A Capital Affair, Pt. II

New Bern, the first colonial capital: 1766-1776

“Perhaps a greater villain than corrupt officials was the absence of a provincial capital or fixed courthouse during the early years” (Jones, 1966).

At its first few meetings in New Bern, the Assembly voted against the town becoming the permanent seat of government, despite Governor Gabriel Johnston’s efforts. Meanwhile, the public records continued to suffer. Continue reading

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Women’s History Month 2018 – Lillian Exum Clement Stafford

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford (March 1886 – February 1925)

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Photograph of Exum taken probably during the early 1900s confirms her reputation as a beauty, parallel to her talents as a very capable young woman bent upon a career in law. Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084, State Archives of NC. [PC.2084_Phots_Bx5_F1_A]

In early 1920, before women could even vote, exceptional courage and drive were essential for a woman to run for the state legislature. Such gumption was characteristic of Lillian Exum Clement, known as Exum, who decided as early as April to enter the race––months before passage of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26. The Buncombe County Democratic party, in a remarkable show of support, had placed Exum’s name on the ballot for the June primary. She went on to beat two male contenders, winning in the November election to become the first female lawmaker in her own state and in the entire South.

Exum was born near the North Fork of the Swannanoa River, March of 1886, the fourth child of George W. and Sarah Elizabeth Burnett Clement [see note at the end regarding her birth date and birth order.] Fast forward 35 years to the beginning of her legislative service when Exum was 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]. Continue reading

A Capital Affair

We have a little-known fact to share that may leave some native North Carolinians mystified…

Raleigh was not the original capital of North Carolina.

In fact, it wasn’t the second or third…or even sixth choice. Bath (1710-1722) and Edenton (1722-1743) were considered the first unofficial capitals of North Carolina, later followed by the first official state capital, New Bern (1766-1776). Each of these towns served as the seat of government for a period of time, but there were several other contenders in the early years.

Continue reading

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.

A Major Move in Manteo

[This blog post comes from Donna Kelly, Head of the Special Collections Section.]

Donna working with maps at the OBHC

Donna Kelly inventorying maps at the OBHC

During February 19–23, Bill Brown (State Archives registrar) and Donna Kelly (head of Special Collections) traveled to the Outer Banks History Center (OBHC) to help Samantha Crisp (director of the OBHC) and her staff renumber, relabel, and shift records. This effort was part of a larger one to standardize the numbering of archival records within the Special Collections regional facilities. In addition, collections were shifted to provide easier access and provide uniformity to records storage at the OBHC.

On the first two days Donna renumbered 162 maps, incorporating a new call number system used at the main office of the State Archives in Raleigh. For the last three days she inventoried and reorganized 20 of 40 map drawers, which included approximately 874 maps. Folders within each map drawer were labeled A to Z.

Over the course of five days, Bill shifted and recorded shelf locations for 154 renumbered collections (including the Manteo Coastland Times bound newspapers). He moved 657 cubic feet of material from the back of the stacks to the front for better access. (A cubic foot is approximately the size of a box of copier paper.) He also cleaned five rows of shelving with ethanol.

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Samantha shifted approximately 735 cubic feet of materials, including photographic collections, periodicals, and unprocessed records. She also assigned new call numbers to 150 collections and relabeled 200 boxes.

Stuart Parks relocated all of the framed artwork and renumbered digital files of scanned items. He also helped move shelving and cut folders that were used to rehouse many of the maps. Tama Creef covered the front office.

All in all it was a productive, albeit exhausting, week!

Did everyone have a goat cart in the 1930s?

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

PhC.24.21 An unidentified boy is seen in a goat cart c. 1937

PhC.24.21 An unidentified boy is seen in a goat cart c. 1937

These two photos initially presented a bit of a quandary to my colleague, Ian Dunn, and I when processing the C. H. Jordan Photograph Collection here at the State Archives of

North Carolina.  Evidence within the collection suggests these children are related, and the goat appears as if he might be the same individual goat in both pictures, yet the carts are different and bear these different numbers.  We asked ourselves “What do these numbers mean?”  And “Why are these children in these goat carts in the first place?”  We looked for evidence in the other photos in the Jordan material, but no more goats or carts or related photos were there.  Reluctantly we put down this small mystery and Ian completed the arrangement and description of the collection.

Not long after the Jordan Collection was finished, though, it seemed to us as if goat cart pictures were popping up everywhere we looked, and despite our best efforts to stay on task and proceed with our prescribed work, we simply had to take a brief detour down the goat cart rabbit hole!  And what a fascinating little journey it has been.  In short order simply through Internet research, we learned not only what the seemingly strange numbers mean but also quite a bit about a relatively short-lived but wildly popular fad of itinerate photographers using the cuteness and novelty of a goat and a little cart to boost their business.

Itinerant photographers were common in the US in the early 20th century.  They traveled from town to town in rural and urban America and for the most part took informal photographs.  Some specialized in portraits and set up temporary studios in tents or at local fairs, some documented businesses and churches in the towns they visited, some took “man on the street” type photos, and some employed props like goat carts or “billy carts” as they were also known.

PhC.24.22 An unidentified girl is seen in a goat cart c. 1939.

PhC.24.22 An unidentified girl is seen in a goat cart c. 1939.

A goat cart was typically like a magnet to children in any town, and at the instigation of the photographer, the curious children would be invited to approach the spectacle coming down the street and pose in the little cart – with or without parental permission or oversight.  And the photographer would snap picture after picture as delighted children took turns in the cart, squealing with delight, and drawing the attention of more and more children and adults.  The carts were often colorfully decorated, and many were numbered on their sides as if they were part of a fleet.  Each cart usually had a plaque on the front as well with the year and often the name of the town painted on it, thus making a photo of a child in such a cart an instant precious keepsake.  The simple genius of appealing to the universal instincts of children to love cute furry animals and rides, and preying on the sentimentality of parents to indulge their children and want pictures of their children, especially when they are doing something adorable, guaranteed the goat cart racket to be a nearly fool-proof revenue generator for photographers through the 1930s.

Even as the Great Depression raged, photos of children in goat carts continued to be popular throughout the country, bringing much needed levity to otherwise dreary lives.  With the advent of the Second World War, however, itinerate photographers became less prevalent.  Everyday people began having cameras of their own and became accustomed to taking their own informal pictures, and the era of the goat cart as ubiquitous photographic prop came to an end.

Fortunately, the State Archives of North Carolina has a number of these strangely common yet not-widely-understood photographs of happy children in tiny goat carts.  If any of our readers here can help us identify these children, this goat (!) and/or the location where these photos were made, we welcome your input.  If any of you have photos depicting goat carts like this in North Carolina or by North Carolina photographers, we would very much like to know about them, too.  The State Archives of North Carolina is always interested in learning what is out there and how we can best serve our public both as a source of information and as a repository for the long-term preservation of records documenting the history of the state.

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Images from the C. H. Jordan Photograph Collection, PhC.24, State Archives of North Carolina; Raleigh, NC.

PhC.24.21 An unidentified boy is seen in a goat cart c. 1937.

PhC.24.22 An unidentified girl is seen in a goat cart c. 1939.

Jordan, C. H., Photograph Collection, 1870-1940 – Collection of 25 photographs and two greeting cards. The photographic material consists of tintypes, card photographs, cabinet cards, silver gelatin prints and photo postcards. The photographs are mainly portraits and are purportedly of the Ruffin family of the Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson County area of North Carolina.