The sweet potato has always been an important part of Southern food and culture, and even more so with North Carolina. In fact, the sweet potato is one of the official state foods. The image above is an official North Carolina postcard created in 1905, during an age where decadence was the ultimate goal for anyone in terms of dining. The postcard has message on the back that reads “Dear Lina, I am going to send you a card this summer to see if you write to me. I hope you are well and having a good time. I am getting poor again. Have you been back to old Pollocksville since school closed? Answer soon, Lottie Simmons.” This is interesting because even though this time period (18090-1910) focuses on decadence, not everyone was able to enjoy such luxury. As can be seen in the postcard, two men work in the unforgiving heat to cultivate the sweet potato crop, which then will be delivered to the home of a decadent family. Also, the woman who writes the message on the postcard admits that she is getting poor again. One can speculate, however, that she chose to send a postcard about the sweet potato because it is a food that is not necessarily expensive and luxurious on its own, but can become decadent through meals such as sweet potato pie in holidays like Thanksgiving.
The sweet potato is a very versatile vegetable because it comes in many forms, such as baked, fried, and even in a pie. Therefore, the sweet potato contributes greatly to the Chapel Hill story because during this time, the production of sweet potato was at such a high, that it beat out Louisiana in 1900 for the top spot in sweet potato production. Since the sweet potato is the state food, it was very popular in the early 1900s for those in the Chapel Hill area on places such as Franklin Street and dining halls, and even more popular today. For those in Chapel Hill however, there is no better time to feast on sweet potatoes than during Thanksgiving.
Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards. 1905. “A Sweet Potato Crop.”
North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel
Tippett, Rebecca. 2014. “NC in Focus: Sweet Potatoes.” Carolina Demography. Carolina Population Center.
November 20, 2014. https://demography.cpc.unc.edu/2014/11/20/nc-in-focus-sweet-potatoes/.
Signed: Pablo Ancalle