Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Start of a University

UNC Asheville can trace its origins to Monday September 12, 1927, when 85 students enrolled at Buncombe County Junior College. The college was the first in the state to be operated by a county and would evolve, through several changes in name and location, to become UNC Asheville in 1969.

That Monday in September marked the culmination of various events that had occurred over the preceding weeks.

In 1993, Thomas Reynolds told oral historian Dorothy Joynes how his father, A C Reynolds, who in 1927 was the superintendent of Buncombe County schools, and T M Howerton, L D Maney, and D S Roberts, of the Biltmore School Committee, met several times in Howerton's home to plan on starting a college for the county. If any people can lay claim to being founders of the university, it is therefore probably these gentlemen.

The discussions led to a mass meeting being held at Biltmore high school on July 11, 1927, to talk about establishing a junior college for Buncombe County in the high school building, with the college offering a junior college education to every boy and girl in the county.

An undated photograph showing the former Biltmore high school building on Hendersonville Road in Asheville. The building now houses offices and medical suites. [ABP_366]

The meeting approved the idea, with the Asheville Citizen reporting,  "A project for the establishment of a Junior College for Buncombe County met with an enthusiastic reception last night". The report went on to name check several people "who gave enthusiastic support to the proposal": Albert Teague, chairman of the County Board of Education; E M Lyda, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners; W E Johnson, commissioner of highways; M J West of the county Board of Education; and Clyde S Reed, Harry S Nettles, along with Howerton, Roberts, and Maney from the Biltmore School Committee.

Teague argued there were, "sound, ethical, educational, and economic reasons for the establishment of such a college immediately", and he felt confident that the Board of Education would back the plan "to the utmost".

Architectural drawing, dated August 1926, showing the basement of Biltmore School, the location of Buncombe County Junior College. [SA0018. Image courtesy of North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library]

Although the meeting green-lighted the plan, further hurdles remained, but these were mostly cleared by late August.

Firstly, the Citizen reported that on August 26, W H Jones, superintendent of the Biltmore schools, had announced that teachers had been appointed for the new college. These were, S B Conley (English and history), T L Revelle (mathematics and physics), and W M Hunt (French and Latin).

Secondly, J Henry Highsmith, the State Inspector of High Schools, gave his approval to the project. On August 28, the Charlotte Sunday Observer quoted Highsmith as saying, "The junior college which is being established at Biltmore for Asheville and Buncombe County gives an opportunity for the city and county to do one of the finest pieces of pioneer work in public education in North Carolina".

Some potential students had been concerned that they may not receive full credit towards getting a State teacher's certificate, or towards entering another college in the State. However, on August 30, the Citizen reported that, the previous day, A C Reynolds had received a letter from James K Hillman, director of certification in the North Carolina State Department of Education. In the letter, Hillman "assured local officials that with the maintenance of certain standards, all of which have already been provided for, the year's attendance at the Buncombe County College would be counted as equal to a year at any other accredited college in the State".

The college was still not quite ready though.

The opening date has originally been scheduled for September 6, 1927, but this had to be postponed to September 12 because, as the Citizen reported on August 31, although the buildings and installation of equipment were completed, the grounds were "not in shape".

In the Edgar M Lyda Collection in Special Collections at Ramsey Library is a document, undated but probably written around the time Buncombe County Junior College was started, outlining the case for the Board of County Commissioners to approve funding for the new college. The author(s) predicted that "at least one-half of our high school graduates will attend the junior college", and gave reasons why the college proposition was "sound from an economic point of view". In addition to the financial benefits, the paper also described how many students completing "eleven grades [of high school] are only sixteen or seventeen years of age and are not old enough to stand the strain of being thrust out from the home influences and restraints without seriously undermining their morals", and should therefore be attending a college close to home.

"Don't undermine your morals.....attend UNC Asheville". A recruiting cry the university missed?

Friday, June 16, 2017

How It All Began

In January 2010, as one of a series of interviews with retired faculty, former chancellor Sam Schuman, talked with Emeritus Professor Bruce Greenawalt. During the course of the interview, Dr. Greenawalt recalled the early days of the Southern Highlands Research Center at UNC Asheville.

Greenawalt served as the first director of the SHRC for three "very pleasant" years, although the job did not pay "as well as one would expect"! He told Schuman how the Center was created to collect primary materials on Appalachia, but that he wanted to go in a new direction from other Appalachian centers, by focusing on urban Appalachia.

Seeing how Appalachia was typically seen as populated by rural banjo pickers, Greenawalt sought to dispel this stereotype by collecting materials from corporate groups, such as Rueben Robertson of Champion Paper in Canton, as well as Jewish groups.

Bruce Greenawalt, 1976 [UA12.3, FS5744]

Greenawalt was also aware that African American involvement in Appalachian history had been overlooked and, as part of 'trying to get away from the single vision of the Anglo Saxon pioneer", he was "on the prowl" for materials covering black history. The SHRC had inherited a large number of oral histories collected by Dr. Louis Silveri and, from following up with a number of Silveri's interviewees, Greenawalt connected with Lucy Herring. Greenawalt's promise to find a place  at the SHRC for any materials Lucy Herring collected and organized, led to the Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, one of the first created by the SHRC after it was formed in 1977.

All of this was done with "no real money" to support the SHRC, and minimal staffing. In addition to himself, Greenawalt recalled that the staff comprised, student help, a half-time senior supported by government funding, a young photographer from CETA, and a typist.

Forty years on, Special Collections is still building on the foundations that they laid down.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The First Degree

Campus Crier, June 1952 [Highlighting added]
A researcher recently noticed something unusual in a Asheville-Biltmore College student newspaper from 1952. How could a two-year college, which A-B was then, grant a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology? Could we confirm this as a typo, he asked, surely it was an Associate of Science Degree, as Bachelor's degrees were not awarded by A-B College until 1966?

No prizes for guessing that this is not a blog about a typo.

But, it is about something much more fascinating.

1952 Commencement Program [Highlighting added] [UA11.3 Box 1]
To confirm the Campus Crier report for the researcher, we looked at the 1952 Commencement program, and this showed that Dorothy June Meadows Carter was indeed awarded a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology.

Definitely not a typo, but how did a "two-year college" award a baccalaureate?


The university archives have boxes and scrapbooks of press clippings dating back to 1927, and a scrapbook from 1952 has clippings reporting that Dorothy Meadows Carter not only received a Bachelor of Science degree, but that it was the first baccalaureate awarded by the college. Indeed it was the first conferred in the state by "an institution operating on the junior college level".
Scrapbook 1951-56 [UA11.2]
Certificate of Incorporation, 1936, Page 2 [UA11.1 Box 1]
The newspaper report adds, "Awarding the degree will emphasize the fact the college is not chartered as a junior college". Sure enough, the original charter for the college, which was filed on August 15, 1936, makes no mention of a junior college, but gives the college the right to "confer degrees".
So, a bachelor's degree was awarded in 1952.
The next obvious question is, were there any others?
The news clipping reports the "course [that Dorothy took, was] set up at the college in 1949", and this is confirmed by the college catalogs.
1950-51 Catalog. 1949-50, and 1951-52 are similar. 
[Highlighting added] [UA LF10] 
The catalogs for 1949-50, 1950-51, and 1951-52, include a listing for "Preparatory Curriculum for Medical Technologists", a four year course, with the first three years on campus, and the final, senior year, spent in the laboratory of Mission Hospital.
1953-55 Catalog.
[Highlighting added] [UA LF10]
However, the 1953-55 catalog shows a two-year curriculum, for a preparatory course "necessary to transfer to an approved technical laboratory". There are no other four-year courses listed in the catalog.
Which begs the question, was Dorothy not only the first, but also the last, person to be awarded a baccalaureate degree by Asheville-Biltmore College before it became a state supported senior college, and 66 students graduated in 1966?
As noted above, the course Dorothy took was not available after 1952, and in 1957, Asheville-Biltmore was designated a community college and would not award baccalaureates. Furthermore, the 1952 commencement program is the only one that specifically identifies a baccalaureate graduate.
All of which means that Dorothy Meadows Carter appears to hold a unique position in the history of Asheville-Biltmore College and UNC Asheville.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dinner and a Show: the Grove Park Inn Entertainment (Part 2 of 2)

This is the second of two posts by Anna Peitzman, a Special Collections intern enrolled in the Library and Information Studies Master's program at UNC Greensboro.  Anna has been processing the Bloomberg, Patton, and Grimes Biltmore Industries Collection, which contains records from the early years of the Grove Park Inn. 

In the Grove Park Inn series of the Bloomberg, Patton, and Grimes Biltmore Industries Colllection at UNC Asheville, there are numerous items of correspondence between the inn and various performers, mostly organists, from the late 1910s to the early 1920s. Grove Park Inn held two recitals per day, one at 2:30 pm for an hour and again at 8:30 pm for an hour and a half. Thirty minutes of the evening concert was dedicated to the showing of “motion picture shows”, as they were referred to in 1918, although on Sunday evenings, the recital portion of the evening show was extended to a full hour and a half. 

In 1918, Grove Park Inn paid their organists $50 per week or $900 per year for a resident organist, and by 1927 they were paying $75 per week. The inn had an in-house organist but also was in the business of lining up guest organists for a couple weeks or months at a time to allow their organist to take vacations and to attract their desired clientele with famous musicians. The inn framed the visiting organists’ time as a vacation and allowed them to bring family members to also stay at the inn. On March 21, 1917, Seely wrote a letter to his friend, Mr. Edwin White, in which he talks about their spring concerts and asked Edwin to join for five or six weeks: they used a saxophone, five banjos, several guitars, and of course a piano for the inn’s dances.

Above is a photo of the South Organ in the Big Room at Grove Park Inn, which includes the orchestral and solo organs, harp, heckelphone and string stops. Behind the organ is a masonry chamber that is 18 feet high and divided in the center. 

Below is the North Organ in the Big Room at Grove Park Inn. The organ is a Mason Hamlin Grand Piano and contains the pedal organ and relays. Behind it is a concrete and stone cavity, 14 feet deep, 21 feet wide, and two stories high, containing the great and small organs. 

Not only was Grove Park particular about their food in attracting guests, but they worked to attract a certain class of people (predominantly rich, famous, and powerful white men) and retain entertainers and entertainment deemed worthy of those guests. They were particularly interested in attracting organists for their twice a day recitals. These organists would sometimes stay at the hotel for a month or two at a time, an opportunity that allowed the musicians and entertainers an opportunity to rub elbows with a variety of the wealthy, influential guests. Below is Cecil Arden, a famous opera singer that the inn was very interested in having perform. 

In 1916, 100 people from Redpath Chautauqua, an adult education movement that conducted lecture circuits, toured between Chicago, Illinois and Jacksonville Florida. They stopped at the Grove Park Inn for a week to give a combination of lectures and musical entertainment. On the seventh and final evening, they were accompanied by the Grand Chicago Opera Company for the evening recital. 

Entertainment, however, does come at a cost. In the early twentieth century, Grove Park Inn bought music from various companies to play at their recitals. 

On August 18, 1921, Fred Seely wrote a letter to Mr. C. Edwin White, director of White’s Orchestra in Rhode Island, in which he referred to the financial strain that war time had put on the inn. On March 1, 1923 a letter was written to Miss Beatrice Wainwright of Washington, D.C., in which Seely mentioned that no recitals would be given in which they could use her services, partially due to them having a permanent entertainer and most likely lack of funds to extend their performances beyond the in-house entertainer. It was later in 1927 that Fred Seely lost charge over Grove Park Inn after the death of Edwin Grove. In a letter from June 1937, he writes that is has been ten years since he was in charge.  

While Grove Park Inn has undoubtedly seen ups and downs throughout its history, and certainly changes in ownership, it is running and well today, and still much renowned. To delve more deeply into its history, we welcome you to visit Special Collections at UNC Asheville during appointed reading room times or schedule an appointment. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dinner and a Show: the Grove Park Inn Dining and Guests (Part 1 of 2)

Today's blog post is by Anna Peitzman, a Special Collections intern enrolled in the Library and Information Studies Master's program at UNC Greensboro. Anna has been processing the Bloomberg, Patton, and Grimes Biltmore Industries Collection, which contains records from the early years of the Grove Park Inn.  She writes about entertainment and dining at Grove Park Inn in this first of two installments. 

The Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913, just under twelve months after construction on the inn began. A massive undertaking, it was reported that up to 400 men participated in the building of the inn. Recently, UNC Asheville Special Collections and University Archives acquired a three part collection from Biltmore Industries. One of the series contains records and materials from the Grove Park Inn, including food, billing, and entertainment records from the twentieth century. Some of the pictures in this two part blog are from this series, and some are taken from Grove Park’s virtual collection, available at UNC Asheville.  

Men lay tile in the dining room during the inn construction, just shy of two months before the inn’s grand opening: 

A picture of the completed, pristine and inviting dining room can be found in the lower left hand corner of this promotional brochure:

When Grove Park Inn opened, many famous men (and later both men and women) stayed at the hotel, including American presidents and industry titans. For example, the description with this photograph reads, A few famous guests who stayed at Grove Park posed for this photograph in 1918. From left to right are Harvey Firestone, Sr., Thomas A. Edison, Harvey Firestone, Jr., E.W. Grove, Henry Ford, and Fred Seely.

Most of the same men appear again in the photo on the right, along with Mr. Burroughs and Professor DeLoach. 

In order to maintain the inn’s reputation and uphold the high quality of food, Fred Seely and the management were stringent with their vendors, and if a delivery did not meet expectations, had no qualms with handling the situation as they saw appropriate. For the butter order referenced below, they decided to adjust the price to that of cooking butter as they refused to serve it in the condition it arrived in for guests to spread. 

Quite a bit of Grove Park Inn’s food in the late 1910s and early 1920s came from well-perceived, high-brow vendors in places like New York City and Washington, D.C. However, the inn did also receive and use local goods throughout the years.  

The records regarding food in the Grove Park Inn collection at UNC Asheville are largely comprised of vendor correspondence between the inn and their food suppliers. The correspondence is an interesting look into where Grove Park got their food from predominantly in the late 1910s and early 1920s. An encompassing statement may not be made regarding the “where” Grove Park Inn got their food. However, a partial response can be made to the recent cultural push toward using more or all local businesses or farmers. One implicit supposition sometimes made is that generally in earlier times food was largely or all locally sourced. In reviewing the Grove Park Inn records from approximately one hundred years ago, one conclusion can be surmised: As early as the early 20th century, this particular establishment on the eastern coast of the United States was buying food from all across the country. These records may help to inform knowledge of local and non-local food trends from the early twentieth century.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fools on the Hill

T S Elliot claimed April to be the cruelest month, but, according to a quote attributed (as many, often erroneously, are) to Twain, "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year". Of course the two are not mutually exclusive; some April Fools' pranks have been cruel, but the best are just funny, or preferably, plain wacky.

Definitely in the wacky camp was the April 7, 1977 edition of the Ridgerunner, which devoted several pages to April foolishness. Either that, or 1977 saw some very strange happenings.

The lead story about Rupert Murdoch buying control of the Ridgerunner, was, given the rate at which Rupert was buying up media outlets back then, improbable rather than impossible. But after that, things just got weird.
The Murdoch story mentioned a big hairy bat, and this theme is taken further in, "Short People Face Perils" which describes how big hairy bats (which are "very big indeed") do not like being hunted or stalked (Who does?), and can seize anything under five feet seven inches in height, and weighing less than 130 pounds.
A particularly zany story on pages 3 and 4 has a definite Pythonesque quality about it, as the sad fate of Dr. Ernest Leigh Schlitzuntpretzel (Great name!) is revealed.
The image of the poor doctor being trapped alive in the molecular structure of a wall, and a "In Memorium" plaque extolling him to "hang on in there", are goofy, but the part about the Feds only paying half the grant, because Schlitzuntpretzel only got halfway through the wall, seems especially brilliant. And we'll leave it to better minds than ours to calculate when the good doctor will finally emerge from the wall.
We'd like to go on and report of other Aprils when craziness and/or artificial stimulants, got to the writers of the student newspaper, but unfortunately (although some might say fortunately), it does not seem to have happened, and 1977 was a one-off. Or April Fools stories were written, and we just missed them amongst the nuttiness of normal life.
And talking of nuttiness.....
A story from the Blue Banner of April 25, 1985, told how hacky sack was invading campus. For the most part, this seems a genuine, albeit slight odd, report, but the comment about someone starting to play hacky sack at a Grateful Dead concert, does make us wonder.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Thomas Rain Crowe: A Writer’s Life: An Interview and Reading

Thomas Rain Crowe: A Writer’s Life - An Interview and Reading

Thursday, April 20, 5:00 - 6:30 pm
Laurel Forum, Karpen Hall
UNC Asheville

Thomas Rain Crowe
Thomas Rain Crowe, internationally known poet, essayist, and critic, will talk about his life as a writer on Thursday, April 20 on the UNC Asheville campus.  Crowe will be interviewed by Renee Ambroso, a UNC Asheville English Major and intern in UNCA’s Special Collections. In addition to discussing his life as a writer, Crowe will also read several selections from his work. The interview and reading will take place in Laurel Forum in Karpen Hall on the UNC Asheville Campus from 5-6:30. The reading is free and open to the public.

Interviewer Renee Ambroso has been working with a collection of Crowe’s writings as part of her internship in UNCA’s Special Collections this semester, cataloging over 200 articles and reviews by and about Crowe that in appeared in Western North Carolina newspapers and journals over the last several decades. The resulting “Thomas Rain Crowe Regional Publications Collection” will provide access to these hard-to-find articles and reviews by this acclaimed writer, and will be available later this spring on the UNCA Special Collections website. The collection also includes a number of works published by New Native Press, Crowe’s Cullowhee-based publishing company.  The collection was donated to UNCA’s Special Collections by Crowe earlier this year.

Thomas Rain Crowe has published over thirty books of original works, translations, anthologies, and recordings. He is a critically acclaimed poet and his award-winning 2005 book Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods, has been favorably compared to works by Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry.

The reading is sponsored by the UNC Asheville Department of English and Special Collections at Ramsey Library. The interview will be moderated by Gene Hyde, Head of Special Collections at UNCA. For questions about the reading, please contact Gene Hyde at 251-6645 or speccoll@unca.edu.