Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SouthTrust Bank Calculator

Banks have come and gone frequently in recent years, or at least changed owners and names. My mother came across this calculator at her home in Huntsville, so I thought I would investigate the history of this once prominent bank in Alabama and the Southeast. The calculator will be going into my brother Richard's collection of memorabilia associated with merged or defunct banks in the state.

South Trust Bank began life as the Birmingham Trust and Savings Company in December 1887. The bank's first building opened in 1902 and can be seen in the postcard below. A national charter was obtained in 1946, and the bank became the Birmingham Trust National Bank or BTNB. Branches began to appear in the late 1940's and 1950's. As the BhamWiki entry notes, "BTNB was the first financial institution in the nation to introduce what was termed at the time an 'automated central information system' in 1971."

After some regional acquisitions, the bank's holding company became South Trust Company in 1981. The bank and its branches were renamed South Trust Bank in 1982. The company began aggressive acquisitions in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Texas. By 1990 South Trust was the largest bank in Alabama.

In 2004 the bank reached 712 branches and $53 billion in assets. Naturally bigger fish came calling, and the company was acquired by Wachovia on November 1 of that year. By October 2005 the South Trust name was gone from Birmingham and elsewhere in Alabama. In 2013 the name and trademarks were acquired by a Texas bank.  

South Trust Tower in downtown Birmingham in 2005. The building became known as the Wachovia Tower after they acquired South Trust and is now the Wells Fargo Tower.

Source: BhamWiki

Source: BhamWiki

Birmingham Trust's first building opened in 1902 and was replaced in 1922.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Movies with Alabama Connections: Birthright (1939)

I recorded this film when it appeared on TCM a few months ago, and recently got around to watching it. Here's what I found.

Our story begins with Alabama author T.S. Stribling and his 1922 novel Birthright. Although born in Tennessee, Stribling spent some of his early life in Lauderdale County on the farm of his maternal grandparents. He graduated from college at what is now the University of North Alabama and from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1907. 

Stribling moved to Nashville and set up practicing law. Before long he was writing magazine articles and doing newspaper reporting in Chattanooga. In 1917 his first novel, Cruise of the Dry Dock was published, and Birthright followed five years later after first appearing in seven parts in Century Magazine. Before his death in Florence in 1965 he had published 16 novels, many articles and dozens of detective, science fiction and adventure stories in various pulp magazines.

His best known work is probably The Store, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932. The novel was the middle work of a trilogy; the other two are The Forge (1930) and Unfinished Cathedral (1934). Set in the Florence-Lauderdale County area in the antebellum period, the works deal with subjects and injustices that displeased local residents. Despite the trilogy's international success, Stribling did not return to Florence for many years.

Birthright is the story of mulatto Peter Siner who leaves his small hometown in Tennessee to get an education at Harvard. He returns with high hopes of building a school for black children and initiating changes between blacks and whites, but is unable to overcome prejudices supporting the status quo. He eventually relocates north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Two years after Birthright appeared in book form, African-American novelist and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux made his first film version. This silent film is currently presumed lost. Between 1919 and 1948 Micheaux made numerous films; he was perhaps the most important African-American filmmaker in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century. Largely forgotten by the time he died in 1951, Michaeux's life and work have attracted wide interest in recent years. 

The subject of Stribling's novel obviously interested Michaeux, who returned to it in 1939. Although crude by modern standards, the film is an earnest and fascinating portrait of a young man far ahead of his time--much like Michaeux himself. Upon his return to his hometown, Peter Siner is immediately taken advantage of by a local banker, much to the amusement of local whites and the chagrin of Siner's friends. The incident just confirms the prejudices of many whites about black abilities.

Throughout the film, Siner retains his dignity despite the frustrations of his hopes and goals. The film explores relations in the black community, including romantic ones, as well as the ways in which whites and blacks dealt with each other in the South during the Jim Crow era

I can understand why the black actors appeared in this film. Beyond the obvious reason of employment, these performers knew of Micheaux who was well established by 1939. The real puzzle is the white actors who played racist Southerners; why did they do it? I can imagine friends and relatives might not have been pleased if they found out. But then such a film would not be marketed to whites or seen by many. 

Like all silent and early sound films, the 1939 Birthright will seem crude by today's standards or even when compared to the slick Hollywood productions of the day. But Micheaux's film raises important issues and offers fascinating glimpses of the society in which it was filmed. 


Title page and two of the several illustrations from Stribling's novel.

Two scenes from the film

Oscar Micheaux [1884-1951]

Source: Wikipedia

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2010

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My Mother the Artist

My mother Carolyn Shores Wright turned 88 this past December, so time for a blog post. 

