Heiress estate set for August auction

August 5, 2013 by  

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, the Duke tobacco fortune heiress, died in January of last year. Later this month, most of the items in her estate will be auctioned at the Washington Duke Inn. A proponent of equal rights for women, a patron of the arts, and a champion for civil rights, she founded the North Carolina School of Arts and the Durham Arts Council.

Semans was a direct descendant of Washington Duke. A confederate soldier, Duke built a fortune from tobacco and endowed what would become Duke University. Semans served as a trustee of Duke University, as well as mayor pro tem of Durham.

Included in the auction will be the contents of the Duke Homestead, a mid-19th century townhouse on New York City’s Fifth Ave, as well as three homes here in Durham that are owned by the family. Items such as a Steinway grand piano, Chinese porcelain and jade from the 18th and 19th century, and paintings by such well-known artists as Thomas Anshutz will be sold.

The auction is open to the public and will start at noon on August 25, with online, telephone, and absentee bidding also accepted. On August 24, there will be a public preview of items to be auctioned at midday, followed by a private preview for which a reservation and $50 per person donation is required.

An online catalog will be available at the Brunk Auctions website, and enquiries about a hard copy catalog printing can be made there. Physical catalogs for auctions connected with famous individuals have become collectors’ items, and memorabilia from this auction could become keepsakes for local residents.