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Katherine Harriss Byers Collection

 Collection
Identifier: SC-MS-255

Scope and Contents

The Katherine Harriss Byers Collection contains magazines, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and ephemera pertaining to World War II on the home front and shipbuilding in the Cape Fear region. The materials span from 1932 to 1992, though most items fall within the years 1941 to 1945. Many of the materials in the collection focus on the construction of liberty ships during World War II at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, North Carolina. In addition, the collection also includes various pieces of World War II ephemera documenting life on the home front in Wilmington and surrounding areas. Such items include a poem written by shipyard worker P.J. Coppedge, Wartime Plant Protection instruction notices, invitations to dances at local military bases, and newspaper clippings. Other materials in the collection include two Time magazines on T.V. Soong and Chiang Kai-shek and assorted ephemera collected by the Byers family.

Dates

  • Creation: 1932-1992
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1941-1945

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Historical Note

North Carolina Shipbuilding Company To get around the Neutrality Acts of World War II, which prevented the United States from becoming involved in the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a proposal for a “bridge of ships” that would be used to deliver war relief supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. While that was the initial goal, President Roosevelt anticipated the inevitable, which was the United States’ eventual entry into the war.

To prepare the nation for war at sea, the President called for new shipyards to be built, which would be used to create a vast naval fleet for the United States. Homer L. Ferguson, who was the President of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Virginia, was touring the Atlantic and Gulf coasts on behalf of the United States Shipping Board. His mission was to search for potential sites where shipyards could be built. It was during this search that he discovered a 59.6 acre location that was about three miles south of downtown Wilmington nestled on the east bank of the Cape Fear River. Ferguson officially made the decision to build a shipyard at this location.

This Wilmington shipyard would evolve into the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company (NCSC), which came about from a contract that was awarded to Newport News by the United States Maritime Commission. From 1941 to 1946, the company built naval ships that were specifically for the war effort. Along with AKA’s and C-2 ships, the company also built liberty ships, which comprised the majority of the 200+ ships built overall. The very first NCSC ship launched on December 6, 1941, just a few hours before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. This ship was named the S.S. Zebulon Vance in honor of North Carolina’s governor during the period of reconstruction. It was christened by Mrs. Alice Broughton, North Carolina first lady and wife of Governor Joseph Melville Broughton.

The North Carolina Shipbuilding Company proved to be instrumental to the war effort. Long after its closure, liberty ships were used in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the first Gulf War. Today, the grounds of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company have become part of the North Carolina State Port in Wilmington.

Extent

2 Containers (Contains 1 document box and 1 oversize folder.)

Language of Materials

English

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Katherine Harriss Byers and her family. Date of acquisition unknown.

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed by Carroll R. Jones. It was reprocessed by Anlie Williams in the Fall of 2022.

Title
Katherine Harriss Byers Collection
Status
Completed
Author
Anlie J. Williams
Date
2022 September 7
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:

910-962-7810