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North Carolina’s Original Tourism Slogan, 1585

Part of Ralph Lane’s letter containing the “Goodliest Soile under the Cope of Heaven.” Image from The Third and Last Volume of the Voyages, Navigations, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation via Durham University.

On September 3, 1585, Ralph Lane described the Virginia Colony, which included present day North Carolina, as, “the goodliest soile under the cope of Heaven.”

Lane, leader of the second group of English voyagers that was sent to explore the colony, used the phrase in a letter to Richard Hakluyt the elder, an Englishman who promoted New World exploration.

Describing the Virginia Colony as a land of unexplored greatness with many native people living in rudimentary villages, Lane found the climate wholesome and pleasant, and stated that no one among his crew fell ill while visiting. He further claimed that the New World had no equal in the known world at the time.

There is debate among historians over whether or not Lane was giving an accurate description of Virginia or if he was simply trying to increase the likelihood that a permanent English settlement would be established in the colony.

Regardless of questions surrounding the intent of the description, the “goodliest soile under the cope of heaven” phrase has become revered by North Carolinians and seen as an apt accounting of the natural beauty of the state.

Read an excerpt of the letter in a volume of documents about the early English settlement of North Carolina published by our agency in 1948.

Visit: Roanoke Island Festival Park, open seven days a week in Manteo, celebrates England’s first attempt at colonization in the New World.

Other related resources:

  • Birth of  a Colony, a documentary produced by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources in cooperation with UNC-TV.

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