Monday, April 29, 2019

The History of the Spartan Tartan!



*Sarah Maske is a senior at UNC Greensboro, with a double major in history and archaeology. She is interning in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collection and University Archives for the spring 2019 semester.

While tartan is a popular pattern in clothing today, it has an important place in North Carolina’s history. In the early 19th century, North Carolina held the largest population of Scots outside of Scotland.(1) After the failed Jacobite rebellions led by the Bonnie Prince Charlie ended in 1746, Highlanders and other Scots moved to North Carolina to start a new life. This new life included the freedom to wear their tartan, which was outlawed in the Scottish Highlands by the British Government under the Dress Act of 1746 as a way to strip the Highlanders of their identity and clan affiliation.

UNC Greensboro Official Tartan Recording

It is not surprising that UNC Greensboro would have its own official tartan celebrating the Scottish heritage of University founder, Charles Duncan McIver. On August 12, 2005, UNC Greensboro’s tartan (number 6265) was officially placed in the International Tartan Index. (2) Commissioned by the former Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan and Associate Vice Chancellor Helen Dennison Hebert, the tartan took three years to create and gain official recognition by the Scottish Tartans Authority. (3) The University worked with the International Association for Tartan Studies in Pennsylvania and designer Dr. Phil Smith Jr. to develop a tartan in the University’s colors of blue, gold, and white. The goal was to design a tartan that would promote tradition and school pride among the students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

Commemorative Tartan Blanket

The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives houses a variety of artifacts and textiles commemorating the tartan project, including two commemorative  tartan blankets, which were presented to major donors during the Students First Campaign.(4) The wool blankets have the patterning of the UNC Greensboro official tartan in blue, gold, and white with Minerva embroidered on the front. The textile collection also includes Chancellor Sullivan’s pleated UNC Greensboro tartan skirt. The University Archives’ artifact collection holds the tartan certificate presented to the University by the Scottish Tartan Authority honoring the recording of the UNC Greensboro tartan in the International Tartan Index.

Chancellor Patricia Sullivan's Tartan Skirt
So whether you are an upcoming participant in the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in July, a fan of the Outlander television series, or just a lover of tartan prints show your Spartan pride with the UNCG Official Tartan.

1. Beach, Kathryn., “The Highland Scots,” NCPEDIA, 2006.https://www.ncpedia.org/highland-scots
2. Tartan Certificate, UA 100-0608, Artifact Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina Greensboro.
3. Withers, Lanita, “Begorra, It’s a Custom Spartan Tartan For UNCG the Specially Created Tartan Features a Blue and Gold Plaid.” Greensboro News & Record, February 11, 2005. https://www.greensboro.com/begorra-it-s-a-custom-spartan-tartan-for-uncg-the/article_73cc0d7d-e08b-544c-8bb9-f457b5a82272.html
4. UNCG Spartan Tartan Blanket, UA 107-0164, Textile Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina Greensboro.
5. Patricia Sullivan’s Pleated Tartan Skirt, UA 107-0155,  Textile Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina Greensboro..

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