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Dr. Robert Durden oral history interview, March 27, 1974

Date: Mar. 27 1974 | Identifier: OH0018
Transcript of a lecture given by Dr. Robert Durden at the second annual Tobacco History Symposium held at East Carolina University, March 27, 1974. more...



SPECIAL COLLECTIONS ORAL HISTORY COLLECTION
ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW #18
Dr. Robert Durden
March 27, 1974

Robert Durden:

Did I tell the story last year about the lady down in Wilmington who asked me about Washington Duke? I repeat myself from last year, I should be embarrassed, but anyhow I met this lady in Wilmington a year or so ago who had some pretensions about the Lowcountry background, and I told her I was from Duke and I was working on this book. She laughed and she said, “Does that statue of Washington Duke show him barefooted?” on the East Campus. She said, “It certainly should.” The more I thought



about that the madder I got. [Laughter] I didn’t say it, but I pointed out that it might well show him barefooted. He came into the world barefooted very much and sort of stayed that way for a long time--the Homestead was a barefooted sort of house, clean, modest and so forth--but he went out of the world very well shod indeed, [Laughter] and that’s the more important point to make.

I want to make my point about the relationship between the Dukes and Durham and the larger matter of urbanization in the state a little bit indirectly. I don’t have the careful list and illustration that Miss Tilley gave you there but I do want to sort of try to focus on what I think is one of the real secrets of the rise of the Dukes to eminence in the tobacco industry. When I was here a year ago I know I did say that we had very few papers of James B. Duke, right? I think some Smart Alec asked later, was it because James B. Duke couldn’t write, [Laughter] and I pointed out that was not true. He could write. Now we don’t know about Washington Duke. He could sign his name, but Miss Tilley and I were talking about it coming down. We really think Washington Duke probably [couldn’t 02:49] write. James B., better known as “Buck” Duke, off the Duke campus, [Laughter] could write, and since I was here last year something very interesting and pleasant for me happened. I was over there working away in the library in August and a young man from the offices of the Duke Endowment in New York called me. He and one of the young lawyers had come down to check out some papers which the Duke Endowment had stored on the Duke campus. They have a storeroom. A number of us had heard about this storeroom for many years but we had been told that there was nothing there except old check stubs and old records that would be of absolutely no interest to any of us. But this young man, this friend of mine, called and said, “Look, we



just opened a wooden box with the label ‘James B. Duke’ on it. We think you’d better come over.” And I went over with Miss Russell in tow, of course. Miss Russell was much more excited than I. What they had in this wooden box really has furnished the material that I will use to talk about today, because the people in the Duke Endowment offices in New York, right after Pearl Harbor, decided that Durham might be a safer place to store some of their records and they had shipped down a number of things including this wooden box, Box A, property of James B. Duke, and lo and behold ten letter books of old Buck Duke himself, which is a veritable treasure house of tobacco history.

I exaggerate a little bit because the last seven of those letter books are pretty dull affairs. The first three I think are really quite important. They don’t tell us anything that Miss Tilley hadn’t told us a long time ago, really, but they do illustrate and put flesh on some things that we hadn’t known about, and I’m referring particularly to the whole matter of the Bonsack cigarette machine. I’m sure most of you have heard of this machine, which played such an important part in the rise of the cigarette industry in the country. The first three letter books deal completely with that whole story of how the Dukes made their special deal with the Bonsack Machine Co., and it was that special deal which had an important part--it wasn’t the only thing by any means but it had an important part--in the rise to prominence of the Dukes in the cigarette industry.

As Rick Knapp mentioned, Washington Duke led his family into Durham about 1874. The older son, Brodie, who had the drinking problem, had already moved to Durham, so Washington followed with Buck and with Buck’s older brother, Ben, and the daughter, Mary, in 1874. As some of you would remember from last year and would certainly know, when the Dukes got to Durham they were simply nothing in the tobacco



industry, which was already doing quite well in Durham, compared to the great Bull Durham Co., the W.T. Blackwell Co., that was much larger, much more important, as a manufacturing concern, so large, the Bull Durham smoking tobacco, that the Dukes, led possibly by twenty-one-year-old--. Well he was less--. Buck Duke was born in 1856 so he was around twenty-five in 1881, when the Dukes decided that they could never catch up with the Bull Durham people, therefore they would shift over to this newfangled thing called the cigarette, and they imported over a hundred immigrant hand rollers from New York to come down and roll the cigarettes. They did well with this, so well that in ’84 they decided to try one of these new machines that had been invented. There were a number of inventions but the one by young James Bonsack in Virginia--was it Salem, Virginia?--over near Roanoke, was the one that they decided they would try.

Now that machine had been tested in the factory in Richmond of Allen & Ginter, the Allen & Ginter Co., which was a much larger cigarette company than the Dukes were. It was the biggest, as I recall, of the cigarette manufacturing companies. The machine was theoretically capable of producing in a day around 100,000 cigarettes. That was as many as forty-eight skilled hand rollers could make. The Bonsack Machine Co. leased these machines on a royalty basis, which I got out of Miss Tilley--do I have it straight here, Miss Tilley, two-thirds of the cost of producing cigarettes by hand? In other words the Bonsack Co. charged thirty cents per thousand cigarettes royalties for plain work and thirty-three cents per thousand royalties for what they called printed work. The Bonsack Co. installed the machine and furnished an operator for it. But there were two big problems about this Bonsack machine. One was that it was imperfect. It really didn’t work too well. The other one, the one that probably still needs some more research--



I certainly don’t deal with this problem in my book--the cigarette manufacturers at that time, Allen & Ginter and two or three other big ones in New York, claimed that smokers simply preferred hand-rolled cigarettes. They claimed this very strongly, therefore there were a number of manufacturers who were quite hostile to the whole idea of machine-produced cigarettes and got this message across in their advertisements, that their cigarettes were hand-rolled therefore much superior to the machine-made cigarettes.

Now, on the first obstacle, that is the imperfections, throughout their lives the Dukes had a certain streak of real luck but I think they also had a certain streak of real ability because when they ran into able people--and this mechanic named W[illiam]. T. O’Brien was just merely the first of a whole series of extremely able people that played key roles in the various successes of the Dukes. W. T. O’Brien was sent down by the Bonsack Co. to work on this machine in Durham. He turned out to be something of a mechanical genius. Young Buck Duke apparently was no slouch with machinery either, was quite shrewd and capable with machinery. Between the two of them, but certainly--. We don’t have much documentation here. We mainly have to go by hearsay and later newspaper stories and so forth. Between the two of them, but with O’Brien doing most of the work, they got that machine going. Is that enough about the machine, Miss Tilley? We don’t really know what they did to it, do we?

Nannie Mae Tilley:

I think it involved their own [09:50]. [Laughter]

Robert Durden:

I’ll take your word. [Laughter] I don’t know. They hope to have a machine at the Homestead, don’t they?

Unknown Speaker:

Yes, sir.

Robert Durden:

If anybody could help them find one.



Unknown Speaker:

We’re desperately in need of a Bonsack machine. I asked Dr. Durden but if anyone has a lead please help us.

Nannie Mae Tilley:

But the original [10:09] one was burned.

Robert Durden:

No, I didn't--.

Nannie Mae Tilley:

[10:12] was burned.

Robert Durden:

I didn’t know that. Well I don’t mean to make that business of overcoming the machine’s imperfections too easy because that actually took some time. It wasn’t clear all at once that they were going to be able to make this machine work well. Now, the Duke family, again led by young Buck Duke, decided that they were going to gamble on that machine. They were willing to really try it. They knew it was risky. The Bonsack people were very eager to have the machine used. They were eager to have it used on the best quality of cigarettes--not on cheap cigarettes but on top quality cigarettes--and they would certainly hope that sooner or later some company would come along and would stop advertising hand-rolled cigarettes and so forth. So the Bonsack people were eager to have the machine used, they’d make more money, and young Buck Duke proceeds to get in touch with the president of the Bonsack company, a man named D. B. Strouse, S-t-r-o-u-s-e, from Virginia, in ’84, saying, “We’d like to talk to you about a matter of keen interest to both of us.”

