I know that many of us, me included, assumed the bull was the trademark of the American Tobacco Company. But for those who think this way, they are as far from the truth as you can get. James Buchanan Duke, the president of the W. Duke Sons and Company, (later to become the American Tobacco Company) detested the bull. When the Dukes were beginning to build a strong tobacco company, their competitor, The William T. Blackwell Company flaunted the bull in front of the Dukes and every other tobacco company trying to compete with them.
Let’s go back to the days after the Civil War and a farmer by the name of John Green. He had discovered a curing process that turned the tobacco to a golden color and had the sweetest taste known across the country. But Green knew he needed a trademark that would stand out. So ironically, as he was eating lunch in a restaurant in Hillsborough, his friend John Whitted picked up a mustard jar made in Durham, England with a bull painted on it. And the rest is history.
John Green went into business with William T. Blackwell, but soon after the business was growing, he died, leaving the company to William T. Blackwell. So William and his friend James Day built a company with the bull as their trademark. And the bull was painted on buildings all over the country and word is the bull was even painted on the side of a pyramid in Egypt.
As for Durham, we have come to adore the bull. There are bull lights, replicas of the bull, and even bike racks that portray our mascot. I’m not sure how many bulls can be found in around the downtown area, but if you get a chance, the next time you are in the city, be a little bullish and look for the animal that has brought our city world recognition.