DuPont Company films and commercialscirca 1910-1999, bulk 1950-1989
- circa 1910-1999, bulk 1950-1989
- E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (Organization)
70 Linear Feet
General Physical Description
Throughout the early 1900s, DuPont expanded considerably. The company began establishing plants all over the United States and began to manufacture other products in addition to gunpowder and explosives. The company manufactured paints, dyes, and photographic products, and focused on applied research. During World War I, the DuPont Company constructed a dye works at Deepwater Point, New Jersey. In 1945, the plant name was changed to the Chambers Works. The Chamber Works plant was one of two plants in New Jersey that were part of the Organic Chemicals Department devoted to the production of Dyestuffs, Neoprene, Ethyl Alcohol, Camphor and other Organic Chemicals for the rubber, petroleum, textile, paper, perfumery and other industries. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the dye works was extremely profitable and the site itself was the largest individual chemical plant. However, rising costs and increased foreign competition began to affect the plant in the 1970s and by 1980 the dye works closed. The company shifted its focus to organic chemicals.
DuPont's Chestnut Run Laboratories near Wilmington, Delaware began construction in 1952 and opened in 1954. The research complex includes many buildings such as the Textile Research Laboratory, the Polychemicals Sales Services Laboratory, and the Organic Chemical Department. Research at these laboratories was mainly aimed at the development of better textile products from DuPont fibers or the extension of markets through the development of new end uses.
DuPont entered the synthetic fibers market in 1920 after obtaining the patent rights to artificial silk and established a subsidiary called the DuPont Fibersilk Company. In 1924, the product had become known as Rayon and the company was renamed the DuPont Rayon Company. Nylon was introduced in 1938 and was primarily used to make women’s hosiery, as well as lingerie. The success of Nylon propelled DuPont towards developing numerous other synthetic fibers such as Orlon, Lycra, Tyvek, Nomex, and Kevlar. In the 1940s DuPont licensed Dacron polyester (a British invention). The fabric had become the company's most profitable fabric by the 1970s.
In the 1930s, DuPont chemists made improvements in plastics. Lucite was developed in 1931. Because Lucite is clear and transparent, it is used as a glass substitute and in lenses, medical and dental applications, and paints. Plastics became increasingly important throughout World War II and remained important during the postwar period. In 1949, the DuPont Company created the Polychemicals Department, which went on to create Delrin, Elvax, and Zytel.
Lucite was eventually used in paints for automotive finishes. Lucite paint replaced the Duco and Dulux paints which DuPont had created in 1920 and 1926, respectively. Duco was a durable quick-drying lacquer used for appliances and as the standard finish for GM vehicles. Dulux was glossier, which made it more popular than Duco. Lucite paint was introduced in the 1950s and was less expensive and more durable than its predecessors. In the 1960s, Lucite paints were marketed as interior and exterior house paint. Increased competition throughout the 1970s pushed Lucite house paint manufacturing to cease completely by 1983.
The DuPont Company had been involved in the automobile industry since 1914, when Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) purchased stock in GM and went on to become director and board chairman. The DuPont Company sold all of its GM stock in 1961. In addition to paints, automobile products included Gas Booster, Rally car wax, Nomex filter bags, and Zerex antifreeze.
Teflon, also known as PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) is a type of synthetic plastic developed in 1938 by DuPont Chemist, Roy J. Plunkett (1910-1994). Reportedly, Plunkett made the discovery by accident while working on a refrigeration project. The product was patented in 1941 and trademarked in 1945. Early uses of Teflon were coating valves and seals in pipes, electrical wiring for airplanes and computers, and carbon fiber composites. It wasn’t until 1954 that Teflon was used for coating cookware. DuPont began marketing Teflon-coated pans in 1961.
In 1976, DuPont developed Silverstone, a non-stick plastic coating considered more durable than Teflon and in 1986, Stainmaster carpets were developed out of Teflon spray applied to nylon carpeting to provide stain-resistant carpeting.
In the late 1940s, the DuPont Company consolidated its biochemical ventures under the Grasselli Chemicals Department. DuPont purchased the Grasselli Chemical Company in 1928. Grasselli manufactured inorganic and organic insecticides. Throughout the 1950s, the company was able to grow its operations in herbicides. The department was reorganized again into the Industrial and Biochemicals Department in 1959. Benlate, a fungicide, was developed that same year, though it wasn’t introduced to market until 1970. The product experienced recalls in 1989 and 1991, which resulted in hundreds of lawsuits. In 2001, Benlate was taken off the market. DuPont’s Agrichemical division also develops genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Among the genes engineered into seeds are those which resist particular herbicides and various insects.
