Textiles, Teachers, and Troops: Greensboro NC, 1881-1945

Benbow House and Elm Street, looking south. From  Album of Greensboro, Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, 1892.

The Digital Projects unit is excited to announce that the State Library of North Carolina has awarded a $203,910 LSTA grant to the University Libraries and five community partners to proceed with Textiles, Teachers, and Troops: Greensboro, North Carolina, 1881-1945. We are honored to be the recipient of this grant award and are tremendously excited to begin the project.

Textiles, Teachers, and Troops will make available more than 175,000 digital images including photographs, manuscripts, rare books, scrapbooks, printed materials, and oral histories documenting the social and cultural development of Greensboro. For the first time, all five colleges and universities in Greensboro, along with the Greensboro Historical Museum, will be collaborating on a project to make primary source materials available online. By documenting the vitally important influence of the textile industry, public and postsecondary education, and the massive World War II military presence, Textiles, Teachers, and Troops will provide context for understanding the growth of Greensboro from a town of two thousand residents into one of the leading manufacturing and education centers in the Southeast. The project will display these new materials alongside a large body of material already digitized by the partners and will provide the initial content for a larger community‐based history portal.

The project partners for Textiles, Teachers, and Troops were selected due to their roles as leaders in the preservation and presentation of cultural heritage in Greensboro. Each holds responsibility for a
different and unique perspective on the history and shared culture of the city.

  • UNCG University Libraries is the lead institution for the project and will provide content, digitization, metadata creation, website hosting, and long‐term storage of archival masters. In addition, the Project Manager will be based at UNCG. Most of the content will be provided by the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives.
  • The Holgate Library is the library serving Bennett College, a historically black college established in 1873 which has been an active part of Greensboro’s history, particularly during civil rights movement. The Holgate Library will provide content and metadata for the project.
  • The Brock Historical Museum of Greensboro College preserves the history of the College, life at the College, and the College's relation to and influence on both the surrounding communities and society in general. The Brock Museum will provide content and metadata for the project.
  • The Friends Historical Collection is the archival repository of Guilford College. Guilford College will provide item selection and metadata creation and will also assist with the creation of contextual materials.
  • The Greensboro Historical Museum is the principal collector, interpreter and exhibitor of Greensboro’s history. The museum will provide significant content and will perform much of the digitization and metadata creation of these resources onsite.
  • The Bluford Library of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University serves the campus of the largest historically black university in North Carolina. Some digitization and metadata will be done onsite at N.C. A&T State but most will occur at UNCG.
Numerous collections will be digitized in whole or in part as part of the project.

Among the most significant materials related to the textile industry in Greensboro are the Bernard Cone Photograph Albums and the Cone Mills White Oak Plant Stereo Card Photographs. Digitizing these collections will make available for the first time over 1500 images of life in Greensboro’s textile mills and mill villages. The Cone photographs are particularly unique in that they were taken by a member of the Cone family, allowing something of an “insider” perspective into the spaces and the social and labor history that are preserved in the images. Greensboro’s textile mills and mill villages will also be documented by the inclusion of Harriet L. Herring’s book Welfare Work in Mill Villages and the Cone Mills promotional booklet Thirty Years of Progress: 1895-1925. 

As five of the six partners are institutions of higher learning, materials relating to education in Greensboro are, of course, a major part of the project. Particularly significant are the records of Charles Duncan McIver, first president of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG). This massive collection, the largest collection to be digitized as part of Textiles, Teachers, and Troops, documents the founding of that institution as well as McIver’s perspective on the town of Greensboro at the dawn of the twentieth century. Additional education-related collections include course catalogs from UNCG and Bennett College, plus student handbooks and materials related to Board of Governors at UNCG’s predecessor institutions. Scrapbooks and correspondence collections from students at what are now UNCG, Greensboro College, Guilford College, and N.C. A&T State University document not only student life but also the culture of the larger Greensboro community in the early to middle twentieth century. A collection of commercial photographs documents NC A&T State University and Bennett College in the 1930s and will complement photographs of UNCG and other institutions that are already online. Guilford College is also providing an album with numerous photos of that campus in the late nineteenth century.

Several collections from Guilford College also document regional education themes in general, particularly in the area of women’s education (Mary Medenhall Hobbs Papers, Rachel Farlow Taylor papers), the interaction between colleges  (Robert and Lyra Dann Papers), and Guilford College’s history and connection to the community (selected series from the Binford papers, Duke Memorial Hall papers).

Also included, however, are several collections pertaining to public primary and secondary education in Greensboro. The Abraham Peeler Papers document African American education in the then-segregated city. The dual system of public education is also a theme of the Greensboro Board of Education Collection which includes a minute book from 1906 documenting all aspects of the system’s operations. Finally, a 1937 insurance survey records all buildings owned by the Guilford County school system at the time, including plans, photographs, and financial details on the schools. The records of the Guilford College Parent Teacher Association document activities of a community school in what is now part of Greensboro during the Depression years.

Relating to the subject of Greensboro’s military presence, particularly during World War II, probably the most significant collection is the Paul Younts Papers. Younts was the commanding officer at Greensboro’s Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD) and the collection documents in great detail the history of the depot, which was a major presence during World War II and shaped the development of eastern Greensboro for decades to come. ORD and its predecessor, Basic Training Center #10 (BTC) are also documented in the Luis Felicia Papers and the Jerry DeFelice Photographs. Closely related is a collection of Greensboro promotional guidebooks produced for soldiers coming to the city. These guidebooks not only reflect the military influence but also social and cultural life in Greensboro during World War II, as is also true of the selection of photos from the Carol W. Martin (Martin’s Studio) Collection, which document both the base and the city in general. Finally, the Klein Family Papers include material about a notable Greensboro family who housed and entertained Jewish soldiers stationed or passing through the city. An additional set of photographs, part of the N.C. A&T State University Archives photo collection, further documents ORD/BTC-10 and provides a glimpse into areas of the base that are now part of A&T’s campus.

Additional collections include the Ned Harrison Collection, including recorded reminiscences of Greensboro during World War II; a rare 16mm film documenting a visit home by national war hero George Preddy;  the Puckett Family Papers, which document the home front in Greensboro during World War II; the McDaniel Lewis Papers, which document this community figure’s activities and correspondence during World War II; and a collection of scrapbooks pertaining to the World War II activities of a local chapter of the D.A.R. Finally, the Army Town Exhibit Files contain material compiled for the Greensboro Historical Museum’s Army Town exhibit in 1993, including oral histories and other material related to the military presence in Greensboro during World War II.

To provide additional context into the period, Textiles, Teachers, and Troops will also include a selection of rare books focusing on Greensboro’s development during the period including Greensboro: 1808-1904 by James W. Albright and several other titles.

The project will also incorporate material already digitized by the UNCG University Libraries and Greensboro Historical Museum as part of other projects, including Greenboro Historical Newspapers, Greensboro Pictorials, and Greensboro City Directories. We envision this as the first step in a larger local history portal that will work with other community institutions to make accessible many more aspects of Greensboro's history.

This grant is made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

1 comments :: Textiles, Teachers, and Troops: Greensboro NC, 1881-1945

  1. Wonderful project showcasing capacity and scholarship - congratulations!

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