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Collection Number: 03819

Collection Title: Kemp Plummer Lewis Papers, 1908-1946

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.

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Size 39.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 31,000 items)
Abstract A lifelong textile executive with Erwin Mills in Durham, N.C., Kemp Plummer Lewis was the son of Richard Henry Lewis and Cornelia Viola Battle. He attended the University of North Carolina, where he was later president of the alumni association and a member of the first board of trustees of the consolidated university. He was also active in Durham civic affairs and Episcopal church work. The collection contains family and financial correspondence of Kemp Plummer Lewis, including materials relating to Erwin Mills; the North Carolina Diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church; the University of North Carolina, including information concerning the Order of the Gorgon's Head Lodge and Zeta Psi Fraternity; Durham City Schools; Durham Rotary; and a variety of charitable institutions. Business letters reveal labor union activities and management response in various North Carolina textile mills, especially those in Durham, Cooleemee, and Erwin, N.C. The Durham and Southern Railway Company, the Bank of Harnett, and the Erwin Yarn Company are other businesses represented in the collection, as are the American Cotton Manufacturers' Association and the North Carolina Cotton Manufacturers' Association. A great deal of family correspondence concerns the Battles of Chapel Hill and Nell Battle Lewis, Lewis's half-sister and feature writer, who wrote a column called "Incidentally" for the Raleigh News and Observer. Papers also reflect Lewis's involvement in settling the estates of William Allen Erwin and William Allen Erwin, Jr.
Creator Lewis, Kemp Plummer, 1880-1952.
Curatorial Unit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Kemp Plummer Lewis Papers #3819, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Anne Lewis Orgain (Mrs. Edward S. Orgain) in June 1969.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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Processed by: Thomas Kevin B. Cherry, October 1994

Encoded by: Eben Lehman, February 2006

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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Kemp Plummer Lewis (1880-1952) was born in Raleigh, N.C., to Dr. Richard Henry Lewis and Cornelia Viola Battle. Richard Henry Lewis, a native of Pitt County, N.C., was a noted physician, serving on the state Board of Medical Examiners and the North Carolina State Board of Health. He was also president of the American Public Health Association in 1908. Richard Henry Lewis sat on the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina for 35 years and Saint Mary's School in Raleigh for 23 years. He was professor of the diseases of the eye and ear in the Leonard Medical School of Shaw University. An active member of Christ's Church in Raleigh, Richard Henry Lewis held numerous church offices including that of senior warden. Kemp Plummer Lewis's mother, Cornelia Viola Battle, was the daughter of Kemp Plummer Battle, president and professor of history at the University of North Carolina.

Kemp Plummer Lewis's father, Richard Henry Lewis, was married three times. With his first wife, Cornelia Viola Battle, whom he married in 1877, he had four children: Richard Henry Lewis, longtime president of the Oxford Cotton Mills in Oxford, N.C.; Martha (Pattie) Battle Lewis, who married Dr. Isaac Manning of Chapel Hill, died early in life; Kemp Plummer Lewis; and Ivey Foreman Lewis, biologist and dean at the University of Virginia. In 1890, Richard Henry Lewis married one of the first 13 students of Saint Mary's School in Raleigh, Mary Long Gordon, who died in 1895 leaving a daughter, Nell (Cornelia) Battle Lewis. Nell Battle Lewis practiced law for a short time and taught at Saint Mary's School while writing a popular Sunday column called "Incidentally" for the Raleigh News and Observer. She was, early in her career, an advocate of labor, penal, and mental health reform, as well as of women's rights. Her later writings were ardently anti-communist and questioning of her previous allies. Richard Henry Lewis's third wife, whom he married in 1897, was Annie Blackwell Foreman; she died in 1917. [For earlier genealogical material see family tree in the inventory to the Lewis Family Papers (#427)].

Kemp Plummer Lewis attended the Raleigh Male Academy, also known as Morson's School, presided over by Professor Hugh Morson, in his day a noted North Carolina educator. In 1900, Lewis was graduated from the University of North Carolina with an A.B. degree and a Phi Beta Kappa key. As a student, he sang in the local Episcopal church choir (Chapel of the Cross) and was a brother of the Upsilon Chapter of the Zeta Psi Fraternity and the Gorgon's Head Lodge. Lewis played tennis and baseball and was elected president of the Athletic Association his senior year.

A few months after his graduation, Lewis joined his father's friend, textile mill owner William Allen Erwin, in business. Erwin had begun his career in 1874 as a salesman in the general store of his great-uncle Edwin Michael Holt's mill village in Company Shops, now Burlington, N.C. Erwin left the mercantile business after one year to become the secretary-treasurer and general manager of the E. M. Holt Plaid Mills before moving to Durham in 1892 to join Benjamin N. Duke in creating the Erwin Mills.

Kemp Lewis began his 52-year career with Erwin Mills as William Allen Erwin's stenographer and personal assistant, going so far as to move into Erwin's home in order to help his employer rear his children. (Erwin's wife, Sadie L. Smedes, daughter of Dr. Aldert Smedes, founder of Saint Mary's School in Raleigh, was ill and out of the home.) After a short time, Kemp Plummer Lewis became the Erwin Mills' purchasing agent and, in 1904, he became the head of the No. 2 mill in the model mill town of Duke, now known as Erwin, N.C. Lewis continued as purchasing agent for both mills. In 1919, Lewis became assistant secretary-treasurer of the company and, eight years later, when the secretary-treasurer, William Allen Erwin, succeeded Benjamin Duke as president, Lewis took the vacated secretary-treasurer position. Erwin was incapacitated the last few years of his life, and, during this time, Lewis became president of the company in all but name. Upon Erwin's death in 1932, Lewis assumed the presidency of Erwin Mills, keeping the duties of the treasurer as well. He held these two positions until 1948, when he became chairman of the board, a post he recommended be created. He was chairman of the board at his death.

