Record of accounts in ledger from Patterson’s General Store in Chapel Hill, N.C., by Henry Patterson, January 1910-May 1911, Courtesy of Chapel Hill Historical Society, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Collier Cobb’s Accounts from Patterson’s General Store

February 1910

The piece above is a page from Henry Patterson’s ledger from Patterson’s General Store. Patterson’s General Store was a grocery store located on East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill [1]. Patterson’s General store sold more than just food and beverage—it also sold essentials such as cloth and nails. The client being accounted for is Collier Cobb who was a professor and head of the geology department at UNC Chapel Hill. The page selected is from February of 1910. It details what Cobb bought in that month and the amount of each item. Cobb consumed a variety of foods such as cornflakes, apples, eggs, cocoa, cheese, and beef. A few items tell a deeper story of Cobb and his life—these items include cocoa, eggs, and apples. All of these foods were expensive during this era. Seasonality played a large factor in the variety of food available. Apples in February is an odd event in that they are in season during September through October—this likely means Cobb had to pay a hefty amount for them. Eggs and cocoa were items that were priced high throughout the year.

This item pertains to the history of foodways in Chapel Hill because it not only details what a middle to upper class individual would purchase from their local store, but it also alludes to the transformations taking place in the food industry during the end of the 19th century. The industrial revolution brought the onset of processed food such as Corn Flakes and Jell-O. Food became cheaper and easier to procure for those located in cities. The assortment of food presented in the ledger illustrates the urbanized nature of Chapel Hill and its population. The ledger proves Chapel Hill was no food desert meaning it had a market of wealthy people able to afford the food. As food production became more efficient in the 20th century, the food industry shifted into restaurants and catering. The creation of Carolina Coffee Shop in Chapel Hill in 1922 demonstrates this shift.

[1] Trimble, Ralph. “Map of Chapel Hill business district in 1892”. North Carolina Maps. Accessed October 06, 2018.

-Bailey Kaiser