The Heart of the Grand Strand: Myrtle Beach

Aerial View of Myrtle Beach circa 1940, WPA Photograph Collection, South Caroliniana Library
Aerial View of Myrtle Beach circa 1940, WPA Photograph Collection, South Caroliniana Library

Contributed by Virginia Pierce and Laura Blair (2015). Edits and additions by Kate Boyd (2020).

[This blog was first written in 2015 for the Historical Newspapers. Since then we have added a number of Horry County newspapers where Myrtle Beach is located and we have scanned all of the South Carolina Postcards in our collections, which include many images of Myrtle Beach.]

The summer is in full swing and many of us are thinking about sticking our toes in the sand with the sound of crashing waves in the background.  Hitting the beach is a common getaway during the summer months and many know that one of the most popular tourist destinations along the East Coast for beach-goers is right here in South Carolina: Myrtle Beach.  Seeing several million visitors each year, Myrtle Beach sits at the heart of the Grand Strand and boasts an array of tourist attractions in addition to its sandy beaches.

Air view, Myrtle Beach, showing the piers, "America's finest strand," 1950, South Carolina Postcards, South Caroliniana Library
Air view, Myrtle Beach, showing the piers, “America’s finest strand,” 1950, South Carolina Postcards, South Caroliniana Library

In our lifetime it seems Myrtle Beach has always been the epitome of a beach destination; however, for all its popularity and success, Myrtle Beach has a relatively short history that dates back to right before the turn of the 20th century.

Situated in Horry County, the Myrtle Beach area remained uninhabited and unchanged for most of its early life. Due to its remote location, few Europeans attempted to colonize the area. It wasn’t until the 1880’s that the location began to see some settlement activity when the Burroughs & Collins Company out of Conway decided to buy land in the area for timber and set up a logging camp. Employees at the camp headed to the nearby beach on their days off. Additionally, the company built a railroad from Conway to the coastline in order to extract the timber. Once the railroad was in place and word spread of access to the coast, development in the area quickly picked up.

The "Personal" section of the Marlboro Democrat (Bennettsville, S.C.) mentions a family vacationing at the beach in 1903.
The “Personal” section of the Marlboro Democrat (Bennettsville, S.C.) mentions a family vacationing at the beach in 1903.

Initially the location didn’t have a formal name, and locals simply referred to the new train stop as New Town (perhaps in contrast to nearby Conway’s nickname of Old Town). A contest was eventually held for people to originate a name.  The winning contestant drew inspiration from the popular plant in the area, the wax myrtle, and the name Myrtle Beach was born.

Newspaper Men Meet at Myrtle Beach, Watchman and Southron, 1922, South Caroliniana Library
Newspaper Men Meet at Myrtle Beach, Watchman and Southron, 1922, South Caroliniana Library

Aside from the business potential, the Burroughs & Collins Company realized the possible tourist potential in this new area. In 1901, they built the area’s first hotel, the Seaside Inn.  A bathhouse and pavilion shortly followed. The company also began selling beachfront properties for twenty-five dollars. Throughout the summer months of the early 1900’s, the mention of Myrtle Beach in local newspapers quickly rose as families began traveling there for recreation and relaxation. The area soon became a popular destination spot, especially for those living in nearby South Carolina towns who could easily travel to the beach on a short train ride.  As early as 1902, the Watchman and Southron (Sumter, S.C.) included Myrtle Beach (via Conway) under their “Week-End Rates From Sumter to Popular Summer Resorts.” Advertisements for hotels also begin to appear in papers around the state, enticing tourists to come and stay on the “Finest Strand on the Atlantic Seaboard.”

Myrtle Beach, SC, WPA Photograph Collection, South Caroliniana Library
Myrtle Beach, SC, WPA Photograph Collection, South Caroliniana Library

By the 1920’s, other developers saw the opportunity in the growing seaside town and began to further develop the area with hotels and golf courses, all aimed at vacationers. Myrtle Beach became a popular spot, seeing even conventions and conferences come to town such as ones for the South Carolina Press Association and the [South Carolina] State Dental Association.

An article in the Watchman and Southron (Sumter, S.C.) draws attention to the upcoming South Carolina Press Association convention in Myrtle Beach in 1922. Although F. G. Burroughs (of Burroughs and Collins Company) had been the first to see the business potential in the area, it had also been his dream to see a resort town on the East Coast halfway between Miami and New York. After his death in 1897, his sons carried out his plan, developing the area and turning Myrtle Beach into one of the most popular seaside destinations in the country.

 

The Horry Herald, June 15, 1922
The Horry Herald, June 15, 1922
Camden Chronicle April 22, 1927
Camden Chronicle April 22, 1927

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Southern Naturalists: Lewis R. Gibbes

Lewis Reeves Gibbes, by J. A. Nowell, 1886 (McKissick Museum)
Lewis Reeves Gibbes, by J. A. Nowell, 1886 (McKissick Museum)

By Joshua Schutzenhofer

The Historic Southern Naturalists digital collection contains a variety of documents from naturalists that worked mainly with the South Carolina College, in Charleston. The items in this collection are some of the earliest objects and work in natural history. The Charleston Museum’s papers are part of the Historic Southern Naturalists digital collection and contain myriad historical ephemera including advertisements, books, check lists for collections, pamphlets, plant catalogs, postcards, and letters.

Recently, we received several letters from the Charleston Museum for digitization. Many of these letters are addressed to Lewis R. Gibbes from different prominent individuals. Lewis R. Gibbes (1810-1894) was a scientist that focused on botany, astronomy, and physics, and he communicated frequently with others in those fields. Gibbes was also a professor at the College of Charleston and wrote several articles on topics including mineralogy, chemistry, and botany.

Edmund Ravenel (1797-1871), a professor of chemistry and pharmacy at

Letter to Lewis R. Gibbes, professor at College of Charleston, from Henry William Ravenel, November 9, 1886.
Letter to Lewis R. Gibbes, professor at College of Charleston, from Henry William Ravenel, November 9, 1886.

Medical College of South Carolina, was one of the many that corresponded with Gibbes. John Bachman (1790 – 1874), an American naturalist, minister, and fellow professor of natural history at the College of Charleston, described several mammals not included in any scientific works, and was in frequent contact with Gibbes as well. Others with whom Gibbes shared letters with include John P. Barrett, Joseph H. Mellichamp, and Henry W. Ravenel. The letters discuss several different topics including the research that they were working on, resources that they shared with each other, or discoveries that they had made.

To learn about the history of the field of natural history through the collections of significant naturalists of the South, especially those associated with the University of South Carolina, visit the Historic Southern Naturalists website.

References

Letter to Lewis R. Gibbes from a friend, August 8, 1863, page 1
Letter to Lewis R. Gibbes from a friend, August 8, 1863, page 1

Stephens, Lester D. (2016, May). Bachman, John, February 4, 1790 – February 24, 1874. South Carolina Encyclopedia. http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/bachman-john/.

Stephens, Lester D. (2016, June). Ravenel, Edmund, December 8, 1797 – July 27, 1871. South Carolina Encyclopedia. http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/ravenel-edmund/.

 

Justice For All: A Digital Exhibit for South Carolina Civil Rights

By Mēgan Oliver

In December of 2018, Digital Collections Librarian, Mēgan Oliver, and Library Web Developer (Library Technology Services (LTS)), Sarah Funk, met with the exhibition team from the Center for Civil Rights History and Research.  The civil rights team was planning an exhibition entitled “Justice for All: South Carolina and the Civil Rights Movement“. The team members, Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Jill Found, Patrice Green,  Jennifer Melton, Celeste Minor,  and Jonathon Johnson, expressed their needs for a digital exhibit, and we in Digi and LTS laid out what digital exhibition options are available (we’re building digital exhibits in WordPress currently). The civil rights team chose their layout, essentially the digital look and feel of the exhibit, and expressed their goals. As the Director of the Center, Dr. Donaldson communicated what was most important, in terms of the collection’s context and emphasized how he wanted to highlight visually compelling digital archives to support the physical exhibit of Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement. With these parameters, Digi and LTS began working to support this traditional exhibit structure with an online component.

The exhibit opened in the Ernest F. Hollings Library in February of 2019,  complete with civil rights speakers, tours of the collections, special events, and a variety of press releases. This summer, the exhibit will see it’s final few months. Don’t miss the incredible collections on display! Justice for All is open until August 31. If you can’t make it to Columbia, SC to see it in person, not to worry: there’s a permanent digital exhibit with the same title, Justice for All.

 

Abby Munro: Educator for destitute children in South Carolina, 1870-1890s

By Sarah Moore

Abby Munro was a teacher from Rhode Island who came to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina to help Cornelia Hancock in teaching Black freed men and women at the Laing School. At the Laing School, students received an education and were given an opportunity to learn a trade. (Laing Middle School of Science and Technology; Fludd; Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). In the 1870s, Munro took over for duties from Hancock and became the principal of the school. She expanded on the original work of Hancock, when in 1882 she opened a Children’s Home for Destitute Children, one of the first orphanages for African Americans in South Carolina (Fludd; Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). Though older than the Jenkins’ Orphanage, the Destitute Children’s Home was smaller and served  the local population of Mount Pleasant. (Fordham, 2009).

This collection consists of a range of items related to Abby Munro’s work at the Home of Destitute Children and the Laing School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, like legal documents signed by parents giving custody of children to Abby Munro. Additionally, documents in the collection frequently outline that a child will be cared for while receiving an education. A second medium found in this collection is photographs, most of which are of the Laing School. These photographs allow for a glimpse into education at the Laing Normal and Industrial School. One photograph shows students learning to cobble shoes. Another photograph shows young girls learning to sew.

Arthur Macbeth, an African American photographer based in Charleston, South Carolina, took many of these photographs of the Laing School. After studying with German, French, and American photographers, Macbeth opened his own studio in Charleston in 1886 (Bowser, 1999). A few of Macbeth photographs were used some of the in Laing School publications that reported on progress of the school and home. Both the Laing school and Children’s Home relied heavily on donations and these publications used to show how the donations were being used, plus how the donations were making a difference.

Check our our digital collection, Abby D. Munro papers, 1837-1913. The physical collection is held at South Caroliniana Library.

Citations

  • Bowser, P. “Pioneers of Black Documentary Film.” (1999). Struggles for Representation: African American Documentation Film and Video. (page 4)
  • Fludd D. “Laing School History” Accessed October 17, 2018.
  • Fordham, D. L. Voices of Black South Carolina: Legend and Legacy.(2009).
  • Laing Middle School of Science and Technology: For a New Generation of Learners. “School History.” Accessed October 16, 2018.
  • Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission. “Mount Pleasant Home for Destitute Children.” Mount Pleasant Historical. Accessed October 15 2018.