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DuPont Company Engineering Department photographs

1903-1987 Majority of material found within 1903-1945
 Collection
Identifier: 1982-300

Abstract

The E.I. du Pont de Nemours is a chemical company commonly known as the DuPont Company was established in 1802, and began by manufacturing gunpowder and later chemical compounds. The foundations for the Engineering Department were laid in 1902. The department’s purpose was to design and construct high explosives plants, design powder machinery and create extensions to existing plants. The DuPont Engineering Department collection consists of photographic material documenting Twentieth century construction projects throughout the many different E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company work sites, including some outside construction projects within the explosives and chemical industry. There are 209 work sites which are arranged in alphabetical order.

Dates

  • 1903-1987
  • Majority of material found within 1903-1945

Creator

Extent

60 Linear Feet

General Physical Description note

Approximately 15,351 photographic prints : b&w ; 3 x 5 in. Approximately 3,000 negatives : b&w ; 3 x 5 in. 584 photographic prints : b&w ; panoramas. 66 photographic prints : b&w ; 16 x 20 in. or larger. 31 photographic prints : b&w ; 11 x 14 in. or smaller. 1,935 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 41 photographic prints : b&w ; 5 x 7 in. 4 albums.

Historical Note

The E.I. du Pont de Nemours is a chemical company commonly known as the DuPont Company was established in 1802, and began by manufacturing gunpowder and later chemical compounds. The foundations for the Engineering Department were laid in 1902. The department’s purpose was to design and construct high explosives plants, design powder machinery and create extensions to existing plants. The Engineering Division of the High Explosives Department within the DuPont Company was consolidated with the Black Powder Engineering Division in 1911 to become the Engineering Department.

When the United States entered World War I, the DuPont Company was called upon to build and operate smokeless powder plants for the United States Government. In order to handle this unprecedented rush of construction, DuPont created the DuPont Engineering Company. Both the Engineering Company and Engineering Department employed the same personnel, but only the Company performed work for outside war contracts (for example, Atlas Powder Company, Giant Powder Company, Grasselli Powder Company, Hazard Powder Company, Hercules Powder Company, Judson Powder Company--some which had been spun off from the DuPont Company due to government regulations) in addition to their work for E. I. DuPont de Nemours. Aside from war contracts, the Department also built plants to accommodate the company’s Twentieth century growth. In addition to high explosives plants, the Engineering Department constructed plants that manufactured Cellophane, Rayon, Paint Developments, Dye, and Fabrikoid. After the war, the DuPont Engineering Company continued to do outside design and construction work for companies such as General Motors Corporation and the Wilmington City Marine Terminal, but it ceased active work around 1924, after complaints from competing private contractors and the engineering company was dissolved in 1928.

Following the dissolution of the Engineering Company in 1928, the Engineering Department continued work within the DuPont Powder Company. The Department itself was divided into branches of Black Powder and High Explosives, which were then separated further into High Explosives, Smokeless and Black Powder.

With the United States entering World War II in 1941, the DuPont Powder Company began governmental projects with plants being constructed in support of war efforts.

Scope and Content

The DuPont Engineering Department collection consists of photographic material documenting Twentieth century construction projects throughout the many different E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company work sites, including some outside construction projects within the explosives and chemical industry. The photographic material begins in 1903 shortly after the Department was founded and continues into the mid-1900s with some photographs taken during the 1970s and 1980s. The majority of the collection is black and white photography, but there is a small section of negatives and cyanotypes with some color photographs and slides at the end of the collection.

The collection has been organized into series by work site. There are 209 work sites which are arranged in alphabetical order. Within each series, the materials are in chronological order. Each series includes photographs ranging from varying work site types such as explosives, tetraethylene, cellophane, rayon, paint development and fabrikoid. There are dynamite plants such as Sterling Works; manufactured nitro-cotton such as Hopewell; dynamite and shell loading plants such as Penniman Number 1 and 2 along with a nitroglycerin plant at Haskell. Worksites that started or expanded during World War II included in the collection are Indian Head, Hanford Site, and the Chicksaw plant in Memphis. Cellophane and rayon production at Spruance, paint development at Philadelphia works, dye production at Dye Works, and fabrikoid production at Fabrikoid Works. There are also several worksite locations in Chile, notably Peña Grande which excavated Caliche.

Even further, each series will likely include building exteriors and interiors, landscape views, construction progress over time, various mechanical equipment, tramlines, and workers villages. Each series of worksites will likely include buildings such as Change Houses, Mixing Houses, Nitric Acid Plants, Corning Mills, Magazines, Soda Houses, Power Houses, Shops such as Carpenter and Machine Shops, Neutralizing Houses, Factories, Nitrating Houses, Laboratories, Barricades and Storage Houses. More specific sites are Nitroglycerin Plants, Ammonia Oxidation Plants, Gelatine Cartridge Houses, Dynamite Cotton Drying Plants, Crude Cotton Storehouses, and Shell Plants. Other specific sites are related to the manufacture of Rayon, Dyes, Paint, Cellophane and Fabrikoid will likely have photographs such as Color Dry Houses, Naphthionic Acid, Cellophane Plants, Raw Stock and Storage Building, Fibersilk Plants, and Pyroxylin.

Some work sites include projects where multiple buildings have been grouped together due to the overarching project, and are categorically labeled by project number. These sections can be very large and contain many common buildings found in other worksites as separate sites.

There is also a large selection of Panoramic photographs that include: plant overviews, construction projects, and interiors and exteriors of buildings. In addition, some photographs have been labeled with shorthand by the photographers on the back of the photograph.

Highlights include a photograph album from the Hanford Site’s Yuletide event from 1943 to 1944, and two additional scrapbooks that document meetings, employment anniversaries, and retirements associated with the Engineering Department. There is also a small quantity of photographic prints of the Engineering Department staff including some of the Chief Engineers such as William G. Ramsay (1866-1916), H.M. Pierce (1873-1943), Granville Read (1894-1962). Additionally, a small quantity of photographic prints are also available of the interior of the Hotel DuPont.

A small number of photographs were destroyed by the DuPont Company prior to the collection being transferred to Hagley Library, meaning the collection was not fully intact when it arrived. Topics of content destroyed materials were a number of employee portraits and various buildings and sections of work sites.

Access to Collection

Collection is open for research.

Negatives/slides are stored offsite in cold storage and must reacclimate prior to viewing (Boxes 93-94). Please contact the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.

Some of the rolled panoramas may be too fragile to be viewed at this time and may require conservation prior to use or digitization requests. Access to rolled panoramas are at the discretion of the archivist and conservator.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
DuPont Company Engineering Department photographs
Status:
Author:
Deanna Webb and Olivia-Jane Haslam
Date:
2019
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400