The du Pont Family
A vast dynasty of industrial enterprise and wealth, the du Pont family has one
of the oldest and most prestigious legacies in American history.
The family traces its origins to France in the late eighteenth century. Pierre
du Pont, one of the family's oldest known relatives, was a confidante to King
Louis XVI. A believer in inbreeding, he once told his family "The marriages that
I should prefer for our colony would be between the cousins. In that way we
should be sure of honesty of soul and purity of blood," resulting in seven
marriages between du Pont cousins during the 19th century.
Pierre du Pont's son, Eleuthere Irenee du Pont, was an apprentice to
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, a man considered to be the father of modern
chemistry. At a time when the French were known for making the best gunpowder in
the world, Eleuthere Irenee was able to learn the fine points of its
manufacturing. Unfortunately, the French Revolution cut short Eleuthere Irenee's
apprenticeship, and he fled France for America with Pierre and the rest of the
DuPont family in October of 1799.
Soon after Eleuthere Irenee's arrival in the United States, he became aware of
the poor quality of the gunpowder being manufactured there. Seeing an
opportunity, he opened his own black gunpowder mill in Wilmington, Delaware
along Brandywine Creek in 1802. Applying his sophisticated knowledge of the
manufacturing process, Eleuthere Irenee du Pont created a product that would
impact the course of United States history for nearly two hundred years.
Eleuthere Irenee saw great success with the DuPont Company (while the family
name is du Pont, the company is now referred to as DuPont) in his lifetime, but
he also experienced tragedy when a series of explosions killed numerous workers
at the mill in 1818. When rapidly accumulating debts put DuPont's future at
risk, Eleuthere Irenee's son, Alfred Victor, took over the leadership of the
company. Unfortunately Alfred lacked the skills to save the company and after a
decade of his management, DuPont was more than half a million dollars in debt.
point, Henry du Pont, Alfred's younger brother and Eleuthere Irenee's youngest
son, was asked to step in.
Henry was a West Point graduate and he immediately applied the discipline and
leadership skills he learned there to provide fiscal stability for the company.
As the DuPont Company stabilized under his guidance, Henry's nephew and Alfred's
son Lammot du Pont emerged as a new force. Lammot was a gifted chemist with an
impressive knack for business who at the age of twenty-seven fashioned a new
form of blasting powder. Working together, Henry and Lammot were responsible for
the company's great successes in the late 1800s, when they were able to
capitalize on the huge demand for their munitions resulting from the Civil War,
as well as the railroad expansion in the American West. DuPont would go on to be
the largest supplier of military explosives for the U.S. in the First World War
and later become the creator of Nylon, Teflon, Mylar, Kevlar and Lycra.
The du Pont family's steadfast commitment to hard work has resulted in a dynasty
and fortune unrivaled in American history. Today the du Pont name stands for a
global company that has been on the leading edge of technological innovation for
over two centuries. The DuPont Company is currently valued at fifty billon
dollars and serves more than seventy countries around the world.
John Eleuthere du Pont was the great-great-grandson of Eleuthere Irenee du Pont.
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