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William du Pont, Sr. papers

1891-1905
 Collection
Identifier: 2724

Abstract

William du Pont (1855-1928) was an industrialist and member of the promienent du Pont family of Delaware, whose family business was the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, also known as the DuPont Company which was a large manufacturer of gunpowder. He worked for the first DuPont dynamite manufacturer, Repauno Chemical Company, as secretary and treasurer (1880-1884) and after the tragic death of Lammot du Pont (1831-1884), as president (1884-1892). This small group of papers encompass both correspondence and various financial and investment accounts, largely covering his ten years spent in England after leaving the United States in 1893.

Dates

  • 1891-1905

Creator

Extent

2 Linear Feet

Biographical note

William du Pont (1855-1928) was an industrialist and member of the promienent du Pont family of Delaware, whose family business was the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, also known as the DuPont Company which was a large manufacturer of gunpowder. He was the youngest son of Louisa Gerhard du Pont (1816-1900) and General Henry du Pont (1812-1889), who was the third president of the DuPont Company. From 1869 to 1872, William du Pont attended the Lake Mohegan boarding school in New York State, and in 1872, he was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, he left MIT at the beginning of the 1873 spring semester due to medical problems with his eye.

William du Pont became involved in the family business in 1876. As an assistant to his father, DuPont Company president Henry du Pont, he managed the company's farms, developing skills instrumental in his future activities in horse and cattle breeding. His work in explosives manufacturing began in 1880, when he was appointed to help his cousin Lammot du Pont (1831-1884) in the first du Pont high explosives (dynamite) enterprise, Repauno Chemical Company. At first, William du Pont was the company's secretary and treasurer (1880-1884); then, after Lammot du Pont's tragic death on March 29, 1884, he became president from 1884 to 1892. At the same time, he performed treasurer and presidential duties for the Hercules Powder Company and the Torpedo Company, which were also associated with Lammot du Pont.

After his father died in 1889, he gave up his partnership in the DuPont Company and resigned from Repauno, Hercules and the Torpedo companies. In 1914, he returned for a short period of time to active duty as the director and the chairman of the Financial Committee of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours Powder Company. However, in March 1916, together with his cousin Alfred I. du Pont (1864-1935), he was expelled from the committee and the board due to their conflict with the company's new president, his coutsin Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954). William du Pont's last involvement with the explosives industry was his investment and directorship, from 1919 through 1926, in the U.S. Flashless Powder Company (a.k.a. U.S.F. Powder Company), a company organized by his cousins Francis I. du Pont (1873-1942) and Ernest du Pont (1880-1944) to develop and manufacture powder for night gunfire.

In 1916, William du Pont, together with his cousin Alfred I. du Pont, bought the Delaware Trust Company. He remained affiliated with it for the next twelve years as its vice president (1916-1920), president (1920-1922), and chairman of the board (1923-1928). From 1917, he was on the board of directors of the United States Fidelity and Guarantee Company of Baltimore, also. His previous involvement in the banking business included service on the board of directors and on the Executive Committee of the Equitable Guarantee & Trust Company of Wilmington, Delaware in the late 1880s through the early 1890s.

As for his personal life, in 1878, William du Pont married his cousin May Lammot du Pont (1854-1927), the daughter of Victor du Pont (1828-1888) and Alice Hounsfield du Pont (1833-1904). The couple divorced in 1892 in South Dakota. He spent six month in that state in order to have residency for the divorce. In June 1892, he married Annie Rogers Zinn (1858-1927), the daughter of the locomotive maker Theodore Rogers (1829-1871) and Mary Andrews Rogers (1836-1918). Annie Rogers Zinn was the divorced wife of George Zinn (1842-1899) of New Castle, Delaware. William and Annie du Pont, alienated by the du Pont family and Wilmington society, left the United States and settled in Europe for ten years. The couple had two children: a daughter, Marion du Pont Somerville Scott (1894-1983) and a son, William du Pont Jr. (1896-1965), and supported a son from her previous marriage, George Zinn (1883-1929). While living in England, the family maintained their home at "Bellevue Hall" near Wilmington, and in 1900, purchased a home in Virginia named "Montpelier," formerly owned by the fourth President of the United States, James Madison. The family moved there in the beginning of 1902.

du Pont was affiliated through founding and board positions in the banking and railroad industry. He played a significant role in the American horse and cattle breeding industry. He performed judging duties at numerous horse shows around the country and financed prizes and awards. Also, he was a member of various hunting, yachting, and social clubs. As a member of the American Game Protective and Propagation Association, William du Pont worked in support of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

William du Pont died on January 20, 1928, at his estate Altama, near Brunswick, Georgia. His wife, Annie Rogers du Pont, had died in London a year earlier on January 22, 1927.

Arrangement

The William du Pont, Sr. papers are arranged into two series:

Series I: Finances, is divided into two subseries, each arranged chronologically.

Series II: Correspondence, is divided into five subseries, each arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content

This small collection of William du Pont’s papers primarily document his active business life between 1895 and 1905, encompassing both correspondence and various financial and investment accounts. The papers partially fill in a missing ten-year gap of correspondence and business records absent in Accession 2317 (group 1), William du Pont papers, and largely cover his ten years spent in England after leaving the United States in 1893.

The first series includes business correspondence, invoices, and other material related to William du Pont’s finances and banking investments in both England and the United States. Included are notices of cash deposits, accounts, and currency exchanges. Other material reflects his various investments in street railways in Wilmington and Chester, Pennsylvania, real estate, and powder companies, as well as his membership in various horse and cattle breeding societies and related organizations.

The second series mostly encompasses incoming personal correspondence from family members. However, a large portion consists of letters from Charles King Lennig (1869-1940), William du Pont’s personal secretary who cared for his assets within the United States. Lennig’s letters and cablegrams informed William about his properties and rents, landscaping, estate maintenance, horses and cattle, and local investments and accounts. There are also incoming letters from William’s wife Annie, as well as his cousin Julia Sophie du Pont (1877-1952) regarding various family affairs. Letters from John Sedgwick Andrews (1873-1962), William’s second cousin-in-law who acted as an overseer at the family’s Montpelier estate in Orange, Virginia, include such topics as business and family matters, property maintenance and repairs, and concerns regarding the raising and breeding of horses and cattle.

Lastly, a small group of miscellaneous correspondence covers such topics as William’s purchase of yachts, rent of an estate at Binfield Park in England, household supplies and furniture, announcements of upcoming events, and professional societies. Of note are cabin plans for the Cunard Line steamships Campania and Lucania, as well as plans for the White Star Line's twin screw steamer, the Baltic.

Related Material

William du Pont papers (Accession 2317, Group I), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
William du Pont, Sr. papers
Status:
Online
Author:
Dave Burdash; Clayton J. Ruminski
Date:
2018
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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