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P.S. du Pont office collection

1797-1952
 Collection
Accession: 0501

Abstract

Pierre Samuel "P.S." du Pont (1870-1954) was president of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (more commonly known as the DuPont Company or simply DuPont) 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. He was also an avid collector of documents on the early history of the du Pont family and the DuPont Company. This collection contains elements which were selected from both company and family papers. The material was lodged in du Pont's Wilmington office for a number of years prior to his death in 1954.

Dates

  • 1797-1952

Creator

Extent

14.3 Linear Feet

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. (more commonly known as the DuPont Company or simply DuPont) from 1915 to 1919 and chairman of the board from 1919 to 1940. P.S. du Pont was the great-grandson of Eleuthère Irénée 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). He was also an avid collector of documents on the early history of the du Pont family and the DuPont Company.

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 to cut 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, 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.

Scope and Contents

This collection was formed by Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) in connection with his study of company and family history. It contains elements that were selected from both company and family papers. The material was lodged in his Wilmington office for a number of years prior to his death in 1954. Elements that were readily identifiable as company archives, especially certain business books, were transferred to the records of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (Accession 0500). The remaining portion of the collection for which precise provenance could not be established was left intact to form this collection.

Series I, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company outgoing correspondence comprises volumes of transcriptions of company letterbooks that P.S. du Pont had completed. The letterbook numbers listed in this finding aid correspond to the volume numbers of the original letterbooks in the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company records (Accession 0500.I). There is also one box of original outgoing correspondence.

Series II, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company incoming correspondence is the largest series, comprising about 1500 letters received by E. I. du Pont (1771-1834) and E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. between 1803 and 1923, with the bulk falling between 1820 and 1869. Many are from high government officials and military and naval officers, reflecting company relations with the federal government. Such correspondents include the Navy Yards, U.S. Arsenals, Navy Commissioner Office, Ordnance Department, U.S. Navy Agency, War Department, Indian Trade Office, Inspector of Contract Arms, Treasury Department, and the offices of the U.S. Quartermaster General's Office.

Series III, Du Pont family businesses and personal correspondence consists of correspondence not directed to or from the DuPont Company but still relating to the company, family, and the ancillary textile factories established in the early nineteenth century near the DuPont mills. Of particular note is a 1911 letter from artist Howard Pyle (1853-1911) regarding his painting of a DuPont powder wagon on route to Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

Series IV, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company and du Pont family miscellany consists of a variety of materials relating to the business and personal affairs of the du Pont family. These include incorporation papers and partnership agreements for the formation and merger of the various du Pont firms (1801-1914), including the ancillary textile and leather operations. Also included in this series are legal papers concerning the suit of Peter Bauduy (1769-1833) vs. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.; fragmentary early accounts on the sale and shipment of powder; Henry du Pont's (1812-1889) accounts as supervisor of roads for Christiana Hundred (1842-1843); a collection of patents and related correspondence concerning electrical blasting apparatus and other inventions of Henry Julius Smith (1844-1901); formulas for smokeless powder; inventories of the New Orleans powder factory of J. C. Dalmas (1776-1859) and Charles François Parent from 1808; weaver's books of Du Planty, McCall & Co. (1817-1819); time books and account books of Samuel Kirk for the building and operation of the Barley Mill near Wilmington, Delaware (1825-1827); miscellaneous reports of the Industrial Relations Department of the DuPont Company (1928-1936); rules of the Gunpowder Trade Association; testimonials and awards given to the DuPont Company (1920-1939).

Series IV also contains typescript histories of several powder companies later absorbed by DuPont, including the Hazard Powder Company, the Laflin & Rand Powder Company, the Phoenix Powder Manufacturing Company, and a diary of the Repauno Chemical Company (1882-1893). Other historical scripts include notes on the use of high explosives in blasting rocks at Hell Gate in New York City, on the manufacture of black powder in the first DuPont mills, and on the early DuPont Conestoga powder wagons. Du Pont family miscellany describes E. I. du Pont's interest in botany and breeding Merino sheep. Notes on Lammot du Pont (1831-1884) include his trips to purchase saltpeter in England during the Civil War. There is also a biographical note on John Harrison (1773-1833), a Philadelphia chemist, along with one of his day books recording the sale of drugs and other medical supplies to Philadelphia area physicians and hospitals.

The Repauno Chemical is represented by a scrapbook with parchment and paraffin wrapper samples and a letterbook of company official William du Pont (1855-1928) dating from 1886 to 1896. Other scrapbooks (1856-1918, 16 volumes) contain articles relating to company history, explosives and explosions, smokeless powder, gun club tournaments, and samples of powder keg labels. There is a typescript on the derivation of the DuPont Company's oval logo.

Series IV also includes a number of summary histories, including a history of explosions at the Brandywine Mills (1815-1902) compiled by Francis Gurney du Pont (1850-1904), along with a one-volume record of his experiments with water wheels from 1877 to 1879. There are several volumes of notes on tests, accidents, and other activities at the Carney's Point Plant and notes on smokeless powder by F.G. and P.S. du Pont. The series also contains fragmentary records of several social organizations. These include the Brandywine Club, organized by DuPont Company employees in 1893 and housed in the original Eleutherian Mills mansion, the DuPont Employees Association (1910), and the Brandywine Temperance Society (1831-1839), including minutes and lists of members.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Related Materials

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company records (Accession 0500, Series I), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English

French


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
P.S. du Pont office collection
Status:
Date:
1975
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2022: Encoded by Angela Schad

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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