Category Archives: Special Collections

Treasures of Carolina: Pictogram Letter from Black Mountain College

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Letter, 1942. Black Mountain College Project Papers, Western Regional Archives

 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.

 Black Mountain College operated from 1933 to 1957 in Black Mountain, N.C. and attracted leading artists, both in in this country and abroad, to their faculty including painter Robert Rauschenberg, composer John Cage, choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, sculptor Ruth Asawa, architect Buckminster Fuller, and artists Joseph and Anni Albers.

This first page excerpt is part of a four-page letter written by Lorna Blaine (later Halper), an artist who attended the college.  She wrote to her parents around 1942 using pictograms. Part of the excerpt reads, “Dear Mother and Dad, I really do not know how to thank you enough for the wonderful trip to Boca Grande. It even started off well on the train, that snappy Silver Meteor. Then all the tennis and swimming and sunbathing and loafing and food etc. Gosh but everything was so marvelous!”

 

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New Additions to North Carolina in World War I Digital Collection

As part of the statewide World War I commemoration, we have digitized 60 additional materials from the Military Collections and Private Collections of the State Archives of North Carolina. Most of the additions to the World War I digital collection are selections from the collections listed below.

Some highlights include:

PC.1385 Robert R. Bridgers Papers: Correspondence from Ann Preston Bridgers, who served as a YWCA hostess with the American Expeditionary Forces in France 1919. This is one of the few collections of non-combat women from the front in Europe.

PC.1560 Banks Arendell Papers: Arendell was part of the Machine Gun Company, 321st Infantry, 81st Division, American Expeditionary Forces, 1918-1919. His journal includes items such as Armistice Day on the front lines, and describing crossing the Atlantic in convoy.

WWI 106 John N. Hackney Sr. Army Field Notebook: Hackney’s original WWI Army field notebook with military training notes from when he was stationed in various training camps, including notes on infantry lines procedures and movements, Army code writings, mine warfare, and more.

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Page from Wartime Diary of Robert Gregg Cherry

2017-18 additions to the World War I digital collection (North Carolina Digital Collections):

PC.8 Walter Clark Papers

PC.76 William Blount Rodman Papers

PC.100 Theodore F. Davidson Papers

PC.219 Edward W. Pou Papers

PC.1138 R. Gregg Cherry Papers

PC.1140 Reginald A. Fessenden Papers

PC.1165 Carl Brindley Notebook

PC.1234 Daisy Green Collection

PC.1308 Rodolph Nunn Papers

PC.1417 Leonidas Polk Denmark Papers

PC.1554 Bennet T. Blake Papers

PC.1697 George Carroll Brown Papers

PC.1739 William C. Lewis Diary

PC.1904 Richard Seawell Hinton Papers

WWI 1 North Carolina Council of Defense: Prosecutions Under Selective Services and Espionage Acts

WWI 35 Leonidas Polk Denmark Papers

WWI 84 Benjamin Ira Taylor Papers

WWI 86 Benjamin R. Lacy Jr.

WWI 87 Thomas A. Lacy

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Pillowcase from the George Carroll Brown Private Collection

WWI 88 North Carolina Distinguished Service Cross Awardees List

WWI 93 Jewish War Service Roster of North Carolina Small Towns

WWI 109 United States Army Troop Transport Ships List

WWI 118 113th Field Artillery Regiment Roster

Help Preserve and Protect N.C. Military History

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

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina has launched, through the institution’s nonprofit support organization, the “Preserve N.C. Military History” fundraising effort. The goal is to raise $9,500 to hire a contract archivist for 6 months or longer to help the Military Collection Archivist process, organize, describe, and make available a selection of over 75 feet of original military records and papers documenting North Carolina’s military history. 

The materials selected for this work document the home front in every North Carolina county during WWI and WWII, and cover a range of enlisted military personnel from the state in all military branches for multiple wars. These are the records needing the most archival work, and containing valuable historical information touching everyone in North Carolina.

Only the most basic descriptions exist for some collections, and in many cases no descriptions exist yet at all for new collections awaiting to be used by the public. The papers have not yet been indexed in any detail. The collections hold artwork, letters, home front materials, photographs, and posters—all created by or documenting North Carolinians from all over the state. Children’s WWII home front posters, photographs of Red Cross activities, and letters from a U.S. Navy sailor in the Pacific Theater, are just a sampling of what is included. The work will benefit the general public, scholars, teachers, schoolchildren, and anyone interested in the state’s military history.

We need your help to ensure that this work can be completed. Getting someone who has the training and experience needed to do this type of work is difficult unless he or she can be financially compensated, and we need the funds in order to do so. All of the money raised will go to pay for this contract archivist position.