For most of these years the Erwin Mills steadily expanded. In 1906, the company acquired the No. 3 plant at Cooleemee, N.C. In 1910, the No. 4 mill and bleachery at West Durham went up. The year 1926 saw the No. 5 mill at Erwin created, and, in 1932, the No. 6 mill (formerly the Pearl Cotton Mills) at Durham was purchased. The company later added a sheeting, bleachery, and sewing plant to the No. 4 mill as well as a bleachery and dyeing plant to the No. 3 mill in Cooleemee. The Erwin Mills group manufactured denims, sheetings, sheets and pillow cases, suitings, cantons, tickings, coverts, outings and flannels, among other materials. During his career Lewis saw the company grow from only one 25,000-spindle mill to a complex of eight mills boasting 200,000 spindles.

These years of growth were also years in which the textile industry in the South was racked by conflicts between labor organizers and management. Lewis, while protesting against government intervention in wage and labor disputes and decrying the tactics of organizers whom he felt were betraying the workers they claimed to represent, did feel that there were mills (which he generally designated as the smaller ones to the south) that did exploit their labor. He was adamantly opposed to closed shops although he did negotiate a union contract for each of the mills under his control. Although his company experienced several strikes in the thirties and forties, they were not violent.

The textile industry recognized Lewis's contributions to his profession and elected him president of the Cotton Manufacturers' Association of North Carolina, 1931-32, and of the American Cotton Manufacturers' Association, 1939-1940. These organizations, under Lewis's direction, dealt primarily with interstate rail freight rates and wage and labor legislation on both the state and national level.

Lewis's other business interests included the presidency of the Erwin Yarn Co. of Philadelphia (which was managed by Sam H. Garrett) and the Bank of Harnett in Erwin, N.C. He was vice president of the Oxford Cotton Mills and sat on the board of directors of the Fidelity Bank of Durham and the Durham and Southern Railway Company. Lewis and his two brothers also received income from a family farm in Pitt County (Ivey Foreman's Greenwreath which was rented by W. H. Moore.) The Lewis family attempted to develop another family farm (their father's Cloverdale). Unfortunately, the Depression occurred simultaneously with this development, and the sales, which dragged on for more than a decade, were not very profitable.

The University of North Carolina remained a major interest of Lewis's for most of his life. As early as the 1930s, he could claim that five generations of his family had taken degrees at Chapel Hill. He and his two brothers not only graduated from this institution, they also spent summers in their youth at their grandfather Kemp Plummer Battle's home, Senlac, now the Baptist Student Union in Chapel Hill. Battle was president of the school at the time. Kemp Plummer Lewis was president of the Alumni Association of the University for two years, 1931-1933, first filling the unexpired term of Felix Harvey who died while in office. During his presidency of the Association, Lewis aided the new president of the University, Frank Porter Graham, in lobbying the state legislature against drastic cuts in funding. He also led a membership drive for the Association. An early supporter of university consolidation which brought together Woman's College in Greensboro (now UNC-Greensboro), State College in Raleigh (now North Carolina State University), and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Lewis joined his father and brother Richard as a trustee and was named to the first board of trustees of the Consolidated University. Lewis remained a trustee for eleven years, 1932-1943, serving on the board's Finance Committee most of this time. Growing from his own years as a college athlete, Lewis's interest in Carolina athletics (especially football) remained strong; he was an early member of the University of North Carolina's Educational Foundation (Ram's Club). Lewis's interest in the University started to wane in the mid-1930s when he began to feel that the University, under the influence of Frank Porter Graham, was becoming too liberal and had begun to exhibit what he felt to be "socialistic tendencies."

Also active in Durham civic affairs, Lewis served on the City Board of Education from May 1925 until April 1937. On the board, he voiced his opposition to long school hours and various innovations in public education such as the study of music, art, civics, and the incorporation of extracurriculars into the school day. In other city matters, he aided committees involved in reorganization of city roads and rails, as well as extension of the city limits. During the Depression, he served on Durham's Relief Committee. Lewis was also a member of Rotary and president of the Durham club. In 1948, the Chamber of Commerce presented him with the City of Durham's Civic Award as the outstanding citizen of the year.

Lewis was a lifelong Episcopalian. A stalwart layman of Saint Philip's Church in Durham, he was for many years a vestryman, including a number of terms as senior warden. He sat on various committees involved in church financial matters, leading several all member canvasses and fund drives. He was on the Executive board of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and was chairman of the Finance Committee of the Diocese.

Kemp Plummer Lewis lived in the Erwin Mill village from 1900 until 1912, when he married Lottie Hays Sharp of Belhaven, daughter of Carroll Sharp of Hertford County, N.C.. and niece of William Dossey Pruden of Edenton. Pruden was a Confederate officer who, after the war, was recognized as the leading lawyer in the Albemarle section of the state. Lottie Hays Sharp had one sister, Carroll, who married Clark Nickerson, an employee of Sears and Roebuck and one half-brother, William Windley, who briefly attended the University of North Carolina before taking his medical degree from the Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia. Kemp Plummer Lewis and Lottie Hays Sharp moved into Durham from the mill village and there had four daughters: Anne Foreman Lewis, who married Edward S. Orgain; Margaret Pruden Lewis, who married Henry Clark Bridgers, Jr.; Lottie Sharp Lewis, who married Charles T. Wollen, Jr.; and Martha Hoskins Lewis, who married David S. Stanley. The daughters attended the Durham elementary schools before beginning instruction in a series of private academies including the Holton-Arms School, Stuart Hall, the National Cathedral School, Saint Mary's, Sweet Briar, and the Abbot School of Design.

