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The Duke Family

This guide is a starting point for learning about the Duke family, their role in the founding of Duke University, and their papers and collections housed at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Rubenstein Library

Rubenstein Library Entrance

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

General Contact Information:

Rubenstein Library, Main Floor
Box 90185
Durham, NC 27708


Related Manuscript Collections

Duke Family Employees

  • Roland Alston family papers, 1990-1991 and undated: The Roland Alston family was an African-American family residing in Durham, North Carolina. William Roland Alston, known as "Roland," became the head gardener for Mary Duke Biddle at Pinecrest and later for the Semans family at Les Terraces, both properties located in Durham. The collection comprises nine folders containing transcripts, some edited and some final, of eight oral history interviews Judy Hogan completed with Roland Alston. Also includes 5 black-and-white and 5 color (one hand colored) uncaptioned photographs, including individual and group portraits, presumably of members of the Roland Alston family.

Colleagues, Competitors, and Friends

  • Julian Shakespeare Carr Papers, 1880-1982: 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: Parrish was a Durham tobacco warehouse owner and later a representative of the American Tobacco Company. He 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.
  • Southgate-Jones Family Papers, 1760-2008: Several generations of Southgate and Jones family members are represented, including James Southgate, James H. Southgate, Mattie Logan Southgate Jones and James Southgate ("South") Jones. These individuals were involved in business, educational, political, civic, social and cultural activities in Durham and North Carolina during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • Tobacco Collection, 1828-1987 and undated: This collection contains material assembled by library staff related to the manufacturing, sale, and use of tobacco in the United States, particularly in the South. There are also items referring to tobacco cultivation and processing. Printed advertising predominates, but the contents also include items that are not paper products. Typical paper-based items include cigarette and cigar advertising trade cards of Duke Tobacco Co., Lorillard, Liggett and Myers, John Player and Sons, and various other American and British companies; tobacco advertisements by Krueger and Brown of N.Y.; and souvenir tobacco albums published by Allen & Ginter.
  • Richard Harvey Wright Papers, 1870-1980 and undated: Initially a partner in the W. Duke and Sons Company, his 1885 departure from the firm resulted in a legal battle over his share of the company. He then joined the Lone Jack Company, a competitor based in Virginia, as manager and principle stockholder.

The Duke Family's Relationship with Duke University

  • Board of Trustees Records, 1860-2004: A number of Duke family members have served on Duke University's Board of Trustees, including Benjamin Duke (1889-1929); Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans (1961-1981); and Anthony Drexel Duke
  • John Franklin Crowell Records and Papers, 1883-1932: Crowell was president of Trinity College from 1887-1894, and his collection includes materials documenting the move from Randolph County to Durham, NC.  The Duke family was instrumental in this move. 
  • John C. Kilgo Records and Papers, 1888-1970: Kilgo was president of Trinity College from 1894-1910.  Notably, this collection contains correspondence between Washington Duke and John Kilgo, and a eulogy for Washington Duke written by Kilgo. 
  • William Preston Few Records and Papers, 1814-1971: Few was president of Trinity College from 1910 to 1924 and Duke University from 1924 to 1940.  He worked directly with James Buchanan Duke on the creation of the Duke Endowment and managed the transition from Trinity College to Duke University.