A smokeless America by 1925 (1880-1919)

James Buchanan Duke made for an unlikely villain. A soft-spoken Methodist from North Carolina, 'Buck' Duke - as he was known to all - was a pioneer of hydroelectricity and one of the most generous philanthropists of his time. His name lives on in the American South where the reservoir which provides electricity to residents in the west of North Carolina, owned by the still-thriving Duke Energy, was named Lake James in his honour. The Duke Endowment trust fund, which he set up with $105,000,000 of his own money (the equivalent of $1.2 billion today), continues to support hospitals, children's homes and churches in the two Carolinas. Duke University, once known as Trinity College, was renamed in 1924 as a tribute to the lavish endowments it was given by the Duke family, who asked for nothing in return but that it "open its doors to women, placing them on an equal footing with men".

Had he done all this and nothing more, Buck Duke would still be fondly remembered today in the Deep South. As it is, his achievements in the fields of renewable energy and charitable giving are mere footnotes in the story of the man who first mass-produced cigarettes and almost single-handedly created the modern tobacco industry.

In 1881, at the age of just twenty-four, Buck Duke was the proprietor of W. Duke & Sons...

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