North Carolina Plaid

Carolina Tartan

Plaid is a geometric and polychromatic pattern with a wide representation in North Carolina cultural heritage collections. Often associated with Scotland’s clans, some plaid in North Carolina collections relates to this portion of the state’s ethnic heritage. Our state boasts a museum devoted to plaid in Franklin—The Scottish Tartans Museum. That institution’s website profiles the “Carolina Tartan,” which a Scot designed in 1981 and the NC legislature adopted as the official state tartan ten years later.

Alamance plaids on exhibit at the Alamance County Historical Museum

The Holt family’s Alamance County cotton mills began producing a blue and white plaid fabric in the 1850s and shipped their products by rail to a national market. During the decades after the Civil War, Holt mills developed a wide variety of plaid patterns and color schemes.

NCMOH 2006.96.1

As the North Carolina textile industry developed, plaid became widely available. Practical for working clothes, its darker colors and patterns helped to conceal dirt.

The popularity and brand recognition of Alamance plaid led to the expansion of Holts’ mills, with Plaid Street in Burlington, Alamance County, as an enduring vestige of the industry’s heyday. In addition to the Alamance County Historical Museum, several other Piedmont museums commemorate this history. The Textile Heritage Museum in Glencoe, Alamance County, and the Textile Heritage Center in Cooleemee, Davie County, are two examples.

Plaid’s popularity and creative inspiration continues. One house in a downtown Raleigh neighborhood displays an expertly delineated plaid paint job. Maybe someone living on Plaid Street in Burlington will follow this lead. Does your institution’s collection include any interesting examples of plaid? Can those artifacts tell stories of Scots immigration, textile production, fashion, zany creativity, or something else?

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About collectionsconversations

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 March 9, 2012, in collections access, museums and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great post! The Centennial History of Alamance County, published in 1949, is bound in a very nice plaid cloth.

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