In 1970, DuPont introduced the Automatic clinical analyzer, a diagnostic instrument which could perform thirty different tests on a blood or other bodily fluid samples. DuPont production of pharmaceuticals and medical products began with X-ray film in 1932. By 1981, biomedical products was one of DuPont’s major focuses of development. In 2000, DuPont sold its pharmaceutical business to Bristol-Meyers Squibb, but continues to focus on nutrition, wellness, and prevention.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the DuPont company made a strategic effort to broaden marketing capabilities by making every employee a salesperson. There were ongoing orientation programs within the company which stressed the need for all employees to, no matter their primary duties, understand the marketing function and relate their efforts to satisfying the customer.
Today, the DuPont Company typically introduces more than 2,000 products and patent applications each year, and lists its involvement in fifteen main industries. These include agriculture, automotive, building and construction, chemicals, electronics, energy, food and beverage, government and public sector, healthcare and medical, marine, mining, packaging and printing, plastics, rail, and safety and protection.
Scope and Content
This collection is arranged into nine series: I. Commercials; II. Company history, product information, and training films; III. Chestnut Run Laboratories, Technical Services Laboratory films; IV. DuPont fashion films; V. Entertainment and meeting break films; VI. Cavalcade of America; VII. The DuPont Show of the Month; VIII. The DuPont Show with June Allyson; and IX. The DuPont Show of the Week.
All series are arranged alphabetically by film title, with the exception of the three DuPont television programs series, which are arranged chronologically.
Series I. Commercials
The Commercials series consists of DuPont Company commercials for more than fifty DuPont products. The products most heavily represented are Teflon cookware, Silverstone cookware, Lucite Paints, Rally Car Wax, medical products, and agrichemicals. Medical products include the Automatic Clinical Analyzer, Diamond Knife, Luminescence Biometer, mammography, mass spectrometer, overdose antidote, Teflon voice boxes, Thallium heart attack prevention, and X-ray subtraction. Commercials on agrichemicals cover DuPont research, crop protection, agrochemical testing, Extrazine II herbicide, Krovar herbicide, nitrogen fixation studies of soybeans, and pesticides. There are several commercials related to DuPont safety measures taken at plants to ensure workplace safety, as well as the safe transportation of chemicals, double wall oil tankers for marine life, and noise and vibration reduction. There are also several commercials related to DuPont programs for alcohol rehabilitation, energy conservation, personal safety program for rape prevention, and job training programs for inmate rehabilitation. Commercials for DuPont’s man-made fibers include Coolmax, Kevlar, Lycra, Tyvek, and Nomex fire retardant suits. The automobile products represented in this series are for Gas Booster, Exhaust Manifold Reactor, Nomex filter bags, Refinish, safety auto glass, and Zerex Antifreeze.
One of DuPont’s marketing campaigns used the tagline “There's A Lot of Good Chemistry Between Us.” These commercials generally feature a narrator having a conversation with one or more people in a particular situation being informed about how a DuPont invention impacts their life without them even being aware of it. The commercial generally does not focus on a single product, but rather on a single material that is used in a variety of products. For example, in one commercial, a family is walking through their new home while it is under construction and the narrator is explaining to them how Methanol is used to make various parts of their home. Another advertising campaign termed “The Originators” commercials, again does not focus on a particular product, but rather on a significant contribution DuPont scientists have made through research in a particular area. Each commercial features a DuPont scientist talking about their research area. For example, one commercial features Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar, discussing all the different uses of the synthetic material.
There is one reel containing commercials that do not promote DuPont products. It contains a series of commercials for the Union Carbide Corporation dating from the 1950s. The Union Carbide Corporation is a chemical manufacturing company established in 1917. The structure of these commercials seems to have been an influence on the structure of many of the DuPont Company’s commercials in the 1970s and 1980s. These commercials have a narrative storyline involving the company's product or invention, a narrator, and a tagline ending with the company logo.
Most reels are small and only contain one commercial, however, there are several composite and corporate reels containing many commercials. Commercials are either thirty or sixty seconds long and were produced between 1950 and 1995, with a bulk of the commercials dating from 1968 to 1989.
Series II. Company history, product information, and training films
This series includes many short films which were produced or sponsored by the Dupont Company and document the history of the company, product information, sales training (both in general and for specific products), management, and safety training. These films seem to have been loaned both within and outside of the company. There are several title lists of DuPont Motion Pictures which include lending policies. Some films were not produced by DuPont, but were used for training DuPont employees.
