23 miles W of Raleigh
In the late 1860s, Washington Duke left the Confederate army and walked 137 miles back to his farm in Durham, where he took up life again as a tobacco farmer. That first year, he started grinding and packaging the crop to sell in small packets. In 1880, he decided that there was a future in cigarettes -- then a new idea -- and, along with his three sons, set to work to manufacture them on a small scale. By 1890, the family had formed the American Tobacco Company, and a legendary American manufacturing empire was underway.
Durham, a small village when Duke returned, blossomed into an industrial city, taking its commercial life from the "golden weed." And it still does. From September until the end of December, tobacco warehouses ring with the chants of auctioneers moving from one batch of the cured tobacco to the next, followed by buyers who indicate their bids with nods or hand signals.
Even Duke University, the cultural heart of Durham, owes its life's breath to tobacco. The university was quiet little Trinity College until national and international prominence came with a Duke family endowment of $40 million in 1924. Along with a change in name, the university gained a new West Campus, complete with massive Gothic structures of stone, flagstone walks, and box hedges. Its medical center is one of the most highly respected in the world.