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Collection Number: 01505

Collection Title: John Henderson Cotten Papers, 1928-1968

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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Size 2.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 975 items)
Abstract John Henderson Cotten was a United States Naval Academy graduate and career naval officer. He commanded a destroyer in the Pacific in World War II and taught at various naval schools in the 1950s. The collection is chiefly weekly letters, 1931-1962, from Elizabeth Henderson Cotten (1875-1975) of Salisbury and Chapel Hill, N.C., librarian at the University of North Carolina, to her son, John Henderson Cotten, concerning work, family, and social matters, but also commenting on such topics as racial integration and the arts in Chapel Hill. Also included are several letters about family matters from John Cotten to his brother, Lyman A. Cotten (1909- ); several photographs of friends and relatives of Cotten; and a few items relating to Cotten's naval experience, including a Japanese map, captured by United States Marines, of Okinawa Island.
Creator Cotten, John Henderson, 1913-1982.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
This collection contains additional materials that are not processed and are currently not available to researchers. For information about access to these materials, contact Research and Instructional Services staff. Please be advised that preparing unprocessed materials for access can be a lengthy process.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Henderson Cotten papers #1505, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Map of Okinawa received from John H. Cotten of Chapel Hill, N.C., in July 1948. All other material received from Lyman A. Cotten of Chapel Hill in October 1984.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Elizabeth Brownrigg Henderson was born in Salisbury, N.C., on 4 August 1875, the daughter of John Steele and Elizabeth Cain Henderson. She spent her childhood in Salisbury and in Washington, D.C., while her father served in Congress, 1885-1895. She graduated from St. Mary's School in Raleigh, N.C. Elizabeth Henderson and Lyman A. Cotten, a naval officer from North Carolina, were married in 1908. During Captain Cotten's naval career, Lyman and Elizabeth lived in the United States, China, Turkey, and Japan. While in the United States, Mrs. Cotten was active in the women's suffrage movement. Elizabeth Cotten moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1926, following the death of her husband. In 1932, she began working at the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina Library. She also served as the first executive secretary of the Friends of the Library. She died on 3 February 1975.

John Henderson Cotten was born in Karulzawa, Japan, in 1913 to Lyman A. Cotten, naval attache, and Elizabeth Henderson Cotten. In 1935, Cotten was graduated from the United States Naval Academy. He served on convoy duty with the United States Navy in the Atlantic until the outbreak of World War II. As commander of the U.S.S. Charles J. Badger, a destroyer, he was involved in the bombardment of the Gilbert Islands, Okinawa, and other Pacific Islands. Cotten was awarded the Bronze Star in 1945. Following the war, Cotten held several assignments, chiefly in Washington, D.C. He served at a number of service schools, including the Armed Forces College in Norfolk, Va. (1952); the Fleet School in Key West, Fla. (1953); and the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. (1956-1957). Cotten acted as naval liaison officer to the Eighth Army in South Korea in 1954. He also saw duty on naval vessels such as the Des Moines (1948-1950); the Compass Island (1959-1960); and the Galveston (1961). Cotten died at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1982.

(Elizabeth Cotten information adapted from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, edited by William S. Powell.)

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection is chiefly weekly letters, 1931-1962, from Elizabeth Henderson Cotten (1875-1975) of Salisbury and Chapel Hill, N.C., librarian at the University of North Carolina, to her son, John Henderson Cotten, concerning work, family, and social matters, but also commenting on such topics as racial integration and the arts in Chapel Hill. Also included are several letters about family matters from John Cotten to his brother, Lyman A. Cotten (1909- ); several photographs of friends and relatives of Cotten; and a few items relating to Cotten's naval experience, including a Japanese map, captured by United States Marines, of Okinawa Island.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1928-1968.

About 970 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly letters from Elizabeth Henderson Cotten to her son, John Henderson Cotten.

Elizabeth Cotten wrote her son as often as once or twice a week during most of the forty years covered in this collection. While these letters deal chiefly with family and social matters, Elizabeth Cotten also commented on such public figures as Frank Porter Graham, Harry S Truman, and Winston Churchill, as well as on issues such as race relations and integration, the cold war, and the arts, especially concerts and plays in the Chapel Hill area. There are some references to her work with the Friends of the Library at the University of North Carolina in the 1930s, with the Southern Historical Collection in the 1940s and 1950s, and with the restoration of Tryon Palace in New Bern, N.C., in 1959.

There are also a few letters from individuals other than Elizabeth Cotten. These include letters from John Cotten to Elizabeth Cotten and correspondence with his brother, Lyman Cotten. These letters deal with such matters as health and visits.

Folder 1

1928-1931 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 1

Folder 2

January-March 1932 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 2

Folder 3

April-September 1932 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 3

Folder 4

October-December 1932 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 4

Folder 5

January-February 1933 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 5

Folder 6

March-May 1933 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 6

Folder 7

June-August 1933 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 7

Folder 8

October-December 1933 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 8

Folder 9

January-April 1934 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 9

Folder 10

May-December 1934 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 10

Folder 11

January-March 1935 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 11

Folder 12

April 1935-1945 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 12

Folder 13

July-August 1948 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 13

Folder 14

September-December 1948 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 14

Folder 15

January-February 1949 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 15

Folder 16

March-April 1949 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 16

Folder 17

May-September 1949 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 17

Folder 18

October 1949 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 18

Folder 19

November-December 1949 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 19

Folder 20

January 1950 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 20

Folder 21

February-April 1950 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 21

Folder 22

May-June 1950 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 22

Folder 23

July-September 1950 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 23

Folder 24

October-December 1950 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 24

Folder 25

January-March 1951 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 25

Folder 26

April-June 1951 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 26

Folder 27

July-August 1951 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 27

Folder 28

October-December 1951 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 28

Folder 29

January-February 1952 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 29

Folder 30

March-May 1952 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 30

Folder 31

June-September 1952 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 31

Folder 32

October-December 1952 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 32

Folder 33

January-March 1953 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 33

Folder 34

April-June 1953 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 34

Folder 35

July-August 1953 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 35

Folder 36

September-December 1953 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 36

Folder 37

January-March 1954 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 37

Folder 38

April-July 1954 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 38

Folder 39

August-October 1954 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 39

Folder 40

November 1954 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 40

Folder 41

December 1954 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 41

Folder 42

January-February 1955 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 42

Folder 43

March 1955 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 43

Folder 44

April-June 1955 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 44

Folder 45

July-August 1955 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 45

Folder 46

September-October 1955 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 46

Folder 47

November-December 1955 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 47

Folder 48

January-February 1956 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 48

Folder 49

March-April 1956 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 49

Folder 50

May-August 1956 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 50

Folder 51

September-October 1956 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 51

Folder 52

November-December 1956 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 52

Folder 53

January-March 1957 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 53

Folder 54

April-May 1957 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 54

Folder 55

June-September 1957 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 55

Folder 56

October-December 1957 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 56

Folder 57

January-April 1958 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 57

Folder 58

May-August 1958 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 58

Folder 59

September-December 1958 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 59

Folder 60

January-February 1959 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 60

Folder 61

March-May 1959 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 61

Folder 62

June-August 1959 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 62

Folder 63

September-December 1959 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 63

Folder 64

January-March 1960 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 64

Folder 65

April-July 1960 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 65

Folder 66

August-October 1960 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 66

Folder 67

January-March 1961 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 67

Folder 68

April-May 1961 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 68

Folder 69

June-September 1961 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 69

Folder 70

October-December 1961 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 70

Folder 71

January-July 1962 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 71

Folder 72

August-December 1962 #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 72

Folder 73

1964-1968 and undated #01505, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1928-1968." Folder 73

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Other Papers, 1929-1961.

5 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

A memorandum, 1929, concerning naval insurance; a 1943 clipping relating to a social appearance by John Cotten; a 1953 list of donors to the University of North Carolina library, including Lyman Cotten; items relating to John Cotten's personal property; and a map of Okinawa captured from the Japanese by the United States Marines in 1945. According to Cotten, the map was used throughout the remainder of the operation, April-August 1945, because of its superiority to American maps of Okinawa.

Folder 74

Other papers #01505, Series: "2. Other Papers, 1929-1961." Folder 74

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Photographs, 1940s and undated.

9 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Chiefly photographs of people, circa 1940s, most unidentified. Two photographs are of a man in uniform, probably John Cotten.

Image Folder PF-1505/1

Photographs #01505, Series: "3. Photographs, 1940s and undated." PF-1505/1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Mark Beasley with the assistance of Enola Guthrie, January 1987

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Finding aid updated in June 2010 by Kathryn Michaelis for digitization.

This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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