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Pierre Samuel "P.S." du Pont acquisitions

1438-1921
 Collection
Accession: LMSS-VIII

Abstract

Pierre Samuel "P.S." du Pont (1870-1954) was an industrialist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He was president of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company from 1915 to 1919 and chairman of the board of directors 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). During the early 1920s, P.S. du Pont became an active collector of Du Pont materials, and bought several important bodies of manuscripts from French dealers. This collection consists of manuscripts he collected that are primarily concerned with Du Pont de Nemours, the Physiocrats, the French Revolution, and the antecedents of the Du Ponts and allied families in France. The collection also contains the Wilmington & Kennett Turnpike Co. records dating from 1811 to 1921 that were acquired by P.S. du Pont from 1919 to 1920 when he purchased the company's stock, widened the road, and turned over its administration to the Delaware State Highway Department.

Dates

  • 1438-1921

Creator

Extent

14 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 & Company from 1915 to 1919 and chairman of the board of directors 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).

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.

P.S 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, P.S. 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 intended to cut down several hundred acres of trees in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. This prompted P.S. 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 non-familial ownership. In 1914, P.S 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, P.S du Pont established a foundation for the arboretum and botanical gardens: Longwood Gardens. Longwood Gardens is open to the public and attracts more than 1 million visitors per year.

Along with an active business career, P.S. du Pont was involved in social issues and philanthropic concerns. During 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 died without children in 1954.

Historical Note

The Wilmington & Kennett Turnpike Company's purpose was to construct and operate a turnpike road from Wilmington to the Pennsylvania state line near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The company was incorporated in Delaware on January 21, 1811. The first four miles opened on October 8, 1812, and the balance on January 13, 1813. The company was owned primarily by the adjoining landowners, including many members of the Du Pont family. From 1919 to 1920, Pierre S. du Pont purchased the entire stock, and widened and improved the road. He turned it over to the Delaware State Highway Department in 1921. It is now Delaware State Highway Route 52.

Arrangement

The papers are physically arranged alphabetically by donor/seller. However, for the sake of convenience, they are listed alphabetically by creator in the finding aid.

Scope and Contents

This collection has been arranged into two series: Manuscripts and Wilmington & Kennett Turnpike Co. records.

The Manuscripts series consists of letters and documents primarily concerned with Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the Physiocrats, the French Revolution, and the antecedents of the Du Ponts and allied families in France. During the early 1920s, Pierre S. du Pont became an active collector of Du Pont materials, and bought several important bodies of manuscripts from French dealers. These materials were initially housed at his Longwood estate. In 1953, he chartered the Longwood Library, and when he died a year later, the library was incorporated as an independent research library. In 1961, the Longwood Library merged with the Hagley Museum.

This collection does not include materials that were passed to him by inheritance.

Of particular interest are letters from Jean Baptiste Colbert (1652), Gaspard de Coligny (1554), Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès (1795), and Comte Roger de Bussy-Rabutin (1675). Papers of Gabriel Denizot (1818) describe the establishment of the DuPont Powder Company at Eleutherian Mills. Also included are miscellaneous papers of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. Papers of Francis Gurney du Pont (1850-1904) contain notebooks on explosions at the gunpowder mills (1815-1902). An autograph album of Union Civil War leaders, kept by William A. La Motte, an army officer of Wilmington, Delaware, includes one of the last signatures of Abraham Lincoln.

Papers collected by Philadelphia attorney Howard Potts include items relating to law enforcement in Philadelphia, with particular reference to the Olmstead Affair (1809). Also included is a letter of Tench Coxe concerning political affairs in Pennsylvania (1808), as well as other letters, pamphlets, and broadsides dealing with early nineteenth-century internal improvements and the promotion of agriculture. There is a rent roll for the colonial Manor of Moreland (Philadelphia County) in 1775. The collection contains a letter of George Washington to Irish political leader Sir Edward Newenham (1788). Also included are manuscript volumes entitled, "Etats de Franche Comté, 1606-1673." These are extracts made during the eighteenth century from Franc̜ois Nicholas Eugène Droz, "Recueil des édits, déclarations, lettres patents et arrêts du Conseil des Rois Louis XIV et Louis XV enregistrés en la Chambre des comptes, Cour des aides domaines et finances, ci-devant séante à Dole, et des règlemens de cette Cour depuis las réunion de las France-Commté à la Couronne" (Besanc̨on, 1778).

The Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours papers include a copy of his essay on education in the United States entitled, "Sur l'éducation nationale dans les Etats-Unis d'Amérique." He wrote the essay at the suggestion of Thomas Jefferson during the summer of 1800. Jefferson received the essay for correction and translation, but the process was never completed.

The Wilmington & Kennett Turnpike Co. records, dating from 1811 to 1921, were acquired by Pierre S. du Pont from 1919 to 1920, when he purchased the company's stock, widened the road, and turned over its administration to the Delaware State Highway Department.

The records of the Wilmington & Kennett Turnpike Company are organized into four subseries: Administrative records, General accounts, Toll records, and Correspondence.

The Administrative records subseries includes minute books (1859-1920), loose minutes and reports (1839-1919), financial statements (1901-1921), stock certificates (1811-1919), and dividend records (1869-1919).

The General accounts subseries dates from 1811 to 1921 and includes a day book, ledgers, receipts, bank books, and checkbooks (canceled checks).

The Toll records subseries dates from 1814 to 1919, and is an incomplete record of tolls received. There are also agreements covering the transfer of the road to the state of Delaware and a record of persons whose toll payments were reduced or "commuted" because of frequent travel (1864-1870).

The Correspondence subseries dates from 1860 to 1921, and consists of letters to and from company members.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

Gift of Pierre S. du Pont.

The Longwood Manuscripts comprise the manuscript collections of Pierre Samuel "P.S." du Pont (1870-1954). They formed the core collection of the Longwood Library, established as an independent research library in the year of his death. In 1961, the Longwood Library merged with the Hagley Museum, and the collection became known as the Longwood Manuscripts.

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Pierre Samuel "P.S." du Pont acquisitions
Status:
Author:
John Beverley Riggs
Date:
1970
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