Brodie Duke

Brodie Leonidas Duke (September 17, 1846 - February 2, 1919) was an American entrepreneur, often credited with starting the tobacco manufacturing industry in Durham, North Carolina.[1] Founder of Semper Idem, and co-founder of W. Duke, Sons & Co., Brodie produced and sold tobacco products across North Carolina for over 20 years. He mainly worked out of his property around Downtown Durham, including from his famous warehouse, the Brodie Duke Warehouse.

Brodie Duke
Brodie duke photo.png
Brodie Leonidas Duke

(1846-09-17)September 17, 1846
DiedFebruary 2, 1919(1919-02-02) (aged 72)
Durham, North Carolina, United States
NationalityNorth American
OccupationTobacco entrepreneur
Years active1869-1893
Known forSemper Idem
Duke of Durham
W. Duke, Sons & Co.
RelativesJames Buchanan Duke (half-brother)
Benjamin Newton Duke (half-brother)

Early lifeEdit

Brodie Duke was born in 1846, to Washington Duke and Mary Caroline Clinton two years after their first child, Sidney Taylor Duke. Just one year after Brodie's birth, his mother died. Five years later, his father remarried to Artelia Roney, from Alamance County, North Carolina. Washington and Artelia had three children, Mary Elizabeth Duke, Benjamin Newton Duke, and James Buchanan Duke.[2] In 1858, Sidney caught typhoid fever and died at age 14. Days later, Artelia, who had been caring for Sidney, fell ill and died as well.

Along with his father, Brodie volunteered for military service in the Civil War, and served as a guard.[3][4]


The Duke family owned and ran a 72-acre farm in what is Durham County today. Brodie was the first of the family to move away, and relocated himself to Durham. He purchased a two-level space, living in the upper level, while selling tobacco from the lower level. After a few years, the rest of the Dukes followed in Brodie's footsteps, and moved to Durham. At this time, Washington Duke built a split warehouse to share with Brodie, and the two held an agreement by which each would sell the other's products.

Eventually, Brodie built his own warehouse, and co-founded "W. Duke, Sons & Co." with his father, step-brothers, and a family business partner, George Washington Watts. Despite the rest of the Duke family's affection towards Watts, Brodie despised him. So much so, that he bought three pieces of land in Durham, and named the streets so that they read, "Washington, Hated, Watts," from East to West. In 1902, however, "Hated St." was renamed "Gregson St." after Amos Gregson, a Durham minister.[5]

Built around 1878, the Brodie Duke Warehouse is the oldest warehouse, and one of the oldest tobacco-related buildings, in Durham. It remained operational through the mid-twentieth century.[6] In 2000, educational testing company, Measurement Incorporated purchased the warehouse and renovated it.


When he first moved away from his family, and started his business in Durham, Brodie developed an addiction to alcohol. In the early 1890s, he traveled to Illinois to receive the "Keeley Cure" for his alcoholism. The process started with the institution offering the new patient as much alcohol as they could drink. Each patient received injections of bichloride of gold four times a day, as well as multiple other tonics, for four weeks. He returned to North Carolina completely sober, however less than 3 years later, he declared bankruptcy, the mills were taken over by Benjamin, and Brodie returned to his alcoholic tendencies.[7]


  1. ^ "Brodie Duke Obituary". Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  2. ^ Dowling, Tim. "Brodie Leonidas Duke". Geneanet. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. ^ Sobel, Robert (1974). The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Business Tradition. Washington, D.C., United States of America: BeardBooks. p. 155. ISBN 1-58798-027-4. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  4. ^ "The Dukes of Durham". Duke Homestead Education & History Corporation. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Gregson Street". History Beneath Our Feet. Museum of Durham History. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  6. ^ "BRODIE DUKE WAREHOUSE". Open Durham. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Duke, Brodie Leonidas". Open Durham. Retrieved 25 June 2019.