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Quilting in the Old North State: A New North Carolina History in NCpedia

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Quilting in the Old North State: A New North Carolina History in NCpedia

By Kelly Agan, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library

This week, as we near the end of Women’s History Month and National Quilt Month, NCpedia published a seven-part history of quilting in North Carolina, with many, many thanks to Diana Bell-Kite, a curator at the North Carolina Museum of History, who took time to research, write, and share this history with us.  This contribution filled an important space in NCpedia’s coverage of the state’s history and it coincided, serendipitously, with the tapestry theme of Women’s History Month: Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. Whether you’re interested in quilting or you want to learn more about material culture and social history from the 18th to the 21st century, please visit this content.  And we’ve added numerous images of quilts from the Museum’s collections.

Funeral Ribbon Quilt, Lee Co., NC, 1958

Funeral Ribbon Quilt, Lee Co., NC, 1958, from the NC Museum of History

First a little about National Quilt Day and Month. National Quilt Day appears to have grown out of an event called “Quilters’ Day Out”, originated by the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society and celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of March in 1989.  The National Quilting Association held its annual quilt show and conference in Lincoln, Nebraska a few years later in 1991 and decided to build on the enthusiasm and interest created by the Kentucky event, establishing National Quilt Day that year.  Somewhere along the line, National Quilt Month formed as a month-long celebration.  (If you know more about the origin of these events, please let us know!) (more…)

North Carolina Bluegrass on NCpedia: getting you ready for the weekend’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival!

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Black Walnut Banjo, c. 1970, made by renowned maker Edsel Martin, Buncombe County, N.C.  From the collections of the N.C. Museum of History.

Black Walnut Banjo, c. 1970, made by renowned maker Edsel Martin, Buncombe County, N.C. From the collections of the N.C. Museum of History.

With the Wide Open Bluegrass festival set to take the stage in downtown Raleigh tomorrow and Saturday, it’s a good time to take another quick tour through North Carolina’s country and bluegrass music heritage.  But, let’s face it, a blog post can’t do this topic justice!

But before I start pickin’ about North Carolina’s folk, country, and bluegrass music heritage, I want to do a little grinnin’ about NCpedia to note that the education I’ve  been giving myself has come almost entirely from the online encyclopedia resource.  Pulling together a handful of sources from NCpedia, I’m impressed by the way folk, country, and bluegrass music have dug deep and continually lengthening roots in the state, how they have developed an almost natural and symbiotic relationship with grassroots folk and music festivals, contributed to a long-standing independent recording industry, influenced crossover musicians, and become part of a beloved and mainstream local music scene across the state. The music has shared center stage with 4th of July celebrations, fundraisers, food and craft festivals, and supported numerous festivals around the state to preserve threatened local natural heritage areas.  It’s a fabulous tapestry of art, industry, and the natural environment.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of North Carolina’s greats from the pantheon of the wider genre encompassing folk and bluegrass: for starters, Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs.   Then there are the immortal names of more traditional folk practitioners like  Tommy Jarrell and Frank Proffitt. Many more North Carolina musicians have appeared on well-known national acts, with a number of North Carolina bands garnering national reputations and airtime – including the names of Hack Johnson and His Tennesseans, the Church Brothers, the New Deal String Band in the 1960s, and the Bass Mountain Boys from Burlington from the 1980s to mid 1990s.

And I was surprised to discover that Charlie Daniels (aka the Charlie Daniels Band), the country rock sound I remember vividly from my youth, was born in Wilmington and began his career in bluegrass. He formed the Misty Mountain Boys in the 1950s before he began to move into an award-winning fusion of rock and bluegrass.

I also learned about the symbiosis between the string band, folk, and bluegrass traditions and the independent recording industry foothold in the state. Label names such as Chapel Hill’s Colonial Records, North Wilkesboro’s Blue Ridge Records, and Durham’s Renown Records promoted the genres and launched a number of careers.  I was surprised to learn that Colonial launched the recording career of none other than Andy Griffith.

