All posts by Benjamin

The irony is killing me..

I have finished my newspaper archive search, as well as the editing involved in presenting the clippings in their various collections.  My search concluded with some interesting ‘flu’ material, that I have been researching, while sick in my apartment.  I take no delight in the coincidence.  But the evidence of the impact of the influenza outbreak in Asheville is intriguing.  Much of it resides in ads (many disguised as ‘Notices’ and using official language) and not in editorial articles.  There are scattered articles, written here in Buncombe County about the local epidemic.  But what I found somewhat disturbing is the mention of the depth of the problem here in Asheville is not found in local sources, but outside the city in newspapers from Wilmington and Charlotte.  I wonder if this is suppression of information or simply an ignorance to the problem.

I have also started writing biographical narratives on some of the key ‘players’ (I will come up with a better name) in Asheville during the Great War.  Their names will come up in many areas of the website, allowing crossover research.

Its crunch time and I’m feeling the teeth.

Thawed, battered, and into the archives

After discussing our updated plan with my partner and after looking at a few websites, such as, we have altered our plan for our website to focus more on the human side of Asheville and less on the physical layout in the form of an interactive map.  We are still ironing out the details but the site will have one main page with several tabs, split evenly between her work and mine.  My input will include a biographical section of the major ‘players’ of Asheville, a newspaper scrapbook timeline, a collection of ‘war ads,’  ‘Escape! to Asheville will focus on our town as a resort destination, and possibly a couple more sections depending on how the research concludes.

I have been able to get a good deal of research done over the past week.  Ashley and I spent some time in our downtown library, where I will be drawing a large share of my photos.  We also went to UNCA Special Collections, and although I was there just briefly before class, I still managed to get help from both Gene and Colin.  I have spent many hours looking over newspapers online using keyword searches like “war” and “liberty,” and I am through 1917, with plans to finish next week.  The articles I have clipped digitally, then converted to jpg format in order to control the size and quality of the photo.  I have posted a few articles, as well as an example of a ‘war ad’ that will be included in my exhibit on newspaper articles.  It is easy to find national and international headlines within the papers.  But what I am looking for (and found!) is the local perspective: what the Great War looked liked from the Land of Sky.  More to come..



Curtis Bynum Article

Curtis Bynum Obituary

Officer Curtis Bynum's correspondence with family in Asheville

Officer Curtis Bynum’s correspondence with family in Asheville


Brothers go to war together, Kiffin becomes 1st U.S. pilot to shoot down an enemy plane

Brothers go to war together, Kiffin becomes 1st U.S. pilot to shoot down an enemy plane



Royals visit Asheville EDITEDWar ad for real estate



Asheville unaffected by war early

Asheville unaffected by war early



Departure of Drafted men at Pack Square! 9.19.17

Departure of Drafted men at Pack Square! 9.19.17


Is there a window open?

My research has been put on ice.  I should say, my research at the local archive has been delayed, twice, but I have been very active in exploring the local newspapers from the comfort of my apartment.  This has allowed me to develop a working plan for my side of the website.  I will provide five tabs, each focusing on an aspect of Asheville during the years 1914-1919.  The five tabs are:


-An Interactive Map of the ‘Land of Sky’

-Local Personalities

-Escape! to Asheville

-How to be a Patriot in Asheville

-A Newspaper yearly scrapbook


The map will be tagged with significant locations, include a brief description of the landmark, and offer any links that may connect to other information found on the site.


The biography section will feature a collection of short narratives, highlighting some of the key players in Asheville during the Great War.  Again, this section should connect with several other points within the site including the newspaper section and exhibit on public patriotism.


Escape! to Asheville is really an antithesis.  Asheville enjoyed enormous prosperity during the war, especially in the early years and was a resort destination often used for an escape from the war, rather than a city with which to view normalities of wartime.  I have already found many articles referring to our city as unique in its role as an oasis from the war in Europe.  The local economy seemed to proper as well, evident in the many buildings that sprouted up during this gilded age.  Also attracted to Asheville were the rich and famous, who used the ‘Land of Sky’ as the French countryside of the Americas, vacationing here in order to avoid those ravaged lands.


Because I am exploring the public side of Asheville, it only makes sense that I should inevitably run into wartime propaganda.  And I did.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have found photograph collections that feature public displays of wartime presence from parades to demonstrations to collective efforts to help fuel the war machine.  The amount of information is becoming overwhelming, which is why I have organized these categories.


