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IN many respects Charlotte differs very little from other Southern cities. Hence, little or no attempt will be made to describe the clothes worn by Charlotte men and women for various periods, nor the furniture in their homes. Clothing and furniture styles were very much the same throughout the Southern states. Observance of social amenities were uniform with those of other cities. Likewise, there was little or no difference between architectural styles locally and elsewhere. These phases of the life and culture for different decades are pictured and described in many books readily available in public libraries.
The only really notable exception in Charlotte is in the field of architecture. The "Hexagonal residence," on West Fifth Street, still standing, though somewhat altered in 1960, was described in the Southern Home magazine for February 17, 1870.
"Mrs. Irwin of Charlotte, N. C., a sister of Mrs. Stonewall Jackson, had secured a patent for an improvement in construction of houses, which it is claimed will create a new era in architecture. Mrs. Irwin proposes a six walled or hexagonal apartment which will not only be much handsomer but really cheaper than the quadrangular form. A wall eighty feet built in hexagonal form encloses a third more space than the same length of wall built in the square form, and as the hexagonal rooms fit into each other without loss of space the gain in the whole building is very great. The patentee also claims that this mode of building in the hands of a good architect is capable of assuming greater artistic beauty than the quadrangular form. The octagonal building attracted a good deal of attention some years ago, but the hexagonal is claimed to be something entirely new."
From the founding of Charlotte until the Civil War, the business of living occupied most of the people's time and effort. Daniel Augustus Tompkins describes the local situation at that time: "The effects of emancipation upon all phases of industrial life was immediate and revolutionary . . . . Under the system of slavery the population of the city and county did not increase form 1825 until 1860, and wealth and prosperity were in the same condition . . . After the war . . . the whites were not accustomed to farm work and could not hire Negroes, and the result was that their attention was diverted to something else."
From that time on the size of farms in Mecklenburg County decreased. As a result of the continuance of this trend from that time until now, industry has long since overtaken agriculture as the principal concern of the city and county.
These were the days of unpaved roads. Dust in dry weather and mud in wet weather were major problems confronting those who sought to be well groomed. Every home had a door mat, usually made of corn shucks, for wiping the remaining mud from shoes after most of it had been removed by the iron scraper attached to the edge of the lower step. At several places in mid-town, there were pumps and watering troughs for the use of horses. Most of these constituted messy menaces as well as breeding places for flies.
Time for the development of cultural interests was provided the many conveniences which reached Charlotte during the 1880's. In 1882 city water became available. The first telephones were installed in 1884. Gas, which had been used for illumination since 1858 began being replaced with electricity in 1887. Horsedrawn cars were in operation in 1887 and were replaced by electric cars in 1893.
Charlotte's population, which had been largely homogeneous prior to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, began to change for the better with the arrival of such men and their families and associates as: Daniel Augustus Tompkins from Edgefield, South Carolina; Stuart Warren Cramer, Sr., a native of Thomasville, North Carolina; Fred Glover, Herbert Baxter, Arthur Draper, Earl S. Draper from New England; John W. Fox, from Australia; Rogers Davis, Norman Pease from Georgia; and Morgan Brower Speir, Sr. from Brooklyn, New York.
Charlotte's modern theatrical history appears to have had its beginning in 1874 when Silvano, a magician, and Professor Maurice, with 17 marionettes, opened the Charlotte Opera House on South Tryon Street, the second building south of Fourth Street. This Opera House is described in the May 8, 1874 issue of The American Builder: "Charlotte, N. C., April 20, 1874. A theatre is erected here from designs by Mr. S. Welch of New York and the finishing touches are nearly completed. It is a very substantial brick building, 50 feet wide and 100 feet deep; the lower part, or ground story, is made into two large store . . . the auditorium is 70 feet deep and the stage 30 feet. A large balcony of a graceful line is formed, and returns against the sidewalls before reaching the proscenium." The account continues to the effect that there were two boxes on each side, a balcony of "rich design;" nine hundred crimson plush seat and all decorated "of a bright and cheerful character." R. C. Carson and L. W. Sanders were owners.
This opera house was well patronized for several years, the season of 1880-81 offering 37 performances. From about 1890 until 1895 the theatre was closed, probably caused by the financial panic of 1893, but reopened in 1895 with "Uncle Toms Cabin." The final season of this theatre was 1901-1902 when there were 83 performances, highlighted by such popular players of that period of Arthur Dunn in "A Runaway Girl," and Adelaide Thurston with Otis B. Thayer in "Sweet Clover".
The Charlotte Opera House was replaced by the Academy of Music which occupied the first floor of the newly built, six-story Trust Building on South Tryon Street. This theatre which was to serve for the next 20 years as Charlotte's leading amusement center opened September 29, 1902 with Mrs. Clarence Brune as leading lady in F. Marion Crawford's "Unora." The Academy had a seating capacity of 1,350. The 1902-03 season was the fullest Charlotte audiences had ever experienced. There were 95 performances including such notables as Paul Gilmore in Hadden Chambers' comedy "The Tyranny of Tears," Frank Deshon in "The Messenger Boy," a comedy; Kate Klaxton in "The Two Orphans," Rose Coghlan in Pinero's "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray," Otis Skinner in "Lazarre," James O'Neill in Hall Caine's "The Manxman," Richard Mansfield in Julius Caesar," Fred Niblo in George M. Cohan's musical comedy "The Governor's Son," Joseph Jefferson in "Rip Van Winckle." In 1903 the Carolina May Music Festival featured such operatic stars as Lillian Nordica, soprano; Edouard DeReszke, basso, with the Metropolitan Opera House orchestra, John S. Duss, conductor.
The ten years following the opening of the Academy of Music were the most brilliant in American theatrical history. As late as the season of 1910-11, 78 road shows played the Academy. Among the actors and actresses appearing during the season were such well-remembered favorites as Dustin Farnum, Jefferson DeAngilis, Lew Fields, Alla Nazimova, DeWolfe Hopper, Mary Garden, and James K. Hackett. Among the plays and musical comedies were "The Merry Widow," "The Chocolate Soldier," "The Bohemian Girl," and the opera "Il Trovatore."
Beginning about 1910, the live theatre began to yield popularity to the rapidly growing list of moving picture theatres, the first of which opened in Charlotte in 1904. The Academy opened the season of 1920-21 on Labor Day, with B. F. Keith Vaudeville and short moving pictures. The few road shows that remained, along with concerts and lectures, were offered at the Charlotte Auditorium, a huge barn-like structure on the northwest corner of Church and Fifth Streets. Building of the auditorium was instigated by the Greater Charlotte Club, forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce.
Keith Vaudeville at the Academy ended on December 16, 1922 because on the next day, Sunday, about 3 o'clock in the morning fire broke out and destroyed the Trust Building, including the Academy, and the building next door occupied the Brockmann's Book Store, in one Charlotte's most disastrous fires.
With the burning of the Academy, live entertainment in Charlotte ceased except for such attractions, principally band and other concerts, which used the Auditorium. Notwithstanding its size (seating capacity about 5,000) and network of steel beams across the lofty ceiling, the Auditorium housed many cultural attractions. There were the bands of Sousa and Creatore; the one and only Paderewski; recitals by Galli-Curci, Mme. Schumann-Heink, Louise Homer, John McCormick, Martinelli, and the great Caruso, who delighted the audience with his joviality as well as his glorious voice. Irvin S. Cobb, Will Rogers, William Jennings Bryan, and many other lecturers were also among those whose talents were enjoyed at the Auditorium.
With the final departure of "live theatre" form Charlotte, public patronage was soon won by the moving picture theatres. Numerous picture houses were readied for this new form of entertainment, first in store-rooms, equipped with seats, a piano and screen, and later into premises built for their purposes. From the Odeon, Ottoway and other "nickelodeons" these structures grew in magnificence in Charlotte and elsewhere. There was the Broadway, first in Charlotte to show "talking pictures" with Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer." This popular place was located on the site of the Old Charlotte Opera House and served Charlotte from the early 1920's to about 1950. It was demolished in 1958 to make room for the Cutter Building. The Carolina Theatre, seating 1,800, was opened on the southeast corner of Tryon and Sixth Streets in 1927, and in 1960 was still liberally patronized. Another large and popular mid-town picture theatre is the Imperial, on South Tryon Street.
As Charlotte began to expand, neighborhood picture houses were built in various sections of the city. Among these were the Plaza Theatre, Manor Theatre, Dilworth Theatre, and the commodious Center Theatre, all operating in 1960. Beginning about 1940 "drive-in" theatres were introduced.
