Tag Archives: Photographs

Treasures of Carolina: Photograph, 1910

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. 

Chase Ambler, M.D., nature enthusiast from Asheville, stands on a mountain cliff in 1910. He remarked that his view was of an “unbroken forest canopy to the horizon.” Dr. Ambler, his associates and friends laid the foundation for the eventual development of national parks in the Southeast by establishing the Appalachian National Park Association. Efforts to establish park and forest reserves in the Southern Appalachian Mountains date from the 1880s, the push prompted from both the tourist industry and from the conservation movement, especially those concerned about flooding in deforested areas and destruction of scenic views. This photograph and other materials from the association are preserved at the Western Regional Archives in Asheville.


Photograph, 1910, General Records, Appalachian National Park Association, Western Regional Archives.


[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)


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

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.


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.

Father of Modern Yo-Yo Visits Raleigh

[This blog post was written by Ian F.G. Dunn, Processing Archivist, Special Collections Section, State Archives of North Carolina.]


Pedro Flores is seen second from left, closest to camera, with Raleigh city officials c. 1930,
N.53.17.520. Raleigh, NC. Albert Barden Collection. State Archives of NC.

Above, a group of city officials is seen posing with yo-yos on the steps of Raleigh City Hall around 1930. Among them? Pedro Flores, the Filipino immigrant responsible for the revival of the yo-yo. He is seen second from left, closest to the camera.

Many people associate the yo-yo with the 1940s and 50s, but it’s been around much longer. In fact, the oldest-known reference is painted upon a Greek vase dating to 500 B.C. The image on the vessel depicts a boy with his arm extended, his hand gripping a string with a dangling round object near his feet. The scene seems as anachronistic as, say, Abraham Lincoln fiddling with a smart phone.

But back to Flores: Although he never claimed to be the inventor of the yo-yo, he did own the patent for a modernized version. In 1928, he began manufacturing and marketing the toys. Months later, factories were up and running, churning out hundreds of thousands of yo-yos every day. Competitions were held all over the country, many featuring Flores himself. Nearly overnight, the toy became a sensation—so much so, it was riling up some of the curmudgeons in town. In October 1929. The News and Observer printed a particularly colorful tirade in their Views and Observations section,

“I ain’t exactly intolerant,” declared Tom Robertson of Chatham county, “and I take considerable pride in the fact that I’ve learned to pass a grown man wearing short pants without even turning my head, much less insulting him, but this here Yo-Yo business is just a little too much for me. I’m gettin’ afraid to come to Raleigh any more for fear my pent-up passions will bust loose and cause me to kick the daylights out of the next so-called citizen I see spinnin’ one of them little tops. I’m a lifelong democrat and up till now I never doubted my democracy but darned if I believe that a 21-year-old person who plays with one of them things in pubic has got any business being allowed to vote. And besides, I can’t get the hang of the dang things, anyhow.”

In late 1929, Donald Duncan bought the Flores Corporation. So, only a month after the 1929 stock market crash, Flores found himself flush with money. This new wealth enabled him to concentrate on what he loved to do—promoting the toy and attending yo-yo contests. This photograph was probably taken as he passed through Raleigh on one of his yo-yo competition tours. The faces in the group stare forward, alight with the novelty and frivolity of this little toy during a heavy time of unrest and worry.

The yo-yo has since continued to delight and distract people of all ages and in 1999 was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

New Siler City Veteran’s Vietnam War Collection Available

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

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr. standing next to the sign for Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Ryukyu Islands, ca. 1968

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr., wearing civilian clothes and dark-colored sunglasses, standing next to the sign for Headquarters Company, Headquarters, U.S. Army Ryukyu Islands (USARYIS), on Okinawa during the Vietnam War around 1968. Military buildings and a car are seen in the background. Photograph taken by or collected by Grover M. Johnson Jr. while he was stationed on Okinawa at USARYIS (circa 1968). (VW 3.B3.F1.11)

One of the goals of the Military Collection in the coming years is to grow its collection of materials documenting North Carolinians and North Carolina military installations during the Vietnam War era between 1961 and 1975. We are excited to announce the availability of the recently-processed Grover M. Johnson Jr. Papers.

The Grover M. Johnson Jr. Papers is composed of correspondence, photographs, 35mm and 126 Format color slides, and miscellaneous materials, documenting the U.S. Army service of Grover M. Johnson Jr. of Siler City, N.C., during the Vietnam War from November 1966 to October 1968. He served for several months in the 569th General Supply Company at the U.S. Army’s Camp Davies, just outside of Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. For most of his overseas service during the war, Johnson Jr. served on Okinawa in the Headquarters Company at Headquarters, U.S. Army Ryukyu Islands (USARYIS).

The bulk of the collection is composed of Johnson Jr.’s letters from November 1966 to September 1968, which document his daily existence in military camps, doing guard duty in Vietnam, his sightseeing and travels, activities and sports he engaged in, and the average life of a non-combat Army soldier during the war. The correspondence gives Johnson Jr.’s impressions of the culture and society he encounters in Saigon and Okinawa.

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr. standing in an alley behind some buildings in an unidentified city.

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr., wearing civilian clothes and dark-colored sunglasses, standing in an alley behind some buildings in an unidentified city [believed to be on Okinawa], with two young girls standing in the middle of the alley behind Johnson Jr. Photograph taken while Johnson Jr. was stationed on Okinawa at USARYIS (undated). (VW 3.B3.F1.17)

Perhaps the most significant items in the collection are the 178 photographs, 35mm color slides, and 126 Format color slides taken by Grover Johnson Jr. as a hobby while he was stationed in Vietnam and Okinawa. The majority of the photographs were taken in and around Saigon and Camp Davies in 1967, and the color slides were all taken on Okinawa in 1968. They offer a rare, unedited look at civilian and soldier life just as the Vietnam War was escalating.

The collection is available for research in the Vietnam War Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina. All of Johnson’s Vietnam photographs have been digitized, and are available for viewing online with full descriptions through the State Archives’ Flickr page.

New Digital Collection: Travel Perspectives


Stewart Family Ledger and Scrapbook, available online through the NC Digital Collections.

The Travel Perspectives collection is now available online via the North Carolina Digital Collections. This collection features narratives and images of tourism as experienced by North Carolinians, found within the holdings of the State Archives of North Carolina. These documents consist of letters, scrapbooks, journals, photographs, postcards, newspaper clippings, and other material related to the representation of the creator’s travels and experiences. The collection consists of items dating primarily from the 1850s through the 1950s, representing the first significant wave of mass tourism in which North Carolinians participated.

For more information on topics related to this collection, please check out this NCpedia page developed by the State Library:

Other resources:

Another digital collection of interest includes the Historic North Carolina Travel and Tourism Photos Project, which includes a series of photos, originally used in advertising campaigns to market the state as a travel destination, produced between 1929 and 1970 by the Conservation and Development Department, Travel and Tourism Division.