GHL Blog Rotating Header Image

North Carolina History

Meet Your North Carolina State Symbols!

Share Button

Did you know that North Carolina has 56 state symbols and official adoptions?  Yes! And — finally — the state symbol is getting its day!  On Saturday June 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., North Carolina’s state symbols will be featured at a special event at the Capitol: “Meet Your State Symbols.”  The event will take place on the grounds of the Capitol building in Raleigh.  The GHL will be on hand with a ‘pop-up’ state symbol library featuring information and fun activities to help folks learn about the state’s heritage and history.  You can even vote for your favorite and be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter to find out the winner!

Why does North Carolina have state symbols?

Every year, thousands of school kids across the state work on projects to learn about the state’s symbols.  They have lots of questions, like: what are state symbols, anyway? why is milk the State Beverage and not Pepsi or Cheerwine?  why is the sweet potato the state vegetable?  Kids and adults alike ask questions like “the state has a Livermush Festival?!”

“Greetings from North Carolina,” postcard ca. 1930s, showing the goldenrod as the state flower. From North Carolina Postcards, North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

How did all of these adoptions come into being?  “Symbols” (like the flag and Great Seal) and other “official adoptions” are created by the North Carolina General Assembly. The General Assembly develops legislation (a bill) with language declaring a particular thing as the “official state (fill in the blank)”.  The bill is ratified by the General Assembly and is then signed into law by the Governor. The adoption of each state symbol is associated with a particular piece of legislation enumerated in the North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 145: State Symbols and Other Official Adoptions.

We often think of all of these adoptions as “state symbols” — like the flag, colors, Great Seal, bird, etc. — but the range of adoptions is really much more broad. Since the General Assembly adopted its first “symbol” in 1885 with legislation recognizing the official State Flag, it has adopted more representations of the state’s heritage and culture, from the State Dog to the State Marsupial to the State Reptile and the State Christmas Tree.  Some symbols are emblems or iconic representations of the state’s history and culture, such as the flag or the Great Seal.  Others represent the state’s unique natural heritage, such as the Cardinal and the Venus Fly Trap. Others, like the sweet potato, represent something that has been vital to sustaining the people or the economy. In recent years, the General Assembly has also adopted a number of festivals or events that are examples of the historical folk life and cultural heritage of the state’s communities and counties.

The state’s newest adoption came during the 2016 session when the General Assembly voted to adopt the Town of Warsaw (Duplin County) Veterans Day Parade as the State Veterans Day Parade (S.B. 160). The bill was signed into law by the Governor of North Carolina on June 24, 2016.  The adoption recognized the long history of the town’s parade, which dates back to their 1921 commemoration of Armistice Day.  The parade is believed to be the oldest, annual commemoration in the nation of what is now Veterans Day.

Does the General Assembly ever consider a symbol that it doesn’t adopt?

Sometimes bills are introduced for new adoptions, but they never make it through the legislative process. During the 2015-2016 legislative sessions two bills met this fate. On January 26, 2015, a bill was introduced for the adoption of the Old Fort Gold Festival, in McDowell County, as the official Gold Festival of North Carolina.  The festival has been celebrated during the first weekend in June since 2003.  And on March 4, 2015, a bill was introduced to name the Bobcat as the official State Cat. Fourth-graders at Benvenue Elementary School in Nash County wrote to their state legislator to recommend that the General Assembly adopt an official state cat to complement the state dog, the Plott Hound. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Bobbie Richardson, a Nash County Democrat. The General Assembly concluded the legislative session in 2015 without taking up either legislation for ratification.

Editorial, the Wilmington Evening Dispatch, January 29, 1912.

Editorial, the Wilmington Evening Dispatch, January 29, 1912.

Have people ever believed something to be a state symbol but it wasn’t “official”?

There are also examples of things being considered state symbols by virtue of popular understanding, but not by official legislative recognition. Take the state flower.

For a long time, the daisy was popularly believed to be the state’s flower. In the July 1917 issue of National Geographic, the daisy was listed as the state flower by “common consent.”  But this was unofficial.  In fact, adoption of state symbols, emblems, and mottos is often taken historically as a matter of pride and patriotism.  On January 29, 1912, a resident of Wilmington submitted an editorial to the Evening Dispatch lamenting the state’s failure to adopt a flower, while the majority of states had them (see image).

In 1921 the General Assembly did consider adoption of the ox eye daisy but failed to pass a resolution or bill.  By the 1930s, many folk also considered the goldenrod to be the state flower. It appeared on North Carolina themed postcards of the decade, titled as the state flower (see image).  And an article in the Burlington Daily Times News, April 1, 1933, mentions an “argument” between two journalists (Louis Graves of the Chapel Hill Weekly and Julian Miller of the Charlotte Observer) regarding the state flower. Apparently, Graves believed it to be the ox eye daisy, while Miller insisted on the goldenrod. In fact, neither was correct! At last in 1941 the General Assembly put the matter to rest, with the dogwood being firmly ensconced in the states official imagery, beating out the daisy, goldenrod, azalea, laurel, and others.

