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Efird’s Department Store charge plate, about 1950

CFM 2007.36.5
Gift of Carol Bunting

Description: Rectangular metal charge plate, measuring 1 3/16″  x  2 7/16″.  “Efird’s DEPARTMENT STORE, Wilmington, N. C.” is printed in black lettering on a small rectangular piece of red paper inserted into 1 side of a small thin rectangular aluminum plate.  The plate has the words  “Addressograph” and “Credit plate”  etched into the sides.” The paper is signed by a Mrs. J. P. Mewborne

The words “MRS. J. P. MEWBORNE, 506 NORTHERN BLVD., WILMINGTON, N. C, 2815-15″ are embossed on the back of the plate.  The charge plate came housed inside a small rectangular brown plastic sleeve with the words “Efird’s, WILMINGTON. N. C., CREDIT PLATE” printed in white lettering on 1 side.

Object History: This charge plate was donated to the Museum in 2007, by Carol Bunting, Mrs. Mewborne’s granddaughter.  Mary Powell (1891-1990) married Jacob Parrott Mewborne (1893-1954) in 1918. The couple lived in the Carolina Place and Sunset Park neighborhoods of Wilmington in the 1940s and 1950s.  The Mewbornes had two girls in the 1920s.  One of them, Annie Louise was the donor’s mother.

Charge plates were precursors to credit cards and were issued mostly by department stores.  They were widely used between the 1930s and 1950s.

General History: Wilmington’s first department store opened in 1903 and, since that time, the Port City has had as many as 20 stores.  Throughout most of the 1900s, Wilmington’s department stores were located downtown.  Shopping began to move to the suburbs in the 1960s. The last significant department store left in downtown Wilmington was Friendly Department Store.  When it went out of business in 1995 ended more than 90 years of department stores having a continuous presence downtown.

Efird’s Department Store opened in Wilmington in 1921.  Efird’s was part of a southern chain of department stores and was run by longtime manager Claude Lee Efird, Sr. (1901-1976).  Efird’s was located on the 200 block of N. Front St. until the business closed in 1974.

814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382