Skip to main content

Eleuthère Irénée du Pont and his wife, Sophie Dalmas du Pont, papers

1771-1922
 Collection
Accession: WMSS-IV

Abstract

Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours (1771–1834) was a French American chemist and industrialist who founded the gunpowder manufacturer E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. E.I. du Pont married Sophie Dalmas du Pont (1775-1828) in 1791; the couple had eight children, one of whom died in infancy. This collection of papers includes outbound and inbound correspondence covering personal and business matters. These include personal accounts, writings and memoirs, legal documents, and miscellany, of which the majority are accounts. There are papers of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. that date from 1802 to 1850 and include correspondence (drafts, retained copies, and letters received), contracts and other legal documents, accounts, bills and receipts, checks, promissory notes, bills of exchange, drafts, and certain miscellaneous notes and memoranda.

Dates

  • 1771-1922

Creator

Extent

8 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours (1771–1834) was a French American chemist and industrialist who founded the gunpowder manufacturer E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. The son of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817), Eleuthère Irénée, or E.I., was born in Paris on June 24, 1771. In 1787, he was accepted as a student at the Régie des Poudres, a government agency for the manufacture of gunpowder, directed by Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794). In 1800, he emigrated to the United States, where he, his father, and brother, Victor Marie du Pont (1767-1827), established the commission house Du Pont de Nemours, Père et Fils & Cie.

After consulting with Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), E.I. du Pont established E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. in 1802 on the bank of the Brandywine River, just north of Wilmington, Delaware, and dissolved the New York commission house, which was only marginally profitable. In the spring of 1803, he settled his family at Eleutherian Mills and wrote to Jefferson seeking government patronage for his new powder factory.

By the War of 1812, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., which had adopted European technology to the American environment, had become one of the largest powder producers in the United States. E.I. du Pont and his sons were active in Whig Party politics, as they were supporters of high protective tariffs. On this and other issues he strongly identified with Henry Clay. In 1822, E.I. du Pont was named director of the Bank of the United States, a position he held until shortly before his death.

Sophie Madeleine Dalmas (1775-1828) was the daughter of Sophie Marie Madeleine Gentil (1744-circa 1829) and Jean François Dalmas (1740-1808). E.I. du Pont and Sophie Dalmas du Pont married in 1791; the couple had eight children, one of whom died in infancy. After their marriage, Sophie du Pont lived at the du Pont family estate, Bois des Fossés, with her father-in-law while her husband worked in his father's printing shop in Paris. When her father-in-law was arrested and imprisoned in Paris in 1794, Sophie du Pont left her eldest child at Bois des Fossés with family members and went to Paris, where she remained until his release a month later. She and other family members left France in 1799, arrived in the United States in 1800, and established housekeeping in Bergen Point, New Jersey. The family relocated north of Wilmington, Delaware, along the Brandywine in 1802 and built their home, Eleutherian Mills, a gunpowder manufactory. Sophie du Pont suffered a concussion as a result of an explosion at the mills in 1818, never fully recovering; she died at Eleutherian Mills in 1828.

Scope and Contents

This collection includes the outbound and inbound correspondence of Éleuthère Irénée du Pont and his wife, Sophie Madeleine Dalmas du Pont, covering personal and business matters. These include personal accounts, writings and memoirs, legal documents, and miscellany, of which the majority are accounts. There are also papers of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. that date from 1802 to 1850 and include correspondence (drafts, retained copies, and letters received), contracts and other legal documents, accounts, bills and receipts, checks, promissory notes, bills of exchange, drafts, and certain miscellaneous notes and memoranda.

E.I. du Pont's correspondence relates to both personal and business matters. The letters dating before 1800, prior to E.I. du Pont's arrival in America, are concerned with the career of his father and brother. After 1800, much of the correspondence concerns the founding and operation of the powder mills on the Brandywine. There are references to French and American politics, Thomas Jefferson's criticism of Napoleon in 1812, and the visit of Lafayette to the United States in 1824.

The personal papers contain household accounts, bills and receipts, and promissory notes. Also included are writings and memoirs dating from 1771 to 1830. E.I. du Pont's writings include botanical notes; a memorandum entitled, "Etat des citoyens employés à l'imprimerie du C. du Pont pour les assignats de 10 sous," listing names and addresses of employees; a memorandum concerning crops and livestock; and a copy made by E.I. du Pont while a student of Jean Joseph Rousseau, "Lettres élémentaries sur la botanique à Madame de Luxembourg."

Sophie Dalmas du Pont's papers primarily consist of outgoing correspondence, most of it written to her husband and her eldest child, Victorine du Pont Bauduy (1792-1861). The correspondence after their arrival in the United States documents her role in the family's black powder business. She wrote to her husband while he was away and kept him apprised of the work at the mills and on the farm, paid bills and oversaw the accounting, corresponded with customers, and entertained visiting business travelers, as well as family and friends. Her letters to Victorine were usually written while her daughter attended Madame Rivardi's school or visited friends in Philadelphia and reflect a close mother-daughter relationship.

Accounts consist of Sophie du Pont's household account books dating from 1801 to 1802 and various bills and receipts that document expenditures for groceries, clothing, and personal items. There is also a bill for Victorine's tuition and expenses.

The papers relating to E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company date from 1802 to 1850. They contain correspondence with customers, including representatives of the U.S. Navy; the Bureau of Ordnance; and the Frankford, Washington, and Harpers Ferry arsenals. These letters discuss experiments with saltpeter and other raw materials, formulas for gunpowder manufacture, and safety concerns. Other files document company finances, efforts to raise capital, relationships with foreign producers, and experiments with turbines by Alfred V. du Pont and Ellwood Morris. Names marked with asterisks denote company agents.

Existence and Location of Copies

View selected items online in Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance Note

The Henry Francis du Pont collection of Winterthur Manuscripts (WMSS) contains the personal papers of those portions of the Du Pont family that descended to Colonel Henry Algernon du Pont (1838-1926) and his son, Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969) of Winterthur. Between 1949 and 1957, the bulk of this collection was deposited at the Longwood Library, where it joined a similar collection of family papers assembled by Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) known as the Longwood Manuscripts (LMSS), also now held at Hagley Museum and Library. The papers of Henry Francis du Pont remain at Winterthur.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Eleuthère Irénée du Pont and his wife, Sophie Madeleine Dalmas du Pont, papers
Status:
Author:
John Beverley Riggs; Lynn Ann Catanese
Date:
1970; 1997
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2022: Laurie Sather

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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