Tag Archives: treasures

Treasures of Carolina: Bill of Rights

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.

Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights, 1989. Vault Collection

Long before the State Archives of North Carolina existed, the Secretary of State kept important government documents in the State Capitol building in Raleigh. Among them was North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights, drafted by federal clerks in 1789 and given to each of the original thirteen colonies for ratification.  The document remained in the State Capitols secure and safe for more than eighty years.

In April 1865, Union troops occupying Raleigh were encamped around the State Capitol grounds and building. Against orders, Union soldiers looted whatever they wanted, one returning home to Tippecanoe, Ohio with the Bill of Rights in hand, selling it to Charles A. Shotwell who lived in the same Ohio county.

By 1897, North Carolina became aware of the theft through a Raleigh News and Observer article that had been picked up from the Indianapolis News, where Shotwell was living at the time. Through both secretaries of state, North Carolina tried to reclaim its property—as a public record the document belonged to the state—but Shotwell refused to give it up without payment and disappeared. Another attempt was made to recover the document in 1925 when it was offered for sale by a Pennsylvania attorney on behalf of a client who remained unidentified.

Wayne Pratt, Inc. purchased North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights from two of Shotwell’s descendants in 2000 for $200,000. In the meantime, several experts had authenticated the document as the copy given to the state of North Carolina and Pratt was well aware of the findings. A couple of years later North Carolina was offered the opportunity to purchase the piece. Again, the state refused to buy its own property but later acquiesced. Unbeknownst to the seller, his agents, and attorneys, the FBI had orchestrated a sophisticated sting operation whereby North Carolina would go through the motions of offering $4 million for the manuscript. Once the check “cleared” electronically and the Bill of Rights was brought to the table, federal agencies seized the document and it remained in federal custody. After a two-year court battle, during which time a federal judge ruled that the manuscript was indeed a public record belonging to the state, North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights returned home.

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Treasures of Carolina: Pictogram Letter from Black Mountain College

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Letter, 1942. Black Mountain College Project Papers, Western Regional Archives

 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.

 Black Mountain College operated from 1933 to 1957 in Black Mountain, N.C. and attracted leading artists, both in in this country and abroad, to their faculty including painter Robert Rauschenberg, composer John Cage, choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, sculptor Ruth Asawa, architect Buckminster Fuller, and artists Joseph and Anni Albers.

This first page excerpt is part of a four-page letter written by Lorna Blaine (later Halper), an artist who attended the college.  She wrote to her parents around 1942 using pictograms. Part of the excerpt reads, “Dear Mother and Dad, I really do not know how to thank you enough for the wonderful trip to Boca Grande. It even started off well on the train, that snappy Silver Meteor. Then all the tennis and swimming and sunbathing and loafing and food etc. Gosh but everything was so marvelous!”

 

Treasures of the Archives: Warrant, 1767

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.
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Warrant, 1767, Boundary Line papers, Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s Papers

In order to postpone a confrontation between white settlers and Indians, King George issued a proclamation in 1763 forbidding white settlement in America farther west than the crest of the Appalachian mountains. Some Cherokees asked that a precisely defined boundary be surveyed for their protection. The Indians preferred that the line not be run until after the 1766 hunting season, however, so that they might take game farther east than the anticipated line might permit.

In June 1766, Gov. William Tryon indicated to his council that he was ready to undertake the surveying of a line, and the council authorized him to direct the surveyor general to proceed. Since the treasury had no funds for such a project, the governor was authorized to issue warrants for the survey. He appointed John Rutherfurd, Robert Palmer, and John Frohock to be boundary commissioners, and they, together with a detachment of thirty men, completed the survey. 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.

Treasures of Carolina: Plan of Raleigh

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.

Though the seat of colonial government had been established in New Bern, a new capital city was created in 1792 when state legislators voted to purchase land from Senator Joel Lane located within ten miles of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, a popular gathering place for lawmakers at the time. This Plan of Raleigh was drawn by William Christmas, state senator and surveyor by profession.  Using a total of 400 acres, Christmas designated the axial center of the city as Union Square. It was composed of six acres and intended as the site of the future State House.

