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Dr. Frank Ainsley Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-324

Scope and Contents

Dr. W. Frank Ainsley was a long-time professor in the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. These papers contain materials collected by him during his academic and research careers and focus geographical concerns in southeastern North Carolina primarily during the 1970s to 1990s. Included are journal articles, newspapers, magazines, brochures, pamphlets, notes, photographs, correspondence, maps, and other similar research materials. Although the main focus of this collection is New Hanover County, it includes information on other North Carolina counties and the state more broadly.

Research completed on New Hanover County looks extensively at the structures and land use of the Airlie Road area, the farm colonies and expansion of companies owned by Hugh MacRae, and the structures and land use of the Greater Wilmington Area. There is a significant emphasis on maps in this collection, which include originals and photocopies, as well as Ainsley's handwritten annotations. Types of maps include those that detail natural land features, county lines, towns, neighborhoods, communities, and roads from the mid-1800s to the 1990s, illustrating how the region has grown and changed over time.


  • Creation: 1858 - 2008


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use. Users must request permission to view artist sketchbooks containing charcoal and pastel drawings in advance.

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 University of North Carolina at Wilmington, all rights reserved (subject to exceptions). Certain items in this collections were conveyed to UNCW without the accompanying copyright. Where the donor did not convey copyright to UNCW, copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

William Franklin Ainsley Jr., best known as "Frank," was a Geography Professor at UNC Wilmington. Ainsley was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on August 5, 1944. In his early higher education career, Ainsley earned an A.B. degree in Biblical Studies from UNC Chapel Hill in 1966 and a Masters in Divinity from Wake Forest in 1969. He later obtained his Masters and Ph.D. in Geography from UNC Chapel Hill in 1972 and 1977.

Ainsley started teaching Geography for UNCW in 1974 and had been with the institution for 36 years upon his unexpected death after a short illness on June 17, 2010. Ainsley was well-respected for his work, and he was awarded the Geography Educator of the Year from the NC Geographical Society in 2003, as well as received the UNC Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence in 2004. Ainsley was also a long time member of the Pioneer America Society, serving as its Secretary-Treasurer for twenty years. His academic interests included researching the immigrant farm colonies created by Hugh MacRae, historic preservation of buildings, and local geography of the Wilmington area.


6.25 Linear Feet (Contains 3 bankers boxes, 1 document box, 1 oversize box, and 7 oversize folders)

Language of Materials








This collection is divided into three series: New Hanover County Research Materials, Other Counties Research Materials, and Miscellaneous Personal Papers.

The New Hanover County Research Materials series has been divided into Airlie Road Research Materials, Hugh MacRae Business Materials, and Greater Wilmington Area Research Materials sub-series. The Hugh MacRae Business Materials sub-series has been further separated into levels that describe the Farm Colonies and Development Plans of the Hugh MacRae companies. The Greater Wilmington Area Research Materials sub-series has also been further separated into levels that describe the Documents and Maps of Ainsley's research.

The Other Counties Research Materials series has been divided into county sub-series. The counties are listed in alphabetical order.

The Miscellaneous Personal Papers series is organized by relevance to Ainsley's academic work and interests.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Mary Ainsley.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kensi Laube in Fall 2021.

Dr. Frank Ainsley Papers
Kensi Laube
2021 September 30
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository