Few Family papers, 1861-2009 (bulk 1905-1967)

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Few family
The Few family papers includes correspondence, business and financial papers, clippings, printed material, and genealogical information. The collection was created by various members of the Thomas and Few families, with the majority being created by Mary Reamey Thomas Few and her husband, Dr. William P. Few, president of Trinity College (1910-1924) and Duke University (1924-1940). The collection ranges in date from 1861-1986 (bulk 1905-1967).
27 Linear Feet
Material in English
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
03 -- Presidents
03 -- Presidents > 55 -- William Preston Few


Scope and content:

The Few family papers encompass two families: the Few family and the Thomas family. The majority of the collection was created by Mary Reamey Thomas Few and her husband, Dr. William P. Few. The collection is divided into six series: Correspondence, Genealogy, Miscellaneous, Political Papers of Mary Reamey Thomas Few, Family Materials, and Duke University Materials.

The Correspondence series is broken down into several subseries based on how the correspondence was grouped by the Few family. The majority of the correspondence was written by and to members of the Few and Thomas families, including letters between Dr. and Mrs. Few prior to their marriage as well as letters from Mrs. Few to her parents while she was an undergraduate at Trinity College (Durham, N.C.). Other subjects in the correspondence series include family and business matters and social conditions in Durham, as well as letters and telegrams sent to the family after the death of William Preston Few in 1940.

The Genealogy series includes research notes and information accumulated by Mrs. Few as well as applications for membership in several historical and genealogical societies.

The Miscelleanous series includes financial and business papers, Lyne Starling Thomas' business papers, printed material, clippings, and address/memo books.

The Political Papers series consists of correspondence, memorabilia, pamphlets, clippings, photographs and printed materials amassed by Mary Reamey Thomas Few in her capacity as a leader in the Republican Party.

The Family Materials subseries contains photographs, memorabilia, business papers, clippings, certificates and diplomas, and other materials collected by William Preston Few, Mary Randolph Few, and their sons.

The Duke University Materials series contains photographs, magazines, newspaper clippings, correspondence, booklets and brochures, and other items relating to the history of Duke University and Trinity College, collected by members of the Few family, primarily Mary Reamey Thomas Few.

Many files contain handwritten notes identifying the contents, written by the family members who originally organized and identified the materials.

Biographical / historical:

Mary Reamey Thomas Few was born on July 12, 1885 in Martinsville, Va. to Lyne Starling and Elizabeth Sheffield Thomas. Educated by private tutors throughout her childhood, she entered Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) in 1902 and graduated magna cum laude in 1906. While at Trinity College, Mrs. Few as a member of the first staff of The Chronicle and also served on the staff of The Archive. Additionally, Mrs. Few was a member of the Kappa Delta sorority. In 1907, she earned a M.A. in English from Columbia University. She taught at the Southern Seminary in Buena Vista, Va. until the end of the 1910 session. On August 17, 1911, she married Dr. William Preston Few.

Born in Greenville, S.C. on December 29, 1867, the son of Benjamin Franklin and Rachel Kendrick Few, William Preston Few attended Wofford College, Spartanburg S.C. (A.B., 1889), and Harvard University (A.M., 1893; Ph.D., 1896). Dr. Few came to Durham in 1896 as Professor of English at Trinity College. He was named Dean of the College in 1902, and President in 1910, succeeding John C. Kilgo. Dr. Few was President of Trinity College/Duke University from 1910-1940.

President and Mrs. Few had five sons: William Few (1/4/1912-12/9/1979), Lyne Starling Few (10/18/1913-12/19/2004), Kendrick Sheffield Few (8/1/1917-7/27/1996), Randolph Reamey Few (10/6/1920-10/14/2008), and Yancy Preston Few (1922-1939). Dr. Few died on October 16, 1940.

After the death of her husband, Mrs. Few became active in the affairs of the Republican Party. She served as Republican national committeewoman for North Carolina from 1944-1956 and as a member of the Republican National Executive Committee. She was a member of the Platform Committee and the Commmittee on Arrangements for the Republican National Convention in 1948 as a delegate-at-large and Platform Committee for the Convention in 1952, where she supported Dwight D. Eisenhower for the presidential nomination. Mrs. Few died on January 8, 1971.

Acquisition information:
The majority of the political papers portion of the Few Family Papers was received as a purchase in 1978. The rest was received by the University Archives in 1972, between 1990-1991, and in 2016.
Processing information:

Processed by Kimberly Sims, June 2010

Encoded by Kimberly Sims, July 2010.

Accession UA.2016.0033 processed by Erin Ryan, May 2017.

Conditions governing access updated to remove donor restriction by April Blevins, November 2023.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Few Family Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.