Benjamin Newton Duke

Benjamin Newton Duke

Our colleague Mary Mellon is currently reprocessing the Benjamin Duke Papers to provide more refined description. Among the many fascinating pieces of correspondence within the collection, she has found a letter, dated November 16, 1896, from Trustee A. P. Tyer to Ben Duke. In it, he makes a not-so-modest proposal: that Duke give a $500,000 endowment and that the school be renamed Duke College.

“The only hope that Trinity College has of ever being endowed is found in the Dukes. I therefore ask that you give the College five hundred thousand dollars as endowment and allow the Trustees to name it “Duke College.”

In 1896, the school was just four years old in its new Durham location. There was great concern about longterm viability, despite the generosity of the Duke family up to that point, including providing the funds to bring the school to Durham. $500,000 in 1896 would have been around $13 million in today’s money.

To sweeten the deal, Mr. Tyer added,

“This will forever take away the feeling of uncertainty, make the college an assured success forever, put the Dukes in front of all southern benefactors, largely increase the number of students, bring even a better class of patronage to the college, make it possible for others to give to it, be the greatest monument any southern man will ever build, be a perpetual benefit and blessing to the human family, and constantly glorify God your Father.”

Ben Duke remained a steady and heavily involved benefactor, but never made a gift at the level requested in the letter. The month after this letter was received, Washington Duke, Ben’s father, gave a $100,000 endowment, contingent on women being admitted on equal footing with men. In 1924, Ben’s brother, James B. Duke, established the Duke Endowment, which helped fund a massive expansion of the college, and led to the renaming of the school—not to Duke College, but to Duke University.

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A. P. Tyer to Benjamin N. Duke, page 2

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A. P. Tyer to Benjamin N. Duke, page 3

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Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist, with assistance from Mary Mellon, Technical Services Intern.

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The practice of experimentation on one’s own children belongs to a somewhat queasy tradition in psychology that embraces parenthood as an opportunity for “natural experiment.”  Psychologists throughout the twentieth century have kept tabs on their children’s development, blending the pride of parenthood with the detached methodology of science. So it’s no surprise to find in the papers of William McDougall, the first head of Duke University’s psychology department, extensive notes on four of his children, Angus, Duncan, Janet, and Leslie. Just how the disciplinary practices of psychology in the early twentieth century filtered into McDougall’s child-rearing becomes apparent when comparing the McDougall journals to a contemporaneous laboratory notebook from a psychology student, Walter R. Miles, in the Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collections.

 

McDougall's “localization of touch” experiment on his son Duncan.

McDougall’s “localization of touch” experiment on his son Duncan.

 

Miles's “Cutaneous Sensation Pain Spots” experiment

Miles’s “Cutaneous Sensation Pain Spots” experiment

These images depict similar experiments in localizing sensation. The experimenter stimulated a spot on the subject’s hand or arm using a sharp object (Miles used the point of a compass); a few seconds later, the subject had to indicate, either on the actual hand or on a diagram, where he or she believed the point had been applied. The experimenter recorded both points, noting any discrepancy between the actual and perceived site of stimulation. For Miles, this was a bread-and-butter exercise in the methods of scientific psychology.

The McDougall image comes with a twist, since the experimental subjects were his young children. Rather than illustrating basic principles on a standard psychological subject, McDougall was inquiring specifically into the changing sensory and perceptual abilities of his own kids. The diagram of his son Duncan’s hand and arm are part of a record-keeping practice that encompassed everything from the children’s recognition of colors to their fear of bears.

The fact that these methods traveled a fairly direct path from the lab to the McDougall home, and from the “standardized” psychological subject to the developing child, reveals itself in the telling visual differences between the two sets of experimental notes: Miles’s experiment, neatly taken down in a lab notebook, uses ruler-drawn grid lines and a smoothly-traced outline of the hand and arm, while McDougall’s journal bears indications of its setting in the domestic scene of child-rearing: the data is recorded in grid-less, slanted columns, and the outline of the hand is traced hastily, as though the subject was loath to hold still.

 

Data from Miles's experiment in the relative location of pain stimuli

Data from Miles’s experiment in the relative location of pain stimuli

 

Duke_McDougallChart

Data from McDougall’s test of his children’s color recognition.

 

Post contributed by Alicia Puglionesi. Puglionesi is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation is on “The Astonishment of Experience: Americans and Psychical Research, 1885-1935.” Alicia is particularly interested in the relationship between the amateur tradition in which psychical research developed and the emerging academic discipline of psychology. She is a 2014 History of Medicine travel grant winner. 

 

 

I have been giving the collections of James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke, industrialists and benefactors of Duke University, a little TLC this summer. One of my most enjoyable finds so far has been a set of two candid photographs of Washington Duke that turned up in the the James B. Duke papers. Mr. Duke appears to be contemplating a bicycle, the handlebars of which are just visible at the bottom of the photos. The bicycle is likely the one that his son, Benjamin, purchased for $45.25, according to an 1894 letter from the Benjamin N. Duke papers. It would be interesting to know what was going through Washington’s head at the time when the pictures were taken. Possibly, “You really expect me to ride this thing?”

 

Washington Duke with bicycle

Washington Duke contemplating the new bicycle.

 

Like many members of the Duke community, I am accustomed to seeing Washington Duke in his dignified, solemn armchair pose (e.g. the statue at the entrance to East Campus). But, it’s nice to know that “Wash” got to have a bit of fun every once in a while.

-Post contributed by Mary Mellon, Library Intern              

     

1894 letter from Benjamin N. Duke papers

1894 letter from Benjamin N. Duke papers

Every visitor to Technical Services likes to peek down the accessioning shelves and see what new collection materials have recently arrived. One of the most unusual accessions we’ve ever received is a birdhouse, which arrived this spring as part of an addition to the Evans Family Papers. It is a nearly identical miniature of the family’s Durham house, which is still standing (and occupied) on Dacian Avenue. According to the family, the original house was modeled on the style of Le Corbusier. It was built in 1938, making it one of the first examples of “modern architecture” in Durham.

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The Evans Family Birdhouse, with a photograph of the original house for comparison.

The family moved away from Durham in 1950, and kept the birdhouse as a fond token of their former home. We were relieved to learn upon intake that no birds ever took up residence. (That would have made for some interesting conservation concerns!)

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

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