Du Pont Dynasty: Introduction (00:57)
Du Pont gunpowder and explosives helped win wars; synthetics revolutionized fashion. The corporate "aristocracy" has operated for three centuries.
World's Largest Chemical Company (02:29)
The Du Pont family amassed a fortune through gunpowder, but profiting from war drew criticism. Today, the Du Pont Company is valued at $50 billion and employs 94,000 people in 70 countries.
Du Pont Origins (02:11)
Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours was a confidant of King Louis XVI. His son Eleuthere Irenee du Pont apprenticed with gunpowder expert Antoine Lavoisier, who was executed during the French Revolution. The Du Ponts immigrated to America in 1799; hear about the difficult voyage.
Brandywine Creek Gunpowder Mill (03:04)
Pierre Samuel secured a federal gunpowder contract from President Thomas Jefferson for Eleuthere Irenee's new business. The production process requires charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter.
"Crossing the Creek" (03:14)
To protect against milling explosions, Eleuthere Irenee built three sided heavy stone structures open toward the Brandywine Creek. In 1818, thirty tons of gunpowder exploded—killing 34 workers and destroying the business.
Employee Loyalty (02:28)
After the 1818 explosion, Eleuthere Irenee struggled to rebuild his gunpowder business. He provided widow pensions and relocated his house to the mill yards to share the risk. He died in 1834, still in debt.
Building a Du Pont Dynasty (03:42)
Irenee's oldest son Alfred Victor du Pont took over the company, but lacked leadership skills; debt mounted. Next, his authoritative brother Henry ran the business and the family. Men had to work in the mills; women had to bear children.
Lammot Du Pont (04:19)
Alfred's son patented a new blasting powder and was a talented businessman. In 1860, the company showed loyalty to the North by refusing to sell to Southern states. Lammot covertly sailed to London to secure the British saltpeter supply.
Du Pont during the Civil War (02:38)
The company constructed new mills to produce 40% of Union gunpowder. Henry commanded the Delaware militia. Lammot invented mammoth powder increasing cannon firing distance. Henry believed it would not work, but the Battle of Hampton Roads proved him wrong.
Dynamite Innovation (02:35)
After the Civil War, the Du Ponts were criticized for profiting from casualties. The first transcontinental railroad increased demand for powerful explosives. Alfred Nobel developed a way to transport nitroglycerin within inert clay.
Rapauno Chemical Company (03:08)
Henry created a gunpowder monopoly. Lammot quit the company and opened a dynamite factory across the Delaware River in 1880; learn about his safety measures. His business soon dominated the market, but he was killed in an explosion in 1884.
End of an Era (02:08)
After Lammot's death, the Du Pont family bought his dynamite company. Henry died in 1889; the company lacked direction and leadership. In 1902, Alfred Irenee convinced the Board of Directors not to sell to Laflin & Rand.
Leadership Transition (02:48)
Alfred Irenee and his cousins Thomas Coleman and Pierre Samuel bought Du Pont in a leveraged buyout and ran it more like a corporation than a family business.
Reinventing Du Pont (01:54)
Lammot's son Pierre Samuel was forced to diversify when President Roosevelt broke up monopolies. He expanded into new chemical product lines like rayon. Du Pont profited from munitions production during World War I.
Public Relations Challenges (01:56)
Longwood Estate exemplifies Pierre Samuel's wealth during World War I. In 1919, he left to manage General Motors. After the war, Du Pont was accused of overcharging the government; Pierre defended the corporation unapologetically.
Du Pont in World War II (02:33)
Nylon was the corporation's greatest contribution to the war effort. President Roosevelt asked them to help develop the atomic bomb; they supervised construction at Oak Ridge and the Hanford Engineering Works.
Du Pont Legacy (02:02)
Today, Du Pont is the world's largest chemical corporation. There are 4,000 family members; many consider the Brandywine region home. Former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont reflects on notable members.
Credits: Dupont Dynasty (01:07)
Credits: Dupont Dynasty
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