Skip to main content
Notice: The Library is open for research by appointment only, please visit our research services page for more information.

William du Pont, Jr. papers, 1840-1980, bulk: 1919-1965

 Record Group
Accession: 2317Identifier: 2317-II.


  • Creation: 1840-1980
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1919-1965

Biographical Note

William du Pont, Jr. (1896-1965) became the president of Delaware Trust Company in 1929, the youngest bank president in Wilmington at that time. In 1952, he became chairman of the board. He was an active equestrian and avid tennis player.

William du Pont, Jr. was the youngest child of William du Pont (1865-1928) and his second wife Annie Rogers Zinn du Pont (1858-1827). He was born on February 11, 1896, in Loseley Park, Guildford, Surrey County, England, where his parents lived from 1892 until 1902. His childhood was spent in England and then at Montpelier, Virginia, the estate purchased by William du Pont in 1902. This was the former residence of United States President James Madison. The family spent time at Bellevue, an estate north of Wilmington, Delaware, which William du Pont had inherited from his father Henry du Pont (1812-1889).

William du Pont, Jr. married Jean Liseter Austin (1897-1988) on January 1, 1919. The couple lived at Rosemont, near Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, where they built a house on land given to them as a wedding gift by Jean Austin's father William Liseter Austin. They had four children: Jean Ellen (born February 23, 1923), Evelyn Rebecca Austin du Pont (1925-1999), Henry Eleuthere Irenee du Pont (1927-2002; name legally changed from William Henry) and John Eleuthere du Pont (1938-2010). William du Pont, Jr. and Jean Austin du Pont separated in 1940 and were divorced in 1941. J. L. Austin du Pont continued to live at Rosemont while her husband moved to Bellevue Hall, which he had inherited from his father. It became his permanent residence for the rest of his life.

William du Pont, Jr. received his formal education at boarding schools, first at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and from 1914 through 1916 at St. Luke's School in Wayne, Pennsylvania. He began his career during World War I as a plant manager for the Ball Grain Explosives Company (his father was on the board of directors). In November 1921, William du Pont, Jr. was elected to the board of directors of the Delaware Trust Company, where his father was president (and chairman of the board from 1923) and a major stockholder. After William du Pont's death in January 1928, his son became the president of Delaware Trust Company in 1929 and was the youngest bank president in Wilmington at that time. In 1952, William du Pont, Jr. became chairman of the board, retaining both positions until his death in 1965. He also sat on the board of directors of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company from 1930 and was a member of its Financial Committee (Committee on Audit).

Besides being a prominent local financier, William du Pont, Jr. was well known as a proponent of equestrian arts and sports. His childhood spent at his father's estates provided him with plenty of opportunities to learn about and love horses and hunting dogs. He established his first foxhound pack in 1912 at Montpelier and in 1926 moved it to the farm in Cecil County, Maryland, later known as his Fair Hill estate. The Foxcatcher Hounds pack, named after his farm in Pennsylvania, was well recognized among foxhunting clubs of America. William du Pont, Jr. was an active member of the American Foxhound Club (he held offices of vice president and president), Masters of Foxhound Associations of America, and a number of local foxhunting clubs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. He organized and operated the Foxcatcher Hounds Hunting Club at his premises in Fair Hill, Maryland, as a seasonal hunt for his family members and friends.

His love of hunting led William du Pont, Jr. to become an enthusiastic horse rider and owner of Thoroughbred race horses. His horses stabled at Bellevue Hall, Delaware, and Walnut Hall Farm, Virginia, were trained by well-known trainers Preston E. Burch (1884-1978) and Richard E. Handlen (1897-1963) and won important races throughout the nation. William du Pont, Jr. built training race tracks at Bellevue and Fair Hill and instituted the Fair Hill Steeplechase as a benefit for Union Hospital at Elkton, Maryland. Together with his sister Marion du Pont Somerville Scott (1894-1983), he operated the annual Montpelier Horse Show (started by their father in 1906) and Montpelier Hunt Race Meeting, which included flat and steeplechase races.

William du Pont, Jr. was recognized internationally as an authority on the design and construction of horse racing courses. He designed more than twenty-five steeplechase and flat racing tracks, among them Delaware Park (Stanton, Delaware) and the National Cup course at Fair Hill, Maryland, a course equivalent to England's Grand National at Aintree. From 1933 through 1937, he worked with the Delaware Racing Commission and the Delaware Steeplechase and Race Association on state legislation to promote Thoroughbred horse breeding and to establish the race track. His initiative brought pari-mutual racing to Delaware with the opening of Delaware Park on June 26, 1937.

