Saturday, June 25, 2011

Duke Homestead State Historic Site - Durham, North Carolina

Duke Homestead
In the years after the Civil War, the cotton crops that grew across the Carolinas were replaced in many locations by a new cash crop: tobacco.

Much of the reason for this was the inventiveness of a man named Washington Duke. Coming home from the Confederate army in 1865, he returned to his farm almost broke but with a determination to succeed that would lead to the building of one of the largest companies in the world.

Washington Duke
Duke discovered that Union soldiers, who passed through North Carolina during Sherman's Carolinas Campaign, loved the bright tobacco grown in the region. He planted more and came up with the then groundbreaking idea of packaging it cured, shredded and ready to smoke. His first crop sold like hotcakes and the next year, 1866, he and his children produced 15,000 pounds of smoking tobacco.

Over the next several decades, the Duke family grew to become barons of the tobacco industry. The new city of Durham, which was only a station on the railroad in 1865, became the centerpiece of the massive Carolina tobacco business, with warehouses, a market, manufacturing centers and more.

Tobacco Leaves in the Barn
Washington Duke and his heirs contributed massive amounts of the money they earned from their tobacco sales to improving the lives of the Southern people. The money built schools, hospitals and other public facilities. Today's Duke University stands as a shining example of their philanthropy.

The modern tobacco industry and the Duke family fortune began, however, on a small farm in North Carolina. The complex today is a state historic site, where visitors can learn about the tobacco industry, Washington Duke and even the development of modern marketing techniques.

To learn more about the Duke Homestead, please visit

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