Category Archives: University Archives

Hunter S. Thompson at Page Auditorium

Fear and Loathing in Page Auditorium

Hunter S. Thompson at Page AuditoriumHunter S. Thompson took the stage at Page Auditorium on October 22nd, 1974 at 8:50 PM. He was thirty five minutes late, visibly inebriated, and apparently quite unhappy to be there. He began his remarks to the packed auditorium of 1,500 saying, “I have no speech, nothing to say; I feel like a piece of meat.”

According to newspaper articles and editorials following the event, throughout the forty minutes Thompson remained onstage he dipped in and out of comprehensibility, exchanged insults and invectives with the audience, wrestled with a microphone, and bemoaned the lack of substance apparent in the questions written by the audience on 3×5 index cards. He read off one of the questions, “What is the happiest experience you’ve had in the past two weeks?” “That’s crap,” was the reply as he tossed the cards to the floor.

“Are you serious? The level of questions from this audience makes any sort of exchange completely impossible.”

As Thompson’s behavior appeared to become increasingly erratic, including asking himself questions and mumbling incomprehensible answers, worried administrators were having frantic discussions backstage attempting to decide how to handle the situation. At 9:05 they decided to let the speech continue and reevaluate the situation at 9:30. As 9:30 approached, Thompson began attempting to remove a fixed microphone from the podium in an effort to give it to an audience member asking a largely inaudible question about the rise of consumer politics. In failing to separate the microphone, he began wrestling with it, kicking the podium and the chairs onstage, and flung his bourbon onto the stage curtain. The bourbon was the final straw, and Linda Simmons, the Union program director, came on stage and asked him to leave. Although a third of the students attending had already left the auditorium, those remaining booed as Thompson left the stage, accusing the administration of curtailing free speech.

Hunter S. Thompson at Page AuditoriumOut on the lawn behind the auditorium after the event, Thompson sat with over a hundred students for an hour and a half in a more informal setting before leaving the campus.

Over the next few days, several newspaper articles were written on the event, and many students sent letters to the editor both praising and decrying the appearance. The University refused to pay the speaking fee, claiming that Thompson had violated the terms of his contract. The decision was not contested by the marketing firm who had contracted Thompson for the event.

One letter to the editor, however, never saw the light of day: Thompson’s himself. Thompson’s side of the story, in all of its gonzo glory, is part of the records of the Major Speakers committee.

He starts with a description of his state of intoxication while writing the letter, and discloses his state of intoxication while getting onstage at Page. Settling down, he states he wants to set the record straight as to exactly what happened at “J.B. Duke’s carcinogenic citadel. . . . [his] Southern Sanctuary for wayward New Jersey lads.”

Surveying the audience, I found 3,000 youthful, transvestite politicos, clutching their law boards and caressing their left legs. I decided to hallucinate them into 3,000 animated (and horny) Okra plants so I could begin my speech, speaking Okraese (Too-Maa-Too) in my best drawl. . . . Suddenly I realized the microphone was a local cottonmouth with heparin-filled fangs. While wrestling with the snake, I sensed danger from the rear and quickly lit my handy glass of Bacardi 151 and ether and launched it at the curtain, ran outdoors and evacuated the Nicotinic city.

If you want to see Thompson’s full letter, the newspaper articles and editorials the appearance sparked, or any of the other Major Speakers records, they, and much more, are accessible at the Duke University Archives.

Post contributed by Matt Schaefer, Drill Intern for the Duke University Archives.

The Hades Club, circa 1920

Browsing the Chanticleer

Title Page of Chanticleer, 1939In August of this past year, I was hired as the student assistant for the Duke University Archives. The position is a thrill because it enables me to get paid for a hobby of mine: learning about Duke’s rich and diverse history.

Several of my projects have required me to use the Chanticleer, the university’s yearbook (view digitized volumes!), as a research tool. Scanning through old Chanticleers, it is interesting to observe the transformations in styles of clothes and hair from 1912 to the present day. Additionally, it is interesting to look at students with American history in mind. While researching, I found evidence of students’ mindsets during various points in American history: the world wars; the Jim Crow Era; the integration of Duke; the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; Vietnam; Watergate; and 9/11.

The Chanticleer makes it very clear that Dukies of yesteryear—like Dukies of today—enjoy their time at Duke. Duke students have always been dedicated to making Duke a home through involvement in various organizations, academics, and general college fun.

