In 1802, E.I. du Pont establishes a new business in a new nation and lays the foundation for an industrial dynasty.
DuPont becomes a modern, diversified chemical company and undergoes a major reorganization.
The new DuPont commitment to basic scientific research survives the Great Depression to yield phenomenal results in synthetic rubber and textiles.
DuPont makes key contributions to Allied victory in World War II, widens its product offerings to post-war consumers and struggles with antitrust charges and larger social and economic tensions.
DuPont engages the energy and environmental crises of the 1970s, enters the energy business and expands its presence in the electronics and pharmaceuticals fields.
DuPont completes a sweeping restructuring, divests its energy business and draws on biotechnology to realize a new vision of sustainable growth in its third century.
1802 E.I. DuPont
Eleuthère Irénée (E.I.) du Pont (1771-1834) broke ground on July 19, 1802, for the company that bears his name. He had studied advanced explosives production techniques with the famous chemist Antoine Lavoisier. He used this knowledge and his intense interest in scientific exploration–which became the hallmark of his company–to continually enhance product quality and manufacturing sophistication and efficiency. He earned a reputation for high quality, fairness and concern for workers’ safety.
E.I. du Pont was the younger of two sons born to Paris watchmaker Pierre Samuel du Pont who, by the 1780s, had become a noted political economist, a rising government official, and an advocate of free trade. At age 14, E.I. wrote a paper on the manufacture of gunpowder and, with his father’s assistance, gained a position at France’s central powder agency. There he had studied advanced explosives production techniques with the famous chemist Antoine Lavoisier. In 1791, after the onset of the French Revolution, he gave up powder-making to assist in his father’s small printing and publishing business. The du Ponts’ moderate political views proved a liability in revolutionary France. In 1797 a mob ransacked their printing shop and they were briefly imprisoned. In late 1799 they fled to America.
When he arrived in America in January 1800, E.I. brought much more than powder-making expertise and capital raised from French investors. He had spent several years studying botany and he shared his father’s ideals about scientific advancement and creating a harmonious relationship between capital and labor.
E.I. du Pont returned to France only once – in 1801 – to raise additional capital and to buy the latest powder-making equipment. He broke ground for his first powder mills on the Brandywine River on July 19, 1802. He spent the remainder of his life keeping them, going through explosions, floods, financial straits, pressures from nervous stockholders, and labor difficulties.
Although his personal reputation for honesty and renown for his company’s product eventually brought success, du Pont never relaxed his vigilance. E.I. was a pillar of the community, contributing to causes such as poor relief, help for the blind, and free public education. He was a Director of the Farmers Bank of the State of Delaware and the Second Bank of the United States. He was also an inventor and a gentleman scientist. E.I.’s wife, Sophie Dalmas du Pont, died in 1828. Three years later the American painter, Rembrandt Peale, captured the powderman’s sense of loss and the strain of constant worry about his company. In the fall of 1834, E.I. collapsed from heart failure while in Philadelphia on business. He died the next day, October 31, and was buried in the family cemetery along the Brandywine.PrevNext
1802 Wilmington, Delaware
"I have bought property on Brandywine Creek near Wilmington, State of Delaware." These words, written by E.I. du Pont in 1802, signaled the beginning of a mutually beneficial, centuries-old relationship between the DuPont Company and the city of Wilmington.
Established by Quaker merchants in the 1730s, Wilmington was a milling and grain-shipping center for farmers in Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania. In 1802 E.I. established his powder mills upstream from Wilmington, intending to harness the Brandywine River’s power and to use the city’s port for shipping. DuPont provided business to local artisans and shopkeepers and employed area residents, but Wilmington residents remained uneasy about the danger of explosives manufacture so close to the city. Their fears were realized in 1854 when three wagon loads of black powder exploded while traveling through the city, killing two residents and causing extensive property damage. DuPont responded quickly to the tragedy, compensating the bereaved families and paying for rebuilding and repairs.
As the company diversified into new explosives in the late 19th century, DuPont operations spread throughout the Wilmington area. In 1880 Lammot du Pont built the Repauno Chemical Company, a dynamite plant located across the Delaware River from Wilmington at Gibbstown, N.J. Ten years later, DuPont opened a smokeless powder plant at Carney’s Point, also on the New Jersey side of the river. Following the 1902 change in management, the company established the Experimental Station, a general research laboratory, across the Brandywine River from DuPont’s first mills.
DuPont’s consolidation of the powder-making industry after 1902 increased the need for management personnel and larger office space. President T. Coleman du Pont advocated moving the company to New York City, but cousins Pierre and Alfred insisted that DuPont should remain near the Brandywine. Coleman agreed to keep the company local as long as the headquarters were close to banks, railroad connections and hotel facilities, a compromise that brought DuPont to downtown Wilmington. In 1905 the DuPont Building was completed at the northwest corner of Tenth and Market streets. Seven years later, the company added the 200-room Hotel du Pont, the most elegant and costly hotel ever built in Wilmington.
Wilmington was a small industrial city with modest buildings and limited infrastructure, and DuPont executives recognized that the city would have to grow along with the company. Pierre du Pont’s assistant, John J. Raskob, worked with city officials to build a new courthouse and public park across from the DuPont Building. Coleman personally financed construction of a highway from Delaware’s southern border to Wilmington and pushed for a number of other roads leading to the city. Demands for DuPont powder during World War I created jobs and with them came new housing, including Wawaset, a planned community built by DuPont for white-collar employees. Changes such as these signaled a shift in the city’s economic base from industrial production to corporate management.
During the Great Depression, Pierre helped form a city relief committee to assist the jobless in Wilmington. The city’s fortunes improved during World War II, when DuPont’s sales nearly tripled. Since World War II, DuPont’s further diversification and success in the chemical industry has strengthened Wilmington’s economy and extended benefits to the surrounding suburbs.
Beyond a purely business relationship, DuPont has been committed to community outreach in the Wilmington area. In the early 1920s, the company financed construction of the Wilmington Institute Free Library and supported the Delaware Art Museum. In 1951 DuPont created the Hagley Museum and Library on the site of the company’s original mills, providing scholars and the general public unique insight into the area’s industrial past. The company and family have also helped meet the needs of Wilmington’s children. In the 1920s and 1930s, Pierre worked tirelessly to reform public schooling in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. Pierre’s cousin Alfred sponsored picnics and outings for the city’s underprivileged children. In his will, Alfred provided funds to establish a hospital for handicapped children, which has become a first-rate pediatric hospital. Although DuPont is now a global science company, it maintains a special relationship with the city that first welcomed E.I. du Pont in 1802.PrevNext
1804 Black Powder
Between 1802 and 1880, black powder was the sole product manufactured at DuPont. Before coming to America in 1800, E.I. du Pont, the company’s namesake, learned the superior skills of black powder manufacture (the combination of sulfur, potassium nitrate and charcoal) at the French government’s gunpowder agency. Certain that he could produce a powder superior to the best available American product, E.I. began building the Brandywine powder mills in 1802. By 1820 DuPont powder had earned a good reputation among sportsmen and the company had become the leading powder supplier to the U.S. government.
In 1857 Lammot du Pont developed a new method of black powder manufacture which substituted South American sodium nitrate for the more expensive, British-controlled potassium nitrate. This change not only freed American powder from dependence on Great Britain but also resulted in a more powerful blast than existing black powder. Lammot’s "B" blasting powder was the first notable change in black powder composition in more than 600 years. During the Civil War, further black powder research yielded "Mammoth Powder" for heavy artillery use by Union forces.
In the late 19th century, new explosives began to challenge the dominance of black powder. Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite introduced a blasting explosive three times more powerful.
Recognizing the significance of this invention, DuPont entered dynamite production when Lammot organized the Repauno Chemical Company in 1880. The black powder market eroded further with the development of smokeless powder in the 1890s. Derived from guncotton, smokeless powder burned more cleanly than black powder and provided greater explosive force. The two world wars accelerated research and development of new explosives like TNT and blasting gelatins. Following World War II, black powder production declined rapidly until all commercial manufacture was discontinued in the mid-1970s.
In 1802 E.I. du Pont founded his company solely as an explosives manufacturer. Trained at the French government’s gunpowder agency headed by the famous chemist Antoine Lavoisier, E.I. was certain that he could produce black powder superior to the best available American product at that time. DuPont’s Brandywine powder mills did indeed manufacture the highest quality black powder. By the beginning of the War of 1812, DuPont had become the leading black powder supplier to the U.S. government. An era of national development between 1830 and 1860 created greater demand for powder to blast open coal mines and to build roads, canals and railroads. In 1857 Lammot du Pont patented a new method of black powder manufacture which substituted sodium nitrate for potassium nitrate, resulting in a more powerful blast than traditional black powder. Two years later, DuPont purchased the Wapwallopen powder factory outside Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to manufacture this blasting powder for industrial uses. During the Civil War, DuPont supplied almost 40 percent of all powder used by the Union army and navy.
By the late 19th century, DuPont was experimenting with new explosives technology first developed in Europe. In 1867 Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel successfully stabilized nitroglycerin to create dynamite, a high explosive providing three times the power of black powder. Unable to convince company president Henry du Pont to begin dynamite operations, Lammot entered the business independently when he organized the Repauno Chemical Company in 1880. Repauno was later fully incorporated into DuPont and became the world’s largest producer of dynamite by the 1920s. Even more important for DuPont’s future was the discovery by European chemists of guncotton, a highly explosive material derived from nitrated cotton, or nitrocellulose. By the 1880s, researchers had successfully changed guncotton into a smokeless powder that was superior to black powder. DuPont first made smokeless powder in the 1890s for sport shooting and soon developed a military grade version. The company would become the world’s largest producer of the explosive during World War I.
Although World War I resulted in unprecedented explosives production, DuPont had already begun to diversify into non-explosives. When the du Pont cousins bought the company in 1902, they sought new uses for the raw materials of explosives, particularly in the production of lacquers, paints and coated textiles. This move toward diversification was furthered by a 1912 antitrust decision, which deemed DuPont a gunpowder monopoly and ordered the company to divest itself of a substantial portion of its explosives business.
Despite this increasing diversification, DuPont continued to improve the production processes of high explosives, especially TNT, in its Eastern Laboratory. The company also bought a controlling interest in firearms and munitions maker Remington Arms in 1933. During World War II, DuPont once again met military demands for high explosives. The war also launched the company’s involvement into atomic explosives. DuPont built a full-scale plutonium plant for atomic weapons in Hanford, Wash., and operated the Savannah River nuclear plant following the war. Overall, however, a shift in focus to peacetime products like textiles and industrial chemicals resulted in a dramatic reduction in new explosives production through the 1950s and 1960s. DuPont discontinued all manufacture of TNT in the early 1970s and dynamite was eclipsed by the company’s new line of water gel explosives that provided greater safety and reliability. By the early 1990s, DuPont ceased all explosives production and sold Remington Arms, ending nearly 200 years of a continuous product line.PrevNext
1804 First Powder Mill
E.I. du Pont paid Wilmington, Del., businessman Jacob Broom $6,740 for a site on the Brandywine River on which to build his first powder mill. The falling water on the lower Brandywine could drive the machinery of a large mill and ensure nearly year-round production. Willow trees on the riverbanks would make excellent charcoal, a key ingredient in black powder. The site also was close to wharves for shipping, yet far enough from the city for safety in case of explosion.PrevNext
1805 Core Values
Concern for the safety and health of employees is deeply ingrained in DuPont’s structure and corporate culture. From the time he began to build along the Brandywine River, E.I. du Pont kept safety foremost among his concerns. He insisted that powder mills be spaced apart to minimize the spread of fire or explosion, and the mills themselves were designed to direct a blast upward and out over the river. While these initiatives limited costly damage and minimized injuries, they also helped DuPont to retain its more experienced and safety-conscious workers – men better able to recognize telltale signs of danger and prevent disaster.
During the 19th century, DuPont sought to ensure workplace safety through both formal rules and personal stewardship. Safety rules had been put into writing and circulated widely by 1811. After an 1818 explosion, the members of the du Pont family, all of whom were away during the incident, agreed that one partner should always remain in the yards and that lower-level managers reside, as they did, on plant grounds. A ban on drinking alcohol, which had been implicated in the disaster, was also instituted. Technological improvements were also pursued with an eye toward improved safety. When Lammot du Pont moved to involve the company in dynamite production during the 1880s he realized that production risks would be greatly increased. He had hoped that mechanization at the Repauno plant would enable workers to avoid the most dangerous types of work, but he died before accomplishing that goal.
In the 20th century DuPont institutionalized safety measures further in an effort to cope with the challenges of diversification and increasing federal regulation. When Progressive-era reformers established occupational health and safety as a distinct field of endeavor, DuPont was quick to draw on their emerging expertise. Lewis A. De Blois, who encouraged DuPont to formalize its safety initiatives, headed up the company’s first safety office. In 1911 the company established a clearinghouse for the study and introduction of safety devices and also organized Prevention of Accident Commissions within each department. The following year the company began keeping full records of all accidents, which displayed a steady downward trend.
The demands of World War I led to some setbacks, however. As orders for powder from abroad and from the federal government skyrocketed, DuPont expanded tremendously. As employment levels soared, inexperienced workers and overtaxed facilities pushed accident levels to new heights, even though the company’s safety record still bettered that of its competitors. At War’s end, DuPont redoubled its accident-prevention efforts, instituting a series of employee safety incentive programs.PrevNext
1815 Pierre Samuel du Pont
Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) is today remembered in connection with the company founded by his son. But the elder du Pont was one of the most notable Frenchmen of his era in his own right. Pierre Samuel was the son of Samuel du Pont, a Paris watchmaker, and Anne de Montchanin. He learned watchmaking from his father but was schooled in the humanities at the insistence of his mother. By the early 1760s Pierre Samuel’s writings on the national economy had drawn the attention of intellectuals like Voltaire and Turgot. His book, "Physiocracy," advocated low tariffs and free trade among nations. It deeply influenced Adam Smith, author of the masterpiece in classical economics, "The Wealth of Nations."
Influential though Pierre Samuel’s ideas were, they were too controversial for Louis XV, who suppressed his publications. In 1773 Pierre Samuel left the country to take a lucrative position as tutor to Poland’s Prince Royal. He returned to France to serve Louis XVI, who had appointed Turgot finance minister, but both men were dismissed for criticizing the spending habits of Marie Antoinette. Pierre Samuel then repaired to the estate he had purchased with his Polish salary. But despite his early retirement, he was instrumental in negotiations leading to the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution, earning him the gratitude of Thomas Jefferson and a patent of nobility from the king.
Pierre Samuel was then swept up in the political turmoil of the French Revolution. In 1790 — one year after the fall of the Bastille — he was elected president of the French National Assembly. But in 1797 his advocacy of moderate reform earned him the enmity of more radical elements and he was imprisoned twice and narrowly escaped execution. In 1799 Pierre Samuel raised funds from several investors and departed for America to speculate in land. His friend, Thomas Jefferson, warned him away from the venture however, and instead the family took up son Eleuthère Irénée’s plan to make gunpowder.
In 1802 Pierre Samuel returned to Napoleonic France to resume his political career. He was instrumental in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase for the United States, and in 1814 helped lead the movement to banish Napoleon to Elba. The next year, during Napoleon’s short lived return, Pierre Samuel fled again to America, settling with his family on the Brandywine. He died on August 7, 1817, after exhausting himself putting out a fire at the powder mills.PrevNext
1837 Alfred V. du Pont
Alfred Victor du Pont (1798-1856) was the last of E.I. du Pont’s children born in France and the first to head the powder company. A year-and-a-half old when he arrived in America, Alfred grew up in the powder mills. At age 19 he left home to study chemistry at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, returning in the spring of 1818 after an explosion that killed 33 people and injured his mother. Alfred began his career with DuPont by rebuilding the mills. After E.I. died in 1834, Alfred’s succession was delayed for three years while his father’s former assistant, James Antoine Bidermann, reorganized the partnership. After he took over in 1837, Alfred compounded E.I.’s investment in pension plans for disabled workers and the widows and orphans of those killed at the mills.
Alfred’s chief interest, however, was technology. He tested guncotton for the Navy when the product was in its infancy and explored the properties of other explosives in a laboratory at the mill. Alfred also designed an automatic barrel stave maker and replaced the water wheels at the mills with more efficient turbines. Alfred built the firm’s first office building near the main family residence, and constructed Edge Moor, a powder magazine and pier on the Christina River. Most importantly perhaps, Alfred passed his own enthusiasm on to his son Lammot. However, Alfred’s attention to business details did not match his interest in innovation and technology, and in the 1840s his brothers and sisters pressed him to keep closer track of the company’s books. The Mexican War and another major explosion in 1847 diverted his attention for a time, but on January 1, 1850, Alfred bowed to pressure from his partners and resigned. In declining health, he retired to his laboratory and died on October 4, 1856.PrevNext
1857 Lammot du Pont
Lammot du Pont (1831-1884) contributed a spark of innovation to the staid DuPont of the mid-19th century, improving black powder and leading the company into the new field of high explosives. In 1857 Lammot patented "B" blasting powder – also known as soda powder – which used inexpensive Peruvian and Chilean sodium nitrate and made DuPont a major force in the blasting powder industry. He founded the Repauno Chemical Company, which led to the entry of DuPont into high explosives.
DuPont blasting powder played a prominent role in the nation’s early development. Westward settlement in the first half of the 19th century entailed massive excavation and construction projects for roads, canals and railroads. Already a manufacturer of black powder for hunting and military purposes, DuPont began selling its product for these industrial and commercial uses. In 1857 a breakthrough in industrial blasting powder occurred when Lammot du Pont successfully substituted South American sodium nitrate for the Indian potassium nitrate traditionally used in black powder. This new "B" blasting powder reduced costs by freeing American powder makers from the British controls on Indian nitrate while providing a superior explosive force. In 1859 DuPont made its first expansion outside the Brandywine Valley when it acquired the Wapwallopen blasting powder mill near the coal mines of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. DuPont blasting powder continued to serve the needs of industrial customers through the Civil War and Reconstruction era. By the 1870s, however, the new explosive dynamite had proven to be three times as powerful as black powder and production declined rapidly after DuPont entered the dynamite business.
