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Summary Article: Du Pont
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(dōpŏnt), family notable in U.S. industrial history. The Du Pont family's importance began when Eleuthère Irénée Du Pont established a gunpowder mill on the Brandywine River in N Delaware. Development, expansion, and family control of E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company were long the family's chief concerns, and its prolific members kept the company well staffed. Outstanding among the Du Ponts was Henry Du Pont (1812–89), a West Point graduate and son of the company's founder, who set the basis for the family's cohesiveness; he headed the firm from 1850 to 1889. His son, Lammot (1831–84), a chemist and inventor, developed a cheap and superior blasting powder and made the Du Pont company a leader in the manufacture of explosives. Later, Pierre Samuel Du Pont (1870–1954) and his cousins Coleman and Alfred brought about the company's public incorporation, a departure from the long-established family partnership. In 1910, Du Pont was ordered to break up its munitions monopoly, and the company subsequently moved into the fibers (it pioneered the development of nylon), paints, and chemicals and materials businesses. The company acquired sizable holdings in General Motors, amounting to 23% of the latter's stock when it was forced to dispose of its holdings in 1961, and from 1981 to 1999 it owned the Conoco oil company. In the late 20th and early 21st cent. the Du Pont company produced a variety of fibers and fabrics, coatings, and other materials, industrial chemicals, agricultural seed and chemicals, and other products. No member of the family ran the Du Pont company after 1971, and over time the percentage of the company controlled by family members decreased. In 2017 the company merged with Dow Chemical Co. to form DowDuPont, with plans to divide the merged entity into separate companies focused on agriculture, materials science, and specialty products. The Du Ponts have also been active in politics. Coleman increased Delaware's roads, and Pierre contributed heavily to the state's educational system. Members of the family have served as United States senators and governor of Delaware.

  • See Carr, W. H. , The Du Ponts of Delaware (1964);.
  • Zilig, G. C. , Du Pont (1974).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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