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Designer Alexander Julian and Carolina Style

This Day in North Carolina History - 12 hours 47 min ago

Julian in his Chapel Hill store in 2013

On February 8, 1948, designer Alexander Julian was born in Chapel Hill. 

Julian’s father owned a menswear boutique, Julian’s, downtown near the UNC campus. Growing up visiting and later working in the store, young Julian took a natural career path.

Alexander often describes the moment that men’s fashion clicked with him. He’d torn the collar of his blue oxford shirt at school and stopped in at Julian’s to get the tailor to fix it. But instead of a mend, he asked that the collar of a yellow shirt be sewn on. He says he has been designing ever since.

Alexander’s first store was in Chapel Hill near his father’s, but he moved to New York in 1975. There he expanded into producing cloth, furniture and home goods.

In the late 1980s, Alexander designed the original, signature teal and purple uniforms for the Charlotte Hornets. In 1990, Dean Smith asked him to update the uniforms for his Tar Heel team.

At age 33, Alexander became the youngest inductee into the Fashion Hall of Fame. He has won five Coty Awards, the highest honor in the fashion industry. His furniture design garnered him the Pinnacle Award. 

Alexander recently moved his headquarters back to his hometown.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


The Power of Flour, Graham’s Biscuitville

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 02/07/2016 - 05:30

On February 7, 1978, the Graham-based fast food chain Biscuitville filed to register a trademark for the first time.

Now based in Greensboro, the chain got its start as Pizzaville in 1966 when former flour salesman Maurice Jennings began selling take-out pizzas from two bread and milk stores that he owned in Burlington. The chain expanded to six stores across the Triad region and southern Virginia.

The chain first started selling biscuits to supplement its income and drive more traffic in the morning, and the first biscuit-only store opened in Danville, Virginia, in 1975. Eventually all the chain’s Pizzaville locations were converted to Biscuitville stores.

Biscuitville moved its headquarters from Graham to Greensboro in 2007, and today operates more than 50 stores in North Carolina and Virginia. It is still owned by the Jennings family. Maurice Jennings’ son Burney has been the company’s CEO since 1996.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Long Route to Roanoke River Lighthouse

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 02/06/2016 - 05:30

The lighthouse in 1916. Image from
North Carolina Historic Sites.

On February 6, 1832, Elizabeth City congressman William Shepard petitioned the House of Representatives for a light station to help guide sailors to safety by the mouth of the Roanoke River.

Two years later, Congress appropriated $10,000 for a lightship to operate on the Albemarle Sound. The ship operated through the Civil War, but was replaced by a screw-pile lighthouse that operated on whale oil in 1867. That structure, in turn, was damaged by fire and ice in the 1880s.

A larger lighthouse, the one that currently stands, was authorized in 1886 and finished by 1887. It was fitted with a Fresnel lens and continued to operate until 1941, when it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard.

The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse changed hands twice in the 1950s, sold for $10 each time. Edenton businessman Emmett Wiggins moved the structure to land he owned in the Chowan County town in 1955, and he lived in the building until his death.

In 2007, the Edenton Historical Commission purchased the lighthouse and restored it in cooperation with the state of North Carolina. The restored lighthouse opened to the public as part of Historic Edenton State Historic Site in 2012.

Visit: The lighthouse is open every day of the week just steps from downtown Edenton.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Dunn Favorite Son, General William C. Lee

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 09:08

Lee receives an honorary degree from N.C. State University in 1945.
Image from NCSU Libraries.

On February 5, 1944, William Carey Lee, the “Father of the Airborne,” suffered a heart attack that ended his military career.

Born in Dunn in 1895, Lee volunteered for the United States Army during World War I. After the war, he remained in the army and, in 1939, was assigned to the Chief of the Army’s office in Washington, D.C. There he became part of a maverick group of army officers advocating for the development of an airborne army infantry force.

The Army authorized the development of a test platoon of paratroopers, and placed Lee in charge. When the Amy raised two airborne divisions, Lee received command of the 101st. He oversaw its development and training and was instrumental in getting airborne and glider operations going at Camp Mackall and Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base.

The inclusion of the airborne divisions in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944 was a direct result of Lee’s work. Nevertheless, he was unable to participate due to the heart attack. However, the members of the 101st Division, the Screaming Eagles, were ordered to yell the name “Bill Lee” as they departed their transports over France in the early morning hours of D-Day.

Lee died in 1948, and is buried in Dunn.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Tar Heel New Dealer, Annie O’Berry

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:30

O’Berry (back row, far right) with other members of the 1925 executive board
of the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs. Image from
UNC-Chapel Hill Public Libraries.

On February 4, 1944, Annie Land O’Berry, administrator of the North Carolina Emergency Relief Administration, or NCERA, and president of the Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, died while undergoing treatment for an illness.

Born in Edgecombe County in 1885, O’Berry lived on her family’s farm until she was sent to live with her sister in Littleton after her parents’ deaths.

After graduating first in her class from what is now William Peace University in Raleigh, O’Berry went to live with her brother in Kinston. Active in civic organizations and the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs, she demonstrated leadership that garnered the attention of Governor Angus McLean, who appointed her to the Commission to Study County Government and the North Carolina Historical Commission.

In 1930, O’Berry was named vice-chair of the state executive committee of the Democratic Party.

In 1933, O’Berry was tapped to serve as head of the NCERA. She was one of the few women to administer a state emergency relief agency. As head of NCERA, she helped provide relief to many citizens through direct aid and employment.

She remained in charge of the off-shoot Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, which provided loans to farmers, until her death.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Steamboat “Mountain Lily” Plied the French Broad

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 05:30

The Mountain Lilly, abandoned in the French Broad River, circa 1880-1885, near Hendersonville. Image from UNC-Asheville.

On February 3, 1881, entrepreneurs chartered the French Broad Steamboat Company, with the objective of ferrying passengers and freight along the river from Asheville to Horse Shoe to Brevard.

Six months later, they christened the frame, 90-foot-long, two-deck excursion boat the Mountain Lily. Like its eastern North Carolina counterpart, the CSS Neuse, the Mountain Lily met its fate not far from where it was constructed after a few years.

Many at the time and since have regarded the venture as folly. The French Broad is a low-volume river that can barely float low draft vessels in any season. In the years before the launch, federal funds had permitted the removal of debris and stumps, which helped make the project more viable.

On August 2, a champagne bottle was broken on the prow of the steamboat, gleaming white with green trim and sporting two staterooms each with a capacity of 100. Supporting the vessel were two 12-horsepower motors. The crowd and brass band enjoyed a barbecue. The captain rang the ship’s bell in celebration.

The dream was to be short-lived. Four years later the ship ran aground and was abandoned. Salvagers used the lumber to construct Riverside Baptist Church in Horse Shoe where they installed the bell. The two engines were re-purposed to serve local sawmills.

Visit: The N.C. Maritime Museums in Beaufort, Hatteras and Southport, and the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer all tell the story of water-based transportation across North Carolina.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Illinois Soldiers Overrun Thomas’s Legion, 1864

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 05:30

“Cherokees of the Thomas Legion” by Andy Thomas

On February 2, 1864, Union Maj. Francis M. Davidson and the 14th Illinois Cavalry engaged in a skirmish with Thomas’s Legion, a Confederate company of Cherokees led by Col. William Holland Thomas, on Deep Creek near Quallatown in Haywood County.

Accounts differ as to what exactly occurred that morning, but Union forces apparently surprised the Confederates and overran them. On the Union side, two men were killed and another six were wounded, while Thomas most likely lost 10 killed and 32 captured.

Eighteen Confederate Cherokees were taken prisoner. The captives were imprisoned in Knoxville, then Union control, where all of the Cherokees took the oath of allegiance to the United States in early March. The event was a turning point in Cherokee allegiance to the Confederacy.

The affair at Deep Creek undermined Thomas’s recruiting efforts among the Cherokees. The event coincided with internal conflicts, skyrocketing food prices due to inflation, a harsh winter and an increase in starvation among Indian families.

