NC State University  | campus directory  |  libraries  |  mypack portal  |  campus map  |  search

By: Cathy Dorin-Black

This illustration from the 1919 Agromeck commemorates the NC State men serving in the War (with blue stars) and those who perished in the War (gold stars)

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of U.S. participation in World War I, Special Collections News continues its examination of the impact that the war had on NC State students, faculty, and campus.  This post will look at letters sent from soldiers abroad published in NC State’s Alumni News.  Visit our previous post on NC State during World War I , as well as the posts by our colleagues at the NC State News blog, including one on alumnus Jimmy Higgs.

In 1918, the NC State (then “State College”) Alumni News began publishing updates on alumni and students engaged in the war effort abroad, including lists of who was in training and who was deployed.  A frequent section listed the State alumni stationed “Somewhere in France” – “somewhere” because exact locations were redacted for security reasons.  Frequently the Alumni News featured excerpts of letters sent home to family members, providing first hand accounts of life for these young men as they fought in a land with a different language and culture, that had already been at war for four years before the Americans arrived.  A sampling of these letters is below.

“The first thing that I noticed was the greenness of the landscape.  This struck me even before I landed.  Next are the peculiar chain-like docks or quays; then the buildings are all made of stone and modeled after some olden pattern (..) As to conditions in France they are not as bad as painted in American newspapers, except perhaps near the trenches where the enemy have overrun the French territory.  All through central and southern France hundreds of German prisoners work for their daily bread as though they were laboring men working for their daily hire. (..) When we get a chance at the ‘boches’ [Germans] the training we are getting should tell mightily.  Therefore since it is all for the cause, I can bear it, the drudgery, without grumbling.” – Alumni News Vol. 1, No. 4 February 1918

-Joshua Barnes Farmer, Jr. Class of 1919. Farmer was killed in action in France near Soissons on July 18, 1918.

“The American soldiers over here are in this world’s strife to win with this glad thought in mind; the Stars and Stripes have never known defeat and must not know it now.  We must and are going to win, if it takes the last man and the last dollar to do it.  If the American people could see the conditions, the expressions on the faces of these wonderful French people and know what they have suffered at the hands of the world’s enemy, they would not take our part in the war so hard.  Some of us will see it through and return to our loved ones, and some of us are to stay here and represent America’s part in the world’s war.  We are all contented and willing to sacrifice our all for this great cause.  When I get at the front I shall do my best and no one can do more and at present I would not return to the States if I could.  The part that the American women have undertaken is as important as the front line trenches and their sacrifices as sacred and as hard as those of their loved ones over here.” – Alumni News, Vol 1, No. 9, page 8.  July 1, 1918

-Edgar Exum Cobb, Class of 1919

“I’ve been through the tortures of hell in the last week.  I’ve been in a boche attack, and I’ve seen so much blood and dead men that I’m upset, but I came out of it all without a scratch, just by the grace of God.  I think He must have heard your prayers and answered them.  The boche bombarded our trenches for four hours and then used liquid fire.  I’m out for the first time for a while.  I haven’t washed for four days nor have I slept any, so I am all nerves just at present.

I think I must have held the family name up; I don’t know just what I did, but my captain has recommended me for a croix de guerre and I am to be decorated by the French officials in the next few days.  It’s all a mystery to me.  I’m rather mixed up on it yet, but hope to find out more later.” -Alumni News, Vol.1, No. 10, page 3.  August 1, 1918

-Pierre Mallet, Class of 1915.  Awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery.

“But did I hear you say heavenly wine – whoo! – goodnight! – If I were to tell you how they made wine here, you would be sick for a month.  Over here the people do not know what water is, for all drink wine – red, white, and all grades of it.  It is essentially a nation of wine. Sometimes I just wonder how they live.  It is interesting to know how it is made.  You know we have community creameries in the States.  Over here they have ‘community wineries.’ (..)

