Bold Entrepreneur

A Life of James B. Duke

by Robert F. Durden

Tags: Biography, History, Regional Interest

Table of Contents (PDF)

240 pp  $22.00

ISBN 978-1-59460-807-0

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Bold Entrepreneur is the scholarly biography of James B. Duke, a man who was more important to Duke University than it was to him or his life. His munificence in underwriting the establishment and permanent support of Duke University came towards the end of his life, after a long series of remarkable achievements in the business world. Along with such achievements, his great philanthropic actions have earned him a prominent place in history.

James B. Duke, or Buck as his family called him, took over the family's tobacco manufacturing business after his father retired. He also played a key role in the establishment and then management of the British-American Tobacco Company in and after 1901-1902. From the standpoint of business history alone, this was a pioneering and colorful venture. Duke also ventured into Canadian hydroelectricity, a highly creative and bold move that dramatically revealed his entrepreneurial panache and genius.

In this fascinating biography, Durden presents the life of a man who was not only a business genius, but also an avid horticulturist. He spent several million dollars on transforming a large portion of the Duke family farm in New Jersey into a magnificently landscaped park, one of the late Gilded Age's most magnificent country estates. This is also the biography of a most creative entrepreneurial capitalist, one who, after a lifetime of big business successes, finally turned his talent towards investing in a unique plan for perpetual philanthropy in the Carolinas.

"Duke's labors, loves, and legacy are all deftly chartered in this meticulously researched and impeccably presented portrait, which unflinchingly presents the good with the bad." — Midwest Book Review, July 2003

"…the author makes a compelling case that this robber baron was a native genius whose business skills benefited all." — The News & Observer, August 2003

"…Bold Entrepreneur ably relates the story of a fascinating historical figure and fills a large void in the historiography of the region." — The South Carolina Historical Magazine, October 2003

"…a very solid and compelling biography of a man who helped shape the history of North Carolina." — Georga Historical Quarterly, 2004