Durham, North Carolina: Tobacco

Durham, North Carolina is a vibrant city whose roots began in tobacco with Washington Duke. After returning from Civil War service he found one cart of tobacco left on the farm to sell. Going throughout North Carolina he sold it all with a $40 return. This started his empire which led to philanthropy of 4 billion dollars world wide as of 2016.

His home, a North Carolina state park, still stands 167 years later along with an interesting tobacco museum. The tour given by Winslow, a former tobacco worker who later became an educator for 40 years, gave insight into the growing, curing, and drying this 13 month crop.

Here is where it all started. The simple home of Washington Duke.

Growing tobacco is a long process with many elements after picking. Seasoning of the crop requires drying and curing. Once this is completed the tobacco braided, placed in a barrel, and ready for market. At market it is graded with the yellower the crop the better. Here are some pictures of the process.

After the tour I visited the museum which holds machinery relics used in this process along with commercial items from days gone by. Below are pictures of farm tools, cigarette rollers and packing machine exhibits.

Perhaps the most fascinating was the marketing stories. James Duke, known as Buch and son of Washington, is the father of advertising. His ideas to market and sell tobacco products to the public were ingenious. He lowered the price of a cigarette pack to 7 cents, then enlisted “drummers,” or people to sell the products. His marketing and advertising ideas brought an 80% profit return.

However, one of his attempts did fail. He placed female pictures on the cigarette packs which were questionable to the strong Methodists which the Dukes were. He changed this inserting baseball cards in the packs providing an even greater return.

Following are more museum pictures related to tobacco history. See what you can recall.

Can you imagine all this started for Washington Duke at the age of 47? Anything is possible.

Washington Duke

Hope you enjoyed this visit. Stay tuned for tomorrow when I explore more of Durham.

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