Recommendations from the Rare Books Collection

Editor’s note: We were delighted to have Shelby Beard as an intern in Special Collections this semester. Her previous post discussed her research on UNCA’s John Martin’s Book Collection. In this post she explores some books from our Rare Book collection. Shelby, an English Major, graduates this semester.

By Shelby Beard, Special Collections Intern

The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Thomas de Quincey

Content warning: addiction, drugs   

Thomas de Quincey was born in August, 1785, in Manchester, England. From an early age, it was clear that Thomas was creative and saw the world from a unique perspective. After the death of his father and two of his sisters, he was cared for primarily by a handful of legal guardians, which filled his life with conflict and transition. After attending two grammar schools, and fleeing the later, he went to university, and soon developed a relationship with a number of prominent writers at the time, such as William Wordsworth (and his family) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who proved to be influences in his writing career. Another influence on his career was opium, which de Quincey took for the first time in 1804 in hopes of quelling the pain of his “severe rheumatic pains in his head and jaw” (Agnew 34). At the time, opium was commonly and legally used to treat pain, but many people, including de Quincey, became addicted to the substance after taking it for a short time.

Portrait of Thomas de Quincey

In his autobiography, The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, de Quincey details the perks and downfalls of opium (or more specifically what was likely laudanum, a mixture of opium and alcohol) addiction and his own experiences with it, including the dreams he had under the influence. De Quincey began writing for Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1820, where he would publish Confessions as a two part series that would eventually be published as a book. Confessions was an immediate success and “brought [de Quincey] lasting fame” (Agnew 37). Despite his struggles with addiction, de Quincey maintained his writing career through most of his life. He regularly contributed to Blackwood’s, as well as Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, and published essays and books independently. Throughout his successful career, de Quincey struggled with money, and he was in and out of debtor’s prison nine times from 1832 to 1840. So despite his success, his family continued to struggle. Near the end of his life, de Quincey’s battles with addiction and debt began to fade. Under the careful watch of his children after his wife’s death, de Quincey paid his debts and lived fairly comfortably until his death in December of 1859.  

As previously stated, The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater is an autobiographical account of de Quincey’s experience with opium addiction. Confessions is, as the title implies, a confession piece, which is a form of autobiographical literature that exposes intimate details of the subject’s life.  Writing in the Romantic era, de Quincey was pretty much alone in discussing addiction in the context of an English gentleman’s life, rather than a cliché junkie on the streets. He was also alone in discussing both the “pleasures” and the “pains” of opium, rather than outright condemning the substance and anyone who would touch it. De Quincey was famously fond of opium, though as he writes in his revised introduction, he was not proud of his addiction. This book is a compelling story, told in a stylistically unique fashion that helps the subject matter stand out in a crowd.  

Cover of Confessions

On ‘Tao Te Ching’

Bertolt Brecht

Portrait of Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht was most well-known for his play writing, but also wrote some poetry and fiction before his death in 1956. He is often remembered for his Marxist views that are apparent in his writing, which has made him a controversial figure amongst literary scholars. Bertolt Brecht’s On ‘Tao Te Ching’ is a short poem about an old man on a journey. This pocket sized book is number 85 of 150 numbered editions printed by Nancy Chambers for the Anvil Press in 1959. It is printed on rice paper, the cover is coated in decorated paper with the title pasted on the binding, and it includes illustrations pulled from a collection of Chinese prints. This is a beautiful book, and as a first (and only) edition could be valued at over $200 dollars. Little is known about this book, which makes it an intriguing addition to the rare books collection in UNCA’s Special Collections.

Cover of On ‘Tao Te Ching’

A Double Barrelled Detective Story

Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, in Missouri, where he spent most of his childhood years by the Mississippi River. As a young adult, Clemens worked as an apprentice, a compositor, a writer for local newspapers, a journeyman, and a steamboat driver. He eventually adopted the pen name Mark Twain, which is a riverman’s term for “water that is safe, but only just safe, for navigation” (Gale 2). Twain continued to write for newspapers, began venturing into travel correspondence, and eventually began writing and lecturing on various topics. In 1870, Twain married Olivia Langdon, and they moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where they would live for the next twenty years and have their three daughters. Twain also started gaining popularity as a writer and lecturer at this time. Twain’s early work was sold by subscription, and sold well, which granted Twain a sizable profit. However, he soon fell into debt after his publishing company went bankrupt and his typesetting machine failed to make his fortune. He and his family moved to Europe, where they could live cheaper, until Twain was able to pay off his debts and return to the United States in 1900. By this point, Twain was reaching new levels of popularity and considered a public hero to some. He is often thought “among the best to express, or expose, the spirit of the American people” through his writings (Gale 4).

Portrait of Mark Twain

        Some of Twain’s most well-known books are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1875), which center around quintessentially American notions of life along the Mississippi river, and The Innocents Abroad (1869), which is a humerous retelling of Twain’s travels. A Double Barrelled Detective Story (1902), is different from Twain’s more popular works. He write it later in his career, at a time when some believed Twain was only writing so that he could get out of debt, stay out of debt, and rebuild his decimated savings. Much of his work from this time is considered messy and not important to Twain’s established canon. However,  A Double Barrelled Detective Story is a unique work, and worth a look. This satirical story follows a woman who discovers that her son has a superhuman sense of smell. She decides to use this power to find her husband, who was abusive when they were together and is unaware that he has a son, and kill him. Along the way, a handful of colorful characters are introduced, including none other than Sherlock Holmes. Twain’s detective story is a satire jabbing at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s meticulously thought out crime dramas by throwing logic to the wind and telling a story with all the drama of an original Sherlock Holmes piece, but much less planning.  A Double Barrelled Detective Story was not received well by Twain’s contemporaries, or the general public, who largely seemed to miss his satire. While this story isn’t one of Twain’s most famous, it is worth a read. The edition available in the UNCA Special Collections is formatted uniquely in that each page of text is summed up in the margins with a word or two. For example on page 95, the margin simply reads “Sherlock Holmes!”, which adds to the intrigue and humor of this story.

Cover of A Double Barrelled Detective Story

The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Poems

Oscar Wilde

Content warning: homophobia, imprisonment

        Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. He was an Irish poet and playwright, and was well known for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). His mother was also a writer, and his father was a doctor. Wilde was a leader of the Aestheticism movement in England, which promoted the idea of “art for art’s sake”. In 1884, Wilde married Constance Lloyd, and they had two children. The last ten years of Wilde’s life were most fruitful to his writing career, he wrote and published Dorian Gray, and his society comedies which included A Woman of No Importance (1893) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). The central theme of many of his works was the exposure of a secret or sin that someone was hiding, which usually ended badly. Wilde himself was known for his “reckless pursuit of pleasure” in life (Britannica). In 1891, Wilde met Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he started an affair with. Douglas’s father, upon finding out about their relationship, accused Wilde of homosexual activity. Wilde attempted to sue Douglas’s father for libel, but his case fell through and Wilde was arrested and made to stand trial. He was found guilty in 1895 and sentenced to two years of hard labor. Most of his sentence was served at Reading Gaol, and his time there left him with irreparable health issues that plagued him for the final years of his life. After his release in 1897, Wilde published The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), which expressed his concern about inhumane prison conditions. He died in 1900.

Portrait of Oscar Wilde

        Reading Gaol was a prison in England known for its harsh conditions. While imprisoned, Wilde was only allowed to write letters, but upon his release he wrote and published The Ballad of Reading Gaol in response to what he had endured for the past two years. He details the shame and pain he felt while imprisoned, and the brutal conditions he and the other prisoners faced on a daily basis. He mentions other prisoners, such as Charles Thomas Wooldridge, who was a murderer and was sentenced to death by hanging, which Wilde also recounts in his poem.  UNCA Special Collections has a small copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Poems, published in 1951, well after Wilde’s death. This edition features black and white illustrations by Louise Phillips that accompany the poem, and make a powerful addition to the content.

Cover of The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Fairy Tales and Legends by Hans Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen

Portrait of Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen is a well-known and well-loved writer of fairy tales. Born in 1805 near Copenhagen, Denmark, Andersen was a prolific writer, and his work is renowned in many countries all over the world. He also wrote a number of novels, plays, and poems, which are less popular. Fairy tales most people would be familiar with, such as “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Little Mermaid”, “The Snow Queen”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, and “The Ugly Duckling” are all works of Andersen. Some of his stories end with optimism and a favorable outcome for the characters, but others end unhappily like many Grimm’s fairy tales. Andersen was willing to engage with less than perfect outcomes in children’s literature, which is part of what made his stories compelling to adults as well. UNCA Special Collections has an illustrated copy of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, published in 1948. This edition features a beautifully designed cover, and nearly fifty stories with illustrated pages throughout.

Cover of Fairytales and Legends

Sources

Agnew, Lois Peters. “Chapter 2: De Quincey’s Life.” Thomas de Quincey: British Rhetoric’s Romantic Turn, Southern Illinois University Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/unca/detail.action?docID=1354633.

BBC – History – Historic Figures: Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900). http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/wilde_oscar.shtml. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.

“Bertolt Brecht | German Dramatist.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bertolt-Brecht. Accessed 10 Apr. 2019.

Foundation, Poetry. “Bertolt Brecht.” Poetry Foundation, 10 Apr. 2019, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/bertolt-brecht.

“Hans Christian Andersen | Biography, Fairy Tales, & Books.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hans-Christian-Andersen-Danish-author. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.

“Oscar Wilde | Biography, Books, & Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Oscar-Wilde. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.

Schiller, Francis. “Thomas De Quincey’s Lifelong Addiction.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, vol. 20, no. 1, 1976, pp. 131–41. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1353/pbm.1976.0009.

Twain, Mark | Gale Biographies: Popular People – Credo Reference. https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/galegbpp/twain_mark/0. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.

John Martin’s Book

By Shelby Beard, Special Collections Intern

UNC Asheville’s Special Collections is home to a large collection of John Martin’s Book magazines. The John Martin’s Book collection contains forty bound volumes and one hundred and nine individual issues, ranging in publication date from 1914 through 1933.

Who Was John Martin?

Morgan von Roorbach Shepard was born in 1865 and lived in poverty for the first years of his life in Maryland. Despite his circumstances, he lived happily with his “joy-giving” mother until she died when he was nine years old, leaving him in the care of a number of boarding schools until he was sixteen and he began to face the world alone. For years he worked odd jobs engineering, herding livestock, mining, ranching, street car driving, and he even claimed to have fought in a Central American revolution. Eventually he ended up in San Francisco and became a banker, which remained his employment for thirteen years and which Shepard considered repressing and dull work.

In early 1898 Shepard started a small publishing company in partnership with a book dealer.  During their time together Shepard and his partner, Paul Elder, published about forty books, many of which were targeted at children and some of which Shepard wrote and/or illustrated himself (“Paul Elder & Company”). Shepard worked with the company until 1904 and then traveled Europe, ultimately returning to San Francisco broke and jobless a couple of years later. He began designing greeting cards, which only lasted until 1906 when his office building was destroyed in an earthquake. Shepard then moved to New York City.

While recovering from an injury, Shepard began to write poetry for children’s magazines, and here he seems to have found his calling. After the earthquake brought his professional life to a halt, Shepard found joy in writing letters to children who were sick in hospitals or “lacking gladness” in their lives. He “yearned to give other children some measure of the joy and good that had been [his] ‘once upon a time’”, the joy he had experienced with his mother as a child (Martin). The individual letters eventually grew into a subscription service, and from there he followed his “hidden heart desires” and began to turn his passion for bringing happiness to children into John Martin’s Book.

John Martin’s Book was inspired by Shepard’s love for children and his mother’s love for life. When he was young, Shepard’s mother encouraged his imagination and creativity. In fact, the idea of John Martin’s Book was born of a story his mother used to tell him about a group of birds that lived near the family home. Shepard’s mother would tell him stories about these birds, and “John Martin-bird” was the leader of the group. He signed those first letters with the pseudonym, John Martin, and would from then on use that pen name when writing in his magazine.

What is John Martin’s Book?

Children’s periodicals began to gain popularity in the Victorian “age of children”. Increased literacy and general education in the eighteenth century lead to an increase in children’s literacy amongst the middle class. With this new level of literacy came a concern for what kind of things children should be reading. In the Victorian era, literature was considered “a potent force capable of immense good or harm”, and was to be handled with care (Lang 17). Theories of childhood purity and the desire to protect childhood innocence rose in popularity over the previously dominant puritanical fixation with the original sin. A parent could not entrust their child’s innocence in just any publication, and so the popularity of children’s books and magazines, written with these new ideals in mind, skyrocketed. This trend continued through the Victorian era and into the twentieth century.

John Martin’s Book was first published as such in 1913. The magazine was aimed at children from ages three to ten, which Shepard considered to be the period in childhood when values are shaped. He adopted a policy of writing “right and only what is right for children” and aimed for each issue to be wholesome and valuable to children’s development (Martin).

What was John Martin’s Book Teaching?

The pages of each issue of John Martin’s Book are filled with colorful illustrations and whimsical writing meant to engage the child readers’ imagination and moral compass. The goal of the magazine was to entertain young children in a wholesome and “exceptionally constructive” way, providing them with content they could enjoy with their parents or on their own (Martin). Every issue included a number of short works ranging from retellings of old fables and fairy tales, to summaries of historical events, to regular installments of stories revolving around a specific character. Some pages were even made to be interacted with, including coloring pages, puzzles, and cut outs.

The left page is titled “Peter Puzzlemaker’s Tree Puzzle”, written across the bottom. The last two words are in a font that resembles tree bark. Above and to the left is a figure (Peter), he is small and wears a tall pointy hat, a black tunic with buttons and a collar, shorts, and buckled shoes. He is dipping a paintbrush into a can of paint with his right hand and pointing to the puzzle above with his left. The puzzle above is a grid of nine squares (one of which Peter is in front of, and is empty). In order from one to eight the squares contain drawings of a dog, a pocket watch, a wig, a book with pages falling out, an old trunk, mannequin limbs, a spinning top, and a bowing man. Behind the grid and peter is a forest scene. The second page is an introduction to Peter Puzzlemaker. It gives instructions on how to solve the puzzle - in this case, each illustration in a box represents a part of a tree.


This is the first appearance of a regular installment in the magazine, Peter Puzzlemaker. Peter “thinks up jolly puzzles for [children] to solve”.  
A two page spread in black ink. At the top of the left page is the title “A Silly Story” followed by “Can U Read It?”, where the “can” is replaced with a drawing of a tin can. To the left of the title is a drawing of a boy walking in the sun. To the right is a drawing of a bird, a duck wearing a top hat, and a rat. The rest of the first page and the entire second page are filled by the text of the story, and the small symbols to replace sounds. Some of the symbols are: an eye, a sun, a saw, an ink well, a tree branch, a deer, a cat, a bee, and a hat.
An example of one of the more quirky pages often included in the magazine, this is a short story where some of the words are replaced (in whole or in part) by small symbols and illustrations. The reader is meant to see if they can read the story using the pictures to sound out the missing letters.
A page in black ink with the title “The Funny Menagere” at the top in bold curly letters. There are five boxes, each with a drawing of an animal pun. There is “A dog with a cocked ear” with a drawing of a dog that has a chicken for an ear, for example.
An example of the fun pages found in John Martin’s Book. A humorous page with animal puns.

Every selection in the magazine was meant to entertain a child, and to instill messages of positivity, love, and happiness. Even the advertisements were carefully selected to reflect the values of the John Martin’s Book company. Shepard says in his article “The Substance of Dreams”, in which he details his motives behind creating John Martin’s Book, “I take the responsibility of preserving the right of children to have only the truest influences brought to them… I will not exploit children for money gain or popularize John Martin’s Book for ‘circulation’ ends” (Martin). Shepard wrote the advertisements himself (or supervised a colleague doing so), and nearly always made something as simple as a soap ad into an engaging story for children to read.

A fully illustrated page printed in light blue ink. Title “A Gift of The Sea” across the top. Below, a woman floats amongst the waves of the sea, bubbles or pearls flowing from her hands. In the center a poem is printed, followed by Colgate branding and an illustration of a box of toothpaste. There is a bust portrait on either side of the box, a little girl on the left and little boy on the right, they look content.
This fully illustrated page shows the care that Shepard put into the advertisements he chose to include in the magazine. He creates a story about a magical lady that lives in the sea and gives children the gift of pearly white teeth, where he could simply have printed a generic ad for Colgate that wouldn’t have been of much interest to the children reading. Shepard was intentional about everything he included in his magazine.

In addition to whimsical games, poems, stories, short plays, and advertisements, John Martin’s Book typically included pieces that invoked God and/or piety. Mostly from Christian influence, though not always explicitly denominational, these pieces were light and peaceful, aiming to express love to the children reading and instill religious conviction from a young age.

A poem printed in mostly black ink, with accents of orange. At the top of the page is the title, “Friendship Road”, in which the F and R are printed in orange. Below, the poem is printed. To the right of the poem is an illustration of a mountain with a castle at the top. The sun in the background is orange. There is a group of children in the foreground walking up a path towards the castle together, they are smiling and holding hands. One child is dressed in orange.
A poem that exemplifies the religious themes often found in the John Martin’s Books. It discusses being grateful to God every day, and following the “right” path in life. There are also themes of friendship and hope in this poem.
A simple page, mostly of text. At the top is the title “Little Beatitudes” below is the poem, four stanzas of four lines each. The first letter of each stanza is ornately drawn in black and red. Below the poem is a small symbol that resembles a heart shape.
This short poem is another example of the way Shepard often wrote about God in the magazine. This poem is teaching that God fearing children are happy.

It is true that John Martin’s Book was never extremely lucrative, in the early days Shepard was fighting to break even, but he always said he wasn’t in it for the money. The purpose of this magazine was to  provide a safe space for children. Parents never had to worry what would be in the next issue of John Martin’s Book, and children could always expect to be entertained.

Shepard was not the only person writing for John Martin’s Book. As the magazine grew in popularity, Shepard brought on new editors to assist him in creating content, including Helene Jane Waldo, who remained on Shepard’s editorial staff until the magazine’s final issue in 1933 (Gardner 151). John Martin’s Book often included pieces submitted by guest authors, who would be credited in the magazine alongside their works. Regardless of the size of his team, Shepard was the only person to write to the children as John Martin.  

A double page spread featuring ornate illustration printed in black and orange ink. The left page depicts an illustration of a castle with knights on horses coming out of the gates and riding down a path. This illustration is contained in an oval. Outside the upper part of the oval, the illustration is framed with tree leaves. An owl sits to the left of the oval reading a book, and a raven to the right, also reading a book and wearing glasses. Near the lower part of the oval, two bunnies dressed like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland hold a letter between them. The right page features the title of the magazine in a large font, contained in an oval mirroring the left page’s. Behind the oval is another illustration of a castle and knights on horses. The bottom third of the page has an owl holding a book that reads “Come children look, This is your book” on the pages.
These pages exemplify the amount of detail that can be found in the design and illustrations of John Martin’s Book. Notice the small note to the reader on the first page, signed by John Martin himself. A note like this could be found in nearly every issue, greeting the reader and welcoming them to the magazine. The owl on the second page holds a message that invites the children to read on.