In 1927 there was formed in Charlotte a Drama League, sponsored by the American Association of University Women. This group had its beginning when nine ladies met in the home of Mrs. Francis Clarkson. With Mrs. C. T. Wanzer as chairman they read and discussed plays. Before long, interest had increased the membership and the meetings were held in the Public Library. At this time the group took the name of Charlotte Drama League, and Mrs. Wanzer became the first president.
On June 1, 1928 the Charlotte Drama League produced its first play, "Outward Bound," in the basement auditorium of the Public Library. Among those in the original cast were Walter Hook, who later followed in the footsteps of his father to become a prominent Charlotte architect; Archie Thornhill, and Dr. Burke Fox. So little notice was given this play in the local papers that a member of the audience wrote a delayed appraisal which appeared in the program of the Charlotte Little Theatre for April 1950.
The opening play of the second season of the Charlotte Drama League was "The Dover Road," presented in the old Baird School. Thereafter the Drama League presented plays in the auditorium of Alexander Graham School and the gymnasium of Thompson Orphanage. With each new play, additional friends were made and the membership greatly increased.
In 1930 the Drama League engaged Thomas B. Humble as professional director, a position which he is still holding with distinguished success 31 years later. The first play produced under Mr. Humble's direction was "The Royal Family," by Kaufman and Ferber. The following summer the Drama League was incorporated under the name of Little Theatre of Charlotte. Subsequent productions were staged in various buildings until 1941 when an attractive Little Theatre was completed on Queens Road. Its first production was "George Washington Slept Here."
In "Nude with Violin" by Noel Coward, final play of the 1958-59 season, Mr. Humble made his annual appearance as a member of the cast. This was the 189th play staged by the Little Theatre of Charlotte, now a member of the National Theatre Council and Americans National Theatre and Academy.
Charlotte theatre lovers received another "break" in 1957 when the Broadway Theatre League of Charlotte was organized to provide guaranteed audiences for Broadway shows, to be presented in Charlotte. Half the proceeds, after expenses, go to support the Mint Museum Drama Group, thus making possible the free presentation of dramatic classes.
Several men and women who had reached near professional status through experience in the Little Theatre and elsewhere, formed in 1954 the Mint Museum Drama Group. Under the direction of Mrs. Dorothy Masterson this group began the production of several plays annually. Among these were such well-known classics as "Medea," "Electra," "Antigone," "Lute Song," "Don Juan in Hell," and "Elizabeth the Queen." Pending other and more permanent arrangements plays of the group are staged in the Mint Museum. The theatre is supported by the museum and the Broadway Theatre Alliance. No admission is charged for plays.
About the time motion pictures began to monopolize the affection of Charlotte people, another important form of communication made its appearance. Charlotte had the distinction of having put into operation the first commercially licensed radio station in the Carolinas, and one of the first in the nation. This station originated in 1920 when it was housed in the basement of the home of Fred M. Laxton, an electrical engineer, who set up an amateur broadcasting system with a set of DeForest audion tubes which he received as a gift from the General Electric Company. The station was known as 4XD and the operating company, Southern Radio Corporation. F. M. Laxton was president, J. B. Marshall, vice president and Miss Lelia Graham Marsh, secretary. On April 10, 1922 the station was granted a license to operate commercially with 100 watt power, and given the call letters WBT.
In 1925 this station was bought by C. C. Coddington and removed from the Independence Building to the Coddington Building, where it was managed by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, with power increased to 500 watts. In 1929 station WBT was purchased by the Columbia Broadcasting System, and removed to the Wilder Building in 1936. By this time the power had been increased to 50,000 watts. In 1945 WBT was purchased by Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company and the corporate name changed to Jefferson Standard Broadcasting Company.
Charlotte acquired its second radio station in 1933 when WSOC, which was organized 1928 at Gastonia, moved to Charlotte. WSOC became affiliated with the National Broadcasting Company and under the guidance of such men as Earle J. Gluck, Larry Walker and others, became an influential enterprise. This station, originally owned by a group of Charlotte men headed by Eddie E. Jones, was sold on May 14, 1959, for $5,600,000 to the James M. Cox Radio and Television interests. New offices and broadcasting facilities are located on North Tryon Street. In 1960 there are in addition to WBT and WSOC, five smaller stations.
