items of great historic value are preserved and protected in the Special Collections Division of Joyner Library. These rare items document important aspects of American history and culture. Many other items in Special Collections, while not as important historically and culturally as, say, a 400-year-old map of the New World, still are noteworthy.
The surprising thing is that these historic and not-so-historic items are available for public inspection, and many people do just that. In a typical year, about 1,100 people visit Special Collections for research or just out of curiosity; another 1,000 call or telephone for information. Special Collections has a big web following, with online visitors viewing 54,000 pages of material last year. Curators and archivists with Special Collections, which occupies space in the top floors of the library, were asked to identify items that seem to be the favorites of these visitors. Below is their Top 10 list:
10. The Strange Death
Marilyn Monroe, 1967
J. Edgar Hoover Collection
Written by Frank A. Capell, The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe
explored the mystery surrounding one the most famous actresses of all time. In it, Capell presents information including an autopsy report, claims against the Monroe estate, and rumors of romantic involvement with Robert Kennedy.
Though widely criticized, Capell’s work influenced many conspiracy theorists and Monroe fans to question the details surrounding Monroe’s death. Capell’s work joins a wealth of literature on communism that makes up Joyner Library’s J. Edgar Hoover Collection on International Communism. Donated by Kinston dentist J.C. Peele, the collection features material related to the pro-communist and anti-communist factions.
9. WW II propaganda poster, 1940-1945 →
Robert L. Ghormley Papers (#1153)
A 1906 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Robert Ghormley served in the military for 40 years. In 1940, he was appointed by President Roosevelt as the Special Naval Observer to the American Embassy in London. While there, he helped to formulate the combined Allied strategy that successfully resisted the German Blitz.
In 1942, FDR selected Ghormley to command all U.S. forces in the South Pacific until he was replaced by Admiral William “Bull” Halsey. Ghormley continued to serve with distinction until his retirement. His papers contain correspondence, logs, reports and a collection of British propaganda posters. The posters were distributed throughout Britain to emphasize the importance of protecting state secrets and were collected by Ghormley during his time in London.
8. Richard Eberhart Letter,
Oct. 15, 1927
Stuart Wright Collection (#1169)
Written upon Eberhart’s arrival in England, this letter describes the poet’s early experiences of student life at Cambridge. Eberhart began to express himself through poetry after the death of his mother from cancer in 1921. After Cambridge, Eberhart served as a tutor for the son of King Prajadhipok of Siam (now Thailand). He published his first book of poetry, A Bravery of Earth
, in 1930.
Eberhart’s life experiences are reflected in his works, with many of his poems featuring his journeys as a ship’s hand, teacher and member of the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II. His support of Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation was instrumental in drawing attention to an emerging subculture in America. Eberhart enjoyed a long life filled with accolade and praise before dying in 2005 at the age of 101. Other noted authors in the Stuart Wright collection include Randall Jarrell, Katherine Anne Porter, Robert Penn Warren and Eudora Welty. The collection comes from noted literary agent Stuart Wright, who collected items from authors over the course of his lifetime.
7. Babe Ruth hunting photos, 1920s →
Fred I. Sutton Papers (#706)
An avid outdoorsman, Babe Ruth enjoyed visiting eastern North Carolina’s fields and streams during baseball’s off-season and was a frequent visitor to the Camp Bryan Hunting and Fishing Club in Craven County. This photo is one of many featuring Ruth from the collection of Fred I. Sutton, former Kinston mayor and state senator.
6. Wright Brothers Flight Photograph, 1911
Alpheus W. Drinkwater Collection (#805)
North Carolina license plates proudly tout the state as First in Flight because Orville and Wilbur Wright first soared into the skies while working on their invention on the Outer Banks.
Among those who witnessed the achievement, Associated Press correspondent and weatherman Alpheus Drinkwater brought worldwide attention to the Wrights after reporting on their initial flights in 1903. In 1911, Orville Wright set a gliding record of 9 minutes 45 seconds with Drinkwater again in the area to record the event.
5. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1st Edition, 1st Impression,
dated March 20, 1852,
Rare Book Collection
The greatest-selling novel of the 19th century, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is credited with swelling the ranks of the abolitionist movement during the 1850s. Stowe, a teacher in Connecticut, first published the story in the National Era, an abolitionist periodical. Over the course of its 40 installments, the story of Tom’s experiences with slavery and religion captivated readers. Owing to popular demand, the publishing house of John P. Jewett convinced Stowe to transform the story into a book complete with illustrations.
4. Davy Crocket letter,
May 26, 1829
John Heritage Bryan Papers (#147)
Davy Crockett’s renown as the “King of the Wild Frontier” influenced generations of young boys to demand coonskin hats as tribute to their idol. While a U.S. congressman serving eastern Tennessee, Crockett wrote to fellow Congressman John H. Bryan of New Bern. Crockett hoped Bryan would agree to let two men lease property with the promise to improve the land. In the letter’s postscript, Crockett expresses confidence in his chance to win an upcoming campaign, though his opposition to Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act contributed to his defeat in 1830.
North Carolina Maps Collection (#17)
3. Moseley Map, 1733 →
Discovered in an Edenton attic in 1984 by Don Lennon, the William Moseley map is one of three known copies to still exist and is the only known copy left in America.
Now prominently displayed on the north wall of the Search Room, the Moseley Map identifies settlements, waterways, natural resources and soil conditions as they existed in colonial era North Carolina.
Map insets provide detailed information on the area’s important ports, including Port Brunswick (Wilmington area), Port Beaufort (Topsail Inlet), and directions for navigating the Ocacock (Ocracoke) Inlet.
2. The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoueries of the English nation, made by Sea or over Land, to the most remote and farthest distant Quarters of the earth at any time within the compassee of these 1500 yeeres, 1589
Rare Book Collection
A noted chaplain, ambassador and author, Richard Hakluyt helped spark England’s interest in colonization with this important book. His first book, Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America
, in 1582, attracted the attention of Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh and Hakluyt persuaded Queen Elizabeth I to explore colonization efforts, leading to the eventual founding of the Roanoke and Jamestown colonies. In Principal Navigations
, Hakluyt compiled first- and second-hand accounts of explorations to the New World.
A second, similarly titled compilation, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation
, followed in 1598, which included information from the Medieval period and the decade following the publication of Principall Navigations
1. Lost Colony Signet Ring, 1585? →
Croatan Archaeological Site Collection (#1061)
In 1998, East Carolina archaeology professor David S. Phelps uncovered a 10-carat signet ring with an insignia of a prancing lion during an archaeological excavation near present day Buxton.
Such rings often were used to seal a letter by embossing an emblem on drops of hot wax. Two of the colonists were members of the Kendall family, whose family crest was a prancing lion, leading authorities to conclude the ring was a Lost Colony relic.
The mysterious disappearance of the colonists has become one of the greatest mysteries in North Carolina history.
Editor’s note: The writer is an archives specialist at Joyner Library. You can view these images and many more at the Special Collections website.