Thomas A. Williams Papers

Manuscript Collection #1009
Williams, Thomas A.
Physical description
0.04 Cubic Feet, 1 box, 1 item, 118 p., Manuscript draft
Preferred Citation
Thomas A. Williams Papers (#1009), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Tales of the Tobacco Country, by Thomas A. Williams; bound at the author's expense (July 1977) Edited typescript.

Biographical/historical information

Before becoming a writer, Thomas A. Williams taught literature in the University of North Carolina System. During his teaching career, he published in scholarly journals, but soon decided he was more interested in simply writing. With the decision to "branch out", he started sending his articles out to publishers, and sold his first article, "How to Teach about Poetry" to Teacher's Scholastic magazine. Williams also soon had his first book, Mallarmé and the Language of Mysticism, published by the University of Georgia Press. After this, he continued to send out his material to publishers, and soon managed to sell an article to Esquire magazine that was also highlighted on the front cover, giving Williams increased public exposure.

Williams also had a desire to try editing and publishing his own books and periodicals. In 1979, he purchased a weekly newspaper and subsequently increased circulation by 400%. Williams then sold this newspaper, and founded and published numerous North Carolina-related magazines, including Tar Heel: The Magazine of North Carolina, The New East magazine, NC East Magazine and Washington Magazine. He also published Welcome to Wilmington, a newcomer guide, and the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Guide.

Williams next started Venture Press, a home-based book publishing company, designed to publish his own books. This endeavor proved successful for him. This success included his publications How to Make $100,000 a Year in Desktop Publishing and How to Publish Your Poetry, which both became Writers Digest Book Club selections. Williams later expanded Venture Press into Williams & Company, Publishers, and began to publish books by other writers as well. From his career experiences, Williams was able to learn all perspectives of the publishing business, and currently is still in active in this profession.


Scope and arrangement

In Tales of the Tobacco Country, Williams explores tobacco and its effect on the American way of life, specifically how it shaped the people and culture in tobacco growing areas. For his publication, he compiled his stories from three different sources. These include stories recorded in the field by staff of the East Carolina University Folklore Archive, accounts collected by the author himself and information obtained from early books documenting the tobacco culture. Williams also consulted with Doug McMillan and Paul Dowell, both curators at the ECU Folklore Archive. This archive is now known as the Karen Baldwin Folklore Archive, in memory of the late ECU Folklore professor, and is housed in the Special Collections Department, Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.

Topics covered in Williams' publication include description of ghost stories set in rural, tobacco country of North Carolina, an overview of the history of tobacco's use for medicinal purposes, spanning the early 16th century through World War I era, a synopsis of Charles Dickens' American Notes (1842), which recounts Dickens' visit to the United States in 1842 and his experiences with Americans, and in particular, Dickens' surprise at the practice of tobacco chewing by Americans of all socio-economic statuses. Also featured are 16th through early 20th century perspectives of tobacco as portrayed in poetry, a summary of a young Patrick Henry (1736-1799), quotations by David Lloyd George, Moncure Daniel Conway and Isaac Winton. Another chapter discusses raccoons, including descriptions by John Lawson of hunting them and recipes for cooking them. Also found in the publications is an analysis of Ebenezer Cooke's book Sot-Weed Factor, or, A Voyage to Maryland. A Satyr in which is described the Laws, Government, Courts and Constitution of the Country; and also the Buildings, Feasts, Frolics, Entertainments and Drunken Humours of the Inhabitants of the part of America (1708), a book in which Cooke recounts his experiences in the English colonies during the late 17th century.

Administrative information
Custodial History

August 27, 2004, 1 item, 0.04 cubic feet; One draft copy (with edits by the author) of Tales of the Tobacco Country by Thomas A. Williams.. Donor: Anonymous

Source of acquisition

Anonymous gift

Processing information

Processed by James Gordon Parker, May 2007; Encoded by Lindsay Flood, March 28, 2008; Processed by Dale Sauter, 2011

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Related material

The final version of Tales of the Tobacco Country can be found at the following location: GR110.N6 W55 1979 1 BOOK Joyner NC Stacks