Selected materials from this project will be digitized and made available to the public online in the North Carolina Digital Collections. Photographs from the collections will be put online through the State Archives’ Flickr page. Updates on the work will be posted regularly to the State Archives’ social media.

To support this fundraising effort, we ask you to spread the word about this through your social media, sharing it with anyone you think would be interested in supporting this significant work. You can donate money to the “Preserve N.C. Military History” GoFundMe page. Every little bit helps! Invest in the state’s proud military heritage, and ensure that future generations will learn of the sacrifices of its citizens in times of war.

Highlights from the William and Mary Coker Joslin Papers: Mary Joslin, Woman of Many Talents

[This blog post was written by Elizabeth Crowder, contract archivist in the Special Collections Branch of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Under the supervision of Fran Tracy-Walls, private manuscripts archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina, I am arranging and describing materials in the William and Mary Coker Joslin Papers (PC.1929). This work is made possible through generous funding from the Joslins’ daughter Ellen Devereux Joslin.

Mary Coker (far left, with cello) at Vassar College, ca. 1943, around the same time she was experimenting with soybean cultivation.

Mary Coker (far left, with cello) at Vassar College, ca. 1943, around the same time she was experimenting with soybean cultivation. PC.1929.1

In 1975 and 1980, Hartsville, S.C., native and longtime Raleigh, N.C., resident Mary Coker Joslin (1922–2016) earned master’s and doctorate degrees in French from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She taught the language at Ravenscroft School and Saint Augustine’s University, and her fascination with medieval French literature led her to publish a book on the subject with her daughter Carolyn Coker Joslin Watson. However, some thirty years before her graduate studies in French, Mary Joslin’s academic pursuits had taken a different direction. In 1944, she earned a degree in botany from Vassar College. Joslin earned her master’s degree in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1946. Both of these endeavors revealed her interest in social causes.

Mary Joslin’s undergraduate studies were likely influenced by the work of her father, David Robert Coker (1870–1938), and her uncle William Chambers Coker. David R. Coker championed agricultural reform and experimented with plant breeding. Both pursuits had the ultimate goal of improving farmers’ yields and economic livelihoods. To these ends, David R. Coker’s Pedigreed Seed Company developed and sold superior varieties of cotton, corn, tobacco, and other crops. William C. Coker (1872–1953) was an associate professor of botany at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1902 to 1945. In addition to his teaching duties, he made an extensive study of Chapel Hill’s flora, cultivated a six-acre garden on the university’s campus (the present-day Coker Arboretum), and authored numerous publications.

Continue reading

[By Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist]

Help the Military Collection Identify WWII
CBI Theater Photos

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina needs the public’s help in identifying a set of photographs from World War II that have no identifications or descriptions. The photographs are from the papers of Raleigh native, William C. Cutts, who served in the Pacific Theater in WWII as an aircraft fabric and dope mechanic with the 69th Depot Replacement Squadron, 301st Air Depot Group, U.S. Army Air Forces. Cutts worked as a civilian at Seymour Johnson Field in Goldsboro before being inducted into military service in 1944. As a civilian and later as an Air Force mechanic, Cutts was listed as an aircraft fabric and dope worker, which involved laying out, cutting and sewing, and treating airplane fabric to cover damaged control surfaces and airplane fuselages. He would cover and patch airplanes’ surfaces with fabric, applying paint and dope to the fabric [dope is a type of lacquer applied to fabric-covered aircraft, that tightens and stiffens fabric stretched over airframes, rendering them airtight and weatherproof].

It is unclear as to where Cutts was stationed in the Pacific Theater during the war. The photographs in Cutts’ papers are a set of original reproduction photographs of scenes in Asia made during or just after WWII. The photographs all appear to have been taken in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of WWII, in southern and eastern Asia. However, it is not readily evident from his service papers that he ever served in the CBI Theater—just in the Pacific. It is also not known if Cutts took or—more commonly as WWII servicemen did then—collected the photographic prints. Even so, the photographs show rare scenes of the CBI Theater.

Towards that end, we need the public’s help in identifying the images. All of the photographs have been uploaded into the State Archives’ Flickr page in the album “William C. Cutts WWII Images” [insert link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/north-carolina-state-archives/albums/72157694493198435]. We are asking for members of the public to help with the descriptions of the photographs. You can create a free Flickr account and add comments to these photographs with any information you may have on them. We need to create image descriptions that are reliable and historically accurate for researchers and the public who are relying on our historical materials for research, exhibits, school assignments, and public programs.

