Guide to the William T. Blackwell Family Papers


William T. Blackwell founded the W. T. Blackwell and Co. Tobacco company in Durham, N.C. in 1870 with James R. Day, later adding Julian Shakespeare Carr. This collection includes materials from the Blackwell family, based in Durham, and their descendants, including the J. D. Pridgen and Chester B. Martin families. It includes early materials from Blackwell and Julian Carr's operations of the W.T. Blackwell and Co. Durham Tobacco company; documentation from the building of the W.T. Blackwell and Co. factory; materials from the Durham Tobacco trademark litigation cases of the 1870s; Blackwell family correspondence and financial papers, many documenting local Durham businesses; volumes and ledgers from the operation and closure of the Bank of Durham, operated by Blackwell between 1883 and 1888; photographs, correspondence, and scrapbooks from the Pridgen and Martin families documenting Durham churches, community events, personalities, and local news in the early 20th century; news clippings and family obituaries; and other assorted materials relating to Durham history.

Collection Details

Collection Number
William T. Blackwell family papers
Blackwell, William Thomas, 1839-1903
4 Linear Feet
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Collection is in English.

Collection Overview

This collection contains assorted materials from the William T. Blackwell family and descendants, including the J. D. Pridgen family and Chester B. Martin family. Materials have been loosely sorted by format and time period, and are arranged chronologically by contributor, if possible.

The bulk of the Family Papers series dates from the late 19th century, with business correspondence and financial materials from the operation of the W. T. Blackwell Tobacco Company, both in the late 1860s (when operating as Blackwell and Day) and following the arrival of Julian Carr in the 1870s and 1880s. Items document the sales and advertising of tobacco products, ongoing factory construction in Durham, travels of both Blackwell and Carr (along with other agents), and the string of trademark violation lawsuits and other legal challenges pursued by Blackwell to protect the Bull Durham trademark in the 1870s.

Other materials from the Blackwell-era relate to the purchases and daily activities of his family, particularly his wife, Emma; the collection contains receipts, invoices, and other correspondence relating to her management of the household, documenting activities like clothing, groceries, and supply purchases. There are a series of condolence notes following the death of Mary Blackwell, the couple's daughter. Blackwell's correspondence with business associates and friends is also housed in the General Correspondence files for the Blackwells.

W.T. Blackwell's niece, Lavinia Blackwell, married Joseph D. Pridgen, Sr., whose Durham-based shoe company is referenced in printed materials and manuscript items in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Scrapbooks from daughters Mary Blackwell Pridgen and Ethelwold Pridgen offer glimpses of these young women's activities in Durham and Hillsboro, both educational and social, during the 1910s and 1920s. These scrapbooks include photographs, programs and ticket stubs, and other ephemeral items collected and preserved by the Pridgens.

Mary Blackwell Pridgen later married Chester B. Martin, and the Martins operated Durham Dairy Products, Inc., a milk processing and distribution company. Mary Pridgen refers to herself as Mrs. C. B. Martin through the rest of the collection's materials. She continued scrapbooking, with clippings and items saved about the Martins and their children dating from the 1950s through the 1960s. Later mid-20th century materials document her interest in Durham history, particularly the establishment of the Historic Preservation Committee in the 1970s.

The collection's Bank of Durham Volumes Series dates from the Blackwell-era, in the 1880s. W.T. Blackwell's operation of the Bank of Durham and its subsequent failure is documented through account books, ledgers, and other volumes recording payments and loans by the bank.

More Biographical / Historical Info


This collection is organized into 2 series: Family Papers, and Bank of Durham Volumes.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], William T. Blackwell Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

James L. Blackwell honorary discharge from Confederate Army, 1862 Oct. 10
Box 1
William T. Blackwell invoice book, 1860
Box 1
Blackwell family receipts, financial notes, other invoices, 1870s-1880s
(3 folders)

Assorted scraps and invoices from W.T. Blackwell, Mrs. W.T. Blackwell (Emma Blackwell), and their children; most relate to purchases made by the Blackwells of food, clothing, other daily needs. Some are acknowledgements and receipts of payment by or to the Blackwells. Includes both Durham and other businesses.

Box 1
W. T. Blackwell financial accounts (ledger pages) of payments, 1888-1889

Extracted from an unidentified account book

Box 1
Blackwell family correspondence (general), 1870s-1880s
(3 of 5 folders)

Letters to and from the Blackwells to family, friends, and business associates. Includes materials regarding the W.T. Blackwell and Co. tobacco business, including suppliers, store representatives, and customers. Also includes correspondence directed to Mrs. W.T. Blackwell from businesses and travel contacts seeking her patronage. Materials are not sorted within these folders.

Box 1
Blackwell family correspondence (general), 1870s-1880s
(4-5 of 5 folders)
Box 2
Blackwell and Day Tobacco correspondence, financial notes, 1867-1869

Receipts, financial notes, and some correspondence regarding W.T. Blackwell and James Day tobacco business operations prior to Julian Carr's partnership.

Box 2
W. T. Blackwell and Day: "Bethel Hill, N.C., 1866-1869", 1877

Accounts and ledgers from Blackwell and Day, with 1877 annotation: "papers not worth one cent"

Box 2
James R. Day legal papers, 1872

Includes a subpoena and an 1872 certificate appointing Day a guardian for Margaret McCown, "lunatic"

Box 2
W. T. Blackwell and Co. business correspondence, incl. legal case notes, 1870s

Business correspondence and legal correspondence and notes centered around the "Durham Tobacco" trademark cases brought by W.T. Blackwell and Co. throughout the 1870s. Materials are unsorted and relate to numerous legal actions.

Box 2
W. T. Blackwell and Co. financial notes and invoices re: factory, 1871-1873

Most items are invoices from A.F. Page (and other firms) for construction materials and labor.

Box 2
Letters to J. H. Tarpley, Durham, re: Blackwell factory, 1872
Box 2
W. T. Blackwell and Co. factory construction invoices and ledgers for workers, 1870s

Includes lists of workers and their salary rates for the building's construction.

Box 2
"The Durham Trademark Case: Argument for the Plaintiffs", 1877

Printed booklet

Box 2
W. T. Blackwell and Co. financial notes and invoices re: tobacco, 1870s
Box 2
Julian Carr correspondence to W.T. Blackwell and others, 1870s-1880s

Wide range of materials - largely letters and telegrams - relating to operations and sales by W.T. Blackwell and Co., including their partnership contract; updates on travels, sales, orders, and shipping of tobacco; Carr's business philosophy; the trademark litigation and communication with competitors; and other topics.

Box 2
William T. Blackwell handwriting exercises, 1870s
Box 2
Emma Exum family bible, 1866

Inscribed by Emma Exum; other notations and annotations throughout the volume, presumably by other owners. Includes obituary for C.B. Martin laid in.

Box 3
Emma Exum Blackwell and W. J. Exum obituaries, 1885
Box 3
Mary A. Blackwell obituaries, 1885
Box 3
Assorted family obituaries and memorials, 1870s-1970s

Including Blackwell, Pridgen, and Martin-era family members

Box 3
J. D. Pridgen and family receipts, financial notes, 1890s-1920s

Includes materials for Ethelwold and Mary Pridgen

Box 3
Mary Blackwell Pridgen materials, 1905-1920
Box 3
J. D. Pridgen correspondence, 1920s-1940s

Includes some documentation about Pridgen and Jones Shoes (based in Durham, N.C.)

Box 3
Pridgen family legal materials, 1920s

Re: real estate, custody papers

Box 3
Trinity Methodist Church, Durham: Pridgen family materials, 1920s
Box 3
Masonic lodges/Eno Lodge 210 materials, 1872-1873, 1920s
Box 3
Ephemeral business cards, printed advertisements, other printed circulars, 1880s-1920s
Box 3
Ephemeral calling cards, 1880s-1920s
Box 3
World War I era clippings, 1910s-1920s

From Pridgen family

Box 4
"The History of Duke Memorial United Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Durham, NC 1886-1932", 1932

Printed booklet

Box 4
Durham history materials, 1974-1976

Martin family materials (especially Mrs. C. B. Martin also known as Mary Blackwell Pridgen Martin) from the Historic Preservation Society of Durham, the Durham Bicentennial committee, and other Durham history clippings

Box 4
Blackwell family genealogy, 1970s-1990s

Genealogy research, photostats

Box 4
Durham beauty pageants, ball programs, 1959-1961
Box 4
Temple Baptist Church history, 1972-1973

From Mary Blackwell Pridgen Martin

Box 4
Martin family clippings, 1960s-1977

Includes Durham history, Martin family press coverage, and other local personalities

Box 4
Milk Industry Foundation Board of Directors meeting photographs, 1950

From C.B. Martin, Durham Dairy Products

Box 4
Photographs of family, friends, and houses (unsorted), 1880s-1940s
(2 folders)

Range of cabinet cards and other early photographs of the Blackwell and Pridgen family; also includes portraits of what appears to be local Masons.