Training films focus on management, sales, safety, and recruitment. The management training films demonstrate how supervisors can motivate their employees for improved work performance, goal setting, and best practices for an employee work appraisal meeting. Of note is a film starring John Cleese titled, How Am I Doing: The Appraisal Interview, which takes a humorous look at how to do performance evaluations; Cleese plays three different bosses, all doing it the wrong way.
Sales training films either provide general sales advice or techniques for selling a specific DuPont product such as cellophane or antifreeze. There is a sales orientation film, Portrait of American Life which provides an overview of significant contributions of the chemical industry. Of note is another humorous film starring John Cleese called So You Want to Be a Success at Selling: Part II, The Presentation.
A majority of the safety films emphasize the safe handling and transportation of hazardous materials. There is a film related to preventing hearing loss when working with loud machinery and driver's safety. There are a number of safety films related to fire prevention. These films highlight flame retardant fabric such as Nomex and fire extinguishants such as Halon or FE 1301.
There is one general recruitment film and one specifically for DuPont’s Automotive Refinishes department.
There are many films which focus on providing in-depth information about a specific DuPont product or research. The products most heavily represented have to do with DuPont’s Agrochemical division. Many agrichemical films focus on a specific product such as Lexone, Benlate, Lannate, Lorox, Glean, Harmony, and Compound 12402. Some of these films provide tips on integrated pest management, spraying techniques, safe handling and disposal. Other films discuss the work of DuPont’s research scientists in the industry related to herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides.
There are a few films related to DuPont’s synthetic materials and products which highlight the wonders of plastics, Teflon, Cellophane, and Nylon. A few films focus on DuPont’s contributions to the medical industry.
Several films focus on the history of the DuPont Company like the film titled James Q. du Pont History of the DuPont Company. There are some films which document the activities of various plants like the Savannah River Plant, Chamber Works, and the Brevard plant. There is one film showing aerial views of the Experimental Station. There are a few films pertaining to the DuPont Company participation in the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Additionally, there are a few lectures and presentations by DuPont employees, topics include technical research and technology, and promoting innovation and creativity.
The Du Pont Story is a feature film directed William J. Thiele (1890-1975) in 1950. It is a historical drama which tells the story of the DuPont Company through the administrations of its first ten presidents. The film depicts several generations of the du Pont family beginning with Eleuthere Irenee du Pont immigrating to the United States from France, and establishing a new company on the banks of the Brandywine River with the encouragement of Thomas Jefferson. The story ends with guest appearances of company presidents, Walter S. Carpenter Jr. (1888-1976) and Crawford H. Greenewalt (1902-1993). Carpenter was president from 1940-1948 and Greenewalt served from 1948-1962. There are several versions of this film.
Of note are a few films related to aviation. The DuPont Company sponsored the construction of a human-powered aircraft named Gossamer Albatross. The plane was made by Paul B. MacCready, Jr. (1925-2007) and his company AeroVironment. The Gossamer Albatross is made out of Mylar, Kevlar, and other synthetic materials. In 1979, cyclist and pilot Bryan Allen (1953-) piloted the Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel from Folkestone, England to Cape Gris-Nez, France. The flight took two hours and forty-nine minutes, covering twenty-two miles (35.7 km). In 1980 DuPont contributed to the Solar Challenger, which was an improvement on the design of the Gossamer Albatross. There are short films about both of these projects.
In September 1981 the oil and gas manufacturing company, Conoco Inc. became a subsidiary of the DuPont Company. Several years earlier, Conoco had produced a documentary film, To Fly directed by Jim Freeman and Greg MacGillivray in 1976 which was eventually released in 1981 presented by DuPont. The film documents the history of aviation. A second documentary by Freeman and MacGillivray was produced in 1983 by Conoco and presented by DuPont entitled Flyers. In 1999, DuPont sold off all of its shares of Conoco, which then merged with Phillips Petroleum Company.
Series III. Chestnut Run Laboratories, Technical Services Laboratory films
This series contains films related to plastics and polymers. All films were labeled as belonging to the Technical Services Laboratory within the Chestnut Run plant and films come from the following Departments: Plastics, Polychemicals, Polymer Products, and Plastic Products and Resins. Some films are of studies or tests of various processes, other films are productions intended for informational or educational purposes. Topics covered are pipe tracing, Teflon processes, blow molding, screw extruders, contour bag machine, extrusion coating, extrusion studies, injection molding, blow molding, runnerless molding, splicing cables, burying cables, plastics, and polymers. There is one film which outlines employee’s pension and retirement benefits and one film specifically about workplace safety. There are shot lists or scripts available for some of the films. In some cases, there is a script for a film that is not in the collection.
