Du Pont

Du Pont

[doo-pont, dyoo-, doo-pont, dyoo-; for 1, 2 also Fr. dy-pawn]
Du Pont, family notable in U.S. industrial history. The Du Pont family's importance began when Eleuthère Irénée Du Pont established a gunpowder mill on the Brandywine River in N Delaware. Development, expansion, and family control of E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company were long the family's chief concerns, and its prolific members kept the chemical company well staffed. Outstanding among the Du Ponts was Henry Du Pont (1812-89), a West Point graduate and son of the company's founder, who set the basis for the family's cohesiveness; he headed the firm from 1850 to 1889. His son, Lammot (1831-84), a chemist and inventor, developed a cheap and superior blasting powder and made the Du Pont company a leader in the manufacture of explosives. Later, Pierre Samuel Du Pont (1870-1954) and his cousins Coleman and Alfred brought about the company's public incorporation, a departure from the long-established family partnership. In 1910, Du Pont was ordered to break up its munitions monopoly, and the company subsequently moved into the fibers (it pioneered the development of nylon), paints, and chemicals and materials businesses. The company acquired sizable holdings in General Motors, amounting to 23% of the latter's stock when it was forced to dispose of its holdings in 1961, and from 1981 to 1999 it owned the Conoco oil company. The Du Pont company produces a variety of fibers and fabrics, coatings, and other materials, industrial chemicals, agricultural seed and chemicals, and other products. Although no member of the family has run the Du Pont company since 1971, family members still control about one fifth of the company's stock. The Du Ponts have also been active in politics. Coleman increased Delaware's roads, and Pierre contributed heavily to the state's educational system. Members of the family have served as United States senators and governor of Delaware.

See W. H. Carr, The Du Ponts of Delaware (1964); G. C. Zilig, Du Pont (1974).

Du Pont, Eleuthère Irénée, 1772-1834, American gunpowder manufacturer, b. Paris, France; son of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. At the age of 17, Irénée entered the royal gunpowderworks, where Lavoisier taught him the trade. After Lavoisier was forced to leave the plant, Irénée began managing (1791) his father's printing house, where the Du Ponts published counterrevolutionary pamphlets. When the Jacobins suppressed the printing house, Irénée and his family left for the United States to set up a trading and land company. Although he met disillusionment upon reaching (1800) the United States, Irénée soon formulated plans to improve the quality of American gunpowder. In July, 1802, he began constructing his powderworks on Brandywine Creek, near Wilmington, Del. Despite lack of capital, Irénée continuously improved his gunpowder and plant and, within a few years, developed an extensive business (now E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company). His sales were augmented during the War of 1812 and the years following, but his immense debts and family obligations constantly plagued him. He was appointed (1822) a director of the Bank of the United States, and his judgment on developing industries and encouraging agriculture was often sought.
Du Pont, Pierre Samuel, 1870-1954, American industrialist, b. Wilmington, Del., grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1890. Du Pont worked as a chemist with the family's company, helping to develop smokeless powder. In 1902, Pierre and his two cousins, Alfred and Coleman du Pont, bought E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Pierre became treasurer and later vice president. In 1915, after a group headed by Pierre and including outsiders bought Coleman's stock, Alfred brought suit against Pierre for breach of trust. After four years in court, the case was settled in Pierre's favor, but Alfred and Pierre remained estranged for many years. Under Pierre's presidency (1915-20) the Du Pont company developed scores of chemical manufactures and acquired substantial interests in many other industries, including a large block of General Motors stock. He became president of General Motors in 1920 to protect family interests, but returned to Du Pont as chairman of the board in 1923. He supported Al Smith, and although at first an adherent of Franklin Roosevelt, he later opposed him.

See J. K. Winkler, The Du Pont Dynasty (1935); M. James, Alfred I. Du Pont, the Family Rebel (1941); biography by A. D. Chandler and S. Salsbury (1970).

Du Pont, Samuel Francis, 1803-65, American naval officer, b. Bergen Point, N.J.; grandson of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. Appointed a midshipman in 1815, he saw his first active duty in the Mediterranean (1817) and served in the Mexican War. As commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in the Civil War, Du Pont directed (Nov., 1861) the successful naval attack against Port Royal, S.C., for which he won a rear admiral's commission. He secured further footholds for the Union on the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The blockade Du Pont organized was generally successful, except at Charleston. Against Du Pont's advice the Dept. of the Navy ordered him to attack Charleston with ironclad monitors. When the attack failed (Apr. 7, 1863), Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles blamed Du Pont and, at Du Pont's request, relieved him of his command (July, 1863). A congressional investigation followed, but its findings were inconclusive.

See his Civil War Letters, ed. by J. D. Hayes (3 vol., 1969); biography by his nephew H. A. du Pont (1926).

Saint-Laurent-du-Pont is a town and commune in the Isère département, in France.

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