Box 4
Ethelwold Pridgen scrapbook, 1915-1917

Contains snapshots and collected mail, ephemera, and other items from Ethel's association with Hillsboro High School in Orange County, N.C.

Box 5
Photograph album (Mary B. Pridgen?), 1920s

Contains snapshots, some with captions, and some mail and other items that appear to have been collected by Mary Pridgen in the early 1920s. Materials relate to Durham and Hillsboro, N.C.

Box 5
Mary Blackwell Pridgen scrapbook, 1920-1921

Contains snapshots, programs, and other ephemera collected and captioned by Mary; documenting activities and social life in Durham, 1920s.

Box 5
Mrs. C. B. Martin scrapbook, 1950

Contains letters, clippings, and other materials from Martin family activities in Durham, including Chester B. Martin, Mary Blackwell Pridgen Martin, and their children

Box 6
Mrs. C. B. Martin scrapbook, 1953

Contains clippings and notes celebrating the Martins' being named "Mother of the Year" and "Father of the Year" in Durham, 1953.

Box 6
Durham history clippings scrapbook, 1965

Contains clippings and other press coverage about Durham and its residents, presumably compiled by the Martins

Box 6
Photograph of Blackwell family home, Duke and Chapel Hill Streets, Durham, approximately 1870s

Mounted photograph with damage; repaired prior to acquisition with scotch tape. Image is of house with family standing on the porch. A goat-drawn carriage with 2 children are out front. Notation on the back of the photograph indicates that home stood at the current site of Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, Durham, N.C. A duplicate of this image is in the Photographs of family, friends, and houses folder.

Box 7
Photograph of unidentified casket of Masonic funeral, 1880s-1920s
Box 7
Photograph of Durham, N.C., city view (factory?), 1880s-1900s
Box 7
Photograph of Jones and Lyon storefront, Durham, N.C., 1880s-1910s
Box 7
Durham maps, collected by Mary Pridgen Martin, 1881-1906
(4 items)

2 photostats of Gray's New Map of Durham (1881); 1 photocopy of Bird's Eye View of the City of Durham (1891); 1 printed copy of Map of Durham County, drawn by C.M. Miller, CE, Salisbury, N.C. (1906).

Oversize-folder 1

2. Bank of Durham volumes

William T. Blackwell opened the Bank of Durham in 1883, drawing upon his private fortune from his sale of Blackwell's Durham Tobacco Company. The bank authorized too many loans with insufficient security, which, combined with Blackwell's losses in the attempted speculation of leaf tobacco, led to the bank's closure in 1888-1889. Many Durham businesses were bankrupted as a result. V. Ballard and W. S. Halliburton served as trustees of the bank following its failure, and oversaw the settling of the books.

This subseries consists of Bank of Durham account ledgers, cash books, remittance books, and other financial volumes kept during the operation of the bank and its subsequent closure.

Volume numbers were originally assigned when the items were acquired by Duke Library in the 1970s. They have been retained but do not indicate chronology or quantity - they are unique item numbers dating from earlier cataloging practices at the library.

Bank of Durham Journal No. 1, Durham, NC, 1883 May-1884 Feb.
Volume FF 176
Bank of Durham General Ledger No. 1, Durham, NC, 1883-1886
Volume F 177
Bank of Durham collection register, Durham, NC, 1884-1886


