The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library currently has on exhibit through September, four exhibit cases highlighting Asheville Tourism Souvenirs. Of course, the exhibit set us on a research binge, trying to find out all that we could about the local souvenir trade and how it developed. This is the fourth of an ongoing series, sharing some of the images in the exhibit and what we have learned.
Where did tourist’s buy their souvenirs? In the late 1800’s, souvenirs were sold in most of the drug stores, book stores, china and gift shops: Thrash’s (Thaddeus W. Thrash & Co. AKA the Crystal Palace), A.M. Field’s Jewelry, Ray’s Book Store, Roger’s Book Store, the 5 and 10 Cent Store, Dr. T.C. Smith’s Drug Store, Northern’s Souvenir Store, The Log Cabin Co. adjoining the Post Office and J.H. Law’s Silverware which sold cutlery and crockery and “Distinctive Native Goods.”
In a previous post we mentioned that Arthur M. Field’s Jewelry had added to their souvenir spoons, a silver souvenir thimble. While silver spoons held sway as the most popular souvenir here and across the country, soon the market offered souvenir bracelets, napkin rings, buttons and fans as well. A.M. Field’s also made an ingenious business move. Following the thimble, they began offering gems native to North Carolina as souvenirs.
The first use of the term “rustic souvenirs” in Asheville newspapers was in 1894. Ray’s Book Store on the Square offered miniature chairs, tables, bedsteads, and easel screens made from native rhododendron. (See last week’s post here on Appalachian rustic souvenirs.)
An article titled, “From Tree to Souvenir” in a 1902 Warrenton, North Carolina newspaper, the Warren Record, reveals more history behind this mountain industry. “Many of the souvenirs are made by farmers who utilize the spare time afforded by the winter months, and days when outdoor work can not be done, and display great skill in constructing pleasing effects out of the rough rhododendron and mountain laurel wood. The work is almost entirely done with a pocket knife.”
There was also a company in Asheville devoted to manufacturing rustic souvenirs, Lambert & Murray. They were located on south Main just past the Swannanoa Hotel. In 1904 they opened a second manufacturing plant in Fairview. That same year, they received a large contract to supply rhododendron souvenirs to the World’s Fair at St. Louis. The Asheville Citizen newspaper bragged about them in 1907, saying that, “The quality of souvenirs made in Asheville by the Lambert-Murray Co. may be judged from the fact that in the past week the Citizens Dray Co. shipped for this firm five cars of souvenirs, consigned to different cities of the country.”
Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian