Letters from students of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts
We see some of the greatest peeks into the past of student life over a century ago in letters from students attending NC State University when it was still known as the the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The University Libraries' Special Collections and Research Center has digitized letters from three of our collections: the Walter Austin Bullock and George Tarry Bullock letters; the Azariah Graves Thompson Papers; and the Edward P. Bailey letter.
Common themes throughout all the letters include worries about money (there never seemed to be enough when a suit and cap cost $14.75), rushing to finish a letter before lights out, descriptions of their hands-on agricultural classes where they worked farm machinery, how much they didn't like the food, and a general sense of homesickness.
Walter Austin and George Tarry Bullock were brothers who wrote to their family from 1891-1894. In a letter to his sister, George tells of his trip to the 1891 State Fair where there were balloon rides, horse races, and pretty girls.
Azariah Graves Thompson was from Leasburg, NC, and there's a sad sense of homesickness in the letters he wrote to his mother and sister between 1905-1909. He didn't seem to have much school spirit in regards to sports, writing in a letter "I will hear enough of it if we get beat & too much if we beat so I don't know as it makes much difference whether I see it or not. I know I'm not going to pay 50 cts. to see it."
Another document from the Azariah Thompson Papers is a list of the 1905 Regulations for Dormitories, including receiving demerits for missing chapel, playing card games or dice, drinking, smoking, having a deadly weapon in their room, and "loafing in study hours."
There is only one letter from Edward P. Bailey, but what he wrote to his mother in 1900 captures his sense of feeling out of place upon arriving to campus. He thought his room was dirty, the dorm matron fussy, and the food gross. As for the other students, he wrote in a P.S. "It's a tough looking set of boys up here."
You can read all of our digitized letters from NC College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts students collected here.
If you would like to learn more about the Special Collection Research Center and our thousands of digitized materials, please visit the Rare and Unique Digital Collections for access to images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State's student activities and other topics. You can also visit Historical State for a timeline of the history of the NC State, including it's A&M years.
Due to the NC State University Coronavirus Response NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center is open by appointment only for the spring semester. Please note that according to Library policies, on-site Library access is limited to NC State students, faculty, staff, and university affiliates with a Wolfpack One Card, including Centennial Campus partners. For requests from these communities, we will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible and will email you when your requested materials are ready so that we can confirm your appointment time. For all other requests, we will respond to your request as soon as possible.