Volume FF 179
Bank of Durham collection register, Durham, NC, 1886-1888


Volume FF 180
Bank of Durham Journal No. 4, Durham, NC, 1886 Nov.-1888 Apr.
Volume FF 181
Bank of Durham journal, Durham, NC, 1888 Oct.-1889 Jan.
Volume F 182
Bank of Durham Journal No. 3, Durham, NC, 1885 June-1886 Oct.
Volume FF 183
Bank of Durham bills of exchange, Durham, NC, 1883-1888
Volume F 184
Bank of Durham cash book, Durham, NC, 1885-1886
Volume FF 185
Bank of Durham daily balances, Durham, NC, 1885 July-1888 Oct.
Volume FF 186
Bank of Durham daily balances, Durham, NC, 1888 Nov.
Volume FF 187
Bank of Durham daily cash No. 1, Durham, NC, 1883 May-1887 May
Volume FF 188
Bank of Durham daily cash No. 2, Durham, NC, 1887 June-1888 Nov.
Volume FF 189
Bank of Durham deposit slips: stubs, Durham, NC, 1884-1888
Volume FF 190
Bank of Durham discounted debts, Durham, NC, 1883-1888
Volume F 191
Bank of Durham drafts on the Merchants National Bank of Baltimore, Durham, NC, 1886-1888
Volume F 192
Bank of Durham Journal No. 2, Durham, NC, 1884 Mar.-1885 May
Volume FF 193
Bank of Durham Personal Ledger, No. 2, Durham, NC, 1886-1888
Volume FF 194
Bank of Durham Personal Ledger, No. 3, Durham, NC, 1888-1889
Volume FF 195
Bank of Durham monthly balances, Durham, NC, 1883-1888
Volume FF 196
Bank of Durham General Ledger No. 2, Durham, NC, 1887-1889
Volume FF 197
Bank of Durham stubs of cashier's checks, Durham, NC, 1887-1888
Volume FF 198
Ledger B, Durham, NC, 1884-1886
Volume F 361
Ledger No. 1, Durham, NC, 1886-1889
Volume F 362
Journal, Durham, NC, 1887 Jan.-1889 Aug.
Volume F 363
Journal, Durham, NC, 1887 Aug.-1886 Jan.
Volume F 364
Bank of Durham collection book, Durham, NC, 1887 Jan. 10-Mar. 28
Volume M 767
Bank of Durham remittances book, Durham, NC, 1888 Mar. 10-Nov. 14
Volume F 970
Trustees Ledger for Bank of Durham, by V. Ballard and W.S. Halliburton, Durham, NC, 1888-1889
Volume F 971

Historical Note

William T. (Buck) Blackwell (1839-1903) married Emma Exum in 1877. She died in 1885. Blackwell, James R. Day, and Julian Carr owned and operated W.T. Blackwell and Co.'s Durham Tobacco between 1870 and 1883, at which point he sold his shares and opened the Bank of Durham. The Bank operated between 1883 and 1888. The Blackwells' daughter Mary died at age five; their son W.T. Blackwell Jr. later became a civil engineer in Durham. William T. Blackwell's brother, James Blackwell, married Eleanor Buchanan. Their daughter, Lavinia Blackwell (1889-1929), married Joseph Davis (Joe) Pridgen. Joseph Pridgen operated Pridgen and Jones Shoe Company in Durham, N.C. The Pridgens had several children, including Lavinia Pridgen, Ethelwold May Pridgen, Joseph D. Pridgen, Jr., Wilbur Pridgen, Nellie Pridgen, Emma Lee Pridgen, and Mary Blackwell Pridgen. Mary Blackwell Pridgen married Chester Bartin Martin in 1931. C.B. Martin founded Durham Dairy Products in 1927, which was Durham's first milk delivery company. The Martins had several children, including Chester Barton Martin Jr., Mary Blackwell Martin, Eleanor Jane Martin, Joseph Pridgen Martin, John Charles Martin, and Margaret Eshelman Martin.

Separated Material

Separated Materials

Single issues of The Messenger (published as a serial by Durham High School) have been transferred to that record of titles held by Rubenstein Library. Please see the online catalog, with call number: LH1.D87 M477.

A nearly-complete run of Durham Dairy Doings, published by Durham Dairy Products, Inc., has been transferred to the print catalog queue for individual cataloging. This was donated by the Martins, who owned and operated Durham Dairy Products.

A manuscript letter titled "Letter from Annie D. Ammon Howard, Rochester, New York, 1876" has been removed and cataloged individually in the Rubenstein Library.

Related Material

The Rubenstein Library also holds the Joseph Davis Pridgen Papers, 1917-1950s (

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


Collection acquired in stages, with additions dating back to 1937. The bulk of the Family Papers series were received as a gift from the Martin family in April 2019.