Tag Archives: dukehistory

A Fiery Duke Tradition

Tomorrow night, the famed basketball rivals meet again. Fans in North Carolina and across the country will don their Duke or Carolina blue and gather to watch the game. And Duke’s Cameron Crazies will go crazy, carrying on the tradition of post-game celebrations and bonfires.

Bonfire after NCAA National Semifinal Men's Basketball Game, April 2-3, 1994. From the University Photography Visual Materials Collection.
Bonfire after NCAA National Semifinal Men’s Basketball Game, April 2-3, 1994. From the University Photography Visual Materials Collection.

Although Duke students were lighting bonfires to celebrate the annual Duke-UNC football game decades ago, the tradition of marking major basketball games with a blaze is of a newer vintage. The newly-processed Duke University Police Department Records provide insight into this period of history.

According to the records, Duke’s bonfire and bench-burning tradition began in 1986, when there was a large screen set up on the quad for students to watch the NCAA final game between Duke and Louisville. Duke lost, and a few angry spectators reacted with assaults and vandalism. The Police Department was unprepared for such a result, but learned from the experience. During the 1990 tournament, the Police Department opted for a more controlled option of a large screen in Cameron for the Duke vs. UNLV game, with a Duke ID card required to enter. They also sponsored a bonfire in the Card Gym parking lot—with no idea this would set the precedent for a beloved tradition—but few students braved the bad weather.

1991 was an explosive and fiery year: after the watching the game between Duke vs. UNC on screen in Cameron Stadium, students spontaneously set up a mudslide and multiple bonfires. Planned fires for subsequent games burned too big and were too crowded. Duke Police had prepared with stadium evacuation plans and ambulances on standby, but were unprepared for the intensity of student energy—often directed harmlessly, but occasionally leading to violence.

Following the Duke-UNC game and some student injuries, Director of Public Safety Paul Dumas worried for students’ safety during the post-game celebrations. The Police Department organized a special committee to establish policies regulating the bonfires, but as many a Chronicle editorial pointed out, these well-intentioned regulations were difficult or impossible to enforce. For example, a March 25, 1991 editorial noted, “Parts of the policy are ridiculous. Why would a living group ever ‘contribute its bench willingly’ to the fire, as the policy suggests? In reality, the first partiers who get to the quad determine which bench gets sacrificed.”

1992 was even more out of control: many games were followed by unauthorized fires on various quads around campus, as well as some break-ins and emergency room visits. In 1994, the Police Department decided not to support any bonfires despite numerous student petitions, and began citing students for starting unpermitted fires. Yet the momentum was building; Duke was now expected to make it to the national championships each year, and, with memories of bonfires and bench-burnings from previous years, students wanted to celebrate in their own way.

Front page of the Chronicle, March  4, 1998.
Front page of the Chronicle, March 4, 1998.

Over the next few years, students insisted on commemorating games with bench burnings, and student-administration tensions increased. During the 1998 season, twenty-five students were arrested for disorderly conduct and starting unauthorized fires, while student editorials accused police of excessive force when responding to unauthorized fires. That year, the administration refused to allow the traditional bonfires and planned giant foam parties instead to celebrate major victories–unsurprisingly, most students were not enthused. In a February 5, 1998 Chronicle article titled “Students reject foam, beg for fire,” freshmen expressed disappointment about missing out on an established tradition and upperclassmen also rejected the plan: “the administration’s heart is in the right place, but foam is kind of a moronic idea.”

Three days after the Duke-UNC game, on March 3, 1998 students burned many benches despite regulations, strategically organizing a decoy to draw police attention away from the real fire. A quote from a Chronicle article following the incident states eloquently: “They took away our alcohol, and we stood by and watched. Then they took away our housing, and we stood by and watched. Then they tried to take away our bonfires, and we went to war.” It was a clever display of student unity to fight back against the administration’s perceived encroachment on their rights, and it worked: the administration sanctioned bonfires and bench burning as long as it adhered to city fire codes.

Letter to the editor from Coach K. From the Chronicle, March 21, 1991.
Letter to the editor from Coach K. From the Chronicle, March 21, 1991.