Series IV. DuPont fashion films
The DuPont fashion films series consists of seven reels, each containing several short films about DuPont’s textiles for men and women’s fashion, including swimwear. The fashion films feature various sport coats, suits, dresses, casual wear, sports wear, and swimwear. The films are mostly fictional narratives of men and women wearing clothing made out of DuPont fabrics. Some films feature a different travel destinations and highlight what to wear while on the trip. Featured fabrics include Dacron, Polyester, and Qiana Nylon fabric for clothing and lycra and spandex for swimwear.
Series V. Entertainment and meeting break films
The Entertainment and meeting break films series includes films whose production is not affiliated with the DuPont Company, and contents do not relate to chemistry in any serious way. These films were owned by the DuPont Company and were used as entertainment or a way to introduce a break during a meeting. Notably there are five reels of Jim Henson’s Muppet Meeting Films, each containing three or four skits featuring various muppets in work situations. There is an animated short titled The Magician which humorously introduces that it is time to take a coffee break and a reel with a Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update sketch about chemistry.
There are a few reels containing silent film footage. One is a reel of silent film era skits involving automobiles, Buster Keaton’s Cops, a re-release of The Bangville Police - The Keystone Cops, and a Pathe News reel containing very short clips of significant events occurring between 1916 and 1945. There is a short reel of W.C. Field’s skit “Card Trick” and a clip from The Jonathan Winters Show of the skit “Smiley's Super Service Station.”
There is a copy of the feature film F. Scott Fitzgerald and the 'Last of the Belles’ and an episode of television shows: Sports Bloopers II with Warren Miller, NBC Experiment in Television, Infinite Voyage, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and part of an episode of The Lucy Show. Additionally, there are a few reels of Plimpton! which features journalist George Plimpton (1927-2003) documenting a day in a life of various professions, in one episode he spends the day with a trapeze artist, in another he is on a movie set.
Series VI. Cavalcade of America
Cavalcade of America television show was an anthology drama which aired on NBC from 1952 to 1953 and ABC from 1953 to 1957. The show was adapted from a radio show of the same name sponsored by the DuPont Company. The DuPont Company created the Cavalcade of America as a promotional tool. The program dramatized historical events, focusing on individual stories of heroism, and occasionally presented a musical performance. The stories were presented as uplifting and emphasized human achievements, progress, and technological innovations.
The episodes aired every other week for the first season and weekly for the following seasons. There were 133 episodes which aired over five seasons. The show changed its name to the DuPont Cavalcade Theater in 1955, and in it's final year was known as DuPont Theater. The show was replaced by The DuPont Show of the Month.
This series contains one episode, “The Skipper’s Lady” and four reels of commercials which aired during the show.
Series VII. The DuPont Show of the Month
The DuPont Show of the Month was an anthology drama series that aired monthly on CBS from 1957 to 1961. Unlike Cavalcade of America,the the storylines did not feature historical events, but, rather, were often adaptations of literary classics. There were thirty-five episodes which aired over four seasons. Each episode was ninety minutes. The show was nominated for twelve Emmy Awards. This series contains seventeen episodes (six titles) - the films aired in two or three parts, each part being one episode.
Series VIII. The DuPont Show with June Allyson
Also known as The June Allyson Show, by Four Star-Pamric Production. This anthology drama series aired on CBS from 1959 to 1961. There were fifty-seven episodes over two seasons. Each episode was thirty minutes. Actress June Allyson (1917-2006) was the third woman to host an anthology series on network television. She began her career on Broadway and later signed with MGM, where she established a “girl next door” image. Allyson stars in a little less than half of the episodes. Many episodes feature prominent actors such as Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, Dick Powell, Ron Howard, Carolyn Jones, Harpo Marx, Ronald Reagan, Anne Baxter, Don Rickles, and Dean Stockwell. The last episode, “Death of the Temple Bay”, starring Lloyd Bridges, was the pilot for The Lloyd Bridges Show. This series contains fifty-one of the fifty-seven episodes.
Series IX. The DuPont Show of the Week
This television show was an anthology series that featured music, variety acts, drama, documentaries and special projects. The show aired on NBC between 1961 and 1964. There were seventy-one one-hour episodes that aired over three seasons. Guest stars included Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lillian Gish, Carolyn Jones, and Walter Matthau. The show was nominated one time for an Edgar Allan Poe Award and eight times for Primetime Emmy Awards. This series contains twenty-one episodes.
Existence and Location of Copies
Access to Collection
Film material is housed in cold storage and must reacclimate prior to viewing (Film Cans 1-392). Please contact the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.
Language of Materials
- E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- DuPont Company films and commercials
- Under Revision
- Laurie Sather
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: