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Reynolds Family Papers, 1787-1973 (Bulk 1904-1925) Edit


PC 194 03
Finding Aid Author
Bari Helms
Finding Aid Date
Copyright 4 April 2015
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of Description


  • Bulk, 1904-1925 (Creation)
  • 1787 – 1973 (Creation)


  • 21.5 Cubic feet (Whole)
    47 boxes



  • Abstract

    The Reynolds Family Papers were created by the Reynolds family of North Carolina and Virginia, primarily tobacco baron R.J. Reynolds and his wife Katharine Smith Reynolds. Correspondence, financial, and legal records document the creation and early years of the Reynolds’s 1,000-acre estate and working farm, Reynolda, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Other subjects of note are the Reynolds family’s philanthropic and social activities and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

  • Arrangement

    Arranged in ten series, five of which have been further arranged in subseries.The contents of each series or subseries are arranged alphabetically by subject name, personal name, or corporate name. Unless otherwise noted in the series and subseries descriptions, the arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing in the absence of a usable original order.

  • Biographical Note

    Born at Rock Spring Plantation in Patrick County, Virginia, on 20 July 1850, Richard Joshua “R.J.” Reynolds (1850-1918) was the son of tobacco planter Hardin William Reynolds (1810-1882) and Nancy Jane Cox (1825-1903). Hardin William built Rock Spring Plantation, located near Critz, Virginia, in 1843 on land first purchased in 1814 by his father Abraham “Abram” Reynolds (1771-1838). The plantation proved quite adept at producing bright leaf tobacco. Hardin was a successful farmer, merchant, and banker. Hardin, who processed his first tobacco at the young age of 18, created a tobacco manufactory to turn the bright leaf into chewing tobacco on the Patrick County property, and by the 1850s, tobacco was his principal form of income. Hardin also operated a thriving country store on the land selling a variety of goods such as corn, oats, coffee, sugar, cloth, clothing, bacon, flour, peaches, and boots. By 1860, Hardin William Reynolds owned nearly two dozen properties consisting of 8,000 acres in Patrick County and 3,000 acres in nearby Stokes County, North Carolina. His 59 slaves made him one of the largest slaveholders in that area of Virginia. Hardin and Nancy Jane Cox Reynolds had 12 children including R.J. Reynolds, founder of Reynolds Tobacco Company, and his older brother Abram Reynolds, father of Richard Samuel Reynolds, founder of Reynolds Aluminum.

    Before becoming a vital player in the industrialization of the New South, R.J. Reynolds worked for his father’s tobacco business, attended Emory & Henry College from 1868 to 1870, and eventually finished at Bryant & Stratton Business College in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1873. In 1874, R.J. Reynolds sold his share in the family tobacco business and moved south to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he established his own plug (chewing) tobacco factory in 1875. In 1888 he incorporated his business as the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Introductions of new tobacco blends and innovation in advertising made Reynolds a success. The popularity of Prince Albert smoking tobacco, introduced in 1907, and Camel cigarettes, first appearing in 1913, made Reynolds Tobacco number one in the tobacco industry.In addition to his shrewd business dealing, R.J. was known as having a genuine concern for his employees, both white and African American. R.J. opened doors to economic development and left a lasting legacy of charitable giving.

    In 1905, Reynolds married Katharine Smith (1880-1924) and found a loving partner to match his drive and ambition. R.J.’s first cousin once removed, Katharine Smith of Mount Airy, North Carolina, was the daughter of Zachary Taylor Smith (1847-1938) and Mary Susan Jackson (1855-1926). A student at the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College and a graduate of Sullins College in Bristol, Virginia, where she earned a degree in English literature, Katharine worked as a secretary at the Reynolds Tobacco Company before marrying R.J. in her parent’s home in Mount Airy on the morning of 27 February 1905. After a honeymoon trip to Europe, the couple settled in a mansion at 666 West Fifth Street in Winston near the Reynolds tobacco factories. Between 1906 and 1911, the couple had four children: Richard Joshua Jr. “Dick” Reynolds(1906-1964), Mary Katharine Reynolds Babcock (1908-1953), Nancy Susan Reynolds (1910-1985), and Zachary Smith Reynolds (1911-1932).

    Proving herself to be equal to her husband’s business acumen, Katharine Reynolds began buying land after her first year of marriage. Over the next several years Katharine would purchase 27 tracts of land that would become the 1,000-acre Reynolda estate. Building and landscape work at Reynolda began in 1912; its creation was part of the American Country Place movement. Katharine hired Philadelphia-based architect Charles Barton Keen to design the family’s home and all of the buildings on the working farm. New York landscape designers Buckenham & Miller drew up the master landscaping plan but were soon replaced by another Philadelphian practicing landscape architecture, Thomas W. Sears. The final estate consisted of a 60-room bungalow; formal gardens; 16-acre Lake Katharine; recreational facilities; Reynolda Village, home to the estate’s workers; Five Row, resident houses for African American workers; Reynolda School, and a model farm where local farmers could learn progressive techniques in agriculture, dairying, livestock raising, and horticulture.

    The Reynolds family moved to Reynolda upon the house’s completion in December 1917, when R.J. was already seriously ill of what is now believed to have been pancreatic cancer. R.J. died on 29 July 1918, and his funeral would be the first public event held at Reynolda. After her husband’s death, Katharine donated land to be turned into a high school to be named after R.J. Reynolds and paid for a new auditorium, all designed by Reynolda’s architect and landscape designer Charles Barton Keen and Thomas Sears.