Lammot du Pont earned a chemistry degree from the University of Pennsylvania, began in the saltpeter and sulfur refinery at the Brandywine in 1849, and worked his way up to DuPont partner by 1857. In 1858 he made a fact-finding trip to Europe and the next year helped recondition the newly purchased Wapwallopen powder mill. During the Civil War, Lammot, acting as an emissary of the U.S. government, went to Great Britain to purchase 3 million pounds of saltpeter. By 1872 he had been elected president of the Gunpowder Trade Association that regulated prices and production for the industry. In the 1870s Lammot spearheaded DuPont’s move into high explosives by pushing for the acquisition of a heavy interest in California Powder Works, a major producer of dynamite. In 1880 he overcame staunch internal resistance from senior partner Henry du Pont to found the Repauno Chemical Company in a joint venture with the Laflin & Rand Company. Lammot was so dedicated to the Repauno enterprise that he resigned from DuPont to focus all his attention on it. He died there in 1884 during an explosion, leaving behind a legacy of innovation that came to characterize DuPont during the next century.PrevNext
1859 First Acquisition
By the 1850s the unfolding industrial revolution was powered by coal, and few enterprises consumed more explosives than coal mining. The explosives mill on Wapwallopen Creek was built by Parrish, Silver & Company in 1855, but explosion and flood bankrupted the firm in 1859 and DuPont bought the facility for $35,000.
Lammot du Pont personally oversaw the rebuilding and expansion of the facility, and by 1860 it was once again producing blasting powder. The mill was an excellent investment. Coal production doubled in the 1860s, and with the outbreak of the Civil War, Wapwallopen also supplied both military and blasting powder to the U.S. Army. The plant operated successfully until 1911, when two explosions hit. Instead of rebuilding, DuPont moved its operations to newer facilities near Moosic, Pa. In 1973, after DuPont filled its last contract for black powder, the Moosic plant was also sold.PrevNext
1875 Henry A. du Pont
Henry Algernon du Pont graduated first in his class at West Point in 1861 and served as a light artillery officer during the Civil War, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel at age 26. "Colonel Henry" stayed with the military for 10 years, and then resigned his commission in 1875 to return to Delaware. He managed shipping for DuPont and served as president of the Wilmington & Northern Railroad from 1879 to 1889.
When "General" Henry died in August 1889, it was assumed that one of his sons, either Henry Francis or his brother William, would take control of the business, but conflict between the two led to the accession of Eugene du Pont as a compromise. Henry was offered the position of president when Eugene died in 1902. He refused, however, due to his age and his desire to run for the United States Senate. When no senior partner was willing to take control, Henry supported the sale of the company to the younger generation of du Ponts and helped convince the senior partners to accept it. After serving in the U.S. Senate, he spent his remaining years writing at his Winterthur estate.PrevNext
1880 First Dynamite
Lammot du Pont established the Repauno Chemical Company in 1880 after failing to convince his uncle, Henry du Pont, to enter the dynamite business. Located on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, Repauno was founded on Lammot’s belief that dynamite would replace traditional blasting powder for use in building railroads, highways and other major construction projects nationwide. By the 1920s, Repauno had become the world’s largest producer of dynamite.
Lammot du Pont established the Repauno Chemical Company in 1880 after failing to convince his uncle, Henry du Pont, to enter the dynamite business. Located on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, Repauno was founded on Lammot’s belief that dynamite would replace traditional blasting powder for use in building railroads, highways and other major construction projects nationwide. But Henry du Pont’s fears about the dangers of the new chemical compound were also well founded. In 1884 Lammot and several other Repauno workers died in an explosion at Repauno.
DuPont took over controlling interest in Repauno after Lammot’s death, and stayed at the forefront of the chemical industry due in part to efforts carried out there. Chemists working at Repauno’s Eastern Laboratory, established in 1902, developed new processes for manufacturing trinitrotoluene (TNT) and other explosives. By the 1920s, Repauno had become the world’s largest producer of dynamite. During the next two decades, the plant diversified and military explosives were only 25 percent of total production by World War II. With expanded chemical facilities, Repauno began to produce dimethyl terephthalate (DMT), a chemical intermediate used in manufacture of Dacron and DuPont products.
Eastern Dynamite Company
The Eastern Dynamite Company was a holding company created jointly in 1895 by DuPont and the Laflin & Rand Powder Company to protect their respective interests in the flourishing dynamite industry. After Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in 1866, DuPont's conservative head, Henry du Pont, had resisted entering the new business. However, Henry's progressive nephew Lammot expressed a keen interest, and in 1880, with the assistance of Laflin & Rand, Lammot formed the Repauno Chemical Company to produce and sell dynamite. This joint venture proved extremely successful, and two years later Lammot expanded operations to Cleveland to supply the booming western dynamite market. Four years after Lammot's death in an accidental explosion in 1884, a young coal-mining executive, J. Amory Haskell, was elected president of Repauno.
Determined to enlarge and consolidate Repauno's extensive holdings, Haskell acquired the Atlantic Dynamite Company, which held Nobel's American patents. In 1895 he established the Eastern Dynamite Company, which incorporated Atlantic Dynamite as a wholly owned subsidiary. In 1902 DuPont purchased Laflin & Rand's interest in Eastern, thereby assuming control over 72 percent of the nationwide dynamite industry. Concerned about possible federal antitrust action, DuPont began dissolving all of Eastern's holdings into its own operations; however, an antitrust suit soon thwarted DuPont's plan. In 1911 a Federal court ruled DuPont in violation of antitrust laws, and the following year ordered the complete dissolution of Eastern as part of a remedy. DuPont's explosives businesses were split off into two newly created, separate firms, the Atlas Powder Company and the Hercules Powder Company.PrevNext
1880 Engineering & Construction
In the 1880s, "General" Henry du Pont proudly told an applicant for an engineering position that "we build our own machinery, draw our own plans, make our own patterns and have never employed anyone to design or construct our mills and machinery, dams or races, roads or anything else." From the very first, DuPont built its own plants and facilities. Today, the company remains steeped in an innovative "engineering culture," with management taking an active interest in promoting the safest, most efficient design and construction.
During the 19th century, many of the du Pont family were trained engineering graduates. The original powder mills along the Brandywine Valley were among the first examples of specialized DuPont engineering, built by E.I. du Pont along French designs new to America. With walls three feet thick on three sides, but only a thin roof and the fourth side open to the stream, any blast was channeled upwards and over the water. The wide spacing of units also minimized the risk of further explosions. The du Ponts continued to encourage such innovation in manufacturing designs throughout the 19th century and built on an increasingly ambitious scale, culminating in the world's largest black powder plant, built in Mooar, Iowa, in 1890.
During the first century, each DuPont department was responsible for the construction of its own plants. But as DuPont expanded and diversified its operations, the demands upon engineers increased dramatically, and in 1902 the company began specializing, forming a separate Engineering Department. The new department, with an initial staff of six, was based in Wilmington and built such local landmarks as the DuPont Theatre, formerly The Playhouse Theatre, and the Hotel du Pont.
The acquisition of the Eastern Dynamite Company and Manufacturers' Contracting Company in 1904 and 1905 brought DuPont new engineers trained in high explosives and black powder facilities design. In 1911, rather than continue to divide talent among divisions, DuPont merged all of its engineering groups into the Engineering Department. Led by Chief Engineer Colonel William Ramsay, the new department established an unrivaled reputation for technical expertise and safe, efficient design and construction of explosive plants. When the courts broke up DuPont's powder operations in 1912, the Engineering Department was considered so vital to the success of all the component companies that the government ordered DuPont to offer the newly formed companies, Atlas and Hercules Powder, access to it for five years.
As World War I broke out in Europe, DuPont engineers were faced with coordinating a massive construction program to boost munitions supplies for the Allies. U.S. entry into the war placed even greater demands on plant capacity, and DuPont formed an engineering subsidiary to work solely on government projects. In 1917 the U.S. government asked DuPont to design and build a facility capable of producing 900,000 pounds of military smokeless powder daily. The resulting Old Hickory site was the largest construction project of its time. DuPont engineers turned farmland into a city housing 30,000 people and the largest explosives plant in the world. The first unit went into production at Old Hickory 112 days ahead of schedule and the U.S. government praised DuPont for its "remarkable achievement."
Diversification into chemical production after World War I brought new challenges. The Engineering Department was responsible for designing and building everything from power plants to sophisticated photo laboratories to entire company towns. By 1918 work was already underway on the largest chemical plant in the world--the dye works at Deepwater, N.J. To keep abreast of technological advances, DuPont engineers even traveled to Europe to study new materials and methods. Then, in the 1920s, as scientists developed new products such as moisture-proof cellophane, DuPont engineers helped turn them into commercial successes by devising pioneering, large-scale manufacturing machinery and techniques.
While DuPont relied on its Engineering Department, competitors increasingly turned to outside contractors. Management considered this approach, but determined that a firm of DuPont's size and complexity could not do without its own Engineering Department. They argued that DuPont engineers had the benefit of specialized industry knowledge and could more easily collaborate with operating and research units. Economies of scale, it was also believed, saved the firm time and money. Chief Engineer Granville Read later said that "engineering is the art of doing well with one dollar that which any bungler can do with two after a fashion." During the 1920s the Engineering Department was easily among the nation's largest national construction firms and even operated as a contractor until 1928, completing $60 million worth of construction and design for General Motors alone.
Staffing and construction suffered during the early Depression, but the Engineering Department was revitalized in the late 1930s and built a succession of new plants that included the nylon production plant built at Seaford, Del., in 1939. Seaford was a triumph in engineering with a fully automated, 24-hour production process. This technological edge was crucial during World War II, when DuPont was called upon to build 54 government plants. The company quickly rebuilt its powder and explosives capacity and further expanded vital chemical production. Although the number of Engineering Department employees increased fivefold from 1939 to 1940, DuPont still relied on subcontractors to meet demand. The company made the best of its engineering force, The Washington Post observed, by "leap frogging steam-shovel men, carpenters, masons and plumbers from one site to another."
