Posts Tagged ‘tobacco’

Try your hand at tobacco tying Saturday at Duke Homestead’s
Harvest and Hornworm Festival

A celebration of the harvest in Durham, musket and cannon fire in Statesville and the words of Thomas Wolfe intertwined with mountain music in Asheville are just a few of the opportunities for fun and discovery you’ll find this weekend with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

The weekend kicks off Friday when the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh will celebrate the end of summer with live music, gourmet popsicles and champagne, while the N.C. Museum of History, also in Raleigh, will kick off its Starring North Carolina film series byshowing Bull Durham. Also Friday, the popular Cedars in the Pines exhibit exploring Lebanese life in North Carolina will open at Tryon Palace in New Bern.

Saturday in Raleigh, staff from the State Library will celebrate Tar Heel history by telling some of its stranger stories through panel discussions and activities for kids at the N.C. Museum of History. At the same time, the Museum of History will help kids make a critter-themed craft and teach them about the boll weevil bug and its effect on agriculture, while the N.C. Museum of Art will help kids and families make a one-of-a-kind journal before taking them on a journey through the Museum Park. In Durham, Duke Homestead will celebrate the arrival of fall with demonstrations of historic tobacco harvesting, stringing and curing, kids activities, food and live music.

New Bern‘s Tryon Palace will let kids see what school was like during the 1800s before hosting local jewelry artist Alice Bilello for demonstrations of her craft and displaying sculpture throughout the N.C. History Center as part of New Bern’s city-wide ArtWalk. Elsewhere in the east, Historic Edenton will offer a yoga class on the picturesque lawn of the 1767 Chowan Courthouse and the N.C. Maritime Museum in Southport will put on bicycle tours highlighting the history of its hometown.

The Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville will feature recitations of Thomas Wolfe’s work against the backdrop of mountain music by some of the region’s best artists including fiddler Bobby Hicks and vocalist Doc Cudd.

The weekend wraps up Sunday when the N.C. Museum of History features the smooth bluegrass sounds of Asheville duo Grits and Soul in its Raleigh garden.

Throughout the weekend, musket and cannon fire will light up Statesville for Fort Dobbs’Living History Weekend, while the N.C. Museum of Art will host performances by the award-winning troupe Paperhand Puppet Intervention in Raleigh.

Check out DCR’s calendar for more information on these and other events, and a enjoy a great North Carolina weekend!

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Nearly 20 teams of three competed in a traditional tobacco tying contest Friday at the N.C. State Fair. The annual contest, hosted by Duke Homestead, demonstrating a common chore on farms across North Carolina performed until the mid-20th century.

Farmers tied tobacco onto sticks and loaded them into barns, where the tobacco was cured.  The practice originated after the accidental discovery of the method for curing bright leaf tobacco by a slave on a Caswell County farm in 1839. The practice largely fell by the wayside as technology improved and tobacco began to be cured in a bulk barn in large containers.

If you missed Friday’s contest, have no fear. There are more opportunities to learn about North Carolina’s tobacco heritage at the Fair. All week long, volunteers from Duke Homestead and the state tobacco growers association are staffing a working tobacco barn in Heritage Circle. Visitors will be able to take a peek at the curing process during the week. Weekend visitors to the barn can see the finished product.

Duke Homestead will also put on a mock tobacco auction Friday at 2 p.m. in the Expo Building (see coverage of last year’s auction here). Though tobacco is now sold primarily through contracts between farmers and tobacco companies, auctions were the primary method of tobacco trade between 1859 and 2004. The mock auction celebrates that legacy. We hope to see you there!

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I grew up in Wilson—long nicknamed the World’s Greatest Tobacco Market—but I never heard the extraordinary tale of how bright leaf tobacco was first cured.

An accident in 1839 led to one of the most important breakthroughs in North Carolina agriculture history.   A slave named Stephen on Abisha Slade’s Caswell County farm worked as a blacksmith and oversaw the curing of the tobacco crop. On one occasion, due to the warmth created by the fire, Stephen fell asleep in the curing barn. A few hours later, he woke up to find the fire almost completely out. To try to keep the heat going, he rushed to his blacksmithing pit, retrieved charcoal and threw hot coals on the curing fire, creating a sudden, intense heat. His actions caused the tobacco to cure quickly, leaving it with a vivid yellow color.

Cured bright leaf tobacco. Photograph courtesy of Michael T. Southern, N.C. State Historic Preservation Office.

The new tobacco, which became known as bright leaf tobacco, soon became popular with smokers.  Within a generation, the success of bright leaf made North Carolina a leader in the United States’ tobacco industry.

Tobacco has long been a critical factor in North Carolina’s economy and history.  The tobacco barns that used to dot the landscape, however, are disappearing.  Many farmers have turned to different crops.  And those who still cultivate tobacco use modern technology for curing.  The State Historic Preservation Office has a nifty website that examines surviving tobacco barns of various types and gives tips for preserving them and suggestions on adaptive reuse.

The state’s oldest flue-cure barns are found in the Old Bright Belt and the northern Middle Belt along the Virginia border. The compact barns are most often built of hewn logs. Photograph courtesy of the State Historic Preservation Office.

Both the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly and  Duke Homestead State Historic Site in Durham offer opportunities to explore and learn about traditional tobacco culture.  On September 8th, Duke Homestead is hosting a free  Harvest and Hornworm Festival. Activities will include demonstrations of historic tobacco harvesting, stringing and curing, hornworm races, a MoonPie eating contest, musical entertainment, and craft vendors.

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