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May 26th, 2011:

Library Closing: Memorial Day

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The Government and Heritage Library (including Genealogical Services) will be closed Saturday, May 28th  and Monday, May 30th in observance of Memorial Day.

We will reopen for regular business hours on Tuesday, May 31st,8:30 am – 5:00 pm.

The first State Fair Premium List, part 2

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In my last post, I gave you a description of what exactly a “premium list” is and started looking at the very first published premium list from the 1853 North Carolina State Fair. There are a lot of similarities between the competitions held then and those held now – you can still win money for a prize sow or a gigantic turnip.  But there are also some things I found in that first list that made me scratch my head a bit.

A rockaway. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Rockaway: Turns out a “rockaway” is a sort of open air and very lightweight carriage, that looks to me about as substantial as a matchbox on four large wheels. Encyclopaedia Britannica claims the carriage was named after Rockaway, New Jersey, where it was introduced.

Fanning mill: “Fanning mills removed straw, chaff, stones, dirt and dust, weed seeds, and light immature seeds from wheat, oats, rye, barley, and other grains. It was important to remove contaminants for better preservation during storage, to have mold and grit free flour, and for securing viable seed free of weed seeds that would compete with a growing cereal crop.” [1]

“Homemade negro shirting:” References to “negro shirting,” usually with the adjective “coarse” before it, can be found in different narratives and papers from this time period.  It seems to have been a very cheap and coarse form of cotton cloth, given to slaves for their clothes. I also found it referred to as osnaburg or oznaburg, sometimes singular and sometimes plural.

"Eight-year old Jack driving horse rake." Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Horse rake: I’ve actually seen these, now that I know what they are, rusting in old fields or sitting in flower beds.  Horse rakes were used to clean up hay left in the fields after the winnowing had taken place.  “Where a horse-rake is kept it is useful in saving a good deal of trouble, by entirely dispensing with the raking done by the field-workers in following the men with the [winnowing] forks. … After the grass has been winnowed, or while a part of the hay is in the act of being so, the horse-rake cleans the ground over the four ridges intervening between the ones containing the winrows.”[2]

Worsted work: Textile production has played an important role in North Carolina’s manufacturing history.  The Fair has given embroiderers an opportunity to showcase their decorative needlework, like “worsted work,” which refers to using worsted wool to sew designs on cloth. Wool yarn that is “worsted” can refer to the way it’s manufactured,  using long pieces of fiber to make the wool feel smoother. [3, 4]

Interestingly enough, you can still find or buy all of these items, whether at a local fabric store or through the magic of the Internet. In my next post, I’ll take a look at the list of awards from the first North Carolina State Fair to see who actually won some of the premiums.

[1] Palmer, Richard. 2003. “Remember the Old Fanning Mill?” The Crooked Lake Review.

[2] The Farmer’s Guide to Scientific and Practical Agriculture, Volume 2, p. 238.

[3] “Redefining Berlin Work in America.” The Decorative Arts Trust.

[4] “Needlework – Worsted.” Bethlehem Digital History Project.

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