The shift into Durham in 1874 and the construction of the new factory there marked the beginning of a large scale tobacco company that climbed gradually to the top of the industry. At first, many of the basic hand methods used at the homestead were employed at the new factory. Washington Duke's sons took a more active role in the facility establishment. Brodie, who had gained experience and become moderately successful as a manufacturer during his four years in town, moved his business into one wing of the new town factory. Benjamin and Buck Duke were given equal partnerships and assumed much of the responsibility for company operation. Washington traveled throughout the country, concentrating his efforts on promotion of the company's products.
By now Washington Duke had established himself as one of the wealthiest men in Orange County and was fast emerging as a leading citizen of Durham. Affiliated with the Republican party, Duke participated as a candidate in several local and state elections.
Aside from his interest in politics, a much greater concern of Duke's was the stiff competition from other tobacco operations in the town. The old established leader was W. T. Blackwell and Company, with its "Bull Durham" smoking tobacco, which became for a time the largest firm of its kind in the world. The Dukes invited a new partner, George W. Watts of Baltimore, to join the firm in 1878 and renamed the business W. Duke, Sons and Company. The move was significant because Mr. Watts' investment broadened the company capital, enabling it to be more competitive with the older, more established firms.
The Dukes' first home (left) and factory (right) in Durham.