A cheer for our student workers!

Special Collections was fortunate to have three excellent students working with us this semester. History Department interns Elijah Reddick and Chandler Collins worked with us this semester, and History major Michael Dennis also worked with us. These three were remarkable, mastering the skills necessary to process challenging collections.

Chandler Collins, Elijah Reddick, and Michael Dennis (left to right) showing off favorite items from the collections they worked with.
Chandler Collins, Elijah Reddick, and Michael Dennis (left to right) showing off favorite items from the collections they worked with.

We asked Michael, Elijah, and Chandler to pose for this photo with a favorite item from the collection they worked on this semester. Chandler worked on a large collection from the Rotary Club of Asheville, which included numerous banners, flags, and other materials collected from Rotary Clubs around the world. He selected a boomerang from an Australian Rotary Club.

Elijah processed the David Cohen Cartoon Collection, and he selected a cartoon with a visual pun, a drawing of a submarine with the caption “Sub Conscious.” Elijah wrote about his experiences as an intern in this blog.

Michael is working on the Margaret Shook Photograph Collection. Shook was a professional photographer in Asheville, and her collection contains a number of series of photos and slides on different topics, as well as some creative projects. Michael selected a photo showing the effects of Asheville’s urban renewal.

Congratulations to these excellent students, and best of luck to them! Elijah will be graduating in December while Michael and Chandler are completing their History degrees. Michael will be joining us again next semester when he will continue working on the Margaret Shook Photograph Collection. The finding aids for the Rotary Club of Asheville Collection and the David Cohen Cartoon Collection will be available early in 2023.

Thanks to all of you!

-Gene Hyde and Ashley Whittle

The David Cohen Cartoon Collection

(This post is by Elijah Reddick, a History intern who worked in Special Collections in the Fall 2022 semester. ) 

By Elijah Reddick

The Collection Itself

The majority of my internship in UNC Asheville’s Special Collections was spent working on the David Cohen Cartoon Collection which was donated to the archive in November 2021. I organized and described David Cohen’s collection of hand drawn cartoons on an item level description within a finding aid. This meant looking at each cartoon individually and describing it based on personal judgment and trying to convey what the cartoon is trying to display visually and contextually. The top priority while describing the collection was to keep in mind the audience for the finding aid and to remember that David Cohen himself still wanted to access his collection after the initial donation. This meant not only creating a finding aid more personal to David for ease of use but also creating a finding aid that would help guide future researchers in their own personal projects.

The Cohen Collection consists of sixteen boxes so far with a majority of the boxes holding folders up to fifteen folders with ten cartoons in each, with exception to a few folders which have more than ten cartoons in them due to us wanting to keep certain time periods in sequential order. The cartoons are all hand drawn on a variety of materials including cardstock and regular sheet paper, the cartoons are also largely in black and white with use of a marker and pencil. Some cartoons display work with color and small uses of inlay materials to display patterns on objects or backgrounds.

David Cohen: A Drawn-Out Mind

David Cohen is an Asheville based artist/musician and resident of over forty years. He primarily draws editorial cartoons and commissioned cartoons for various outlets and companies. His cartoon work spans various subjects ranging from local issues based in Asheville to more national political events and even to one off, word play oriented jokes. His work has been recognized by media outlets such as USA today and his work is very well known in the local Asheville area. David Cohen has been drawing cartoons for the Asheville Citizen-Times Newspaper for seventeen years and also contributed cartoons the Greenline Express a predecessor to the Mountain Xpress.

I had the amazing opportunity to interview with David Cohen during my internship and asked him questions about what motivates him to draw cartoons and specifically about why he chooses the subjects he does. He told me so many things about Asheville, and as someone relatively new to the area is wildly intriguing, such as the Bele Chere festival and its hectic but also tourist-attracting atmosphere David parodies in a number of his cartoons. We also talked about the presence of religion in his cartoons and how often David pokes fun or finds pleasure in investigating the more controversial sides of certain faiths. David draws cartoons about a number of sensitive topics but he does so in a way that draws attention to the matter and provides enough context within the cartoon that it provides the viewer with a curiosity to go and investigate that topic more.

