Tag Archives: dukefamily

The Anne Roney Fountain: Revising the Record

Sometimes you set out to write a pleasant blog post about a turn-of-the-last-century Trinity College student’s short stories and end up correcting a moment of Duke University history you didn’t even realize needed correcting.

Lifelong Durham resident Lizzie F. Burch was a member of Trinity College’s Class of 1900. The Rubenstein Library has a collection of papers from Burch’s school days, so I took a look through them, hoping to learn more about life at Trinity College a few years after its relocation to Durham. Burch died in 1945, and it’s lovely to know that she took such good care of the essays she wrote and the notes she took in her Trinity College classes for over forty years.

Browsing through the papers and short stories written for her English classes, I came across an essay from her 1898 sophomore English class titled “The Anne Roney Plot.” This plot was a small garden at the end of Trinity College’s entrance drive, just in front of the Washington Duke Building (the college’s main building, which burned down in 1911; it sat roughly where East Duke Building is now).

The Anne Roney Fountain, with the Washington Duke Building in the background. Photo undated, but between 1897-1911.
The Anne Roney Fountain, with the Washington Duke Building in the background. Photo undated, but between 1897-1911.

The plot contained a tiered fountain, given to Trinity College by Anne Roney, aunt to Mary, Benjamin, and James Buchanan Duke. If you’ve visited the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in the past few years, you may have seen the fountain at the center of the Gardens’ Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden; it was moved from East Campus in 2011.

Here’s Lizzie Burch’s essay on the plot and its fountain.

The Anne Roney Plot by Lizzie Burch, page 1

The Anne Roney Plot by Lizzie Burch, page 2

Funny thing is, the University Archives is on record as stating that the fountain was donated and placed in front of the Washington Duke Building in 1901.

There’s a good reason we made our initial claim. Back then, Trinity College included information about major gifts given to the college in the annual academic bulletins. The bulletin released in Spring 1901 includes the first mention of Anne Roney’s gift to the campus:

Reference to Anne Roney Plot in 1901-1902 Annual Catalogue

But this doesn’t quite jibe with our friend Lizzie’s essay, so we turned to the Office of University Development’s records, which contain accounts—in several very detailed and very heavy ledgers—of long-ago gifts to the college.

The ledgers directed us to the May 1897 issue of the Trinity Archive (yep, the ancestor of the current Archive), where we found the following paragraph in an article titled “Growth of the College during the Year”:

Excerpt about Anne Roney Fountain from the Trinity Archive

So, 1897 it is. We very humbly stand corrected. Sometimes our sources are unclear, incomplete, or just plain wrong, and we are always glad to be able to revise and clarify, even if it means admitting our own mistakes!

Our Fifth Birthday

Happy birthday to our super blog, which turns five today! We took a quick look at some numbers (although apparently age is more than just that) and found that the blog racked up 54,901 pageviews this year—so thank YOU, dear readers, for coming along with us on our explorations of the Rubenstein Library’s very cool collections (and the very cool people who work with them). We hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have!

We went looking for something appropriately celebratory to share, and didn’t have to look farther than the papers of our own Benjamin N. Duke. Isn’t this just about the fanciest birthday party you’ve ever seen?

Birthday Party, ca. 1916. From the Benjamin Newton Duke Papers.

The photo dates from around 1916 and includes Mr. Duke himself (he’s standing behind the bouquet on the table). It was taken in New York City, at the house next door to Mr. Duke’s own mansion at 1009 Fifth Avenue (2 East 82nd Street, to be exact).

We’re not certain, but we’re wondering if this might be a birthday party for Mr. Duke’s grandson (and future U.S. ambassador), Angier Biddle Duke, who was born in 1915. If only the baby seated at the head of the table on a plump cushion had his head turned toward the camera. . . . If you have any information about the photo, send us an email!

Also, inspired by this photograph, we are thinking of trying to invent the combination piñata-chandelier. If you have any ideas about that, send them to us in an email as well.

Hat tip to Mary Mellon, Technical Services Intern, who found and scanned the photo!

