roll 4) contains communications among various teletype operators who apparently are along the East Coast. Near the top of this section, there was apparently a signal received by several teletype operators of a radio signal from around the Pungo River area in North Carolina, near the Pamlico Sound. The signal appears to have been a mistake, as the person sending the signal “has a rough note”—meaning the radio operator was using the wrong buttons or code to transmit. The roll section also contains weather reports from various locations.

Close-up, Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944

Close-up, Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944

The Military Collection is working on an ambitious landmark 3 to 5 year project to preserve the informational content of the teletype rolls through in-house digitization. Digitization is challenging due to the rolls’ length: the shortest teletype roll is 1½ feet, and the longest is 54 feet. The paper the rolls were printed on is very acidic, and was never meant to last. Digitization is the only way to save the information, and will allow the Military Collection to read the rolls’ content. Once the rolls have been digitized in-house, the Military Collection Archivist will try to determine the best means to make them available to the public—either onsite at the State Archives or online. If you or someone you know worked with the radio communications or teletype machines in the 1940s or 1950s, and might be able to help identify the content of the rolls, please contact the Military Collection Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina

Credit line: Cape Lookout Teletype Rolls Collection, Acc. # 2015.4.43, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

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This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.

Family Traditions of Service: Cape Lookout Teletype Roll Section [Roll 4], October 17, 1944

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

Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944

Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944


The Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station Teletype Rolls consist of more than 65 original brittle, rolled, brown paper teletype rolls that were found at the U.S. Coast Guard Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station boathouse on Harkers Island, North Carolina. The rolls were created between 1938 and 1945. In 1957, the U.S. Coast Guard sold the Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station boathouse to a family, who discovered these teletype rolls in the boathouse. The rolls had suffered from water, rat and mice chewing, and mold damage. The family donated them to the State Archives in 2010.

Teletypewriters or teletype machines are electro-mechanical typewriters that were used to send and receive typed messages over radio signals and telephone landlines among communication stations and ships. In World War II, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard used these machines for military communication, monitoring potential enemy submarine communications and vessels in distress along the U.S. coastline. Finding this many original mostly intact teletype rolls from WWII is very rare. Usually, teletype operators tore off messages from the roll after a communication was received.

This section of one of the teletype rolls (temporarily numbered Roll 4) contains communications among various teletype operators who apparently are along the East Coast. The roll section discusses issues with teletype machines; asking whether different operators are using the correct signals or buttons to communicate; and discussion of call tests being done on various teletype machines. At the bottom of this section, one teletype operator notes that he cannot read the messages from the Cape Lookout teletype machine, and Cape Lookout responds by sending a test message. This section covers the period on October 17, 1944, from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., and the Cape Lookout teletype operator for that period is identified as “Mylo.”

Close-up, Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944

Close-up, Cape Lookout Teletype Roll section [Roll 4], Date: October 17, 1944

The Military Collection is working on an ambitious landmark 3 to 5 year project to preserve the informational content of the teletype rolls through in-house digitization. Digitization is challenging due to the rolls’ length: the shortest teletype roll is 1½ feet, and the longest is 54 feet. The paper the rolls were printed on is very acidic, and was never meant to last. Digitization is the only way to save the information, and will allow the Military Collection to read the rolls’ content. Once the rolls have been digitized in-house, the Military Collection Archivist will try to determine the best means to make them available to the public—either onsite at the State Archives or online. If you or someone you know worked with the radio communications or teletype machines in the 1940s or 1950s, and might be able to help identify the content of the rolls, please contact the Military Collection Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Credit line: Cape Lookout Teletype Rolls Collection, Acc. # 2015.4.43, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

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This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.

Family Traditions of Service: Proposed Bombing Locations, Albemarle Sound Map

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

Map: Locations of Proposed Bombing Location, Albemarle Sound, Date: Undated [ca. 1940s]

Map: Locations of Proposed Bombing Location, Albemarle Sound, Date: Undated [ca. 1940s]

As German submarines harassed the North Carolina and Atlantic coastlines in 1942 and 1943, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard expanded training programs, coastal patrols, and communications systems to build up American forces’ efforts to protect the home front. Many coastal North Carolinians joined the Coast Guard, or traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, to enlist in the Navy.

