Discover more from North Carolina Rabbit Hole
The Newspaper With A Satin Robe
A prized find at a vintage market in Charlotte was actually, once, a prize.
NOTE: Here’s a short bonus Monday edition of the Rabbit Hole, free for everyone. If you’d like to support this newsletter, you can sign up for free, or help out with a paid subscription. Thanks! And see you all again Thursday.
This weekend, a reporter for the Charlotte Observer came across one hell of a find at the Camp North End Vintage Market in Charlotte:
That robe is a little more Classy Freddie Blassie than Ric Flair, but’s it’s fantastic nonetheless. The reporter passed along one more clue: There was an AAU patch on the front. Past that, the seller didn’t really have any more information.
This all went down on Saturday, and I immediately had a lot of people tagging me, asking to figure it out. But, honestly, I only found one piece of the puzzle. The internet, lovingly, sprang into action and filled in the rest of the gaps.
No Wrasslin’, Just Fistfightin’
I had a hunch that this thing wasn’t a wrestling robe, but actually a boxing robe, since the AAU stands for Amateur Athletic Union, an organization that’s been around since 1888. On Twitter, Brad Kutrow chimed in to say that the Observer used to sponsor an amateur boxing tournament: the Golden Gloves.
Gordon Rago, the reporter who found the robe, provided the timeline: The 1940s. And a quick newspapers.com search for “Golden Gloves,” “robe,” and “Charlotte Observer” led me to an article from January 19, 1940. In it, the Observer laid out a number of prizes for the amateur boxers who came out victorious.
The winners of the local Golden Gloves went on to a national tournament sponsored by the New York Daily News, and the paper wanted to make sure people knew who’d sponsored the boxers from the Carolinas. Hence, in 1940, a winner got not only a robe, but also a belt buckle and some boxing shorts. The Observer called it the “finest array of prizes ever offered in an amateur boxing tournament in this part of the country,” which is a lot of qualifiers, but still! A blue and gold satin robe and shorts, along with a big ol’ belt buckle is a FIT.
Anyhow, that’s where I (and a man from Duluth) ended up. But the folks at UNC Charlotte’s Special Collections went the extra mile.
So, we now know what the robe is, but we don’t know who wore this particular robe. That investigation may now fall upon the robe’s new owner, which was not actually the Observer reporter who found it, but rather an editor at Axios Charlotte who went back later and bought it.
To be the news outlet, you gotta beat the news outlet.
If you have any North Carolina mysteries you need solved, tap on the button below to send me an email.