David Cohen also conducted a TED Talk in Asheville some years ago about his career. Link to Ted Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6avE5i5QIgA

National Politics and The Meaning of an Editorial Cartoonist

David Cohen’s cartoons touch on many topics both national and local in nature. There are even times where David goes into international news, whether that be talking about a foreign regime or national disaster, David Cohen has incredibly varied subject matter. National politics and specifically an interest in our three branches of government in the U.S. is where we see a vast majority of the cartoons in our collection residing, especially in the early to mid 2000’s. The political cartoons touch on gay marriage, religion in government, and the short comings of specific politicians. Since David Cohen is an editorial cartoonist these depictions of politicians and other public figures are done so in a caricatured manner with exaggerated features.

Cartoon showing Barack Obama and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Cartoon showing Barack Obama and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Cartoon showing masters or gods of major religions playing golf
Cartoon showing masters or gods of major religions playing golf

If you look earlier in our collection of David Cohen cartoons you will see a leaning away from such political cartoons and start to see a less politicized humor being created. Many of the cartoons pre-2000 are one off jokes or secular in topic, with many of the cartoons involving wordplay, historical references, or puns.

Cartoon showing a man walk into a bar in a doorway
Cartoon showing a man walk into a bar in a doorway
Cartoon depicting John McCain and highlighting his perspective on the infamously known policy concerning the sexual orientation of U.S. service members known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”
Cartoon depicting John McCain and highlighting his perspective on the infamously known policy concerning the sexual orientation of U.S. service members known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”
Cartoon depicting Barack Obama and criticizing his ability to handle the middle east summit on his own and without exterior guidance.
Cartoon depicting Barack Obama and criticizing his ability to handle the middle east summit on his own and without exterior guidance.

David’s Contribution to Asheville Through His Work

Perhaps the most influential and impactful part of the David Cohen collection are his cartoons that depict events and stories told within the local area of Asheville, NC. David covers topics specific to Asheville or topics that public opinion highlights such as houselessness, tourism, changing demographics, and local politicians. David Cohen’s local cartoons provide a  local sphere of relatability and culture to long standing residents of Asheville, NC which is vital in a town that relies so much on exterior tourism and influence. David Cohen’s vast timespan of collected cartoons also archive and document Asheville’s local history in of itself, enabling a person who decides to look through the collection to see a timeline of important events, figures, and even public policies that have shaped Asheville into the city we see today.

Cartoon depicting two stereotypical groups of demographics seen within Asheville and how they interact with one another
Cartoon depicting two stereotypical groups of demographics seen within Asheville and how they interact with one another
Cartoon depicting a cop and a houseless man in Asheville, NC relating over the housing crisis
Cartoon depicting a cop and a houseless man in Asheville, NC relating over the housing crisis
Cartoon depicting former Asheville, NC mayor Terry Bellamy and her struggles with equal rights legislation within the city
Cartoon depicting former Asheville, NC mayor Terry Bellamy and her struggles with equal rights legislation within the city
Cartoon depicting former member of Asheville City Council Cecil Bothwell and a critique towards his political career
Cartoon depicting former member of Asheville City Council Cecil Bothwell and a critique towards his political career
Cartoon depicting a dissatisfied local dealing with tourist and photographers who often migrate to Asheville, NC for the natural scenery
Cartoon depicting a dissatisfied local dealing with tourist and photographers who often migrate to Asheville, NC for the natural scenery