This undated small, discolored map shows the location of bombing targets in the Albemarle Sound of coastal North Carolina as proposed by the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Naval District, based out of the Norfolk Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. These sites appear to be bombing target practice, possibly for Navy ships, submarines, or aircraft. Its exact purpose is unknown, but it was produced during World War II as part of the increase in naval training and coastal protection around North Carolina.

To see this and other documents from the U.S. Coast Guard’s operations along coastal North Carolina, check out the County War Records collection in the WWII Papers, found in the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

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This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.

Family Traditions of Service: Dedication of the Coast Guard Air Station, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Event Program

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

Dedication of the Coast Guard Air Station, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Event Program, Date: October 17, 1940

Dedication of the Coast Guard Air Station, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Event Program, Date: October 17, 1940

Coastal North Carolina suffered from fears of and attacks by German submarines during World War II. On October 17, 1940, a major U.S. Coast Guard Air Station base was established at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to work with personnel from the Coast Guard’s shore stations to rescue crews of tankers and freighters sunk by submarines.

This is the cover from the original dedication event program for that air station, which today comprises 800 acres in Elizabeth City. This rare document is the genesis of the Coast Guard Air Station, which is the largest and busiest Coast Guard air station in the United States.

To learn more about the Coast Guard’s operations during WWII in North Carolina, check out the WWII Papers in the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

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This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.

Family Traditions of Service: Coltrane Elementary Students Add to Scrap Pile, 1942

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

Coltrane Elementary Students Add to Scrap Pile, Date: 1942

Coltrane Elementary Students Add to Scrap Pile, Date: 1942

During World War II, the U.S. government began rationing food and supplies to put towards the war effort. Shortages in metal and rubber demanded finding inventive ways of acquiring available metal and rubber supplies. Americans were urged to turn in scrap metal for recycling.

Schools were ordered to provide rationing programs for students and support war bond drives. Families supported public events and programs such as the scrap drives because they were patriotic and connected families in some way with their loved ones serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Perhaps one of the community scenes which stuck in the minds of so many from the war period was the community scrap heap. A pile of rusting metal and old rubber stood for freedom and democracy. Recycled scrap metal was used to build ships, tanks, planes, bullets, artillery shells, and other military supplies. This photograph of Coltrane Elementary School students in Concord, North Carolina, shows them bringing scrap metal and rubber tires to a scrap pile in 1942. Schools and communities all over North Carolina contributed to piles such as these, and local businesses and corporations converted the metal into weapons, vehicles and vessels, and supplies.

You can explore more about home front activities and rationing in the County War Records, found in the WWII Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

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This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.

Family Traditions of Service: American World War II Navy Vessel Clears Sea Mine

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

U.S. Navy YMS-37 ship crew with a sea mine, Date: 1943 or 1944

U.S. Navy YMS-37 ship crew with a sea mine, Date: 1943 or 1944

During World War II, American Navy vessels traversed the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea, English Channel, and Mediterranean Sea while facing the menace of German and Italian submarines, magnetic and acoustic sea mines, and other war-time hazards in the European and North African theaters. Navy minesweeper ships consisted of crews specifically tasked with risking their lives to clear the water paths for Allied ships during the war, without which such landings as the Normandy D-Day invasion would have been impossible.

This snapshot photograph was collected or taken by Robert H. Northrop of Wilmington, North Carolina, who was serving in 1943 and 1944 aboard the U.S. Navy YMS-37, a minesweeping ship. This picture shows the ship pulling up next to an Axis Powers’ sea mine on the surface of the water. One of the crew is sitting on the mine doing something with the fuse—possibly trying to disarm it. Brave men such as these saved thousands of lives with their work.

You can see more photographs of Northrop’s service aboard the YMS-37 in the Robert H. Northrop Papers, located in the WWII Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

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This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.