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 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.
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.
This collection is organized into 2 series: Family Papers, and Bank of Durham Volumes.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research; access requires at least 24 hours advance notice.
Use & Permissions
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.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], William T. Blackwell Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
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.
Extracted from an unidentified account book
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.
Receipts, financial notes, and some correspondence regarding W.T. Blackwell and James Day tobacco business operations prior to Julian Carr's partnership.
Accounts and ledgers from Blackwell and Day, with 1877 annotation: "papers not worth one cent"
Includes a subpoena and an 1872 certificate appointing Day a guardian for Margaret McCown, "lunatic"
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.
Most items are invoices from A.F. Page (and other firms) for construction materials and labor.
Includes lists of workers and their salary rates for the building's construction.
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.
Inscribed by Emma Exum; other notations and annotations throughout the volume, presumably by other owners. Includes obituary for C.B. Martin laid in.
Including Blackwell, Pridgen, and Martin-era family members
Includes materials for Ethelwold and Mary Pridgen
Includes some documentation about Pridgen and Jones Shoes (based in Durham, N.C.)
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
Includes Durham history, Martin family press coverage, and other local personalities
From C.B. Martin, Durham Dairy Products
Range of cabinet cards and other early photographs of the Blackwell and Pridgen family; also includes portraits of what appears to be local Masons.
Contains snapshots and collected mail, ephemera, and other items from Ethel's association with Hillsboro High School in Orange County, N.C.
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.
Contains snapshots, programs, and other ephemera collected and captioned by Mary; documenting activities and social life in Durham, 1920s.
Contains letters, clippings, and other materials from Martin family activities in Durham, including Chester B. Martin, Mary Blackwell Pridgen Martin, and their children
Contains clippings and notes celebrating the Martins' being named "Mother of the Year" and "Father of the Year" in Durham, 1953.
Contains clippings and other press coverage about Durham and its residents, presumably compiled by the Martins
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Rubenstein Library also holds the Joseph Davis Pridgen Papers, 1917-1950s (https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/pridgenjoseph/).
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Bank of Durham (Durham, N.C.)
- Carr, Julian Shakespeare
- Durham Dairy Products, Inc.
- Day, James R. (Tobacco magnate)
- Durham (N.C.) Chamber of Commerce
- Martin, Mary Blackwell Pridgen, 1905-2005
- Martin, Chester B.
- Pridgen (Family)
- Pridgen, Joseph Davis, 1894-1980, Jr.
- Pridgen, Joseph Davis
- W. T. Blackwell and Company (Durham, N.C.)
- Business records -- North Carolina -- Durham
- Banks and banking -- United States -- 19th century
- Factories -- Durham (NC)
- Freemasons. Grand Lodge of North Carolina
- Scrapbooks -- North Carolina -- Durham
- Tobacco industry -- North Carolina -- Durham
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.