Colonial North Carolina’s Pirate Paper


A Collection of all the Public Acts of Assembly, of the Province of North Carolina (New Bern: J.Davis, 1752).

Joyner Library Special Collections, North Carolina KFN7430 1752 .A2

Digitized version available online in Joyner Library’s Digital Collections.

Staff Person: Lawrence Houston


In 1749, James Davis was hired by the colonial government to be the colony’s first printer.  He was authorized to print currency and the laws of the North Carolina Assembly near the capitol in New Bern. He started out by acquiring an old set of lead type and a printing press from colleagues in Williamsburg, Virginia. He also purchased several reams of paper from Benjamin Franklin. However, paper in the colonies was not cheap or easy to come by.

Because of the high tariffs and duties on imported paper, the only reasonably costed supplies came from either Great Britain or from one of about a dozen paper mills operating colonies.  The discarded pieces of white cotton or linen cloth that formed the raw material for paper were always in short supply. Despite receiving a fixed stipend from the colonial government, Davis was still confronted with thin profit margins and low sales volume from his printing venture.  He did many things to turn a higher profit from his business—including trafficking with pirates to get cheaper paper.

In the 1740’s, the British government was involved in a series of conflicts over claims to the Habsburg monarchs’ territory in Austria. During one of these conflicts, the War of Jenkin’s Ear, the British acted against their Spanish and Genoese adversaries by appointing privateers—pirates who were legally commissioned by the government to raid the merchant vessels of their enemies. By 1747, British privateers had delivered over £140,000 of Genoese spoils to colonial ports, like New York and New Bern.  This booty included numerous bales of paper, which the privateers sold cheaply to colonial printers such as Benjamin Franklin and James Davis.

Our copy of A Collection of all the Public Acts of Assembly, of the Province of North Carolina was one of the first law books printed by Davis.  In this book, alongside paper likely purchased from a mill in Virginia, he used a few sheets of Genoese paper obtained by British privateers. Owing to the difficulty in getting regular supplies of paper, there are over a dozen different sources for the paper used in this book alone.


Watermark from the Acts of Assembly, depicting the Coat of Arms for the City of Genoa uppermost.

Watermark from pgs 233-234 of the Acts of Assembly viewed with transmitted light, depicting the Coat of Arms for the City of Genoa.

We can determine the origin of the paper in this book by looking at the watermark. Watermarks, thinner areas in the paper sheet, are created from wires laid onto the papermaking moulds. One can see watermarks when light is shined through the paper.  Papermakers utilized watermarks to distinguish their product from that of competitors and to differentiate one stock of paper from another. The watermark on this page bears the coat of arms for Genoa: a cross flanked by griffons. The additional markings seen in the two lower circles vary greatly in Genoese papers and can correlate to specific paper makers or dates of manufacture.

Citations & Sources:

  1. Amory, Hugh & Hall, David., eds. A History of the Book in America, Volume 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 1997.
  2. Balmaceda, Jose Carlos. “Genoa’s Contribution to the Development of the Spanish Paper Manufacture” in Paper as a Medium of Cultural Heritage. Instituto Centrale per la Patologia del Libro, Rome. 2004.
  3. Heawood, Edward. Watermarks, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries. Paper Publications Society, Hilversum, Holland. 1950.
  4. McMurtrie, Douglas C. “First Twelve Years of Printing in North Carolina, 1749-1760.North Carolina Historical Review 10. July, 1933.
  5. Houston, Lawrence. Unpublished MLIS Master’s Thesis. 2017.
  6. Gravell, Thomas. American Watermarks, 1690-1835. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, Deleware. 2002.

The Life of Senator Robert Morgan

Senator Morgan attending the presentation of a new Wind Generator

Source: Robert Morgan Papers #268

Staff Person: Sherry Cortes

Description: Senator Robert Morgan was a North Carolina native, born and raised in Lillington, N.C.  This collection contains personal papers, Senatorial documents, newspapers, photographs and correspondence spanning Morgan’s life.

