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Astronaut William Thornton and the Space Shuttle Challenger

Thornton conducting research on the Challenger space shuttle.
Image from the State Archives.

On August 30, 1983, Faison native William Thornton barrelled into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard the shuttle Challenger.

Born in Duplin County, Thornton received bachelors and medical degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and worked as electronics engineer before entering the Air Force. It was during his two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force that he became involved in space medicine research and subsequently applied for astronaut training.

After being selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967, Thornton worked on a number of Skylab simulation missions and spent decades doing research work. Two of his primary areas of focus were measuring mass (weight) in space and the reaction of the human body to conditions in space.

Thornton holds more than 35 patents that range in subject from military weapons systems to the first real-time EKG computer analysis. Among other things, he developed a treadmill for in-flight exercise and designed the first mass measuring devices for space, which remain in use today.

A veteran of two space flights, Thornton has logged over 313 hours in space. After serving as a mission specialist on the shuttle Challenger in 1983, he held the same role on Challenger’s 1985 mission. He retired from NASA in 1994.

In 2010, Thornton donated his priceless collection of documents and photos from his work in medical research, physics, electronics, the military and space to the State Archives.

Connie Guion, Pioneering Female Physician

On August 29, 1882, pioneering physician Connie Guion was born on a plantation near Lincolnton.

Educated at Wellesley College and Cornell Medical School, Guion interned at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital during the flu epidemic of 1918 after earning her medical degree. Her success in a time of crises there gained her a national reputation in medicine at a time when few women entered the field.

For almost 50 years she was associated with the Cornell medical clinic, where she became a full professor in 1946. Known for working 12-hour days until her retirement at age 87, the New York Herald Tribune called her the “greatest lady of our time.”

At her death in 1971, Dr. Guion was the dean of the nation’s women physicians. The first female professor of clinical medicine at an American university, the first female member of the medical board of New York Hospital and the first living female doctor for whom a major hospital building was named, Guion was a true pioneer for women in the medical field.

She visited her native state often and is buried in Charlotte.

Other related resources:

  • Resources related to medical history from the State Library
  • Resources related to women’s history from the State Library

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

 

“Brad’s Drink” Becomes Pepsi-Cola, 1898

Caleb Bradham’s daughter, Mary, poses with an early Pepsi poster, circa 1905-1910. Image courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Caleb Bradham’s daughter, Mary, poses with an early Pepsi poster, circa 1905-1910. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On August 28, 1898, “Pepsi-Cola” got its name.

Beginning in 1893, New Bern pharmacist Caleb Bradham developed and began serving a carbonated drink he called “Brad’s Drink.” He served the beverage from the soda fountain in his pharmacy at the corner of Pollock and Middle Streets.

As a pharmacist who had undergone some medical training, Bradham believed in the health, energy and digestive benefits of his sweet and bubbly brew, which originally included the enzyme pepsin and the cola nut. It is likely that these ingredients resulted in the renaming of the drink, although at some point pepsin was removed from the formula.

After the renaming, Bradham managed to purchase the trade name “Pep Cola” from a New Jersey company and, in 1902, he incorporated the Pepsi-Cola Company under North Carolina law. Shortly thereafter he registered a patent for the formula.

From there the business quickly grew. By 1910, the beverage was being bottled at more 300 companies in 24 states. A combination of factors including fluctuations in sugar prices and supply, imperfect bottling technology and poor marketing resulted in a failing business after World War I, and Bradham was forced to sell the company.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Tragedy at Bostian Bridge, 1891

The wreck at Bostian Bridge. Image from the State Archives.

On August 27, 1891, one of the worst train wrecks in North Carolina occurred at the Bostian Bridge, two miles west of Statesville.

In the wee hours of the morning, a westbound passenger train jumped the tracks and hurtled off the 60-foot high bridge. At the bottom of the fall, seven train cars crashed into Third Creek. A few of the passengers walked into Statesville for help. Others crawled out of the wreckage, dazed and confused, while some wandered around. Still others sat on top of the train cars until help arrived.

When that help did come in the form of Statesville townspeople, the group began to pull and cut people out of the wreckage. Since the water in the creek was high, some of the injured drowned. By dawn a large crowd of townspeople had arrived and began to move the dead and wounded into town.

The dead were laid out in the Farmers’ Tobacco Warehouse. Twenty passengers were killed outright and nine were seriously injured. About 20 more received minor injuries.

The Bostian Bridge train wreck has been the subject of many ghost hunting expeditions, as a ghostly specter of the train is said to be seen each year on the anniversary of the tragedy.

Other related resources:

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David Schenck and the Battleground at Guilford Courthouse

Schneck. Image from the National Park Service.

On August 26, 1902, David Schenck, the “father” of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, died.

Born in 1835 in Lincolnton, Schenck and his family moved to Greensboro for his job as a lawyer for the company that became Southern Railway.

Schenck became immersed in local history almost immediately after moving to the area, and he showed a special interest in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. He traversed the ground with locals, inquiring as to the specific pieces of property associated with the 1781 engagement. He knew that, if the battlefield was not protected, it would be lost to encroaching development.

In 1886, he recorded in his diary that he decided to buy the land to, in his words, “redeem the battlefield from oblivion,” and the same day he purchased 30 acres of the battlefield to achieve that end.

The following year Schenck organized the Guilford Battle Ground Company. Although he died in 1902, the organization carried on and, through its actions, the battleground was donated to the U.S. Department of Interior, which organized it as the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in 1917.

The battlefield was the first from Revolutionary War to be protected by the federal government. The Guilford Battleground Company, as Schenck’s organization is known today, continues to purchase property associated with the site and donate it to the National Park Service.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

North Carolina’s Milestone Move Toward Self-Government, 1774

First Provincial Congress

On August 25, 1774, 71 delegates were present at the roll call for North Carolina’s First Provincial Congress. It was the first such meeting held in any of the colonies. Though the rebellious Congress was held in New Bern near royal Governor Josiah Martin’s residence at Tryon Palace, no attempt was made to stop the assembly.

A month earlier, William Hooper had convened a meeting of colonists from the Cape Fear region who felt that a Provincial Congress, separate from North Carolina’s royal government, was urgently needed. Invitations to send delegates were dispatched and, in response, 30 counties and four towns held elections without delay.

The congress, which only lasted for three days, endorsed the proposal that the colonies hold a Continental Congress. To that end, the group selected William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and Richard Caswell as delegates to that convention.

Aside from revolutionary topics, the delegates also discussed basic rights and responsibilities of government. They were eager to exercise control over North Carolina’s affairs. The concluding pledge to support the actions of the forthcoming Continental Congress was a testament to their goal of self-government and to their preparedness to achieve that goal.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Dolley Madison and the British Assault on the White House, 1814

An engraving of Dolley Madison saving an important document.

On August 24, 1814, Dolley Madison rescued several important state documents and a now-famous oil portrait of George Washington from the White House as Washington, D.C., was being burned by invading British forces.

Born Dolley Payne in 1768 in Guilford County, the future First Lady met her would-be husband through mutual acquaintance Aaron Burr in Philadelphia 1794. The couple married less than a year later. While James Madison served as Secretary of State for the widowed Thomas Jefferson, Dolley became the unofficial “first lady,” hosting events for politicians and international guests. The 1809 inauguration of her husband, therefore, made for an easy transition to the role of the president’s wife.

As Washington came under siege from the British as part of the War of 1812, President James Madison asked his wife to stay behind in the White House and gather important documents so that the building could be abandoned quickly if needed. As the invading force drew near, the First Lady decided to abandon the Pennsylvania Avenue mansion.

Though popular legend tends to tell the story in such a way that Madison herself ripped the portrait out a frame and hand-carried it and other important documents out of the White House, contemporary historians revisiting the subject argue that household slaves most likely did the heavy lifting under her orders.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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