Are you ready to become a North Carolina State Symbol expert or just want to learn more about this unique aspect of the state’s history?

Check out these resources:


State Symbols & Official Adoptions:
North Carolina State Symbols Interactive Timeline:
North Carolina State Symbols & Official Adoptions links to legislation:

NC General Assembly, Laws of the State of NC Chapter 145 (State Symbols & Official Adoptions):

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

What’s New about North Carolina in NCpedia?!

Share Button

New in NCpedia!

NCpedia has a number of fascinating new stories about North Carolina history and people. Check them out and share!

New in NCpedia: Aerial photograph of the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), the former site of the NASA tracking station near Rosman, North Carolina. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Aerial photograph of the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), the former site of the NASA tracking station near Rosman, North Carolina. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

North Carolina in the era of space exploration

Did you know that North Carolina was home to a NASA satellite tracking facility during the peak years of the space program?  Yes, it’s true!  Check out this new entry on the site, located near Rosman, North Carolina:  And on May 8 of this year, the site was recognized with the dedication of the state’s newest Highway Historical Marker (located just off NC Highway 64 near Rosman).

History of Nursing in North Carolina

NCpedia has been building a collection on the history of professional nursing in the state, along with some of the pioneering nurses that made ground-breaking history in the development of nursing education and in bringing modern healthcare to communities. Visit the collection here:

New in NCpedia: Kellis Parker, senior year portrait, 1964. From the UNC-Chapel Hill student yearbook the <i>Yackety Yack</i>. Used by permission of University of North Carolina Libaries.

Kellis Parker, senior year portrait, 1964. From the UNC-Chapel Hill student yearbook the Yackety Yack. Used by permission of University of North Carolina Libraries.

Biography of Kellis Earl Parker, lawyer, activist, scholar, and musician

Learn about the life and accomplishments of Lenoir County native, Kellis Earl Parker.  With civil rights activism a central part of his life’s work, Parker was one of the first black students to enroll at the University of North Carolina and went on to become the first black law professor at Columbia University.  He was also an accomplished musician and brother to legendary saxophone player, Maceo Parker.

Kelly Agan, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library

New in NCpedia: North Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Timeline

Share Button
North Carolina Historically Black Colleges & Universities HBCUs. Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Timeline

Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Timeline

New in NCpedia: North Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Timeline

NCpedia has a new interactive timeline! 

Tracing the history of North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), it brings together brief histories of North Carolina’s twelve HBCUs, developed between 1865 and 1910, and images from a range of collections and historic publications.

The timeline was developed by Christine Alston, a student in the Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, during her recent graduate student field experience at the N.C. Government & Heritage Library. The timeline was created using TimeMapper. An open-source application created by Open Knowledge Labs, TimeMapper is freely available and is built on relatively simple web technologies. The timeline is generated from information entered into a simple Google spreadsheet template (provided by TimeMapper) and run on the web. Virtually anyone from professionals, to teachers, students and family historians can create visually interesting and interactive timelines. No programming experience needed!

Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Collection

Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Collection

Check out the timeline and more NCpedia resources on African American history and education in North Carolina:


Kelly Agan, N.C. Government & Heritage Library



Newspapers and North Carolina History

Share Button

Find out about new additions to the collections of the Government and Heritage Library:

incognitoConfederate Incognito: The Civil War Reports of “Long Grabs” a.k.a. Murdoch John McSween, 26th and 35th North Carolina Infantry, E.B. Munson, Ed.  Murdoch John McSween lived from 1836-1880 and writing under the pseudonym “Long Grabs” served as the unofficial war correspondent to the Fayetteville Observer (North Carolina). What he wrote was varied, from fighting in eastern Carolina and Virginia, the condition of soldiers, civilian hardship, and the history of places he visited. Court-martialed and later released to fight in the 26th Regiment, he survived the war to become the editor and publisher of the Eagle newspaper.





newspaperimagsA History of Rocky Mount Newspapers, 1872-1932, by Stephan Raper. The author recounts the history of Rocky mount newspapers, essentially a history of the community and its people. Each title’s publishing history is described, including identification of the people behind the presses. In addition, background information on the early history of newspapers in North Carolina is presented.





danielsJosephus Daniels: His Life and Times, by Lee Craig. This book tells the story of a fascinating, ambitious newspaper editor and how he revolutionized the newspaper industry in the South, forever changing the relationship between politics and the news media.








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 inter-library 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.