Senator Robert Morgan was born in Lillington, North Carolina in 1925.  Following his public school education, he went on to attend the Wake Forest Law School, became a skilled trial lawyer and quickly rose from Clerk of Court to the position of President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina State Senate.  He began donating his papers to East Carolina University in the mid-1970s and continuously donated his personal and professional works until he passed away in 2016.  I started working on the Senator Robert Morgan Papers Processing Project in April, 2017 for East Carolina University’s Joyner Library.  As the project archivist for this collection, it has been an exciting opportunity to chronicle the life and accomplishments of such a prominent figure in North Carolina history.  Senator Morgan served as a North Carolina State Senator from 1955-1969, and as a one-term US Senator from North Carolina from 1975-1981, but his prolific career beyond the political arena put a mark on so much of the State’s history.

The Robert Morgan Papers is the largest collection of personal and professional documents amassed by East Carolina University and is currently housed in the Special Collections Division of Joyner Library at East Carolina University (ECU).  The collection holds information regarding the Senator’s professional and personal life.  The Morgan archives chronicle his service in the Vietnam and Korean Wars, his rise to North Carolina Attorney General and his role in creating landmark consumer protection measures, his tenure as an ECU University Trustee and his fight to establish a medical school at East Carolina University, his controversial stance on the Panama Canal, his leading role in the Energy Crisis, and his repositioning of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).  These documents also shed light on his ideological metamorphosis from a “traditional Southern Democrat” to the national Democratic mainstream particularly in the area of desegregation.

Senator Morgan’s Papers include personal and family documents, legislative and campaign files, correspondence, North Carolina Attorney General and U.S. Senator files, ECU Board of Trustees and State Bureau of Investigations files.  Photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, speeches, books, films, audiotapes, diaries, microfilms and oversized materials are in our archives as well.  We hired two graduate assistants in May, 2017, Daniel Hemme and Martha Mihich who have been invaluable in completing the description and arrangement of the collection.  In addition to the graduate assistants, Special Collection Curator, Dr. Jonathan Dembo and volunteer Dick Wolfe have been helping to move the process along quickly.  Between the four of us we have currently completed describing 1012 boxes of the 1075 total in the collection.  I am also collaborating with Justin Borer to help in the digitization of audio tapes, manuscripts and photographs of interest.  Conservator Lawrence Houston has been providing conservation advice and assistance in handling damaged or fragile documents. We are all working as quickly as possible to digitize the chosen objects so they can be fully accessible in the online Digital Repository.

Once we have fully completed the processing of the paper and digital elements of the collection we will work on the exhibit which will be available for viewing on the 3rd floor of Joyner Library in

Graduate Assistant, Martha Mihich, hard at work

early 2018.  As work continues, we will be sharing updates about our progress on an ongoing basis and what we are finding.  There will be future posts to provide more information about Senator Morgan and some of the interesting items we find during processing.  Researchers will be able to locate the collection’s finding aid online if they are interested in accessing Senator Morgan’s Papers.

For more information on Senator Morgan’s Papers and the continuing progress of the project, please contact Sherry Cortes, Project Archivist at or (252) 328 – 0276

Legal Advice for Shipping and Sailing


The Merchant Shipper’s Assistant and Common Carrier’s Guide (Boston: I.R. Butts, 1850) and The Seaman’s Assistant (Boston: I.R. Butts, 1849).

Joyner Library Special Collections, HE745 .B88 1850

Digitized version available online in Joyner Library’s Digital Collections.

Staff person: Sarah McLusky


Special Collections holds many books dealing with nautical themes. Among them is Isaac Ridler Butts’ 1850 The Merchant Shipper’s Assistant and 1849 The Seaman’s Assistant – Joyner’s copies were bound together, so we have two books in one!

Title page for “The Merchant Shipper’s Assistant”

 The first helped shipmasters, owners, and shipping companies understand insurance laws related to their business, while the second gave sailors an idea of their rights. Butts’ company printed similar volumes of insurance and business laws for landlords, tenants, mechanics, and farmers.

The second, the Seaman’s Assistant, shifts focus from shipping companies to the people who worked for them. It lists requirements for sailors’ food (lots of salt beef and pork). It also explains what companies had to pay if they left a sailor behind in a foreign port (two months’ extra wages to the sailor, one month’s to the American consulate to help support other destitute sailors).

Detail from one of several charts in “The Seaman’s Assistant” showing recommendations for feeding sailors, page 99

At ECU, 18th-century pirates like Blackbeard get most of the attention. Even in the 19th century, however, The Seaman’s Assistant still lists the penalties for piracy (which included fines, hard labor, and death).

 Recto of book page with 4 paragraphs followed by image of sailing ship

Detail from page 65 of “Seaman’s Assistant” outlining the penalties for working with pirates, which included fines of up to $1000 and 3-year prison sentences


Source: Schlobin PS648 F3 C38 1991

Staff Person: Ralph Scott

Description: Cats are ethereal creatures that span time and space. They are highly prized members of the science fiction and fantasy community. Often purring away in our homes and spaces, they are lords and ladies of all they reign. We don’t pick our feline friends but instead they chose us, and having made their choice we can travel with them to distance lands and worlds in space. Catfantastic is a collection of short cat stories collected by Andrew Norton and Martin Greenberg. So join them in these stories as they save damsels in distress, conduct “bioengineered” cat diplomatic missions, ward off dangers to humans, and save a major public dam project from destruction. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, its….SUPERCAT.

Portrait of R.W. Chambers, author of The King in Yellow

This portrait of R.W. Chambers is included in the 1895 edition of The King in Yellow owned by Joyner Library. The work is comprised of ten short stories that are intertwined with passages from a fictional play, The King in Yellow, which causes those who read it in its entirety to go insane.  For those not in the know, this work has had wide ranging influence since its initial publication, from the writings of HP Lovecraft and August Derleth to countless references in games such as Call of Cthulhu and Dungeons and Dragons. Most recently, the work and associated mythos that it features has been woven into the storyline of the highly acclaimed HBO series True Detective. It has been interesting to see the resurgence of this fairly forgotten work which rivals the best writing from folks normally associated with the genre like Edgar Allen Poe.

Russian Phrase Book

4 April 2012

Source: Special Collections Reference Collection PG2689 .U56 1943

Staff Person: Ralph Scott

Description: This restricted World War II publication by the War Department “contains the Russian words and expressions you are most likely to need.” It was designed for use by Allied service personnel serving in the Soviet Union. The book contains such useful phrases as “Help”, “I am lost”, “I am poisoned”, “He was bitten by a snake” as well as “The U.S. Government will pay you” translated into Russian. One section on communications contains the phrases “reverse the charges” and “Will you speak to anybody at that number?” Designed as handy little helps for service personnel the book was designed to be shown to the person speaking Russian, and no doubt came in handy when “in-country.” While the publication was restricted, it could be shared with “persons of undoubted loyalty and discretion.” This Army Technical Manual as well as a number of others were given to Joyner Library by Professor Larry Babits of the History Department.

Domestic Disturbances

Special Collections Reference U 230 .U6 1945
United States Army Field Manuals are currently published by the Army’s Publishing Directorate. Over 500 manuals are currently in use. They provided detailed directions for soldiers to use in the field on a variety of topics including tactics and repair of equipment. This particular manual, published in 1945 provided instructions to troops on how to control domestic disturbances. Topics covered included: authorization regulations for the use of military troops to control civil unrest, crowd control, mob tactics, “offensive actions against a city,” and restoration of civil order. The manual ends with tactical directions for the use of chemical agents to control civilian groups. The tactics and methods outlined in this manual were used by federal, state and local authorities in the 1960s and 1970s to control civil and student unrest in the United States.

Black Man in Red Russia

Book Cover

Staff Person: Ralph Scott

Source: Homer Smith, Black Man in Red Russia, Chicago, Johnson Publishing Company, 1964, Hoover Collection DK 267 S587


