Thursday, September 12, 2019

Here's to the Land of the Long Leaf Pine!

or, What's a State Song without a State Toast?

Postcard, copyrighted and postmarked 1907. Private collection
by John B. Green III

In our last post we discussed William Gaston and the creation of North Carolina's official state song, The Old North State.  But there is another "Old North State", and not one written by William Gaston.  Since 1904, several generations of North Carolinians have gotten to their feet, raised a glass, and regaled their listeners with the following lines - 

Here's to the Land of the Long Leaf Pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here's to 'Down Home', the Old North State!

Written by Mrs. Leonora Monteiro Martin and first recited on May 20, 1904 at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Society of Richmond, Virginia, the toast quickly became popular.  North Carolina newspapers reported its use all across the state and it soon began to appear on penny postcards and other souvenir items.  The toast first received official recognition in 1933 when the North Carolina House of Representatives adopted a resolution declaring Mrs. Martin's toast, along with music composed for the toast by Mrs. Mary Burke Kerr, to be the state toast of North Carolina.  Further recognition came from the legislature in 1957 when "An Act Establishing an Official Toast to the State of North Carolina" was adopted. 

Postcard, ca. 1940. Private collection

Considering that North Carolinians tend to be expansive in their praise of their native state, it should  surprise no one that there are actually three more verses to the toast.  Here they are as Mrs. Martin wrote them and as they appeared in 1907 in the Library of Southern Literature, Edwin Anderson Alderman and Joel Chandler Harris, editors. 

Text of The Old North State, from Edwin Anderson Alderman and Joel Chandler Harris, eds., Library of Southern Literature (Atlanta: The Martin and Hoyt Company, 1907)