    In 1921, Katharine married her second husband J. Edward Johnston (1893-1951), whom she had hired as principal for the Reynolda School. During this time Reynolda continued as a working farm and dairy with the addition of a polo field. Katharine gave birth to two children during her second marriage--Lola Katharine Johnston, who died at birth, and J. Edward Johnston Jr. (1924-2005). A few days after the birth of her son with Johnston, Katharine died in New York from a blood clot.

    Following Katharine’s death, Reynolda was held in trust for the next ten years. In 1935, oldest daughter Mary Reynolds Babcock purchased the estate from her siblings. Together with her husband Charles H. Babcock Sr., Mary modernized the estate adding a sunken garden to the bungalow’s main entrance, an indoor swimming pool, and a recreation themed basement with a modern bar, game room, floors for skating, a shooting gallery, and bowling alley. Initially the Babcocks spent only holidays and vacations at Reynolda, living primarily at their home in Greenwich, Connecticut. During World War II, while her husband Charlie was serving with the United States Army, Mary moved her four children to Reynolda, where the family would relocate year round in 1948.

    During the Babcock’s tenure, Reynolda slowly ceased being a working farm, and the family donated or sold much of the estate’s acreage. The most notable donation was the 350 acres given to Wake Forest College in 1946 for the school’s relocation from Wake Forest, North Carolina. Ultimately, the Babcocks would give 605 acres to Wake Forest University, including Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village.

    After Mary Reynolds Babcock’s death in 1953, Charlie Babcock remained at Reynolda with his second wife Winnifred Penn Knies, whom he married in 1954. In 1964, Babcock established Reynolda, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to arts and education. The Babcocks’ oldest daughter, Barbara Babcock Millhouse, became its first president, and under her leadership it became Reynolda House Museum of American Art in 1967.

  • Access Restrictions

    The collection is open for research use. Access to Series 4, Subseries 4, Sheriff’s Records, 1932, is restricted; consult the Reynolda House Museum of American Art Director of Archives for details.

  • Acquistion Information

    The Reynolds Family Papers were initially gifted to Wake Forest University by Nancy Susan Reynolds on 15 May 1976 and 22 February 1982. Other items were received by Wake Forest University as transfers from Reynolda House, Inc., on 13 August 1976, 30 November 1976, 15 June 1978, 6 October 1980, 28 October 1980, and 26 January 1981. In 1993, when Reynolda House Museum of American Art established its archives, the collection was transferred to the RHMAA Archives. Additionally, other items in the collection have been gifted or purchased directly to Reynolda House Museum of American Art with various accession dates.

  • Preferred Citation

    Reynolds Family Papers, 1787-1973. Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

  • Reproduction and Use

    Reynolda House Museum of American Art holds copyright to most of the materials housed in its archival collections. Potential publishers of written works that quote, paraphrase, and/or contain reproductions of material from the Museum’s archival collections must be granted permission to publish by the RHMAA Director of Archives.

  • Separated Material

    At some point in the collection’s history, photographs and architectural and landscape plans were separated into their own distinct collections. They now comprise the Reynolda House Museum of American Art Historic Photograph Collection and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art Historic Architectural and Landscape Plans Collection.

  • Scope and Content

    The Reynolds Family Papers consist primarily of correspondence, financial records, and legal documents of R.J. and Katharine Smith Reynolds, with the bulk of the collection documenting the development and early years of Reynolda as a private estate and working farm from 1912-1924. Part of the American Country Place Movement, Reynolda reflected the trend through which elite Americans created large houses in park-like settings with model farms and extensive recreational facilities. The majority of the correspondence in the collection belongs to Katharine Smith Reynolds and records her interactions with architects, landscape architects, designers, merchants, employees, family, and friends. Significant correspondents include Philadelphia-based architect Charles Barton Keen (1868-1931), landscape architect Thomas W. Sears (1880-1966), Wanamaker’s department store, Lord & Burnham greenhouse designers, and the Aeolian Pipe Organ Company. Other correspondence relates to Kathrine Reynolds’ civic and social activities. The correspondence of R.J. Reynolds, and to lesser extent letters belonging to his wife, contain information on the tobacco industry and the Reynolds Tobacco Company.

    The two series Reynolda Estate and Reynolda Farm document the design and construction of the farm, dairy, and Reynolda Village, which housed white managerial estate employees. Plant Lists and correspondence record work performed in the formal gardens and greenhouse. Additionally, accounts, correspondence, and receipts provide insight into the daily activities on the estate and offer a glimpse at the employees living and working at Reynolda.

    Subject Files document Katharine and R.J.’s philanthropic work, social activities, travel, and the tobacco industry.

    The papers of Hardin William Reynolds included in the collection represent life on Rock Spring Plantation in Patrick County, Virginia in the second half of the nineteenth century. These papers concern Hardin’s tobacco business, general store, legal dealings, and slave holdings. Notably, account records, bills of sale, and Freedmen’s papers record information about the African Americans living on the estate before and after the Civil War.

  • Related Material

    Digital reproductions of select correspondence files of R.J. and Katharine Reynolds are available electronically with the online collections on the Reynolda House Museum of American Art website and at the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.