Tag Archives: Raleigh

North Carolina State Fair

[This blog post comes from Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist in the Special Collections Section.]

From the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084: Edith (Mrs. George W.) Vanderbilt, State Fair President of 1921

From the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084: Edith (Mrs. George W.) Vanderbilt, State Fair President of 1921

The North Carolina State Fair, which first opened in late October of 1853, is one of the state’s premier fall attractions. In that spirit, this blog post poses to all State Fair goers: What particular interests and expectations have drawn you to the State Fair, and what special memories have you taken away?  Not surprisingly, a number of the Private Collections offer glimpses of the North Carolina State Fair that add to the breadth of our collective State Fair experience, now spanning one hundred and sixty-three years.  Four such collections are featured here. Their dates range from 1853 to 1921, with three being penned within the first three decades of that auspicious opening event of 1853.


From the Margaret Eliza Cotton Journal, PC.1977, October 3, 1853

From the Margaret Eliza Cotton Journal, PC.1977, October 3, 1853

From the Margaret Eliza Cotten Journal, 1853-1854. PC.1977:  Margaret was a seventeen-year-old St. Mary’s School student living at home on Blount Street, Raleigh. She has left us, through her journal, one of the earliest, and maybe the only surviving privately recorded comment about the State Fair before its formal opening. On the night of October 3, 1853, Margaret opined, “I don’t know when I have been to a party or anything of the kind, [and] wish someone would give a large, nice one. Our city will be quite alive in a few weeks, I hope however, with the ‘Fair.’ I hope it may not be a failure – it is high time for ‘old Rip’ [town of Raleigh] to wake up. I think we are also to have a temperance convention, or something of that kind, on the 17th.”

Margaret’s subsequent comments indicated that the first fair was indeed a success, and quite the place to see and to be seen. Evidenced by her journal and the typical mindset of a teenager, the fair and its social aspects loomed far larger in her mind than the first State Temperance Convention. Not surprisingly, Margaret made no further comments about the latter event, though she had hoped that the Temperance Convention would attract some of her family and friends from Tarboro, Edgecombe County, her place of birth.


Letter of Ida B. A., St. Mary’s School, October 24, 1877, from the Kenelm Harrison Lewis Papers, PC.162

Letter of Ida B. A., St. Mary’s School, October 24, 1877, from the Kenelm Harrison Lewis Papers, PC.162

From the Kenelm Harrison Lewis Papers, 1834-1907. PC.162: These papers include a letter written by another student at St. Mary’s School, Ida B. A. [surname uncertain]. Ida was probably a friend of the daughter of Kenelm Lewis, Annie Harrison Lewis (1861-1943), a student at St. Mary’s School during the same time period. Writing probably to a male friend, on October 23 and 24, 1877, Ida described two visits to the Fair. The second time was especially “splendid,” and involved doing “almost exactly what I did the day before, only [I] did more of it. I was introduced to several very nice gentlemen and enjoyed myself hugely.” Specific events that impressed her included hearing a good band, seeing “elegant [military] drilling” and betting on “elegant [horse] racing,” and consuming delicious candy and cake. Additionally, she was pleased at “seeing so many nice folks from home,” including the New Berne boys, even though they “were not the right set,” but instead “grown young men.” Ida was also pleased that her friend, Lila, looked very stylish “for the first time in her life.” Lila apparently cut quite a figure wearing a dark brown dress and a brown straw hat trimmed with a cardinal scarf, and was “considered by a great many to be the prettiest girl on the grounds.”


From Leonidas Lafayette Polk Papers, PC.849: Letter of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to. L. L. Polk, September 1, 1881.

From Leonidas Lafayette Polk Papers, PC.849: Letter of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to. L. L. Polk, September 1, 1881.

From the Leonidas Lafayette Polk Papers, 1881. PC.849: The sole item in this collection is a letter dated September 1, 1881, written to L. L. Polk, 1888. It is from Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, former Confederate army commander, declining Polk’s invitation to attend the North Carolina State Fair because of prior business commitments in the Southwest. Johnston’s words express genuine disappointment: “I regret this infinitely. For I could find few gratifications in the world equal to that of meeting again the North Carolinians with whom I served in the most trying times that of their century have . . .  [ever] known.”


From the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084: The papers include one photograph of Mrs. George W. Vanderbilt (Edith), the year she served as president of the North Carolina State Fair.  The image shows Mrs. Edith Vanderbilt, and Mary, Alice, “B,” and Kenlon (staff from the Biltmore estate?), riding in what appears to be an open-air fire engine. A glance at the photograph suggests that the group in the truck, especially Mrs. Vanderbilt, was attracting considerable notice from fair-goers on the ground, and that people-watching has long been one of the enduring attractions of the State Fair.

From the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084: On February 3, 1921, the News and Observer writes of Edith (Mrs. George W.) Vanderbilt’s address to the state legislature and her induction as president of the 1921 State Fair.

From the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084: On February 3, 1921, the News and Observer writes of Edith (Mrs. George W.) Vanderbilt’s address to the state legislature and her induction as president of the 1921 State Fair.

Significantly, the previous November, Lillian Exum Clement (not yet married), had been elected to the North Carolina General Assembly, becoming the first woman to serve in the state’s legislature.  Her private papers indicate that she had welcomed Mrs. Vanderbilt to Raleigh in early February of 1921, and include a newspaper clipping describing the event (News and Observer, issue of February 3, 1921). The article said that Mrs. Vanderbilt had addressed a joint session of the House and Senate and subsequently attended a meeting of the Executive Committee of the N.C. Agricultural Society, where she was inducted as president of the 1921 State Fair. Mrs. Vanderbilt’s presence and address evoked the observation: “But few times in the history of the State has a woman been asked to address the General Assembly, and none has pleased them more….”

In celebration of the State Fair and its history and impact, please note the online offering through the State Library of North Carolina: http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/digital/statefair/. There is a section entitled “Blue Ribbon Memories,” that includes comments from various fair-goers. On an added note, Private Collections invites those with extensive and detailed recollections of the State Fair to consider offering those, perhaps coupled with other historically valuable private papers and photographs, as a possible donation. Please contact Fran Tracy-Walls, fran.tracy-walls@ncdcr.gov for more information about donation guidelines and requirements.


Summer of the Archives Series

Have you ever scrolled through the many items in the North Carolina Digital Collections and discovered a hidden treasure? Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our collection in the hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials in our digital collections.
PlanOfRaleigh1792On June 13, 2015 the North Carolina State Capitol celebrated its’ 175th anniversary. Did you know that the first State House was burned in 1831 and the present State Capitol was completed in its place in 1840, and Raleigh was specifically planned as a capital city? One of the items in the Raleigh History Collection in the North Carolina Digital Collections is the original plan map for the city of Raleigh. Raleigh is considered among one of the earliest planned cities in the United States. The map was created in 1792 by William Christmas a state senator of Franklin County. The map used a total of 400 acres creating Union Square as the center of the city, where the capital building would be located. After setting aside acreage for the future State House, four public parks and streets, 276 acres were remaining. They were drawn up into one-acre lots which were to be sold at public auction with the money to fund the building of the capital and other public buildings.

The Raleigh History Collection has a wide variety of materials relating to the development of Raleigh: photographs, legislation, artwork, and more maps created over the years for the planning of Raleigh. If you would like to learn more about the history of Raleigh, visit NCPedia or NC Historical Markers. To see more maps about North Carolina in general, visit NCMaps.

Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

This weekend will be very busy in downtown Raleigh. For those of you planning a research trip to the Search Room on Saturday or intending to take part in the Raleigh Occupied Living History event at the State Capitol or the Finding Your African American Ancestors 1870-1940 workshop hosted by the State Library and State Archives, please be aware that the Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon will be taking place on Sunday. Parking restrictions are being put in place today and street closures will start on Saturday, so please plan accordingly.

For more information about parking and streets involved in the race, see this document from the race website. A course map is also available.

Saturday Researcher Update for March 15

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held in downtown Raleigh on Saturday, March 15.  The parade route will proceed along Wilmington Street and numerous roads in the area will be closed.  The parade will begin at 10:00 AM but roads will likely be closed prior to the start of the parade.  Parking may be difficult during this time.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause researchers.

News and event information related to Raleigh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival are available on the event’s website and include a map of the parade route.

Community History Murals in North Carolina Branch Banks

[This blog post comes from Kim Andersen, Audio Visual Materials Archivist.]