Due to his interest in horses, William du Pont, Jr. sponsored research in equine veterinary medicine, including studies in equine infectious anemia, stallion fertility, equine virus abortion and equine rhinopneumonitis, parasitic diseases, nutritional disorders, and colitis. He was an active member of the Grayson Foundation, an organization committed to the support of scientific investigations into the nature, causes, and development of horse diseases and injuries and methods for preserving and improving the health of horses. From the 1940s through the 1960s, he held the positions of Foundation president and chairman of its Executive Committee. In this capacity, he worked closely with the American Thoroughbred Breeders' Association to obtain and distribute funds to support research at veterinary medicine departments and laboratories of the Universities of Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Cornell and Vanderbilt Universities.

William du Pont, Jr. was the owner of one of the premier herds of the American beef breed, Santa Gertrudis cattle. His herd resulted from a breeding program he designed in the 1940s through 1950s with the help of Robert J. Kleberg Jr. (1853-1932). Kleberg was the owner of the King Ranch, Kingsville, Texas, where the breed was initially developed in the 1920s. After William du Pont, Jr.'s death, his Santa Gertrudis purebred cattle were offered for sale and were purchased entirely by Kings Ranch-a sign of the exceptional quality of the herd.

After equestrian pursuits, du Pont Jr. sports interest was tennis, which he began playing during his school years. He was a member of the Delaware Lawn Tennis Association from the 1930s and its president from 1945 through 1953. In the late 1930s through the 1940s, he was involved with the Southern California Tennis Association. He was acquainted with its secretary, later president, Perry T. Jones (1890-1970), who was known as "Mr. Tennis of the West Coast," and famous female players who successfully represented the United States at international competitions: Althea Louise Brough (1923-2014), Alice Marble (1913-1990), Eleanor Tennant (1895-1974), Doris Jane Hart (1925-2015), Mary Arnold (1916-1975), Katherine Winthrop (1914-1997), Pauline Betz (1919-2011), and Helen H. Jacobs (1908-1997).

One of these tennis players was Margaret Evelyn Osborne (1918-2012), who married William du Pont, Jr. on November 26, 1947. Margaret Osborne was a famous tennis champion and won thirty-seven single and double Grand Slam tournaments. The couple settled in Bellevue Hall, where an outstanding private tennis complex was built. Both Margaret and William du Pont, Jr. contributed extensively to the organization and financed local tennis clubs and school tennis programs in Delaware. Their only child, William du Pont III, was born July 22, 1952. After his birth, Margaret Osborne du Pont returned to professional tennis and won nine doubles championships at Wimbledon and the US Open. William and Margaret du Pont were divorced on March 27, 1964. William du Pont described the situation: "Margaret will be at Reno as she wants a divorce. She hasn't found the reason yet except that I am doing the same things as usual-foxhunting, shooting, and racing. Since she quit playing major tennis, she has taken up squash, table tennis and runs with a different group so our paths seem to have separated." (William du Pont, Jr. to Alice Marble, February 14, 1964, letter to Alice Marble (Business Papers-Point Happy, Inc.-Correspondence).

William du Pont, Jr. died on December 31, 1965, in the Memorial Division of the Delaware Hospital.

Scope and Contents

The papers of William du Pont, Jr. document areas of his activities predominantly concerned with land development in Wilmington, Delaware; farming, animal breeding and foxhunting in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia; and promotion of horse racing in the United States, especially in Delaware.

Papers pertaining to the companies operated by William du Pont, Jr., and those in which he had significant participation, are organized in Series VII. Business Papers. Series I - VI are concerned with similar materials related directly to William du Pont, Jr.'s personal activity. Nevertheless, because William du Pont, Jr. was dynamically involved in those companies' activities, the division into private and business papers is sometimes blurred. For instance, Series I. Correspondence, together with William du Pont, Jr.'s personal correspondence with family members, friends, and acquaintances, contains correspondence with business partners, which are often the same individuals and companies as in the Correspondence portions of the subseries of Series VII: Business Papers. The same is true for Series II. Invoices and Receipts and Series III: Banking Papers.

Documents of an entirely personal nature are in Series IV. Personal Financial Papers. Papers consist of William du Pont, Jr.'s individual tax returns for 1917-1964; financial and legal papers related to the inheritance of properties by William du Pont, Jr. and his sister Marion in Wilmington, Delaware and Montpelier, Virginia; the divorce agreements of William du Pont, Jr. with his two wives, J. L. Austin du Pont and Margaret Osborn du Pont (along with the papers for the second divorce are included William du Pont, Jr.'s birth, baptism, and marriage certificates). This series also contains various rental, payroll, and expense records for the estates and farms of William du Pont, Jr. Also, there are papers pertaining to Marion du Pont Somerville and her first husband T. H. Somerville, consisting of insurance policies and correspondence.

Additional personal papers include William du Pont, Jr.'s early family correspondence with his mother, father, aunt, and uncle, which constitute Subseries A. Personal Correspondence of Series I. Personal letters of William du Pont, Jr. also occasionally appear in the chronological file of Subseries B: General Correspondence and include correspondence with his sister Marion du Pont Scott (letters discuss family matters, but predominantly pertain to subjects of mutual interest, such as horse breeding and racing and foxhunting); his second wife, renowned tennis player Margaret Osborn du Pont, and her partners and friends (tennis champions of the 1940s-1950s); and a few letters to and from his adult children.

Series VI. General Information File contains materials concerned with the maintenance of William du Pont, Jr.'s mansions and farms at Bellevue (Delaware), Fair Hill (Maryland), Saratoga Springs (New York) and Boyce (Virginia).

Papers pertaining to William du Pont, Jr.'s promotion of fox hunting and Thoroughbred horse racing are in Series V. Foxhunting, Dog and Horse Breeding and Horse Racing. The series includes William du Pont, Jr. Foxcatcher Stables and Foxcatcher Kennel breeding records and pedigrees; records of stakes and lists of winning horses at various horse races; preparatory material for the 1920-1943 Montpelier Horse Show (official catalogs, programs, and prize lists); a small collection of books on foxhunting, which includes autographed copies; and organizational material of the American Foxhound Club, Masters of Foxhounds Association of America, and local foxhound clubs of which William du Pont, Jr. was a member. A significant amount of material related to the same subjects can be found in Series I, II, and VII.

The last series of the record group, Series VIII. McConnell Family Papers, contains documents which belonged not to William du Pont, Jr., but to the family of his eldest daughter, Jean Ellen du Pont McConnell (1923-2011), who shared her father's interest in foxhunting, horse racing, and Thoroughbred horse breeding. She continued the annual cattle shows and horse races at the Cecil County Breeders Fair at the Fair Hill property of her late father from 1966 until 1978 when Fair Hill was sold to the State of Maryland. Papers document her activities as a board member and treasurer of the Cecil County Breeders Fair, Inc., and contain information about the sale of the Fair Hill property. The series also includes the papers of her husband James Hoge Tyler McConnell (1914-1989) regarding his campaign for the office of governor of Delaware in 1956, his personal correspondence, and family photographs.

The largest series of the William du Pont, Jr. collection is Series VII. Business Papers, which consists of materials from the companies he operated, and these describe his business activities in land development, real estate, investment, farming, animal culture, Thoroughbred horses racing, and foxhunting. The records of the thirty-one companies represented in this series document William du Pont, Jr.'s role as the developer of Westover Hills, the first upscale suburb in Wilmington, Delaware; as the builder and owner of the Delaware Trust Building, a landmark in the city of Wilmington city; as an active proponent of horse racing in Delaware, organizer of the Delaware Steeplechase and Race Association, and as the designer of the race track in Stanton, New Castle County. Companies' records pertaining to his real estate in the area on the border of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware show the development of farm land and entrepreneurship in animal culture, foxhunting, and Thoroughbred horse racing. While the majority of William du Pont, Jr.'s land holdings were situated in this area, his companies also operated farms and stables in Virginia, New York, and California, which are also documented in the series.

The amount of records varies for each company. Some companies' activities are fully described in documents that encompass the entire time of their existence, while other companies' records are only fragmentary. Most of the subseries is organized alphabetically by the name of the company and includes administrative and financial records (minute books, account books, certificates of incorporation and dissolution), tax returns with working papers, and correspondence and receipts for paid invoices. Farming and animal breeding companies' records include operating statements, investment companies-statements of transactions, and land development companies-deeds for property, which sometimes include documents from the nineteenth century with maps, plans and descriptions of tracks of land.

Numerous trade catalogs found within the files provide a valuable source of information about the products used by William du Pont, Jr. and his companies in construction, property maintenance and furnishing, and farming and livestock care. Papers related to the construction of the Westover Hills development, Delaware Trust Building and Delaware Trust Company branch bank buildings, race track at Stanton, and dwellings at his properties at Bellevue (Delaware), Newtown Square (Pennsylvania), Saratoga Springs (New York), and Walnut Hall (near Boyce, Virginia) are accompanied by architectural and construction drawings, blueprints, and photographs.

William du Pont, Jr.'s files include articles from local newspapers on the history of the du Pont family and the state of company business and finance; clippings on horse racing; numerous photographs of purebred livestock, horses, and foxhounds, which either belonged to his stables and kennels, or which were of interest to him.

This is a unique collection which documents the active life and business interests of William du Pont, Jr. His enterprises spread across the area and impacted the landscape and local businesses. His papers can be used for a range of interests, including local and business history, real estate development, livestock and horse farming, and social life and customs of the influential and wealthy in twentieth-century America.


339 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Additional Description

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

These records are located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at

Related Names


Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA