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.
Four draft horses in harness, with the mathematical formula for horsepower superimposed

Horsepower

As the Industrial Revolution produced mechanical devices to perform work, it was only natural to compare the productivity of an engine to that of the animals that had historically provided the muscle. So why don’t we talk about oxenpower or bullpower? And why was horsepower actually based on the work capacity of Shetland ponies. And not to get too picky, why is “one horsepower” not the amount of work one horse could accomplish in a given time?

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The Cooleeme Ferry landing with a horse and buggy, about 1900

The Ferry

Today’s highways pass over our states many rivers on bridges so efficient that the driver is scarcely conscious of the flowing water below. But before bridges were common – that is, through most of our North Carolina history – crossing a river often meant relying on a private ferry, an indispensable component of travel all across our state for hundreds of years.

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Two Glidden tour automobiles on a muddy road

The Glidden Tour

In the very early years of the 20th century, automobiles were just beginning to appear on streets around the country. The Glidden Tour, a long-distance “reliability and endurance tour,” would give many a small town – including in North Carolina – its first sighting of an automobile. And the yearly event would go a long way toward convincing a wary public that the auto age was here to stay.

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Please check weekly for new posts. And if you like what you see, please help spread the word.