10 July 2007

Chatham Rabbit Reads the Record

The Rabbit begins here a recurring feature called in full, "Chatham Rabbit Reads the Record", or "Reads the Record" for short. The ground rules are subject to complete revision and even abandonment according to the flimsiest of whims, but for the moment they stand as:

1) Examine a year's worth of issues of the county's longest running newspaper, The Chatham Record, at a time, and write in installments, starting with quarters but switching to half or full years as convenient. Most of the paper's run is available on microfilm at the North Carolina Collection.

2) Start with 1906 for a few reasons; first, because that's the origin of this guy. Second, because working through about a year and a half would bring it up to a century before our moment. Finally and most importantly, because in accord with one of the themes of this blog, it starts at the point in history where the automobile begins to overtake rail as the primary transportation technology in the county and in the country.

3) Work with selected sequences, to help keep the project manageable. The first series will end probably around 1908. Another series might survey the few years leading up to 1915 and the passage of road bonds around the county. Also, the 1920s hold a lot of interest, as does the period leading up to 1939-1940 and the visits of the Farm Securities Administration photographers [to be blogged upon soon].

4) Summarize and feature selected quotations, notices and storylines from the paper, with two objectives:

A) First, to trace the roads debates, and the transformations brought by the automobile; to gather data on notable landmarks; and to note the development of the county's infrastructure.

B) Second, to highlight stories from community life. Here, particularly during the period when the paper was edited by its founder, Henry Armand London, we are led by a relentlessly parochial and politically partisan editorial voice. But this project isn't about the editor or the editor's persona. Most of the interest lies in voices that make it through the editorial filter into the paper.

5) Important Disclaimer: This is not a systematic study. I expect it to be comprehensive but not exhaustive with respect to information on the theme of roads and roads policy. It will be highly selective on the cultural, social, political themes.

6) Organize items under headings to improve readability. Some of the headings should remain consistent, but others could change as the paper itself changes. The Rabbit reserves the right to change headings without notice or explanation. To start, we'll see:

Roads -- Policy, Reports, Opinion

Landmarks Referenced

National and Foreign Affairs: These should be very brief and selected references, only when notable for the slant of coverage or the historic background they provide for local events.

State of NC: State affairs, especially as they relate to the roads movement and the county.

Top Local Stories Reported: In particular, follow narrative themes that develop over time.

Culinary Notes: Titles of recipes provided, particularly those printed on page one or submitted by local cooks. If I have time, I'll type out selected recipes in separate blog posts.

Chatham Rabbit: Wherever the paper mentions anything having to do with this blog's mascot.

Headings that we'll start with in 1906, but may not apply in different periods of the paper's life:

If It Bleeds, and Other Mayhem: The paper at times seems to portray a world where the entire human race is under constant siege from violent and disruptive forces. Natural disasters, transportation disasters, mob violence, random criminal behavior, bloody coups, and grisly workplace accidents -- hardly a week of the Record goes by without a heaping helping of mayhem.

Metereological Exceptionalism: Features statements about the weather that describe in terms exceeding the current year or season. For example, "the coldest day I can ever remember" would make it, but "the coldest day of the winter would not."

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