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Durham and Local History at the Rubenstein Library

This guide will help you research Durham history using primary source materials held at the Rubenstein Library

Tobacco in Durham

Collection contains business and financial papers, chiefly of Washington Duke. Business and financial papers relate to the tobacco and textile industries and include some early financial records of W. Duke, Sons and Company. Other financial records pertain to Duke's generosity to relatives and to educational institutions such as Trinity College (now Duke University).
Benjamin Newton Duke (1855-1929) was a tobacco manufacturer, industrialist, and philanthropist of Durham, NC and New York, NY and a trustee and major benefactor of Trinity College (later Duke University). He was the son of Washington Duke, older brother of James B. Duke, husband of Sarah Pearson Angier Duke, and father of Angier Buchanan Duke and Mary Duke Biddle. The materials in this collection document the business, financial, philanthropic, and personal interests of Benjamin N. Duke and his family, especially Duke's involvement in the tobacco, textile, banking, and hydroelectric industries in North Carolina and New York and the Duke family's financial support of a variety of institutions, including educational institutions for African Americans and women, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and individual churches, orphanages, hospitals, and community organizations.
James B. Duke (1856-1925) was a tobacco manufacturer, industrialist, and philanthropist of Durham, North Carolina, and New York City and the youngest son of Washington Duke. He was also father to Doris Duke, who inherited a considerable portion of her father's estate at an early age and became known as "the richest girl in the world." James B. Duke's major business concerns included W. Duke, Sons and Company; American Tobacco Company; British American Tobacco Company; and Southern Power Company. His philanthropic activities included endowments of Trinity College (later renamed Duke University) and Lincoln Hospital of Durham, North Carolina. In December 1924, Duke established the Duke Endowment, a permanent trust fund whose beneficiaries include Duke University and three other institutions of higher education, rural churches, non-profit hospitals, and child care institutions throughout North and South Carolina.
William T. Blackwell founded the W. T. Blackwell and Co. Tobacco company in Durham, N.C. in 1870 with James R. Day, later adding Julian Shakespeare Carr. This collection includes materials from the Blackwell family, based in Durham, and their descendants, including the J. D. Pridgen and Chester B. Martin families. It includes early materials from Blackwell and Julian Carr's operations of the W.T. Blackwell and Co. Durham Tobacco company; documentation from the building of the W.T. Blackwell and Co. factory; materials from the Durham Tobacco trademark litigation cases of the 1870s; Blackwell family correspondence and financial papers, many documenting local Durham businesses; volumes and ledgers from the operation and closure of the Bank of Durham, operated by Blackwell between 1883 and 1888; photographs, correspondence, and scrapbooks from the Pridgen and Martin families documenting Durham churches, community events, personalities, and local news in the early 20th century; news clippings and family obituaries; and other assorted materials relating to Durham history.

Julian Shakespeare Carr Papers, 1880-1982
Julian Carr was a tobacco and textile manufacturer and civic leader of Durham (Durham Co.), N.C. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Trinity College (Randolph County, N.C.). The collection includes material related to Carr's service on the Board of Trustees as well as personal family papers.  Although a partner in competitor W. T. Blackwell and Company, Carr was a member of Trinity College's Board of Trustees and collaborated with Washington Duke to encourage Trinity College to move to Durham.

Edward James Parrish Papers, 1888-1926
Edward J. Parrish (1846-1920) and Rosa Bryan Parrish (1852-1927) were residents of Durham, North Carolina, and traveled to Japan and China in connection with Parrish's work as a representative for American Tobacco and the British-American Tobacco Company. Edward Parrish also served as chair of Trinity College's Board of Trustees and headed the Building Committee responsible for planning the college's first Durham buildings.

Richard Harvey Wright papers, 1835-1980 and undated
Richard Harvey Wright (1894-1980) was a businessman of Durham, N.C., and founder of Wright Machinery Company. Wright Machinery merged with Sperry Rand Corporation on 29 March 1957. Collection dates from 1870-1980 and comprises correspondence, 1870-1941; legal papers; printed matter; business papers; financial papers; and clippings relating to Wright's business interests, particularly the Wright Machinery Company of Durham, N.C., manufacturer of packaging for tobacco products and various other kinds of commodities. There is much information on the economic history of Durham and the development of the tobacco industry.

Liggett and Myers (now Liggett Group, Inc.) was founded in 1873 in Durham, N.C. The company became a major force in the tobacco industry offering such cigarettes as Fatima, a leading national brand in the early part of the 20th century.  Collection consists primarily of advertisements for various Liggett and Myers tobacco products such as Chesterfield, Fatima, and Piedmont cigarettes, ca. 1910-1950s, as well as advertisements for competitors during the 1970s. Also included are scripts for radio and television commercials sponsored by Liggett and Myers during the 1950s.

Other Industry & Manufacturing

Erwin Cotton Mills Records, 1832-1976 

Founded in 1893 by Benjamin Duke, who selected William H. Erwin to manage the business. Their first factory opened in West Durham, with others in Erwin, NC and Cooleemee, NC opening later. Collection includes account books, alphabetical subject files, and documentation of the company's relations with its workers, the Textile Workers Union of America, and the federal government, mostly in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Frank Traver De Vyver Papers, 1899-1980

De Vyver was an economist, professor of economics, and university administrator at Duke University from 1936-1980, and Vice-President of Personnel and Labor Relations at Erwin Cotton Mills from 1945-1955. His papers include a variety of materials about Erwin Cotton Mills Company including collective bargaining agreements, analyses of jobs and personnel, and extensive clippings about strikes, especially the strike of 1945-1946. 

Durham Hosiery Mills records, 1887-1962

Incorporated in 1898 after the merger of the Durham Hosiery Co., founded 1895, and the Golden Belt Hosiery Co.. The firm operated at least seven mills, including facilities at High Point and Carrboro. Correspondence, bills, time books, ledgers, check stubs, inventories, broadsides, stock certificates, dye house records, and other materials. The bulk of the correspondence, 1895-1897, dates to George M. Graham's service as secretary and treasurer of the Durham Hosiery Company. Letters discuss machinery purchased from firms in the North, newly organized textile mills in the South, the installation and repair of machinery, and the sale of hosiery.

Durable-Durham Doings, 1919-1920

Newsletter published by employees of the Durham Hosiery Mills. Includes updates from mills across North Carolina, including Durham, sometimes naming individual employees. Much of the content focuses on boosting the image of Durham Hosiery Mills by emphasizing what a good place it is to work and extolling the virtues of its "Industrial Democracy" management system.

Durham Cotton Manufacturing Company Records, 1896-1937 (bulk 1915-1934)

Durham Cotton Manufacturing Company founded, 1884 by J. A., J. M., and W. R. Odell, W. H. Branson, and Julian S. Carr. Headquartered in Durham, N.C. Most of the material represents the years 1915-1934. Includes information on fluctuations in cotton prices, export trade in cotton cloth, types of cloth and machinery, freight rates, salaries, workers' medical care, tenement rents, stockholders, dividends, and distribution of excess profits.

Wright Machinery Company Records, 1943-1989

Durham, NC company founded in 1893 by Richard Wright. It was first concerned with packaging tobacco, and later diversified by packaging other products.Collection chiefly contains publications, publicity, and company history files. Included are photographs of company picnics, clippings, and runs of the company newsletter (1957-1963 and 1981-1983). Printed materials also include a 1943 publication celebrating the company's anniversary, and a series of Rexham Employees newsletters (1978-1982)