Tag Archives: Raleigh

A Capital Affair, Pt. IV

To recap on this series, it’s possible that Raleigh was chosen as the state capital of North Carolina for a number of reasons:

  1. Geographic location: the state’s population was gradually moving westward; Raleigh is not far from the geographical center of the state, which meant that it was relatively easy for members of the Assembly, who lived as far west as Burke County and as far east as Hyde County, to attend sessions
  2. Access to higher education: the University of North Carolina was newly chartered in 1789, which was within a day’s ride to Raleigh
  3. Thoroughfare: Raleigh was established near two major roads – an east-west road, “Jonesborough Road,” connected New Bern to Knoxville, TN (mostly follows present-day US Route 70), and a north-south road, “Fall Line Road” (forked off of the King’s Highway), connected Fredericksburg, VA to Augusta, GA
  4. Fresh start: being a brand new city, Raleigh didn’t carry the burden of its predecessors; this also led to more stability, at least in terms of keeping state records in one fixed location
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North Carolina State House, painted by Jacob Marling in 1818. Raleigh History Collection, NC Digital Collections

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A Capital Affair, Pt. III

Raleigh: 1794-present

The North Carolina General Assembly has been convening exclusively in Raleigh since 1794.

The city of Raleigh was planned and built specifically for the purpose of becoming the state’s capital, which was largely decided on based on it being close to the geographical center of the state. There were several benefits of designating Raleigh as the capital; it was not vulnerable to naval attack, it was located near a major interregional thoroughfare, and it was seen as a blank slate for some. However, many opposed this decision initially.

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Historic map from the North Carolina Maps project overlaid with a current satellite image of downtown Raleigh. Original map: “Plan of the city of Raleigh: from Johnson’s map of 1847,” circa 1867. North Carolina Collection call number Cm912c R163 1867.

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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

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.

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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.]

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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.

African American Education Spotlight Series: James Henry Harris

This month we are highlighting our African American Education Digital Collection in celebration of Black History Month. Currently, this collection contains materials from the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum as well as materials from the Division of Negro Education of the Department of Public Instruction.

Today’s post features James Henry Harris, an eloquent spokesman for a variety of causes, including equal access to education for African Americans and an end to legal discrimination—in North Carolina and beyond.

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The New England Freedman’s Aid Society appointed James Henry Harris “a teacher of freed people in North Carolina” on August 31, 1865. James Henry Harris Papers. Private Collections. Civil War Digital Collection. State Archives of NC.

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The Samuel Patrick and Ella McGuire Family Papers, PC.2061

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

Ella McGuire or her mother, Martha Miller Buffaloe (ca. 1837–1916)

Ella McGuire or her mother, Martha Miller Buffaloe (ca. 1837–1916)

An essential goal of Private Collections is to add to its holdings the papers of minorities and under-represented groups. It is a pleasure to recognize a set of such papers available for research in the Search Room: the private papers of Samuel Patrick and Ella [née Buffaloe] McGuire (PC.2061). Additionally, this collection serves various valuable purposes, including providing a unique educational resource for students, researchers, and the wider community.

Patrick and Eleanor (Ella) Buffaloe McGuire, both born into slavery, were married around 1881. Although not the first settlers after the Civil War in the Oberlin Village settlement outside Raleigh, the McGuires were surely part of the growth of this successful community. Increasingly, the area is recognized for its founding by former slaves who came to own their own homes and achieve middle class status. Patrick (1853–1906), born probably in Chapel Hill, Orange County, could read and write. This was true also of Ella (1861–1946), born to James and Martha Miller Buffaloe, natives of Wake County. Sometime during the Reconstruction Era, Patrick moved to Wake County and worked first as a laborer, then for the Gaston & Raleigh Railroad, and eventually as a depot freight driver for the Seaboard Airline Railroad.

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