Lastly, the newspaper scrapbooks will contain digital ‘clips’ I have collected from that related to Asheville’s experience during the Great War and the infuenza outbreak.  Also, an album of wartime advertisements will be included in this section as they are numerous and illustrative.


Ashley and I will (hopefully) get to go to the downtown library after the weekend, but in the meantime we are visiting the UNCA Special Collections on Friday.  I’m sure Gene and Colin will be able to point out a few things we might want to explore, and Ashley and I both understand this is a fluid, dynamic process (when above 32° F).


Stay warm.


Progress Report

Here is a very basic account of what I have so far. There is more, but some are simply single photographs, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise (because I’m a jerk?). It will be worth the wait.

Primary Sources:

Pack Memorial Library:
-Orah Ramsey Photograph Collection
-Edith Vanderbilt Collection
-“Pamphlets and Brochures relating to World War I in Buncombe County”
-Correspondence letters between a local (Florence Helen Boyd Bynum) and her husband (Curtis Bynum), fighting in Europe
-Eliza Woodfin Hollard Underwood’s scrapbook
-WWI officer, Brookshire collection
-National League for Women’s Service records/photographs
-Francis Churchill Bourne photograph collection
-WWI officer, Ervin Rogers Bean collection
-Carrier papers
-Records/photographs of the “Grand Chapter of the North Carolina Order of the Eastern Star”: a women’s auxiliary group of the Freemasons
-The Roberts Collection
-Photographs of the Young Men’s Institute
-Correspondence to Flanders, Belgium (Madelon “Glory” Belknap Battle Hancock & Doctor Samuel Westray Battle)
-“Famous Visitors”
-”Liberty Bond Drive Papers” (Edwin Brown, President of “Brown Book Company” in Asheville to Joseph G. Brown, Chairman of the Liberty Loan Committee for NC)
-Bingham Military School Collection
-Coral Newman Hood Collection
-Edwin Grove and Albert Carrier correspondence (32 letters, 6 telegrams)
-Tourism brochures collection
-Henry Westall collection

Tuesday morning, Ashley and I are heading to the “North Carolina Room” located within Pack Memorial Library, in downtown Asheville. As she mentioned in her post, I did a decent amount of research regarding which collections pertain to our mission. I recorded a brief description and call number for each entry and divided them between myself and Ashley, according to our area of focus. Just the example photographs I found online are enough to justify the use of this collection, and we haven’t even gotten our hands into the files yet. It is going to be a productive effort.

UNCA Special Collections:
-“Grove Park Inn Photographic Collection”
-“L.C. Le Compte Postcard Collection (1910-1977)”
-“Edgar M. Lyda Collection (1873-1956)”
-“General Hugh Hester Photographic Collection”

My colleague has had more time in the Special Collections at UNC Asheville. I am planning on spending some time there once I’ve wrapped up my work downtown. I’m sure Gene and Colin will expand my list beyond the four I have above.

-Middlemount Flower Shop scrapbook
-local woman who is daughter of former mayor of Asheville (claims she can grease some gears for us)

Again, Ashley has mentioned that we are dividing the site between the two ‘sides’ of Asheville we see that lived side-by-side, during The Great War. It seems that for every Grove, Vanderbilt, or Carrier, there were a hundred ‘folks’ propping them up, keeping them comfortable. And thats what our community was during the first part of the 20th century: a comfort zone for the rich and privileged, an escape to the “Land of the Sky.”

I have spoken briefly with our Media Design Lab Manager, Sasha, and he (and a couple bystanders) is very interested in assisting me with the creation/adaptation of an interactive map, with which we can provide the experience Ashley has already mentioned.

And now for something completely different:

click here

My Online Harvest

I was able, this weekend, to jump head-first into primary research.  I simply used the years themselves as search terms while on my local library’s online resource page here.  Starting with 1914, I sifted through collections, many, which did not have a strong connection to the purpose of this class.  However, I was able to create a timeline, using these abstracts and sample photographs, to provide a narrative for Asheville’s experience during the Great War.  I have only superficially researched the influenza outbreak and its local impact, but initially it seems that Asheville and its surrounding communities were health centers during the crisis, rather than sources or associates of infection.

The photographs, most of which I will selfishly guard until the final website is unveiled, are spectacular.  I was able to speak with my colleague, Ashley; we coordinated our efforts and assigned each other the particular aspects of the community about which we are charged to present.  Again, she will focus on the ‘folks’ of Asheville: the farmers, the working class, those who can be identified as ‘marginalized.’  I will look at the public side of Asheville, its main players, propaganda…err…displays of nationalism, growing network of businesses, and other meta-themes I might find present in our community between 1914 and 1919.  I might look a little before, to catch up the website-user on local foundations.  And I might even ask questions of what legacy can be felt today.

It should be a fun semester.  Asheville was an important town- I think it still is.  I am already surprised at the fruit that my researched has produced so far.  And I just got in the tractor.

downtown ashevillenight scene on pattonwar pledge in business window

Death-defying research!

My girlfriend and I drove around frosty Asheville on Saturday morning, coffees in hands, past some of the older areas of town, and stopped at Overlook Castle.  The house was built by Fred Seely, Jr., who in 1912 worked with Edwin Wiley Grove to build the Grove Park Inn, here in Asheville, North Carolina.  Conversely, the castle at Overlook was built as a private home and has been passed along several owners, the current ones being not very keen on visitors (as evident in the pack of guard dogs behind the barbed wire fence).¹

So while I was taking pictures through the space in the fence, and before the dogs got there, I was able to get these..






More information and photographs of the castle to come…



1 Jon Elliston, “Castle in the Sky,” WNC Magazine, [accessed 1.25.15], < >.


Browsing by sight..

“Valley of the Shadow”

Pros: Homepage is simple: allows users to distill information without feeling overwhelmed, virtual blueprint helps create spatial familiarity, simplicity of design to access well-employed empirical data

Cons: Statistics could benefit from highlighting of important information, it seems slightly anti-Southern, almost no interaction (Hospitality?)

Takeaways: It feels like walking through an old, dusty house.


“Gilded Age Plains City”

Pros: I love the strategy of targeting everyone and allowing them to enjoy the site on various levels, the INTERACTIVE MAP!!! (I’ve mentioned a want to do the same)

Cons: Heck of a run-on sentence to introduce the site (is that a ‘pro?’)

Takeaways: Scholarly, yet quasi-colloquial, Wood-esque approach in its writing style.  I loved it.



Pros: ?

Cons: I got confused and left.

Takeaways: 2 minutes of my life.


“Digital History”

Pros: Very easy to navigate and read for 2 minutes or 2 hours

Cons: Although the references are fun for open-ended learning, the site could have more internal links to take advantage of the technology (“Move away from the prose!”)

Takeaways: It would be nice if the site allowed the user to expand his research from the ‘pop history’ featured here, to more in depth primary sources such as


“Mapping the Republic of Letters”

Pros: Cool/creepy Ben Franklin picture on homepage

Cons: The “Video Introduction” would not load.  I feel like I’m intruding.

Takeaways: I guess this a “site in progress.”  It seems more like an announcement than anything else.


“The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database”

Pros: Seems like a great resource for statistics on the transatlantic slave trade.

Cons: Very text-heavy, gets stifling when attempting to jump-around.

Takeaways: More of a database than a interactive site.  I guess, well-described.

And they’re off..

Hello, world. I am the ‘colleague.’  Ashley did a great job explaining what we have done towards the project so far.  I will echo her thoughts on Gene, our school’s archivist.  He and Colin in the UNCA Special Collections couldn’t be more accommodating and eager to provide support with our research.  I can see a network starting to take shape: one that will allow Ashley and me to gain access to information from local and regional archives to less obvious sources from business records to family scrapbooks.

Ashley is correct in describing the Asheville community as an “historian’s mecca.”  The people of our community are proud and the community is proud of its people.  This is perhaps one reason some private archives tend to be difficult to access, as in the case of the Biltmore Estate.  They (understandably) want to preserve the honor associated with their histories.  But Ashley and I believe once our mission is presented, it will become clear that we are simply recognizing the memory of such an important force in our town’s development.  That is not to say we will be biased in our research or allow our love of the community to conflict with our responsibility as historians to act objectively.  We won’t.  Transparency is paramount in accurately representing the Asheville community during the first World War.  As much as I would like to celebrate the town of Asheville, it is our duty as budding scholars to instead uncover what we can, letting the chips fall as they may.

My partner and I have an initial plan for our research.  The early part of the 20th century was a time of enormous growth and development in our town.  Ashley will focus on the ‘folks’ of Asheville and its surrounding communities: from farmers who supported the increasing demand for food to the workers who made such construction possible.  I will focus more on the uniqueness of Asheville as a resort destination.  From health centers taking advantage of the mountain air to vacation retreats catering to the affluent, our town saw an influx of personalities taking advantage of the resources that continue to make Asheville special to this day.

Take a journey with us, and although we cannot promise a smooth ride, we can guarantee a unique experience as we look homeward to the Asheville community in the years during the Great War.