The earliest letters are written from England (1833-1868) and discuss a variety of topics. Richard Paddison, brother of George, writes concerning the education of his children and the expense involved (Sept. 17, 1840; April 11, 1847). He discusses the change in public opinion toward the learning of the classics, his preference for German schools over British schools, and his opinions on child raising (April 11, 1847). Several letters (Mar. 22, 1845; Mar. 22, 1850; Jan. 26, 1855; and Oct. 23, 1860) describe the everyday life and business problems of Richard Paddison who was a solicitor in England. Other letters (Mar. 22, 1845; Jan. 9, 1851; Sept. 16, 1852; Dec. 7, 1858; and June 30, 1868) follow Richard's son, George Paddison, through several foreign countries (Australia, Paraguay, Chile) in his attempts to find jobs as a civil engineer.
Eleanor Paddison (Richard's and George's sister) writes about a Great Exhibition opening in London and the Queen's activities concerning the occasion (May 2, 1851). Another letter (Sept. 25, 1887) mentions the "jubilee' celebration going on at that time. Other correspondence from Eleanor in Staffordshire contains comments concerning the corn, hay and potato crops (Oct. 18, 1853); Napoleon III (Aug. 12, 1870); and economic problems in England (Sept. 27, 1872; Dec. 12, 1878; May 12, 1880; Mar. 18, 1880).
Correspondence for the Civil War era is concerned with military and civilian pursuits. Richard Porson Paddison enlisted in Co. A 61st Reg. N.C. Infantry. Subsequently he was appointed hospital steward at Caswell Hospital in Smithville, N.C. and later at General Hospital No. 4 in Wilmington, N.C. Commentaries by various correspondents concern Fort Fisher, N.C. (Feb. 15, 1864) and its capture by Union Forces (Jan. 17, 1865); the carefree life of a civilian government employee (June 23, 1864); monetary difficulties of the Confederate Quartermaster; teaching experiences at an academy in Marion, N.C. (Aug. 18, 1864); Southern views of the U.S. presidential election (Sept. 13, 1864); and the operation of the Officers' Hospital in Augusta, Georgia (Aug. 20, 1864).
Several letters written during the post-Civil War era describe life in the South in the late 1860's and the 1870's. Included are commentaries on a water voyage from Wilmington to Charleston (June 3, 1865) and damage done to land, buildings, animals, and material possessions during the Civil War. A letter from Nashville, Tennessee, (Sept. 2, 1865) expresses the writer's opinion of Yankees and comments on stable prices, the number of whiskey shops, and an incident involving Confederate General Wheeler. A second Tennessee letter (July 26, 1866) originates from Memphis and goes into great detail about state politics, "Brown law," and the "questionable" passing of a constitutional amendment which allowed Tennessee to reenter the Union. Also included are comments concerning an incident involving a Freedmen's Bureau attaché in Arkansas, the election of delegates to the (Democratic?) correspondence (April 21, 1866) describes the general condition of the South after the Civil War and the Negro reaction to freedom, feelings about Jefferson Davis's release from prison, and Southern rumors about him. Finally a Feb. 2, 1877 letter comments on an incident in Aiken, S.C. in which a couple was attacked and their home ransacked by a roving band of Negroes.
Diseases and various cures are frequently mentioned in the correspondence. Measles (Sept. 16, 1852), cholera (Dec. 29, 1854), lung and heart diseases (Jan. 23, 1861; Sept. 27, 1872), bronchitic asthma (Dec. 18, 1871), whooping cough (May 2, 1873), gout (April 17, 1879; Dec. 4, 1883), cancer of throat and tongue (Aug. 2, 1886) and stroke (Feb. 20, 1885) were all mentioned in the letters from England. Boils were prevalent in the Mississippi area (July 10, 1944). Of the various cures offered there were two for weak stomach (April 14, 1856; March, 1860) suggested by the English relatives and one for neuralgia (Dec. 17, 1915) suggested by a Point Caswell, N.C. resident. Some of the correspondents turned to health resorts (Aug. 1901; Aug. 15, 1901) such as Ronkonkoma, Long Island, N.Y. or to the Christian Scientist faith (Mar. 14, 1912; Mar. 20, 1912; June 10, 1912; June 10, 1924, and an undated testimonial) to preserve their health.
