Colonial North Carolina’s Pirate Paper

Source:

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

Description: 

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.

Chart of Beaufort Harbor, 1857

Source: North Carolina Map Collection, NCC Maps G3902 B42 P5 1857 U67

Staff Person: Ralph Scott

Description: This chart was part of a large survey done by the Hydrographic Office of the U.S. Navy just prior to the Civil War. The survey was conducted by Alexander Dallas Bache (1806-1867) Superintendent, and under the local supervision of John Newland Maffitt (1819-1886). Using these charts Maffitt, later in the Confederate Navy, was known as the “Prince of the Privateers” for his extraordinary success as a blockade runner and commerce raider. Maffitt also commanded the CSS Albemarle which dominated the Roanoke River for a time during the war. Of special interest on this chart is Carolina City, NC which was a rival to a development to the east by John Motley Moreland called Shepard’s Point. Both developments were merged into Morehead City. For more information on Carolina City please visit: http://friendsoffortmacon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/The-Lost-Carolina-City.pdf

 

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.

President Carter: FREE THE WILMINGTON 10

 

Wilmington 10 Demonstration Poster

President Carter: FREE THE WILMINGTON 10

Source:
North Carolina Collection  NoCar F265.N4 P74 1977

Staff Person:
Susan Holland

Description:
In October 1972, Ben Chavis along with nine other defendants were sentenced in the February 1971 firebombing of Mike’s Grocery in Wilmington, NC. The arson stemmed from long-standing frustration among African Americans due to the slow movement of school desegregation and other social reforms in the state. Known as the Wilmington 10, the group was perceived as political prisoners and were the subject of documentaries and news articles. Human rights groups including Amnesty International and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression took up the cause to release the prisoners. In 1977, in response to President Carter administration’s accusations of Soviet Union human rights violations, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression called for rallies in cities across the United States to free the Wilmington 10. In January 1978, North Carolina’s Governor Jim Hunt refused to pardon the prisoners, though he commuted their sentences. In 1980, a federal appeals court overturned the Wilmington 10’s conviction, and they were released. In May 2012, forty years after their conviction, the Wilmington 10 asked Governor Beverly Purdue for pardons.

The New Era: Washington, N.C. Occupied March 1862

Source: North Carolina Collection (Uncataloged Rare Materials)

Staff Person:     Fred W. Harrison 

Description:      War officially reached the port town of Washington in March 1862, with the arrival of Federal troops escorted by the gunboat Picket. According to one account, “two companies and a band marched from the wharf to the courthouse playing national aires.” 

As evidenced by this rare edition of a Yankee newspaper dated June 25, 1862, and operating in Washington, Union forces quickly assumed control of business activity and general functions of the town. James H. Turner and A.W. Hahn are listed respectively as editor and printer of the paper.  Found within the four pages are reports of Rhode Island’s presentation of a magnificent sword to Gen. Ambrose Burnside and a speech by  Edward Stanley, Provisional Governor of North Carolina, appointed by President Lincoln.  Stanley delivered an address to the citizens of the state in Washington on June 17, 1862.