Tag Archives: dukehistory

Wooshes, Whistles, Crowd Roars, and Seal Screams

"Footage of Ocean" Reel from the Freewater Films CollectionThe name Freewater Films is perhaps best known for the film series it puts on in the Bryan Center. But in addition to these screenings, it is also responsible for providing workshops and support for amateur film-making by Duke students and community members.

The origins of Freewater Productions Films can be traced to 1969, when the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation gave funds for students from the Duke University Union Visual Arts Committee to make a 16mm film. In November 1970, several students produced an original film (called Dying), using a 16mm Bolex camera borrowed from the Union. Described by the maker as “a woman’s surrealistic encounter on an island,” Dying went on to win first prize at the Association of College Unions’ 1971 International Film Festival.

Over the years, Duke students produced a number of cutting-edge films under the auspices of Freewater, ranging from documentaries on urban Durham to science fiction and horror films set in the Duke Hospital. (The 1984 film A Medical Scutwolf in Durham tells the story of a doctor who becomes a werewolf.)

Sound Effects Reels from the Freewater Films CollectionSaved in a variety of formats—including DVDs, VHS, Betamax, and 16 mm film—the Freewater Productions Films archives are now housed at Duke University Archives. They have recently been arranged in order by date, format, and title. In some cases, “unofficial” titles had to suffice, as in the reel titled “Footage of Ocean,” pictured above. Those that arrived in rusty cans or unstable cardboard boxes were transferred to archival plastic “cans.”

Pictured at left is a group of 21 sound effects from the collection, labeled as: “wooshes, whistles, crowd roars, and seal screams.”

We’re looking forward to the day when these historic films may be screened again!

Post contributed by Jessica Wood, William E. King intern for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Student Photographs Duke Construction

Charles Wesley Clay at Commencement, 1929One of the best parts about being the University Archivist is the unexpected treasure that sometimes arrives in the mail.

Recently, I received a small packet of photographs from the family of Charles Wesley Clay, a Methodist minister and alumnus from the classes of 1929 and 1932. Clay earned bachelor’s degrees from Trinity and Divinity, and he happened to be on campus from 1925 to 1932, during the heyday of construction on East and West campus.

This small collection of 42 snapshots includes Clay posing next to Duke buildings—some completed, some under construction—as well as shots of equipment, scaffolding, and snowfall on the as-yet unmanicured quads.

We have other construction photos taken by Duke’s construction company, but it is revealing to see the “student’s eye view” of what it was like to be at Duke in these early, exciting days.

Charles Wesley Clay at East Campus Union, 1927
Charles Wesley Clay in front of the East Campus Union in the spring of 1927.
Construction of Duke Stadium, 1929
Duke's football stadium (now known as Wallace Wade Stadium) under construction in 1929.
View of West Campus Construction, 1929
A view of West Campus from the Medical School in the fall of 1929. Note the railroad spur that brought Duke stone from Hillsborough directly to campus.

Check out the whole collection on Flickr!

The University Archives is interested in documenting student life through materials like photographs, diaries, and scrapbooks. Please contact us if you have items you would like to donate.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

The Peacocks’ Gift

Ethel Carr Peacock Memorial Collection Bookplate
An Ethel Carr Peacock Memorial Collection Bookplate

Last fall, The Devil’s Tale posted “What’s in a Name,” where readers were asked to vote on their favorite name from a list accumulated from across our collections. The winner (although votes are still being accepted!) was Dred Peacock.

Peacock graduated from Trinity College (now Duke University), married the daughter of a Trinity professor, and eventually became President of the Greensboro Female College. Peacock and his wife, Ella, created an immense library which they established at the Greensboro Female College in memory of their daughter Ethel, who’d died at a young age. The Peacocks stipulated that should the College close, they could remove their collection and establish it elsewhere. Years later, when it appeared the College would in fact close its doors, the Peacocks moved their library to Trinity College, which by this time had moved from Randolph County to Durham.

We recently uncovered several scrapbooks created by the Peacocks. They contain clippings, programs, and invitations from the late 19th century and largely relate to events and news regarding Greensboro Female College and Trinity College. One clipping that caught my eye highlights the professions of Trinity graduates by 1887: 275 graduates went into the ministry, 49 went into law, 66 went into teaching, 20 went into medicine, 11 went to the quill, and the rest to merchandising and agriculture. Of its alumni, 5 were judges, 7 were solicitors, 11 were either presidents or professors of leading colleges, 49 were members of legislatures of different states and territories, and several were in congress from 2-8 years.

