Tag Archives: dukehistory

University Archives Field Trip

And you thought only children get to go on field trips?

Today, the staff of the Duke University Archives paid a visit to Maplewood Cemetery and the graves of the people whose papers we work with every day. We started with a visit to the Dukes.

Visiting the Duke Family Mausoleum

It’s very sunny on the steps of the Duke Mausoleum at 9:30 AM! From left to right are Molly Bragg, our outgoing Drill Intern; Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist; Kim Sims, Technical Services Archivist; and Seth Shaw, Electronic Records Archivist. (I’m taking the photo!)

We also visited President Robert L. Flowers, Trustees James Southgate and Julian S. Carr, Chancellor (and Dean of the School of Law) A. Kenneth Pye, Coach Wilbur Card, and Professors Fritz London, William Cranford, Charles Ellwood, and Aleksandar Sedmak Vesić.

Molly and the Teer Family Mausoleum

Here’s Molly at the Teer Family’s mausoleum. During her internship, Molly studied Duke University’s construction, becoming well-acquainted with Nello Teer. She wrote this article about him for Duke Magazine.

The Centennial of a Fire

Postcard of the Washington Duke Building before the fire.
Postcard of the Washington Duke Building before the fire.

100 years ago today, near tragedy struck campus as fire destroyed the Washington Duke Building, one of the seven original buildings constructed after the college moved from Randolph County to Durham. The multi-purpose building held lecture halls and offices, as well 56 dorm rooms. With coal heating and rooms lit by candle and kerosene lamp, the returning students must have tried to heat up the building too quickly that cold January 4th. Fortunately, all escaped uninjured.

Plans were already in place to replace the building and the new West Duke Building had just been completed. East Duke Building would be completed the following year on roughly the same spot as the original Washington Duke Building.

The Washington Duke Building after the fire.
The Washington Duke Building after the fire.

Additional Resources:

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Charley the Bell

Visit Duke University’s West Campus any weekday at 5:00 PM and you’ll hear the 50 bells of the Duke University Chapel’s impressive carillon.

But there’s a 51st bell on West Campus. Hung in the Kilgo Quadrangle belfry sometime in October or early November of 1950, Charley came to Duke (according to legend) from Cherley Myncherry in Oxfordshire, where it had been part of this Benedictine priory’s set of bells. The bell was a gift of Furman G. McLarty (Trinity College Class of 1927 and Duke professor of philosophy from 1933 until his death in 1952), who had purchased it in 1929 while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

Perhaps overshadowed by its Duke Chapel brethren, our Charley does have one particular point of pride: with Cherley Myncherry dating from the 12th century, the bell may very well be one of the oldest in the New World. We were lucky to record a peal from this historical treasure.

Additional Resources:

  • Duke MagazineRetrospective” on Charley by former Associate University Archivist Tom Harkins.

Founders’ Day Traditions

(click to enlarge)

The practice of honoring the benefactors of Trinity College and Duke University was formalized by the Board of Trustees on June 4, 1901, when October 3 was designated as Benefactors’ Day in honor of Washington Duke. The original intent “to honor Washington Duke forever” has been kept in spirit, but the name and date of the annual observance has changed over the years. It has been called Benefactors’ Day (1901-1924), Duke University Day (1926-1947), and, since 1948, Founders’ Day. The most elaborate celebrations occurred during the year-long Centennial Celebration of 1938-1939, and on the 100th anniversary of James B. Duke’s birth in 1956.

After the creation of Duke University in 1924, the date shifted to December 11 in honor of the signing of the Indenture of The Duke Endowment. For several decades, tree-planting ceremonies were a traditional part of the festivities. In 1997, the ceremonies were moved back to a date in the early fall, usually the weekend closest to October 3rd. Events include a memorial for members of the community deceased during the year passed, recognition of outstanding students, faculty, and staff, and the presentations of awards for teaching, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service at Duke.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Alabama v. Duke

This Saturday’s football game with Alabama recalls the historic ties between our two programs. In 1930, shortly before the opening of the new Gothic West Campus, President William Few sought the advice of the celebrated Alabama coach Wallace Wade on potential names for a football coach and director of athletics. Wade, who had led Alabama to two Rose Bowls and a record of 51-13-3, surprised Few by replying that he would be interested in the vacancy. Wade brought his Alabama success to Duke, leading the Blue Devils to two Rose Bowls as well. He would post a record of 110-36-7 in his sixteen years as coach at Duke.

Sugar Bowl Coin Toss
The Coin Toss. From the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

While Wade served in the U.S. Army as major during World War II, his assistant Eddie Cameron took over as head coach and continued the Blue Devils’ gridiron success. He led the 1944 team to a Sugar Bowl showdown with Alabama on January 1, 1945. In what sportswriter Grantland Rice called “one of the greatest thrillers of all time” Duke edged the Tide 29 to 26. Cameron kept a scrapbook filled with images from the game, which now forms a part of the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

Duke’s connections to Alabama continue with current Coach David Cutcliffe, an Alabama native and graduate of the University of Alabama who also served as an intern to legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant. Duke fans will be hoping that Coach Cutcliffe will rekindle some of that “Sugar Bowl magic” and will lead us to another thrilling victory over Alabama this Saturday!

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.