Something of the life we live here, did you say?  Well, frankly, it is mostly work.  We are building, preparing for the incoming boys.  But when duty is over we have much time for pleasure.  And here let me say that too much praise cannot be given to the Red Cross, Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. for the valuable aid given to us. (..) I see hundreds of boys having good movies, good music, good wholesome fun of all grades.  Hundreds of boys are entertained there who might otherwise be be in other things.  In short, the Y.M.C.A. and kindred organizations are placing themselves between the boys and temptation.” – Alumni News, Vol. 1, No. 7

-Reuben L. Tatum, Class of 1916

“There are three things the English, French, and Belgians have us beat on, and that is farming, good horses and good cattle; and we could have these if we bred live-stock and farmed like they do.  America is the coming country, because there are such great opportunities for improvement.” - Alumni News, Vol. 1, No. 12, October 1, 1918

-Drew Sugg Harper, Class of 1915.  Suggs was a member of the army veterinary corps.

“Things are exceedingly quiet tonight – few heavy guns and rats to break the silence.  Trench life is great – that is, if one doesn’t weaken.  Very seldom, though, you see a State College man weaken, if any.

It’s very cold here now, but my dugout is very comfortable; plenty to eat, smoke, and drink.  Trench life isn’t so bad after all.” – Alumni News, Vol. 2, No. 1, page 1.  November 1, 1918

-Roney M. High, Class of ‘14

“My dugout at present is only of thin boards and should a shell happen to land here I would not be able to finish my story.  To make a dugout shell-proof, you have to dig thirty feet.  From the way the Boche are treating us tonight I have made up my mind to dig a real dugout.  At present it is 11 o’clock and the shells have been popping around us for an hour, and seem to increase.  The little fellows – that is, the one pounders – can do a great deal of damage, but when the ‘Mimmy Whiffers’ (our pet name for them) get near, we hunt the deepest place we can find.  They strike the ground, bore about ten or fifteen feet, then blow up the whole hill.”

“The cooties are here all right and can bite like blazes.  The other pets are rats, and they are all kinds and sizes.  Most of them, though, are as large as our cats.  They will run over you, nibble your fingers, and make a regular playhouse out of your bunk.  Guess it is a good thing I stay up at nights and manage to get a few hours sleep in the daytime.” – Alumni News, Vol. 1, No. 11, September 1, 1918

-Frank M. Thompson, Class of 1910. Thompson was killed in battle September 13, just 12 days after this letter was published.

A tribute to Frank Thompson appears in the October 1, 1918 Alumni News. It includes the photo below with the caption “He who dies Somewhere-in-France lives Everywhere.”

Many Alumni News have recently been digitized and are available on our Rare and Unique Digital Collections site, as well as video, audio, and textual materials documenting the history of NC State and other topics.

By: Virginia Ferris

Participants in Wolf Tales recordings made possible through the 2016-2017 Diversity Mini-Grant.

Participants in Wolf Tales recordings made possible through an NCSU OIED 2016-2017 Diversity Mini-Grant.

Wolf Tales has wrapped up a busy and productive spring thanks to funding from an NCSU Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) 2016-2017 Diversity Mini-Grant, supporting partnerships and recording events to create a more diverse and inclusive picture of our community in the archives.

Beginning in December 2016, the Wolf Tales team began targeted outreach to campus groups and student organizations to build awareness of the mobile video oral history program, and to plan recordings at major events throughout the spring of 2017.  With the planning and partnerships underway, Wolf Tales brought recording stations to 6 different events, capturing a total of 31 recordings with 44 participants in March and April 2017.  Events included student group EKTAA’s Oak City Revolution South Asian dance competition, Native American Student Affairs’s NCSU Pow Wow, the GLBT Center’s Lavender Graduation, and the Ebony Harlem Awards of Excellence Celebration presented each by the African American Cultural Center in conjunction with the Department of Multicultural Student Affairs, in addition to two open recording days in the Talley Student Union where all members of the NCSU community were invited to participate.

These partnerships and outreach allowed Wolf Tales to capture an increasingly diverse and inclusive range of stories and voices now documented in the archives, representing GLBT, Latinx, South Asian, East Asian, African American, Muslim, Native American, and other communities. The recordings will be a resource for research and teaching about NC State history and about issues around diversity within the campus community, as an important foundation of a collection that will continue to grow in the years to come.