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Survey Plat, 1792, Map Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

Treasures of Carolina: Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

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Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Transmittal Letter, 1865, Vault Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

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.

On December 4, 1865, the North Carolina General Assembly approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery. For a state to be readmitted to the Union following the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson required states to approve the amendment. Ten days following North Carolina’s vote the requisite three-quarters of the states had approved its ratification and thus it became law.

This action by the legislature in 1865 came almost three years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery in the southern states. Following the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the freedmen’s convention met a few blocks northwest of the State Capitol. That assembly was the first effort by the state’s African Americans to press for full political rights.

Support the Conservation of Our Archival Treasures

[This blog post comes from the Friends of the Archives.]

The Friends of the Archives is a non-profit organization that privately funds some of the services, activities, and programs of the State Archives of North Carolina not provided by state-appropriated funding. Some of our most treasured documents are in critical need of preservation and restoration.  After careful evaluation of these materials, the Friends has set their funding goal for 2018.

Detail of a portrait of King Charles on the first page of the Carolina Charter of 1663

The first page of the Carolina Charter features an elaborate drawing of King Charles. Learn more about this document in the North Carolina Digital Collections: http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p15012coll11/id/10

The Carolina Charter needs immediate attention.  The Carolina Charter of 1663 is considered the “birth certificate” of North Carolina. The document consists of four vellum sheets and details the granting of land in what is now known as North Carolina. It has been more than twenty years since the Carolina Charter has been examined for treatment. The document will be exhibited in early spring and repairs are needed immediately.

North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights serves as an example of North Carolina’s involvement in the ratification of the United States Constitution.  The one-page document was presented to North Carolina after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

The Papers of Peter Carteret, Governor of the County of Albemarle. The county of Albemarle is the oldest county government in North Carolina. Peter Carteret served as governor of the Precinct of Albemarle from 1670 to 1673 and his papers document his influence and actions from 1666 to 1673 in Albemarle County.

We have already raised $3,500 of the approximate $12,000 needed for the preservation of these documents.

North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights, 1789

North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights, 1789. Part of the Vault Collection. Available online at http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p15012coll11/id/29.

These precious documents are exhibited for special occasions but even the slightest exposure to light can be harmful to them.  With improvements in preservation technology, we will be able to conserve these documents for an extended period.

To donate to this preservation fund, join the Friends of the Archives, or renew your membership, visit the Friends of the Archives  website and click on Become A Friend of the Archives Today!  If you are already a member you may donate on that same page. Benefits of membership include discounted registration to public programs and on some publications, DVDs, and posters. Please note that The Charter is now available only electronically, so please don’t forget to include your e-mail address.

If you’ve already renewed for 2018 or made donations to preservation, thank you. As a member of The Friends your support is an important part of our success.

Treasures of Carolina: the Carolina Charter of 1663

The first Wednesday of each month will feature 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.

Detail NC_Charter-Pg1

Page 1 of the Carolina Charter features an elaborate drawing of King Charles

Considered the “birth certificate” of the Carolinas, the Carolina Charter of 1663, so named after King Charles II of England, gave the province of Carolina to eight of his loyal supporters, known later as Lords Proprietors of Carolina, in return for their service to the Crown during the English Restoration.  The original Charter designated land between 31°and 36° north latitude and extending east to west, ocean to ocean, covering parts of what is now Florida, Mexico, Texas, and California.

Written on vellum (calf- or sheepskin), this remarkable document is composed of four pages and bears a striking pen-and-ink portrait of King Charles II of England on the first page. The Charter marks the beginning of organized, representative government in the province of Carolina, granting to the colonists rights that were to have lasting influence on the region’s population and its history. For example, the Charter guaranteed the rights of property ownership, the establishment of courts, and representation of delegates of “Freemen of said Province.”

The Carolina Charter of 1663 is both a government document—as a land grant and a treatise for governing—and a work of art.  In 1949, using privately-donated funds, the Department of Archives and History paid $6,171 for its purchase from a bookseller in England. Two years of research on both sides of the Atlantic had confirmed the Charter’s authenticity. Today it is housed in one of two climate-controlled security vaults in the State Archives. Because of preservation concerns and its intrinsic and documentary value its display is carefully monitored.