Duke Police adapted from year to year and recognized a trend of increasingly intense—and, for a few people, dangerous—parties. They tried to engage in public awareness campaigns by requesting support from the University President, Vice Presidents, student government, and Coach K, to encourage safe behavior. The department also began partnering with the Durham Police Department and the highway patrol to enlist enough officers. Yet there was only so much they could do to prevent injury or crime. And, while the police records focus on the number of incidents of injuries or assaults, most students had a good time celebrating their basketball team. It’s an interesting lesson on perspective: depending on your vantage point, you might see the bonfires of the 1990s as riots or as celebrations. Either way, the seeds of a tradition were planted. So whether or not you gather around a bonfire on February 18, enjoy a safe and exciting game!

Post contributed by Jamie Burns, Isobel Craven Drill Intern, Duke University Archives.

Duke College?

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.

aptyer-pg1-small
Click to enlarge.
A. P. Tyer to Benjamin N. Duke, page 2
Click to enlarge.
A. P. Tyer to Benjamin N. Duke, page 3
Click to enlarge.

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

A Bo Tree Grows in Durham

I was looking through the May 1944 issue of Duke’s Divinity School Bulletin when I came across a brief article about a Bo tree (Ficus religiosa) presented to the Divinity School in honor of then-Ivey Professor of the History of Religion and Missions James Cannon III. (He’d later serve as the Divinity School’s dean from 1951 to 1958.)

You’ve possibly heard the tradition that Gautama Buddha was sitting beneath a tree when he attained Enlightenment. That tree was a Bo, or Bodhi, tree, and it is, as a result, sacred to Buddhists.

Professor Cannon’s Bo tree had its own august history, as the article relates:

The Cannon Bo-tree is descended from the Bo-tree planted at the ruined city of Anuradhapura, near Kandy, in Ceylon. In the year 288 B.C., King Asoka of India sent a shoot from the parent tree to Ceylon. To this day the tree is worshiped by throngs of pilgrims. In 1929 an American tourist obtained a shoot from the Ceylon Bo-tree, planted it on his Florida estate, and several months ago presented a shoot to Duke.

We found snapshots of Professor Cannon with his Bo tree in his papers. He looks very serene, doesn’t he? A note from the back of one of the snapshot states that his “topcoat is supposed to represent Buddha’s ‘yellow robe.'”

Professor James Cannon beneath the Bo tree, March 6, 1951.
Professor James Cannon beneath the Bo tree, March 6, 1951.

We’re not certain of the current whereabouts of Duke’s Bo tree. Do you have any information about it?

If It Walks and Quacks Like a Duck . . .

Professor Irving E. GrayIn late August 1945, Dr. George Salmon, Jr. of New Jersey wrote a letter to Duke’s Zoology Dept., asking for help in identifying whether a tibia bone he sent belonged to a duck or to a chicken.

I found the description amusing as to why he wanted to know this as well as the fact that he actually mailed the bone in question.

Equally as amusing to me is that Irving Gray, Chair of the Zoology Dept., took the time to reply.

Just for fun, please see both letters below.

 

 

Front of letter from Dr. George Salmon.

Back of Letter from Dr. George Salmon

 

Reply from Dr. Irving Gray.

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

Charlie Soong Returns to China

Charlie and Mamie Soong. From the Rubenstein Library Picture File.
Charlie and Mamie Soong. From the Rubenstein Library Picture File.

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.”

Photos from June 28, 1936 News and Observer article by Mike Bradshaw, Jr., "Chinese Lad Left Trinity College to Found Own Dynasty."
Photos from June 28, 1936 News and Observer article by Mike Bradshaw, Jr., “Chinese Lad Left Trinity College to Found Own Dynasty.” Pictured from top left to bottom right: Soong Ching-ling, Sun Yat-sen, Soong May-ling, Chiang Kai-Shek, Soong Tse-ven, H. H. Kung.

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.

Additional Resources:

Post contributed by Mary Mellon, William E. King Intern for the Duke University Archives. Read her earlier article on Charlie Soong’s Trinity College experience.

Charlie Soong at Trinity College

Charlie SoongWhen 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.

Charlie Soong's signature.
Charlie Soong’s signature.

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.

Additional Resources:

Post contributed by Mary Mellon, William E. King Intern for the Duke University Archives.

The Chronicle’s First-Hand Account of a White Supremacist

The shocking shootings in Kansas City during the past weekend have brought renewed attention to Glenn Miller (Glenn Cross), a longtime white supremacist with ties to North Carolina. In Monday’s Washington Post, Robert Satloff, Trinity College class of 1983, wrote about his harrowing experience interviewing Miller in 1981 and the Chronicle article that resulted.