Strouse didn’t catch on too quickly but in ’85, in New York, a series of conferences between James B. Duke and D. B. Strouse resulted in the famous contract, which we now can document very fully out of these letter books, whereby Strouse agreed that if the Dukes would install the Bonsack machine and use them on all brands, including their best cigarettes, that the Bonsack people would give the Dukes a secret



rate. Instead of charging thirty-three cents per thousand for the printed and thirty for the unprinted, the Dukes would be charged only twenty-four cents per thousand on all cigarettes. Furthermore, when and if all cigarettes produced by the Duke firm were made by machines, the rate would be reduced to twenty cents per thousand. And then finally, the real kicker, if the Bonsack rate of royalty to any other manufacturer should ever be reduced below the standard rate of thirty-three and thirty cents, respectively, the Duke firm should have its rate proportionately reduced so that it would always be charged twenty-five percent less than any other manufacturer. [Laughter] That last one was pure Buck Duke, go get a special rate and if anybody else ever gets a special rate then we get even specialer. This is the contract that was negotiated in 1885. By that time the machine was working quite well, and it’s really very dramatic to see what happens in the cigarette industry, then, in the late ’80s, because in the five years between ’85 and ’90 the American Tobacco Co. formed in 1890 and the Bonsack machine and Buck Duke had an awful lot to do with the formation of the American Tobacco Co., as I’ll explain in just a second. But in that five-year period Washington Duke Sons & Co. emerges as the top cigarette producer in the country in a very spectacular fashion.

Young Buck Duke moved to New York in ’85 and opened a branch factory in New York City, so for the rest of his life New York was as much his home as any place. Later on in his life he acquired a home in Charlotte, as some of you know, and of course his family, he kept some family in Durham, whom he visited from time to time, but from 1885 on, that was from age twenty-nine, he was really always a New Yorker, too.

The Dukes began to clamor for these machines just as fast as the Bonsack people could produce them, almost, and within a couple of years they had forced the other



cigarette manufacturers to go to machine production. They simply couldn’t--. As I was saying earlier, I think one area of interesting research is going to be when somebody helps us find out if people really had been so reluctant to smoke machine-made cigarettes as the manufacturers had earlier claimed. I don’t know. Americans are not traditionally reluctant to accept changes like that. At any rate the machine-made cigarettes caught on.

Long before this, of course, the Dukes had learned, and if they didn’t learn it any place else they certainly could have learned it from the Bull Durham people, that big-time heavy expenditures on advertising was extremely important in the tobacco industry, so they had gone in for that even earlier. Now they go in for it even more spectacularly. There’s the old familiar story about the Duke salesman down in Atlanta who just happened to see the poster of the--and this is a true story; we’ve got letters to prove it--saw the poster of a beautiful French actress, Madame Rhea, who was appearing in Atlanta, and this sharp salesman approaches Madame Rhea and says, “Would you consent to have that lithograph, that huge lithograph of you, appear holding a pack of--?”--Duke of Durham?

Nannie Mae Tilley:

Pin Head.

Robert Durden:

I forgot. Pin Heads? I think it was Duke of Durham. Let’s say Duke of Durham. That was one of the famous brands. Madame Rhea said she’d be delighted to have her picture appear, so the sensation of Atlanta quickly became an advertising man’s dream because you got newspaper stories and all this about Madam Rhea holding a pack of Duke of Durham cigarettes, Atlanta’s favorite. That sort of image the Dukes exploited to the full. The same salesman goes out to Kansas City and he finds a very attractive widow who agrees to help sell cigarettes, and once again you get



newspaper stories about this [16:17] lady tobacco salesman, which is something you didn’t see much of in the 1880s, so attractive that Washington Duke sent word he was going to Kansas City. He was an old widower at that time. [Laughter]

And then they hit on the--. Roller skating was a big thing back in the ’80s and the salesman hits on the idea of outfitting a team of skaters up in Ohio and Michigan, the Pride of Durham, and you play this Duke tobacco roller skating team, and they play hockey, I think it was, and there were some very spectacular matches in a lot of the larger cities of the old northwest, and get a tremendous amount of publicity.

Pictures in every packet of everything you can imagine, from kings and--. I won’t proceed to try to name everything, but of course one of the most famous items was the pictures of the beautiful woman, Lillian Russell, clad in tights, no less. Young men and other people too avidly collected the cards. One of the few letters that we do have of Washington Duke’s is a letter that he wrote to his son, Buck, about ’96, and it’s a very interesting letter. I’m using it in the book, of course. Washington Duke said, “Dear Son: It’s been pointed out to me,”--by Rev. So-and-so--“that we are using lascivious advertising. [Laughter] This must stop. We really must not corrupt the morals of the younger generation with that sort of advertising so please see to it that it stops.” Well, of course it didn’t stop. I don’t know how Buck handled Pa, but he did some way.

But I think the main point I want to make about that contract with the Bonsack Co. is that no sooner did James B. Duke get it than--. In 1885 Buck Duke wrote Strouse, the president of the company, and said, “Please let me know as soon as possible what proposition you will be able to make looking to a concentration of the business, and I will do what I can to bring about such a move.” Duke said he thought it would be wise for the



Bonsack Co. “to make just as close a figure as possible on rates so as to induce those who are using other machines, which you claim are infringements, to drop their machines and use the Bonsack machine rather than go into litigation about infringement on patents.” In other words, starting in 1885 James B. Duke uses this contract with the Bonsack Co., and he uses D. B. Strouse, to hold down the competition in a very effective fashion. He puts tremendous pressure on Strouse. He tries to sell the idea to Strouse that the Bonsack Co. really would make more money by limiting that machine to the largest manufacturers, which would finally be Washington Duke Sons & Co. in Durham, Allen & Ginter in Richmond, and then the Kinney Co. in New York, three sort of big companies, and this is really how the American Tobacco Company gets started. Strouse is the key intermediary between Duke and these other tobacco manufacturers to sell this idea of getting together to limit the use of his machine, which has proven to be the most successful of the various machines for making cigarettes.

I won’t bore you with a detailed account of the negotiations, but its interesting as Duke gets the machine limited, sufficiently so that by 1889 Mr. Ginter, Kinney, a couple of other big people, are ready to talk, and the conversations begin in New York in 1890, between five of the largest manufacturers of cigarettes in the country, and by that time they have almost all the cigarette business pretty well cornered and they managed to keep the Bonsack machine out of the hands of potential competitors. [They] get together and form the American Tobacco Company and elect thirty-three-year-old James B. Duke as the president of this company. Of course the irony, which you are aware of, is that in that same year the federal government enacted the Sherman Anti-Trust Laws, saying that combinations in restraint of trade shall be prohibited and are hereby declared illegal.



This was a classical combination in restraint of trade but it just so happened--I don’t say it quite that boldly in the book but anybody who suffers through the chapter can certainly see that clearly that’s the case--it so happens that you get a series of rather conservative and indifferent attorneys general and presidents and the American Tobacco Co. doesn’t get called on the carpet until Theodore Roosevelt’s time. By the time it’s dissolved in 1911 it had become truly not just a national industry of major proportions but global, because, as you might remember, in 1902 the American Tobacco



Company decides that it really would do better in England and in other parts of the world if they stopped competing with those big manufacturers in England and got together to form the British-American Tobacco Company, and this is done with James B. Duke and his interest once again as the majority interest in the British-American Tobacco Company.

