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Hugh Rodney Sharp papers regarding P. S. du Pont's estate

1954-1957
 Collection
Accession: 2719

Abstract

Pierre Samuel "P.S." du Pont (1870-1954) was the great-grandson of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834), founder of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, and that company played a major role in P.S. du Pont's life. He is most well-known for developing the preeminent botanical gardens, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The P. S. du Pont estate papers document the distribution of physical items from his Longwood estate in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in the years following his death.

Dates

  • 1954-1957

Extent

0.1 Linear Foot

Biographical Note

Pierre Samuel "P.S." du Pont (1870-1954) was an industrialist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He was president of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. from 1915 to 1919 and chairman of the board from 1919 to 1940. P.S. du Pont was the great-grandson of Eleuthere Irenee du Pont (1771-1834), founder of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, and the great-great-grandson and namesake of the French economist, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817).

Born in 1870, P.S. du Pont was the third child and eldest son of Mary Belin (1839-1913) and Lammot du Pont (1831-1884). P.S. du Pont had ten siblings; four brothers and six sisters, two of whom died at a young age. The patriarch of the family, Lammot du Pont, was a chemist and the inventor of B blasting powder, using Chilean sodium nitrate instead of the previously used potassium nitrate (saltpeter) from India. In 1879, Lammot du Pont resigned from the DuPont Company and formed the Repauno Chemical Company to manufacture high explosives. The family moved from the Brandywine to Philadelphia and lived at 3500 Powelton Avenue. Lammot du Pont died in an explosion on March 29, 1884. In 1892, Mary Belin du Pont had a family home built called Saint Amour in Wilmington, Delaware.

du Pont graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1890 and became assistant superintendent of the du Pont Company's black powder mills in Delaware. In 1901, he hired John J. Raskob (1879-1950) as his personal secretary. du Pont had met Raskob while managing and later overseeing the liquidation of the Johnson Company in Lorain, Ohio.

In 1902, he worked with two cousins, T. Coleman du Pont (1863-1930) and Alfred I. du Pont (1864-1935), to reorganize the du Pont Company. With T. Coleman as president, Pierre became vice president, treasurer, and assistant secretary. As a member of the finance committee, he played a pivotal role in reorganizing the company into a large, modern corporation. In 1915, P.S. du Pont purchased T. Coleman du Pont's stock and became president of the company. He was also elected director of the General Motors Company, which at the time was near bankruptcy. Working with Alfred Sloan (1875-1966), he reorganized the company and, in 1920, replaced William C. Durant (1861-1947) as president.

Early in 1906, a lumber mill was intending on cutting down several hundred acres of trees in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. This prompted du Pont to purchase 200 acres of former farmland with the intention of saving the trees. The farm had belonged to five generations of the Peirce family before falling into disrepair and off to a non-familial ownership. In 1914, du Pont completed the Peirce-du Pont house or Longwood Mansion. In 1919, construction began on the main conservatory. Over time, du Pont drew on his interest in horticulture and developed several different types of gardens, greenhouses, fountains, a ballroom, a music room, an organ, and a theater. du Pont and his wife Alice Belin du Pont (1872-1944) hosted many garden parties, family affairs, and events for several organizations. Prior to his death in 1954, du Pont established a foundation for the arboretum and botanical gardens, Longwood Gardens. Longwood Gardens is open to the public and attracts over 1 million visitors per year.

Along with an active business career, du Pont was involved in social issues and philanthropic concerns. In the 1920s, he was a pivotal member of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. In the years between 1934 and 1941, he was a member of the American Liberty League. du Pont was also concerned with issues in his native state of Delaware; these included improving African-American education and building better roads, especially on Kennett Pike.

P.S. du Pont married Alice Belin (1872-1944) in 1915, died without issue in 1954.

Biographical Note

Hugh Rodney Sharp Jr. (1909-1990) was an American businessman who most notably served on the DuPont Company board of directors from 1952 until his retirement in 1982. Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Sharp was the son of Hugh Rodney Sharp Sr. (1880-1968), and Isabella Mathieu du Pont (1882-1946), and a great-great-grandson of DuPont Company founder, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours (1771-1834). After the death of his uncle Pierre Samuel du Pont in 1954, Sharp, along with his cousin Irénée du Pont, Jr. (1920- ), were named executors of their late uncle’s Longwood estate in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Scope and Contents

The P. S. du Pont (1870-1954) estate papers document the distribution of physical items from his Longwood estate in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in the years following his death. Included are terms of settlement, agendas, and meeting minutes from the “Committee of Eight,” a group formed under the stipulation of P. S. du Pont’s will for the distribution of his personal items by immediate family. The accompanying distribution lists include inventories of furniture, silverware, tableware, paintings, and alcoholic beverages such as liqueurs, wine, and whiskey. Family members were encouraged to submit their personal preference for each item, which is included on the inventories in numerical order.

Correspondence is largely limited to brief exchanges between Hugh R. Sharp Jr. (1909-1990), executor, and Frank L. Battan (1904-1983), former secretary to P. S. du Pont and Assistant Director of Longwood Library from 1955 to 1961, regarding various aspects of the distribution process. Furthermore, there are proposed distribution lists for items to be sent to the Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation and the Longwood Foundation, as well as Committee rulings for undistributed items.

Access Restrictions

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

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Hugh Rodney Sharp papers regarding P. S. du Pont's estate
Status:
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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