Thomas attempted to assuage the food shortages by purchasing grain from South Carolina, but the raids into western North Carolina, such as that at Deep Creek, led to the desertion of the Eastern Band from the Confederate cause.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Streetcars Debut in “The Land of the Sky,” 1889

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 05:30

Asheville’s first streetcar makes its 1889 debut. Image from the
North Carolina Collection of the Pack Memorial Library.

On February 1, 1889, the first streetcar in North Carolina made its debut in Asheville. The first line extended from Pack Square down Biltmore Avenue and Southside Avenue, and then was routed west of present-day McDowell Street to a train depot.

The system’s roots can be traced to the previous year, when the city authorized a charter for an electric railway that would include lines from Pack Square to various sections of the city. E.D. Davidson, who had designed a Canadian horsecar railway, agreed to build the system in collaboration with Frank Sprague, who engineered the streetcar system in Richmond.

After the initial launch, a number of railway companies organized and built streetcar lines to emerging neighborhoods and outlying areas, including the Sulphur Springs resort and Biltmore Village. By 1907, Asheville led the state in streetcar traffic, carrying 3 million passengers annually, compared to Charlotte and Wilmington with 2 million each.

By 1915, the streetcar railway reached its peak, operating 43 cars on 18 miles of track, including one to the newly opened Grove Park Inn and the surrounding upscale neighborhood.

The system ceased operation in 1934 when it was supplanted by buses.

Visit: The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer features a variety of exhibits on North Carolina rail history.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


The Wreck of the Metropolis, 1878

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 05:30

A sketch of the sinking of the Metropolis.

On January 31, 1878, the vessel Metropolis struck the shoals 100 yards from the beach at Currituck, halfway between two lifesaving stations.

Built in 1861 and originally called the Stars and Stripes, the ship was outfitted for naval service in September 1862 and saw action during the Battle of Roanoke Island later that year. The ship was refitted for freight and passenger service but eventually fell into disrepair, rendering it inadequate for the lengthy trips.

Nonetheless a Philadelphia company chartered the Metropolis to transport workmen and supplies to Brazil to build a railroad January 1878. By the time the ship reached the Chesapeake Bay, the cargo was shifting dangerously, causing seams in the hull to leak.

On January 31 at 6:45 a.m., the ship hit the shoals. Alarms were sounded and heroic efforts mounted but to no avail. Of the 245 passengers aboard, 85 died in the wreck.

The wreck of the Metropolis—combined with that of the USS Huron two months earlier— captured the attention of Congress and prompted it to authorize construction of new life-saving stations.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


J. P. Knapp, Publisher, Outdoorsman, and UNC Benefactor

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 01/30/2016 - 05:30

On January 30, 1951, publisher and conservationist Joseph Palmer Knapp died.

A native of New York, born in 1864, Knapp was the publisher of Collier’s magazine. His American Lithographic Company pioneered the use of color inserts in newspapers and baseball cards distributed with tobacco. That connection led to his acquaintance with James B. Duke and the Tar Heel State.

An avid sportsman and co-founder of what became Ducks Unlimited, Knapp settled in Currituck County where he built a 37-room mansion that would remain his residence from November to April for the rest of his life.

Though a part-time resident, Knapp became a generous member of the community, donating to the local schools. In 1947, at the urging of Governor Gregg Cherry, he extended his generosity to the entire state via a gift of $250,000 to survey school needs.

Once in North Carolina, Knapp also began a correspondence with Albert Coates, founder of the Institute of Government at UNC. Coates persuaded Knapp to fund the construction of a permanent home for the institution. Knapp did not live the see the building. After his death, the foundation transferred funds to be matched by the state for the construction.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Phoenix Speech by George White, 1901

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 01/29/2016 - 05:30

A sketch of White speaking in Congress.

On January 29, 1901, North Carolina Congressman George H. White delivered his now-famous farewell address.

White was the fourth of four African Americans to represent North Carolina’s Second District in the United States Congress in the late nineteenth century.

Born in Bladen County in 1852, White obtained a law license in 1879 and served in the North Carolina House of Representatives and the state Senate before being elected to the first of two four-year terms as district solicitor for the Second Judicial District.

White moved to Tarboro to run for office in what was known as the “Black Second.” Elected in 1896 and 1898, he was the only black representative in Congress at the time. He was attentive to local issues and appointed many blacks in his district to federal positions.

