Angier Buchanan Duke collection, circa 1890s-1965, bulk 1923-1965

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Allen, George Garland, 1874-1960 and Perkins, William Robertson, 1875-1945
Angier Buchanan Duke (1884-1923) was the second son of Benjamin N. and Sarah P. Duke and one of the heirs to the Duke family fortune. This collection primarily consists of financial records which detail how his executors managed his estate after his accidental death. A philanthropist in his own right, money from his estate in part supported the philanthropy of his mother, sister Mary Duke Biddle, and niece Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans.
6.4 Linear Feet (Six record cartons, one document box, and one volume.)
Material in English.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

This collection primarily consists of material related to the estate of Angier Buchanan Duke, especially his residuary estate, which was split between his sister Mary Lillian Duke Biddle (special account 1), mother Sarah Pearson Angier Duke (special account 2), and two sons Angier Biddle Duke and Anthony Drexel Duke. In particular, this collection documents the two special accounts at the Guaranty Trust Company of NY, with the second being combined into the first in 1938 and remaining active until 1965. Upon the death of Sarah in 1935, the pricipal of the bequest to her passed to Mary, and upon her death in 1960, the principal of the bequest to her passed to her children Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and Nicholas Benjamin Duke Biddle.

This material is heavily financial in nature. There are dedicated files for bank statements, brokerage firms, cashbooks and journals (plus one ledger), check stubs, income, securities, statements of corpus, trial balances, and vouchers. There are also correspondence files, three photographs, Angier's will, and the separation agreement and divorce decree from his marriage to Cordelia Drexel Biddle.

Angier's estate was appraised at almost $11.5 million upon his death in 1923, with the bulk mostly held in securities, specifically stock in tobacco, energy, and textile companies. These included: the British American Tobacco Company, Liggett and Myers, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and United States Tobacco Company; Southern Public Utilities, Watersee Electric Company, Lehigh Valley Coal Sales, and California Petroleum Company; and Durham Apartments, Durham Holding Company, and Erwin Cotton Mills.

In his will, Angier also specified bequests to Trinity College, the Memorial Methodist Church and the Methodist Orphanages for White Children in Durham and Winston-Salem, the Oxford Asylum for White Children and the Oxford Asylum for Colored Children, and the National Religious Training School in Durham. Each of his four executors received a lump sum in lieu of a commission: George G. Allen, E. Bayard Halstead, William R. Perkins, and John C. Thorn.

Biographical / historical:

Angier Buchanan Duke was born on 8 December 1884 in Durham, NC to Benjamin Newton Duke (1855-1929) and Sarah Pearson Angier Duke (1856-1935). Angier graduated from Trinity College in 1905 with a degree in economics and was the first Duke to do so, after his grandfather George Washington Duke had donated the money to allow it to relocate to Durham from Randolph County (Angier's uncle James Buchanan Duke would later donate the money that saw Trinity become Duke University in 1924). Later in 1905 while hunting in eastern NC, he lost his right arm below the elbow due to a firearm accident. A Rolls Royce enthusiast, he had custom controls installed after this so that he could still drive by instead shifting with his left hand.

Angier continued his family's tradition of philanthropy, especially towards Trinity College. He gave two unrestricted gifts of $10,000 in "times of need," $25,000 for a new gymnasium (together with his sister Mary Lillian Duke), and left $250,000 in his will. His father had donated the money for the school's first gym, which was originally named after young Angier, who was active in baseball, tennis, swimming, and sailing. The second gym (called the Alumni Memorial Gymnasium) is now part of the Brodie Center, and the first is now known as The Ark. After his death, his parents created the Angier B. Duke Memorial, Inc. to fund university scholarships, and today, the merit-based scholarship program bearing his name is the oldest at Duke University. He was also a trustee and elected vice president of the Alumni Association in 1921 and 1922.

Angier married 17-year-old Cordelia Drexel Biddle (1898-1984) of Philadelphia on 28 April 1915 in one of the city's social events of the year. The engagement of Angier's sister to Cordelia's older brother, Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr., was also announced here, and they married later that same year. The couple had two children: Angier Biddle Duke (1915-1995) and Anthony Drexel Duke (1918-2014), but they separated by the end of 1918 and divorced in 1921. Cordelia later told her life story to Kyle Crichton, who wrote the 1955 book My Philadelphia Father and the 1957 musical The Happiest Millionaire, in which her courtship with Angier is the main source of conflict with her father. Notably, Walt Disney Productions released a 1967 adaptation of the musical that featured the last on-screen appearance of Walt Disney.

Angier drowned in the early morning of 3 September 1923 at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, CT while attempting to board an overcrowded dinghy that would have taken his party to his yacht, the Alathea, anchored offshore. He had remained a capable swimmer after the loss of his right hand, but he came up under the float after the dinghy overturned and was unable to free himself in time, possibly due to only having one hand to grasp and pull.

Acquisition information:
The Angier Buchanan Duke collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library as transfers from the Benjamin Newton Duke and Semans family papers in 2024.
Processing information:

Processed by Zachary Tumlin, January 2024.

Box 7, volume 1, journal for special account 2, and three folders were transferred from the Benjamin Newton Duke papers, while the rest of the material was transferred from the Semans family papers (mainly accession 2013-0206).


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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Angier Buchanan Duke collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.