North Carolina's first television station, WBTV, went on the air for the first time July 15, 1949 with a picture of the American flag. When WBTV's application was granted there were no TV stations south of Washington and only 13 in the United States.
Studios on WBTV were located in the Wilder Building with transmitting facilities at Spencer Mountain, some 20 miles to the southwest. A new building to house WBT and WBTV was dedicated in 1955.
Charlotte's second permanent television station, WSOC-TV, went on the air for the first time April 28, 1957 as an NBC and ABC affiliate. This station was included in the sale of WSOC Broadcasting Company on May 14, 1959 to the James M. Cox interests.
Beginning shortly after his arrival in Charlotte to become director of the Little Theatre in 1930, Tom Humble played a leading role in one play during almost every season. He will be remembered longest for his parts in sophisticated comedies. Others who helped to make a successful little theatre group in Charlotte include Martha Dulin, Jack Knell, his wife Dorothy and son Derek, Trippi Wisecup, Phyllis Isenhour, Fred Vinroot, Penelope Alexander Currie, Gladys Lavitan, and Eloise MacDonald.
The list of regular players who have distinguished themselves in many plays at the Little Theatre also includes A. R. Thompson, an accomplished amateur magician as well as actor, "Dick" Pitts, newspaperman and magazine editor, and Henry C. Alexander, Sr., Ray Rawlings, Martha Akers, Rudy Thompson, Arline Steinacher, Dr. Robert H. Libby, Peter Hazelton, and Dorothy Masterson.
The two most widely known radio and television personalities developed in Charlotte as Grady Cole and Arthur Smith. Mr. Cole began his early morning radio chatter over WBT in 1930 and was so successful he filled the job for thirty-one years. Arthur Smith's radio and television appearances also cover a long and successful period. As leader of the "Crackerjacks," which include his brothers Sonny and Ralph along with Tommy Faile and others, he was still a local favorite over television in 1960, and nationally known for recordings by his group.
Lee Kirby was an early sports commentator whose death, while quite young, was widely lamented. The popular entertainer for children in the early years of radio and later television was Fred Kirby. Other favorites in Charlotte were Dewey Drum, Clyde McLean, Gil Stamper, Phil Agresta, Jimmy Patterson, Alan Newcomb, Fletcher Austin, Doug Mayes, Bob Bean, J. B. Clark, Pat Lee, and Betty Feezor.
From the opening of the Grand Opera House in 1874 to completion of Ovens Auditorium and Charlotte Coliseum in 1955, many buildings were used to house Charlotte's dramatic offerings, musical events, home-talent shows, lectures, and other diversions. Attractions which were not large enough or could not afford the Opera House or its successor, the Academy of Music, were usually held in the auditoriums of public schools and, for a while, in the auditorium of the Chamber of Commerce on West Fourth Street. Most of these events were sponsored by local clubs as a method of raising money for various purposes.
Edgar Guest and Harris Houdini drew sell-out audiences during the 1920's in the auditorium of Central High School. During the same period Admiral Richard E. Byrd and others used the Chamber of Commerce auditorium. Many authors, prominent at that time, visited Charlotte in the 1920's and 1930's, including Hugh Walpole, British novelist; Ida M. Tarbell, biographer of the Standard Oil Company; John Erskine, educator, novelist, and essayist; Richard Halliburton, world traveler and adventurer; Judge Ben B. Lindsey, whose espousal of trial marriages caused his lectures to be banned in some cities, and dozens of others.
In 1929 the Armory-Auditorium on Cecil Street was completed in time to house the 38th Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans. This structure replaced the Auditorium at College and Fifth Streets, which was demolished. The Armory-Auditorium served well, if not elegantly, as a place to hold dances and athletic events, but for concerts and dramatic events it was inadequate. Burned in 1954, the Armory-Auditorium was rebuilt and renamed Park Center. As such, and much more suitable, it continued as the city's chief center for wrestling, boxing and other sporting events, as well as other forms of entertainment.
Inadequacy of the Armory-Auditorium for large scale events prompted Charlotte citizens to vote $3,000,000 in bonds (later supplemented by $1,600,000 additional bonds) in 1950 to build an Auditorium and Coliseum. In November 1949 Mayor Victor Shaw of Charlotte had appointed a citizens' committee to study the possibility of erecting a municipal auditorium and, if the project seemed feasible, to make recommendations as to location, size, cost, architects and other details. The following citizens served on this committee: David Ovens, chairman; Henry J. Allison, vice chairman; Claude A. Cochran, Frank Dowd, James P. McMillan, Frank O. Sherrill and Ivey W. Steward. Members of this committee spent 284 days, but no public funds, in carrying out their mission. They visited 18 cities before submitting their recommendations in 1950.
Following the election which authorized the issuance of the general obligation bonds, a building committee was formed comprised of James P. McMillan, chairman, Edgar A. Terrell, Sr., Claude Cochran, David Clark and David Ovens.
Upon completion of the building, a five man Auditorium-Coliseum Authority was appointed by the City Council to operate both facilities, with Claude Cochran as chairman. James P. McMillan was named chairman of the Building Committee and vice chairman of the Authority.
Dedication ceremonies for both buildings were held in 1955 with Dr. William F. (Billy) Graham, Charlotte native, as principal speaker, and many distinguished guests present. In recognition of the many years David Ovens had devoted to elevating Charlotte's cultural life, which efforts were climaxed by the afternoon's ceremonies, the new theatre was dedicated as Ovens Auditorium. The larger structure next door was dedicated as Charlotte Coliseum.
Ovens Auditorium is air-conditioned and sound-proof, with faultless acoustics, seating 2,500 persons and with a stage, with disappearing orchestra pit, surpassed in size only by that of Radio City Music Hall in New York. Its colorful, carpeted interior provides every comfort known to theatre audiences in the mid twentieth century.
The Charlotte Coliseum seats upwards of 12,500 people and, when built, was covered by the world's largest unsupported dome. It is easily convertible for many uses, ranging from the Billy Graham Crusade (1958); Ringling Brothers Circus, which sometimes opened its annual nation-wide tour at Charlotte; the fabulous Ice Capades; ice hockey of the Eastern League; basketball tournaments, ice skating and horse shows.
Records concerning the musical arts in Charlotte prior to 1900 are very sketchy and incomplete. They can only be reconstructed from a few clippings and programs. we know from these sources that, insofar as Charlotte was concerned, interest in music was maintained largely by the music faculty of Charlotte Female Institute, later Presbyterian College and later still, Queens College. After the turn of the century Harry J. Zehm, director of Elizabeth College Conservatory of Music, was an important figure in the musical life of Charlotte for some years.
Shortly after the Civil War, the Music Department of Charlotte Female Institute was headed by Mr. Albrecht Baumann, who organized what was apparently Charlotte's first glee club. Professor von Meyerhoff, considered a musical genius, followed Baumann, and he, in turn, was followed by Mr. and Mrs. DeCosta. They were succeeded by Dr. Bidez under whose direction the Gounod Club was organized, which gave many delightful concerts. Another well-beloved musician of Charlotte Female Institute was Carl S. Gaertner who organized the Philharmonic Society, and directed its first concert in 1889. Mr. Joseph Malean came next and served for many years. He continued the concerts of the Philharmonic Society, the final concert having been given in January 1892. Then came Dr. J. Richard Ninniss, for whom the music building at Queens College was named.
The Charlotte Philharmonic Society's most ambitious project was the First Grand Music Festival of the State of North Carolina held in Tryon Street Tabernacle in 1890, with Joseph Maclean, conductor. This event brought together orchestras from Winston-Salem, Statesville and Charlotte, and singers from many North Carolina towns.
A Fall Music Festival was held in 1908. This must have been a success for in 1909 a three day Music Festival was held in connection with the 20th of May celebration. The Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra was featured in this series of concerts.
During the First World War a number of musicians were stationed at Camp Greene. One who went on to gain national fame was Howard Barlow, whose Firestone Orchestra was heard regularly on radio and television. He and most of the other musicians at Camp Greene cooperated with local musicians in providing entertainment for both civilians and soldiers. The most important of these events was the Entente Allies Patriotic Music Festival, in 1918, presented for the benefit of American Red Cross.
Music in Charlotte reached its maturity in 1925 with the organization of the Charlotte Music Club, affiliated with the North Carolina and the National Federation of Music Clubs. From the initial membership of 15, the club has grown to a current membership of 275.