Wells Fargo Bank works with State Archives Audio Visual Materials Unit to put community history murals in branch banks

I have been helping Wells Fargo Bank choose photographs and other images documenting towns and cities across the state of North Carolina to be used to create murals for local branches of Wells Fargo Bank.   Working with the researchers and designers at Wells Fargo, we have selected material to include ethnic diversity as well as to show significant buildings, events, and eras in the history of each place.  Attached are two examples of these murals – South Square branch of Wells Fargo Bank in Durham and the North Ridge branch in Raleigh.  Murals have been unveiled in branches in Goldsboro, Fayetteville, and Chapel Hill as well.  This ongoing project is fun and rewarding; and I think the artists have done a beautiful job.

Mural of historical images, South Square branch of Wells Fargo Bank in Durham

Mural of historical images, South Square branch of Wells Fargo Bank in Durham.

Mural of historical images, North Ridge branch in Raleigh.

Mural of historical images, North Ridge branch in Raleigh.

Home Movie Day is a Crash Course in American Culture

[ This press release comes from the Division of Archives and Records. To read about other Division of Archives and Records events, visit our news and events page.]

Home Movie Day is a Crash Course in American Culture.
It’s a Social Event…Bring Films, Watch Films and Play Bingo!

Home Movie Day 2013 Poster

Home Movie Day 2013 Poster. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Raleigh, NC – Home Movie Day Raleigh will be held on Saturday, October 19, 2013 from 1:00-4:00pm in the auditorium at the State Archives of North Carolina, 109 East Jones Street, Raleigh. The event is free and free parking is available around the Archives. This year’s event is sponsored by the Film Studies Program at NCSU, the State Archives of North Carolina and A/V Geeks Transfer Services. Participants spend the afternoon watching amateur films and win prizes playing Home Movie Day bingo.

Members of the public are invited to bring in cinematic artifacts of their personal pasts on any film format – 8mm, Super8, 16mm home movie – as well as VHS or Video8 format (cued up, 5 minute limit) for inspection, discussion, and on-site projection. Depending on the condition of the films, attendees will have the chance to view their own films on the big screen. Equipment provided by A/V Geeks Transfer Services will allow participants to get a free transfer of their film.

Now in it’s 11th year, Home Movie Day is an international event held in local communities around the world. It provides an opportunity for attendees to bring in their home movies, learn more about their own family films, and—most importantly—watch them and share them with others! Film archivists are on site and to share information about how to care for films and videotapes so they can be enjoyed by future generations.

Because they are local events, Home Movie Day screenings can focus on family and community histories in a meaningful way.

“We would love to see more films featuring local North Carolina neighborhoods and landscapes,” says Kim Andersen of the State Archives of North Carolina. “One year someone brought footage of Avent Ferry Road in Raleigh, which was just pastures, trees and an occasional farmhouse. Home movies can give us an amazing view of how our environment and our culture has transformed over time.”

Steve B. Wiley’s family films were found in a tin breadbox in the attic. “I had never seen this footage before. The Home Movie Day experts inspected my 40-year-old Super8 film and carefully mounted the reel on the projector. I watched in amazement as my early childhood appeared on the big screen,” shares Wiley. “Home Movie Day is a wonderful event for the whole family,” Wiley continues. “My kids had a great time. It blew their little minds to see daddy as a toddler, and we all had so much fun playing Home Movie Day Bingo!”

Devin Orgeron is the Director of Film Studies at North Carolina State University, a co-sponsor of the Raleigh event. “Home Movie Day is a practical celebration of an aspect of film history that is seldom taught in textbooks or schools,” explains Orgeron. “It’s an opportunity to see how we documented ourselves prior to the digital age. It’s a social event…it’s a crash course in American Culture.” For more information about the Raleigh Home Movie Day event on October 19, please contact Devin Orgeron devin_orgeron@ncsu.edu and 919-802-5026, or visit the Raleigh Home

Movie Day website: http://www.avgeeks.com/hmd.html.

Home Movie Day 2013 Poster

For more information about Home Movie Days around the world go to http://homemovieday.com/.

Book Club Records Provide A Window Into Women’s Social History

[This blog post comes from Gwen Thomas Mays, Organization Records Archivist.]

The organization records at the State Archives of North Carolina include collections from various clubs, committees, sororities, fraternities and lodges, patriotic societies, lineage societies, professional associations, veterans associations, and special interest groups.  Clubs form around a variety of interests, including books, gardening, politics, and music, just to name a few, as well as for purely social reasons.  The records at the Archives from several women’s book clubs covering over 100 years, show us not only what women have been reading from the late 19th century to the present, but also what they care about, think and talk about, and act on.