The first-hand account, from the April 15, 1981 issue of the Aeolus (the Chronicle’s weekly magazine of the period) is a frightening glimpse into Miller’s mindset. Satloff wrote, “Perhaps I didn’t think that such close-minded, violent, intolerant people still exist. Perhaps I am naïve. I’m not anymore.”

Read the chilling article below. This issue of the Aeolus, and other Chronicle issues from 1980 to February 1989, will soon be added to the Libraries’ Chronicle digital collection.

UPDATE: The April 15, 1981 issue is now available in full in our Chronicle digital collection.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

 

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

Recently Published: Women at Duke Illustrated

women@dukecoverIn 2011, the Duke University Archives published Duke Illustrated: A Timeline of Duke University History, 1838-2011. This 80-page, full-color history of the events, traditions, and people that have made Duke one of the world’s leading research universities is the product of almost four decades of research by University Archives staff.

This year, we are happy to announce the publication of a companion volume focusing on the particular contributions of women at Duke, written and compiled by Bridget Booher ’82, A.M. ’92, associate editor of Duke Magazine. The new book, Women at Duke Illustrated, was published to coincide with the 2014 Duke Women’s Weekend, “Find Your Moxie: Duke Women Creating Change,” February 20-22, 2014.

Copies of Duke Illustrated and Women at Duke Illustrated are available for sale by the Gothic Bookshop for $27.50 each. Both books make perfect gifts for Duke men and women of all ages.

The book was published with support from all ten of Duke’s schools, as well as the Duke University Libraries and Duke Athletics.

An Interview About a Duke University Pioneer

Nathaniel White, Jr was among the first five black students to attend Duke University in 1963. He was not, however, the first person in his family to attend college. His father, Nathaniel White, Sr., had attended Hampton Institute prior to founding his own printing business in Durham. In a newly-digitized interview, White, Sr. discusses his life, his memories, and his experience as a black man living in Virginia and North Carolina during the 20th century.

White’s interview is part of the Behind the Veil digital project, which has just added over 300 new interviews with North Carolinians, including many from Durham. The interviews capture details of what life was like in the Jim Crow South for African Americans. In White’s interview, he shares the story of his childhood, the black business community in Durham, and the influence of scouting on his life. Of particular interest to local researchers, he describes individuals and businesses in the Durham black community in the mid-20th century, providing deep insight into Durham’s history.

Nathaniel White, Jr., center, was a native of Durham and one of the first three African-American students to graduate in 1967.
Nathaniel White, Jr., center, was a native of Durham and one of the first three African-American students to graduate in 1967.

He also briefly discusses his son’s pioneering role at Duke. He mentions that White, Jr., had considered Hampton Institute himself, but then had the opportunity to attend Duke. His father candidly remarks in the interview, “There’s one thing about a situation like that, it’s more like the real world than some other places that you might go and everything seems like it’s alright but it’s not training you for what you’re going to meet when you get outside. It’s a real struggle out there. The sooner you learn that, the better off you might be. . . . In other words, every day he had what it’s like to be an African American citizen in this country. So he didn’t have to learn that after he graduated. He learned it every day at Duke.”

Learn more about the fascinating Behind the Veil project on Bitstreams, the blog of the digital collections department of Duke University Libraries.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

Calling All Duke Student Photographers!

Duke: 175 Years of Blue Devilish Images – Student Photography Contest

Duke students are invited to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Duke University’s origins and win cash prizes at the same time!  Explore and emulate the rich images of Duke’s past found in photos from the Duke University Archives and then reinterpret them with your own contemporary vision. Categories include Academics, Athletics, Campus Scenes and Social Life.

Duke: 175 Years of Blue Devilish Images

What you need to know:

  • Who may enter: Currently-enrolled Duke students.
  • When: Contest begins Monday, February 24th and ends Sunday, March 23rd at midnight.
  • Prizes: Winning photographs in each category will receive $200. First runners-up receive $50.
  • Official contest details and rules, including the entry form.

That’s not all!

All contestants are invited to the Awards Ceremony on April 8, 2014 in the Thomas Room in Lilly Library. Winners will be announced and their photographs will be displayed in Lilly Library this spring.

The contest is sponsored by Lilly Library and the Duke University Archives.