Correspondence in the collection comments on the entertainments indulged in during the 19th Century and early 20th Century. Included are many books and magazines such as
The Mother's Book by Mrs. Child (April 11, 1847), "Illustrated News" (Nov. 20, 1849),
Corsell's Almanac (Aug. 12, 1870), and
Sir Christopher by Maude Goodwin (Aug. 1901). Plays included "Cinderella" performed by a Thalian Association in Magnolia, N.C. (Nov. 6, 1868); and "Tom Moore," starring Andrew Mack in New York City (Oct. 6, 1901). Also mentioned are a play in Denver, Colorado, starring Ethyl Barrymore (1929); "Of Thee I Sing" in New York City (June 12, 1932); and "Reunion in Vienna" in New York City (June 16, 1932). Other entertainments from the early 20th Century included movies, singers, dining out, and going to nightclubs. A student at Salem College and Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C. mentioned that the composer and pianist Cadman and his singing assistant Princess Redfeather had entertained at the school (Nov. 21, 1915). References were made to movies seen in Colorado (July 25, 1929, and Aug. 13, 1929); a lobster luncheon at Schraft's in New York (June 12, 1932); nightclubs in Miami being raided for gambling; jai-alai games in Miami; and horse racing in Tropical Park, Miami (Jan. 4, 1939; Jan. 13, 1939). Also of interest is a description of the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. (Oct. 6, 1901), a portion of the program for the Pan American Exposition of 1901, and a booklet about the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904.
Numerous letters (1888-1931) pertain to education on the private school and college level. Included are letters written from Peace Institute at Raleigh, N.C. (Oct. 19, 1888); Salem College and Academy at Winston-Salem, N.C. (Nov. 21, 1915), McCallie School, Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, Tennessee (a preparatory school) (1923-1924); University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado (1929). Discussed are all aspects of college life with an emphasis on courses, entertainment, normal friction between parents and children, fraternities, publications, and expenses.
The summer activities of students are also widely discussed. Commentaries concern a student geological tip in the summer of 1925 through the states of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia; summer camp (1925) at Camp Mondamin, Tuxedo, N.C.; a transcontinental auto trip (1928); and travel across Europe (Italy, Germany, France, and England) using public transportation and a motorcycle (1931).
Several letters contain references to politics and the Democratic Party. A letter dated Nov. 5, 1884 discusses the presidential election returns for Wake County and Raleigh, N.C. Personal notes from President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland and from his private secretary (1888) express appreciation for a steamboat ride on the Indian River in Florida. Other political items include a form thank you note from William Jennings Bryan (1898) and a letter by a Palm Beach, Florida, county judge giving a detailed description of campaign problems and subsequent victory in the Democratic Primary (1924).
World War I letters written from France (1918-1919) describe problems within the Medical Corps, opinions of the Peace Proposal, French twins, Inter-Allied games,Pershing Stadium, YMCA services, and the celebrations when Germany agreed to sign the Peace Treaty.
Correspondence for the 1920's and 1930's pertain to business activities in New York and elsewhere. Included are commentaries on the operation of Speedex Services, Inc. of Warsaw, N.Y., specializing in duplicating, sales, and advertising (1928); newspaper work with the Rochester Journal American (1928); stock investments (1929); business depression; and the operation of painting and publishing companies in New York and Massachusetts (1929).
Correspondence for the 1939-1945 period is concerned primarily with World War II. James Paddison Pretlow served in the Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron in the Pacific while his brother, Joel Cook Pretlow, Jr., served in the Army Exchange Service in the U.S. Letters written from Wilmington, describe life as a new recruit at Fort Bragg, N.C. (1942) and at the Army Exchange School at Princeton, N.J. (1942-1944); the operation of service clubs, cafeterias, canteens, guesthouses, officers' clubs, bowling alleys, snack bars, and soda bars at Camp Shelby, Miss (1944); the D-Day celebrations at Gulfport, Miss.; and a typical day of training on the 85-foot boats (1944). Correspondence written from the Philippines (1945) comments on President Roosevelt's death; President Truman; OPA's attempt to keep food costs down; delays in mail delivery; food; and the treatment from the "Court of Neptune" when crossing the equator. Also mentioned are the wartime needs and personality of the Filipinos, the peacetime resumption of business by the Filipinos and the Chinese, attempts to get discharged after the war ends, and the different rates of exchange for the Aussie pound and the U.S. dollar. In a letter dated Dec. 6, 1944. an English relative describes the 79th General Hospital of the U.S. Army in southern England.
