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?”
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