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
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A. P. Tyer to Benjamin N. Duke, page 2
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A. P. Tyer to Benjamin N. Duke, page 3
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Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist, with assistance from Mary Mellon, Technical Services Intern.

The Titans of Commerce and Industry

The History Channel recently aired “The Men Who Built America,” a docu-series about the titans of the early industrial age featuring Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, J. Pierpont Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. As a self-described history junkie, I was immediately hooked. So imagine my delight when I came across a poster of Hosts & Guests at a banquet tendered for HRH Prince Henry of Prussia, New York, dated 1902 Feb 26 (reprinted 1905) while processing the photographs in the Doris Duke collection.

The portraits in the poster represent a veritable “Who’s-who” of the movers and shakers of the early 20th century, including Vanderbilt’s son William, Rockefeller (and son), Morgan, Nikola Tesla (with his wavy hair and dreamy eyes), his arch-nemeses Thomas A. Edison, Adolphus Busch and Frederick Pabst (for our beer lovers), Marshall Field (perhaps the most well-dressed?), and our very own James B. Duke.

So what brought these men together?

In 1902 Germany made a concerted effort to improve its relationship with the United States. One of the warmest displays of this diplomatic effort was a visit by the younger brother of German Emperor William II, His Royal Highness (HRR) Prince Henry of Prussia (1862-1929). The two week tour (February 22-March 11) was specifically designed to allay misgivings arising from a conflict between the United States and German fleets in Manila in 1898.

On February 25th, HRH Prince Henry made a brief stop in New York City. The next day he attended a formal luncheon with the “representatives of commerce and industry” at 12:30 p.m. after which he continued sightseeing in New York. The banquet was commemorated by the poster now housed in the soon to be available Doris Duke Photograph Collection.

Want to learn more about Prince Henry’s visit? The Internet Archive has made available the “Tour of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia in the United States of America: Under the Personally-Conducted System of the Pennsylvania Railroad,” a floridly detailed itinerary or “General Programme” of his visit to the United States.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist.

The Curious Case of the Curator’s Statue

Benjamin Newton Duke
Benjamin Newton Duke. From the University Archives Photograph Collection.

Recently, I was tasked with the job of researching and learning about the life of Benjamin Newton Duke, affectionately known as “Mr. Ben.” Mr. Ben was the older brother of James B. Duke, and one of tobacco tycoon Washington Duke’s children.

J.B. was placed in charge of many of the family’s business ventures and became famous for his role in running American Tobacco and other Duke ventures, but Ben was the Duke family’s chief philanthropist. He gave away copious amounts of the family’s sizeable wealth, and was known for his generosity. He also served on several charitable boards, such as the Oxford Orphan Asylum north of Durham.

The purpose of my assignment was to create a timeline (coming soon!) that tells the story of Ben Duke’s remarkable life through words and pictures. In creating the timeline, I looked through boxes upon boxes of photos, letters, and ledgers related to his life. Among the photos that I looked at was a series of interior shots of his home in Durham, “Four Acres,” before it was demolished.

Postcard of Four Acres, the home of Benjamin Newton Duke.
Postcard of Four Acres, the home of Benjamin Newton Duke. From the University Archives Postcard Collection.

Somewhere in the lot was this photo, a look at one of the rooms in Four Acres. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice a statue on a pedestal on the right side.

Interior of Four Acres.
Interior of Four Acres. From the Benjamin Newton Duke Papers.

As part of our ongoing renovation preparation work, we have been researching the origins and provenance of some artifacts in our possession. One of these was a statue that has been residing in the office of the Duke University Libraries’ Exhibits Curator for a decade. We had documentation that the statue came from Four Acres, but we had no photographic evidence to prove it: until now. This series of previously unexamined photographs helped us confirm that the statue in the Exhibits Curator’s office is, in fact, the statue from Four Acres.

It’s nice to know that this simple project of learning about Mr. Ben has connected us so tangibly to all that he did for Duke University.

Post contributed by Maureen McCormick, Drill Intern for the Duke University Archives.