So it’s a truly global affair and by that time--. The Dukes did not do this alone, I don’t mean for one second to suggest this, but by the ’90s these North Carolina, and I guess to a certain extent Virginia tobacco people, too, had helped acquire a world market for this bright leaf tobacco and it had become quickly one of the major exports of the country. One of the Duke salesmen in the ’80s, Richard H. Wright of Durham, made a global tour to sell the smoking tobacco and then the hand-rolled cigarettes that the Dukes had peddled in the early ’80s, a very successful tour, so long before the American Tobacco Company was formed, those Duke products using the bright leaf tobacco were global and would become much more so when they got to work in Japan and in China and other countries around the world.

I think the final point I want to make, and I’ll be glad to go back and be a little more specific about this contract and the negotiations to organize the American Tobacco Company, if you wish, but the final point I want to make, a theme that Miss Tilley touches on quite a bit in her book, is that tobacco money--and she gave an excellent illustration with the Reynoldses in Winston-Salem this afternoon--but she suggests in her classic book that tobacco money had an awful lot to do with the whole development of North Carolina. Well, actually, what I have in the history of the Duke family is just simply a little case study, if you like, of that, because by as early as 1892 the Dukes were becoming really quite affluent, especially compared to Tar Heel families. They’re living still in quite modest houses, too. There was none of this conspicuous consumption that would come later on. But Ben Duke stayed in Durham--Buck had moved to New York--Ben, the older brother, stayed in Durham and in 1892 he takes the lead for the family and for their partner, George Watts, in organizing a large textile mill in Durham. For that day it was large; the capital was something around $200,000. [24:16] There was a little hassle about--. He finds--. Now here’s another example of the ability of the Dukes to pick able people. He finds a man named W. A. Erwin, who’d worked with the Hokeses in textiles, to come run the mills, and they go to the lawyer’s office in Durham and the lawyer says, “What are we going to name these mills?” and Ben Duke says, “I don’t know. I’ll write Buck.” And he writes Buck, and Buck says, “Well since Mr. Erwin’s going to manage them I think we ought to leave it up to him,” and Erwin says, “Let’s name them ‘Duke’,” and Duke says, “No, let’s name them ‘Erwin’,” so you name them Erwin Mills. The lawyer says, “Well let’s name them Erwin and if they succeed the glory will be this young man’s, and if they fail--.” [Laughter]

So the Erwin mills succeeded magnificently. They were as profitable in their own way as the tobacco industry was. Rates on textiles in the ’90s were incredible. You



double the size of those mills in ’96. By 1903 you were looking all over the state for a good site for mill number two, Erwin Mill number two, then you go over there in South Carolina looking for good sites, looking for water power sites by that time, and you end up finding a good water power site on the Cape Fear River in Harnett County and you open Erwin Mill number two, and you do name it Duke, North Carolina. Then some twenty years later or so, when Trinity College became Duke University, President Few of Duke University wrote and said, “For God’s sake, we’re getting mail all mixed up and the newspapers recently had a story about a Duke girl running off with [25:52] man, or something. You’ve got to change the name of that unincorporated town,” and so Duke, North Carolina, became Erwin, North Carolina. That’s mill number two.

Then mill number three, I’m scared to pronounce it--Cooleemee? Cooleemee. And then mill number four in Durham. By 1910 Erwin Mills [26:09] something like 10,000,000 and was the second largest, for a period, in the state, and the Dukes had many other large investments in other mills. Those were just the ones that were most intimately associated with the family.

So the spillover into textiles was very obvious and very dramatic, but I think the most important spillover was from textiles you got interested in power, water power, and the Dukes, led by this intrepid, bold businessman, James B. Duke, were willing to gamble. Starting in 1905 you used one of the water power sites that W.A. Erwin had found for you back in the late ’90s, down at the Catawba River, and you launched the Southern Power Co. in 1905, and it was truly one of the pioneering power companies in the country. Once again genius helps out because you had a brilliant engineer by the



name of William S. Lee, who apparently led the profession of electrical engineering at one point in the country.

And the whole business of long distance transmission of high voltage--I had to go look up volts when I was trying to write some of this--but long distance transmission of high voltage was in its infancy and Lee and his associates were one of the real pioneers. The whole idea of linking up one power system--. What you had had was scattered--. Up to the early 1900s you were just simply getting scattered development of electric power plants. Buck Duke and W. S. Lee had the idea of developing a regional system, not just a few scattered sites but a system on the Catawba River and then on some adjacent rivers, so long before TVA the Southern Power Company, which became Duke Power in 1924, was working on the whole principle of a system of power. And you started out there really with the idea of furnishing power for textile mills. You think when you started that you were going to be supplying cities and residences and this sort of thing, but very quickly you got into that. And then finally the Southern Power system was the first in the country, specialists in this area have suggested, to get the notion that one power system could link up with another one and obtain a much more reliable and dependable supply of electricity.

So before the First World War the Southern Power system was linking up with the Georgia Power Company and with one or two others in a system of systems. In our energy conscious days today we take this sort of thing for granted, but back in the pre-World War I period the Southern Power Company--now the Duke Power Company--was really quite a pioneer. My point there is that I would suppose that the Duke Power Company has had more to do with the industrialization of North Carolina than any other



single business in the twentieth century. I don’t know, but I would suppose so. You’re certainly on the right track when you link tobacco with urbanization, because urbanization is the child of industrialization, and you talk about the Dukes there. Thank you very much. [Applause]

Fred Ragan:

Bob, don’t worry about not getting invited back after you get your book out. We need to get you down here. With all the expertise we have in this room we can really make a critique. [Laughter] With Bob’s permission, and if Miss Tilley doesn’t object, I’d like to open the floor for questions about the Reynoldses and the Dukes for both Winston-Salem and Durham. The floor is now open.

Questioner One:

On the Dukes, eventually Duke got these people like Lee and Erwin and such as that. Were they able to make a bone, too, or did the Dukes use them?

Robert Durden:

No, no. Miss Tilley says I’m going to make plastic saints out of the Dukes, and I hope not. [Laughter] I’m trying not to. Everybody knows enough. No, they made an awful lot of people rich. Obviously I think it says something about a businessman when his associates are almost fanatically loyal to him, and it’s more than just money, but money was part of it. But W. A. Erwin borrowed money and acquired a small interest in the Erwin Mills. Now his interest grew larger, but the mill started out with Duke and Watts money. [30:59 Of course the Dukes and the Wattses are still partners.] His interest grew larger and he grew wealthier. I don’t know how wealthy Lee--. I know less about Lee than I know about Erwin, but the general pattern was that the associates of the Dukes became quite--

Questioner One:

They did all right.

Robert Durden:

--comfortable. Miss Tilley, wouldn’t you say that’s true?



Nannie Mae Tilley:

Well I’m afraid I don’t know enough to express an opinion on it. What did the Erwins do with their money?

Robert Durden:

I don’t know.

Nannie Mae Tilley:

I had a notion that there might not have been a tremendous amount.

Robert Durden:

Well it was nothing like the Dukes. I don’t mean to suggest that. I’ve got the Erwin salary figures and every time Erwin writes and says, “Look, we’ve made fifty percent profits on the capital this year,” or a thirty-five percent profit, [31:54 and they were doing that,] Ben Duke writes back and says--he’s in New York--tells George Watts, “Go to the director’s meeting and raise Erwin’s salary,” and W. A. Erwin was getting a salary of $25,000 a year back at a time when that was a princely sum of money, so in addition to his stock. Now that was certainly nothing like [the Dukes.] [Pause]

Fred Ragan:

More questions?

Questioner Two:

Dr. Durden, when do you expect your book to be off the press?

Robert Durden:

You never can tell about presses. [Laughter] If this book blows up on me I may have to go back to Georgia to raise tobacco, you understand. [Laughter] But I would hope that it would be out about a year from now.

Nannie Mae Tilley:

I think you can raise better tobacco in North Carolina. [Laughter; Applause]

Robert Durden:

I’ve got a little land in Georgia. [Laughter]

Unknown Speaker:

Did you get that on tape? [Laughter]



Questioner Three:

There’s a story around Durham about the attorney who wrote the Duke Trust [33:13] fantastic [new] document--.

