Tag Archives: farming

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

Dancing in the Corn… Archives Week in Western North Carolina

Many of you already know but this week has been proclaimed to be NC Archives Week.  That means we really showcase our collections and advocate for archives and preserving the historical record beyond what we do the rest of the year.  This year, the theme is all about food culture in NC.  From farming to eating, we have documents and photos that capture it all.  In Western North Carolina, this year’s theme of “Home Grown! A Celebration of N.C. Food Culture and History” is being featured in a number of ways but none as interesting or exciting as Dr. David Silver’s work with the Black Mountain College Farm.

Josef Albers (left) hanging out in the cabbage patch

You may have heard about the college or some of its famous alumni and faculty but did you know those same folks were farming on the campus?  Can you imagine Josef Albers tending cabbage?  Or how about Merce Cunningham dancing in the corn fields?  Ok, so maybe we don’t have proof that  Cunningham was cutting a rug in the corn, but it could have happened!

Dr. Silver is an associate professor of media studies and environmental studies and coordinator of the urban agriculture minor at the University of San Francisco and is currently working on a multimedia history of the farm at Black Mountain College.  He has been using the collections at the Western Regional Archives and telling the food story of a college that normally is only looked at through artistic lenses.   Not only was he the first researcher at the WRA, he is a cheerleader for NC archives and continues to champion the collections we’ve preserved and direct scholars and students from around the world to NC!  Check out his blog http://silverinsf.blogspot.com/ or scope out the photos of his research journey and discoveries at flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsilver/sets/

Who knows, you might just find out they were dancing in the corn!

Dorothy Cole eating in the dining hall at BMC