This is a graphic header showing various historic transportation images and the title Moving North Carolina, as well as the subtext, "How we got here. Why we live where we do. Who we are."

Welcome to
Moving North Carolina

This blog offers a fresh perspective on North Carolina history, telling the panoramic story of our state as a tale of evolving transportation and increasing mobility. The blog is a companion to the public television documentary of the same name.

North Carolina transportation history – from ancient footpaths to superhighways – is a saga of vehicles and vessels; of animals and engines; of rivers, canals, rails and roads. But far deeper than that, it is a very human story. It is the story of the people who used those modes of transportation to arrive here, to populate the countryside, to prosper, and to coalesce into one special state. Moving North Carolina is the story of how we got here, why we live where we do, and what has been important to us. It is the story of who we are.

Moving North Carolina is a window through which you can view North Carolina history as you never have before.

Here's what you can do on this blog:

  • Click below on one of the most recent posts to read the full story.
  • Browse or search the entire collection on the Searchable Archive page.
  • Peek behind the curtain on how the blog originated on the About The Blog page.
  • Watch a preview of the Public Television documentary version of Moving North Carolina and purchase a DVD or Blu-ray disc on The Documentary page.
  • Comment on any post (at the bottom of the post) or leave general feedback on the Comment page.
  • (Coming Soon) Subscribe and receive a weekly email with a thumbnail description of that week’s post. (And no sales pitch.) A simple click will bring you the big picture and the full story.
Motorists paying the toll at a primative toll booth

Turnpikes and Shunpikes

The toll turnpike has a lineage that goes back to ancient times, even taking its name from a Medieval weapon. Privately constructed, for-profit turnpikes proliferated in 1800s North Carolina as – it was hoped – a remedy for the state’s deplorable roads. And of course wherever you find a turnpike, you are likely to find a shunpike.

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A gigantic container cargo ship

Malcolm McLean: World Changer

Gigantic modern cargo vessels – with their cargoes neatly stored in individual containers stacked on deck – are the backbone of the global economy. These ships handle 90% of the world’s ocean trade, and the efficiencies they bring to maritime transportation have done more to lower the prices of imported goods than the often-cited low labor costs of Asia. Their connection to our state is that if you trace the story of their development, it takes you back to 1930s Maxton, North Carolina, where a young man named Malcolm McLean had saved up $120 to buy a used truck.

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A farmer controls his horse while a horseless carriage charges by.

From Horse Power to Horsepower: Fraught Coexistence

When the first horseless carriages appeared on our streets around 1900, Americans had been using animals for work and mobility for some 300 years. There were early adapters who jumped at the chance to own an automobile, but many North Carolinians were comfortable with their animals, and they dismissed the newfangled contraptions as playthings. Our relatively slow transition from horse power to horsepower left beast and machine in an extended period of sometimes fraught coexistence on the roads.

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