Black Man in Red Russia relates the story of an American war correspondent Homer Smith, on the Soviet front during World War II. Smith, who moved to Moscow from Minneapolis in 1932 was disillusioned with life in America and hoped the Soviets had the answer to the American race divide in their “democracy of the Proletariat.” During the war period as a correspondent for “the Negro Press,” Smith observed the German push on Moscow; the bodies of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest; the ovens at Maidenak where the Senegales troops captured in the fall of the Maginot line were put to death; the slaughter at Sevastapol; and finally the fall of Berlin in 1945. Smith claims to have been the only Black war correspondent on the Eastern Front. The introduction to the book is written by Harrison Salisbury, Associate Editor of the New York Times, and Moscow correspondent for the Times during World War II. Smith had met Salisbury, as a fellow journalism student at the University of Minnesota in the early 1930s. Salisbury writes that Homer Smith’s major thesis is “that the Soviet Union is no utopia; that we can not [sic!] run away from our problems, we merely run into others which may differ from those we know but are no less serious.” In the end Salisbury feels that Smith was lucky to have escaped with his Russian wife to Ethiopia in 1947. Smith became disillusioned with life in Ethiopia and returned with his wife to his native Minnesota in 1962.
As a small aside an American newspaper reporter named Homer Smith was the lead character in the tongue –in-cheek 1942 spy spoof, Cairo, staring Robert Young, Jeanette Macdonald, and Ethel Waters! The M-G-M movie premiered in Richmond, Virginia on 16 September 1942, and poked good natured fun at the foibles of Nazi spies in an absurd attempt at de-humanizing America’s enemies. In an unfortunate choice of titles, the film was released following the 1942 Cairo conference between Churchill and Roosevelt, and moviegoers, who were expecting a documentary film were instead treated to a comedy!

U.S.S. South Dakota

USS South Dakota


Special Collections Reference: VA 63 .S72 1972

The USS South Dakota was the first of a group of fast battleships built under 1939 fiscal year appropriations just prior to World War II. The other vessels in her class were: Indiana, Massachusetts and Alabama. The USS South Dakota was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey and was launched on 7 June 1941 and commissioned on 20 March 1942. The South Dakota class vessels had nine 16-inch guns mounted in triple turrets. After commissioning she served in the Pacific where she promptly ran aground on a coral reef and had to go to Peal Harbor for repairs. At the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal she suffered a massive power failure and was out of action while receiving 42 topside hits. At this point the South Dakota returned to New York for repairs, after which she joined the British Home fleet for a period before returning to the Pacific again operating as a carrier escort. She ended the war in Tokyo Bay at the surrender of Japan. She was sold for scrap in 1962. Two sister ships remain as museums: Massachusetts and Alabama.

Annual Register

Source: Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politicks and Literature of the Year, Rare Book Collection #D 2 A7

Title page of the Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politicks and Literature of the Year 1758

Title page of the Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politicks and Literature of the Year 1758

Staff Person: Ralph Scott


Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politicks and Literature of the Year…, was printed by James and Robert Dodsley and edited by Edmund Burke (1729-1797) a Whig statesman, political theorist, and philosopher. The first volume came in 1758. Burke is remembered primarily for his A Vindication of Natural Society (1756) and his opposition to the French Revolution. The Register is an important historical reference work and is an annual review of the year’s major events, developments, and views of world events. It was an early forerunner of modern works like the World Almanac. In the Annual Register the editor has selected essays or articles describing important events in sports, arts, religion, science, law, history, politics, government, and the environment that happened during the past year. Obituaries, book reviews, book digests, letters and selected documents are also included. For example, the 1758 volume (the first year) contains a lengthy account of a fire on board H.M.S. Prince George, off Lisbon. A midshipman writes of the fire, “Such a terrible fight the oldest men of the fleet say they never saw,” as the crew struggled to save the vessel. Of the ship’s complement of 745, only 260 were saved by crews of the H.M.S. Glasgow and Alderney. A Rev. Sharpe on the Prince George noted that more might have been saved by the crew of the Alderney, had not the crew also been so “employed in saving geese, fowls, tables, chairs, and whatever else of the kind [that] came near them.”

The Annual Register is still published today by ProQuest. The Rare Book Collection in Special Collections has a set that runs from 1758 to 1825. Most of the volumes have been rebound in library buckram, but one year, 1784, is in the original binding. This volume has the bookplate of the Rev. Alexander Scott, who was chaplain to Vice Admiral Horation Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte. Scott was chaplain to Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar and also served as Nelson’s private secretary.

Special Collections Rare D 2 A7

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