As its first project the Music Club contributed $15 towards placing a radio in Mecklenburg Sanatorium. Now, six scholarships are awarded annually in piano, organ, voice, and stringed instruments, and the club cooperates in every phase of community music. Notable among the contributions are the establishment of the Community Concert Association, the sponsoring of the Charlotte Opera Association and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and the founding of the Community Christmas Chorus. The club gave the Public Library of Charlotte its first phonograph records and continues to make annual gifts to the library's present fine collection.
Charlotte Community Concert Association
The largest and most successful project sponsored by the Charlotte Music Club was the launching in 1933, during the presidency of Mrs. Louise Young Workman, of the Charlotte Community Concert Association. During its history it has brought some of the world's best musicians and musical organizations to Charlotte. Admission to concerts is limited to holders of season tickets of which 2,512 are available annually. The first president of the Charlotte Community Concert Association was Paul Lucas, Sr., followed by David Ovens, who held this post and guided the affairs of the Association for a quarter of a century.
Charlotte Symphony Orchestra
Founded in 1932, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra has an unbroken record of performances. The first director, Guillermo S. DeRoxlo, served until 1945. He was succeeded by Guy Hutchins for two seasons, Lamar Stringfield for one season and James Christian Pfohl for seven seasons. Henry Janiec, the present conductor, has served since 1958. Early officers of the Charlotte Symphony were J. Spencer Bell, Margaret Alexander, Frank E. Exum, Eugene Craft and Mrs. Paul H. Allen.
In 1960, four charter members of the Symphony rounded at almost three decades of service: Israel Smith, violin; Lloyd Torrence, violin; Samuel Citron, viola principal; William Greene, cello principal. To Esther Waltenberger, business manager of the Symphony, is due much of the credit for the orchestra's sound fiscal condition, and for its important place in the Charlotte Fine Arts Council.
American Guild of Organists
The Charlotte Chapter, Guild of Organists was formed in 1947, "to advance the cause of worthy religious music; to elevate the status of church musicians and to increase their appreciation of their responsibilities, duties, and opportunities . . ." The original group of 25 organists has grown to more than 80 members from Charlotte and practically every town within a radius of 75 miles.
The Oratorio Singers of Charlotte
Under the sponsorship of the American Guild of Organists a group of Charlotte musicians formed the Oratorio Singers in 1951 to present masterworks of choral literature and to otherwise promote an appreciation for great choral works. Audiences have grown from an average of 600 for free concerts to an average of 1,500 for paid vents and the group has filled numerous radio, television and other engagements. New members are admitted semi-annually; membership averages 75. The first president of the Oratorio Singers was Richard Van Sciver, and the first musical director, Earl F. Berg.
Charlotte Opera Association
The Charlotte Opera Association came into being at the suggestion of members of the Charlotte Music Club in 1948. Realizing the need of suitable opportunity for trained young voices in a growing community, Music Club officers and members assisted in raising the first $300 to start this group on its way. "Rosalinda" was its first performance. Since then the Charlotte Opera Association has come to present four major productions each year.
Among musicians who were natives of Charlotte, or made this city their home, one of the best known was Mr. Don Richardson, violinist. Mr. Richardson, native of Clinton, N. C., arrived in Charlotte in 1900 at the age of twenty-two. He made Charlotte his home for the remainder of his life except for a period of ten years during which he conducted in New York City. During his years in Charlotte he is reported to have given violin lessons to 2,900 pupils, as well as participating in practically every important musical event in the city for nearly fifty years.
Another widely known Charlotte musician was Hal Kemp, a native of Marion, Alabama, whose parents moved to Charlotte when he was a small child. From leadership of an orchestra composed of five high school friends (Robert Dye, Paul Whitlock, Jr., Robert Buck and Byrd Crayton), Hal Kemp, saxophonist, moved on to become one of America's most popular band leaders in the field of contemporary popular music. He died at 35, of pneumonia contracted after an automobile accident. Following funeral rites at Charlotte on December 27, 1940, burial took place in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Charlotte.
Mecklenburg County's contribution to the musical world is violinist Johnny Long, native of the Newell section of the county. Johnny formed his own orchestra while a student at Duke University. Upon graduation from Duke he led his band in playing minor spots and hotels for a year or two, gradually moving up to big-time engagements.
Charlotte also claims Betty Johnson, member of the Johnson family singers, for many years popular throughout the Carolinas on radio and television programs. Following the winning of first place in a national talent show, Miss Johnson proceeded to engagements on some of the nation's leading radio and television programs.