Little has been written about John Martin’s Book, and few copies of the earliest editions have survived. However, this magazine remains a shining example of children’s literature from the early twentieth century. As stated in a bulletin in the September 1915 issue of the magazine, the purpose of John Martin’s Book was “to make little children happy”. Shepard’s whimsical writing and editorial style captured the hearts of tens of thousands of children, and his clear love for these children is apparent in his fondly, if scarcely,  remembered magazine.


Works Cited/Referenced

Gardner, Martin. “John Martin’s Book: An Almost Forgotten Children’s Magazine.” Children’s Literature, vol. 18, no. 1, 1990, pp. 145–59. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/chl.0.0682.

Lang, Marjory. “Childhood’s Champions: Mid-Victorian Children’s Periodicals and the Critics.” Victorian Periodicals Review, vol. 13, no. 1/2, 1980, pp. 17–31. JSTOR.

Martin, John. “The Substance of Dreams: A Bit of Intimate History and Romance of How John Martin’s Book Came to Be.” John Martin’s Book, July 1923. UNCA Special Collections.“Morgan

Shepard, Aka ‘John Martin.’” Paul Elder & Company: San Francisco Bookseller & Publisher, 1898-1968, http://paulelder.org/people/morgan-shepard/. Accessed 6 Feb. 2019.

Photos Cited

Martin, John. “Friendship Road.” John Martin’s Book, July 1915. UNCA Special Collections.

Martin, John. “A Gift From the Sea.” John Martin’s Book, July 1918. UNCA Special Collections.

Martin, John. “Little Beatitudes.” John Martin’s Book, Mar. 1924. UNCA Special Collections.

Martin, John. “Peter Puzzlemaker.” John Martin’s Book, Oct. 1918. UNCA Special Collections.

Martin, John. “A Silly Story.” John Martin’s Book, Nov. 19198. UNCA Special Collections.

Martin, John. “Title Pages” John Martin’s Book, May 1924. UNCA Special Collections.

Exhibit Showcases UNCA’s Literary Magazine History

Bluets, the first campus literary magazine, was first published in 1929, just two years after Asheville Biltmore College (UNCA’s predecessor) was founded. Over the next 90 years the campus literary magazine would go through several name changes and transformations, finally becoming Headwaters in 1997, the name it retains today.

The first issue of Bluets, Spring 1929

A new exhibit on the history of UNCA’s literary magazine heritage is now in the display cabinets outside of the Special Collections and University Archives reading room on the top floor of Ramsey Library.  Curated by Headwaters co-editors Morgan Fuller and Matthew Maffei in conjunction with University Archives, the exhibit includes 36 different issues from 90 years’ of UNCA’s literary magazines.

Bluets, 1942

The exhibit documents the name changes our literary magazine has had over the years, including Bluets, Images, Fury, The Rag & Bone Shop, Headwaters, plus a few one-time literary publications. 

Fury, 1988

The exhibit also includes free copies of recent issues of Headwaters, so stop by, take in a little UNCA literary history, and pick up a recent copy of Headwaters

Headwaters, 2000

All previous issues of Headwaters, Bluets, and UNCA’s other literary magazines are available to read in Special Collections/University Archives. 

In Search of Lovers Bridge

The only postcard to include a  location of Lovers Bridge [kahn 12_35_002. ]

Sometimes you lose yourself in an archival rabbit hole.

This particular adventure started during the processing of the latest tranche of postcards for the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection. Kahn was an avid collector of postcards, often accumulating numerous copies of the same card, and filing the cards in binders by subjects or theme.

Binder 12 of the collection covers the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers, and within the Swannanoa images there were numerous views of Lovers Bridge*. But where was Lovers Bridge located?

And so, like Alice, we find a rabbit hole.

A very similar view as the postcard above, but with different people and roadway [kahn 12_34_004]

All the postcards show a similar view; the river to the right of the image, a track/road (sometimes paved, sometimes muddy) in the center foreground and leading to a bridge with timber railings, somewhere near the middle of the image. Beyond the bridge, both river and track curve leftwards.

Any dates indicate the cards are from the early years of the 20th century, when the Swannanoa had trees and bushes along the banks, but no buildings or anything else to suggest exactly where the bridge was.

This postcard was mailed in August 1906, to an address in Saluda, NC, and is described as “a mountain drive” rather than Lovers Bridge [kahn 12_41_003]

What the postcards make clear is that Lovers Bridge was parallel to the Swannanoa, it didn’t cross the river. But it was a bridge, it had to cross something, and if not the Swannanoa, then what?

Of the nearly 30 postcards showing Lovers Bridge, only one [12_35_002], showing two ladies and a small child walking on the track, includes any kind of description on the verso. This reads, “Lover’s Bridge is one of the popular points along the Swannanoa River, and is located about one mile above the Biltmore Bridge. The old wooden bridge has recently been replaced by an iron one.”

An approximate location!

A colorized print of the monochrome photograph used for the previous postcard, but the view is now identified as “Lovers Bridge” [kahn 12_41_002]

To keep a long story short, approximately 8/10ths of a mile (by Google maps) from the present day bridge where Biltmore Avenue crosses the Swannanoa, Ross Creek enters the river. Is it this creek that Lovers Bridge bridged?

Certainly the course of the river seems to fit this supposition, as upstream from Ross Creek, the Swannanoa does bend left, like in the postcards.

This would make the present day location of Lovers Bridge on Swannanoa River Road, near Hajoca plumbing supplies. A big change from the rural track of 120 years ago!

Is this what Lovers Bridge looked like in December 2016, when Google Streetview captured this image?

One obvious way to cross reference the location would be from maps or travel books from the early 1900s, especially since Lovers Bridge was “popular” and featured on so many postcards.

But, despite looking in many nooks and crannies in the archival rabbit hole, not a single reference to Lovers Bridge has yet been found.

Why might this be?

One possible explanation may lay in the postcards. Postcard manufacturers would often “manipulate” a view, so that a daylight scene is transformed into a moonlight view, images are colorized, and people and objects added or removed.

Image manipulation did not begin with Photoshop!

As noted previously, the postcards all show a similar view.Is it possible that an early postcard designer adopted the name “Lovers Bridge” for this particular bridge near the Swannanoa, and the name was continued by subsequent postcard designers, but the name never existed outside the postcard artist fraternity?

Maybe, or maybe not.

This 1902 postcard, with a slightly different perspective from most of the other postcards, does not refer to Lovers Bridge. Had the name not been “invented” then? [kahn 12_36_003]

Despite spending far too much time exploring this particular rabbit hole, few definitive answers have been found so far. If any reader has information about Lovers Bridge, please contact Ramsey Library Special Collections, as we would love to resolve this particular obsession!

Colin Reeve, Special Collections

*The bridge is called both Lovers and Lover’s Bridge on postcards. For consistency “Lovers” has been used in this blog

Cutting Deep

Asheville from Beaucatcher Mountain, late 1920s. N1574 E. M. Ball Photographic Collection

The summit of Beaucatcher Mountain has long provided a scenic vantage point from which to view Asheville, but Beaucatcher also provided a natural obstacle to travel. A solution to the travel problem arrived in 1929, when a road tunnel through the mountain was completed.

However, within thirty years or so, road traffic had increased so much that an additional route through Beaucatcher was starting to be discussed.

And so began one of the most contentious and convoluted road developments in Asheville’s history.

A 1961 master plan recommended remodeling the existing tunnel, and cutting a new second tunnel parallel to the original.  Initially this plan was supported by both the city and the state (King 1975), but in 1967, the State Department of Highways recommended a cut instead of a tunnel. Although the cut would be 780 feet wide at the top, 200 feet deep, and 210 feet wide at the base, and remove twenty times more rock than a tunnel (Neufeld 2009), it would cost less money.

“The Cut”, September 10, 1979. B120f, Ewart McKinley Ball III Photograph Collection

The cut was supported by the United States Bureau of Public Roads. (The new road was being built using matching Federal Funds). But in 1970, the Bureau reversed its position and favored a tunnel, citing environmental and highway needs, and design work began on a new tunnel (King 1975). Two years later in 1972, and based on a new estimate that tunneling would cost $17M against $10M for an open cut (King 1975), and the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (Neufeld 2009), the Federal Government again changed its view and gave approval for the open cut.

Local opposition to the cut coalesced as the Beaucatcher Mountain Defense Association, and in 1975 the Association filed suit in Federal Court to stop the cut. An injunction was denied and construction work began. Lined up against the defense association were the city, state, and Federal governments, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the newspapers, who all favored the cut on the ground it was cheaper and faster to build (King 1975).

Beaucatcher Mountain Cut “About 1/2 Done”, September 5, 1979. B125d, Ewart McKinley Ball III Photograph Collection

The Defense Association returned to court in 1976, this time arguing the cut would damage historic sites, including Zealandia, the historic mansion located 500 feet from the edge of the cut (Neufeld 2009). The injunction was again denied, and in 1977, blasting began.

Beaucatcher Mountain Cut, thought to be June 1, 1980. B118e, Ewart McKinley Ball III Photograph Collection

The cut, and the road through it, were completed in 1980, but completion did not diminish opposition.

Beaucatcher Mountain Cut, thought to be October 15, 1980. B118b, Ewart McKinley Ball III Photograph Collection

Writing in 2012, local author Charles Frazier referred to “the 240 Bypass with its still-horrifying cut through Beaucatcher Mountain” (Frazier 2012).

Betty Lawrence, one of the people who led the Defense Association said the cut lost “some of the real magic of Asheville”, and “that Asheville was a city surrounded by mountains, and now it’s a city surrounded by mountains with one great big gash.” (Hunt 2017).

With plans being developed for the I-26 Connector through Asheville, road layouts are likely to once again become a hot topic of local contention and conversation.

Colin Reeve, Special Collections

Sources:

Frazier, Charles. “Random Asheville Memories circa Mid-Twentieth Century.” In 27 Views of Asheville: A Southern Mountain Town in Prose & Poetry, with an Introduction by Rob Neufeld, 32. Hillsborough, NC: Eno Publishers, 2012.

Hunt, Max. How intersate highways changed the face of WNC. March 10, 2017. https://mountainx.com/news/how-interstate-highways-changed-the-face-of-wnc/ (accessed October 30, 2018).

King, Wayne. New York Times, December 1, 1975.

Neufeld, Rob. The Read on WNC. March 29, 2009. http://thereadonwnc.ning.com/forum/topics/remember-the-cut (accessed October 30, 2018).

Finding Connections

John Donne observed no man is an island, but part of a greater continent, and the same can be argued of archival collections. Each tells a story, but sometimes looking at multiple collections can yield a bigger narrative.

In 1977, a large number of photographs, negatives and other items were donated to UNC Asheville Special Collections. The images, identified as the, Hollday Collection of John G. Robinson Photographs, were thought to be the work of Robinson, who owned a Kodak store in Asheville in the early 20th century.

The collection has recently undergone significant reprocessing, resulting in a new finding aid including a full listing of all 2426 images in the collection, and a reassessment of who the photographer actually was. Some images were clearly taken after Robinson died in 1923, and may be the work of his wife Sarah. Or his son John Jr., who for many years owned an electrical and camera store in Burnsville, may be the photographer. Or they may be the work of other unidentified photographers.

Some images were provided to Robinson by postcard manufacturers and, conversely, some images taken by Robinson were intended to be used on postcards.

Special Collections is fortunate to have several collections of postcards, including the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection.

Fred Kahn was a deltiologist (postcard collector), and through the kind generosity of his widow Jan, and other members of his family, Special Collections now has approximately 700 postcards in the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection. The collection follows Kahn’s original arrangement and groups the images within themes, often showing numerous versions of the same “view”.

Which brings us back to the Robinson Collection.

As mentioned earlier, many images, thought to be the work of Robinson, were made into postcards and some of these feature in the Kahn Collection.

The Kahn Collection includes two copies of a postcard titled, “Mount Pisgah from Buck Spring Lodge on Vanderbilt Estate, ‘In The Land Of The Sky’”, published by the Southern Postcard Co. of Asheville. The image shows sheep in front of the lodge, with two women and a man looking on.

M2016.08 Fred Kahn Collection [2_25_004]
The Robinson Collection includes a series of images that were clearly taken at the same time as the image on the Kahn postcard, with robb208 being almost identical. The photograph does however show an expanded view, with four men seated on the lodge veranda, which were cut from the postcard, as was the Robinson index number. The other major change is that the postcard image is colorized.

P77. 16 Holladay Collection of John G. Robinson Photographs [robb208]
Although Robinson is not credited on the postcard, it seems highly likely he photographed the original image.

Some postcards were taken directly from Robinson’s negatives. Examples of this are the images of Biltmore House shown below.

M2016.08 Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection [1_53_001]
M2016.08 Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection [1_53_003]
The Kahn Collection includes two postcards  showing a view of Biltmore House, but although they both have the same title and credit, the text layout differs.

P77.16 Holladay Collection of John G. Robinson Photographs [robb957]
Robinson negative robb957 has suffered damage, but otherwise is identical to Kahn 1_53_003.

Neither of the Kahn postcards identifies a publisher, so it is possible that Robinson produced the postcards himself and sold them in his store. Both postcards were mailed, providing an approximate year of manufacture; 1_53_001 was mailed in 1915, and 1_53_003 in 1916, so it may be that the different text styles are from two different print runs from different years.

Some images raise more questions than they answer.

The two images of the original Battery Park Hotel shown below are similar enough to assume that the photograph is the source of the postcard.

M2016.08 Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection [5_55_001]
P77.16 Holladay Collection of John G. Robinson Photographs [robb2407]
However, the postcard is credited to “Plateau Studio for S.H. Kress & Co.” Plateau was a studio operating in Asheville at the time Robinson had his Kodak store, but there is no record that he worked for Plateau. But did he? Or is the postcard credit incorrect? Or was Robinson not responsible for the original image, which exists in the Robertson Collection as a print rather than a negative?

Materials from the Kahn and Roberston collections are not available online, but can be viewed at Special Collections

RiverLink and River Fun

For the past few months, Special Collections staff and interns have been processing papers received last year from RiverLink, an organization that for over thirty years has promoted and revitalized the French Broad River in Asheville. The papers are now available for researchers, and Allyson Alvis, one of the interns who processed the papers, has taken a look at some of the “fun” aspects of RiverLink’s activities.

River clean up
Francis Delany School River Clean Up on 2/25/06 [M2017.03 RiverLink Papers, Box 52, CD 86]
RiverLink was conceived in 1986 as a way to increase tourism and get tourists more involved in the area around the French Broad River while they were in Asheville. Karen Cragnolin helped officially establish RiverLink in 1987, and the organization began their quest of improving the French Broad, which Asheville citizens had been treating as a dumping ground for decades. RiverLink hoped to achieve this by creating new riverparks, and by hosting events to generate community interest in preserving and improving their river.

One early rendition of such events was “Fall in Love with the French Broad”, a fund-raiser typically held in night clubs, and celebrating the river and featuring costumes and elaborate performances. The tradition started in the early 1990s, along with other small-scale fundraisers and clean ups.

Men dancing
“Fall in Love with the French Broad” , 2/11/1995 [M2017.03, RiverLink Papers, Box 42 Envelope 16]
One of RiverLink’s biggest events is their annual RiverFest, which has been an ongoing tradition since the 1980’s. RiverFest has changed slightly over the years and grown substantially, but overall it stayed true to its original conception and overall goal. It was, and still is, designed as a fundraiser for the environmental and economic revitalization of the French Broad River, and as a way to  encourage people to participate in the French Broad itself.

Since it is held at the Salvage Station, the proximity to the river encourages direct participation between the people and the area they are supporting, more directly than other events. Additionally, the array of activities help people engage directly with both the French Broad and RiverLink.

DSCN7458
Participants in RiverFest 2008 [M2017.03 RiverLink Papers, Box 52 CD 156]
While there are plenty of activities at RiverFest, the most popular is the “Anything that Floats Boat Parade,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Participants are encouraged to show up in costume with decorated boats, or just as themselves with a kayak, with the goal be having fun along the river.

This means that the parade has everything from friends and family in a raft, to businesses using flags and signs as promotion as they float down the river, to floats made of empty beer kegs or oil drums and a boat shaped like a dragon and manned by a group of vikings. As long as it can make it down the river, any “boat” is allowed in.

Vikings
Undated photo of “Anything That Floats” participants [M2017.03 RiverLink Papers, Box 42 Envelope 23)
For the competition itself, participants are encouraged to build the most outrageous contraption they can, and dress up for the occasion. At the end of the parade, there are winners for: creativity, ingenuity, best depiction of the category, and team spirit.

DSCN7408
`Participants in the 2008 “Anything that Floats Boat Parade” [M2017.03 RiverLink Papers, Box 52 CD 156]
People who would rather not get in the river, cheer on the participants and take part in other activities on the shore, as there are many ways to participate and the event comes with a full day of activities; there are live musical performances, aerial silks and dog competitions, and children’s activities, like face painting. There are also lots of options for local food, beer, and other vendors to interact with throughout the festivities.

2008 parade
Parade at the 2008 “RiverFest” [M2017.03 RiverLink Papers, Box 52 CD 158)
All of these events not only serves as great fundraisers for the river, but create a better sense of community and help get citizens more connected with it. As more people care about the French Broad, they will be more dedicated to developing and preserving it.

Allyson Alvis, Special Collections Intern

Asheville Postcard Company Salesman’s Samples Collection

Asheville Postcard Company Salesman’s Samples Collection

By Joey Harrington, Special Collections Intern

Salesman’s sample books. Note how the two in the middle unfold to show the various postcards.

Lamar Campbell LeCompte founded the Asheville Postcard Company in 1913. For the majority of the company’s history, from 1930 to 1977 when LeCompte passed away, they were located on “a little street between Broadway and North Lexington” which writer J.L. Mashburn describes as just a “nook in an alley in a weather beaten establishment” (Mashburn 72). According to Mashburn this little “nook” contained an estimated ten million postcards dating from 1912 to 1950.

Cover of one of the sample books.

The Asheville PostCard Company Salesman’s Samples Collection was donated to UNCA Special Collections by local collector BIll Hart. The salesman’s sample books eachs feature different cards marketed to promote towns or communities, and were carried by salesman to be shown to prospective buyers. Dating from 1939 to 1941, the 11 sample booklets in this collection document the commercial process of how these popular and colorful cards came into the hands of consumers. Salesman would call at retail establishments such as tourist attractions, hotels, drugstores, and other venus with these samples and take orders for both generic and customized cards. The orders would be printed and shipped to the retailers, where they would be purchased by tourists and locals alike.

Clingmans Dome

From the top of Mt. Mitchell

The booklets contain “linen postcards.” According to the cultural historian Jeffrey L. Meikle, linen postcards “so called for their embossed surfaces resembling linen cloth, dominated the American market for landscape view cards from 1931 into the early 1950s” (Meikle 2). The linen cards, which originated at Curt Teich in Co. in Chicago, were “based on retouched black-and-white photographs” printed on “inexpensive cardstock in vivid, exaggerated colors” (Meikle 2).

In the late 1930s and early 40s, when stamps were a mere half penny and mail could be delivered two to seven times a day, the postal service was the primary method of communication for many people in the United States (USPS). According to the US Postal Service website, in 1940 roughly 525,000 privately printed postcards were mailed in the United States and when you add “postal cards” that were pre-stamped, the number jumps to roughly 2.5 million.

“Sunrise on Mt. Mitchell, in the Land of the Sky”

For scholars like Meikle, these widely disseminated postcards offer “a window into popular middle-class attitudes about nature, wilderness, race and ethnicity, technology, mobility, and the city during an era of intense transformation” (Meikle 4). The recently donated postcard samples  from the Asheville Postcard Company certainly seem to represent many of the “popular middle-class attitudes” that Meikle describes. The majority of the cards depict idyllic “nature scenes” of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with photos of places like Clingman’s Dome and Mount Mitchell, while also featuring the architecture of various downtown districts in Western North Carolina. The cards simultaneously present pictures indicative of a culture of white supremacy, with explicitly racist representations of African Americans featured in some of the photos.

The new collection, which includes over a hundred postcards, will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in studying Western North Carolina culture in the early 20th century and will now be available for reference at UNCA Special Collections. More cards from the collection are featured below. 

Some of the cards, like this one, feature sexist or racist themes. Note how it could be customized to include “your city,” and that this was from the “Imprinted Series #968”

“A typical moonshine still” – such cards helped perpetuate Appalachian stereotypes.

“Busy tourist’s correspondence card” – the collection includes several variations on this theme.

An example of the “humorous” cards sold by the Asheville Postcard Company.

Joey Harrington studies History and Jazz and Contemporary Music at UNC Asheville.

Sources:

Mashburn, J. L., Asheville & Buncombe County…Once Upon a Time. Enka, NC: Colonial House Publishers, 2012.

Meikle, Jeffrey L. Postcard America: Curt Tech and the Imaging of a Nation, 1931-1950. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015.

Student Newspapers

It is not known exactly when the first student newspaper was published by the predecessors of UNC Asheville. In his speech to the Class of 1929, Roy Taylor mentioned a school paper, so clearly publication started within two years of the creation of Buncombe County Junior College.

newspaper may 1930
“The Highlander”, May 1930. A photocopy is the earliest student newspaper in the University Archives.

 

The earliest edition in the University Archives is a photocopy of the May 1930 edition of The Highlander, which was, “Published by the students of Buncombe County Junior College [and] founded by the Class of ’29.” This edition is identified as Vol. II No. 8, suggesting a monthly publication, with Vol 1 No. 1 appearing sometime during the 1928/29 academic year, which would align with Taylor’s remarks.

 

 

The first original newspaper in the Archives is The Highlander dated May 1935, which is confusingly identified as Vol. 1 No.2. Since, Vol.1 nos. 3 and 4 are also in the Archives, and are respectively dated March 1935, and April 1935, the paper still seems to be a monthly publication, but the reason for reverting to Vol. 1, or even if a paper was published between 1930 and 1935, is not known.

 

1938 paper
“The Highlander”, May 21 1938. Author Wilma Dykeman was pictured as one of the graduates [University Archives]
The Archives have a further editions of The Highlander through to May 21, 1938, and from the volume and issue numbers, it seems likely the paper was published sporadically. These editions reveal the paper contained college news, letters to the editor, gossip, poems, and advertisements from local businesses.

 

 

 

 

A newspaper with no name. A contest would soon result in the paper being called “The Campus Crier” [University Archives]
Previous blogs have described how the 1940s were lean years for Asheville-Biltmore College, and lack of students and funding may explain why the next newspaper in the Archives is from October 17, 1947. This is Vol.1 No.1 of a newspaper, “published twice monthly by the Journalism class of Asheville-Biltmore College”. It was also a newspaper without a name, appearing under the banner of, ? Asheville-Biltmore ?, but included details of a contest to name the “school scandal sheet.”

 

There is no record who won the naming contest, but the newspaper was called The Campus Crier by November 1, 1947 when Vol. 1 No.2 was issued.

By 1949, financial constraints had reduced the size of the” Campus Crier” which now claimed to be “America’s Smallest College Weekly” [University Archives]
The Campus Crier continued through to the 1960s. The last edition in the Archives is Volume XV-R1 Number 2, dated November 1961, with the volume numbers suggesting the paper had been published regularly since 1947. Although in 1961 The Campus Crier was still being published by journalism students, it had seen numerous changes since 1947. These included both the size and quality of the paper, the number of pages, and the inclusion, or not, of photographs, perhaps all a reflection of the college’s financial wellbeing at any given time.

 

 

 

Throughout its run however, The Campus Crier was still internally focused with college news, editorials, and letters, supplemented by the local business advertisements.

Chronologically, the next newspaper in the Archives is Vol. 1 No.1 of The Ridgerunner, dated September 27, 1965. Again, it is unclear if this four year gap is due to missing copies, or because no paper was published.

Unlike The Campus Crier, The Ridgerunner was published by the student union, but initially it still followed the same college focused editorial style of its predecessor. However, the content soon expanded to include local and national news, record and movie reviews, and political commentary.

Although “The Campus Crier” and “The Ridgerunner” focused on campus news, they often still reflected the national political scene as these editions from 1948 and 1967 illustrate [University Archives]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last Ridgerunner in the Archives is dated February 2, 1979. Again it is unclear is this was the last issue or just the last one archived, but on February 28, 1979, Vol. 1 No. 1 of The Rag & Bone Shop was published.

This was much more of a literary paper than a newspaper, with early issues having an address c/o The Ridgerunner, as though, initially at least, it was meant to supplement, rather than replace, The Ridgerunner. By the fall of 1979, the content had become news than literary but, by 1982, it changed once again, becoming much more a glossy literary journal that was published monthly.

In addition to being unsure of its content, the publication also seemed unsure of its name, with “Shop” disappearing from, and then returning to, the title.

The Rag & Bone Shop ended in controversy. The April 1982 edition featured a drawing of a crucified Easter bunny on the front cover, leading to protests, including the burning and confiscation of the offending issue. The magazine staff claimed first amendment rights, and produced a further edition in May 1982, but with no one willing to be the next editor, The Rag and Bone Shop ceased publication.

The first issue of “Kaleidoscope”, Sept. 9. 1982. Even then,  parking was a problem [University Archives]
It was replaced by Kaleidoscope, which was first published on  September 9, 1982, and marked a return to the weekly news format of The Ridgerunner.

The focus was still campus news and events, supplemented by entertainment reviews and classified advertisements.

 

 

 

The editorial in the first issue explained the name “Kaleidoscope was chosen because it implies something that is constantly changing and showing many different views.” Production of the newspaper was open to any student who wished to participate and it was funded through student fees paid with tuition.

The final Kaleidoscope was Volume IV, Number XIV, dated April 1984. By then, non-campus news formed about half of the items, and there was much greater use of photographs.

The first “The Blue Banner”. The volume number and masthead indicated that it was “Kaleidoscope” renamed, rather than a totally new publication [University Archives]
However, Kaleidoscope did not disappear, but simply changed its name; on September 5, 1984, The Blue Banner Volume V, Number 1 was published, with the masthead proclaiming it was “formerly Kaleidoscope” and had been “Serving the Students of the University of North Carolina at Asheville since 1982.”

The newspaper gave several reasons for the name change. Students said kaleidoscope was “hard to spell,” faculty thought the name “artsy…unprofessional,” administrators wanted a name “that better reflected the campus,” and several Asheville businesses were called Kaleidoscope.

But why The Blue Banner?

Apparently because blue was “one of [the] school colors…and banner is a newspaper name that goes well with blue.”

Irrespective of the reason for the name, it still continues, making The Blue Banner the longest lasting running title of all student newspapers at UNC Asheville and its predecessors.

“The Blue Banner”, still delivering the news in March 2018. [University Archives]
However, the name is about the only constant at the newspaper over the last thirty-four years. Page sizes and layouts have changed, and changed back, color images and type have replaced black and white, the paper is published online as well as print, and social issues have a much higher profile than they did in the 1980s.

 

 

Throughout its existence, the quality of journalism featured in The Blue Banner has been frequently recognized and praised. The most recent example being in February 2017, when the newspaper earned six awards at the N.C. College Media Association’s conference.

Colin Reeve, Special Collections

Footnotes:

  1. The above is a brief summary of “official” student newspapers. “Unofficial” publications have included The Scholastic Screamer and the UNC-A Free Press, whilst publications such as The Paper and Bulldog Barker were published by university administration rather than the student body.
  2. Digitized copies of most archived newspapers through to 2015 are available online at DigitalNC
  3. The University Archives would like copies of editions of university newspapers that are not currently in the Archives. Please contact speccoll@unca.edu if you have a “missing” edition

Estate book of Col. Frank Coxe added to UNCA’s Special Collections

Col. Frank Coxe
Col. Frank Coxe

 

By Joey Harrington, Special Collections intern

Colonel Frank Coxe was born in 1839 to a slave-holding family on the Green River Plantation in Rutherford County, NC. The grandson of a prominent financier and land speculator who served in the Treasury Department during George Washington’s presidential administration, Coxe’s own career was marked by investments in the coal and railroad industries. However Coxe’s business ventures took a turn in the mid-1880s when he established the Battery Park Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina — the largest development to occur in Asheville up to that time. In a 1979 interview his grandson (also named Frank) reflects on how his grandfather ended up in Asheville’s tourism industry:

Now my grandfather, Colonel Coxe, after the Civil War, he went to Charlotte. This coal money was pretty big money in those days, and he was considered a wealthy man… He spent about half of his time there and half of his time in Philadelphia. But had always had his eye on this Asheville area, because of his feeling that this could be one of the greatest resort areas in the country. When the railroads, four of them, from four directions, came in here, and he helped finance the building of the road from Old Fort up to this. [sic] He decided that the time was ripe to invest in Asheville, and in the form of this hotel, particularly. As I say, I think that the Battery Park Hotel was the springboard for this community.

The original Battery Park Hotel, constructed in 1886 and torn down in the 1920s, was situated on a scenic hill in downtown Asheville where a Confederate battery stood during the Civil War. According to historian Richard Starnes the hotel was built, in part, to “lure northern capitalists to the mountains, hoping luxurious accommodations and a pleasant visit would lead to regional ventures” (Starnes 49).

Battery Park Hotel, Asheville NC, circa 1890s

In addition to the hotel, Colonel Coxe also accumulated large tracts of land throughout the Asheville area, to the point that “every one of the buildings that you see along College and Patton, that were built between 1900 and 1920, except for the Public Service Building […] they were all built by the family” (Coxe Interview). Needless to say, by the end of his long career Colonel Coxe accumulated a large estate which according to a 1903 Citizen Times article was worth 7 million dollars (close to 200 million dollars in 2018 money according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator).

Coxe's signature on his will
Coxe’s signature on his will

The first page of Frank Coxe's handwritten will
The first page of Frank Coxe’s handwritten will

    After Colonel Frank Coxe’s death in 1903, the Coxe Estate was bequeathed to his children Francis, Otis, Tench, and Maude. With the exception of Otis, they became the estate’s trustees, managing the properties and investments after their father’s passing.

Account book of the Frank Coxe Estate book covering the years 1908-1914
Account book of the Frank Coxe Estate book covering the years 1908-1914

A page from the Coxe Estate book
A page from the Coxe Estate book

    In 2018, a ledger book, titled the “Frank Coxe Estate,” was donated to UNCA’s Special Collections by private collector Bill Hart (the ledger can now be found in the Frank Coxe Papers). In the hand scribed book, business dealings from 1908 to 1914 are recorded in detail, documenting “Receipts” which includes income from the Battery Park Hotel, rental properties and the like, and “Disbursements,” documenting the payments to the Coxe children, land purchases, upkeep on properties, and other miscellaneous payments.

July, 1912. Monthly stipends to members of the Coxe family

July 1913. Entry showing regular income received into the estate account from the Battery Park Hotel

July, 1909. Disbursements to the Battery Park Hotel to cover the cost of fire damage, showing the estate was still tied up in the financial operations of the hotel

July, 1909. Colonel Frank Coxe was born and died on the Green River Plantation. Seven years after his death it seems the plantation was still being maintained by the heirs to his estate

It’s often the case that the estate of a deceased individual is divided up and willed off to their heirs, however it’s clear from the ledger that Colonel Coxe’s children maintained the Coxe Estate well after their father’s passing — continuing to manage the large amount of property that had been accumulated over the last half century in the Asheville area. Today, Coxe’s substantial influence over Asheville’s early development may be most easily recognized by the downtown avenue named after him. However, due to the extensive influence Coxe had in the early cultivation of Asheville’s tourism industry — George Vanderbilt stayed at the Battery Park Hotel before he decided to finance the construction of the Biltmore Estate — it would be difficult to overestimate the influence (for better or worse depending on who you ask) that the Coxe family has had on Asheville’s history and therefore on what Asheville is today.  

Joey Harrington studies History and Jazz and Contemporary Music at UNC Asheville.

Sources:

Coxe, Frank. Interview by Bruce Greenawalt. June 9, 1976. Transcript. Southern Highlands Research Center Oral History Collection. Ramsey Library Special Collections. University of North Carolina at Asheville, Ashevile, NC.

Starnes, Richard. Creating the Land of Sky: Tourism and Society in Western North Carolina. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005