This Week in Durham History

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

"Durham Renowned the World Around" sign lighted

One hundred years ago today, an estimated 10,000 residents gathered downtown to watch the first lighting of Durham’s slogan sign proclaiming  “Durham Renowned the World Around – Progress, Wealth, Health, Success.” The 41.5’ by 31.5’ sign was mounted on a metal framework atop the telephone exchange building. Mayor W. J. Brogden flipped the switch, and after a slow start on the word “Durham,” all 1,230 colored light bulbs lighted up the night sky. A 1919 windstorm wrought considerable damage to the sign, however, and the sponsoring Chamber of Commerce voted to postpone indefinitely the expense of replacing it.

Washington Duke born

On December 18, 1820, Washington Duke was born in what was then Orange County. He was patriarch of a family destined to become leaders in the U.S. tobacco industry by selling the increasingly popular bright leaf smoking tobacco. The Dukes revolutionized cigarette manufacturing in 1884 with a gamble on the untested Bonsack cigarette machine, whose production speed gave the Dukes a vital competitive edge.

Duke provided a substantial endowment to Trinity College to help lure it to Durham in 1882, and the college was later renamed in his honor in 1924. 

Bragtown School burns to the ground

More than 60 years of memories went up in flames when Bragtown School burned to the ground Dec. 18, 1991. Built in 1928, Bragtown was once the largest school in the Durham County School System.

The Trinity Chronicle

In 1905, Trinity College issued its first student newspaper, The Trinity Chronicle. Trinity College became Duke University in 1924, and the newspaper's name changed as well and continued to cover campus news and the world around it.

The Chronicle began as a weekly, but by the middle of the century, it was a bi-weekly and then a tri-weekly publication. In 1968, the paper was finally expanded into a weekday daily.

Originally financed by the Columbian and Hesperian Literary Societies at Trinity College, the newspaper was later financed by student subscription fees and advertisements and is now fully independent and funded by advertising.

Willis J. Brogden

Willis J. Brogden was appointed a justice of the North Carolina State Supreme Court on December 21, 1925.  Before becoming a member of Supreme Court he was a principal, mayor and court attorney.