Menu

Guide to the William Robertson Perkins Papers, 1903-1967

Collection Overview

Historical Note

Judge William Robertson Perkins (1875-1945), counsel for James Buchanan Duke, executor of his will, and Trustee of the Duke Endowment, is represented by a letter on the relation of a university (Duke) and its president (W. P. Few) to students. This copy comes from an original letter to Judge Perkins to be found in the William Preston Few Papers.

In the settlement of Item IV of the will of James B. Duke, a major role was played by Judge Perkins as executor. His son, Thomas L Perkins, sent to the Perkins Library a clipping frog the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, Oct. 10, 1928, in which Judge Perkins and Charles Evans Hughes are pictured during the final hearings on the settlement of the Duke estate under Item IV. In the James Buchanan Duke Papers are many letters and legal papers concerning the court battles in this settlement.

See the article on Perkins in the Duke Alumni Register (1942), p. 269.

Ca. 5,704 items and 5 vols. added, 3-24-82

When this large addition, primarily 1920s and 1930s, was added to the collection, the small original collection of three items was incorporated into the category, Perkins, William R. - Miscellaneous Papers.

William Robertson Perkins (1875-1945), attorney, practiced law in New York City for forty years. After a boyhood and early years as an attorney in Lynchburg, Virginia, he became, in 1913, personal legal counselor to James B. Duke and the Duke families. Perkins was a member of the law firm of Perkins and Daniels, which later became Perkins, Daniels, and Perkins when Perkins' son Thomas L. joined the firm. He drew the wills of James B. and Benjamin N. Duke and acted as executor of both their estates. Perkins' business connection with the Duke interests kept him in close touch with the affairs of Duke University. He drafted the indenture for the Duke Endowment and then served as trustee and vice chairman of the Endowment. As a result of his link with James B. Duke, Perkins was active in hydroelectric power development in Canada. He was both a director and counselor to the American Cyanamid Company, and also served as a director and vice president of the Duke Power Company in the Carolinas. Further biographical information is contained in Box 1.

The Alphabetical Files comprise the entire collection of thousands of legal papers (1903-1945) representing state and federal tax litigation of the Duke families, the George D. Haskell suit against the Aluminum Company of America, and the Haskell suit against the Duke estate. Note that several suits were carried on simultaneously in separate state and federal courts, thus there appear to be overlapping inclusive dates.

There are estate tax litigation papers for Angler, Benjamin, Doris, James, and Nanaline Duke from eight states and the federal government (Boxes 1-11). Particularly detailed to show the Duke family holdings in stocks and bonds are the New Jersey, New York, and federal estate tax cases (1925-1934), which involved the Doris Duke trust, Duke Farms Company (a personal holding company which James Duke organized), and the Duke Power Company (Boxes 6-7).

On July 13, 1931, there was a decision for the Duke estate before the U.S. Board of Tax Appeals, which the Board appealed. Perkins then won the Duke estate federal tax case in the 3rd Circuit Board of Appeals on January 10, 1933. The Board took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Finally, and again under Perkins' leadership, on October 23, 1933 federal taxes of $9,000,000 assessed against the Duke estate were disallowed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ALCOA Chronology file (Box 11) is a guide to most of the events leading to the Haskell suits against ALCOA (Boxes 11-20). George D. Haskell, a small businessman from Massachusetts, claimed that there was a joint venture with James B. Duke in early 1924 to establish an aluminum enterprise on the Sanguenay River in Quebec, that Duke broke this agreement by “selling out” to ALCOA, and that the Haskell suit was an attempt to recover for gains from Duke. Haskell alleged he would have made these gains had his agreement with Duke been realized. The Haskell suit for $15 million damages against the Duke estate began in 1926 in a New Jersey District Court and ended in the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the Duke estate in 1929 (Boxes 20-21). Throughout the litigation teams of lawyers were guided by the counsel of Perkins from either New York or Lynchburg.

Evident throughout the papers is the business acumen of James B. Duke, Perkins, George Garland Allen, Arthur Vining Davis, George D. Haskell, and William States Lee. Many of their signed letters are included. Also in the papers are newspaper articles in 1925 on James B. Duke's proposed extension of the Piedmont and Northern Railway from Charlotte to Winston-Salem, as well as on building the connecting link between Gastonia and Spartanburg, South Carolina, a matter which would cost from twelve to fifteen million dollars (Box 7).

Included in the Perkins files (Boxes 22-25) at the end of the collection are his early cases with the British-American Tobacco Company and the P. Lorillard Company litigation. Also, a volume consists of an Abstract of Title to the Proposed Site of the Jamestown Exposition. This abstract was presented to Judge Perkins in 1938 in a silver canister. The abstract is signed by Theodore J. Wool and O.D. Batchelor, General Counsel for the Jamestown Exposition Company, and dated March 10, 1904. With the abstract is Wool's letter to Perkins on April 18, 1938, in which he reveals that Perkins had compiled the abstract and that it had been preserved by Wool since the close of the Exposition in 1907. A signed copy of Perkins' reply also appears in the collection.

Also in the Perkins files are papers of a personal nature such as an itemization of Perkins' estate in two ledgers as well as a detailed genealogical study of his ancestors and descendants from 1656 to 1943. Other volumes are leather-bound memorial resolutions adopted in memory of Judge Perkins by the American Cyanamid Company, the Duke Endowment, Duke Power Company, and P. Lorillard Company. These resolutions contain much biographical information.

Since this collection has not been cataloged in detail, the entries made for the Autograph file may be incomplete. Only general subject entries have been made for the collection. An inventory of the collection is filed in the first box.

Description from the the Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Manuscript Card Catalog.

Descriptive Summary

Collection Number
RL.01013
Title
William Robertson Perkins papers
Date
1903-1967
Creator
Perkins, William Robertson, 1875-1945
Extent
12 Linear Feet
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
English.

Restrictions on Access & Use

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in the William Robertson Perkins Papers have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information consult the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

1. Biographical Information

This information is filed in the first box of the collection. It includes a vita, letters, articles, clippings, and other items. Box 1 also contains an inventory of the collection.

Estate 1924-1931
Box 1
Estate. Briefs 1925-1932
Box 1
Estate. Miscellaneous Papers 1912-1931
Box 1
Estate. Newspaper Articles 1926
Box 1
Estate. Proxies 1923-1924
Box 1
Estate. South Carolina Taxes 1924-1928
Box 1
Estate. Trust 1925, 1927
Box 2
Estate. Waiver on Assets 1923-1927
Box 2
Bio-Data 1925
Box 2
Canadian Papers 1903-1925
Box 2
Canadian Papers 1926-1931, undated
Box 3
Correspondence 1908-1925
Box 3
Estate. Appraisal 1925-1926
Box 3
Estate. Distribution 1925-1928
Box 3
Estate. Federal Estate Tax. Briefs 1932-1933
Box 4
Estate. Federal Estate Tax. Correspondence 1925-1931
Box 4
Estate. Federal Estate Tax. Correspondence 1932-1933
Box 5
Estate. Federal Estate Tax. U.S. Board of Tax Appeals Proceedings 1932
Box 5
Estate. Inheritance Tax 1925-1926, undated
Box 5
Estate. Intangible Property Tax 1927-1928, undated
Box 5
Estate. Intangible Property Tax. Briefs 1926-1928
Box 6
Estate. New Jersey Probate 1925-1932
Box 6
Estate. New Jersey Tax 1925-1934, undated
Box 6
Estate. New Jersey Tax Cases 1834-1939
Box 6
Estate. New York Probate 1926
Box 6
Estate. New York Tax 1925-1927, 1933, undated
Box 6
Estate. North Carolina Taxes 1926-1934
Box 6
Estate. Rhode Island Real Estate 1926, undated
Box 6
Estate. Texas Tax Case 1927, undated
Box 6
Federal Estate Tax Litigation 1925-1930
Box 6
Federal Estate Tax Litigation 1931-1934, undated
Box 7
Piedmont and Northern Railway Extension 1925
Box 7
Will 1917, 1924-1925
Box 7
Executors, Payments to 1929-1931
Box 7
IRS Adjustments 1925-1927
Box 7
IRS Field Report 1926
Box 7
Miscellaneous undated
Box 8
Petitions. Tax Years, 1922-1927 1922-1927
Box 8
Tax Case 1909-1929
Box 9
Tax Case 1930, undated
Box 10
Tax Case. Stipulation 1930
Box 11
ALCOA Chronology 1912-1925
Box 11
ALCOA Correspondence 1916-1922
Box 11
Aluminum Report 1924
Box 11
American Cyanamid Co. Correspondence 1918-1924, Jan.-Mar. 1925
Box 11
American Cyanamid Co. Correspondence Apr.-Oct. 1925, undated
Box 12
American Cyanamid Co. Correspondence. Landis Correspondence Not Introduced in Trial 1925
Box 12
American Cyanamid Co. Correspondence. Landis Knowledge of Aluminum Prior to 1924. 1923-1924
Box 12
American Cyanamid Co. Correspondence. Norton Co. 1924-1925
Box 12
American Cyanamid Co. Correspondence. Parties in London 1925
Box 12
American Cyanamid Co. Correspondence. Third Persons 1922-1925
Box 12
Brief for Defendants - Appellants 1928
Box 13
Brief for Defendants - Appellees 1928
Box 13
Burrage Litigation 1920, 1925
Box 13
Checks and Vouchers 1925-1930
Box 13
Correspondence 1925-1930
Box 14
Correspondence with Norsk Aluminum Co. 1917-1928
Box 14
Defendants' Arguments 1927-1928, undated
Box 15
Deposition of Haskell 1926
Box 15
Devez. French Guiana 1925
Box 15
Digests of Testimony 1924-1928, undated
Box 15
Exhibits. P 1 - P 353. D 1 - D 6 1924-1925
Box 16
Interviews 1924-1927, undated
Box 16
Joint Adventure 1928, undated
Box 17
Legal Cases Cited in Haskell Suits undated
Box 17
Legal Cases. Multiple Damages undated
Box 17
Litigation 1925-1927
Box 17
Litigation 1928-1929, undated
Box 18
Litigation. Charles Evans Hughes' Original Draft of Assignments of Error Sent to Printer. undated
Box 19
Memoranda of Edward F. McClennen 1925
Box 19
Muscle Shoals Report. 2 Vols. 1917-1923
Box 19
Opinion, Summons, Deposition 1926-1928, undated
Box 19
Plant Locations 1920-1925
Box 20
Subpoenas 1927-1928
Box 20
Claims, Answers, Summons 1926
Box 20
Correspondence 1926-1930
Box 20
Litigation 1927-1928, undated
Box 21
Memorandum of Law on Conjectural Damages undated
Box 21
Abstract of Title to the Proposed Site of the Jamestown Exposition 1904, 1938
Box 22
Ancestors and Descendants 1943
Box 22
Bio-Data (see Box 1)
Box 22
Estate. Ledger. Vols. 1 and 2 1945-1949
Box 22
Legal Cases 1905, undated
Box 23
Memorabilia 1867-1945
Box 23
Memorabilia. Daguerreotype of Judith Clough Robertson ca. 1883
Box 23
Memorial Resolutions 1945
Box 24
Miscellaneous Papers 1925-1967, undated
Box 25
P. Lorillard Litigation 1931
Box 25
Will 1943, 1945
Box 25

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William Robertson Perkins Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Provenance

The William Robertson Perkins Papers were a gift to Duke University, ca. 1971 and 1980.

Processing Information

Processed by: Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Staff

Completed March 24, 1982

Encoded by Stephen Douglas Miller