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Friday, August 31, 2012

Button Gwinnett: A Monument to Obscurity

Who is the most obscure person to sign the Declaration of Independence?

That may seem like a really stupid question, and indeed it may in fact be, but the answer is far more interesting then you may think.  Then again, maybe not.


This is Button Gwinnett.  The most obscure man to sign the Declaration of Independence.  He was also President of Georgia for three glorious months.


No, not that Georgia.

This Georgia.  Because apparently Georgia used to have Presidents.

What fascinates me about Button, other then his oddly adorable first name, was that he was the least important person do something amazing.  He is an inspiration to those of use who want to sneak in at the last minute and pretend like we helped.

Gwinnett County in Georgia is named after Button

What a semi-inspiring motto to fit a semi-inspiring man.

Button would sadly be killed in a duel by Lachlan McIntosh, a man even more obscure then Button himself.

Obscurity does have its advantages though.  Apparently, there is a sub-culture of incredibly rich history buffs who collect Declaration of Independence.  Having all the signatures is the Holy Grail of signature collecting.  Because of his obscurity, Button's signature is the hardest to find.  Therefore, Button's autograph is the most valuable autograph in the entire world.  So Button is essentially famous for being obscure.  That is truly a unique paradox.

If you would like to visit Button he is buried in Savannah Georgia's Colonial Cemetery


Although if you read the fine print on the Monument it says that Button is "believed to be buried somewhere in this area."  Button was so obscure that no one even bothered to remember where he was buried.

Oh yeah, they also tore down his water tower.

So is the sad saga of Button Gwinnett.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where is "The South"?

Okay, if we are going to be talking about "The South", the first thing is to establish where exactly "The South" is.

One would assume that the easiest way to determine what constitutes the South is the area that was occupied by the confederacy during the civil war.  Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about that.

Okay, not terrible............but not quite right either.  No one is going to call Arizona and New Mexico part of the South and Texas and Oklahoma are a little iffy and what the hell is Missouri doing there?  I could do some research and figure out why, but that would be pointless, because everyone knows Missouri isn't part of the South.  Let's ask Wikipedia exactly what the South looks like.

Okay, so apparently the dark red is indisputably part of "The South", while the lighter red are sometimes considered part of the South and the stripey ones are a toss up.  I see this is going to have to take a little deducing.  Let me be the judge of what should be considered the South. I will evaluate the South on a state by state basis.

1. Mississippi

Okay, no real debate.  Mississippi is part of the South.  Look, there are even three pieces of cotton on it.

2. Alabama

Okay, again, There is no debate Alabama is part of the South.  I'll even go out on a limb and say that Alabama may be the Southeist state in the South.  Ask someone to mention  a Southern state to someone up north and they will most likely mention Alabama. "Sweet Home Alabama" is even the undisputed anthem of the South.

 3. Georgia

Look, more cotton.  Definitely part of the South.

4. Tennessee 

Very very Southy.  We have Nashville, the home of country music,  Dolly Parton and her Amusement park, BBQ and the Blues.  No one is going to take Tennessee's Southness away.

5 and 6.  The Carolinas

Okay maybe this is alot more straight forward then I initially thought.  The Carolina twins are definitely Southern.

7. Arkansas 

Okay, I have a deep dark secret.  I have never been to Arkansas, but from what I hear it is very Southy.  It has a big weird Jesus Statue called "Christ of the Ozarks."  Here is old slide I found of the statue.

Yep, let's leave Arkansas in "The South".  Plus, there is that cotton again.

 8. Louisiana

Okay, here is the last of the "definitely Southern" batch, but it is the cultural oddball of the bunch.  It is the only place in the "The South" where anything french is tolerated. The food is different, everyone is catholic and alcohol is not looked down on in the slightest. However, the Cajun population shares a deep karmic brotherhood with the Mountain Men from other parts of the South.  Louisiana is completely unique amongst states, but I think its safe to say that the South is proud to claim her.

9. Texas

Okay, here is a state that is disputed.  Texas was part of the confederacy and has bits of Southern culture to it.  However, one could make an argument that Texas is much more influenced by "Western" culture.  Texas also functioned as an independent nation for a time.

Verdict: Not part of the South.  Okay, don't take it personal Texas.  This isn't an insult to you, but you have your own thing going on, your own unique environment and culture.  Texas isn't really part of any region.  Texas is kind of its own region.  Texas doesn't need to be part of the South, its too busy being Texas.

10. Oklahoma

Verdict:  Sorry Oklahoma, I am going to have to give you the big buzz.  You are not part of the South.  Your central location makes you a schizophrenic mix of Western, Southern and Midwestern cultures.  You just don't have enough South in you.

11. Virginia

I'm a little unclear on where the dispute lies.  Virginia was the capital of the confederacy.  That fact alone should makes it's Southiness clear.  Maybe it just pokes a little far north for some people's liking.

Verdict: Part of the South


Okay, I understand the dispute a little more here.  Kentucky does have kind of a midwesty vibe to it.

Verdict:  I'm calling Kentucky for the South.  I will credit one man for this: Colonel Sanders; one of the most recognizable human beings walking planet earth.  He walked around in a white suite eating fried chicken and referred to himself as Colonel despite not serving in the military.  He is one of the Southiest people to ever walk the planet and his name will forever be connected to Kentucky.

12. Florida 

Okay, this is a controversial one.  If you stopped someone here in the mountains and asked them if Florida was part of the South, you would probably get a resounding "NO".  There is a little resentment towards Floridians (or Floridiots as they are called here), in the Mountains when they swarm our small towns trying to get away from their own sweltering heat and hurricanes.  They don't even have accents! 

Verdict: While I am tempted to give Florida its own regionhood like Texas, I am going to include it in the South.  Their history of roadside tourism and alligator wrestling are just to rich to be welcomed in the South.  Plus, there is part of Florida known as the "Redneck Rivera" and the worldest largest Confederate Flag is in Florida.

 There is nothing in that picture to show scale, but that is indeed the world's largest confederate flag in Brandon, FL.

13. Missouri 

Verdict: Seriously, how did Missouri get on this list.  Missouri is not part of the South and it never will be.

14. West Virginia

A lot of people don't consider West Virginia part of the South.  It is pretty far North.  It was part of the confederacy, but here is the kicker: it succeeded from the Confederacy.  The only state to double succeed.

The Verdict: Its part of the South.  Just take a drive through West Virginia.  It is the poster child for crippling Appalachian poverty.  What is more Southern then that?

15. Maryland

Verdict: Nope Maryland is not part of the South...........but I will make a teeny tiny acception

16.Washington, DC

Wait, what?  How could Washington D.C. the capital of our nation and the center of its fight against Rebel forces of the Confederacy be considered Southern? How could I even put this on a list giving it possible inclusion into the south?

This  is Robert E. Lee as interpreted by Potter's wax Museum in St. AuAugustine, FL.  (See I told you that Florida was part of the South).

He is the one standing up.  He was the leader of the Confederate Army, but no one is doubting his Southiness, right?

Now take a look at the view from his front porch.

That big tall thing in the middle, that is the Washington Monument, to the right is the Capital building and over to the left is the Lincoln Memorial.

Verdict: I'm going to say that Washington, DC is the one city in the country that is both part of "The South" and "The North".  Just like it magically avoids being part of one state it magically avoids having to align itself with any region.

So, there you have it I have taken out all the guess work and created a definitive "South".  You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Jesus Signs


When I first moved to the North Carolina one of the first things to strike me was the obvious difference in the way religion was handled.  I grew up in a Christian Church in Indiana and went to Sunday school every week, but outside of church it religion was not talked about.  It just seemed like something you weren't supposed to bring up.  Down South this unwritten rule was seemingly unwritten.  Religion was a part of people's lives every minute of everyday, it was something people had no problem announcing to the world.

One interesting expression of this Christian fate was seemingly random placed hand painted signs posted on trees and light poles.

They came in a variety of phrases, colors and sizes.  The most popular phrases were "Jesus", "Repent and "John 3:16", but there were many variations.

I started driving around photographing as many of these as I could possible.  One thing came quickly apparent: the majority of the signs has almost an identical font with little eccentricities.  I noticed the large majority of the signs seemed to be in the town in Franklin, NC, which is in the Smoky Mountains.  I would however find these signs almost halfway across the state and as far south as Gainesville, GA.

I became a touch obsessed with finding these signs and posting them to my Flickr Page.  I would periodically drive around town to see if any new signs were up.  I even confess that we snatched a stray sign that had fallen.

A friend of my even located one with the same font in Florida.  Signs would go up over nigh and old ones would vanish.  It appeared that not everyone was thrilled to be finding them nailed to public property.

As seen by this county worker tearing down a sign.

I begin to search for who was responsible for these signs.  One time it came up in conversations with my in-laws and it was mentioned that my wife's cousin put up these signs.  I was shocked to finally figure out who made the signs and even more shocked to find I was related to him by marriage.  I had met my wife's cousin on several occasions, as he was called out to find our septic tank.  The only equipment he used was two straitened coat hangers in a act he referred to as Water Witching.  He stated that he was hired by the local power company to find buried lines.  No normally I am very skeptical of practices such as this, but I watched with my own two eyes as the wires crosses and my father in-law proceeded to dig up our cable wire.

My wife asked him about the Jesus Signs.  He appeared a little uncomfortable about the subject, but said he did make them and that a woman from Florida gave them to him.  So a mysterious woman from Florida was our culprit.

Except it did not end there.  I continued to post these signs on my Flickr Page.  One day I got an e-mail.  A man stated that he was indeed responsible for hanging up the sign.  He was thrilled that I had photographed his signs and felt that my camera had helped the signs reach people all around the world.  His one request was that if I ever saw him hanging a sign (I did one evening, but did not see his face), that I not photograph him as he wanted his message to be the focus, not him as a person.  As proof of his ownership he sent me the following picture of his work shop.

All in all I photographed over 150 of these signs.  A this point I no longer bother to pull over, but they always give me a smile.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Welcome to the Carpetbagger Blog!

Hello friends,

My name is Jacob.  I moved to North Carolina from Indiana about a decade ago.  Ever since my move with to the South I have been constantly enamored with the richness and insanity of its culture.  For the past five years I have been documenting the culture around me and posting on my Flickr account .  The subjects that fascinate me about the Southland range from rampant Christianity, moonshine, Hillbilly imagery and of course Roadside Attractions.  I have been to a bunch of amazing places and met fascinating folk heroes and villains.  I wish to share this with you.  I feel my status as an outsider gives me a unique perspective.  I feel this blog will give me an opportunity to tie my photography together to tell the the story I want to tell.  I hope anyone reading this enjoys my perspective on my adopted home.