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DuPont (China), Inc. records
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DuPont (China), Inc. records

Accession 2362

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library


PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807
302-658-2400
research@hagley.org

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-03-01T13:38-0500

Finding aid prepared using best local practices and Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, DuPont (China), Inc. records (Accession 2362), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807

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Descriptive Summary

Title: DuPont (China), Inc. records
Dates: 1921-1951, bulk 1941-1950
Accession Number: 2362
Creator: DuPont (China), Inc..
Extent: 1.5 linear feet
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: The collection consists of materials from DuPont's Organic Chemicals Department in China and a group of reports and notebooks describing the beginnings of DuPont's dyestuffs ventures in East Asia.
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Administrative Information


Provenance

Collection materials were preserved by Gantt W. Miller, Jr., who took over operation of DuPont's Hong Kong office on January 1, 1950. The records were given to Miller by Lincoln R. Moore, the Organic Chemicals Department's manager for China.

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Historical Note

DuPont’s first big entry into the Chinese market occurred in 1917, when they sent R. S. Lunt to investigate the prospects for exporting dyestuffs to replace European articles interdicted by World War I. Blue cloth being a popular item throughout China, he selected indigo as the product most likely to succeed, and this proved to be the case, although the company later exported sulphur black, other dyes, rubber chemicals, and agricultural chemicals. In March 1921, Dr. Francis A. M. Noelting arrived in Shanghai as sales manager for dyestuffs. However, the importation of dyestuffs was in the hands of a “dye guild’ of Chinese merchants who demanded that DuPont form a joint enterprise with 50 percent Chinese capital. Whether for lack of experience with local customs or some other cause, Noelting managed to offend the “dye guild” and botched the negotiations. He explored the possibilities in Japan, which he soon decided were unfavorable. In China, Noelting achieved success by bypassing the guild at Shanghai and making direct contact with cloth dyers in the interior. Often this involved arduous trips by river boat or sedan chair into regions were there were no paved roads and banditry and warlordism were prevalent. On the whole, this strategy was successful, and DuPont developed a network of sales agencies in many of the Chinese provinces. The main office remained in Shanghai under Dr. Noelting, where there was also a small processing plant. As a goodwill gesture, Noelting employed a number of native Chinese, particularly those who had studied technical subjects in the U.S., in responsible positions. Eventually, a separate firm, DuPont (China), Inc., was incorporated in Delaware to handle the Chinese export business.

DuPont’s operations were naturally hindered by the outbreak of war between Japan and China in the 1930s and the subsequent Japanese occupation of Shanghai. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese seized the Shanghai office and plant and turned it over to the Chugai Investment Company, a subsidiary of Mitsui. As many of the employees either had managed to evacuate or were not American natives, most of the staff seems to have escaped being sent to prison camps but were left to fend for themselves. The office in Chungking in unoccupied China was also closed.

After the war, the company managed to repossess most of its property, but business increasingly felt the impact of the civil war between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Mao Tse-tung’s Communists, culminating in the latter’s occupation of Shanghai and victory in 1949. At first, it appeared that the Communists would allow some foreign trade to continue subject to restrictions and occasional confiscations. However, Western recognition of the Nationalist regime on Taiwan as the legitimate Chinese government, and the severing of relations with and economic boycott of Mao’s regime on the mainland soon put an end to DuPont’s Chinese venture. Noelting retired at the end of 1949. The Shanghai office was closed, and a reduced operation was moved to Hong Kong under Gantt W. Miller, Jr.

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Scope and Content

The collection consists of materials from DuPont's Organic Chemicals Department in China and a group of reports and notebooks describing the beginnings of DuPont's dyestuffs ventures in East Asia.

The records from the interwar years are extremely interesting and describe the steps by which DuPont began the export of dyestuffs to China. A report by Dr. F.A.M. Noelting on the development of DuPont's dye business in China includes many photographs showing the local staff and facilities, travel into the interior by boat and sedan chair, and many of the firm's customers, including personnel and scenes of traditional textile dyeing. A briefing book on Japan from the 1920s includes notes on Japanese customs and culture, a railway map of Japan, and notes on the Japanese cotton industry. Photos in this book include scenes of devastation caused by the great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and of F.W. Pickard's trip to Japan, with groups of company and Japanese officials. Associated with both books are samples of dyed cloth and samples of DuPont labels and stickers in both Chinese and Japanese. These include both bilingual variants on the regular DuPont oval trademark and scenes drawn from domestic life and local folklore selected to indicate the positive qualities that DuPont wished to have associated with its products. A third volume contains collected memos and articles on the process of textile dyeing.