After the passage of legislation disfranchising black voters, White declined nomination to a third term, saying “I can no longer live in North Carolina and be treated as a man.” In his farewell speech he stated that “Phoenix-like he (the negro) will rise up some day and come again (to Congress).”

White was the last black member of Congress for 28 years, and the last black Southerner in the body until 1973. North Carolina did not see another African-American congressman until Mel Watt took his seat in 1993.

The full speech is available online through the Documenting the American South project at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Wrightsville Beach Devastated by Fire, 1934

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 01/28/2016 - 05:30

A headline in The (Burlington) Daily Times-News announcing the fire. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Public Libraries.

On January 28, 1934, a devastating fire destroyed much of Wrightsville Beach, including the legendary Oceanic Hotel.

Just after noon on that Sunday, smoke poured out of the Kitty Cottage, a boarding house on the north end of the island. In less than three hours, more than 100 buildings were leveled as the westerly wind took the fire from building to building via wooden-shingled roofs.

The handful of permanent residents and the tiny volunteer fire department formed bucket brigades and pushed carts laden with hoses through the sand but, with no fire hydrants, it was a lost cause. Once the wind shifted to the southwest, the flames roared to more than 50 feet high and were so hot they could be felt on Harbor Island, between Wrightsville and the mainland.

The Wilmington Fire Department was called to assist but, with no vehicular bridge to the island, the heavy equipment was placed onto a trolley and, once on the island, sank into the sand as the wooden boardwalks had been burned as well.

All that was left of the north end of the island was chimneys, iron bed frames and dead crabs littering the beach.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Salisbury’s Cheerwine, A Favorite Across the Piedmont

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 05:30

A circa 1949 sign advertising Cheerwine. Image from N.C. Historic Sites.

On January 27, 1931, Cheerwine inventor Lewis D. Peeler died in Salisbury.

Born in 1866, Peeler studied at a local Lutheran college and in Virginia before entering business. He tried his hand at a number of different enterprises, including farming and wholesaling, before beginning a soda business in 1913.

That year, Peeler and other Rowan County businessmen started a bottling franchise with Mint Cola in the basement of his store on Council Street near the train depot in Salisbury. In 1917, he formed the Carolina Beverage Corporation, using a cherry flavor derived from oil of almond to produce a beverage that used less sugar due to rationing concerns.

L. D. Peeler with a truck, circa 1913.

The sparkling soda, named ‘cheer’ for pleasure and ‘wine’ for its deep red color, inspired the slogan “For health and pleasure.”

The company was renamed Piedmont Cheerwine Bottling Company in 1924 to increase brand recognition throughout North Carolina, and Peeler first registered the Cheerwine trademark in 1926. In 1927, he started another bottling company in Charlotte. That business was later sold to Sun-Drop Bottling in 1976.

Peeler continued to be active in other businesses throughout his life, becoming manager of the Yadkin Hotel in 1926 and serving as director of the First National Bank of Salisbury.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Hackney Name Synonymous with Transportation

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 05:30

A print of the Southern Produce Wagon produced by the Hackney Wagon Company. Image from the Wilson County Public Library.

On January 26, 1823, Willis Napoleon Hackney was born in Nash County.

Although an obituary reported that he began life with no money, Hackney would eventually enter the wagon manufacturing business in Wilson and launch a family dynasty that became synonymous with transportation in North Carolina for nearly a century.

A portrait of Hackney. Image from State Library.

Although his origins are largely unrecorded, sometime around 1854 Hackney became a partner of a Wilson carriage shop with C. L. Parker. He later developed his own business which was taken over in 1903 by his sons George and W. D. and incorporated as Hackney Wagon Company.

The Hackneys manufactured wagons and carriages from the days of wooden plank roads in the 19th century to the development of paved highways in the 20th. They supplied thousands of wagons to the U.S. military during World War I and would go on to manufacture school buses, refrigerated transportation equipment and a variety of parts.

Hackney’s sons and his grandson Thomas were involved in transportation manufacturing enterprises in Wilson and Washington, N.C., that would carry on the Hackney name in various incarnations.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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