Devotees of bridge, golf, and murder mysteries, the Lewises were members of the Princess Anne Country Club and the Cavalier Beach Club in Virginia Beach, Va., as well as the Hope Valley Country Club in Durham. Lewis was a founder and longtime board member of the Durham club. They spent their summers at various North Carolina resorts and in Virginia Beach, Va., as well as on golf courses such as those in Pinehurst, N.C., and Augusta, Ga. The Lewises also regularly commuted to New York City and Washington, D.C., on business and shopping trips.

(Adapted from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography with additional information taken from the papers.)

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All materials in this collection are from Kemp Plummer Lewis's files that he kept at Erwin Mills; they are not the official business files of Erwin Mills. The files primarily comprise Lewis's personal business correspondence, but also contain materials concerning his family and his civic and volunteer interests.

The collection contains family and financial correspondence of Kemp Plummer Lewis, including materials relating to Erwin Mills; the North Carolina Diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church; the University of North Carolina, including information concerning the Order of the Gorgon's Head Lodge and Zeta Psi Fraternity; Durham City Schools; Durham Rotary; and a variety of charitable institutions. Business letters reveal labor union activities and management response in various North Carolina textile mills, especially those in Durham, N.C., Cooleemee, N.C., and Erwin, N.C. The Durham and Southern Railway Company, the Bank of Harnett, and the Erwin Yarn Company are other businesses represented in the collection, as are the American Cotton Manufacturers' Association and the North Carolina Cotton Manufacturers' Association. A great deal of family correspondence concerns the Battles of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Nell Battle Lewis, Lewis's half-sister and feature writer, who wrote a column called "Incidentally" for the Raleigh News and Observer. Papers also reflect Lewis's involvement in settling the estates of William Allen Erwin and William Allen Erwin, Jr.

The Kemp Plummer Lewis Papers were once filed together in a "loose" alphabetical order. In the early 1970s, processors attempted to separate out a number of identifiable groups of letters. One of these groups, the Nell Battle Lewis correspondence, was returned to the major series in the reorganization of the papers in 1994. Apparently, series two through nine represent materials that were taken from the main series during its first organization. Evidently, series five, North Carolina Diocese of the Episcopal Church, was intended to highlight Lewis's role on the Executive Council and Finance Committee of the Episcopal Church. Similar church materials may be found in Series 1.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1908-1909, 1919-1946.

About 24,400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

This series primarily consists of correspondence concerning personal business dealings, the textile industry, family matters, Rotary, the Episcopal Church, Durham schools and civic affairs, and the University of North Carolina.

Processors changed a large percentage of the letters, originally arranged in a "loose" alphabetical order, to a chronological filing scheme in the early 1970s. The remaining alphabetical files were converted to a chronological ordering in 1994. Letters 1908-1930 are filed in chronological order by day; after 1930 they are arranged by month.

The earliest letters, 1908-1909, are in an Erwin Mills letterbook that was maintained by Lewis while assistant to William Allen Erwin. The letterbook's correspondence details the day-to-day operation of the mill and the creation of a new mill (probably the No. 4 mill in West Durham). A great deal of this correspondence is with F. P. Sheldon and Sons, Engineers of Providence, R.I.

The main portion of the series begins in 1919 and coincides with Lewis's rise to assistant secretary-treasurer of the company. Standard business transactions (instructions and advice to and from bankers, stockbrokers and business associates, as well as some invoices and receipts) predominate throughout the run of the series. These letters detail Lewis's personal investments as well as corporate transactions and include proxy statements, loan information, announcements of board meetings, audits, financial reports, revenue statements, etc. Most of this business correspondence is with individuals in New York, Philadelphia, and the mill towns of North Carolina.

Also included in this correspondence are letters concerning family matters, the University of North Carolina, Durham Schools and civic affairs, Rotary, and the Episcopal church.

There is a good bit of material relating to the everyday running of the Durham club, especially during the early years of correspondence: memoranda of meetings, membership lists, proposals for new members, etc. Also present are letters dealing with the creation of the Burlington, N.C., club (1924-1925), the Bennett Place Memorial Committee (1924), and the hiring of future bandleader James "Kay" Kyser for a "stunt" at a Rotary meeting (1925). In 1930, Lewis requested a leave of absence from Rotary due to business committents, and, in 1938, he resigned from the club for the same reason.

Church materials may be found throughout the run of corrrespondence although they are more abundant in the years prior to 1932. They primarily concern financial matters and fundraising through such campaigns as the Forward Movement Fund (1930), the Hold the Line Fund (1934), and various annual subscription drives for Saint Philip's Church in Durham, the major one being the Every Member Canvas. In addition, there are letters related to the election of a bishop (1922), the founding of a church conference center in Kanuga (1928), UNC professor Archibald Henderson's history of the Episcopal Church in Orange County (1930, 1938), the floorplan of the manse in Cooleemee, N.C., (October 1930), as well as the church-run medical clinic located in this mill community (1931-1932). A church-sponsored book, The Church and Industry, contained a chapter entitled, "The Church and Southern Mills," which was a report on a field study in Durham; Lewis corresponded with its author. Also covered by the letters are speeches given by Lewis at the Regional Conference on Social and Industrial Reconstruction of the Episcopal Church held in Charlotte, N.C., (May 1934) and the Bishops' Conference on Capital and Labor (1945). Of particular interest is a letter detailing the working conditions of Bishop Edwin Anderson Penick (December 1931). Principal church correspondents include Reverend E. L. Haines, Reverend John L. Jackson, Reverend S. S. Bost, Reverend Norvin C. Duncan, Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire and Bishop Edwin Anderson Penick, and laymen Alexander B. Andrews and Stephen Burroughs. Bishop Cheshire is often referred to as "Uncle Joe" by Lewis and his siblings; the bishop and Lewis's father were lifelong best friends, but not related. For additional information about Lewis's activities in the North Carolina Diocese of the Episcopal Church, see Series 5.

Letters concerning the Durham school system primarily cover financial topics. There are also fairly regular superintendent's reports on a variety of school matters. Among other school topics touched upon are the platoon system of teaching (May 1924, February 1930), the curriculum, the creation of the assistant superintendent for financial matters position (1927), the manner of selecting teachers (1930), the administration of playgrounds (May 1931), the struggle for funds between the city and county systems (1931), an act to promote a uniform school system in the state (May 1932), and the possible consolidation of the city and county systems (1932). Especially noteworthy is a "wish list" for their schools from the African-American community (August 1932) and a listing of the Works Progress Administration teachers in the schools divided by race (1936). The majority of correspondence from the schools comes from Superintendent F. M. Martin, Assistant Superintendent M. B. Fowler, Principal W. F. Warren, and President of the School Board W. H. Wannamaker.

Civic affairs are not heavily touched upon, but there are a few letters dealing with Durham water supplies (1920), roads (1920), rails (1921), city limits (1923), ballpark (1926), tax increase (1928), the managerial form of city government (1929), possible city/county consolidation (1930, 1932), the Durham Tax Payers League (July-August 1932), and the planning of the Durham/Chapel Hill Boulevard (August-September 1938). Evidence from Lewis's membership in and administration of Durham country clubs is also present, especially the Hope Valley Country Club. Letters pertaining to club finances, membership drives, and rosters of membership are scattered throughout the correspondence.

There is also a highly scattered set of letters from the Interracial Commission of Durham, all asking for financial donations (August 1925 and November 1929 as examples). The letterhead is valuable for membership information. The Board of Charities and Public Welfare is represented by a few sets of minutes, reports listing those who need help, as well as list of those who had received aid. The letters are from W. E. Stanley, director of the board.

Receipts and correspondence from department and women's clothing stores and letters to and from summer vacation locations (Kanuga in the North Carolina Mountains and Cavalier Shores of Virginia Beach, Va.) may be found throughout the run of letters. They are the majority of materials relating to Lewis's immediate family. There is material concerning the settlement of the Kemp Plummer Battle estate, principally the disposition of the family home, Senlac, in Chapel Hill (1919-1922). There is also correspondence (1921-1931) regarding The Battle Book, a work of genealogy begun by Kemp Plummer Battle, continued by Herbert Battle, and finished by William H. Battle. Letters detail Kemp Plummer Lewis's father, Richard Henry Lewis's final years, his declining health, and need for assistance in the home (1920-1926). Development of Richard Henry Lewis's Raleigh farm, Cloverdale, is a constant subject of family letters (1926-1940), as is the administration of Ivey Foreman's Pitt County, N.C., farm owned by Lewis and his two brothers. Rental agreements, the location of a African-American park on the farm (1928-1929), and the prospects of W. H. Moore, the local cotton farmer and renter, are discussed in detail (1928-1940).

There are a few letters from Lewis's daughters from their various private schools as well notes about tuition and school rules, especially those that pertain to weekend privileges. There are several concerning Lewis's daughter Lottie's study abroad at Saint Andrews, Scotland (1937).

Correspondence also reveals miscellaneous family incidents such as an infantile paralysis scare in a summer camp attended by Lewis's daughter (1925), a letter from Lewis to daughter Anne on the dangers of youthful ardor (November 1931), an attack on Lewis by convicted murderer Sunshine Jones (1934), and Lewis's brother, Richard Henry Lewis's convalescence at the Battle Creek Sanitarium (1938). Lewis's brother, Ivey Foreman Lewis, professor at the University of Virginia, wrote a family newsletter, The East Lawn Bulletin, that intermittently covered Battle family news beginning in 1920; copies of it are located in this correspondence.

Lewis's mother-in-law, Nellie Windley, died in 1929. From that time until 1941, William Windley, Kemp Plummer Lewis's brother-in-law called upon Lewis for financial and career advice. These letters begin when Windley was a student in Chapel Hill (1931) and continue through his medical studies at the Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia (1931-1932) through his hospital rotation in Philadelphia (1932-1934), his passing the medical boards (1934), and his residency at the Whitehaven Sanitarium for Tubercular Patients near Philadelphia (1934). This correspondence proceeds through his short-lived posting to Aruba with the Lago Oil Company, a division of the Standard Oil Company (1935), his return to his hometown, Belhaven, N.C., in the same year, and short practices there as well as in Washington and Erwin, N.C., (1937). The letters continue through his one-year career with the North Carolina Health Department (1937) and the Civilian Conservation Corps in Saint Stephens, S.C., (1940). They end with Windley at Tulane (1941).

Also present is correspondence to, from, and about Kemp Plummer Lewis's half-sister, newspaper columnist, Nell Battle Lewis. The letters begin with mentions of her treatment of her invalid father (1920) and continue with discussions of her mental state (1920), her legislative campaign (1928), to her dental and sinus discomfort (1931), and her entrance into the Tucker Sanitarium of Richmond, Va., due to nervous problems (1931). From the time she entered this first sanitarium until her death, she had financial difficulties about which her brothers also wrote. Nell Battle Lewis was in and out of several mental institutions during the 1930s and sought a variety of cures for her nervous condition, including a number of dental surgeries, the ministrations of Elwood Worcester, a faith healer and founder of the Emmanuel Movement in the Episcopal church (1932), as well as Christian Science treatments (1934). Mental institutions she visited included Tuckers in Richmond, Va., Bloomingdale in White Plains, N.Y., and the Western State Hospital in Staunton, Va. She also resided for a short while in Brooke House, a group home in Boston. The numbers of letters concerning Nell Battle Lewis decline considerably following 1935 when she returned to Raleigh to live, teach at Saint Mary's, and write her weekly column for the News and Observer.

Kemp Plummer Lewis's correspondence shows his deep concern for the University and its role in the social issues of the day. A conservative critic of most of the changes taking place at his Alma Mater, his letters regarding these issues begin with a brief exchange about the Playmakers and a work by Paul Green showing textile mills in a bad light (May 1921). Lewis repeated the same objections to the Playmakers when they produced UNC Professor J. O. Bailey's Strikesong (December 1931-January 1932).

There are a considerable number of letters regarding UNC's relationships with the labor movement (1927-1935). These include an exchange about Professor Frank Porter Graham's "manifesto" calling for better working conditions in textile mills and the right for labor to organize (January-February 1930), letters to and from one of Graham's harshest critics, David Clark, editor of the Southern Textile Bulletin (January-April 1932), and Lewis's concern over Graham's posting of bond for Alton Lawrence, 22-year-old former UNC student and secretary of the State Socialist Party, who was arrested while organizing textile workers (February 1935).

In 1931, two Carolina students began a small literary magazine, Contempo. Kemp Plummer Lewis corresponded about this publication, its running of a piece by Langston Hughes, and a visit by the poet to Chapel Hill with Chapel Hill Weekly editor, Louis Graves, Frank Porter Graham, cousin Kemp D. Battle, and Governor O. Max Gardner, among others (November 1931-January 1932). Gardner called Contempo "revolting and revolutionary."

A few letters exist in which Lewis worrries over UNC's attitudes about African-Americans, including one discussing African-Americans and unions (March 1928) and UNC's Dialectic Society's stance that African-Americans should be allowed into UNC (December 1945), as well as a few letters regarding UNC English Professor Eston Everett Ericson's dining with James Ford, an African American who also happened to be the Communist Party's vice presidential candidate (November 1936).

Lewis's earliest letters concerning the University relate to the football team and various games, especially the annual Thanksgiving Day UVA/UNC matchup (1921, 1928-1930). Most of these gridiron notes are to and from his brother Ivey who was at the University of Virginia. His "athletic" correspondence shifts focus in 1932 as he and other zealous backers of Carolina athletics confronted the Graham plan for deemphasis of college sports (1932, 1934, 1936).

Lewis was elected to the board of trustees in April 1931. board of trustee materials are primarily notices of board meetings and carbons relating to the Finance Committee, especially University loans to faculty and the Kenan-Flagler bequest to the University (1932-1940). Lewis complained about the finance committee being a rubber stamp for University administrators (September 1935) and received several letters about allowing women to enter the institution as freshman and sophomores (May 1940). There is a bit of correspondence concerning Consolidation (1931 and 1932).

There are a number of letters throughout the series from various University units requesting donations such as the Graham Memorial Fund (1923), Charles Baskerville Portrait Fund (1925), and requests for money to support the first efforts of the Southern Historical Collection (1929). Of particular interest is the correspondence relating to legislative funding (February 1931 and January 1933), losses of faculty due to funding problems (June 1931), shoring up of the Student Loan Fund (February-March 1932), and the reorganization of fundraising because of Consolidation (1932-1934).

Materials relating to Lewis's fraternity and lodge are scattered throughout the correspondence. These letters deal almost exclusively with fundraising and financial matters. The building of a new Zeta Psi house (1927) and letters to a nephew about his fraternity (October 1931) are especially noteworthy. Correspondence from the national ("Grand") chapter discusses Elder (alumni) chapter affairs, regional headquarters, and directories. There are also minutes from national meetings. Charles Mangum and Lathrop Morehead are the principal correspondents of the local chapter letters. The Gorgon's Head Lodge materials are almost exclusively fundraising letters. Louis Graves and James Bell Bullitt are the primary Gorgon's Head correspondents.

In April 1933, Lewis stated that his interest in the University was weakening because of the school's liberal leanings, and five years later (February 1938), he let it be known that he was "just going to stop worrying about Frank Graham." The University all but disappears from mention in the papers at this time.

Union activity is documented throughout the collection. Two union circular letters (March 1929 and October 1932), a petition against the stretch system (April 1929), a flier announcing an oranizing meeting (March 1934) and a statement asking for an increase in wages and better working conditions may be found in the papers. There is correspondence about strikes in Danville (1930-1931), in Durham and Cooleemee (1934, 1934-1938, 1940, 1945), in Asheville (March 1931) and Erwin (1941), among others.

There are reports and correspondence from union infiltrators and management-supported investigation agencies. As early as 1922 a Pinkerton detective was sending warnings about labor activities to Lewis (November 1922). Other investigative agencies providing similar information include the Corporations' Auxiliary Company of Birmingham, Ala., which produced a newsletter about labor activities (1929-1931), the State Investigative Agency of Greensboro, N.C., which also produced labor reports (1929-1930), and the National Merchant's and Manufacturer's Protective Association, Inc. of Norfolk, Va., which offered to place a man in Lewis's mills (October 1929). The Railway Audit and Inspection Company of Philadelphia did supply the Erwin Mills with an operative who made a series of reports on labor organizing activities in Durham (1934). Also present are reports from The American Federation of Labor Convention in Boston (October 1930). Of special note is a letter from Frank L. Dobbs describing the activities and loose morals of mill organizers in Durham (September 1934).

Other materials relating to the workers include correspondence on the welfare of workers and tenant farmers (November 1921), a community building for workers (March 1922), change in work schedules (June 1933), effects of Christmas checks on mill morale (December 1933), a movie theatre as community work (November 1932), condition of mill houses (December 1930), and worker ownership of homes (January 1934, December 1938).

Correspondence about textiles and textile matters includes letters from J. C. Webb of the Eno Cotton Mills, Hillsboro, N.C.; J. Harper Erwin of the Durham Cotton Manufacturing Co., Durham, N.C.; E. H. Bost and W. H. Muse of the Erwin Mills, Erwin, N.C.; J. W. Zachary and Irwin P. Graham of Erwin Mills in Cooleemee, N.C.; Magruder Dent of the Joshua L. Bailey and Co. (Erwin Mill's selling agent in New York City); Herman Cone of the Proximity Manufacturing Co., Greensboro, N.C.; R. E. Henry of Dunean Mills, Greenville, S.C.; Spencer Love of Burlington Mills, Burlington, N.C.; W. D. Anderson of the Bibb Manufacturing Co. of Macon, Ga.; and Hyam Battle at the Rocky Mount Manufacturing Co. in Rocky Mount, N.C. Lewis also wrote John Gatling of Covington, La., about cotton crops and prices. Other business correspondents include W. D. Carmichael Jr. and Sr., W. H. Ruffin of Erwin Mills in Durham, E. P. Davis of the Commercial Bank in Dunn, N.C., and Claiborn McD. Carr of New York. Of particular interest are the letters written to William Allen Erwin by Lewis while Erwin was receiving medical treatments (among them the Coffey-Humber treatment) for prostate cancer in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and San Francisco (1930-1931). These letters cover mill news (rail rates, wages, experiments with denim, etc.) in detail. Also of note is the corrrespondence concerning the proposed visit to Durham by the Duke and Duchess of York (October 1937).

The letters for 1939 deal almost exclusively with Lewis's presidency of the American Association of Cotton Manufacturers.

Throughout the correspondence are letters from individuals and organizations asking for money. Some of the organizations include the National Training School (now North Carolina Central University in Durham), the Thompson Orphanage, YMCA, American Foundation for the Blind (signed by Helen Keller), the Near East Foundation, the Wake Forest Normal and Industrial School for the Training of Negro Youth, China Famine Relief, the Salvation Army, the Shut In Society, the Silent Missionary (church missions to the deaf), Palmer Memorial Institute, Bundles for Britain, the Overseas League's Tobacco Fund for British Fighting Forces, Finnish Relief Fund, and the Santa Claus Mail Association. The Children's Home Society of North Carolina is represented by monthly and annual reports as well.

Folder 1

Volume 1: Letterbook, 1908-1909

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Letterbook-Erwin Cotton Mills Co., November 1908-April 1909

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Image Folder PF-3819/1-2




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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Durham and Southern Railway Company, 1931-1945.

About 800 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Primarily monthly reports sent to Kemp Plummer Lewis, a member of the Durham and Southern's board of directors. (He replaced William Allen Erwin, Jr. on the board.) These reports include comparative statements of estimated operating revenue, individual revenue statements and notices of meetings. There are only a very few letters scattered throughout dealing with rail passes and the railway's financial standing. These materials were originally filed together in Lewis's other correspondence.

Folder 722

September-December 1931

Folder 723-725

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Folder 724

Folder 725


Folder 726-728

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Folder 727

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Folder 729-731

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Folder 732-734

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Folder 735-738

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Folder 739-741

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Folder 742-745

Folder 742

Folder 743

Folder 744

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Folder 746


Folder 747


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Bank of Harnett, 1931-1946.

About 1200 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Notices of board meetings, proxy statements for meetings, and monthly statements of financial conditions which were sent to Lewis, president of the Bank of Harnett in Erwin, N.C., as well as correspondence regarding a personal loan to Lewis by the bank.

Folder 748


Folder 749-752

Folder 749

Folder 750

Folder 751

Folder 752


Folder 753-756

Folder 753

Folder 754

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Folder 757-760

Folder 757

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Folder 765-768

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Folder 777-780

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Folder 781-783

Folder 781

Folder 782

Folder 783


Folder 784

January-May 1945

Folder 785

June-September 1945

Folder 786

October 1945-January 1946

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Erwin Yarn Company, 1932-1939.

About 1200 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Correspondence with Sam H. Garrett, secretary-treasurer of the Erwin Yarn Company (Philadelphia), about company sales and related textile concerns. Included are notices of yarn sales (sometimes weekly), financial statements, audits, and memoranda concerning stockholder and board meetings.

Folder 787-789

Folder 787

Folder 788

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Folder 790-793

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Folder 816


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 5. North Carolina Diocese of the Episcopal Church, 1927-1929, 1937-1939.

About 1600 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

Primarily financial matters dealing with the North Carolina Diocese of the Episcopal church, especially the Forward Movement Campaign. This series is divided into two subseries, both of which have similar materials but from two different stints of service by Lewis.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 5.1. Diocese of North Carolina Executive Council, 1927-1929.

About 1200 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

Letters concerning the financial affairs of the diocese show Lewis's role in designing a new quota system for the Forward Movement Campaign which sought resources from the local parishes to fund general church work. Correspondence with individual rectors and parish treasurers regarding these quotas comprise the bulk of these papers. Also included in the correspondence are proposed budgets for various church activities, primarily those of intra-diocese missions; the deficit of the summer church camps at Lake Lure, N.C.; the plans for a church to serve the deaf; retirement of the Univeristy of the South (Sewanee) debt; the possible purchase of a church camp in Kanuga, N.C.; the attempt to cut the executive secretary position from church bureaucracy, and the fear of Thomas H. Battle, Lewis's uncle, that a hospital in Tarboro, N.C., might be saddled upon the diocese.

Minutes of the executive committee are filed under "E."

Major correspondents include J. H. Cutter, L. C. Burwell, T. P. Dillon, F. H. Craighill, A. B. Andrews, Milton Barber, Morrison Bethea, E. L. Haines, W. S. Holmes, J. Renwick Wilkes, H. G. Lane, William H. Hardin, Henry M. London, John L. Jackson, Edwin A. Penick, and Joseph B. Cheshire.

Folder 817


Folder 818-820

Folder 818

Folder 819

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Folder 822


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Folder 825


Folder 826-829

Folder 826

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Folder 843


Folder 844-847

Folder 844

Folder 845

Folder 846

Folder 847


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 5.2. Financial Committee Chairman, 1937-1939.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

Almost exclusively materials related to church budgets and financial matters, especially the Forward Movement Fund. Also included are letters concerning the replacement of the church treasurer, the need for more support of Episcopal students in Chapel Hill, and the Ephphatha Church (for the deaf). Of particular interest is a letter from Reverend I. Harding Hughes of Concord who was chairman of the Committee on Negro Work.

Major correspondents include Stephen Burroughs, Reverend David Yates of Saint Philips Church in Durham, and Reverend David Eaton of Burlington.

Folder 848

Notebook: Quotas and Pledges of North Carolina Parishes

Folder 849


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Folder 863


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 6. North Carolina Cotton Manufacturers' Association, 1931-1933.

About 800 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

Letters written to and by Kemp Plummer Lewis during his tenure as president of the North Carolina Cotton Manufacturers' Association. The correspondence includes his attempts to revitalize the organization and increase its membership. It also contains some letters to politicians about the importance of a balanced federal budget, Lewis's opposition to worker's compensation, manufacturer's sales tax, and an "anti-injunction bill" in order to assure the "protection to peaceful citizens of mass picketing, intimidation," etc. Lewis, as president of the North Carolina Cotton Manufacturers' Association, also corresponded about the choice of a state labor commissioner. The majority of this series deals with the issue of freight rates and includes the report of the textile freight rate conference of 1932, and Lewis's proposed testiomony before the Interstate Commerce Commission. Mill owners and operators also write about night employment--especially of women and children--and the effect on unemployment. There are a few letters about the textile school at State College in Raleigh (now North Carolina State University). Also covered are practical details concerning the two meetings of the organization held during Lewis's presidency, including the one at Pinehurst at which Frank Porter Graham spoke. (Also on this meeting's agenda were an Amos and Andy copy-cat act from Gastonia, N.C., and the Good Fellows Quartet from Charlotte, N.C.) There are letters concerning Graham's invitation, his speech, and the reception given to him by the textile executives.

Minutes of the executive committee are filed under "E."

Major correspondents include Charles A. Cannon of Cannon Mills in Kannapolis, N.C.; William D. Briggs of Caraleigh Mills in Raleigh, N.C.; Cason Callaway of Callaway Mills in LaGrange, Ga.; Eugene Holt of Lawrence S. Holt and Sons in Burlington, N.C.; A. M. Fairley of the Waverly Mills in Laurinburg, N.C. as well as United States Senator J. W. Bailey; and Congressman R. L. Doughton. Letters to and from Hunter Marshall, Jr., an attorney and secretary-treasurer of the association living in Charlotte, N.C., and Carl R. Cunnigham, manager, Traffic Department of the American Cotton Manufacturer's Association comprise a significant portion of these letters.

Folder 864


Folder 865-866

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Folder 866


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 7. Estate Materials, 1931-1940.

About 1200 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

Correspondence, financial statements, and other papers dealing with the death and estates of William Allen Erwin, Jr., and William Allen Erwin, Sr. Erwin, Jr., died in 1931 and his father passed away the following year. Also included are a few papers dealing with the trusts and financial arrangememnts for Mrs. William Allen Erwin, Sr. (Sadie), and Mrs. William Allen Erwin, Jr. (Hilda) as well as William Allen Erwin III, then an infant. Kemp Plummer Lewis was the co-administrator of William Allen Erwin, Jr.'s estate along with the Fidelity Bank of Durham and the co-executor of the William Allen Erwin, Sr. estate with Wachovia Bank and Trust. Lewis also advised Wachovia Bank and Trust on the handling of the Erwin family trusts following the elder Erwin's death. Some materials regarding this advisory role are found in this series.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 7.1. William Allen Erwin, Jr., Estate, 1931-1940.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

William Allen Erwin, Jr., died of pneumonia in the Ozark Sanitorium and Bath House in June 1931, following years of alcohol abuse. Erwin was attempting to break his addiction when he became ill. Included in this subseries is Erwin's handwritten will, remarks of Kemp Plummer Lewis at Erwin's memorial service, resolutions of the Erwin Mills' board on Erwin's death, and financial materials (insurance policies, stocks, real estate materials, etc.). F. C. Owen of the Fidelity Bank in Durham was the primary correspondent concerning these financial matters. There is a great deal of material regarding the dispensation of Erwin's show horses, particularly letters to and from Joe H. Murphy of Stanford, Ky. Also present is correspondence with Henry D. Bunch of the Wilson Marble and Granite Company in Raleigh, N.C., concerning William Allen Erwin, Jr.'s, gravestone.

Folder 900

Obituary and Papers, 1931-1936

Folder 901


Folder 902


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Folder 905


Folder 906-908

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Folder 911


Folder 912


Folder 913


Folder 914


Folder 915


Folder 916


Folder 917


Folder 918


Folder 919


Folder 920


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 7.2. William Allen Erwin, Sr. Estate, 1932-1937.

About 800 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

William Allen Erwin, Sr., died in February 1932 following a long bout with prostate cancer. Included in this subseries are materials relating to the senior Erwin's many life insurance policies, his real estate, and stock investments, and the arrangements made for longtime family employees. Letters concerning a late codicil to Erwin's will establishing a trust for Saint Stephen's church in Erwin, N.C., and the erection of a gravestone are also present. Principal correspondents include William Allen Erwin's daughters and sons-in-law: Bessie and Hamilton C. Jones of Charlotte, N.C.; Sarah and Hargrove Bellamy of Wilmington, N.C.; and Margaret and Jack Glenn of Winston-Salem, N.C.

Lewis was co-executor of the William Allen Erwin, Sr., estate along with Wachovia Bank and Trust. Correspondents from Wachovia include Frank Page, C. A. Gosney, and LeRoy Martin. Lewis advised Wachovia on the financial affairs of Mrs. William Allen Erwin, Sr. (Sadie), Mrs. William Allen Erwin, Jr. (Hilda), and William Allen Erwin III, particularly with regard to the maintenance of Hillcrest, the family home in Durham. (Wachovia acted as gaurdian for William Allen Erwin's financial affairs.)

Folder 921


Folder 922


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Folder 924


Folder 925


Folder 926


Folder 927


Folder 928


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Folder 930


Folder 931


Folder 932


Folder 933


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Folder 937


Folder 938-944

Folder 938

Folder 939

Folder 940

Folder 941

Folder 942

Folder 943

Folder 944


Folder 945


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 8. Nell Battle Lewis Scrapbook, 1918-1919.

1 item.

In 1918, Kemp Plummer Lewis's sister, Nell Battle Lewis, joined the YWCA's canteen service with the American Expeditionary Force in France. Her scrapbook from this year in Nice, France, contains Nell Battle Lewis's passport, the Nice area "leave rules" for women, ration cards, portions of love letters and pictures from servicemen whom she met during service, photographs and post cards of Nice, and a fragment of a flag.

Folder 946

Nell Battle Lewis Scrapbook

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 9. Clippings and Printed Materials, 1906, 1920-1941, 1950.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: chronological

Most of the newsclippings seem to have been attachments to letters sent to Lewis that were separated from the correspondence during processing in the early 1970s. There are a few mounted clippings that were kept together at one time; these have been divided by year as well.

Included in these materials are obituaries for Lewis's sister, Martha (Pattie) Lewis Manning, wife of Dr. Isaac Manning of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Mary Gordon Lewis, Dr. R. H. Lewis's second wife (and mother of Nell Battle Lewis). There are clippings about Kemp Plummer Battle, the Durham School Board, the visit of Langston Hughes to Chapel Hill, Frank Porter Graham's speech to the North Carolina Textile Manufacturer's Association as well as a good many articles about labor relations and textile business matters. In 1931, Kemp Plummer Lewis was featured in an advertisement for the Fidelity Bank of Durham, and in 1936, his annual salary received notice from the press.

Newspapers found here include the Durham Sun Magazine, Greensboro Daily News, Salisbury Post, The Tar Heel, Cooleemee Journal, Chapel Hill Weekly, News and Observer, Macon Telegraph, and the Charlotte Observer. Of special appeal is an issue of State Progress, "The Voice of Labor," from Durham and the first issue of the Erwin News.

Printed materials are primarily textile related. Bernard Cone's 1930 address, "Some Present Problems of the Textile Industry;" President of Carolina Power and Light, Louis V. Sutton's 1945 speech, "The Engineer"; an August 1940 issue of Textile Age; a floorplan of the 1919 machinery layout of the Altamahaw Cotton Mills in Elon College, N.C.; a report on the 1929 strikes in Marion, N.C., published by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America; and a program from the 1932 Cotton Manufacturer's Association of Georgia's meeting are examples.

Also present are an internal revenue bill of 1924 and a copy of the proposed child labor ammendment to the U.S. constitution, a Motion Picture Review published by the General Federation of Women's Clubs (December 1931), a map of the Budleigh real estate development in Raleigh, N.C. (1927), and two maps of North Carolina. Of note are biographical booklets concerning Lewis's father and great grandfather, Richard Henry Lewis and William Horn Battle, as well as a flier distributed by the Anti-Communist League of Charlotte, "Anti-Syndicalism Law Now in Effect in the State of Kansas."

Folder 947


Folder 948


Folder 949


Folder 950


Folder 951


Folder 952


Folder 953


Folder 954


Folder 955


Folder 956-957

Folder 956

Folder 957


Folder 958-959

Folder 958

Folder 959

Printed Materials

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