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DuPont Performance Elastomers, L.L.C. Louisville Works records
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DuPont Performance Elastomers, L.L.C. Louisville Works records

Accession 2425

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library


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

Finding aid prepared by Anastasia Day, 2016.,

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2016-09-09T09:15-0400

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 Performance Elastomers, L.L.C. Louisville Works records (Accession 2425), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807

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Descriptive Summary

Title: DuPont Performance Elastomers, L.L.C. Louisville Works records
Dates: 1930-1991
Accession Number: 2425
Creator: DuPont Performance Elastomers, L.L.C.
Extent: 5.5 linear feet
Physical Description: Two standard Paige boxes, two 16.5" by 20.5" flat boxes and one large flat oversize box.
Language of Material: English
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: Records, mostly employee newspapers, relating to the history and operation of DuPont's Louisville Works, which was established in 1941 for the manufacture of "Neoprene" artificial rubber.
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Administrative Information


Provenance

Donated by Dupont Performance Elastomers LLC to Hagley, June 26, 2008.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

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Historical Note

'Elastomer' is a portmanteau of elastic polymer, a term encompassing a wide variety of synthetic and natural rubbers used for everything from sealing to adhesives to flexible parts. Cries for affordable synthetic elastomers grew to new heights after World War I, when natural rubber’s limitations in quantity, accessibility, and quality had become abundantly clear even as demand increased with the growth of the automobile industry. In 1930-31, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company chemists, led by Elmer K. Bolton (1886-1968)first developed an artificial rubber. A crucial breakthrough came when Dr. Arnold M. Collins (1899-1982) isolated chlorophene and 2-chloro-1, 3-butadiene in 1930. DuPont began the manufacture of its first artificial rubber, trademarked “DuPrene,” in September 1931. On December 11, 1936, it was renamed “neoprene,” a term to be used generically. Neoprene and other artificial rubbers were successively produced by the Organic Chemicals Department, the Elastomer Chemicals Department, and the Polymer Products Department, which was restyled DuPont Polymers in 1990. In 1994, DuPont and the Dow Chemical Company combined their operations in a 50/50 joint venture, DuPont Dow Elastomers, L.L.C. The partnership was dissolved subsequent to 2001, and as of 2016, Neoprene is produced by DuPont Performance Elastomers, L.L.C., and its international affiliates.

With the start of World War II, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company built a plant for manufacturing neoprene in Louisville, breaking ground in 1941. In 1942, the U.S. government purchased the plant for the war effort while leaving DuPont in charge; the Axis powers controlled almost all of the world’s natural rubber supply. The Louisville Works was resold to DuPont in 1948. In 1953, the plant celebrated the one billionth pound of neoprene produced. The DuPont neoprene plant at midcentury encompassed nearly 136 acres on the Ohio River, plus extensive well fields. The plant became the heart of what is today known as “Rubbertown,” an industrial district in Louisville. Over the course of the late fifties, DuPont expanded the plant’s operations by adding a Freon-22 manufacturing block (1955) and a vinyl fluoride manufacturing block.

Beginning in the 1960s, there have been tensions between the municipality and the corporations who operate in Rubbertown over environmental and safety issues. On August 26, 1965, there was a notable explosion at the DuPont plant; 12 dead and 37 casualties made it the worst industrial accident in Louisville’s history. In 1969, yet another explosion injured six more workers. Freon manufacture was phased out by 1992 in an effort to stop chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) production, due to concerns about its deleterious effect on the ozone layer. In 1998, after the acquisition of Protein Technologies international, the Louisville Plant also began the manufacture of concentrated soy protein for industrial use. In 2008, DuPont Performance Elastomers shut down their Louisville Plant and concentrated production at a sister plant in Louisiana.

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Scope and Content

Nearly 80% of the Dupont Performance Elastomers, LLC records consists of employee newsletters for the DuPont elastomers plant in Louisville, Kentucky. There were several iterations of the newspaper: The Safe Worker was a short-lived wartime publication with two issues, December 1943 and January 1944. The Rubber Bawl, published by the Safety Department, ran monthly from February 1944 to July 1949. Each issue was a magazine-style format on unglossy paper, with columns submitted from each department. However, there were also regular features explaining the science of neoprene production, updates on the employee sports leagues, and lots of advice for maintaining safety both at home and in the workplace. Along with other transitions as DuPont took ownership of the plant once more, the Bawl was reinvented as an employee newspaper entitled The Louisville Works News starting September 1949. Columns for each department disappeared, photographs increased, and issues came out biweekly. Although no longer credited as a publication of the Safety Department, an emphasis on safety, worker accident rates, and injury prevention predominated, punctuated by historical lessons about the Dupont company. In October 1961, publication rates dropped from biweekly to monthly, presumably as a cost-saving measure. The writing becomes more professionalized and greater emphasis is put on employee picnics, Christmas gatherings, sports, and individual accomplishments outside the plant. In January 1971, to reduce costs that were creeping near $1.00 per copy to produce, the Louisville Works News shrunk further to a double-sided single sheet newsletter, rather than multipage newspaper, still produced monthly. Beginning in August 1976, the Works News expanded slightly to a letter-size multipage pamphlet on matte paper, switching to glossy color printing in summer of 1984. The last issue in the records dates to August 1991.

While the employee news publications give varying degrees of insight into actual employee experiences and perspectives, depending on the iteration of the publication, the other historical materials are almost entirely top-down corporate level materials or formal publications. The exception to this is a file of materials collected by employee and plant guard staff William Smith, who commenced employment with the opening of the plant in 1941, and retired in January 1975. He was an avid member of the Dupont 25-Year Club, collecting minutes and other materials from them, and also accumulated copies of union agreements with the company over the period of his employment. There is a cluster of materials pertaining to the plant’s founding, site selection, and funding, as well as some touching on the early development of neoprene industrial production. As the decades roll on, the collection’s strengths lie mainly in Public Relations efforts, including anniversary and billion-pound-produced celebrations, as well as environmental and safety debacles, most notably the 1965 explosion.

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Access Points

Chemical plants--Kentucky
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Series Descriptions and Inventory

Box Folder
1 1 Billion-pound celebrations, 1953-1985
Box Folder
1 2 Community relations, 1991
Box Folder
1 3 Courier-Journal ads, 1989-1991
Box Folder
1 4 Dupont 25-year club dinner programs, 1965-1985
Box Folder
1 5 Dupont 25 year club, 1965-1969
Box Folder
1 6 Dupont 25 year club, 1970
Box Folder
1 7 Dupont 25 year club, 1971
Box Folder
1 8 Dupont 25 year club, 1972-1984
Box Folder
1 9 Employee materials, 'Bill' Smith, 1941-1979
Box Folder
1 10 Environmental materials, 1986-1990
Box Folder
1 11 Floods, 1950-1964
Box Folder
1 12 Histories of Louisville plant and neoprene, 1979-1980
Box Folder
1 13 Louisville infrastructure report: sections 1, 2, and 3, 1995
Box Folder
1 14 Louisville infrastructure report: section 4, 1995
Box Folder
1 15 Louisville infrastructure report: section 5, 1995
Box Folder
1 16 Louisville plant founding, 1937-1957
Box Folder
1 17 Louisville plant growth, 1976-1991
Box Folder
1 18 Louisville works 'Highlights', 1959-circa 1977
Box Folder
1 19 Louisville works 25th anniversary, 1967
Box Folder
1 20 Neoprene technological development, 1930-1966
Box Folder
1 21 Neoprene 50 year anniversary, 1981
Box Folder
1 22 Organization, elastomers (historical binder), circa 1965
Box Folder
1 23 Other publications, 1965-circa 1987
Box Folder
1 24 Union Agreements, 1956-1976
Box Folder
2 1 The Safe Worker, 1943-1944
Box Folder
2 2 The Rubber Bawl, 1944
Box Folder
2 3 The Rubber Bawl, 1945
Box Folder
2 4 The Rubber Bawl, 1946
Box Folder
2 5 The Rubber Bawl, 1947
Box Folder
2 6 The Rubber Bawl, 1948
Box Folder
2 The Rubber Bawl, 1949
Box Folder
2 8 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1971-1976
Box Folder
2 9 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1976-1978
Box Folder
2 10 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1979-1980
Box Folder
2 11 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1981-1985
Box Folder
2 12 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1986-1991
Box
2 Dupont 1.5" pipe bender ashtray, undated
Box Folder
3 1 Plant explosion, local news, 1965
Box Folder
3 2 Oversized Materials, undated
Box
3 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1949-1953
Box
4 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1954-1959
Box
5 Dupont Louisville Works News, 1960-1970