Electrifying the Piedmont Carolinas

The Duke Power Company, 1904-1997

by Robert F. Durden

Tags: Biography, History, Regional Interest

Table of Contents (PDF)

312 pp  $30.00

ISBN 978-0-89089-743-0

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In the twentieth century, industrialization transformed the Piedmont Carolinas from a poor, largely agricultural and backward region into one of the most vibrant and attractive areas of the nation. While many things played a part in this transformation, one indisputable factor was a reliable and economical source of electricity as provided after 1904 by what became Duke Power Company.

This book covers the history of Duke Power from its foundation up to 1997. Unlike most of the investor-owned electric utilities in the United States, which were controlled by giant holding companies or investment banks, the Duke Power company was financed largely by a local family, the Dukes of Durham, who had made their fortune in tobacco and textiles before turning to the electric-power business in the early 1900s. J.B. Duke speculated that development of hydroelectric power would draw business industries such as textiles to the rural South and reinvigorate its economy. His power company did that and more, lasting through the struggles during utilities regulation and labor organization, harnessing of nuclear power, continuing to diversify its operations into the 1990s. Robert F. Durden has chronicled Duke Power's contributions to the rich economic diversity of North and South Carolina and its effect on the people for whom it has provided power for almost 100 years.

This, then, is the story of a distinctive electric utility that early on took and held a leading place among the investor-owned utilities of the nation and its effects on the economic life of the Carolinas.