William Kenneth Boyd

Item Description

William Kenneth Boyd was born in Curryville, Missouri in 1879 but grew up in Weaverville, North Carolina. He graduated from Trinity College with an A.B. degree in 1897 and an M.A. degree in 1898. While working towards his M.A. degree, Boyd trained under the tutelage of John Spencer Bassett.

After receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1906, Boyd returned to Durham and joined the faculty of Trinity College’s Department of History. He also became the faculty leader of the Trinity College Historical Society, following in the footsteps of Bassett. Boyd established strong ties with the Society while a student, being one of the first to write a paper for its Historical Papers series and serving as corresponding secretary, vice president, and president.

Under his leadership, the Society’s collecting focus shifted from relics and curiosities to manuscripts and printed source material. Boyd also initiated the inclusion of historical research and writing of topics outside the realm of North Carolina and Southern history, such as contemporary European affairs.

In 1930, Boyd was named the first Director of Duke University Libraries, a position he held while also serving as Chair of the Department of History and faculty leader of the Society. Boyd led the Trinity College Historical Society from 1906 until his death in 1938. At that time, the Society’s collection included 500,000 pieces of manuscript material, more than 25,000 books and pamphlets, and around 11,000 volumes of newspapers. The eventual creation of the Manuscripts and Rare Book Departments [now the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library] can be attributed not only to the Society as a whole, but also to the work and leadership of Boyd.