Because of this, we need to know the information you have on the image, how you know it (if from a website, please include a link to the page), and your name. If you personally recognize an area or scene from experience or family knowledge, please share the information through the image comments. Not all of the information will be used for the descriptions—as some of it may contradict what others have given. Also, we need reliable sources of information, so Wikipedia and Pinterest are not accepted as sources of information. If there is a comparable photograph online through another archives, museum, military veteran, or even the Library of Congress, please share that link in the comments on the images in the Flickr album.

The Military Collection Archivist will research the images using all of the provided information, comparing and contrasting what has been provided from the public for the most reliably-accurate image descriptions. The photograph descriptions on Flickr will be updated after they are completed, and the collection finding aid will have the descriptions added. We will be adding the names of people who assisted with the image descriptions to the William C. Cutts Papers finding aid, so you all will be credited for the effort.

WWII 112.F1.1: Small contact print of a studio portrait of the Cutts family of Raleigh, N.C., during World War II. Pictured are (left to right): Mary Jeanette Champion Cutts; Mary Jeannette Cutts; and William C. Cutts (wearing his U.S. Army Air Forces uniform) (1940s) [from William C. Cutts Papers, WWII 112, WWII Papers, Military Collection].
WWII 112.F2.9: Unidentified scene during World War II, believed to be in the CBI Theater [from William C. Cutts Papers, WWII 112, WWII Papers, Military Collection].

 

Women’s History Month 2018 – Gertrude Weil

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

Gertrude Weil (11 December 1879 – 30 May 1971)

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Suffragettes, including Gertrude Weil, far left, May Borden Graham, fourth from left, and Rowena Borden, far right, circa 1920. General Negative Collection, State Archives of NC. [source]

Humanitarian, feminist, and social activist Gertrude Weil was born in Goldsboro, NC, in 1879 into a prominent family of Jewish merchants.  Gertrude Weil attended local public schools before enrolling at Horace Mann for secondary education.  While at Mann she became friends with teacher Margaret Stanton Lawrence, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the founders of the woman’s suffrage movement.  Already drawn to public service and philanthropy by the example of her mother, Mina Rosenthal Weil, Gertrude was inspired in part by her associations with Lawrence and Staunton to dedicate her considerable energies to the fight for gender equality and later racial equality. Continue reading

See World War I Materials at Alamance Community College on March 29

[This blog post comes from Sarah Koonts, Director of Archives and Records for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Isham B. Hudson's war diary contains short entries covering his military unit’s movements throughout France in the fall of 1918 (Call number: WWI 49). Learn more about this item in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Isham B. Hudson’s war diary contains short entries covering his military unit’s movements throughout France in the fall of 1918 (Call number: WWI 49). Learn more about this item in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

One of the most rewarding experiences as State Archivist is the development of special exhibits utilizing a few unique original materials from our collections.  We develop these special exhibits on occasion to partner with a local historical society, museum, or historic site, often to promote a specific anniversary or event.  This year we are thrilled to offer a special exhibit with one of our favorite partners, Alamance Community College.  We invite you to join us March 29 for a full slate of programming around the centennial of World War I.

Held at the main building on the Carrington-Scott Campus of Alamance Community College (1247 Jimmie Kerr Road in Graham), the special exhibit will be held from 9 a.m.—5 p.m. on March 29.  Due to the number of school groups scheduled for the morning, the public is encouraged to consider an afternoon visit, if possible.  During the event, you can see some World War I materials from our military collections, a traveling exhibit about North Carolina and the Great War, and speak with costumed living- history specialists interpreting military service from the period.In addition, there will be soldier, nurse, and Red Cross uniforms on display from the Haw River Museum, Alamance County Historical Association, and the Women Veterans Historical Project from UNC, Greensboro.  Kids can join in the fun by coloring their own WWI poster and participating in other activities throughout the building.

A group of five young women wearing work overalls and caps, standing outside in front of a building at the Wiscassett Mills in Albemarle, N.C. These women replaced male mill workers sent to fight in World War I. (Call number: WWI 2.B11.F7.1)

A group of five young women wearing work overalls and caps, standing outside in front of a building at the Wiscassett Mills in Albemarle, N.C. These women replaced male mill workers sent to fight in World War I. (Call number: WWI 2.B11.F7.1)

We enjoy taking our treasures out to locations outside of Raleigh.  It is fun to share our collections and explain a little more about what we do at the State Archives.  North Carolina has a rich military history and our World Ward I materials are among the most prized.  Come visit Alamance Community College on March 29 to learn more about that history from 100 years ago.