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John Da Costa, 1867 - May 1931
James Buchanan Duke, 23 Dec 1856 - 10 Oct 1925
Oil on canvas
Sight: 67.2 x 62.2cm (26 7/16 x 24 1/2")
Frame: 77.5 x 72.5 x 5.4cm (30 1/2 x 28 9/16 x 2 1/8")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of T. Bragg McLeod
Born Orange (now Durham) County, North Carolina
From a family farm nearly ruined during the Civil War, James Duke created a tobacco empire. In 1881 he gambled by changing his company's product from pipe and chewing tobacco to cigarettes, which then occupied only a tiny share of the market. Duke pioneered the introduction of cigarette-making machines, cut labor costs, invested in massive advertising, and slashed his prices. Most important, he successfully negotiated mergers with other tobacco manufacturers to form the American Tobacco Company, and by 1902 it dominated the industry. Attracting the attention of Theodore Roosevelt's "trust busting" Justice Department, American Tobacco was dissolved in 1911. By that time, Duke was more involved in his hydroelectric Southern Power Company (now Duke Power) and in a variety of philanthropic activities, especially his great legacy, Duke University.
The artist made this sketch in Newport, Rhode Island, and may have used it as a study for two more formal portraits.
Elizabeth Richards, London, daughter of the artist; purchased 1982 NPG