What This Internship Has Meant to Me

My internship at UNCA Special Collections and the experience it has given me has grown so many of my professional skills while also changing how I think about archives. It has given me more than what I expected in terms of hands-on experience, collaborative efforts, and concepts around handling and describing a collection. It has provided me with challenges that confronted my writing skills, personal bias, and even morals when it came to what we put within a finding aid about the subject at hand; whether it be about word choice or censoring a topic for the potentially offensive nature of it. This is not to say that there was an active effort to censure the collection but it is to say that what you put in a finding aid and what you see in person can be different in order to maintain professionalism and a sense of academic sustainability within a setting such as Special Collections. This internship and specifically this collection taught me eventually to not describe the humor within a cartoon but to describe the significance of the cartoon, what does the cartoon give us in respect to its context, setting/environment, and even characters? Through David Cohen’s incredible storytelling skill and illustration along with the mentors I have been lucky to work with at the UNCA Special Collections Department I realized just how much individual local figures mean to a community like Asheville. Both in terms of creating and archiving works of historical value, it’s figures like these that maintain a culture of a place so multi-dimensional such as the one we reside in today.


All cartoons are from the David Cohen Collection, D.H Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville.

(Note: The finding aid for the David Cohen Cartoon Collection will be online in early 2023. )


Join us for “Tourism in Appalachia: A Public Presentation Highlighting Collections and Research on the Tourism Industry and Its Impact on the Appalachian Region”

Tourism in Appalachia: A Public Presentation Highlighting Collections and Research on the Tourism Industry and Its Impact on the Appalachian Region – April 27th 2022 1:30-3:00pm

Please join us and our colleagues at Appalachian State University and Western Carolina for the following presentation:

Appalachian State University, UNC Asheville, and Western Carolina University Libraries are sponsoring an online event to showcase recent digital projects from each institution on the theme of tourism in Appalachia on April 27th 2022 1:30-3:00pm. Keynote speaker, Dr. Andy Denson, author of Monuments to Absence: Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017) and Associate Professor of History at Western Carolina University, will discuss the roles played by Cherokee sites of memory and images of Native American history in the evolution of tourism cultures in Southern Appalachia. Representatives from each library will discuss the following collections:

  • Gene Hyde, Head  of Special Collections and University Archivist at UNC Asheville, will explore the legacy of early 20th century resort tourism featuring materials primarily from the Ora Rives Collection, the Frank Coxe Papers, the Fred Loring Seely Papers, and the E. W. Grove papers.
  • Appalachian State University’s Pam Mitchem, Coordinator of Digital Scholarship and Initiatives; Ashlea Green, Metadata Librarian; and Dea Rice, Digital Projects Librarian, will talk about their exhibit featuring the Kelly E. Bennett Papers , which document the establishment of and connection between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Historical Association.
  • Liz Harper, Special and Digital Collections Librarian, will highlight three digital collections from Western Carolina University focusing on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, scenic images from their Picturing Appalachia collection, and the collection Cherokee Traditions, which documents Cherokee craft and language traditions.

Click here to register.

Contact: Pam Mitchem, Coordinator of Digital Scholarship & Initiatives, Appalachian State University Libraries, (828) 262-7422, pricemtchemp@appstate.edu

This project is funded by the Martha and Nancy Lee Bivens University Library Fund for Excellence

Celebrating Asheville educator Lucy Saunders Herring

Lucy Herring, Teacher and Principal
Lucy Herring, Teacher and Principal

120 years ago this Saturday, Lucy Saunders (Herring) was born in Union, South Carolina, on October 24, 1900. A pioneering African American educator, she worked as a teacher, reading specialist, and as an educational and community leader from 1916 until 1968. Her work helped transform African American education in North Carolina, especially in Western North Carolina (Krause, p. 188). Her archival legacy includes the Lucy Herring Collection, her memoir Strangers No More: memoirs by Lucy S. Herring, and the Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, all held in Special Collections at UNC Asheville. Transcriptions of oral histories with Lucy Herring have recently been added to the Special Collections website: July 26, 1977, August 2, 1977 (tape 1), and August 2, 1977 (tape 2)

Saunders’ family moved to Asheville for her brother’s health in 1914. Two years later, when she was 16, Saunders  was teaching at the Lower Swannanoa Colored School.  A one-room schoolhouse with unpainted walls, a pot-bellied stove, and homemade desks, Lower Swannanoa was one of twelve “colored” schools in Buncombe County at the time. Saunders’ supervisor was John Henry Michael, who was not only the principal of Hill Elementary School, but also the Jeanes Fund supervisor of “Colored Schools” for the county. It was these two factors – the mentorship of John Henry Michael and the Jeanes Fund – that would shape Saunders’ early career as an educator. 