In the 1890s, women’s book clubs sprang up across the country.  Generally meeting in each other’s homes, these clubs often met every other week on a weekday afternoon, sometimes hearing a paper presented on an important topic of the day, followed by some discussion, and ending with refreshments provided by the hostess.  Membership was usually limited to a number chosen by the charter members, and acceptance into the club was voted on by the membership.  In North Carolina, there were several Tuesday Afternoon Book Clubs in various towns across the State, and there were several Thursday Afternoon Book Clubs as well.

The organization records at the State Archives include records from the Anna Jackson Book Club in Lincolnton, the Fortnightly Review Club, O. Henry Book Club, Olla Podrida Club, Round Table Club, and Tuesday Afternoon Book Club all in Raleigh, and the Thursday Afternoon Book Club in Laurinburg.  The oldest of these, the Anna Jackson Book Club, was formed in 1894 and named for Mary Anna Morrison Jackson, Mrs. Stonewall Jackson, who was a Lincoln County native.  The club’s constitution states, “Its object shall be the mutual improvement of its members in literature, art, science, and the vital interests of the day.”  The Club made contributions to many worthy causes and was deeply interested in the local library, to which they presented 100 books.

The city of Raleigh has enjoyed many book clubs, and in 1899 the Fortnightly Review Club and the Olla Podrida Club were founded.  From the first page of the minutes for the Fortnightly Review Club we read, “This Club was organized with the desire of bringing together congenial friends for mutual pleasure and profit.  But especially that we may do a little work together for our literary advancement and culture.”  Olla Podrida, which means a hodgepodge, a miscellaneous mixture, a medley, chose their name to reflect their wide ranging interests and openness to a variety of topics.  Although its charter members were all leaders in the city’s civic and charitable organizations, it was understood that the Olla Podrida Club would not undertake any special projects.

The Thursday Afternoon Book Club of Laurinburg, has been called Scotland County’s oldest social club for women.  About a dozen women, led by Miss Julia Stewart, decided in 1899 to organize a club with the objective of fostering the appreciation of good books and other aspects of cultural life.  Organized the following year, the Club included 22 charter members, a total which has been maintained throughout the years.          In accordance with the constitution, the Club meets the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, with no meetings in June, July, or August.  Each member buys a book of her choice to pass to every other member.  Books rotate twice a month, and the Club enjoys a variety of fiction and non-fiction books as well as poetry on occasion.  Through annual dues, the club is able to donate a book to the local library every year.

The Tuesday Afternoon Book Club of Raleigh (TABC) was organized in 1903 by Mrs. J. S. Wynne and Mrs. Franklin McNeill, largely as a neighborhood group.  Residing in Raleigh, NC, around Blount Street and Peace College, the women had in common a “yen to study Shakespeare.”  With a limited membership of 18, the club met first in the home of Mrs. T. N. Ivey on Halifax Street.

The TABC is thought to be Raleigh’s fourth oldest club, following behind the Johnsonian, founded in 1895, and the previously mentioned Olla Podrida and Fortnightly Review Clubs.  For most of its history, the TABC has been informal with few rules, officers serving in rotation, hostesses presenting programs and serving refreshments, occasional guest speakers, and over the years the club has supported in tangible ways the Olivia Raney Library and the D. H. Hill Library at North Carolina State University. 

The O. Henry Book Club of Raleigh was organized in the fall of 1923 for the purpose of studying “various literary and cultural subjects.”  It was named in honor of William Sydney Porter, a native of Greensboro, North Carolina and a noted short story writer.  The first meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Paul E. Davis, with nine charter members.  In 1925 the membership was limited to twenty.  The Club has averaged seventeen meetings a year, between the months of September and May.

The Round Table Club held its first meeting at the home of Mrs. Reynolds in 1927 in Raleigh, NC.  The object of the Club is the study of subjects which will give its members a wider knowledge and keener appreciation of all that interests the woman of the day.  Any woman residing in the community who is interested in the work of the Club and is willing to assume the duties shall be eligible for membership, the membership being confined to twenty active members. 

Each club reflects the interests and personalities of its members.  Some are light-hearted social gatherings; others choose more serious, intellectual pursuits.  The membership of each must change over time, with long-standing members leaving and new members taking their place.  But the importance of these clubs to these women remains constant, as reflected in the fact that some have been meeting consistently every other week, through times of war and peace, social and political upheaval, good weather and bad, for more than a century.