Pages from the one of the Peacock Scrapbooks
Pages and Loose Programs from the one of the Peacock Scrapbooks

Curious about the other fascinating items contained in the scrapbooks? They are now available for use in the Rubenstein Library’s reading room. Check out the online finding aid for more details about the scrapbooks1

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

Jared Harris, Student Filmmaker

On Sunday, Jared Harris resumes his role as Lane Pryce on Mad Men. (Read Duke Magazine‘s recent profile on Mr. Harris.)

On March 30, 1984, he was a Trinity senior, premiering his and classmate Jeff Bennett’s feature-length film, Darkmoor, at the Bryan Center. Supported by Freewater Films, the film was his senior thesis and ended up requiring a budget of $60,000, owing in part to the fact that three-quarters of the film had to be re-shot after the lead actor graduated and wasn’t able to complete his final scenes.

Jared Harris and Jeff Bennett, The Chronicle, September 23, 1982
Jared Harris and Jeff Bennett (and dog), The Chronicle, September 23, 1982

In interviews, Mr. Harris describes the film only as a “psychological thriller.” There’s an orphaned boy who shows up just at the right moment and a father who doesn’t. There’s a Bryan Center art show with a painting by Picasso and a psychiatric ward somewhere in Duke Hospital. There are references to Carl Jung’s theories and T. S. Eliot’s poetry (Harris’ Program II curriculum included English literature classes), as well as so many hints at the power of advertising and subliminal messages that we  wonder if Harris knew where he’d end up 28 years later.

There’s also former Duke President Terry Sanford in a cameo as a jaded psychology professor.

Reviews from The Chronicle and the Durham Sun suggest that Sanford proved quite the capable actor, but we can’t offer our own opinion, because the Duke University Archives doesn’t have a copy of the film. The records of the Duke University Union contain only a not-quite-final draft of the script that suggests that Darkmoor Shaw, the film’s main character, started out as Darkmoor Kilgore.

Here’s the scene, early in the film, where Darkmoor acquires his first name.



Alex is on the lawn with her child, who is crawling around in front of her. She picks the child up, sets him on the ground in front of her, and gives him a little push. The child waddles off away from the mother. Alexandra starts to call names after him.


 “William, Richard, Joseph, Randy—no wait, I take that back, Philip, Arthur, Nicholas, Archibald (she winces) Robert, Jeff. . . (she stops) Martin, Perrygwyne, Darkmoor. . .”

The child turns around and looks inquiringly at his mother.



The child starts to crawl to his mother. She goes over to him and picks him up.


“What a strange name to choose for yourself, you funny little fellow, but I like it. Alright, then, Darkmoor it is.”

According to Mr. Harris, the idea for this scene came from his (late) father, Richard Harris, the venerated British actor. With such an impressive pedigree, we’re relieved that a copy of the script exists in the Duke University Archives. And Mr. Harris, if you still have a copy of the film, could we please borrow it?

Invitation to Darkmoor premiere, March 30, 1984.
Invitation to Darkmoor premiere, March 30, 1984.

And, for those of you who can’t get enough Mad Men, watch The Devil’s Tale over the next few weeks for news about the next event in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History’s 25th Anniversary Lecture Series. On April 10th, the center will be welcoming Charlotte Beers, former Chairman/CEO of Ogilvy & Mather and Under Secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. Find more information on the Hartman Center’s homepage!

Don’t Let UNC (Archives) Win!

For those of you who are just tuning in, the Duke University Archives has entered into a friendly competition with our colleagues at the UNC University Archives. The challenge: whose Facebook page can get the most new “likes” by tip-off (7:00 PM) of the March 3rd UNC vs. Duke game. That’s Saturday night!

Our standings, as of noon today:

Duke University Archives: 371 new “likes” (446 total “likes”)

UNC University Archives: 749 new “likes” (794 total “likes”)


So ask your friends and your friends’ friends and your friends’ friends’ great-grandparents to “like” us on Facebook! The stakes are huge: the loser has to post a photo of the winner’s choosing (and from the winner’s collection) as their Facebook profile photo for one week. Do you really want to see a photo of Dean Smith (happy belated birthday, by the way!) on the Duke University Archives’ Facebook page?

We’re staying positive here at the Duke University Archives, though. We’d like to ask you, our stalwart and loyal fans, to help us pick the photo we’ll send over to the UNC University Archives Facebook page on Saturday. Below, you’ll find the contenders and a poll.


