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News Release

For immediate use

June 13, 2007

Note: Eight photos for downloading are listed below.

Postcards depicting 20th-century NC to be displayed

CHAPEL HILL – Anonymous cotton pickers toiling in the field. Beach-goers in bathing costumes at Wrightsville Beach, around the beginning of the 20th century. Advertising for Bull Durham Tobacco, Trailways buses and businesses, from laundries to lumber mills.

These are some of the images in “Greetings from North Carolina: A Century of Postcards from the Durwood Barbour Collection,” an exhibit from Thursday (June 14) through Sept. 30 in the North Carolina Collection Gallery of Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Barbour, of Raleigh, acquired 7,894 North Carolina postcards over 25 years and gave the collection to UNC’s library in 2006. The exhibit will show about 150 of the postcards.

The Carolina alumnus will speak about the collection in a free public talk, “A Carolina Postcard Journey,” in the library at 5:45 p.m. July 12. A reception and exhibit viewing begin at 5 p.m. Steve Massengill, a retired image archivist from the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, also will speak. A fellow collector, he has known Barbour for years.

 “He had an eye for collecting the unusual, and things that would document the history of the state,” Massengill said. “Lots of research can be pulled from this massive collection.”

Barbour, of the UNC class of 1952, began collecting postcards in the early 1980s to enhance his collection of North Carolina currency. He soon was scouring flea markets, postcard shows and eventually online auctions, building a visual record that would capture the range of Tar Heel history.

Unlike today’s postcards, those of the past depicted nearly everything: mundane scenes of family and town life, advertising, the progress of industry and such disasters as floods and fires. Many studio photographers in the first decades of the 20th century supplemented their income by printing so-called “real photo” postcards, many of which captured everyday life while reflecting the photographer’s artistic sensibilities.

Bob Anthony, curator of the North Carolina Collection, said that the Barbour collection will be a boon for historians, students of art and photography and anyone who wishes to see a glimpse of the state’s past. The donation doubles the size of the UNC library’s postcard holdings, Anthony said. The library will begin digitizing its North Carolina postcards and putting them online this summer.

Barbour said he is pleased that the collection will remain together and be available for consultation and research. “It’s a true collection, not an accumulation,” he said. “Every card is an individual card, and some are truly unique.”

The North Carolina Collection Gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. For information about the exhibit, contact Linda Jacobson at (919) 962-1172 or For details about the July 12 program, contact Liza Terll at (919) 962-4207 or

Photos: Cutlines for photos of eight postcards from the exhibit, with corresponding URLs for downloading, are below. For additional shots for a photo layout, contact Judith Panitch at (919) 962-1301 or Please credit the Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina postcards in the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Crowd on a river bank, watching a baptism, Asheville, N.C., 1913:

UNC baseball player John William Gordon Powell, ca. 1919.

Woman with children. A note on the back reads “Susie Sharpe family picture 1910-1918, from Reidsville, N.C. Susie Sharpe – N.C. Supreme Court.” Susie Marshall Sharp (1907-1996) was the first female chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Young girl with a doll carriage, 1925. The message on the card reads, “9-25-25. To Uncle John from Edna Earl Gaston.” A later annotation indicates that “Uncle John” was John Clark, a “founder and Sr. Warden of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and an organizer of their parochial school blacks. Clark was the first black mail man in Wilson.”

Fire at the Avalon Mill, Rockingham County, N.C., June 15, 1911. A handwritten note on the back of the card reads, “8-6-11. This is the beginning of a three hundred and fifty thousand dollar fire. Having plenty of chicken. Martin.”

Professor Frederick H. Koch, founder and director of The Carolina Playmakers, as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, ca. 1915-1930.

Pumping station and open air cottages at the North Carolina Sate Sanatorium for the Treatment of Tuberculosis in Sanatorium, N.C., (now McCain, N.C.), 1915. A caption on the back reads, “Tuberculosis is contagious through the expectoration. Don’t expectorate, except in a sputum cup, paper or cloth, and burn it.”

“Greetings from Chapel Hill,” ca. 1940.

UNC Library contacts: Judith Panitch, (919) 962-1302,; Bob Anthony, (919) 962-1172,
News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589