Asheville State Summer School, Caning Chair Seats
Asheville State Summer School, Caning Chair Seats — J.H. Michael, Founder and Director, 1917-1938; Front Row: (left to right) Janet Kebe, Ethel Foster, Nettie Candler, Winifred Allen, Gertie Mance, Lucile Shepard, Back Row: J.H. Michael, Unidentified, Creola Bernette, Mamie Bell, Hattis Anderson, C.U. Reynolds, Blanche Graham, Unidentified, Unidentified, Hattie Love

Michael conducted the state-accredited Asheville Summer School for Negro Teachers which provided African American teachers with the opportunity to earn and upgrade their teaching certificates, as well as earn credit toward undergraduate college degrees. An experienced educator, Michael was impressed with Saunders’ classroom skills and in 1920 offered her a job teaching third and fifth grades at Hill Street Elementary School in Asheville. Saunders’ talents caught the notice of Annie Wealthy Holland, the North Carolina superintendent of Negro school, and in 1923 Saunders was appointed as a Jeanes Fund supervisor in Harnett County, in the central part of North Carolina. 

Asheville State Summer School, 1930
Asheville State Summer School, 1930 – J.H. Michael, Founder and Director. Conducted at the Hill Street Elementary School

The Anna T. Jeanes Foundation, also known as the Negro Rural School Fund, or Jeanes Fund, was established by a Pennsylvania Quaker specifically to help maintain and assist rural and country schools for “Southern Negroes.” Originally started with a donation to the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes in 2005 to assist black schools, by 1909 there were 65 Jeanes supervisors working in 10 states.  

When Saunders arrived in Harnett County in 1924, her duties as a Jeanes supervisor were, broadly speaking, to improve education in the county’s black schools, which manifested itself in many ways. She visited all the black schools in the county on a regular basis, encouraged local teachers to teach such topics as sanitation, basic homemaking and light industrial skills. She also encouraged teachers to paint and whitewash houses, develop home and school gardens, as well as other tasks based on the Hampton/Tuskegee model of industrial education and homemaking (Krause, p. 198). 

Saunders thrived as a Jeanes supervisor in Harnett County. In the 1920s many black teachers had substandard or provisional teaching certificates. To address this Saunders instituted training programs and extension classes drawing on faculty from nearby Fayetteville State Teachers’ College. Her efforts were part of a larger effort in North Carolina in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1926, only 33% (or 1,917 teachers) of North Carolina’s black teachers had high school educations. By 1928-29 that had dropped to 20%, and a decade later it was down to just 175 teachers. Her role in Harnett County was, essentially, as a county supervisor to the African American schools, raising funds, supervising schools, recruiting and hiring teachers, organizing training, and helping teachers improve their classroom teaching, as well as other administrative tasks. 

Saunders also met Asa Herring while working in Harnett County, marrying him in 1925 and giving birth to their son, Asa Jr., in October 1926. Lucy Saunders Herring continued to work in Harnett County until 1935. By that time her marriage had failed, so she moved back to Asheville as a single mother, taking a job teaching English and mathematics at Stephens-Lee High School. Herring would continue working as a Jeanes supervisor in Buncombe County, taking a part-time position as Jeanes supervisor for the elementary schools.

Stephens-Lee High School
Stephens-Lee High School

For Herring, moving to Asheville meant leaving the flat North Carolina coastal plain of Harnett County and returning to the mountains. As she said in an oral history in 1977,  “I thought and still think from the standpoint of physical beauty, Asheville is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen…There is something about the mountains that is satisfying and soothing” (Herring, July 1977 oral history). 

By the time Herring arrived back in Asheville, the duties of Jeanes supervisors had expanded to also include improving “the quality of instruction,” to conduct meetings on reading and study, to guide field work and extension courses, to help implement standards, to encourage summer schools, libraries, and conferences, and to engage the community. As a Jeanes supervisor Herring became an active leader in Asheville, working with parent-teacher groups and community organizations and raising funds to buy additional books and other materials for schools. 

In 1941 Herring was named principal of Mountain Street Elementary School, and by the late 1940s she became the first African American on the Asheville school and supervisory staff to have an office in city hall. At this time she began graduate work at the University of Chicago, traveling there over the summer for three years. She worked with Dr. William Scott Gray, the leading expert on remedial reading who had developed the “Dick and Jane” reading. Remedial reading was one of Herring’s passions, and based on her work with Gray she developed her own reading programs for teachers, supervisors, librarians, and principals. She was seen as an expert on remedial reading in North Carolina, and was invited to teach summer sessions at the North Carolina College for Negroes (now NC Central University) in Durham. 

Letter inviting Lucy Herring to teach a Remedial Reading clinic at NC College for Negroes, 1944
Letter inviting Lucy Herring to teach a Remedial Reading clinic at NC College for Negroes, 1944. From the Lucy S. Herring Collection

In 1949, the state allowed Asheville to “employ one colored supervisor” in the school system, and Lucy Herring was appointed as the supervisor for the African American city schools in Asheville, a position she held until her retirement in 1964. Herring was also offered a similar position in Winston-Salem but chose to stay in Asheville. During this time she was also president of the North Carolina branch of the National Association of Jeanes Supervisors. She was gaining a national reputation as an effective reading educator and supervisor, and was offered a job at the Tuskegee Institute, which she declined. 

Letter from Asheville City Schools offering Lucy Herring a supervisor position in the city schools, July 1949.
Letter from Asheville City Schools offering Lucy Herring a supervisor position in the city schools, July 1949. From the Lucy S. Herring Collection
Job offer from Tuskegee Institute, March 1960. Lucy Herring did not accept the position, preferring to stay in Asheville and work with elementary school students.
Job offer from Tuskegee Institute, March 1960. Lucy Herring did not accept the position, preferring to stay in Asheville and work with elementary school students. From the Lucy S. Herring Collection

Asheville honored Herring in 1961 when the Asheville City Board of Education unanimously voted to name a new school after Herring – the Lucy S. Herring Elementary School, which operated from 1961-67 when it was then closed as part of court-ordered integration. 

From the Asheville Citizen-Times, March 18, 1962.
From the Asheville Citizen-Times, March 18, 1962. From the Lucy S. Herring Collection

Herring retired from the Asheville City Schools in 1964, having spent a career exclusively teaching in segregated schools. She remained extremely active in the community after retirement, serving on numerous boards and working to collect materials that document the Heritage of Black Highlanders in Western North Carolina. The materials she and others gathered constituted the Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection at UNC Asheville. 

In 1968, Herring moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to live with her son Asa’s family. Her son, Lieutenant Colonel Asa D. Herring, Jr. was a fighter pilot and wing officer in the Air Force, and served in Vietnam when Lucy Herring was living in Phoenix. He started his career training as a Tuskegee Airman in 1944, but World War II ended before his training was completed. He left the military in 1946, but reenlisted in 1949 after President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 ending racial segregation in the military. Asa Herring Jr. became a fighter pilot and officer and flew 350 combat missions in Vietnam. The Library of Congress has created an Asa D. Herring, Jr. Collection and oral history with Lt. Col. Herring as part of its Veterans History Project.

Asa D. Herring, United States Air Force
Asa D. Herring, United States Air Force

Lucy Herring published her memoir, Strangers No More: memoirs by Lucy S. Herring, in 1983.  She lived the rest of her life in Arizona, and passed away  in Phoenix in October, 1995, a few days before her 95th birthday. 


Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804. Digitized by Digital NC. 

Herring, Lucy S. Strangers No More: memoirs by Lucy S. Herring. New York: Carlton Press, 1983.

Herring, Lucy S. Interviews with Louis Silveri. 1977. Transcripts. Southern Highlands Research Center Oral History Collection. D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804.

Krause, Bonnie J.,“‘We Did Move Mountains!’ Lucy Saunders Herring, North Carolina Jeanes Supervisor and African American Educator, 1916-1968,” The North Carolina Historical Review 80, no.2 (April 2003): 188-212.

Lucy S. Herring Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804.


Women at the Forefront: The American Association of University Women

“We are living through one of those rare moments in history when profound changes are being made in our social and economic order… University women should be the leaders in reviewing old laws and testing them… We should be familiar with proposed laws and assist our community in understanding their full significance.”

Legislative Chairman, Miss Harriet Elliott, September 25, 1935
Delegates at the International Fellowship of University Women in Toronto Canada, August 13, 1947; American Association of University Women, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

On November 28, 1881, with light snow falling in the chill air, 17 college graduates from eight colleges met in Boston to discuss the need for an organization related to higher education. At this point in history a plethora of college groups and societies related to higher education existed- the honor society Phi Theta Kappa was founded more than a century prior to when this meeting occurred. So why the need for another college organization? What was so interesting about this particular group of people who were meeting to discuss it?

They were all women.

The group was led by Marion Talbot and Ellen Richards, and their goal was to increase higher education opportunities for women through the formation of an organization devoted to women scholars. They would name their organization The Association of Collegiate Alumnae. By January 14, 1882, the organization was formally established and they would release their first research report establishing that women’s health was not adversely affected by attending college- a rather novel idea at the time.

Pamphlet from the Toronto Delegation, American Association of University Women, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

The Association of Collegiate Alumnae would go on to release several additional reports- a gender-based salary study in 1907, followed by a report presenting evidence that women during this time period were paid 78 percent of what men similarly employed were earning. By 1921 the Association moved into its new headquarters in Washington D.C., a mere two blocks from the White House, and continued to remain active in current events affecting women.

Later that same year, the Southern Association of College Women formally merged with the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, creating the American Association of University Women, or the AAUW. Today the AAUW is a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose members promote equity for women and girls through education, research, and advocacy. The AAUW comprises over 170,000 members, with over 1,000 local branches and 800 participating college and university members.

Closer to home, the Asheville Branch of the American Association of University Women has a similar and equally storied history. Founded in 1915 by sixteen female college graduates, this branch of the AAUW is the fourth oldest branch in North Carolina. These women organized the Western North Carolina Branch of the Southern Association of College Women, which merged with the AAUW in 1921.

North Carolina Bulletin, American Association of University Women, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

The North Carolina Branch of the AAUW tackled community projects from the outset, including assisting with the Salvation Army and visiting patients in local sanitariums. Women’s education remained at the forefront though, and members established night schools and helped set up the public library. The membership rolls of this local branch of the AAUW contains an abundance of Asheville women who were instrumental in making significant inroads for women and girls in Western North Carolina.

Achievement List, American Association of University Women, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

Indeed, the Asheville AAUW’s History in the area showcases various projects through the decades, from helping set up a juvenile court system to aiding refugees of World War II with their Refugee Shop. The Shop netted over $20,000 in its first year and was so successful that it continued to operate for thirty more years. The Refugee Shop did not go unnoticed on a national level either- the Asheville Branch of the AAUW received the US Treasury Award for the Shop in 1943.

