We have collections and rare books from so many far-flung locations, but we occasionally come across historical materials documenting life right here in Durham.
The city of Durham’s centennial celebrations took place from April 26th through May 2nd of 1953, and people were excited! Excited to reflect on how much Durham had progressed and also on what changes might or should take place in the next hundred years. A particularly strange way in which some chose to celebrate the occasion was to join the Brothers of the Brush. Never heard of ‘em?
Spearheaded by Dante Germino, an engaged Durham resident who worked for the Herald-Sun Co. at the time, the fund-raising effort collected $1.00 per member; and the 3093 members pledged to do their “civic duty” by growing and maintaining a “moustache, full beard, goat-tee, or side-burns” throughout the celebrations. If a member failed to keep his promise he was brought before a Kangaroo Court of his peers.
Evidence from newspapers at the time show that many local businesses took up the challenge. Check out these fellows at Coman Lumber.
Want to find out if a local family member of yours was an official Brother of the Brush? We’ve got the registry in our holdings for you to peruse; and we’ve also got local newspapers from that time.
Times have changed. These days, with so many hipsters out and about in Durham, we’d have an easy time collecting funds from bearded folks throughout the city. We could use Duke Libraries’ button-maker to make buttons for participants! We’ll have to wait until 2053 for the next centennial, though.
Post contributed by Dominique Dery, Research Services Intern, who may or may not have the lustrous and full beard pictured at right.
I work each day under a portrait of Braxton Craven, the first president of Trinity College. Braxton and Irene Leach Craven, his wife, were visionaries in forming a degree-granting college out of what had been a tiny schoolhouse. The Craven family has remained involved in Duke University, and last week, we learned that Braxton and Irene’s great-granddaughter, Isobel Craven Young Lewis Drill, had passed away at the age of 98.
Isobel Craven Drill was a woman of astonishing ambition and strength. She graduated from—where else?—Duke in 1937, and married Baxter Clay Young, Jr. in 1939. Widowed with two children in 1960, she took over the Maybelle Transport Company and Buck Young Oil Company. A natural leader, she excelled in running these companies, as well as participating in numerous charities and groups, including the Duke Board of Trustees. She was an exceedingly generous donor to many units of Duke University, and to progressive political causes including civil rights and women’s rights.
We in the University Archives will be always grateful for Isobel Craven Drill’s interest in documenting Trinity and Duke history, and her establishment of the Isobel Craven Drill fund, which provides income for the University Archives to use in collecting, processing, describing, preserving, and sharing historical information. Funding from the Drill Endowment helped us publish Duke Illustrated, host events and meetings, purchase special archival supplies, and so much more.
One very special way that we have employed the funds is through the Drill Internship, an internship that allows graduate students to learn about all aspects of institutional archives. I myself was a Drill Intern in 2003 and 2004-2005. The experience was the most important one of my entire education, one which provided me with deep insight into what it means to be the custodian of a cultural heritage institution, especially within a university as complex as Duke University. I received a hands-on education and the opportunity to work with archival professionals on all components of institutional archives. The experience of the Drill Internship is very much what brought me back to Duke in 2011 as University Archivist, and I am proud to continue this legacy of training new professionals.
We asked several of our current and former Drill Interns to comment on the role of the internship in their careers, which reveal the deep and lasting impact of Mrs. Drill’s gift. We send our condolences to her family, and remember, with respect and affection, the woman that University Archivist Emeritus William King called a “Patron Saint of the Archives.”
The Drill Internship gave me the opportunity to work with the incredible collections and caring staff of the Duke University Archives. It was an invaluable experience during the transition between my archival studies and professional work as an archivist. I still appreciate the knowledge, skills, and professional network of colleagues I gained during this internship.
—Jill (Katte) Vermillion, Drill Intern, 2002, and current Education Content Relations Manager, Apple Inc.
Even though I didn’t know Mrs. Drill personally, I will always be grateful to her for the opportunity to be the Drill intern from 2007-2008. Under the guidance of former Duke University Archivist Tim Pyatt, I gained valuable, “real-life” experiences that laid a solid foundation for my first professional position as an archivist. As a Drill intern I also developed a deep appreciation and fondness for Duke history which served me well when I returned to Duke in 2010 to process the Doris Duke Collection. Regardless of where my career takes me in the future I will always remember my beginnings as a Drill intern.
—Mary Samouelian, Drill Intern, 2007-2008, and current Project Processing Archivist, Rubenstein Library
I was the Isobel Craven Drill Intern in the University Archives during the 2008-2009 academic year. Although I never had the opportunity to meet her, I was extremely honored to have been chosen for the internship that bears her name. The internship served as my introduction to the field and provided me with the skills and experience that have propelled my professional career. Perhaps of more importance to me, the internship introduced me to a wonderful group of passionate professionals at Duke that I will forever value as mentors, colleagues, and friends. I will always be grateful for the experience that Isobel Craven Drill’s generosity provided me and many other young professionals.
—Joshua Larkin Rowley, Drill Intern, 2008-2009, and current Reference Archivist, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, Rubenstein Library
The internship Mrs. Drill endowed was one of the best opportunities I have had professionally. Her gift has made it possible for graduate students training to be Archivists to get the experience necessary for entry into a challenging, competitive field and job market. Not only did we learn the nuts and bolts of processing, but we got to work with great people and awesome material. The training and experience I received as a Drill Intern helped me land my first professional job out of graduate school. I never got to meet Mrs. Drill but I will be forever thankful for her generosity and the boost it has given me as an early professional.
—Matthew Shangler, Drill Intern, 2009-2010, and current Assistant Archivist, Duke University Medical Center Archives
Just before the internship began I had the opportunity to have lunch with Mrs. Drill, her daughter and a few colleagues in the Biddle Rare Book Room. Getting to spend some time with the family was a truly inspiring kick off to my intern year.
The internship was a huge opportunity that continues to pay off four years later. I honed my archival skills processing collections, fielding reference questions, and even collaborated on an exhibit. Throughout the year I studied university history, got to know the campus through a construction research project, and learned from fabulous colleagues, many of whom I have the good fortune to still work with today.
Early on in my internship, I remember telling a friend (not a librarian or archivist) how much I enjoyed the internship and how happy I was to be taking this new direction in my life. I still feel that way today. Thank you Mrs. Drill, for your generosity and for helping me find such professional happiness.
—Molly Bragg, Drill Intern, 2010-2011, and current Digital Collection Program Manager, Duke University Libraries
The Drill Internship was my first paid job after graduating from library school–I got hired right out of library school and the impact on me was tremendous. Having the opportunity to become immersed in the University Archives at Duke was a formidable experience that provided me with incredible mentors, whose guidance continues to help me personally and professionally. Ms. Drill’s generosity gave me the chance to learn new techniques firsthand, work with amazing archival collections, and become part of a professional community. I count myself very lucky to have benefited from her kindness and support.
—Rosemary K. J. Davis, Drill Intern, 2011-2012 and Samuel French Collection Processing Archivist, Amherst College
My time as the 2012-2013 Drill intern at Duke has been invaluable to my career. As an intern, I was able to get hands-on experience in all aspects of archival work, including curating an exhibit, processing collections, and conducting reference work in the reading room and remotely. The experience was incredibly important to me, and remains the job on my resume that people ask about most frequently. After completing my Drill internship, I worked at Duke for another three months preparing and curating an exhibit on Duke’s 175th anniversary. From there, I was a member of the first cohort of National Digital Stewardship Residents in Washington, DC, working at the National Library of Medicine in their History of Medicine Division. And now, I’m the Digital Librarian at PBS (the Public Broadcasting Service). I still use the skills I honed at Duke daily in my work. None of this would have been possible without Mrs. Drill’s generosity, and I’m so grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to work at Duke in the University Archives.
—Maureen McCormick Harlow, Drill Intern, 2012-2013, and current Digital Librarian, PBS
Mrs. Drill’s generous support of the internship has helped aspiring archivists like me and others before me to put theory into practice as students, offering the chance to immediately apply what are learning in classes. It is one thing to discuss concepts like original order and appraisal in class, and quite another to apply them to real collections! I feel I have learned just as much, if not more, about the profession from my internship as from my coursework. I appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills, gain experience in the many different roles that archivists play, and be surrounded and mentored by the excellent staff in University Archives and the Rubenstein Library, thanks to Mrs. Drill’s gift.
—Jamie Patrick-Burns, Drill Intern, 2014-2015
Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, Duke University Archivist, with help from our Drill interns!
Want to make history this Thanksgiving? Every Friday between now and Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted. We’re excited to bring these recipes out of their archival boxes and into our kitchens (metaphorically, of course!), and we hope you’ll find some historical inspiration for your own Thanksgiving.
Happy Oktoberfest! To kick off our Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen series, I prepared a recipe to celebrate the German festival, which runs this year from September 20th to October 10th.
The Recipe and Duke History
I found a recipe for apple kuchen, or apple cake, in the Ted Minah Papers. The recipe was grouped with a series of recipes apparently intended for Duke’s Woman’s College,  ranging from barbecued meatballs to a lemon soufflé pudding. Although a sweet cake, interestingly, the recipe was labeled as a bread recipe rather than a dessert.
The recipe helped me learn more about some of the culinary history at Duke, especially about the influential Theodore W. “Ted” Minah. Minah was the director of Duke University Dining Halls from 1946 to 1974. By his retirement in 1974, Minah had transformed the dining halls at Duke University from a small operation to 12 dining halls serving approximately 15,000 meals each day.
The context for the recipe collection wasn’t clear – the ingredient proportions were for smaller portions, usually 4 to 6 servings. Since it was coming from the collection of the Dining Hall director, I expected the recipe to be scaled to serve large groups of students, but perhaps the recipes were designed for a Woman’s College cookbook? I’ve seen university-related cookbooks in other collections, like the “Culinary Casebooks” in the Duke Law Dames records (possibly a topic for a future “Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen” post!).
Like many older recipes, it was short and to the point – no lengthy descriptions of methods or ingredients to coddle the home cook. I did encounter an interesting culinary term I’d never seen before, but which continues to appear in other archival collections I’m processing: Oleo. Oleo was a common colloquial term used to refer to margarine, whose full name is oleomargarine. I admit that I strayed from the recipe and used butter rather than margarine, but that substitution didn’t seem to hurt the recipe.
As often happens in the archives, I learned a variety of interesting new facts that I would have never guessed I’d encounter – from the history of the university, to colloquial cooking terms!
Overall, the recipe was perfect for fall – the tart apples, cinnamon, and somewhat unusual cake batter made a tasty seasonal treat. The recipe was easy and quick to make, used common ingredients found in any grocery store, and should appeal to even the pickiest eater.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!
Stay tuned for more tasty recipes from our collections!
1. The Woman’s College was established at Duke in 1930 as a parallel to Trinity College for men. The Woman’s College fostered a community that allowed for shared university faculty, curriculum, and educational facilities with the men’s college, while giving women an opportunity for leadership through separate student government, social standards committees, and judicial board. The Woman’s College merged with Trinity College in 1972.
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.
Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist, with assistance from Mary Mellon, Technical Services Intern.
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.
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) papers documents this NGO’s advocacy for human rights in Haiti and for Haitian refugees in the United States. NCHR has conducted its mission reaching out to congressmen and international organizations to influence policy, using its connections and credibility to assist Haitians, whether in their individual immigration issues or as this recent discovery notes, to flee persecution in Haiti and reach safety.
Let’s start with a little bit of context. In 1992 Haiti democratically elected its first president ever, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was subsequently forced out of the country for about 6 months. A military regime came immediately into power. Human rights violations became more prevalent, particularly toward supporters of former President Aristide.
During this tumultuous period, three Haitian members of the Aristide’s political party FNCD (National Front for Change and Democracy) [whose names will be withheld for their protection], decided that, for safety reasons, they had no other option than to flee Haiti. They arrived in Guantanamo, Cuba which at that time was used as an immigration transit camp to assess the validity of asylum claims made by Haitians. The asylum process required an initial interview in Guantanamo that would assess whether an immigrant had a credible fear of persecution, and then a second interview in Miami that would assess whether this fear was well-grounded. The screening process was tough, as it is estimated that only 2% of Haitian applicants were granted asylum between 1980 and 1992.
It is in Guantanamo that the three Haitians first came in contact with NCHR. Living conditions at the camp were difficult, and several reports documented humiliating treatments, separation of families or refusal of medical care. As the founding members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, the three Haitians asked NCHR to witness and then advocate for better treatment of Haitian refugees inside Guantanamo’s camps. The three Haitians successfully passed the first step of the asylum process. However, accounts of mistreatment during the second interview in Miami, especially directed towards members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, made them refuse to submit to the second interview. Additionally, the omnipresence of the US military in the camps made many Haitians nervous about telling their stories to immigration officials.
Having abandoned the asylum process mid-way, the three Haitians were sent back to Haiti. Beatings by the police on their day of arrival confirmed their fears of political persecution. They decided to go into hiding and attempt to leave Haiti one way or another. They were unable to apply for asylum from within Haiti, and the American embassy was not a sanctuary. The three Haitians called NCHR for help.
NCHR’s strategy was first to get them into the Dominican Republic,
where the United Nations had set up a refugee camp, and then try to obtain permanent residency in the United States, Canada or another Caribbean nation. In a parallel to the American abolitionist Underground Railroad, NCHR resorted to Haiti’s own underground railroad dedicated to helping persecuted Haitians cross the border and enter the Dominican Republic. The underground railroad was managed by a priest on the Haitian side, and by a radio station on the Dominican side.
By means of the underground railroad the three Haitians arrived safely in the Dominican Republic. They were greeted by a team of lawyers, enlisted by NCHR to build their asylum case; further complicated by the three being HIV positive at a time when both the United States and Canada had a practice of rejecting asylum claims of HIV positive individuals unless a waiver was obtained.
That is the last update in the archives about the three Haitians. We do not know how significant the underground railroad was, as so far we haven’t found any other account of its use in NCHR’s archives. We also do not know whether their asylum claims have been successful, or whether they managed to get permanent residency in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, we have been able to reconstruct this story using a variety of documents present in NCHR archives: letters of the three Haitians to NCHR written in Haitian Creole, communication between NCHR’s Haiti and New-York teams in English, status reports coming from the underground railroad in Spanish, interview transcripts in French. This diversity illustrates the fact that the issue of Haitian rights encompasses much more than just the Haitian territory: the flow of refugees coming to the Dominican Republic and to the United States has made the protection of Haitian rights a multinational challenge.
Post contributed by Marie Veyrier, student assistant in Technical Services
Finding a gem in a jumbled box of papers and images is always a fulfilling feeling, whether it be an arresting photograph, a revealing letter, or even a scrap of someone’s mundane—but relatable—life. Of course, some of these gems are hidden and thus require a bit of searching before their worth can be noticed. Much of this exploring was required with the gem I found in the Arthur F. Burns collection.
Arthur Burns was a notable 20th century economist and diplomat. Among his achievements, he served as chief economic advisor to President Eisenhower; chaired the Federal Reserve under Nixon, Ford, and Carter; and represented the United States as ambassador to Germany under Reagan. Because of his high stature in both academia and public service, Burns corresponded with dozens of notable figures in the mid-twentieth century, from the presidents he served to the economists with whom he worked. This correspondence is a central component of the Arthur Burns papers in the Rubenstein Library, along with copies of Burns’ journals (1969-1974), photographs, and memorabilia.
As I processed an addition to the correspondence series of the collection, I came across some letters from Milton Friedman to Burns. As an economist junkie, any chance to peek inside the mind of Friedman—a Nobel laureate and the father of monetarist economics—was more than worth my time. Nevertheless, I expected only routine correspondence, for most of the letters seemed to comment only on personal matters. But, boy, was I wrong!
Within the second folder, I found what at first appeared to be only a routine letter between pals, dated February 1, 1951. As I was about to put the letter aside, I noticed that near the bottom of the page Friedman jumped into defending his views, point by point, on the quantity theory of money in wartime. After a bit of scrounging around the Internet, I discovered that the comments pertained to Friedman’s draft of “Price, Income, and Monetary Changes in Three Wartime Periods” (1952), which discusses the effects of war on prices and production in the American economy.
I was holding Friedman’s defense of his own work, a draft of which must have been previously critiqued by Burns. So, as I read Friedman’s article and came up with my own disputes, I could look back at how he would respond. For me, and for any researcher, this is a remarkable opportunity. On top of this, it’s possible that Burns used some of this information to advise President Eisenhower during the Korean War. With the extent of the correspondence between Burns and the President (206 letters in the collection), it’s possible that one may find some remnant of the above letter in Burns’s admonitions to Eisenhower. That may be a hidden gem that requires more exploring!
Posted contributed by Levi Crews, Technical Services Department student assistant and a rising sophomore at Duke.
After nearly eight years in the United States, Charlie finally returned to China, armed with a degree from Vanderbilt, in January 1886. The transition to being part of the Methodist mission in Shanghai was hardly an easy one, however, as he revealed in a June 1886 letter addressed to “My dearest friend.” For one thing, Charlie was homesick, and Shanghai was, in effect, a foreign land to a man who had never been far from his birthplace of Hainan when he had lived in China. He wrote, “I am walking once more in the land that gave me birth, but it is far being from a homelike place to me. I felt more homelike in America than I do in Shanghai.” To make matters worse, Charlie had to rely heavily on English as he learned the unfamiliar dialect spoken in the region.
Charlie also immediately chafed under the stern leadership of Dr. Young J. Allen, whom he nicknamed “the great Mogul.” For example, Charlie was denied permission to visit his parents, whom he had not seen for thirteen years, until 1887, prompting him to show a little of his rebellious side in his letter:
“I am very much displeased with this sort of authority; but I must bear it patiently. If I were to take a rash action the people at home might not fail to understand the nature of the case, and they (my Durham friends especially) might think that I am an unloyal Methodist and a law breaker, so I have kept silent as a mouse. But when the fullness of time has come, I will shake off all the assuming authority of the present Supt. [Superintendent] in spite of all his protestation, assuming authority, and the detestation of the native ministry.”
The last statement points to another problem that would plague Charlie throughout his service, namely racial discrimination within the mission. Despite his collegiate training, Charlie felt he was denied the “privileges and equality which [he was] entitled to,” instead receiving the lower pay and position typical of the second-class status of locally-trained, native Chinese ministers.
Yet Charlie stayed with the mission, experiencing ups and downs his first years with the mission. He was finally able to visit his parents, but was crushed to learn of Annie Southgate’s untimely death back in Durham in 1887. Charlie wrote his condolences to James Southgate from Kunshan (future home of Duke Kunshan University) in February 1887, stating that “Miss Annie was one of my best friends.” Later that year, Charlie married Ni Kwei-tseng, also known as Mamie, with whom he would have six children: Ai-ling, Ching-ling, May-ling, Tse-ven, Tse-liang, and Tse-an.
Charlie finally set off on his own in 1892 after six years of missionary work. Addressing rumors back in North Carolina that he had rejected his faith, Charlie wrote to the Raleigh Christian Advocate:
“My reason for leaving the Mission was it did not give me sufficient to live upon. I could not support myself, wife and children with about fifteen dollars of United States money per month. I hope my friends will understand that my leaving the Mission does not mean the giving up of preaching Christ and him crucified.”
Charlie’s initial forays into private enterprise were closely connected with his faith. He started a publishing business, Mei-hua shu-kuan, printing bibles and religious tracts for the American Bible Society. The family’s fortunes increased with further business ventures, such as managing a flour mill and importing manufacturing equipment. Charlie soon began taking an interest in politics. After meeting Sun Yat-sen in 1894, he remained a longtime friend and political supporter of the revolutionary and future leader.
Charlie did quite well financially over time, making enough money to send all six of his children to school in the United States. The education the Soong children received, along with the family’s growing connections in China, put them on the path to creating powerful political and financial dynasty for the first half of the twentieth century. After spending some time as secretary to Sun Yat-sen, Ai-ling married H. H. Kung, a powerful businessman who would later become China’s finance minister. Ching-ling married Sun Yat-sen and wielded considerable political influence during her lifetime. May-ling, a graduate of Wellesley, married Chiang Kai-shek and became a determined and charismatic advocate for the cause of Republican China in the United States. Tse-ven used his Harvard economics degree to great success in the business sector, served as the head of the Central Bank of China, and also acted as China’s finance minister from 1928 to 1933.
Charlie passed away in 1918, before he could fully see the astronomical rise of his family. If he had lived a bit longer, he would also have witnessed a revival of interest in his own life story in the United States, prompted by publicity tours by May-ling, a.k.a. “Madame Chiang Kai-shek,” in the 1930s and 1940s. At Duke University, Soong will never be forgotten as the intrepid young student who helped open up the institution to a wider, more diverse world.
“Charles Soong” by University Archivist Emeritus William E. King. Reprinted from Duke Dialogue, January 30, 1998
When Charles J. “Charlie” Soong arrived at Trinity College in 1881 as the school’s first international student, he had already seen much more of the world than the average student. Born in Hainan Province, China as Han Chiao-shun in 1866, Charlie traveled to the Dutch East Indies as a young boy to work, eventually sailing to Boston in 1878 to work for his maternal uncle’s tea and silk business. After his uncle adopted him, Charlie’s name changed for the first time to Soon Chai-Jui.
Little is known of Charlie’s time in Boston, except that it took less than a year for him to realize he wanted more in life than working for his uncle. His first step in a new direction was to join the Revenue Cutter Service, predecessor to today’s U.S. Coast Guard, in January 1879. The popular rumor is that he stowed away, but this was not mentioned in a 1943 report on Charlie’s service by a Coast Guard representative. Influenced by his new captain, Eric Gabrielson, Charlie became interested in Methodism.
Charlie’s new career took him all along the East Coast, including the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was baptized in the Methodist Church as Charles Jones Soon (the “g” is added after he returns to China). It is also in Wilmington that he met the Reverend Thomas Ricaud, who first brought Charlie to the attention of his future benefactors: Julian Carr, Durham tobacco magnate and philanthropist, and Braxton Craven, president of Trinity College in Randolph County. Approving of Charlie’s new desire to become a Methodist missionary, and intrigued by the idea of a native Chinese minister joining existing church missions in China, Trinity College agreed to enroll Charlie as a special student in April 1881. His tuition was paid by Julian Carr.
Attending Trinity must have been a huge adjustment for Charlie. He had lived in the United States for less than three years, most of that time spent in the cutter service. Then there was the fact that he was moving from the northeast to attend what was very much a “Southern” college, less than twenty years after the conclusion of the Civil War. Trinity College was hardly a racially or geographically diverse institution, with 93% of students from North Carolina and none from farther north than Virginia. There were eighteen students from present-day Cherokee, North Carolina, although little is known about these students other than they were, like Charlie, were enrolled in a special course of study.
According to fellow student Jerome Dowd, Charlie “attracted a great deal of attention from the faculty, the students, and the people of the village because of his racial contrast to the Caucasian and because of his exceptional sprightliness.” Some of this attention was negative, as Dowd notes, “boys were disposed to tease him and play all sorts of pranks upon him.” Yet Charlie persevered, remaining “very amiable, full of fun, and always ready to respond in a playful spirit.” While at Trinity, Charlie lodged at the house of Professor Gannaway, and his studies focused primarily on English language and the Bible.
The strongest traces of Charlie’s time in North Carolina are preserved through the contact that he had with his Durham and Trinity friends. Besides the Carr family, Charlie befriended James H. Southgate, a successful Durham insurance agent, and his daughters Mattie and Annie. To “Miss Mattie” in 1882, Charlie sticks to fairly innocent topics. He reports that he recently received a letter from “Miss Annie” (Mattie’s sister), that “all the boys are well” but they “have to study heaps” for the end of the semester.
Another of Charlie’s early letters, written in elegant script although imperfect English, is addressed to J. Gordon Hackett, who was a schoolmate boarding in the same house as Charlie. Writing shortly after commencement in June 1882, Charlie talks about in Randolph County, President Craven’s illness (he died later that year), and missing Hackett’s company. But like any teenage boy might, he talks mainly about…well…girls:
“[B]oth of Misses Field are here yet they will go home next friday morning. I tell you they are very pleasant young Ladies I like them ever so much. I had heard they spoke good words of you and your welfare. I was very much interesting when they compliments you so highly. I enjoyed it. Trinity is very pleasant now, but I don’t know what it will be after the [girls] go off. Dr. Gunn went off this morning and Fortisty moved down here last evening. He is now in your room. Miss Bidgood is here yet I believed. She will stay until next month. She looks as pretty as ever. I went to see her and Miss Cassie sometime since. She talk right lively…
Golden, I been had good times with the [girls] all day long. never looked at the books hardly since [Commencement] except the Bible. Everything is [quiet] now. Miss Mamie and two other [girls] gone to visiting last night we did had big time all the [girls] Fortisty and I we went to called on Ella Carr and we had the best time you ever heard of…”
It was even rumored that the reason Charlie left Trinity to attend Vanderbilt in fall 1882 was that he had become involved with Ella Carr, niece of Julian and daughter of a professor at the College. In fact, there were ample reasons for him to transfer without a supposed illicit romance. The seminary at Vanderbilt had more specialized training for missionaries, and the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church South was headquartered in Nashville. After graduating in 1885, Charlie returned to North Carolina for several months, lecturing and preaching while visiting old friends. When he finally returned to China in 1886 as a trained missionary, Charlie would use his education and experience to build an extraordinary life and powerful family.
“Charles Soong” by University Archivist Emeritus William E. King. Reprinted from Duke Dialogue, January 30, 1998
Every year we rely on a group of dedicated undergraduate student workers who do a little bit of everything to keep the Rubenstein Library running smoothly, but you might not know it since they’re usually working behind the scenes. Since it’s the end of the school year, we wanted to highlight our graduating seniors who will be leaving us. We’re grateful for all of their hard work and are consistently impressed by all that they accomplish in addition to working with us. Meet Rebecca Williams:
My days at Rubenstein Library begin in a routine fashion. I walk to the back office area, put my backpack in a locker, and begin a tour of the stacks. I scan the shelves to check for basic tasks that need to be completed: items to be re-shelved, books to be packaged for shipping, or items to be pulled for patrons. However the last year that I have spent working as a Student Assistant for the Research Services Department has been anything but routine. Sometimes books are not where I thought they would be. Sometimes an item does not arrive from the off campus site. I relish the time I get to spend solving these simple problems.
After completing my daily tasks, I turn my attention to a variety of long and short-term projects. Some of these projects or tasks have included making container lists for various collections, vacuuming books, or helping to process a new collection. I also help to unload the deliveries that come from the LSC, notify patrons of their arrival, and shelve them on-site. Many of my shifts are also spent at the front desk where I enjoy helping the patrons that come into Rubenstein Library. I really have gotten to do a little bit of everything here.
This fall I’ll be heading to Chapel Hill to pursue a Masters in Library Science at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science. I’m also very excited to have the opportunity to work there in the Special Collections Research and Instructional Services Department as well. Working at Rubenstein has helped to confirm I want to stay working in the library world for a long time to come. I will miss all of the wonderful staff here at Rubenstein Library, but I will not be that far away, so hopefully I will be back in the future!
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University