Many of the recordings from the Diversity Mini-Grant period are currently available online as part of the Wolf Tales digital archive, with more on the way!  Recordings are shared through our Rare and Unique Digital Collections site, so stay tuned as more become available in the future.  For more information on the Wolf Tales program or to discuss a partnership please contact

By: Virginia Ferris

contributed by Jennifer Baker

In honor of our continued WWI coverage, it’s time to shed light on a tiny mystery of NC State history.

1919 Agromeck

From 1918 to 1919, the Spanish influenza made its presence known on the campus of the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering. A temporary hospital was set up on campus to accommodate the large number of students falling ill. Sixty-six women are listed in the 1919 Agromeck as being “on duty at State College during the influenza epidemic.” At the top of the page is a Memoriam to two nurses who “died while nursing State College boys during influenza epidemic.” These nurses are listed as Miss Eliza Riddick and Miss Lucy Page.

For many years, Eliza Riddick has frequently been identified as the daughter of Wallace C. Riddick. Wallace C. Riddick was the 4th President of the College and led the school through  the first world war and the influenza epidemic.

Eliza Riddick shares Wallace C. Riddick’s last name, but she was not his daughter.

Letter from Anna Riddick, 1967

The university archives has several folders of material on Wallace C. Riddick, including newspaper articles, copies of speeches, and obituaries. None of these sources mentions the loss of a daughter. There are several sources which list his children by name: Wallace Whitfield, Lillian Ivy, Narcissa Daniel, Anna Ivy Jones and Eugenia Trovers (note there is no “Eliza” listed). And perhaps the most definitive piece of evidence, a letter written to the University Archivist in 1967 by Anna Ivy Jones Riddick (one of Riddick’s daughters) lists the children of Wallace Carl and Lillian Riddick and states quite plainly “children – all living.”

Now that we have established that Eliza Riddick was not, in fact, Riddick’s daughter – the question remains, who was she?  An article in the November 1, 1918 Alumni News describes her as “only 24, gladsome, buoyant, joyful, radiant.” She was a “young soldier who enlisted against the scourge…She labored for her Government by day and by night, followed disease to its den, that those who fought it off might be reinforced by the presence of a woman.” Certainly, she made an impression on the writer – there doesn’t appear to be a similar article for Miss Lucy Page, the other young woman who died while nursing sick students.

This, of  course, STILL doesn’t answer the question of who Eliza Riddick was. In the 1919 Agromeck Memoriam, there are 5 women listed with the last name of Riddick: Mrs. I.G. Riddick, Miss Eliza Riddick, Mrs. W.C. Riddick, Miss Lillian Riddick and Miss Anna Riddick. Knowing that Lillian and Anna were both daughters of Mrs. W.C. Riddick, and assuming that the names were listed in some sort of mother/daughter relationship (since its clearly not alphabetical), it stands to reason that Eliza was the daughter of Mrs. I.G. Riddick. Wallace C. Riddick was born and presumably raised in Wake County by an uncle or grandfather following the death of his parents. His mother was from Wake Forest and his parents chose to settle there after marrying. These familial bonds to the area indicate that Mrs. I.G. Riddick was a likely a family member, perhaps a sister-in-law. If Eliza was her daughter,  this would make Eliza Riddick a niece of  Wallace C. Riddick and a cousin to his children.

This last bit is speculation of course, but a mystery we invite someone to solve! So while we still aren’t sure who Eliza Riddick was, there is ample proof that she was not the daughter of Wallace C. Riddick!

For more information on Wallace C. Riddick or NC State’s involvement in World War I, please contact us at

By: Cathy Dorin-Black

Robert Opie Lindsay

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of U.S. participation in World War I, Special Collections News continues to examine the war’s impact on its students and alumni.  In this post, we remember Robert Opie Lindsay, NC State alumnus and hero in both world wars.  Be sure to also visit our previous posts on NC State during WWI regarding preparation and enrollment, as well as the post by our colleagues at the NC State News blog.

The 1919 Agromeck, called the “Victory Agromeck,” (as described in Alumni News, Vol. 2, No. 3, January 1, 1919) contains a lengthy dedication to the State College students and alumni who died or received commendations for their heroism in the first world war.  We encounter Robert Opie Lindsay in the “Cited for Bravery” section of the Victory Agromeck.  This passage describes how Lindsay engaged three Fokker type German aircraft and shot one down.  When eight more planes arrived as reinforcements, he out-maneuvered them, shooting down one more before retreating to home base. Indeed, Lindsay was a true World War I Flying Ace, the only one in North Carolina.  (A “flying ace” is typically defined as an aviator who has shot down five or more aircraft).  Here is the full entry, from the 1919 Agromeck:

In his State College days however, he was an athlete from the small town of Madison, on the Dan River in northern North Carolina.  He excelled in football, basketball and baseball.  He was active in the Leazar Literary Society, Debate Club, and the German Club, and he was business manager of the Red & White student publication and associate editor of the Agromeck.  The 1916 Agromeck (his senior year) describes “Opie” as possessing “business ability and good judgment,” while perhaps knowing nothing about girls.  His course of study was Textiles.

Robert Opie Lindsay

After completing his studies at NC State (then State College), Lindsay applied to the Officers’ Training Corps at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, but he was turned away due to an acute episode of appendicitis.  After a successful operation in Greensboro, he enrolled in the Officers Training Corps for Aviators, stationed at Champaign, Illinois.  After deployment, he trained at a French aviation field and became well-versed in the acrobatic flying style that characterized his successes against the Germans and won him the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action (Alumni News Vol. 2, No. 5, p. 5).

Lindsay went on to become an Air Force Colonel in World War II, and he helped to found the Civil Aeronautics Administration, a forerunner of the FAA.  He died in 1952 in Fort Worth, Texas, at the age of 54.

A historical marker in honor of Robert Opie Lindsay was approved by the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program in February of this year and will be erected in July on US 311 at Lindsay Bridge Road in his hometown of Madison, NC.  It will be a fitting tribute for a valiant alumnus.

You can discover images of students and campus during the war on our Rare and Unique Digital Collections site, as well as video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting the history of NC State and other topics.

By: Brian Dietz

This post was contributed by James R. Stewart Jr., Archives and Special Collections Librarian, North Carolina A&T State University.

Better Living In North Carolina is a collaborative digitization project between the NCSU Libraries and the Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University that is designed to reveal how agricultural practices transformed the state of North Carolina over the course of the last century. Materials from NCA&T that are now online and are being digitized present a wealth of information on the history of the NC Cooperative Extension Service and vocational education for African Americans. The majority of materials currently online from A&T are from the John D. Wray Collection and the S. B. Simmons Collection. This blog entry is about the three additional collections our materials originate from and their value to researchers.

Unidentified NFA Student Members
A Photograph of Unidentified NFA Student Members Holding a NFA Banner

The New Farmers of America Collection contains programs, banners, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, and so much more about the early national vocational education group for young African-American men in the nation and the state of North Carolina. These items provide more insights into the lives of S. B. Simmons, John C. McLaughlin and many other people who served in the NFA, NCA&T’s School of Agriculture, the extension service and many other regional or national educational groups.

Materials from the North Carolina A&T State University Cooperative Extension Service Archives Collection features a wealth of information not only about the role of the A&T extension service, but also about vocational agricultural education throughout the nation.

Images from the Pearsall Photographs Collection are also being digitized. Many vintage photos in this collection from 4-H camps, farm shows, cattle shows, and home demonstration meetings will complement the more than 200 photographs from the S. B. Simmons collection that are currently online.

RFD Piedmont was an agricultural program broadcast from WFMY-TV in Greensboro
RFD Piedmont was an agricultural program broadcast from WFMY-TV in Greensboro, NC during the 1950s & 1960s. This film is a fascinating time capsule of 4-H and the lives of extension agents R. E. Jones, Minnie Miller Brown, and Bessie B. Ramseur.

A unique contribution of these collections is that a majority of the non-text materials currently in the “Better Living” project originate from A&T. The collections of S. B. Simmons, the NFA and our extension office include a vast amount of audio-visuals of agricultural history. In collaboration with A/V Geeks and Post Pro, both of Raleigh N.C., 12 radio and musical recordings of the NFA and one broadcast of the Greensboro agriculture television program RFD Piedmont were digitized for future generations. It is incredible to see and hear many legends of North Carolina extension and vocational education like Robert E. Jones, Bessie B. Ramseur, James L. Moffitt, Minnie Miller Brown, T. E. Browne, and S. B. Simmons, as well as former NC governors R. Gregg Cherry and J. Melville Broughton.

