is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the county seat of Durham County and also extends into Wake county. It is the fifth largest city in the state by population, with 217,847 residents as of July 1, 2007. It is the home of Duke University and North Carolina Central University, and is also one of the vertices of the Research Triangle area (home of the Research Triangle Park).
Durham is the core of the four-county Durham, NC MSA, which has a population of 479,624 as of July 1, 2007. The US Office of Management and Budget also includes Durham as a part of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Area, which has a population of 1,635,974 as of July 1, 2007.
Durham originated in 1853 with the search for a suitable railroad depot for the North Carolina Railroad between Raleigh and Hillsborough. The wood-burning steam locomotives of the time had to stop frequently to refuel, and depots supplying wood and water could not be more than 25–30 miles apart.
A post office known as Herndon's existed in the area from 1827, and another at nearby Prattsburg was established in 1836. The landowners at Prattsburg refused to sell land to the railroad. Somewhat further to the northwest in what was then part of Orange County, a country physician named Bartlett S. Durham lived and practiced along the route. He donated land to the railroad, which named the subsequent depot Durham Station. Prior to the arrival of the railroad, the area now known as Durham was almost entirely agricultural, with a few businesses catering to travelers (particularly livestock drivers) along the Hillsborough Road. This road, eventually followed by US Route 70, was the major east-west route in North Carolina from colonial times until the construction of interstate highways.
The community of Durham Station grew slowly before the Civil War, but expanded rapidly following the war; the present city charter dates from 1869. Much of this growth can be attributed to the establishment of a thriving tobacco industry. Soldiers, both Union and Confederate, were encamped near Bennett Place, just outside Durham Station, during surrender proceedings in April 1865. While on the battlefront, soldiers liberally helped themselves to the area's Brightleaf Tobacco, which purportedly had a milder flavor than other tobacco varieties. Veterans returned home after the war with an interest in acquiring more of the great tobacco they had sampled in North Carolina. Numerous orders were mailed to Green's tobacco company requesting more of the Durham tobacco. W.T. Blackwell partnered with Green and renamed the company as the "Bull Durham Tobacco Company". The name "Bull Durham" is said to have been taken from the bull on the British Colman's Mustard, which Mr. Blackwell (mistakenly) believed was manufactured in Durham, England.