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February, 2012:

U.S.S. Monitor

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Watercolor of the USS Monitor by Oscar Parkes

Watercolor of the USS Monitor by Oscar Parkes

Naval resources at the start of the Civil War could be considered neglected in the North and undeveloped in the South. Naval upkeep had not been a national priority since the War of 1812, and the Civil War began with the Union sporting a relatively lackluster fleet.  Once southern states began seceding, they had to either capture vessels from the North or commandeer commercial ships; they didn’t have the infrastructure, capital or time to build a robust naval force.  Still, the South did pose a significant threat, and the North responded with plans to build.

In 1861, the Union’s “Ironclad Board” asked for proposals for ironclad warships. A Swedish-American engineer named John Ericsson submitted plans for a “radical” steam turreted sub-aquatic ship, which the board hesitantly agreed to build only after persuasion from President Lincoln and other naval officials. In the interest of speed, Ericsson farmed out work on the ship to multiple contractors. In January 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor* launched.

Despite mechanical difficulties due in part to foul weather, the Monitor truly entered the fleet on March 9, 1862 at Hampton Roads, Virginia, by engaging the C.S.S. Virginia in the course of protecting a stranded Union ship, the Minnesota. The Monitor remained at Norfolk and Hampton Roads through October, when it was finally spared for much needed repairs.  In December, as she was being towed toward her next engagement at Charleston, South Carolina the Monitor was caught in a large storm off the North Carolina coast. After taking on more water than she could manage, she sunk 25 miles south of Cape Hatteras. It was December 31, 1862.

The Monitor’s exact location was unknown until August 27, 1973, when the wreck was discovered. Scientists, after positively identifying the wreck, followed up with several investigative projects in 1974, 1976, 1977 and 1979. Investigating the remains of the U.S.S. Monitor, a final report on 1979 site testing in the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary describes these efforts, from video documentation, to on-site excavation and other types of data collection. We now have that digitized report in our digital collections, and it’s replete with drawings of artifacts, explanations of the methods used for reconnaissance, and photographs of the underwater site. You can also learn about ongoing conservation and research efforts from the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum.

Transverse section of the Monitor

Transverse section of the Monitor

Complementing this report is a painstaking assemblage of “surviving engineering drawings” of the Monitor. This document, Drawings of the U.S.S. Monitor, a catalog and technical analysis by Capt. Ernest W. Peterkin, contains 207 historic of the Monitor  held personally by the author as well as by cultural heritage institutions around the globe.  John Ericsson, the engineer who designed the Monitor for the Ironclad Board, stated that he had first considered a “sub-aquatic system of naval warfare” as early as 1826 (qtd. in Peterkin, p. 36). The book contains early conceptual sketches from that period as well as much more detailed schematics of Monitor components from the 1860s and later.  Many of Ericsson’s papers were destroyed after his death by his own request. However plans and sketches of his that survived, as well as those of the other draftsmen, are assembled by Peterkin to represent a fascinating wholesale view of the vessel’s design. We’re pleased to present a digitized version of Drawings, which has already gained us some kind feedback from the model shipbuilding community.

While Civil War-era ships or shipwrecks may not be your bailiwick, I suggest browsing through both of these documents. They are easy to read and interesting to view, giving a quick sense of a momentous and ongoing project pivotal to US history.

* After the U.S.S Monitor, the term “monitor” became the name for a specific type of ship, of which there were many. Merriam-Webster describes a monitor as “a small modern warship with shallow draft for coastal bombardment.”

Countdown to the 1940 Census: Social Media and Blog Roll Call

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On the first and third Mondays of the month our guest blogger,  Government and Heritage Library intern Carla Sarratt will be  counting down to the release of the 1940 Census data on Monday, April 2, 2012.

1940 Census Social Media and Blog Roll Call

It should come as no surprise that the National Archives is one of the leading social media resources for all things related to the release of the 1940 Census data.  Not only are they on Facebook and Twitter, but they also publish an informative blog called NARAtions.  Since last year, NARAtions has written several blog entries about various aspects of the 1940 Census.  If you want correct information regarding the 1940 Census as well as previous censuses, National Archives has the answers with their helpful Research Our Records resource for genealogists.  Not only do they showcase the Census forms, but they help you locate additional resources as well. has created a helpful Wiki-type page about the 1940 Census.  The coolest feature is a chart that shows what questions the Census has asked since 1790 – 1940. Expect the Wiki page to provide additional information about their role in the release of the Census data as we get closer to April 2, 2012.  In 2011, Ancestry released a statement that there will be no charge to search 1940 Census records on their site once it is available until the end of 2013.

There is a partnership among several genealogy organizations including Family Search,, and called the 1940 US Census Community Project which will work together to index the census data for online availability.  There is a need for volunteers to help with this project.  The project also has a Facebook page where people can sign up to help with transcription as well as form an online community.

 For all of the avid Facebook users, you won’t be surprised that there is a 1940 Census fan page out there.  You can also become a fan of Ancestry, Archives, and Find My Past.

Twitter users, you’re not left out of the social media crowd.  Check out and follow, Ancestry, Family Search, Archives, and Find My Past.

Last but definitely not least, you can count on the Government and Heritage Library to keep you informed about the 1940 Census via our blog, Facebook posts, and our tweets along with helpful Census related tools.  For those who are in the vicinity of the library inRaleigh, we will have a Census program on April 2, 2012.

No matter where you go on the World Wide Web, if you type “1940 Census” into the search box you are sure to find help from one social media venue or another, from blogs to YouTube.

About the author

Formerly employed with the 2010 Census, Carla Sarratt is a Master of Library Science student at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina interning with the Government and Heritage Library.

State Doc Pick of the Week: List of Licensed General Contractors

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The North Carolina State Publications Clearinghouse has been working hard to add more titles to our digital repository. In the past six months over 130 new titles from a variety of North Carolina agencies can be seen in our digital repository.

One of the many recently added titles to our digital repository is the List of Licensed General Contractors by the licensing board for general contractors.  This annually produced publication provides an explanation of contractor classifications.  Two lists of licensed contractors distinguish between in state and out of state contractors and is further broken down by county or state.  This publication is an excellent source for homeowners who are interested in hiring contractors for repairs.

This publication can be viewed, downloaded, printed, or saved here.

Farming text for North Carolina from 1867

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Agricultural Catechism book coverAgricultural catechism, or, The chemistry of farming made easy : a textbook for the common schools in North Carolina by Benjamin Grady. 1867.
Now online at:,12428.

Written in a simple, question-and-answer format, this book was published in hopes that it would help fill a gap in education in NC schools in 1867. In the Preface, the author claims:

Very few of the young men of the country can hope, if it were desirable, to succeed in any of the so-called learned professions.—The cultivation of the soil is the business to which a very large majority of them must direct their energies.

Notwithstanding this fact, very few of our schools seem to regard the science of farming as worthy of any attention ; and probably the chief cause of this is, that we have never had a suitable textbook.

The book covers information, based on practices and information available at the time it was written, on rotating crops, composting, ploughing, and more.

Take a look!


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