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Collection consists of correspondence, financial papers, legal papers, writings and speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, films, audio tapes, and other materials reflecting the philanthropic, financial, cultural and social activities of the Semans family and other wealthy families in North Carolina and New York. A major focus is the interrelationship of the Semans family with the Biddle, Duke, and Trent families. Additionally, the papers document the roles of Mary Duke Biddle, James H. Semans and Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans have taken in the development and support of arts and educational programs throughout North Carolina. To a lesser degree, the papers reflect women in politics and childcare issues during the early 20th century.

The papers of the Semans family span the years 1878 to 2008. The collection consists of four large sub-collections: the Mary Duke Biddle Family Papers, the James H. Semans Family Papers, the James H. and Mary D.B.T. Semans Family Papers, and the Elizabeth Lucina Gotham Family Papers. There are also series for films, oversize materials, and later additions.

Through files of correspondence, financial papers, legal papers, writings and speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, films, audio tapes, and other materialsThe collection reflects the philanthropic, financial, cultural, and social activities of the Semans family. Major areas of focus are the personal and social relationships of the Semans family with the Biddle, Duke, and Trent, and other wealthy families from North Carolina, New York, and elsewhere. Additionally, the papers document the roles Mary Duke Biddle, James H. Semans, and Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans have taken in the development and support of arts and educational programs throughout North Carolina. To a lesser degree, the papers reflect on women in politics and childcare during the early twentieth century.

Individuals represented include Mary Duke Biddle (daughter of Benjamin Duke), Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Nicholas Benjamin Duke Biddle, Angier Biddle Duke, Angier Buchanan Duke, Benjamin Newton Duke, Sarah Pearson Angier Duke, Elizabeth Lucina Gotham, and Josiah Charles Trent as well as other members of the Duke, Biddle, Trent, and Semans families. Political, arts, and educational leaders are also represented.

Subject areas represented include: families in the late 19th and 20th centuries; the arts in North Carolina and other cities; charities, particularly in North Carolina; childcare and women in nursing; The Duke Endowment; Duke University and other universities and colleges; the North Carolina School of the Arts; education; genealogy of the four families; personal finances; philanthropy; the history of Durham, NC, and its politics and social life; vocational rehabilitation; and the Methodist church, particularly in NC.

The 25 16mm film reels in the collection are chiefly children's cartoons from the 1930s-1940s, but there are also wartime newsreels and a few films for adults, some as early as 1916-1917, and some travel film. Audio tapes consist chiefly of personal family recordings, a set of memoirs dictated onto cassettes in 1977 by Mary D.B.T. Semans, and music performances.

Some portions of the collection are restricted or closed to use; please consult this collection guide for details before coming to use these materials.

For additional collections of Duke family papers, see the Washington Duke Papers, the Benjamin Newton Duke Papers, and the James B. Duke Papers. For further information on the contributions of the Duke family to Duke University, contact the Duke University Archives.