E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company Pontchartrain Works records1946-1997
E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's Pontchartrain Works in LaPlace, Louisiana, was a major producer of Neoprene and other elastomers in the latter half of the twentieth century. The records consist of manuals, technical reports, brochures, bulletins, and other material from Du Pont's Louisville Works, Montague Works, and its Maydown Works located in the United Kingdom. Most documents were created by the company's Elastomer Chemicals Department and deal with the manufacture of various synthetic rubbers in the 1950s and 1960s.
1.5 Linear Feet
E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company’s Pontchartrain Works began production in La Place, Louisiana, in the late 1950s or early 1960s, where the company initially produced adiponitrile, an organic compound used in the production of polyamide 6-6, a raw material for the plastics industry. DuPont first commercialized the production of adiponitrile in the late 1930s, the process being the basis for numerous plants opened in the 1940s and 1950s. The process initially used adipic acid, but DuPont later abandoned that method in favor of a process based on butadiene, an industrial chemical used as a monomer in the production of synthetic rubber. Nevertheless, adiponitrile production at the Pontchartrain Works was reduced when DuPont constructed a neoprene plant there in 1968-69.
Neoprene, developed by DuPont in 1930-31, was the only general-purpose synthetic rubber in commercial manufacture by the start of the Second World War. Production of neoprene and other synthetic rubbers was delegated to the Elastomer Chemicals Department, which also manufactured numerous organic compounds essential to neoprene production such as chlorobutadiene and monovinylacetylene. Mass production of neoprene followed. In 1941, the company broke ground on a plant for manufacturing the product in Louisville, Kentucky, which by 1967 employed over 2,000. In 1942, the U.S. Government purchased the plant, though DuPont remained in control of general operations until repurchasing the facility in 1948. By the late 1950s, the company expanded production at the Louisville Works to include Freon and aerosol propellants.
In addition to the Louisville and Pontchartrain plants, DuPont opened yet another facility for neoprene production at Montague, Michigan, in 1956. Along with neoprene, the plant produced various polymers by emulsion polymerization, including chloroprene and latex. However, these operations were terminated in 1972. In 1965, the Montague Works began the manufacture of Freon, propellants, and solvents. In 1960, DuPont expanded its neoprene production internationally with the opening of the Maydown Works in Northern Ireland, the company’s first European plant. DuPont later diversified the Maydown Plant’s product when it began manufacturing Orlon acrylic fibers in 1968, Lycra in 1969, and eventually Hypalon, a synthetic rubber made from chlorinated and sulfonated polyethylene.
The Louisville, Pontchartrain, Montague, and Maydown Works were DuPont’s primary facilities for the production of neoprene throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. However, in the past twenty years, the company has faced pressure to shed divisions in order to focus on faster-growing product lines. The Montague Works remained operational until 1996, when the company shut down the plant entirely. Two years later the manufacturing facility was demolished. Throughout the late twentieth century, the company faded out neoprene, Orlon, and Lycra manufacturing at its Maydown plant in favor of Kevlar production. Lastly, DuPont ceased operations at its Louisville Works in 2008, thus concentrating neoprene production at the Pontchartrain facility in Louisiana. In 2014, DuPont sold neoprene to a joint venture led by Denki Kagaku Kogyo of Japan. The Pontchartrain plant continues to operate in some capacity, as it also houses DuPont Protection Technologies, which manufactures Kevlar.
This collection is arranged alphabetically by document type or subject, and then chronologically.
Scope and Content
The records mainly consist of technical reports, brochures, bulletins, and data books that originate from E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's Pontchartrain Works in LaPlace, Louisiana, but primarily focus on the company's neoprene-producing plants in Louisville, Kentucky; Montague, Michigan; and Maydown, Northern Ireland. Indeed, very few documents actually deal with the Pontchartrain Works. It is likely that the offices of the Pontchartrain facility served as records storage for the company's other facilities when they were finally closed. The bulk of the documents include numerous technical process manuals produced by DuPont's Elastomer Chemicals Department on the manufacture of organic chemicals such as chlorobutadiene, a colorless liquid that polymerizes to neoprene, as well as others used in manufacturing synthetic rubbers. In addition, process flow sheets and charts visually depict the method and machinery used to manufacture neoprene and other chemicals. Of particular note is a 1946 survey of the Louisville Works created by DuPont for the eventual reacquisition of the plant from the U.S. Government, as well as a proposal for the manufacture of Hypalon synthetic rubber created for the USSR.
Aside from chemical manufacturing, there is a smaller amount of material on safety procedures, DuPont's incineration technology as a means of industrial waste management, environmental policy and pollution prevention, and energy conservation. These are largely in the form of brochures, newsletters, and bulletins sent out by the company to probable clients.
This collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company Pontchartrain Works photographs (Accession 2017.201), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Pontchartrain Works records
- Clayton J. Ruminski
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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