As the project continues more reports, papers, photographs, educational aids, posters, scrapbooks, and even awards are being digitized from A&T’s collections. The rediscovered materials at both NCA&T and NC State University complement each other for a full multimedia history resource of our state’s agricultural development.

To see these and other resources related to the Better Living project and Community and Extension, visit the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of imagesvideoaudio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics. While you’re at it, check out NCSU Libraries’ Historical State timeline on the Cooperative Extension Service.

By: Christopher Hogendoorn

June is the final month of the “Better Living in North Carolina” LSTA-funded grant project. Over the past two years, NCSU Libraries and the F. D. Bluford Library at NC A&T have made thousands of cooperative extension materials available online for researchers to access. Large undertakings like this don’t just happen overnight; it takes a lot of work over a long period of time to put together a project of this magnitude. Here is a look behind the scenes at the people who helped to bring “Better Living” to life.

The "Better Living" team at the State Farmers Market

[From left to right]

Brian Dietz is the Digital Program Librarian for Special Collections at NCSU Libraries. Brian is one of the co-principal investigators of the project, and acts and the technical/production lead.

Iyanna Sims is the Head of Bibliographic, Metadata & Discovery Services at the Bluford Library, and worked as the computer technology expert for NC A&T.

James Stewart is the Head of Archives & Special Collections at the Bluford Library, where he is responsible for selecting the material to be included in the project as well as performing the quality control on and the sharing of digital content with NCSU Libraries. He has been in this role since January 2017; prior to this, he worked as the project coordinator at NCSU Libraries.

Christopher Hogendoorn is the Digital Project Librarian and current project coordinator at NCSU, where he oversees the day-to-day production and quality control of all “Better Living” material.

Todd Kosmerick is the NCSU University Archivist and co-principal investigator of the project, serving as the content lead responsible for selecting the material and leading outreach efforts for the grant.

Netta Cox is the Head of Serials/Government Documents Librarian at the Bluford Library, where she is the principal investigator for the project at NC A&T, managing the overall progress of the grant.

Not pictured is Gloria Pitts, the outgoing Head of Archives & Special Collections at the Bluford Library, who also selected material to be part of the project.

We would not have been able to do this project without the assistance of our dedicated students. At NCSU Libraries, Jacque Dinnes, Derek Huss, and Jeanette Shaffer scanned and created the metadata for thousands of “Better Living” items, while Jamare Byers, Brielle Cowan, Sherilynn Knight, and Amani Newman did the corresponding work at the Bluford Library.

The end of the project is approaching, but new “Better Living” material is being added all the time, and is available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of imagesvideoaudio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics. While you’re at it, check out the Historical State timeline on the Cooperative Extension Service.

By: Brian Dietz

The SCRC recently added issues of the Agromeck, the university’s yearbook, to the Libraries Rare and Unique Digital Collections site. We now have a near full run of the yearbook, from 1903 to 2005, available online and fully searchable.

1916 Agromeck
1916 Agromeck

1967 Agromeck
1967 Agromeck

1968 Agromeck
1968 Agromeck

1990 Agromeck
1990 Agromeck
1994 Agromeck
1994 Agromeck
2004 Agromeck
2004 Agromeck
2005 Agromeck
2005 Agromeck

These, along with other issues of the Agromeck and resources related to university history and student life, are available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to hundreds of thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics. Also be sure to check out another great resource on university history, our Historical State timelines.

May 23 2017

Ethics in Archives

By: Linda Sellars

Blog post contributed by Taylor de Klerk and Jessica Serrao, Library Associates

Archival processing requires a lot of tough decisions. It may not always seem that way, but archivists are charged with holding and indefinitely preserving the cultural heritage of the communities around them. Not a small task! Archivists are responsible for acting in the best interest of these communities, and their actions must be ethically sound to uphold that trust. Because there are so many ethical concerns to consider, this blog post introduces Special Collections’ new series on archival ethics. Over the next several months, we will post regularly on topics including privacy, description, and preservation.

Special Collections Research Center Reading Room

To navigate tough ethical cases and make informed decisions, archivists use a variety of resources. We rely on archival networks for support, particularly those provided by professional organizations including the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA). One of SAA’s functions is to establish guidelines that help archivists work through difficult decisions. SAA’s Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics list key aspects of archival work and the values we should uphold as we collect and process archival materials. The Core Values Statement includes tenets like “Access and Use” to encourage archivists to “promote and provide the widest possible accessibility of materials.” That one seems pretty intuitive. After all, access is the fundamental mission of the profession. Other values, such as “Responsible Custody” and “Social Responsibility” look deeper at our role as stewards entrusted with preserving society’s heritage and memory.

SAA’s Code of Ethics encourages archivists to ethically acquire, protect, and provide access to collections based on the beliefs outlined in the Core Values. Contemporary archival ethics are reflective of current social, cultural, and political climates. SAA’s Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct (CEPC) reviews the Code of Ethics periodically to ensure that it reflects current ethical discourse (for more information on the evolution of the code, see SAA’s Code of Ethics History). The code was last updated in 2012 and it outlines seven principles of which archivists should be mindful. For example, archivists should implement security measures and disaster plans to “guard all records against accidental damage, vandalism, and theft.” Other principles include “Authenticity,” “Trust,” and “Professional Relationships.”

As with many other professions, archivists find that these ethical considerations are often tied to situation and interpretation. Nurturing and maintaining professional relationships is a means by which archivists gain insight from collective experiences of those with similar dilemmas. They remind us that we aren’t alone when we make these decisions! Professional relationships can be beneficial on local, state, and national levels. Archivists have a duty to present a fair and inclusive historical record, which may be regionally shaped by demographics. Because certain issues may be specific to a state or region, local professional organizations like the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA) provide even stronger ethical guidance by providing a space for peers and mentors working with similar historical collections to communicate about their experiences. By attending SNCA’s annual meeting each spring, we foster these relationships, develop support networks, and stay up to date about what is happening in North Carolina’s archivist communities.

Talking about concepts like ethics and professional values helps us be more transparent about the decisions we make behind the scenes and how they might affect archival research. Researchers have the right to know that our decisions affect their interactions with the collections they are using. It is our hope that we can help researchers better interpret the archival record by sharing how we make our decisions in this new blog series on archival ethics. Researchers can then focus more on finding beneficial primary sources and revealing their stories.

By: Virginia Ferris

Last week, members of the NC State University graduating class of 1967 joined the Alumni Association’s Forever Club, a community of alumni who graduated from NC State 50 years ago and earlier. Special Collections joined the celebration for a third year in a row, bringing a show and tell of items from the archives that reflected their time as students at NC State.

Archival materials on display for the Class of 1967 and Forever Club.

Archival materials on display for the Class of 1967 and Forever Club.

The class of 1967 would have taken classes in the newly constructed Harrelson Hall, spent time in the Erdahl-Cloyd Student Union (currently housing the Atrium and West Wing of D.H. Hill Library), witnessed the Pullen Hall fire of 1965, welcomed growing numbers of female students living in the first female dorm on campus in Watauga Hall, celebrated the first football game in the new Carter-Finley Stadium, honored legendary basketball coach Everett Case and welcomed new coach Norman Sloan, and much more.

Alumni gathered at the Park Alumni Center to kick off their reunion weekend, and spent time exploring Agromeck yearbooks, issues of the 1964-1965 Technician from their freshman year, admissions booklets for prospective students noting the price of tuition in 1964 ($162.50 per semester for in-state students), athletics programs, brochures and calendars of events in the student union, photographs, computer punch cards from the first Computing Center on campus, and more.

Alumni browse materials on display.

Alumni browse materials on display.

Alumni shared some of their memories of the events reflected in the materials on display, and several sat down to record these stories in Wolf Tales recordings that will add more nuance to the record of this period on campus. One alumnus described watching the news of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and being sent home early for Thanksgiving that year. Another alumnus spoke about the excitement and challenges of using a large, shared computer in the Computing Center to complete his course work as an Electrical Engineering student.

As part of our work to document and share the history of NC State, especially from the student perspective, we look forward to collecting stories and bringing materials from the archives into the hands of alumni and other members of the NC State community. You can explore more university history through our Rare and Unique Digital Collections site, where you can also access thousands of imagesvideoaudio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics.  If you’d like to learn more about these resources or have any other questions, as always, please feel free to contact us!

By: Christopher Hogendoorn

As the “‘Better Living’ in North Carolina” project enters its final months, Special Collections staff are working hard to make many cooperative extension materials available through our Rare and Unique Digital Collections website. Recent additions to “Better Living” include digitized microfilm reports from county and state-wide extension agents. These reports exist only in microfilm format, which is difficult to use. They reveal a staggering amount of detailed information about agricultural extension and home demonstration work in North Carolina at the individual county level. The reports currently online span the years 1908 – 1935. Depending on the year and the county, there could be reports from the agricultural extension agent and the home demonstration agent in the area, and these were often divided between those serving the white and African American populations, meaning four agents could write separate reports for a single county. Furthermore, each report could contain a statistical section and a narrative section, making for a lot of reports and a lot of data.

1927 African American Home Demonstration Annual Report, Wake County

Here is the African American home demonstration statistical report from Wake County for 1927. These reports were standardized forms which the extension agents completed with information gathered during the year. In this report, we see that Wake County had two agents, Bertha Maye and Lucy James. The report also tells us that they believed there were 50 communities throughout the county in which extension work should be carried out, but only 16 communities where it actually was. Was this a funding issue, or was there trouble getting people to participate? These reports reveal how many home visits these agents made (114 visits to 62 homes) and how many phone calls they placed over the year (61 in total). Maye and James primarily led their communities through food, nutrition, and clothing demonstrations. For example, the report says that 89 women and 72 girls received instruction on preparing better school lunches and that 161 girls’ coats were made. This granular detail fills in for the researcher overlooked aspects of life at this time, providing a more holistic view.

1918 Agricultural Agent Report, Cherokee County

1918 Agricultural Agent Annual Report, Cherokee County

The 1918 white narrative report from J. H. Hampton, extension agent for Cherokee County, is similarly revealing. The narrative reports flesh out the story that the numbers only partially tell. On dairy farming, for example, Hampton writes: “One cheese factory was established in the county on the cooperative plan. In March, 100 cows were promised to furnish milk for the factory. Owing to the delay in securing equipment for the factory we did not get it started until July 29 and there was not as much milk furnished as was promised. There will be one or more carloads of high grade Holstein cows brought into this community next spring. A pure bred Holstein bull has alread[y] arrived there.” The explanation that the narrative reports provide gives context to the numbers, and the two are necessary to understand the impact cooperative extension had in any given area.

1934 Extension Entomologist Annual Report

1934 Extension Entomologist Annual Report

On top of all of these county reports, the microfilm also has state-wide extension reports which cover the program’s focus areas, like swine production, plant pathology, and home management. Altogether there is a vast amount of material in these records which document life in the aggregate in early twentieth-century North Carolina. Preventing insect damage to crop production was the responsibility of the extension entomologist, and in 1934 that was C. H. Brannon. According to him, “1934 was a season of almost unprecedented horn worm infestation on tobacco, the damage was widespread and heavy. Farmers purchased a large number of small dusters for the application of poison and excellent results were secured by those who followed recommendations. Most tobacco growers are beginning to realize that insects must be controlled if tobacco is to be grown at a profit. The excellent price for the 1934 crop will make farmers more solicitous than ever of insect infestations of the 1935 crop and we are expecting even better cooperation in the future.” To find out if Brannon’s predictions were correct, you will have to explore the 1935 entomology report yourself.

"Better Living" Microfilm Reels 132-261

Half of the "Better Living" Microfilm Reels

So far, the 177,076 pages online represents 1/4 of the “Better Living” microfilm, so there’s a lot that will be available in the coming weeks. All of the digitized microfilm from the “Better Living” project is available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of imagesvideoaudio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics. While you’re at it, check out the Historical State timeline on the Cooperative Extension Service.