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Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours and Eleuthère Irénée du Pont letters (photocopies)

1791 1801 1802
Accession: 0265


Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) was a French political economist, writer, publisher, and public administrator. His son, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834), established E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., a black powder manufacturer, on the Brandywine River in Delaware. The collection contains photocopies of three letters of du Pont de Nemours du Pont to Etienne Alexandre Jacques Anisson du Perron (1749-1794) and Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847). The letters concern printing, natural sciences, and requesting scientific journals and bulletins.


  • 1791
  • 1801
  • 1802



3 item(s)

Biographical Note

Eleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834), the son of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817), was born in Paris on June 24, 1771. In 1787, he was accepted as a student in the Regis des Poudres, a government agency for the manufacture of gunpowder which was directed by Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794). In 1800 Eleuthère Irénée du Pont emigrated to the United States and began investigating sites for a black powder manufactory. After consulting with Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) he established E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. on the bank of the Brandywine River, just north of Wilmington, Delaware. In the spring of 1803 he settled his family at Eleutherian Mills and wrote to Jefferson seeking government patronage for his new powder factory. During the 1810s du Pont was active in the Society of the State of Delaware for the Promotion of American Manufacturers, where he lobbied Congress for high tariffs. In 1822 he was named a director of the Bank of the United States. Eleuthère Irénée du Pont died in Philadelphia on October 31, 1834.

Biographical Note

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) was a French political economist, writer, publisher, and public administrator. He was an advocate for a national educational system and promoted Franco-American trade relations.

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours was born in Paris on December 14, 1739. He was apprenticed as a watchmaker, but during the early 1760s he began to study and write on economic matters. In 1767, du Pont de Nemours coined the term "physiocracy," which means the rule of nature, to describe the complex doctrine of French economist François Quesnay (1694-1774), which is now recognized as the first modern school of economics.

In July 1774, the family departed for Poland, where du Pont de Nemours was to serve the Polish monarch in various capacities, including that of honorary councilor. He was shortly recalled to France, however, and commissioned as Inspecteur Général du Commerce, a position he held until its abolition in 1788. During the late 1770s, he was an economic advisor to Jacques Necker (1732-1804), a Genevan banker who served as finance minister for King Louis XVI (1754-1793), from 1789 to 1790, but held a number of other posts in regards to finances for the royal treasury between 1777 and 1789.

In the early 1780s, du Pont de Nemours was involved in the negotiations that led to the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty of 1786. The treaty reduced tariffs on goods between France and Britain. In 1786, he was appointed Counseiller d'Etat by King Louis XVI; in this position he acted as a government official of administrative law. The following year he served as secretary of the first Assemblée des Notables, convened at Versailles to consult on matters of state.

At the onset of the French Revolution, du Pont de Nemours served as a member of the Assemblée Nationale Constituante (1789-1791). The purpose of the assembly was to discuss a new constitution and taxation system. He allied himself with the moderate Girondist faction. Girondists were initially part of the Jacobin movement. The Jacobin Club were anti-royalists who supported the abolition of the monarchy, the creation of parliament, the introduction of a constitution, the separation of powers, and the establishment of a republic. The Girondins supported the end of the monarchy, however, they were not for the revolution and most opposed the execution of the King, who was arrested in August 1792 and put to death on January 21, 1793.

After the leader of the Jacobin party, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), took power, Girondin deputies and members of other opposing movements were arrested, put on trial, and many were executed. This time period is known as the Reign of Terror. Du Pont de Nemours was arrested in July 1794, but he escaped the guillotine upon Robespierre's fall at the end of the month.

In 1795, he was chosen as a member of the Counseil des Anciens (Council of Elders), which was the upper house of the French legislature. Following the coup d'état of September 4, 1795, he was again arrested and held for one night.

The du Ponts began to explore the possibility of emigration to the United States. On January 3, 1800, accompanied by his sons, Victor Marie du Pont (1767-1827) and Eleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834), he arrived in America. Du Pont de Nemours and his sons established the commission house of Du Pont de Nemours, Père et Fils & Cie. in New York.

Du Pont de Nemours and his wife, Françoise Robin de Poivre (1748-1841), returned to France in 1802, where he held various government posts under Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). In 1814, he became a member of the provisional government that deposed Napoleon and exiled him to Elba. Upon Napoleon's return, du Pont de Nemours again fled to America, where he died at the home of his son, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, in Delaware on August 7, 1817. In 1800, Victor Marie du Pont established a trading company, Victor du Pont de Nemours & Co.

Scope and Contents

Photocopies of three letters of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) and Eleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834), one to Etienne Alexandre Jacques Anisson du Perron (1749-1794) and two to Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847). The letter to Anisson du Perron, a printer, in reply to complaints concerning the print shop and certain government contracts for printing. The first letter to Brongniart, a professor of natural history, director of the National Museum of Ceramics, refers to transmitting a letter and a box of insects by Philippe Joseph Letombe and referring to Louis Andre Pichon (1771-1854), French charge d'affaires at Washington. The second letter to Brongniart references transmitting a case of birds and also mentioning the purchase of a site on the Brandywine, in Delaware, for his powder factory, and requesting that he be sent certain journals and scientific bulletins.

Location of Originals

Originals held in Bibliotheque du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.

Access Restrictions

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

Use Restrictions

Not to be reproduced.

Language of Materials


Additional Information

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours and Eleuthère Irénée du Pont letters (photocopies)
John Beverly Riggs
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2021: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA