Katharine and R.J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South

. October 2012. 448p. 978-0-82033-226-0. 32.95.
He was born in 1850. She was 30 years younger and college educated while he was rougher, educated in the tobacco fields and markets. In the first biography of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds, Gillespie (history, Wake Forest Univ.) shows how they achieved more together than either would have alone. During their 13-year marriage, they saw R.J. Reynolds Tobacco freed from James Buchanan Duke’s American Tobacco Company monopoly and producing its best brands, Prince Albert smoking tobacco and Camel cigarettes. Katharine gave R.J. advice about trends and consumer tastes. He gave her freedom to build Reynolds Estate, which was to include a house, model farm, dairy, village, schools, and churches. Never challenging the current political or social status quo, they worked to improve the town of Winston-Salem, NC, including their factories there, knowing that better conditions for the African American community would lead to a better workforce.
VERDICT Gillespie has meticulously drawn the business, political, and social climate of the reinvented South. Though scholarly, the book is highly readable, having at its core the story of two people who genuinely respected and loved each other. A good choice for anyone interested in the business of tobacco in the South and related race and gender roles.

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