James Buchanan Duke (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: From modest beginnings, Duke organized and built up the largest conglomerate of tobacco companies in the nation, comprising the American Tobacco Company and its subsidiaries; he also founded power and textile companies and established the Duke Endowment in support of Duke University as well as other educational and charitable institutions.
James Buchanan Duke was born on December 23, 1856, in a six-room farmhouse near Durham, North Carolina. He was the youngest in the family: There were two half brothers from his father’s first marriage, and a brother and a sister had also preceded James. In 1858, his mother, Artelia Roney Duke, died from typhoid fever, which also claimed his older half brother. His father, Washington Duke, owned about three hundred acres of land, on which he grew corn, wheat, oats, and some tobacco. During the Civil War, he served for two years with the Confederate artillery; in 1865, Union soldiers looted his farm and left behind little but leaf tobacco. Immediately thereafter, however, demand for tobacco mounted, and prices rose; between 1866 and 1872, the Duke family’s production increased from 15,000 to 125,000 pounds. James took part in the planting and preparation of their crop. His early education took place in local schools. Evidently he learned quickly, but preferred mathematics to the humanities. In 1872, he enrolled in the New Garden Academy, near Greensboro,...
(The entire section is 2396 words.)
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