Although The Post called this an "epic performance," DuPont's greatest wartime engineering achievement was kept out of the papers: construction and operation of the world’s first large-scale nuclear production facility, the Hanford Engineering Works in Washington, which eclipsed even Old Hickory in size. The U.S. government cited DuPont's engineering prowess in requesting the company to undertake the job, and despite the complexities of the task and constraints of secrecy, the engineers built a plant that was ready a year ahead of schedule and proved near flawless in operation. In 1950 the government asked DuPont's assistance to build an even larger nuclear complex, the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina.
Even as they met government needs, however, DuPont engineers were also building for the postwar commercial market. In an effort to retain control of the rapidly expanding operations, the Engineering Department was reorganized into five divisions: design, construction, engineering service, development engineering and control. This system enabled the Engineering Department to offer complete services to all the DuPont manufacturing departments and oversee the construction of $1 billion worth of new plants between 1945 and 1953. Still, the size and diversity of the workload forced DuPont to turn increasingly to subcontractors for actual construction while retaining control over design and research work.
By the 1960s, the Engineering Department had helped design and build plants from the United Kingdom to Argentina. Financial retrenchment in the 1970s and 1980s reduced new plant investment, but DuPont engineers continued to update plants to keep pace with technological advances. Construction boomed in the 1990s; a host of new plants were built worldwide and DuPont Engineering continues to design and oversee the construction of state-of-the-art plants. DuPont Engineering remains in demand as a consultant on a wide range of engineering services and technology. When the Board of Directors looked to improve DuPont's environmental record in 1992, it turned to the Engineering Department, which devised the Corporate Environmental Plan. This has led to annual reductions of 300 million pounds of waste and a savings of $100 million in capital expenditures and operational costs. DuPont continues to be, in the words of former President and CEO Chad Holliday, "good at solving big problems" for consumers. But it is DuPont Engineering that solves the big problems that enables the company to do so.
B.P. Foster, "A History of the Engineering Department of E. I. du Pont de Nemours" (Undated Mss.).
"Engineering & Construction" DuPont Magazine (April-May 1944).
J.P. Chamberlain, "The Du Pont Construction Force: Engineering Tomorrow's World," Engineering News-Record (August 6, 1953).
1888 Moving West
Construction of Mooar Mills began in 1888 under the direction of Francis Gurney du Pont and the plant went into production in 1890, a year after Henry’s death. Although both the construction and military markets for black powder were shrinking, the Midwestern soft coal mining industry, which did not require high explosives, more than supported the Keokuk plant. It was expanded three times in fact: in 1892, 1900 and 1918 when it achieved a daily production of 6,400 kegs of blasting powder. By the 1940s, however, the market had declined to such an extent that Mooar was no longer viable. DuPont closed the facility in 1949.
Francis Gurney du Pont
Francis Gurney du Pont (1850-1904) was the youngest son of Alexis I. du Pont and the grandson of E. I. du Pont. "Frank" served as superintendent of the Upper and Lower Hagley Yards before becoming general manager of Carney's Point, N.J., in 1891. There he conducted research into Alfred Nobel's formula for smokeless powder. In 1893, with the assistance of his cousin Pierre du Pont, Frank developed a successful smokeless powder for shotguns.
After DuPont was incorporated in 1899, Frank, who had been a partner in the firm since 1873, was appointed one of three vice presidents. At the death of Eugene du Pont in 1902, he was the logical successor to the presidency but declined it due to ill health. Instead, he advocated selling the company to competitor Laflin & Rand. He initially opposed the effort by the three younger du Ponts to block that sale and purchase the company themselves. A conservative businessman who valued his years of apprenticeship as a powderman, Frank mistrusted the modern business practices that he correctly believed the younger generation would implement at DuPont. He nevertheless yielded management of the company gracefully and died two years later, in 1904.PrevNext
1889 Eugene du Pont
Eugene du Pont (1840-1902) presided over the earliest steps in the transformation of DuPont from a family partnership to a modern corporation. The son of Alexis I. and grandson of E.I. du Pont, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and joined the family business in 1861. He started as an assistant to Lammot du Pont in the Brandywine Mills laboratory and soon gained a reputation as a black powder expert.
In 1886 Eugene filed two patent applications, one for a gunpowder press and the other for a new variety of powder known as brown prismatic. Eugene became a junior partner at DuPont in 1864. With the autocratic Henry du Pont as senior partner, however, none of the junior partners had much authority, but when Henry died in 1889 Eugene agreed to take the position.
As senior partner, Eugene commissioned the construction of a new, spacious office building in Wilmington that was equipped with a relatively new invention, the telephone. Eugene also stepped up DuPont’s involvement in the dynamite industry, helping form the Eastern Dynamite Company in 1895. In 1899 Eugene supervised the transformation of the old family partnership into a corporation, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. His death left DuPont bereft of leadership until the three young cousins, Alfred, Coleman and Pierre du Pont stepped in to implement even greater changes.PrevNext
1892 Carney's Point
DuPont built up the site slowly as adjoining land became available, but with World War I came a national defense boom. By 1917, DuPont had expanded Carney's Point to 67 times its pre-war capacity and employed 25,000 workers. Following the war, DuPont scaled back its munitions business. Carney's Point continued to produce sporting powder but was overshadowed by the expanding dye works at the adjoining Deepwater plant.
World War II brought a resurgence of smokeless powder production, but in the late 1940s, Carney's Point branched out into the production of cellulose chemical intermediates, although it also produced sporting powder. Some of the site's facilities were converted to plastics production during the 1960s, but smokeless powder operations continued under the DuPont Petrochemicals Department until the plant was closed in the late 1970s.PrevNext
Valuable acids were escaping from Repauno's nitroglycerin plant and killing fish in the Delaware River. In March 1884 Lammot du Pont was seeking a better way to recover them at the Repauno plant, when the acids overheated and exploded, killing Lammot and four others. This effort at applied research took a terrible toll, but Lammot, a University of Pennsylvania-trained chemist, believed that the company's survival depended on research.
E.I. du Pont, like his grandson, had also worked hard to improve explosives production through innovative machinery and methods and both men's efforts exemplified the 19th century pattern of individual initiative. But in the 20th century DuPont carried its research efforts much further, inventing and improving new products and furthering basic scientific knowledge in the process.
Since the early 1900s, DuPont's labs have conducted two types of research. "Applied research" focuses on developing new products or finding new uses for existing ones. "Basic research" pursues scientific questions not necessarily connected to any specific product or market, but on the faith that science will eventually open up new possibilities. Over the last century DuPont has always remained committed to research, although the emphasis given to each variant has continually shifted. After the younger du Ponts purchased the company in 1902 they established the Experimental Station near the old powder plant on the Brandywine and the Eastern Laboratory at Repauno. In their first decade of existence, these two laboratories established sharply contrasting records. The Experimental Station operated as an arm of DuPont's Development Department, explored a wide variety of problems related to DuPont's product lines, and failed to show a clear cut return on investment. Eastern Laboratory, on the other hand, focused solely on high explosives and succeeded in producing both product and process innovations.
World War I put the company's research capabilities to the test. When hostilities closed off access to the synthetic dyes and chemical expertise of German firms, America looked to DuPont to fill the gap. DuPont's response included the establishment of Jackson Laboratory at Deepwater, N.J., to investigate dyestuffs chemistry. Although the research and production efforts proved to be more difficult, costly and time-consuming than most had imagined, it was a qualified success. An important benefit of this early dyestuffs work was that it gave DuPont a grounding in organic chemistry. Equally important, it underscored the advantages of long-term, well-coordinated research strategies closely linked to factory-floor technologies. It was just such a system that scientists Charles Stine and Elmer K. Bolton hoped to expand at DuPont after the war.
During the 1910s, even as DuPont began to diversify its product lines, the company's research efforts became increasingly concentrated in the Chemical Department based at Wilmington's Experimental Station. But when the Executive Committee decentralized DuPont's management in 1921, they also bowed to pressure to decentralize much of the company's research so it could be tailored more closely to sales and manufacturing needs. Product departments such as the Explosives, Paint and Dyestuffs also specialized, setting up their own applied research facilities. This effort to apply scientific research directly to the development of specific products and production methods proved successful, yet the company continued to maintain its centralized basic research efforts in the Chemical Department. After Stine succeeded Reese in 1924, he strengthened the commitment to basic research, likening scientific research to the "adventuring argosy" of ancient navigators and explorers.
In contrast, Bolton, who took over from Stine as Director of the Chemical Department in 1930, pushed to make scientific research pay off and insisted that basic research be connected, at least loosely, to particular product lines. But Stine's faith in basic research was validated when, in 1930, the Chemical Department's Wallace Hume Carothers discovered not only neoprene synthetic rubber but also nylon, the first true synthetic fiber. Nylon's phenomenal success in both consumer and military markets helped to cement DuPont's post-World War II commitment to high-stakes, open-ended, basic research. In matters of broad policy, the company was staking its future on the calculated gamble of finding a pot of gold at the end of a research effort in the form of "new nylons."
In the years after World War II, DuPont, led by former chemical engineer Crawford Greenewalt, redoubled its efforts to plumb the field of organic chemistry for the next new nylon. In 1946 DuPont authorized the expenditure of $50 million for construction of new labs. The research arms of the separate product departments were beefed up to carry out basic, as well as applied, research. This move represented a compromise between Stine's belief in basic research and Bolton's more cost-conscious approach.