Duke’s Blue Devil and UNC’s Ramses play nicely at a 1957 football game.

Blue Devil vs. Ramses, 1957
An Adorable Rivalry, 1957


Duke president Terry Sanford (speaking at the podium) doesn’t look too pleased. Perhaps that’s because he received his bachelor’s degree from UNC?

Duke University Commencement, 1979
Duke University Commencement, 1979


Duke guard Steve Vacendak rises above his UNC rivals.

Steve Vacendak
Duke vs. UNC Men's Basketball Game, ca. 1964-1966


It IS Spring Break next week. . . .

Spring Break Crazies, undated
Spring Break Crazies, undated



Duke University Archives @ the Internet Archives

Cover of Catalogue of Trinity College, 1858-1859
Cover of the Annual Catalogue of Trinity College, 1858-1859

The recent digitization of many years of the Chanticleer, Duke University’s yearbook, has been a great benefit for both archivists and researchers.

Now, the yearly catalogs, known as Bulletins, are being digitized thanks to the Internet Archive’s Scribe machine located here at the Duke University Libraries. These newly-searchable resources provide more and better access to historical information about Duke University. The catalogs include information like courses offered, of course, but they are also full of other useful facts.

For instance:

  • What was the Trinity College undergraduate tuition for the 1892-1893 academic year (the college’s first year in Durham)? ($25.00 per term)
  • How many bound volumes did the Library contain at the end of the 1923-1924 academic year? (71,520)

In addition, there were specialized catalogs for graduate and professional education, so that someone researching the School of Medicine, for example, can learn more about that program in particular. There are even fun extras like aerial views of campus from the 1930s.

Virtually turning the pages of these historical catalogs provides a wealth of information. In the 1934-1935 Law School bulletin, for example, it lists the current students. One, Richard Milhous Nixon of Whittier, California, was a first-year student at the time. We can also tell from the catalog that school started on September 19 that year, and that “in addition to concert programs, recitals, and lectures, motion pictures are shown in the campus auditorium twice a week.” Sounds like a pretty interesting place to get an education!

Find links to Chanticleers and Bulletins at the Duke University Archives section of the Internet Archive. Additional Bulletins will be digitized in the near future, along with other Duke University resources.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

A Dear Friend of the Rubenstein Library

We note with sadness the passing of Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans. Mrs. Semans was the great-granddaughter of Washington Duke, and the granddaughter of Benjamin Duke.  She came to Duke University as a 15 year-old freshman in 1935, and was an alumna of the class of 1939 of the Woman’s College. She remained a tireless advocate for Duke University throughout her life, serving as a longtime trustee and supporter of numerous projects on campus. These include the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room, named for Mrs. Semans’ mother.

In 1938, Mrs. Semans married Josiah Charles Trent, a Duke alumnus and later the first Division Chief of Thoracic Surgery. The couple collected rare books related to the history of medicine, and Walt Whitman materials. Dr. Trent died of lymphoma in 1948. In 1953, Dr. James Semans and Mrs. Semans were married. They were known on campus, in Durham, and throughout North Carolina as supporters of the arts, higher education, civic projects, and other charitable endeavors.  Mrs. Semans was a longtime trustee of the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (named for her mother), which has supported projects in the library, among many other grant recipients.

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans with Curator of Rare Books Thomas M. Simkins.
Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans with Curator of Rare Books Thomas M. Simkins. The materials pictured are now part of the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Library. Photo from the University Archives Photograph Collection.

The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana and Trent Collection of history of medicine materials, along with Semans Family Papers, are significant parts of the Rubenstein Library today. We are grateful to the generosity of Mrs. Semans over the years, and the way she continued the legacy of philanthropy begun by her relatives. Mrs. Semans never stopped supporting the institution that her family transformed. Her contributions to the library, the institution, and our community will not be forgotten.

Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

Bob Harris on the 1942 Rose Bowl

Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: Biddle Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Amy McDonald, 919-681-7987 or amy.mcdonald(at)duke.edu

Join “Voice of the Blue Devils” Bob Harris as he shares thoughts on how Duke football has changed from the legendary 1942 Rose Bowl held in Wallace Wade Stadium to today’s modern game. He will also talk about the impact of the game on campus beyond the stadium walls.

Rosemary Davis and Jessica Wood, curators of the current “From Campus to Cockpit” exhibit, will highlight photographs and other artifacts from the 1942 Rose Bowl, including archival film from the game.

Following the presentation, game day refreshments will be served, and Harris will sign copies of his autobiography, How Sweet it Is! From the Cotton Mill to the Crow’s Nest.

“From Campus to Cockpit” is on display in the hallway cases outside the Biddle Rare Book Room through January 29th. An online exhibit—including the complete film of the game recorded by Duke’s coaching staff—is also available.

Articles on the 1942 Rose Bowl and the exhibit recently appeared in Duke Magazine and the Durham Herald-Sun.

Aerial Photograph of Duke Stadium during 1942 Rose Bowl
Aerial Photograph of Duke Stadium during 1942 Rose Bowl. From the University Archives Photograph Collection.


Juanita Kreps and the Merger of the Duke Woman’s College, 1972

Working on the Economists Papers Project at the Rubenstein Library this summer introduced two Duke economics graduate students to an inspiring and impressive figure who shaped the histories of both Duke University and the United States: Juanita Morris Kreps.  The description and arrangement of 58 boxes of her professional papers was made possible in summer 2011 by Matthew Panhans and Nori Takami, with funding from the Center for the History of Political Economy.

Krep's senior portraitBorn into a childhood of poverty in the small mining town of Lynch, Kentucky in 1921, Juanita Kreps emerged as one of the top students at Berea College, earning her a scholarship to study economics at Duke University, where she completed her M.A. and Ph.D.  She joined the faculty at Duke in 1955 and served as Dean of the Woman’s College and as Associate Provost; in these roles she oversaw the controversial 1972 merger of the Woman’s College and the men’s Trinity College to form the present coeducational undergraduate Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.  As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of that merger in 2012, many of us may not be aware of its deep significance to the history of Duke and to the future for women in higher education. Kreps’ papers hold many files of correspondence from alumna who responded to her calls for comments, accompanied by letters, speeches, and memoranda written by Kreps which reveal her own insights into this monumental change.

In 1972 Kreps became the first woman to hold the prestigious James B. Duke chair, and in 1973, Kreps was named a Vice President of the University.  In 1976 she left Duke to serve as the first female Secretary of Commerce under President Carter, also the first academic to serve in this role and the fourth woman ever to be a part of the Cabinet.  As the Secretary of Commerce, she was an advocate for the business community while also encouraging business to look beyond profits and towards social responsibility to workers, consumers, and the public.

Kreps at her deskPerhaps rooted in her humble beginnings in Kentucky, her academic research maintained real-world relevance.  Much of her work was on the value of women’s work, women’s education, and labor issues related to aging populations.  These and other topics that remain relevant today pervade her speeches, which are both witty and moving.  The plethora of thank you notes accompanying each speech offers clear evidence of the power of her words and ideas – but if this is not enough to convince you, come to the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and read them for yourself!

Post contributed by Paula Mangiafico, Senior Processing Archivist for the Rubenstein Library. Matthew Panhans is an M.A. student in Duke’s Department of Economics. Norikazu Takami is a post-doctoral fellow at Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy.

Under the Floorboards

Early last week, friend of the RBMSCL and James B. Duke Professor of Economics Dr. Craufurd Goodwin came to us with an exciting discovery. He has kindly shared a few words about it, noting that “archives are where you find them.”

When my wife and I moved from Durham in 1977 to a property called Montrose on the edge of Hillsborough, a venerable green 1961 Chevrolet pickup truck was included. Legend had it that the truck had mainly gone once a week to a garbage dump on the edge of town and spent the rest of its life in its garage. It had 18,000 miles on the odometer.

Holland Holton, February 1922

After moving most of our possessions from Durham, the old truck reverted to its traditional role and has today only 33,000 miles. But last week, on the old truck’s fiftieth birthday, it seemed appropriate to let someone else play with this toy and I sold the truck. Soon after it left the driveway, I heard from the young man who bought it that he had discovered a photograph taken by a professional studio in Durham called “Miss Johnson, Durham, N.C.” of a person described on the back as “Holland Holton, 1922.”

Holton was one of the first professors at Duke University and an administrator in various capacities; his papers are now at the Duke University Archives. There was no dated photograph of Holton in the RBMSCL’s collections until this week, but now there is.

It is a complete mystery how this picture ended up on the floor of the old truck for at least 34 years, and perhaps 50.  My predecessor at Montrose and in the truck was A. H. Graham, a prominent figure in the state (Lieutenant Governor, Highway Commissioner, etc.) but Carolina all the way. How a picture of a pioneering Duke professor ended up in his farm truck we shall probably never know.

Post contributed by Dr. Craufurd Goodwin, James B. Duke Professor of Economics at Duke University.