Charlotte was the family home of John Scott Trotter, leader of one of the country's most popular orchestras in the field of stage, screen, radio and television.
Art and Artists in Charlotte
Almost entirely lacking is any recorded history of art and artists in Charlotte before October 22, 1936, the day the Mint Museum of Art was opened.
The moving spirit in the establishment of the Mint Museum of Art was Mrs. Harold C. Dwelle. She and E. C. Griffith, because of their unswerving devotion to the Museum, are life honorary members of the board of trustees.
The Mint Museum holds local and traveling art exhibits, holds adult and children's art classes, presents Sunday afternoon concerts, and sponsors the Mint Museum Drama Guild. The Museum is a non-profit public institution of the City of Charlotte, and is supported primarily by private benefactions and membership fees.
Almost simultaneously with the opening of the Museum of Art, Charlotte gained three well-known artists in Dayrell Kortheuer, Paul Bartlett and Mrs. Alice Steadman. Their works adorn many homes and institutions throughout the Carolinas.
Guild of Charlotte Artists
Local artists formed the Guild of Charlotte Artists in 1947 with Paul Bartlett as the first president. The principal purpose of the Guild is to conduct joint exhibits of the works of its members; it also provides pictures to non-profit and community welfare units.
The first book club in Charlotte was the Cranford Book Club, organized in 1891. It was followed by the Eclectic Club in 1894, and the Sorosis Book Club, in 1896. There are several others more than 50 years old, most of them still vigorous.
There are 76 units in the Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs and its affiliates. Organized in 1952, the Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs emphasizes education in planting, pruning and flower arranging; holds annual flower shows; and is an affiliate of state and national organizations. With a combined membership of almost 3,000, the clubs in the Council are responsible for programs of beautification of public property.
Noteworthy among the beauty spots of Charlotte is the Sunnyside Rose Garden, maintained by the Charlotte Garden Clubs, occupying land donated by F. C. Abbott. A plaque credits Miss Helen Hodge with the design of the garden which has given pleasure to natives and visitors.
Charlotte Writers and Poets
Some of the Charlotte poets whose books are still available and who have received recognition beyond a circle of personal friends are Paul Bartlett, H. E. Harmon, Andrew Hewitt, Loraine Lashley, Alice McFarland, Lucy Mourning McGriff, Nellie Hughes Mullis, Sneed Ogburn, Betty Lee Stoffel, Mrs. John Van Landingham, Charlotte Young and Mrs. Rush Wray.
Charlotte has attracted to its churches some of the country's most eloquent and versatile ministers. A number of these have extended their influence throughout the world by means of the printed page. A sampling of those whose books have been in great demand would include Dr. Luther Little, Rev. J. A. Baldwin, Dr. John R. Brokhoff, Rev. J. G. Garth, "Billy" Graham, Bishop Costen J. Harrell, Dr. G. Ray Jordan, Rev. John A. Redhead, Bishop Herbert Spaugh, Rev. Ernest Lee Stoffel, Dr. J. S. Nathaniel Tross, and Dr. Carlyle Marney.
Charlotte Writer's Club
The Charlotte Writers' Club has an enviable record of never having skipped a meeting during its 35 year history. Organized for the purpose of developing and improving the writing skill of its members, the Writers' Club can point with pride to many whose writings are appreciated locally and a few whose works have appeared in national media. Among the latter are Jack Clinton McLarn, Peggy Simendinger, Thelma Benson, Naomi Hintze, Margaret Clayton, Marian Sims, Louise Pickens, E. P. Holmes and Boyd Blanton.
Cultural interests of Charlotte and Mecklenburg are served by many organizations. The Charlotte Panhellenic Congress was formed in 1951 by Mrs. Frank H. Alexander and Mrs. Karl D. Heinbaugh. It is composed of recognized sororities and accomplishes the purposes largely through scholarships and the stimulation of interest in civic, social service and philanthropic affairs.
The Adult Education Council endeavors to provide information about all forms of adult education available in Charlotte. Branches of the Toastmasters' Club of America provide facilities and incentives for improving the quality of public speaking; a Joint Council on International Affairs broadens the horizon for members of units composing the council. In the religious field the annual Queens-Charlotte Leadership Training Program, conducted at Queens College, has achieved permanence.
Blythe, LeGette and Brockmann, Charles Raven. Hornets' Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Charlotte, N.C.: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1961.