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Katharine and R. J. Reynolds

Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South

Michele Gillespie

Publication Year: 2012

Separately they were formidable—together they were unstoppable. Despite their intriguing lives and the deep impact they had on their community and region, the story of Richard Joshua Reynolds (1850–1918) and Katharine Smith Reynolds (1880–1924) has never been fully told. Now Michele Gillespie provides a sweeping account of how R. J. and Katharine succeeded in realizing their American dreams.

From relatively modest beginnings, R. J. launched the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which would eventually develop two hugely profitable products, Prince Albert pipe tobacco and Camel cigarettes. His marriage in 1905 to Katharine Smith, a dynamic woman thirty years his junior, marked the beginning of a unique partnership that went well beyond the family. As a couple, the Reynoldses conducted a far-ranging social life and, under Katharine's direction, built Reynolda House, a breathtaking estate and model farm. Providing leadership to a series of progressive reform movements and business innovations, they helped drive one of the South's best examples of rapid urbanization and changing race relations in the city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Together they became one of the New South's most influential elite couples. Upon R. J.'s death, Katharine reinvented herself, marrying a World War I veteran many years her junior and engaging in a significant new set of philanthropic pursuits.

Katharine and R. J. Reynolds reveals the broad economic, social, cultural, and political changes that were the backdrop to the Reynoldses' lives. Portraying a New South shaped by tensions between rural poverty and industrial transformation, white working-class inferiority and deeply entrenched racism, and the solidification of a one-party political system, Gillespie offers a masterful life-and-times biography of these important North Carolinians.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xiii

I am indebted to many wonderful people in the researching and writing of this book. Let me begin with all the archivists whose knowledge of their respective repositories and whose support...

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pp. 1-14

Richard Joshua Reynolds lived the proverbial American success story on a big southern stage. Contemporary narratives extolled his modest origins in the Virginia backcountry and his rags- to- riches scramble to fame and fortune. A rugged individualist with deeply...

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1. Making a Business of It

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pp. 15-46

Born in 1850 in Patrick County, Virginia, where the rolling hills of the Piedmont lap the Blue Ridge Mountains just above the North Carolina border, Richard Joshua Reynolds was a child of the slaveholding South who came of age in the tumultuous years of Reconstruction...

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2. A Hardworking, Painstaking Student

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pp. 47-76

R.J.R. had already settled in Winston a full fi ve years before his future wife was born, so great was their age diff erence of thirty years. R.J.R. grew up during slavery and the Civil War. Katharine grew up in a late nineteenthcentury South racing to catch up with the industrializing...

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3. Making Money

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pp. 77-120

While Katharine was growing up in Mount Airy, going to school and dreaming about her future, R.J.R. was transforming Winston into an important southern industrial center. Boyish, clean-shaven, and thin as a rail when he first arrived, he grew more imposing...

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4. Dearest of All

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pp. 121-162

R. J. Reynolds had never been a romantic. He preferred shrewd deals and hard living to sentimentalism. But his love for his first cousin once removed, Kate Smith, his “dearest of all,” proved deep and...

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5. Brains and Backbone

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pp. 163-212

R.J.R.’s business thrived during the period in which he had entered into marriage and fatherhood. Thirty years earlier, he had built a barn- red tobacco warehouse in Winston. He had spent the last three decades transforming his tobacco business into one of the leading economic...

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6. A Thousand Cattle on a Hill

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pp. 213-261

Even as a young woman, Katharine had dreamed big. She once told her State Normal and Industrial School roommate Emma Speight, “When I marry . . . I shall buy a great estate...

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7. A Woman for a New Day

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pp. 262-290

As the United States prepared to enter World War I, Katharine and R.J.R. began the most diffi cult period of their lives. Although the Reynolds Tobacco Company had never been more profi table and their children healthier, and while their Reynolda bungalow...

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pp. 291-298

Over the course of their lifetimes, Richard Joshua Reynolds and Katharine Smith Reynolds shaped the experiences and opportunities of thousands of North Carolinians...


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pp. 299-358


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pp. 359-374


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pp. 375-381

E-ISBN-13: 9780820344652
E-ISBN-10: 0820344656
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820332260
Print-ISBN-10: 0820332267

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 49 b&w photos, 1 table
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 854973929
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Katharine and R. J. Reynolds

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Subject Headings

  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company -- Biography.
  • Reynolds, R. J. (Richard Joshua), 1850-1918.
  • Reynolds, Katharine Smith, 1880-1924.
  • Businessmen -- United States -- Biography.
  • Businesswomen -- United States -- Biography.
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