E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Engineering Department recordsCreation: 1900-1989
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company is a chemical company more commonly known as the DuPont Company. It was established in 1802 and began by manufacturing gunpowder, later moving into chemical compounds. The company's Engineering Department was initially organized in 1903 as a division of the High Explosives Department, with the purpose of designing and constructing high explosives plants, powder machinery, and extensions to existing plants. This collection of DuPont Engineering records is fragmentary in nature. The surviving records are divided into four series that document a wide range of functions and represent several different time periods in the department’s evolution. The series are: Engineering Department history file; Engineering Research Laboratory; Construction Division; and Design Division, Corfam Poromeric Technology.
- Creation: 1900-1989
- E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Engineering Department (Organization)
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E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company is a chemical company more commonly known as the DuPont Company. It was established in 1802 and began by manufacturing gunpowder, later moving into chemical compounds. The company's Engineering Department was initially organized in 1903 as a division of the High Explosives Department, with the purpose of designing and constructing high explosives plants, powder machinery, and extensions to existing plants. The Engineering Division of the High Explosives Department was consolidated with the Black Powder Engineering Division in 1911 to become the Engineering Department.
The first engineering group to perform design and construction work for the DuPont Company was the Manufacturer's Contracting Company, which later became the Construction Division of the Black Powder Department. In 1911, the Construction Division was absorbed by the newly created Engineering Department, along with the Brandywine Shops, responsible for fabricating equipment for the company's smokeless powder plants. In 1920, the Brandywine Shops were closed, and the Betts Machine Company, which had been purchased in 1917 to meet increased production demands during World War I, was reconstituted as the Wilmington Shops. The Wilmington Shops became the manufacturing section of the Construction Division, fabricating special equipment and providing emergency repair service for the company's manufacturing plants.
When the United States entered World War I, the DuPont Company was called upon to build and operate smokeless powder plants for the United States government. In order to handle this unprecedented rush of construction, DuPont created the DuPont Engineering Company. Both the Engineering Company and the Engineering Department employed the same personnel, but only the company performed work for outside war contracts (for example, Atlas Powder Company, Giant Powder Company, Grasselli Powder Company, Hazard Powder Company, Hercules Powder Company, and Judson Powder Company--some of which had been spun off from the DuPont Company due to government regulations) in addition to their work for E. I. du Pont de Nemours. Aside from war contracts, the department also built plants to accommodate the company's twentieth-century growth. In addition to high explosives plants, the Engineering Department constructed plants that manufactured cellophane, rayon, paint developments, dye, and fabrikoid. After the war, the DuPont Engineering Company continued to do outside design and construction work for companies such as General Motors Corporation and the Wilmington City Marine Terminal, but it ceased active work around 1924 after complaints from competing private contractors, and the engineering company was dissolved in 1928. With the United States entering World War II in 1941, the DuPont Powder Company began governmental projects with plants being constructed in support of war efforts.
Following the dissolution of the Engineering Company in 1928, the Engineering Department continued work within the DuPont Powder Company. The department itself was divided into branches of Black Powder and High Explosives, which were then separated further into High Explosives, Smokeless, and Black Powder.
As the DuPont Company diversified its product lines, manufacturing operations became increasingly sophisticated. The Design Division was responsible for adapting plant designs to meet production requirements in light of rapidly advancing technology. Innovative equipment designs made it possible to increase productivity while minimizing material costs. The Design Division was also instrumental in the development of uniform standards for industrial design.
The Industrial Engineering Division was established in 1928 by the merger of the Mechanical Experimental and Operative Engineering divisions. This division was responsible for organizing a task force to develop a reconversion and modernization program at the end of World War II, which stressed the need for technological improvements in production processes to offset higher costs for labor and materials. In 1949, it was renamed the Engineering Service Division. The new division continued to oversee the work of field engineers stationed at company plants, as well as providing additional consulting services to achieve greater efficiency in manufacturing operations.
Recognizing the important contribution of fundamental research, the Engineering Department established a Technical Division at the Experimental Station in 1931. The Chemical Department's Chemical Engineering Section, which had been established in 1929, was merged into the Technical Division in 1935. The Technical Division was renamed the Development Engineering Division in 1945. The division continued to engage in fundamental and applied research at the same Experimental Station site, which was now designated the Engineering Research Laboratory in 1946. The division was renamed the Engineering Research Division in 1960 and the Engineering Research and Development Division in 1969.
In 1985, the Construction and Design divisions were reconstituted as the Project Engineering Division. The name of the department was renamed DuPont Engineering in 1990.
Scope and Contents
This collection of DuPont Engineering records is fragmentary in nature. The surviving records are divided into four series that document a wide range of functions and represent several different time periods in the department’s evolution.
Series I contains the Engineering Department history files, which are divided into two sub-series: Subject files and Buildings files. These records were originally compiled at the direction of J.L. Dykes, supervisor of records management, and stored at a department information center. The bulk of this material is contained in Sub-series A, Subject files. These records, arranged alphabetically, document the growth and development of the department and the breadth of programs and activities in which it was engaged. Included in these files are progress reports from the Engineering Research Laboratory. There are reports from the Chemical Engineering Group and the Technical Division before they were merged together, as well as reports from the consolidated research laboratory. This sub-series also contains records of the Year-In-Industry Program. This program was created to allow engineering school faculty to spend their sabbatical year working in a DuPont research facility in order to gain a better understanding of the skills that engineering graduates were expected to possess when they entered private industry. Sub-series B, Buildings files, contains records documenting the construction and expansion of the Louviers Building, the Red Mill Road Building, and the Wabash River Ordnance Works.
Series II contains the records of the Engineering Research Laboratory. Sub-series A contains the Engineering Department reprints file, which consists of reprints of journal articles and conference papers. These articles and papers were either authored by department employees or related to subjects pertinent to research being conducted by the department. Sub-series B contains speeches by Engineering Department employees regarding the latest developments at the Engineering Research Laboratory.
Series III contains the records of the Construction Division. Sub-series A contains the Wilmington Shops order books. These volumes document job orders received and completed by the shop, mostly involving routine fabrication and repair of production machinery. Sub-series B contains defense construction files. These files include correspondence of chief engineer Everett G. Ackart regarding national defense construction projects and correspondence of R.E. Burton, manager of the Control Division, regarding Atomic Bomb Program Awards presented by the Army Corps of Engineers. Also included in these files are monthly payment estimates and correspondence regarding the construction of the Hanford Engineer Works. Sub-series C contains war construction project histories. These reports document the design and construction of facilities owned by the United States government for the manufacture of various military explosives, as well as the conversion of DuPont Company plants for the production of other materials deemed critical to the successful prosecution of the war. Sub-series D contains the files of Erling Bertrand, an engineer with the Calco Chemical Division of the American Cyanamid Company. These files include reports, memoranda, and blueprints related to the design and construction of an ammonia evaporator for a proposed nitric acid plant. Sub-series E contains the systems development files. These files include studies regarding the development of a comprehensive project scheduling system and the use of data processing equipment to develop more efficient production methods.
Series IV contains the records of the Design Division regarding Corfam, a poromeric material developed by DuPont researchers that exhibited properties comparable to the fibrous structure of leather. These records consist of instruction manuals included as part of a technical information package assembled for the Polish firm Polimex-Cekop, Ltd.
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- E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Engineering Department records
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