Actually, she has come up before in this space. I've written about her memory of seeing George Washington Carver speak in Camp Hill when she was a child. Another post discussed her modelling days and appearance on the front page of the Avondale Sun in 1949. That one also mentions the time she slept in Harper Lee's bed in Monroeville. I've also written about a football game my parents attended at Auburn soon after their 1950 wedding.

Now its time to discuss her painting career, which has lasted for more than four decades. Here's what we've put on the web page for her art business, CShoresInc:

Carolyn Shores Wright is an artist currently living in Huntsville, Alabama. When Carolyn had two teenage sons, she began her art career. Her early works were done in oils and acrylics, but for a vacation trip her husband gave her a set of watercolor paints. She soon realized she had found her medium.
The artist has developed a style which is sensitive, delicate and uniquely her own. Her whimsical paintings, which have long been favorites of the public, express her own personality with that of the subject. Her more realistic paintings show highly developed textures and patterns.
Her work has been licensed for such products as collector plates, greeting cards, porcelain mugs, stationary products, books, fabrics, wallpaper, dining products, window decorations, t-shirts, tabletop figurines and many other items. Licensing partners include: AMIA,  Art Brands, Bradford Exchange, Burton & Burton, Cherison, Creative Converting, Crown Point Graphics, Current, Danbury Mint, Dimensions, Harvest House Publishers, JQ Greetings, Leanin’ Tree, Marian Heath, Raz Imports, Toland Home & Garden,  etc.
Her work has also been used for promotional greeting cards by Audubon Society, the Christian Children’s Fund, Colorful Images, Military Officers Association of America, National Geographic, Retired Officers Association, Smithsonian, and Yankee Magazine.
CShoresInc can also be found on FacebookPinterestWanelo and Twitter: @CShoresInc.  Original watercolor paintings and prints are available for sale in my shops at ArtFire and Etsy.

Original art, prints and licensed items are available at Encore Resales in Pelham, Alabama, USA.

Since that description was written, we've added mom's art at Fine Art America. There you can find prints of various sizes, as well her art on products ranging from coffee mugs and iPhone cases to pillows and beach towels.  

During the 1980's and 1990's mom often spent weekends throughout the year at art shows, many at large malls in Greenville, South Carolina, Atlanta, Birmingham and Huntsville. She also had to devote large amounts of time related to the licensing of her work for various products. We would visit on a weekend, and mom would spend much of the time signing prints that had to be returned quickly to the licensing company. 

I remember her telling the story of the time a big delivery truck parked at the end of her street to deliver a 1000 prints she would have to sign. Her current licensing company is Artworks!. Over the years we have found her work on prints and other products around Birmingham in such places as J.C. Penny's and during travels to Disney World, a glass shop in Manitou Springs, Colorado, on greeting cards in Cracker Barrels, etc. 

The images below are a small sample of mom's work. She has painted hundreds and hundreds of mostly watercolors. She started an inventory once upon a time but soon gave up; she's very prolific. And still painting! Go mom!

One of her most popular series has been "Bird Life" featuring birds in humorous human situations. Here's "Yard Work."

This one is "Hot Tub". Many more in this series can be found on Pinterest here

She has also painted other humorous animals, such as "Bunny Band."

Small songbirds have always been a favorite subject, although she's done some owls as well. 

People, often based on memories of real people from her childhood, are another favorite subject.

She's done a number of bird houses, with and without birds! Franklin Mint did a series of plates from some of them.

Herbs or shells, anyone?

She has painted a wide variety of still lifes

Several books published in the 1980's and 1990's by Harvest House featured mom's art on the covers and inside. 

Humorous and serious paintings with Christmas imagery have been another subject of hers. 

Mom has painted a series of different original china patterns, each with a musical name. This one features the cream and sugar bowl from "Impromptu".

"Magnolia Memory" was used on a greeting card from Leanin' Tree. The company still has  some of her greeting cards in print, but not this one unfortunately.

A favorite bird subject has been hummingbirds; these two are "Humming Along I" and "Humming Along II."

"Blue Bouquet II"

Flowers have been a favorite subject over the years. 

"Pansy Morning"

"Dear Diary"

Mom has painted a number of mostly humorous pieces featuring cherubs.

"Future Farmer"

She's also painted a cherub alphabet and several other alphabets as well. 

She's done several paintings based on antique quilt patterns.

Landscapes have been a popular subject, too.

And then there are the products featured her licensed art work, several hundred of them over the years. Miniature plaques, stationary and cross stitch patterns are only three of many. 

Here's the CShoreInc booth at Encore Resales on US 31 in Pelham. We feature original art, prints and other licensed items by mom, jewelry by Dianne Vargo Wright and other items.