So, don’t spend another minute reading this post! Visit NCpedia and learn about the range of North Carolina’s musical heritage, its recording industry, and its folk festivals.  And come on down to Raleigh to enjoy the music live this weekend!

NCpedia Resources:

—  Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

World of Bluegrass fest coming to Raleigh, 9/30-10/4: Digging up North Carolina’s Bluegrass Roots

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EarlScruggs, San Francisco 2005, by Volker Neumann on Flickr. Used under license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Earl Scruggs, San Francisco 2005, by Volker Neumann on Flickr. Used under license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

In a few weeks Raleigh will host the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Wide Open World of Bluegrass” festival on September 30-October 4.  With the event just around the corner, I’m inspired to go digging once again into NCpedia to share the collection and North Carolina’s contribution to this ever-evolving, deeply rooted, and uniquely American art form.

The origins of the name “Bluegrass” are often associated with the legendary mandolin player Bill Monroe, native Kentuckian who named his band the “Blue Grass Boys” for his home state in the late 1930s.  The term “bluegrass”, however, appears not to have been applied to the developing form until well into the 1940s or 1950s. The roots of the genre itself are old and wide, originating from a deep and complex mix:  the folk music and dance forms of Appalachia brought to North America by European immigrants beginning in the 17th century (especially from the British Isles); traditional music brought by African slaves and handed down into the African American traditions of gospel and blues; and particularly in the innovative, front and center use of the banjo which came to colonial America with African slaves.

North Carolina’s own Earl Scruggs is credited with developing Bluegrass’s emphasis on the banjo played in a unique style.  Born in Shelby in Cleveland County, Scruggs utilized a three-finger roll or crawl style that helps give Bluegrass its bright sound and drives its forward momentum and energy.  Scruggs played with Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys for a time, then formed his own band the Foggy Mountain Boys, and later teamed up as a duo with Foggy Mountain’s guitarist Lester Flatt.  For a time Flatt and Scruggs called Raleigh home.

And if you’d like to listen to some Flatt and Scruggs from the archives, visit for a sampling —

Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature more on North Carolina’s Bluegrass legends.  In the meantime, visit NCpedia to learn more about Bluegrass and Earl Scruggs, and dust off your dancin’ shoes for the festival.

Earl Scruggs on NCpedia

Bluegrass Music on NCpedia

— Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

Scots, Irish, and Scotch Irish in North Carolina

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New additions to the collections of the Government and Heritage Library:

aberdeenAberdeen, by Robert Farrell.  A rich narrative, combined with archival  photographs, brings to life the 20th century history of this Sandhills town. Aberdeen was originally settled by Scottish immigrants escaping persecution who traveled via the Cape Fear River from the North Carolina coast.


irishRethinking the Irish in the American South: Beyond Rounders and Reelers, Bryan Giemza, Ed. Featuring contributions from historians, literary critics, poets, and ethnomusicologists, these are knit together by their enthusiasm for their subject. Assumptions about Irish Americans are challenged successfully and plumb the shifting complexities of Irishness in the American South and how the music, literature, population patterns and history of the region have been transformed.


scottishScots and Scotch Irish: Frontier Life in North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky, by Larry Hoefling. This book describes the origins, history, migration patterns, and frontier life of Scots and Scotch Irish immigrants who settled in the American South.




trueThe True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry, by Daniel Patterson. The author presents a catalog of tombstones along with an historical ethnography and a social history of their makers,  the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. Brought to life are the ways in which Scotch-Irish immigrants and their descendants used their cultural  heritage to adapted to life on the American frontier.

Library materials will be available for check out at the Government and Heritage Library by North Carolina State Agency employees or may be borrowed through an interlibrary loan request at your local public library. To view other new library acquisitions, click here.

This blog is a service of the State Library of North Carolina, part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Blog comments and posts may be subject to Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.