The Hades Club, circa 1920
The Hades Club, circa 1920

One club that caught my attention as representing the jest of college students was the Hades Club, which existed during the 1920s. The club described itself as, “An organization of ministers’ sons and daughters who have never been caught,” and club members referred to themselves as “imps and impesses.”

From the 1998 Chanticleer.
From the 1998 Chanticleer.

The sight of familiar buildings has been most impactful during my research. Amidst all the natural construction that takes place in academia, Duke has remained remarkably unchanged since about 1928. Students throughout the Chanticleer are posed and candidly photographed around West Union, Baldwin and Page, the Plaza, Wallace Wade and Cameron, and the various dorms. These scenes around Duke serve as a link between the eras.

After a semester discovering more Duke history, I now often walk the university’s unchanged pathways and look at its unchanged buildings wondering, “What fellow Dukie was walking these very steps fifty or one hundred years ago? What was on his or her mind that day? What was he or she headed to? Was it the same thing I am going to do now?”

It feels incredible to be part of the Duke legacy.

Post contributed by C. Bradford Ellison, student assistant for the Duke University Archives.


Celebrating 175 Years of Duke History

Date: Friday, December 6, 2013
Time: 3:00-5:00 PM
Location: Perkins Gallery
Contact Information: Amy McDonald, amy.mcdonald(at)

Join the staff of the Duke University Archives for a reception celebrating the exhibit, “Outrageous Ambitions: How a One-Room Schoolhouse Became a Research University,” currently on display in the Perkins Gallery.

175th Exhibit Banner, part 1

Enjoy light refreshments while you trace Duke University’s 175-year history through fascinating artifacts, photographs, architectural drawings, and other historical materials. The reception will also be an excellent chance to get a look at some of the University Archives’ recent acquisitions, which will be on display for the first time.

The exhibit will be on display through February 16, 2014 and was curated by Maureen McCormick Harlow, 175th Anniversary Intern in University Archives, and Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist.

Unable to make the reception? Visit the online exhibit!

175th Exhibit Banner, part 2

Dinkey and Jap reenact William Tell.

Playing Around

For several months now, I have been working my way through several thousand acetate negatives transferred to the University Archives from the Sports Information Office.

Dinkey and Jap reenact William Tell.
Dinkey and Jap reenact William Tell.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about finding negatives of women students playing baseball, which was an unexpected, yet welcomed, find. Today I came across another unexpected image, seen above. Described as “football miscellany,” it features football players, Leonard “Dinkey” Darnell and Jasper “Jap” Davis, in an iconic archery pose, dated July 1939. I wish I knew the story behind this image. Was it from a physical education class on archery? The Women’s Athletic Association had an archery season. Maybe the men joined them one afternoon for a bit of fun? I hope you enjoy the image as much as I do.

Post contributed by Kim Sims, Technical Services Archivist for University Archives.

Illustration from the Malcolm Tyor Papers, Duke University Medical Center Archives.

Welcome to Blogging, Medical Center Archives!

Illustration from the Malcolm Tyor Papers, Duke University Medical Center Archives.
From the Malcolm Tyor Papers, Duke University Medical Center Archives.

This morning, we’re sending best wishes to our friends at the Duke University Medical Center Archives, who have just entered the blogosphere!

Visit their new blog for stories about the history of the DUMC community; interesting images, artifacts, and documents from their collections (like the illustration at right); and information about their resources, services, news, and events.

Recent posts include:

All illustrated with great finds from the Medical Center Archives’ collections.

Look for new posts every other week! Happy blogging, y’all!


Kathy Acker and Spice Girls

Meet our Interns

Every fall the Rubenstein Library welcomes a new group of graduate student interns from Duke and other area universities.  Maybe I just have a soft spot for our interns since I was once one, but I think anyone at the Rubenstein would tell you that our interns are an integral part of the work we do, helping us with processing collections, creating finding aids, answering reference questions, coordinating events, and much more. I’d like to introduce you to some of the interns who are working with the Research Services department this year:

Dominique Dery, Research Services Intern

What she’s studying: I’m currently a PhD student studying Political Theory and Religion and Politics in the Political Science department at Duke. My dissertation links historical accounts of civic friendship with contemporary theoretical and ethnographic work on civic engagement and community service.
What’s she’s been working on at the Rubenstein Library: As the Research Services intern, I serve patrons at the front desk of the Rubenstein, and I also respond to queries from researchers who can’t make it in to the library themselves. So far I’ve searched through and ordered reproductions of letters, sheet music, and pamphlets.
What she likes to do when she’s not with us: When I’m not writing or at the Rubenstein, I love to help out at a friend’s farm in Rougemont and hike along the Eno.
Most interesting thing she’s come across in our collections:  The most interesting thing I’ve come across so far has been the correspondence between Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams while on the hunt for mention of another writer in McCullers’ papers; I love McCullers’ fiction and it was fascinating to get to see some of her letters to her dear friend Tennessee (also known as ’10′ in some of the letters).

Williams to McCullers Letter
Letter from Tennessee Williams to Carson McCullers


Danielle Lupton, Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History Intern

What she’s studying: I am a sixth year graduate student in Political Science at Duke University. I focus on international relations, and my work looks at how leaders interact during international crises.
What’s she’s been working on at the Rubenstein Library: In doing research for patrons, I have come across some really neat old advertisements, including some fascinating ads from the turn of the century. I am also doing research for the Hartman Center on Pan American Airlines. Both my parents are pilots, and my father flew for Delta Airlines, who bought out Pan Am. I really feel a connection to the material.
What she likes to do when she’s not with us: In my free time, I am an avid tennis player.
Most interesting thing she’s come across in our collections: I came across this beautiful advertisement from 1896 for Liberty Bicycles on the back of a Kodak ad I was searching for. I think as a political scientist the tag line really resonates with me, and the artwork is a beautiful example of Art Nouveau in advertising.

pan am
1987 Pan Am Billboard


Mary Mellon, University Archives William King Intern

What she’s studying: I’m a library and information science student at UNC-Chapel Hill.
What’s she’s working on at the Rubenstein Library: Various projects for the University Archives, including the Chapel sermon recordings digitization project (some of the recordings are being used in the Great Black Preachers of Duke Chapel series on iTunes U), and creating information pages about members of the Duke family.
What she likes to do when she’s not with us: Outside of work and school, I love knitting, baking, and Duke basketball!
Most interesting thing she’s come across in our collections: A 1958 Duke Law School banquet program signed by “Dick Nixon.”

Richard Nixon Signature
Signature of Dick Nixon, Sometime President of the Duke Bar Association


Claire Radcliffe, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture Public Services Intern

What she’s studying: I’m working on a dual masters degree; I just finished my MA in Public History at NC State, and I’m working on my MSLS from Chapel Hill.
What she’s working on at the Rubenstein Library: I’ve been working on a range of things: migrating the website to Drupal, migrating subject guides to LibGuides (and revamping some of them), assisting with remote reference and reproduction, assisting with preparation for classes, helping out with 25th anniversary events, and processing zines.
What she likes to do when she’s not with us: Outside of school and work, I’m interested in photography, old movies, traveling, baking, dance fitness classes, and used bookshops. Although there is distressingly little time outside of school and work.
Most interesting thing she’s come across in our collections: Two of the most interesting things I’ve come across were the pink corset book  and a picture of Kathy Acker with the Spice Girls.

Kathy Acker and Spice Girls
Kathy Acker, third from left, with the Spice Girls
Allen Building Takeover, 1969

Revisiting the Allen Building Takeover

In 2013, Duke University is commemorating the 50 year anniversary of its first black undergraduate students. Events, exhibits, and performances have been taking place over the year, and will culminate during the weekend of October 3-6.

As we reflect on the milestone of integration, we must also consider the challenges faced by African American students at Duke, especially during the 1960s. This upcoming February will mark 45 years since the Allen Building Takeover of 1969. The Takeover was a seminal event in which nearly 100 black students occupied the administrative building for a day, demanding changes to a number of policies. After leaving peacefully, a crowd gathered outside the building confronted police, and teargas was fired on the crowd.

Allen Building Takeover, 1969

A new exhibit on the Takeover, curated by Caitlin M. Johnson, Trinity ’12, is now on display on the first floor of the Allen Building. Thirty panels describe the build-up to the protest, the events of that day, and the outcome of the Takeover. Featuring many images from the University Archives and the Durham Morning Herald and Durham Sun, Johnson’s exhibit forms a powerful narrative about Duke’s path toward real integration.

An opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Thursday, September 12 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in the Allen Building.

At 6:00 p.m. that evening, Dr. Jack Preiss, Professor Emeritus at Duke, will be speaking at the School of Nursing about desegregation at the University. Dr. Preiss was intimately involved in encouraging the Board of Trustees to change its policies on admissions. The University Archives holds a collection of his papers, including this poster from Black Week, which immediately preceded the Allen Building Takeover.

Black Week Poster, 1969

Email to RSVP for the Sept. 12 exhibit reception or the talk by Dr. Preiss.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist.

Eddie Cameron and Frank Thomas at Antoine's, 1944

Postcard from New Orleans

This past week, many of us from the Rubenstein—including the entire staff of the Duke University Archives—has been in New Orleans for the annual conference of the Society of American Archivists.

When we haven’t been attending presentations on the latest and greatest in our profession or meeting our fellow archivists, we’ve been exploring this awesome city. A few evenings ago, we stumbled upon a familiar place.


The venerable Antoine’s has stood in New Orleans’s French Quarter since 1840. And, of course, archivists have a soft spot for old things!

Sign for Antoine's Restaurant

The restaurant is familiar to those of us in the University Archives because of Eddie Cameron—specifically, a scrapbook of photos, clippings, and ephemera from the Duke football team’s trip to play in the 1945 Sugar Bowl. Among the pre-game celebrations was a dinner at Antoine’s with the team’s University of Alabama opponents.

Dinner at Antoine's, 1944

We love this photo of Eddie Cameron and Alabama head coach Frank Thomas mixing up some Café Brûlot Diabolique. Thankfully, the game wasn’t the following day! (Duke won, 29-26, incidentally.)

Eddie Cameron and Frank Thomas at Antoine's, 1944

Most of us will be leaving today, to return to our normal Durham lives of collecting, processing, cataloging, answering questions, teaching, and, well, helping to make the Rubenstein the great place that it is. But we’ll be back here soon, we hope! Thank you, New Orleans, and thanks, Antoine’s, for reminding us of a fun evening in Duke’s history!

Baseball, Women's Athletic Association, 1941

A Woman’s Place is on Home, First, Second, and Third

The title of this blog post comes from one of the taglines for the 1992 film A League of Their Own, a fictionalized account of the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

I’m currently working to inventory approximately 28,000 acetate negatives of Duke athletics from circa 1928-1982 and recently came across a few images of women playing baseball from as early as 1934 to as late as 1941.

Baseball, Women's Athletic Association, 1941
Baseball, Women’s Athletic Association, 1941

In the decades before Title IX, Duke women participated in sports activities organized by the Women’s Athletic Association.  The W.A.A. formed in 1929 as an “outlet for the athletic urge than the physical education classes were able to offer” and to provide a “program of sports activity for women, similar to that afforded to the men by the intramural athletic program.”   The W.A.A.’s purpose was to “stimulate interest in athletics, to provide a chance for those interested in sports to develop more skill, and to give the women opportunities for fellowship and recreation.”

Baseball, Women's Athletic Association, May 6, 1939
Baseball, Women’s Athletic Association, May 6, 1939

In addition to baseball (not softball), women competed in tennis, golf, track & field, equestrian events, field hockey, soccer, fencing, swimming, basketball, and archery. The W.A.A. also sponsored several events and activities, including dances, weekend parties, hikes, and open houses in the gym.  It also used a point system to determine which 10 seniors received a blue “D.”  The 7 seniors who accrued the highest number of points received white sweaters with the blue “D” attached.

Post contributed by Kim Sims, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

Test Wall on East Campus

Faux Duke Stone

Last week, we watched “Duke Stone” panels going up on the construction fence surrounding the Rubenstein Library and the West Campus Union.  So we thought we’d take a few moments to write about the real Duke Stone!

Duke Stone panels being applied. Photo by Aaron Welborn.
Duke Stone panels being applied. Photo by Aaron Welborn.

Did you know that Duke Stone comes from a quarry in Hillsborough, North Carolina, just about 10 miles away from campus?  Or that there are 24 distinct colors in the stone: 7 primary colors with 17 distinct variants of the primary colors?  Or that, before choosing the Hillsborough stone, there were several other stone contenders?

Before the Hillsborough stone was chosen to construct West Campus, and before it was known simply as “Duke Stone,” the architects, designers, builders, and James B. Duke himself looked at many different stone samples.  They even constructed test walls of stone from other quarries on the East Coast to determine which one they liked the best.  Here’s one of the test walls constructed during that phase:

Test Wall on East Campus

And in this October 15, 1925 photo of construction on East Campus, the test walls are visible off in the distance.

An arrow points out the location of the test walls on East Campus.

It’s safe to say that we all know and love Duke Stone today—so much so that the panels are going up on the construction wall so that we don’t have to be without the look of it for too long.  Next time you’re on campus, see how many primary and variant colors you can find in the stone. Let us know how you do!

Post contributed by Maureen McCormick Harlow, 175th Anniversary Intern for the Duke University Archives.