Correspondence also covers a variety of miscellaneous topics including the hardships of raising a family in the city on a newpaperman's salary (1879); the industry of transporting cattle from the U.S. to England (1880); a description of Salem, N.C. (1886); forms of transportation used to get to Long Island, N.Y. from Wilmington, N.C. (1901); and impressions of Long Island, N.Y. A woman from Washington, Ga. describes a trip she took north (Oct. 6, 1901) in which she mentions dress styles in New York City and Boston; furniture styles in New York City; transportation routes from New York City to Boston; the countryside at Mason, New Hampshire; and the famous places she saw in Concord, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Other topics include personal impressions concerning Helen Keller, problems involved in operating the Friendly Cafeteria in Wilmington, N.C. (1927-1945); the Fourth of July celebrations in Boulder, Colorado (1929); an earthquake in Seattle, Washington (1932); REA electricity at Point Caswell, N.C. (1945); the inefficiency of the farm business (1945); and wedding plans and preparations (Jan. 10, 1906; Dec. 4, 1945).
Unrelated to family correspondence is a typescript copy of a letter (1791) describing the visit of President George Washington to Wilmington, N.C. During his famous Southern tour. The whereabouts of the original is unknown.
Eight wills in the collection pertain to the Pretlow family in Surry Co. and Isle of Wight Co., Virginia (late 1700's) and the Pretlow and Paddison families of North Carolina (particularly of Point Caswell and of Wilmington) in the early 1900's.
There are several family histories written about the Pretlows and the Paddisons beginning with their emigration from England, The Pretlows had Quaker connections and on history describes Quakers in Virginia from the mid-1600's with a focus on laws enacted against them, their reaction to slavery, their marriage ceremony, and their exemption from military service. Other families mentioned are the Scott, Cook, and Hare families of Virginia. One Paddison Family history goes into depth about the lives of the English relatives. Other families discussed are the Simpson (of Point Caswell and Bladen Co., N.C.), Thomson, and Walker relatives. Richard Porson Paddison's family history details the lives of his ancestors, himself, and his children. He describes experiences in the Civil War, the steamboat business, and the origins and methods of the Ku Klux Klan in the Pender County and New Hanover County area of North Carolina.
Also found in the collection are birth, marriage, and death records for the Paddison and Robbins families and various genealogical records on the Foard family of Statesville, N.C., the Bradshaw family of Rowan County and Davidson County, N.C., and the Fraser, Moore, Simpson, and Thomson families of North Carolina.
Miscellaneous items include newspaper articles, receipts, programs, reports, house inventories, indentures, D.A.R. and U.D.C. applications, and photographs. There is an indenture of apprecticeship (1851) for Richard P. Paddison when he was 13 years old, one for a "freed boy" in 1865, and one for an eleven year old orphan in 1856. For the Civil War era there is a list of expenses at a Southern fishery in 1863, a list of supplies issued to a hospital, a descriptive list and account of pay and clothing issued to Richard Porson Paddison of the C.S.A., and copies of official Confederate Records on Richard Porson Paddison.
Business related items include Friendly Cafeteria postcards, a business card for Richard P. Paddison's steamboat business in Wilmington, N.C., and Joel C. Pretlow's license to pilot and engineer the Cape Fear River. Items relating to the Wilmington, Clinton, and Point Caswell R.R. and Steamboat Co. consist of a report of the finance committee (14883), an expenses report (1883), and a list of subscriptions (1884). Also of interest are stock shares of the Wilmington, Clinton, and Warsaw Telegraph Co. (1883); a program for the First Annual Convention of United Confederate Veterans (1890); a program for the U.C.V. Reunion of 1904; information from
A Brief History of the Church of Christ by R.I. Woodhouse; and a poem by C.E. Merrill called "Ole Mose" (about an incident at Gettysburg during the Civil War). Also included are the Sept., 1923 issue of "Dixie Doings" published by Portland Cement Co. which contains an article on the Dade Lumber Co. of West Palm Beach, Fla.; the N.C. Division U.C.V. Songbook; a mileage chart for a transcontinental car trip in 1928; a "History of Steamboats on Indian River, Fla. from 1888-1895; " and a copy of a marriage certificate dated April 28, 1793, for Quakers Joseph Pretlow of Nansemond Co., Virginia and Anne Scott of Southampton Co., Virginia.
Photographs are of President and Mrs.Grover Cleveland on Richard P. Paddison's steamboat, the
ROCKLEDGE Steamboat, Richard Porson Paddison, and Sam B. Pretlow in W.W.I. Army uniform.
Newspaper articles date from 1911 through 1941 and include information from the
Point Caswell News, excerpts of letters written from England during W.W.II, death announcements, and feature articles on the Friendly Cafeteria in Wilmington.