The AAUW Chapter of North Carolina boasts many impressive achievements throughout it’s history, including their Women in History project, which provided local elementary schools’ fifth grade classes with a viewpoint of History from a woman’s perspective. In 2002, the branch inaugurated their GEM Fund- Gaining Educational Momentum, a 501 (c)3 non-profit endowment for local scholarships for women whose education was interrupted or postponed. They have awarded over $160,000 in scholarships to date, in order to help women achieve their educational, employment, and research goals.

GEM Brochure, American Association of University Women, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

The Asheville Chapter of the AAUW continues to grow and maintain their ongoing commitment to AAUW’s mission. Here at UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library Special Collections, we are honored to hold their archives and consider their collection an instrumental addition to part of our mission of documenting and preserving the significant achievements women have made in Buncombe County and Western North Carolina.

Certificate of Achievement, American Association of University Women, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

Today marks UNC Asheville’s Fall 2019 Commencement for its winter graduates, and it is collections like the American Association of University Women which remind us that education is, and should remain, a pathway to a brighter future for all that wish to seek it.

On that note, we would like to wish our graduates “Good Luck!” today and always, as well as a very Happy Holiday to all of you from Special Collections! We will see you all in the New Year!


American Association of University Women, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.



www.newspapers.com, The Boston Globe

Exhibit on RiverLink: Asheville-Based Activism in the French Broad Watershed

The month of October is considered Archives Month across the nation and the theme for the upcoming year is Activism and Social Justice in North Carolina. The purpose of Archives month is to raise awareness in the Archives and what better way to do so than to spotlight Archival collections that illustrate a passion for local activism. Our Special Collections and Archives staff are members of the Society of American Archivists, as well as the Society of North Carolina Archivists, and we are excited to participate in Archives month as well.

Beginning stages of the RiverLink Exhibit in UNC Asheville’s Special Collections Reading Room for Archives month.

On that note, UNC Asheville’s Special Collections received a collection from RiverLink in 2017, and in 2018 the collection was processed by both staff members and interns. The collection has an online finding aid and is available for researchers to use. Special Collections will also be receiving additional material from RiverLink, which we will add to the collection soon. And since it is Archives month and this collection is an excellent example of a local activism group, let’s take a closer look at RiverLink and the new exhibit we just installed regarding their collection.

RiverLink Exhibit layout.

RiverLink is an organization in Asheville that for more than three decades has protected the French Broad River and its watershed. The non-profit environmental group was formed in 1987 by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and thru the vision of Karen Cragnolin, who remained RiverLink’s director for 30 years. RiverLink’s history, based on the ties the Asheville area has had with the French Broad for thousands of years, is a rich story of community activism.

Tools of the trade- the Archival trade.

RiverLink’s primary goal is to provide permanent access to the river for the public and to educate individuals and groups on the importance of the river and its watershed. Since its inception, RiverLink has successfully promoted the environmental and economic vitality of the river through a variety of initiatives, including community-based projects such as the development of Greenways and Blueways, riverbank restorations, and watershed plans.

The big reveal!

Education of the public remains a core component of RiverLink’s program. The various educational programs they lead, including the French Broad RiverCamp and Voices of the River: Art and Poetry Contests, focus on hands-on learning in order to empower the next generation of youth to protect the French Broad. RiverLink also partners with various other groups in order to create a collaborative of educational opportunities, including groups such as the North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville GreenWorks, and in the past, groups such as the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition.

RiverLink’s important connection to the French Broad.

Another of RiverLink’s fundamental values is promoting clean water. In order to advance this project, they have adopted the practice of a “riverkeeper.” RiverKeepers were long employed in the British Isles and in the late 1990s, RiverLink added a fifth RiverKeeper to their program, specifically covering the French Broad River. This position was created in order to safeguard the French Broad and to act as a public advocate for clean water throughout the 5,000 mile watershed.

RiverLink Exhibit centerpiece- who is this environmental activist group? Come find out more!

At UNC Asheville’s Special Collections, one of our core drivers is documenting the diverse culture and history of Asheville and Western North Carolina. Some of our strongest collections which help to tell this story are those with ties directly to the land. In recent years, our mission has expanded in order to encompass those collections which are of interest to our undergraduate researchers, scholars, and general users- including those collections with strong environmental ties to our beloved mountain region. RiverLink’s collection is a vibrant example of the history of environmental activism in this area, and we invite you to come take a closer look at both the exhibit and the collection itself!

RiverLink Exhibit on display directly outside of Special Collections. Come and take a closer look!


RiverLink Papers, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

Western North Carolina’s Sanatoria History: A Closer Look at the Fred Kahn Postcard Collection

On September 27, 1919, 100 years ago today, The Asheville Citizen ran an ad on page 10 which read:


Dunnwhyce Sanatorium, Black Mountain, N.C., reopened under new management, can accomodate ten more convalescents; ideal location; modern and complete.

Sanatoria had become a health craze by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Asheville had become a mecca for those suffering from tuberculosis. The climate, which was the basis of treatment in these sanitoria, was considered ideal in Western North Carolina. Indeed, for those studying climatotheraphy, Asheville was considered one of the top climates in the treatment of various lung diseases.

Veranda View, Highland Hospital, Asheville, from the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

People had long believed, from the low-country elite to the Cherokee Indians, that Asheville fell within the realm of a health resort and by the 1890s, the city and surrounding areas were firmly entrenched in the building explosion of sanitoria. The largest of which was St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Fairview Sanatorium.

An airplane view of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Asheville, NC, from the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

The Asheville Citizen ad mentioning “Dunnwhyce,” was actually referencing the sanatorium in Black Mountain, Dunnwyche, a sanitorium for consumptive nurses. During this time period, it was quite common for nurses caring for tuberculosis to contract the disease themselves, and most were single women with limited means for their own healthcare.

During the 1911 annual meeting of the North Carolina State Nurses Association (the professional nursing organization for white nurses in the state), two nurses came forward with the idea of a sanatorium for sick and disabled nurses. Supported by the NCSNA, it would be a place nurses could find care and respite. A site was found in Buncombe County, near present-day Black Mountain, and the new institution was named Dunnwyche, in honor of the two women who first championed the idea, Birdie Dunn and Mary Whyche.

Dunnwyche thrived until 1919, when World War I made it necessary for the US Army to build a 1,500 bed sanatorium at nearby Oteen to care for soldiers with lung ailments related to poison gases used as weapons on the battlefield. The Army’s pay scale was higher than Dunnwyche, effectively removing the majority of those caring for their fellow nurses and patients, and leading to the declining maintenance and financial instability of the sanatorium. The building was sold and the proceeds invested in Liberty Bonds, although the interest was then used to help those nurses who had acquired the disease with finding care and money for treatment costs.

Night-time scene US Veterans’ Administration Facility, Oteen, NC, near Asheville, from the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

The sanatoria movement in Western North Carolina would go on to become yet another pillar that firmly established Asheville as both a health resort and tourist destination across the globe. Today though, all that remains of much of the history of the sanatoria of this area are simply a memory.

Meriwether Hospital, Asheville, NC, from the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

However, at UNC Asheville Special Collections, we are the repository for the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection. Housed within this postcard collection is a magnificent binder which includes 108 postcards of several of the sanatoria in Asheville and Western North Carolina. Fortunately, through vibrant collections such as the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection, the legacy that helped shape Asheville into the renowned destination it has become today will remain alive and well for future generations.

Wesnoca, Asheville, NC “In the Land of the Sky,” from the Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.


Buncombe County, North Carolina Nursing History, Appalachian State University, accessed: https://nursinghistory.appstate.edu/counties/buncombe-county

Fred Kahn Asheville Postcard Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, 28804.

“Sanatorium: Dunnwhyce.” The Asheville Citizen, September 27, 1919.

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


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.

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.


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.