Collecting Dogwood

Before 1941 there was no clear consensus on the flower that should represent the state of North Carolina.  References in the 1910s listed either goldenrod or the ox-eye daisy as state flowers.  By the 1930s many other state legislatures had voted to select official floral emblems, including Virginia, which voted on the dogwood in 1918.  Worrying about lagging behind, garden clubs across North Carolina began organizing annual State Flower Conventions.  Before the State Senate voted on the dogwood with the State Garden Club’s support, others had made strong, but unsuccessful, appeals for both the Venus flytrap and the flame azalea.  A prominent Raleigh nature writer of the period praised the legislative outcome and referred to the dogwood as “the plant personality of the South.” 

For the past seven decades, then, the dogwood has been North Carolina’s floral emblem and has become a recurring motif in the Department of Cultural Resources’ collections.  Three examples stored in the NC Museum of History highlight a diversity of important craft traditions in our state.


NC Museum of History 2006.23.21

A bowl with three dogwood flowers represents the Jugtown pottery tradition.  Ben Owen Sr. created the piece between 1960 and 1972.  He had been a principal potter at Jugtown for decades.


NC Museum of History 1975.22.1

In 1975 the Fellowship Homemakers’ Club of Wake County (a girls’ organization) presented this quilt to the museum.


NC Museum of History 1981.235.1

Edd Presnell, a dulcimer maker from Banner Elk, created this state-symbol-themed dulcimer for the NC Museum of History’s collection in 1981.  Carved dogwood branches decorate the sides of the piece, while antler-inlaid dogwood flowers dot the fingerboard. Presnell also included a mahogany-inlaid cardinal and carved the pegs in the shape of dogwood flowers.

 What dogwood-themed objects does your collection contain?  How have other state-designated symbols influenced your collection?


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This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on September 9, 2011, in collections access, museums and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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