Short Takes

by Fred Ray on October 25, 2011 · 0 comments

They still probably won’t take your Confederate money, but Richmond seems to be on the rise again, this time as “Startup South” and perhaps the next silicon valley.

In hearing from dozens of Richmond startups, two institutions stick out as important nodes in the local innovation system. The first is Virginia Commonwealth University. As Richard Florida pointed out, a good university is monumentally important for pumping out skilled people whom startups can hire. In Richmond, VCU is that talent factory.

The second big success factor for RVA (as the locals call it) is The Martin Agency, an award-winning advertising firm that’s drawn hundreds and hundreds of creatives to the town. Many of them stay with the company, but other wants new challenges or a different kind of life. Some choose to stick around and build new businesses with the locals.

Here in Western NC Zeb Vance and another former governor, Charles Aycock, are being read out of Democratic party history.

Democrats from across North Carolina gather here Saturday to raise money and stoke enthusiasm at one of the party’s premiere events in its first incarnation without bearing the names of a white supremacist governor and a Confederate leader.

For 50 years, the annual fundraiser was called the Vance-Aycock Dinner in honor of former Govs. Zebulon Vance and Charles Aycock. While party leaders search for a permanent new name, it’s known this year simply as the Western Gala.

Aycock in particular is being singled out as someone who carried a “well-documented legacy of hate and division.”

As columnist Rob Neufeld points out, however, the story is not so simple.

For his distinguished, progressive career as governor of North Carolina, 1901-04 – during which he was a passionate proponent of child labor laws – he has been revered as “The Education Governor,” with statues in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., and with his name on college buildings and the annual Democratic fundraiser in Western North Carolina.

Aycock has been accused recently of being at the infamous Wilmington race riot (he was not) and much else, but the truth is that his views were mainstream at the time, not only here in NC but in much of the country.

Charles Aycock lived during an era in which many enlightened men took on the “white man’s burden.” The patriarchal part of that philosophy has become odious, but the progressive parts have retained a resounding ring.

As Neufeld says, the Progressive Era is still celebrated for taking on issues like trade unionism, child labor, federal regulation of drugs and food, universal education and much else. But there was another side of the movement as well that often gets written out of history except when it concerns men like Aycock. It was a time, for example, when white supremacy was taken for granted. The Klan, seen now as fringe extremists, was a mainstream organization that considered itself progressive (it was, for example, in favor of women’s suffrage and even had an early anti-domestic violence program) and had real political power. One lasting progressive legacy was eugenics with the accompanying ideas of race hygiene. Progressives like feminist icon Margaret Sanger, for example, were enthusiastic eugenicists. Although they certainly were not the only ones, these ideas were current and championed by Democratic icons like Woodrow Wilson and Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt, not to mention most of the Progressive intelligentsia. There was certainly nothing out of the ordinary about Aycock’s ideas, which is something the current Democratic party needs to come to terms with. Perhaps a change of name would be in order.

Should you be in the market for a Gatling gun, an American company is now offering a replica of the improved 1877 Bulldog model.

In 1877 a revolutionary version of the Gatling hit the market. The Bulldog was short and handy and incorporated two unique features. First off, the entire gun had a bronze housing. The barrels were no longer exposed and were even enclosed on the end by a bronze plate. Second, the piece’s handle was moved to the rear of the action, providing a direct drive and eliminating the gearing that slowed the mechanism.

Offered initially with five barrels, it was now possible to fire 1,000 rounds per minute. Every turn of the handle produced a complete turn of the barrel unit, discharging the gun five times. Spent cases were spewed out of a large opening on the left side of the action. The feed hopper, which was hinged directly to the body of the action, was equipped to take the usual Gatling-style stick magazine, but could also handle a 40-round Bruce Feed (of which we will hear more later) by simply replacing the housing. A star wheel in the housing opening eliminated jamming caused by the possible crowding of cartridges as they dropped into the carriers.

Should do nicely for handling both zombies and trick-or-treaters.

If you really have money to burn, an actual copy of the Confederate Constitution—one of four known to exist—is up for auction.

Structurally, the final draft of the Confederate Constitution is almost identical to the U. S. Constitution. One major difference is the inclusion, almost verbatim, of the first twelve amendments of the U. S. Constitution into the body of the Confederate Constitution under Article I, Section 9.

The Confederates considered that they were returning the Constitution to its original form, uncorrupted by Yankees.


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