While there is a small amount of material from the months leading up to America's entry into the Pacific War, the bulk of the records cover the postwar years. They give a good picture of life in the foreign business community in Shanghai during the waning years of the Nationalist regime and the aftermath of the Communist victory in 1949. Inventories of property were prepared to support claims for reparations from Japanese seizure during the War, and other letters describe the privations faced by employees during the Japanese occupation. Correspondence shows the attempts to carry on normal business and social life in the face of rampant inflation, the final efforts and collapse of the Nationalists, and then the anti-capitalist and anti-Western program of the Communists, ending with the evacuation to Hong Kong. Information on company personnel shows the multinational nature of the workforce and the strategy of employing qualified Chinese and making sales agency contracts with native Chinese dealers.

The records include a report on the immediate postwar status of the German chemical industry, long DuPont's major competitor in these markets, statements of exports and sales of dyestuffs and other chemicals, and statements of the cost of living for foreign businessmen and their families in Shanghai. A series of market surveys analyze the market for Fabrikoid in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in 1940, and for plastics, finishes, agricultural chemicals, explosives, and other DuPont products at Hong Kong in 1950. There is also a literal translation of an article from a Shanghai newspaper describing the du Pont family and its fortune in an exaggerated manner somewhat suggestive of traditional Beijing opera.

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Series Descriptions and Inventory

Box
1 Accounting, 1946-1951
Box
1 Aniline dyes, 1946-1950
Box
1 China:General, 1946
Box
1 China:Imports and exports, 1946-1948
Box
1 China:Inventories, 1946-1947
Box
1 China:Miscellaneous, 1948
Box
1 China:Personnel, 1941-1947
Box
1 China:Reports, 1948-1949
Box
1 China:Repossession of property and war claims, 1946-1947
Box
1 Chinese government regulations, 1946-1947
Box
1 Claims, 1951
Box
1 Claims - Allowances and adjustments, 1946
Box
1 Competition, 1947-1950
Box
1 Containers, 1948-1950
Box
1 "Development of DuPont Dye Business in China," by F.A.M. Noelting, 1921-1923
Box
1 DuPont Company, 1949-1951
Box
1 DuPont Company - Correspondence, 1949-1950
Box
1 DuPont Company - Survey, 1949-1950
Box
1 DuPont (China), Inc., 1951
Box
1 Export notebook for Japan, 1923-1926
Box
1 Exports to China, Hong Kong and Macao, 1950
Box
1 Forecasts and estimates, 1938-1949
Box
1 General export reports, 1951
Box
1 "History of du Pont Family, King of Explosives," translated from the Sin Wah Pao, a Shanghai newspaper, 1939
Box
1 Hunt, George P., 1948-1950
Box
1 Hunt, George P. - L.K. Moore file, 1946-1950
Box
1 Indigo, 1946-1950
Box
1 Memos, 1941-1951
Box
1 Miscellaneous, 1948-1950
Box
1 Moore, Lincoln R., 1938-1950
Box
1 Noelting, F.A.M., 1946-1950
Box
2 Noelting, F.A.M. - Accounts, 1949-1951
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2 Notebook - Textile dyeing, 1941-1960
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2 Office supplies, 1940-1947
Box
2 Personnel, 1947-1951
Box
2 Petty cash, 1940-1947
Box
2 Pictures, undated
Box
2 Research: Key to Textile Progress, 1949
Box
2 Retrenchments - Far East, 1950-1951
Box
2 Rubber chemicals, undated
Box
2 Sales, 1946-1951
Box
2 Sales policy, 1947-1950
Box
2 Schedule VIII - Republic of China - Most favored nation tariff, undated
Box
2 Shanghai inventory, 1937-1947
Box
2 Sulphur black, 1946-1950
Box
2 Supplies for China, undated
Box
2 Technical, 1946-1949
Box
2 Visitors, 1947-1950