Robert Durden:

The Duke Endowment? You mean the adventure setting up the Duke Endowment? What’s the story?

Questioner Three:

I was going to ask you that. [Laughter] The story that I heard is that in addition to Duke University and Doris being the chairs that several thousand small churches also got chunks of it.

Robert Durden:

[33:36]

Questioner Three:

[33:36] every minister in North Carolina--.

Robert Durden:

No, it was the Methodists. It was the Methodists.

Questioner Three:

[33:43]

Robert Durden:

I was thinking when Miss Tilley was talking, Washington Duke--I said this last year--Washington Duke was a pious Methodist, and just like the Reynoldses, back in the days when they really didn’t have much money, starting in the ’80s, for whatever reason, a fear of hellfire or what, or the Methodist Church taught him, Washington Duke apparently believed that he was supposed to contribute money to charitable causes, and when he gave eighty-five thousand dollars in 1890 to bring Trinity College to Durham the newspaper said that was the largest single sum of money that had ever been given in the state of North Carolina. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. Before he died, he alone, and his wealth was always quite small compared to what his sons’ wealth later became, but before he died he had given about a half million to Trinity College. A great friend of Trinity College, of course, was Ben Duke, but then at the end of his life, towards the end of his life, Buck Duke did create the Duke Endowment.



Questioner Four:

Did it ever come out anywhere that Buck Duke was influenced to make that great gift because he was so disturbed over having pernicious anemia?

Robert Durden:

No. One of the points that I hope will emerge from this book is that he was sixty-eight years old but he was quite healthy and very vigorous. He was having the best time in the world building dams down around Charlotte, that whole area. That had turned out to be one of his real joys in life, the power company. He left tobacco, you see, except the British-American Tobacco Company. He left tobacco as far as the United States was concerned after 1911. He had nothing to do with domestic tobacco. But he was very healthy. He was building dams and then he was getting set to have the best time building stone buildings for Trinity College. He was just going to have a field day and he was involved in a big project up in Canada, the one that netted him one-ninth interest in Alcoa. [Laughter] And then all of a sudden, in July he goes to Durham to see about these new stone buildings. He’s got these buildings he’s going to give to Trinity College, and he’s been to Charlotte and having a terrible drive to Charlotte, worried to death about how are you going to cope with this drive, and his deathbed decision there--I’m getting my stories all tangled--but his deathbed decision there is that you will build a fantastically large, for that day, coal-burning steam plant which will be the first big central station type plant in the whole power company, and it sort of marks the transition. In our time power companies get most of their power from steam plants, from coal plants, but when Duke started out with the power business the assumption was you could get all the energy, all the power, you would ever need from water, but it didn’t work that way, and right at the end of his life he sort of saw that and authorized them to invest this money.



But my story was that he went to join his wife and his daughter, Doris, at Newport in July 1925, and he got sick and for a month or so, for more than a month, he thought he had a bug or something. His wife wrote Dr. Few that it would take him a few weeks to recover but he was getting better, and they finally had to take him to New York in a private railway car, and he died in October from this anemia that killed him quite quick. In other words it’s not true, unless he was operating on ESP, and I don’t think Buck Duke was the ESP type. I don’t think he--. He didn’t know he was going to die when he set up the Duke Endowment. He wasn’t sick. Because he was sixty-eight years old when his brother, Ben, [37:28].

Questioner Four:

Do you have any of the medical records?

Robert Durden:

Yes. [Pause] That stuff galloped. The doctors could help us more--. They didn’t know how to treat anemia. They had no treatment. I think it came shortly afterwards. [Pause]

Fred Ragan:

Other questions? I want to express our appreciation to Dr. Tilley. It’s a long trip from Texas and certainly we have enjoyed [38:11]. Professor Durden. You can always tell when you have a successful program you may see it twice, [so we occasionally, of course, do have] both of these speakers on our program last year and now back this year and who knows what will come next year? So thank you very much. [Applause]

END OF RECORDING

Transcriber: Deborah Mitchum

Date: October 14, 2010

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