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Du Pont

Du Pont (dōpŏnt) [key], 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 chemical 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. The Du Pont company produces a variety of fibers and fabrics, coatings, and other materials, industrial chemicals, agricultural seed and chemicals, and other products. Although no member of the family has run the Du Pont company since 1971, family members still control about one fifth of the company's stock. 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 W. H. Carr, The Du Ponts of Delaware (1964); G. C. Zilig, Du Pont (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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