By 1960 the explosive growth that had been spurred on by DuPont's 1930s discoveries had slowed, convincing the Executive Committee to redouble its commitment to basic research. During the 1960s, the Experimental Station's Chemical Department, recently renamed the Central Research Department, mounted an open-ended effort to produce dramatic breakthroughs in building materials and electronics, as well as more traditional products. Few of these "New Ventures" paid off, however, due to escalating research costs, increased foreign competition, and a shift away from synthetics in clothing fashions. The economic downturn of the 1970s forced DuPont to retrench, and Executive Committee member Edwin A. Gee, who had directed the New Ventures program, called for cutbacks in basic research and for greater executive control over research spending by departments. The company began to rely more heavily on acquisition than research to augment and diversify its product bases, culminating in the purchase of Conoco Oil in 1981.
But even as DuPont was reaching beyond its traditional chemical markets, it returned yet again to its basic research values, opening an $85 million life sciences research complex in 1984. By the late 1990s DuPont had rediscovered itself as a "discovery company," emphasizing the bright possibilities rather than the hazards of science. It could proudly survey its ranks of researchers over the years and claim members in the National Academy of Sciences (George Lorimer and George Marshall) and the National Academy of Engineering (Uma Chowdhry and James Trainham). DuPont's Howard E. Simmons was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1992, and Charles Pederson was named a Nobel laureate in 1987. The company itself, along with individual researchers, Stephanie Kwolek and George Levitt, are National Medal of Technology winners, and DuPont has recognized numerous researchers with its own Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement.
Still, consumer anxiety in the 1990s over genetically modified crops, especially in European markets, was a sober reminder that different groups saw scientific progress in different ways. While the new company motto stressed "The miracles of science™," DuPont's Chairman, Charles O. Holliday, also pointed out the company's need to address public worries over science, especially biogenetic research. DuPont's research mission, carried out in 75 laboratories around the world, still contains Bolton's conservative cautions as well as Stine's vision of an "adventuring argosy." And DuPont executives still calculate the risks of that mission as they strive for the right balance between the ever-shifting forces of the marketplace and the laboratory.
David A. Hounshell and John Kenly Smith, Jr., Science and Corporate Strategy: DuPont R&D, 1902-1980 (Cambridge, MA, 1988).
Norman B. Wilkinson, Lammot du Pont and the American Explosives Industry, 1850-1884 (University Press of Virginia, 1984).
1902 New Owners
When the company turned 100 in 1902, it was widely respected but also weighed down by tradition. That year, three young du Pont cousins–T. Coleman, Pierre S. and Alfred I.–purchased the company from their older relatives and began to transform it from an explosives manufacturer into a broad, science-based chemical company. The trio modernized company management, built research labs, and marketed new products like paints, plastics and dyes.
Alfred I. du Pont (1864-1935) helped ensure DuPont’s survival into a second century by engineering the 1902 rescue of the family business. The orphaned son of E.I. du Pont II, Alfred left MIT in 1884 after only two years to go to work manufacturing powder in the Brandywine mills. Five years later he became a partner in the company and was dispatched to Europe by the U.S. Army Chief of Ordnance to purchase the patent rights to smokeless powder. By the early 1890s, Alfred was assistant superintendent of the Hagley and Lower Yards. When the company was reorganized in 1899, Alfred became a director.
In 1902 Eugene du Pont died and with no clear successor, DuPont’s senior partners contemplated selling out to competitor Laflin & Rand. Alfred protested and formed a partnership with cousins T. Coleman and Pierre S. du Pont to buy the company. Impressed by the determination of the three young family members, the senior partners agreed to sell. Alfred served as vice president of the new corporation, took charge of black powder manufacture, and sat on the newly formed Executive Committee. Alfred also helped shape DuPont’s research program. In a 1904 dispute over whether the company should base its research efforts in departmental or general laboratories, he headed a subcommittee that recommended DuPont follow both tracks at once. A veteran of the powder yards, Alfred was more of a traditionalist than his enterprising cousin Pierre, and the two were increasingly at odds during the 1900s. Alfred’s unseemly marriage to a divorced cousin further compounded his problems. In 1911 he was stripped of his responsibility for black powder manufacture during a dispute over the modernization of the Brandywine yards. In 1915 T. Coleman du Pont relinquished the presidency and Pierre purchased his shares through the newly formed DuPont Securities Company. Enraged, Alfred joined in a lawsuit filed against DuPont Securities by other family members. The shareholders sided two to one against Alfred, and he resigned from DuPont. Alfred devoted the rest of his life to a variety of business ventures in Delaware and in Florida.Prev Next
1902 Thomas Coleman du Pont
Thomas Coleman du Pont (1863-1930) helped transform DuPont from a family-owned explosives business into a large, centrally managed chemical manufacturer. The great grandson of E.I. du Pont, he grew up in Louisville, Ky., and graduated from MIT in 1885. Coleman began his business career in the Kentucky coal industry, and his skill and energy brought him to the attention of Arthur J. Moxham who made him general manager of a steel firm in Johnstown, Pa.
After buying a Johnstown street railway and making it profitable, Coleman entered into the electric street railway business on a national scale. His career took an unexpected turn in 1902 when cousin Alfred notified him that the family business was slated to be sold to Laflin & Rand, a leading competitor. Coleman agreed to join Alfred and their other cousin Pierre in taking over the firm, and with his proven managerial record, Coleman was the logical choice for president.
Coleman implemented a three-part strategy to reorganize the company: consolidation of the explosives industry through acquisition, innovative research and diversification beyond explosives. By 1905 the three cousins had succeeded in bringing three-fourths of the explosives industry into DuPont. To coordinate this vastly expanded business, Coleman implemented a multi-departmental structure headed by an Executive Committee. The partners also realized that new uses would have to be found for DuPont’s now greatly expanded capacity, so Coleman authorized the establishment of the Experimental Station, a laboratory designed to research and develop non-explosive products. Coleman also took DuPont into its first significant non-explosives chemical endeavor with the 1905 acquisition of International Smokeless Powder & Chemical Company. By 1905 Coleman was preoccupied with interests including real estate and construction of a modern highway system in Delaware. Pierre du Pont became acting president in 1909 and Coleman officially resigned his post in 1915. He represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1921 to 1928.Prev Next
1902 Hamilton M. Barksdale
Hamilton M. Barksdale (1862-1918) played a key role in DuPont’s reorganization between 1902 and World War I. He began his career as a civil engineer for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and in 1895 became President of the Repauno Chemical Company. When Alfred, Pierre, and Coleman du Pont took over the company in 1902, Barksdale was among the handful of young executives they hired for knowledge of modern business management principles.
Barksdale was one of seven men named to the Executive Committee, which was established in February 1903. Barksdale also took over the High Explosives Department, which included research operations at Repauno’s Eastern Laboratory. In 1911, as part of an effort to centralize DuPont’s management, Pierre made Barksdale general manager with responsibility for all company operations. Decentralization came three years later, however, and Barksdale became one of eight vice presidents. He remained on the Executive Committee only for a brief time afterward. In the last four years of his life, however, Barksdale remained a trusted advisor to DuPont management.
Barksdale was both a custodian of DuPont tradition and an agent of change. Of all the managers recruited in 1902, Barksdale was the staunchest advocate of the new, "systems" approach to organization, with its emphasis on rationality and efficiency rather than tradition. Yet earlier that year, Barksdale had turned down an offer to head up the company that would have been created had the du Ponts sold out to Laflin & Rand. Barksdale insisted that the business should remain under du Pont leadership and cleared the way for the in-family purchase that kept the century-old company intact.Prev Next
1902 J. Amory Haskell
J. Amory Haskell (1861-1923) bridged the gap between the old du Pont family partnership of the 19th century and the modern corporation of the 20th century. After William du Pont resigned as president of the Repauno Chemical Company in 1892, competitor Laflin & Rand suggested that Haskell, then general manager of Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company, be offered the position. Haskell accepted.
As president of Repauno, he proved a capable executive, presiding over a period of unprecedented growth in the dynamite industry. He rationalized Repauno’s corporate organization, and his bonus system for outstanding employees became a model for the company-wide bonus program established in 1905.
Haskell oversaw the 1895 merger of Repauno and two other explosives firms that created the Eastern Dynamite Company subsidiary. That same year Haskell also became president of Laflin & Rand. When DuPont purchased that company in 1902, Haskell took a seat on the Executive Committee, which he held until 1914. He helped found Eastern Laboratory in 1902 and hired Dr. Charles L. Reese, the guiding force behind Eastern’s first decade of research. From 1907 to 1911 Haskell headed up the Smokeless Powder Division and afterward continued to work for DuPont as vice president in charge of sales. In 1915, at the recommendation of Pierre S. du Pont, Haskell was elected to the Executive and Finance Committees of General Motors (GM). He worked for both GM and DuPont until his death in 1923.Prev Next
1902 Harry G. Haskell
Harry G. Haskell (1870-1951) was a DuPont vice president and member of the Executive Committee who also served on the company's Board of Directors. A graduate of the Columbia University School of Mines, Haskell joined DuPont's Repauno plant in 1902 when his employer merged with DuPont.
He and another DuPont manager, Hamilton Barksdale, introduced modern management techniques to Repauno that were adopted throughout the company during reorganizations in 1911 and 1914. Haskell was appointed Director of the High Explosives Operating Department in 1911 and joined the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors in 1914. Haskell was very interested in workplace health and safety issues, and in 1915 he took a leading role in establishing DuPont's Medical Division. The following year he was named a DuPont vice president.
Haskell retained his position as Head of the High Explosives Operating Department during the busy production years of World War I. He resigned from that position and from the Executive Committee in 1919. He continued to serve on the Board of Directors until 1946, and was elected a Director of the Delaware Academy of Medicine in 1942. Haskell died in his Wilmington home on January 5, 1951, at the age of 80.Prev Next
1902 Arthur J. Moxham
A member of DuPont’s first Executive Committee, Arthur J. Moxham (1854-1931) played a vital role in changing the company from a loosely organized explosives firm into an integrated chemical corporation.
Prior to his association with DuPont, Moxham had worked in the steel industry where he developed a method for rolling girder rails to fit a new streetcar invented by Tom Johnson. In 1889 Moxham joined with Johnson and Alfred Victor du Pont, grandson of E.I. du Pont, to begin a new steel enterprise called the Johnson Company. Moxham served as the company’s president and revealed his skills at central organization by setting up a modern national sales force with regional offices. He also appointed Pierre and T. Coleman du Pont to managerial positions and was impressed with their work. In 1899 Moxham left the Johnson Company to head a Nova Scotia steel firm.
When cousins Pierre, T. Coleman and Alfred I. du Pont purchased DuPont in 1902, they called on their mentor Arthur Moxham to help restructure the company along the lines of a modern corporation. Moxham advocated eliminating DuPont’s old strategy of buying majority interests in explosives companies while continuing to run them as separate entities. Instead, he urged the new owners to purchase companies outright and create a multidivisional corporate structure under the management of an Executive Committee. In 1903 Moxham was placed in charge of one of these new corporate divisions, the Development Department. Under Moxham’s leadership, the Development Department was tasked with finding new outlets for DuPont products, establishing independent sources of raw materials, and investigating new fields beyond explosives. Moxham instructed his staff to think of DuPont as a chemical manufacturer rather than simply a powder maker. The Development Department also controlled the Experimental Laboratory where important research was conducted on black powder, dynamite, glycerin and non-explosive uses for nitrocellulose. In 1913 Moxham resigned from the Executive Committee in order to head the Aetna Explosives Company.Prev Next
1902 Charles Lee Reese
Charles Lee Reese (1862-1940) was the first director of DuPont's Eastern Laboratory and later the company's centralized research department, the Chemical Department. Reese earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1884 and two years later a Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in Germany.
He returned to America, struggled professionally for 13 years as a chemistry instructor, then in 1899 took a position as an industrial chemist with the New Jersey Zinc Company. Reese soon attracted the attention of DuPont executives J. Amory Haskell and Hamilton Barksdale, who were seeking an able manager to organize and head a new explosives research laboratory. In 1902 they named Reese as the first director of Eastern Laboratory, one of the country's first pioneering industrial research laboratories.
In the following years, Reese built a first-class research organization and spearheaded the development of low-freezing dynamites and "permissible" explosives for use in combustible mining environments. Reese's success at Eastern Laboratory led to his appointment as the first director of DuPont's new Chemical Department in 1911, where he worked diligently to centralize the company's several research operations. In 1917 he was elected to DuPont's Board of Directors. After World War I, Reese's centralized research structure failed to meet the needs of the company's expanding, diversified businesses, and in 1921 a company-wide reorganization authorized those businesses to establish their own research labs using Chemical Department personnel. Reese remained the nominal director of what remained of the centralized Chemical Department until his retirement in 1924. He continued working as a chemical consultant at DuPont until 1930, and remained on the company's Board of Directors until his death in 1940.
As the DuPont Company expanded beyond black powder into dynamite production at the end of the 19th century, it recognized the need for a full-time research facility dedicated to studying and improving explosives. In July 1902 it opened the Eastern Laboratory at its Repauno dynamite plant in Gibbstown, N.J., and appointed Charles Reese as its first director. The lab was named for the Eastern Dynamite Company, then a holding company for DuPont's dynamite businesses, and employed 10 researchers. It was DuPont's first formally organized laboratory, and was the first industrial chemical research lab established in the United States. DuPont's opening of another research lab, the Experimental Station, in the following year (1903) helped define the company's dual approach to research: applied research aimed directly at new or improved products, such as Eastern conducted, and the Experimental Station's basic or fundamental research aimed at new knowledge.
In 1907 Eastern Laboratory developed the first successful low-freezing dynamites, as well as a number of permissibles, explosives approved for use in gaseous and dusty mines. During World War I, Eastern conducted DuPont's initial efforts to research and produce dyes in order to replace German imports cut off by the British naval blockade. In 1918 dyestuffs research moved into the company's new Jackson Laboratory at Deepwater, N.J., and Eastern concentrated on explosives research for the war effort. After World War I, Eastern's research diversified beyond explosives into such areas as developing effective process technology for tetraethyl lead gasoline additives, and improving DuPont's many chemical manufacturing operations. Eastern also helped develop ingredients and processes for making Dacron polyester in the 1950s.
By its 50th anniversary in 1952 Eastern had grown to 100 separate buildings on a 300-acre site. After DuPont discontinued dynamite production at Repauno in 1954, Eastern Laboratory researchers developed high-pressure technologies for making industrial diamonds from graphite, and for bonding metals such as the copper-cupronickel slab from which the first U.S. dime and quarter sandwich coins were made. DuPont phased out the Eastern Laboratory in 1972, and its operations and personnel were transferred to other company facilities.Prev Next
1902 Laflin & Rand Powder Company
The Laflin & Rand Powder Company was DuPont's leading post-Civil War competitor in the explosives industry, but also an important partner in the Gunpowder Trade Association (GTA). After manufacturing saltpeter for the Massachusetts militia during the Revolutionary War, Irish-born Matthew Laflin built a powder mill in Southwick, Mass., and successfully entered the explosives business.
After Laflin died in 1810, his descendants expanded the family business into New York. To better handle the growing complexities of business after the Civil War, the partners incorporated the firm in 1866 as the Laflin Powder Company. A year later, Albert Tyler Rand of the competing Smith & Rand Powder Company proposed uniting the two firms, and in 1869 both sides agreed to merge into the Laflin & Rand Powder Company of New York, with Rand as the new firm's first president.
In 1872 Laflin & Rand collaborated with friendly rival DuPont to establish the GTA, a trust comprising the nation's top explosives manufacturers that sought to regulate the powder industry with price controls, protected territories and sales quotas. The two companies likewise cooperated in the emerging high explosives, or dynamite, field, jointly establishing the Repauno Chemical Company in 1880, the Hercules Powder Company in 1882, and the Eastern Dynamite Company in 1895. Their combined efforts at industry consolidation and control were so successful that by 1900, Laflin & Rand and DuPont together commanded over two-thirds of the entire explosives industry.
In October 1902 DuPont purchased Laflin & Rand, operating it as a subsidiary while planning to assimilate its assets over the following years. In 1912, however, a successful Federal antitrust suit against DuPont for its prior "Powder Trust" activities in the GTA forced the company to dissolve Laflin & Rand and divest a significant portion of its explosives business into two newly created companies, the Hercules and Atlas Powder Companies. Hercules received Laflin & Rand's patents for smokeless powder, along with several of its old plants, and ultimately developed into a substantial corporation in its own right. Hercules diversified into chemicals and abandoned the explosives business in the 1950s and 1960s. Today Laflin & Rand's legacy continues in the Alliant Powder Company, a former subsidiary of Hercules that specializes in military gunpowder manufacturing.Prev Next
1903 Experimental Station
DuPont established the Experimental Station in 1903 near Wilmington, Del., to conduct and promote scientific research as a major platform for industrial growth. The facility was DuPont's first general scientific laboratory and the site of many of the company's most spectacular research triumphs, including neoprene, nylon and Lycra.
Under their first director, chemist Francis I. du Pont, Experimental Station scientists conducted research into nitrocellulose chemistry, particularly in the fields of glycerin synthesis and atmospheric nitrogen recovery. The laboratory became more deeply involved in diversified chemical research when chemist Fin Sparre became its director in 1911, resulting in improvements in such products as the artificial leather Fabrikoid and celluloid films. During World War I, researchers at the Experimental Station assisted their colleagues at other DuPont labs like Jackson Laboratory and Eastern Laboratory in exploring fundamental aspects of organic chemistry that proved crucial to the company's smokeless powder and dyestuffs businesses.
The Experimental Station became center stage for a golden age of scientific discovery after 1927, when Chemical Department Director Charles M. A. Stine persuaded the Executive Committee to fund an academic-style, fundamental research program there, free from any immediate commercial considerations. Stine's program quickly achieved some spectacular results. Researchers working on polymer synthesis under the brilliant organic chemist Wallace H. Carothers soon invented the synthetic rubber neoprene, the cold-drawn fiber technique, and nylon.
These discoveries helped create DuPont's successful synthetic textile fibers and polychemicals businesses. In the late 1940s, DuPont President Crawford H. Greenewalt and Chemical Department Director Elmer K. Bolton oversaw a $30 million expansion project at the Experimental Station to tie the company's post-World War II growth even more closely to long-range fundamental research. Opening in May 1951, the newly expanded facility united several of DuPont's most important industrial laboratories into a centralized research and development complex that ultimately led the company into new fields such as pharmaceuticals and biochemicals in the 1960s and 1970s. DuPont expanded the Experimental Station again in 1984 to include the new Greenewalt Laboratory, reflecting the company's more recent interest in biological and ecological research. Today, the Experimental Station remains DuPont's primary research and development center as well as one of the largest, most scientifically diverse industrial laboratories in the world.Prev Next
1903 William G. Ramsay
William G. Ramsay (1866-1916) led the creation and development of DuPont's Engineering Department in the early years of the 20th century. Trained at the University of Virginia, Ramsay learned the practical aspects of civil engineering while working on railroads in the 1880s and early 1890s and joined DuPont's dynamite plant at Repauno, N.J., in 1892.
After serving in the Spanish-American War, Ramsay returned to DuPont and in 1903 was named to head DuPont's new Engineering Department. Beginning with a staff of just two engineers, a draftsman and a secretary, Chief Engineer Ramsay steadily expanded the department to 120 engineers and a payroll of 800 by 1914. Under his direction, DuPont's Engineering Department undertook a variety of construction projects for the company's growing operations, including plant design and construction, as well as non-industrial projects such as the DuPont Theatre, formerly The Playhouse Theatre, and the Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington.
Ramsay's biggest challenge came with the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, when the Engineering Department orchestrated the rapid and massive expansion of munitions plants to meet Allied demands. On September 28, 1916, at age 50, Ramsay died while in the middle of this unprecedented expansion. In DuPont's Annual Report that year, company President Pierre S. du Pont singled out Ramsay's Engineering Department for praise in successfully meeting the huge construction demands. "No greater tribute can be paid to the memory of Major William G. Ramsay, late Chief Engineer of our Company," said President du Pont, "than to recognize his genius as the responsible factor in this achievement."Prev Next
1904 Parlin, New Jersey
The Parlin, N.J., site, acquired in the 1904 purchase of the International Smokeless Powder & Chemical Company, quickly became the center of DuPont's paint and photographic product operations. Although Parlin produced munitions during World War I, it also produced nitrocellulose-based pyroxylin brass lacquers.
In 1920 researchers at Parlin's Redpath Laboratory began developing these lacquers into films, and one attempt led fortuitously to the discovery of Duco quick-drying finish, DuPont's first major chemical invention. During World War II, Parlin switched to the production of camouflage, coatings for bombs and tanks, insect repellants, and other national defense needs. After the war, Parlin came under DuPont's Fabrics and Finishes Department. Paint manufacture was phased out, replaced by the production of Teflon® and its successors.
Development of photographic products also continued apace at Parlin. In 1920 a commercial plant for the production of 35mm film was opened under the DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Corporation. In 1932 X-ray films also went into production. Both performed well. DuPont's motion picture film won an Academy Award in 1943 and Allied forces employed a wide variety of films during World War II. In the postwar years the Photo Products Department embarked on a broad research program, and Parlin developed and manufactured such products as Cyrel® flexographic printing plates and Cromalin® color proofing systems.Prev Next
Pyroxylin lacquers and plastics served as a springboard for DuPont. They launched the company out of the powder business of the 19th century and into the forefront of the 20th century revolution in synthetic materials. Pyroxylin is a generic name for nitrocellulose compounds that form a film when dissolved in a mixture of ether and alcohol, from which plastics can be produced.
In the years before World War II, DuPont marketed a host of pyroxylin-made consumer goods including upholstery, brass finishes, household cement, toiletries and clothing accessories.
Although a cutting-edge plastic in the early 20th century, pyroxylin had been around a long time. During the Civil War, quick-drying pyroxylin film had been used as a covering on battlefield wounds. Further experimentation with the application of heat and pressure led to the development in 1870 of celluloid, the first pyroxylin plastic.
DuPont, seeking diversification based on its nitrocellulose experience, bought the International Smokeless Powder & Chemical Company, a manufacturer of both explosives and pyroxylin lacquers, in 1904. Six years later, the acquisition of the Fabrikoid Company involved DuPont in the manufacture of pyroxylin-based artificial leather. DuPont extended its line of finishes with the 1915 purchase of The Arlington Company and began production of Pyralin, a pyroxylin plastic used in combs, collars, cuffs and automobile side curtains. The acquisition of the Viscoloid Company in 1925 deepened DuPont's involvement in pyroxylin plastics.
DuPont research improved each of these pyroxylin products significantly, making DuPont Fabrikoid the nation's premiere artificial leather and also developing transparent plastics marketed by the DuPont Viscoloid Company. The company also invented Duco, a tough, fast-drying pyroxylin-based lacquer that became the standard finish on automobiles and a host of other consumer products through the 1930s. By World War II, DuPont had used its expertise in pyroxylin to help develop true synthetics like nylon, which were quickly displacing nitrocellulose-based substances.Prev Next
1905 Willis Fleming Harrington
Willis Fleming Harrington (1882-1960) was an engineer and an executive who helped guide DuPont through a critical period of diversification in the 1920s. A Delaware native, he graduated from the University of Delaware in 1902, earned a chemical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1905, and then joined DuPont as a chemist at the company's Barksdale explosives plant in Wisconsin.
Four years later, in 1909, Harrington moved further west to manage the company's new explosives plant in the town of DuPont, Wash. In 1915 he returned East to do research on smokeless powder at the Carney's Point plant in New Jersey, and two years later was named manager of that facility.
During World War I, Harrington participated in many major decisions surrounding the company's involvement in dyestuffs research and manufacture, and in 1924 he was named General Manager of the Dyestuffs Department (later called the Organic Chemicals Department). From 1925 to 1926 he oversaw DuPont's start-up of tetraethyl lead (TEL) production for anti-knock gasoline, and helped guide the company's entry into the manufacture of titanium dioxide pigments. Harrington was elected to the company's Board of Directors in 1927. Two years later he was named a company vice president and member of the Executive Committee. He headed the Executive Committee's Fellowship program until the mid-1930s, awarding financial grants to university professors engaged in research activities of potential interest to the company. Harrington retired in 1947, though he remained on the Board of Directors until his death in 1960.Prev Next
1906 Arthur Douglas Chambers
Arthur Douglas Chambers (1872-1961) earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 1896, then joined DuPont as a chemist in the dynamite plant at Ashburn, Miss. He served as superintendent of that facility from 1906 to 1908, then as superintendent of DuPont's Louviers dynamite plant in Colorado from 1908 to 1915. He then moved to the company's Development Department in Wilmington, where he helped DuPont make a momentous decision to enter the dye business.
After a World War I British naval blockade curtailed imports of German-made dyes to the United States, DuPont diversified into dye manufacture. However, little was known about dye chemistry outside Germany, where chemical companies had acquired sophisticated knowledge and a substantial competitive advantage.
In 1915 Chambers prepared a report recommending that DuPont undertake the research necessary to match German expertise. In April 1916 he was part of an advance team DuPont sent to the Levinstein dye plant outside Manchester, England, which had replicated some German techniques. The next year DuPont appointed Chambers to head the dye plant it was constructing at Deepwater, N.J. The dye venture at Deepwater proved to be technically much more difficult, and expensive, than expected. However, the research experience acquired at Deepwater's Jackson Laboratory later facilitated the company's manufacture of tetraethyl lead gasoline additive and Freon® refrigerants. Chambers retired from DuPont in 1941. In 1944 the company's Deepwater plant was named Chambers Works in his honor.
DuPont's Louviers plant, located between Denver and Colorado Springs, was one of the oldest explosives operations in the country when it closed in the early 1980s. At an altitude of 5,680 feet, Louviers was also the highest dynamite plant in the United States. In 1906 DuPont purchased 1,800 acres for the new plant at Gann's Station, a small outpost on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Two years later the Louviers plant opened to serve the western mining, oil exploration and construction markets. Named after a village near the ancestral home of the du Pont family in France, the new facility included houses, stores, a school and a library for workers and their families. DuPont brought in a nucleus of experienced explosives workers from its Ashburn plant in Missouri to help ensure a safe start-up and appointed Arthur D. Chambers, a Ph.D. chemist and Johns Hopkins University graduate, as its first superintendent. Chambers oversaw Louviers operations for seven years before returning to Wilmington to help establish DuPont's new dyestuffs business.
DuPont soon found another market niche for Louviers in manufacturing large quantities of permissibles--explosives with salts added to reduce the intensity of flames in explosions, and therefore safer for use in underground mines. Louviers supplied permissibles to the coal mines of Colorado, Arizona and Utah and produced technologically sophisticated explosives for other customers for 70 years. In 1977 DuPont ceased domestic production of dynamite and switched to safer, "water gel" explosives like Tovex. In 1988 DuPont and DuPont Canada sold their explosives businesses to ETI Inc., a Canadian firm. Many former Louviers employees and their descendants remain in the DuPont-built homes that they purchased from the company in the 1960s. Louviers Village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.Prev Next
1906 Robert Ruliph Morgan (R.R.M.) Carpenter
Robert Ruliph Morgan (R.R.M.) Carpenter (1877-1949) was a member of Pierre S. du Pont's "Wartime Cabinet" during World War I and helped DuPont diversify beyond gunpowder and explosives. "Ruly" Carpenter, as he was known, worked in his family's hardware store in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., after graduating from high school. In 1906 he joined DuPont as a district purchasing agent after a brief stint with a DuPont subsidiary, the Manufacturer's Contracting Company.
That same year he married Margaretta du Pont, a sister of company president Pierre Samuel. In 1908 he joined DuPont's Development Department, then headed by Pierre's brother, Irénée, and three years later was named director of that department. Carpenter directed a study of hundreds of businesses outside the explosives industry in order to shape the company's diversification efforts. He recommended that DuPont acquire and develop new product lines such as Pyralin plastics and Fabrikoid artificial leather, then served as President of the DuPont Fabrikoid Company from 1913-1920. In 1914 he was appointed to the Executive Committee and elected to the Board of Directors, where he helped direct the company's operations during World War I.
Carpenter was part of a great expansion of middle management at DuPont during the first two decades of the 20th century, helping Pierre Samuel and T. Coleman du Pont to transform the company into a modern corporation. Executives like Carpenter and John J. Raskob lacked hands-on experience in powder manufacturing but shared an astute understanding of finance and new methods of business organization. Carpenter was the first head of the company's Personnel Division, created in 1918, served on the Board of Directors' Finance Committee in 1919, and rejoined the Executive Committee in 1920. He remained a vice president until his retirement in 1946 and served on the Board until his death in 1949. His younger brother by 11 years, Walter S. Carpenter, was President of DuPont from 1940 to 1948.Prev Next
1909 DuPont, Washington
DuPont, Wash., located on the Puget Sound 15 miles south of Tacoma, was an important explosives plant and a premier company town. Construction of the plant took three years, with the first dynamite produced in the fall of 1909.
The town, laid out in a forest clearing by a landscape designer, was complete by 1912. DuPont, seeking to attract a "better class of labor" to the area, offered wooden frame homes complete with electricity, gas stoves and furnaces, and indoor plumbing. The company provided a physician and free medication for residents and maintained the town’s parks and gardens. DuPont, Wash., helped meet the demands of World War I with a black powder facility that opened in 1913 and a nitrostarch factory that began production in 1916. The site’s location on the Puget Sound gave it easy access to large shipments of Chilean soda supplies. It served a market ranging up and down the Pacific Coast and east to the Rockies, and two DuPont-owned ships even supplied mining camps in Alaska. Although the Depression hit the area hard, DuPont, Wash., boomed during World War II, manufacturing millions of pounds of explosives for the Pacific military theater.
In 1951 the company sold the town’s property to the residents and DuPont, Wash., was officially incorporated the next year. By the time of the plant’s 50th anniversary eight years later it had survived storms, explosions, and even an earthquake to produce more than a billion pounds of explosives. It supplied some of the largest construction projects in history including the Grand Coulee Dam, the Alaska railroad and the Panama Canal. With the exception of the war booms, DuPont, Washington’s population changed little over the years. Its population of 384 in 1970 was only slightly larger than it had been in 1909, and over the years the residents, many of whom spent their entire working lives with DuPont, had become deeply attached to the town and the company. But diminishing demand for explosives during the 1970s brought an end to the company’s involvement. In 1976 the plant was closed after 67 years in operation.Prev Next
1910s Synthetic Textile Fibers
The story of synthetic textile fibers began in the 1880s when a Frenchman, Hilaire de Chardonnet, spun fibers of artificial silk from a solution of cellulose, a fibrous substance found in wood or cotton. DuPont was already involved in cellulose-based explosives, so artificial silk seemed a good prospect. In the late 1910s, seeking to diversify out of munitions, DuPont took its fateful step into textile fibers.
By early 1920 DuPont had secured the American rights to produce artificial silk from the French firm that held Chardonnet’s patents. The DuPont Fibersilk Company was established to develop the product, and the first yarn was produced the next year. In 1924, after the textile industry had settled on the generic name rayon for artificial silk, DuPont renamed its subsidiary the DuPont Rayon Company, which became the predecessor of DuPont’s Textile Fibers Department.
Rayon was a springboard that launched DuPont into the forefront of the synthetic textile fibers industry. The experience gained in its production proved indispensable in developing nylon. Nylon, introduced in 1938, was the world’s first true synthetic fiber created wholly out of chemicals. It was strong, durable, lightweight and ultimately proved very versatile. In 1940, when it was first marketed, nylon was finely spun and targeted as a replacement for silk in women’s hosiery, but it later proved effective in a variety of other uses from lingerie to tire cordage.
The phenomenal success of nylon spurred DuPont to develop new synthetic fibers. The first to be developed was Orlon acrylic fiber, a DuPont invention which proved an effective substitute for wool in sweaters, pile fabrics and carpeting. Dacron polyester fiber, a British invention licensed by DuPont in the late 1940s, was briefly the company’s most profitable fiber when double-knits became fashionable in the early 1970s and was a steady seller as a component of wash-and-wear fabrics. Another DuPont invention that has had a tremendous impact on the clothing industry is Lycra, an elastomeric fiber that would stretch up to six times its original length.
Synthetic textile fibers were generally produced in one of two ways. Rayon and Orlon were both solution spun. In this process, a solution containing the textile substance was forced through a tiny opening called a spinneret. The evaporation of the solvent resulted in the fiber. Nylon and Dacron were produced by forcing a molten mass through the spinneret. In either case, the resulting fibers were then drawn to varying degrees of strength and elasticity and textured if desired.
During the mid-1950s, DuPont researchers developed flash spinning, a solution process in which the solvent was removed abruptly and at very high pressures and temperatures. This spunbonded process created a web of randomly oriented, interconnected filaments ideal for producing paper or felt-like sheets. The most notable of the spunbonded materials is Tyvek®, which is marketed as a synthetic paper but also as a nonwoven fabric. A similar invention was Sontara®, a soft nonwoven fabric spunlaced by mechanically entwining a web of fibers on a mesh. In the 1960s, DuPont developed a family of aramid fibers, similar to nylon but extraordinarily strong and highly resistant to heat. Kevlar®, which is six times stronger than its weight in steel, is used in bulletproof vests. Nomex® heat- and flame-resistant fiber is used to make protective clothing for firefighters. The growing importance of DuPont’s specialty fibers helped buoy company earnings during the mid-1970s when worldwide over-capacity and increased competition cut into its synthetic fabrics profits, but the company emerged from this troubled period still the largest, most diversified low-cost producer of synthetic fibers worldwide.
The Dacron and Lycra trademarks and their products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.Prev Next
1910 Artificial Leather
Fabrikoid was one of DuPont’s first non-explosives products. Produced by coating fabric with nitrocellulose and marketed as artificial leather, Fabrikoid was widely used in upholstery, luggage and bookbindings during the early 20th century. In the 1920s, Fabrikoid became the preferred material for automobile convertible tops and seat covers.
As DuPont diversified out of explosives it sought other applications for its nitrocellulose expertise. The Fabrikoid Company, of Newburgh, N.Y., had already developed a textile coating process, and in 1910 DuPont purchased the company for $1.2 million. It soon became evident that the facilities were unsatisfactory, however, and within a few years DuPont’s chemists had substantially improved the product and its production. The manufacture of DuPont Fabrikoid began with a nitrocellulose coating known as pyroxylin. The pyroxylin was colored with pigments suspended in castor oil, producing a soft and pliable product. A coating machine applied this substance to a base fabric, and the result was then embossed and finished. In the 1920s and 1930s, automobile manufacturers used Fabrikoid in convertible tops and seat covers, but by the 1940s new, more durable vinyl-coated fabrics overtook the market.
Irénée du Pont
In his 60-year career with DuPont, Irénée du Pont (1876-1963) witnessed the company’s transition from the nation’s largest powder producer to one of the world’s leading chemical firms. His father, Lammot du Pont, had begun manufacturing dynamite at the Repauno works in New Jersey and was killed there in an 1884 explosion. Irénée followed his older brother, Pierre, to MIT and graduated in 1897, earning a master’s degree the following year. He then joined Fenn’s Manufacturing Contracting Company, owned by William H. Fenn, a former MIT roommate of Pierre. After cousins Alfred, T. Coleman and Pierre bought DuPont in 1902, Irénée returned to Wilmington to assist Fenn’s company in the construction of DuPont’s new headquarters.
Irénée was soon hired by DuPont’s new management to appraise the many businesses the company was then purchasing. In 1904 he became head of the Black Powder Department’s Engineering Division and was appointed to the company’s Board of Directors. The next year he moved to the Treasurer’s Department and became chairman of the company’s Operative Committee. After being named head of the Development Department in 1908, Irénée anticipated a decline in military demand for guncotton and explored new uses for its raw material, nitrocellulose. In 1910 he convinced DuPont to purchase the Fabrikoid Company, a maker of nitrocellulose-based artificial leather. Over the next decade, Irénée served in a number of senior management positions before succeeding Pierre as company president in 1919. During his six years as president, Irénée oversaw a major reorganization at DuPont in which the Executive Committee delegated daily management to individual departments. Irénée also served on the Finance Committee and the Board of Directors of General Motors (GM) between 1921 and 1924, when Pierre was active in the reorganization of GM. Irénée remained active on DuPont's Board of Directors until his retirement in 1958.Prev Next
1911 Fin Sparre
Fin Sparre (1879-1944) was a guiding force behind DuPont's post-World War I diversification program. Born in Bergen, Norway, Sparre earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and engineering at the Technical College of Oslo, then undertook graduate-level training at the Technical College of Dresden, Germany, before taking a position at the Norwegian government's powder and munitions plant. He immigrated to America in 1903 and joined DuPont as a chemist at the company's newly established Experimental Station research laboratory.
A charter member of the Experimental Station, Sparre soon earned a reputation as an outstanding scientist and a competent manager. He became the laboratory's chief chemist in 1910 and its director only a year later.
Sparre acquired a keen interest in diversification during DuPont's early 20th century efforts to expand its product lines beyond explosives into chemistry, dyes and synthetic materials like cellophane and rayon. He returned from an extended tour of Europe in 1909 firmly convinced that the key to DuPont's future lay in diversified nitrocellulose-based chemical products and technology. Following his appointment in 1919 as the Director of the Development Department, Sparre became DuPont's chief diversification strategist. His focus on growth through selective acquisitions of specialized companies and technologies contributed significantly to the company's rapid evolution into a broad-based chemical company. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1930 and served on numerous government and academic committees dealing with scientific achievement. Sparre retired from the Development Department in August 1944 but remained on the Board of Directors until his death in October of that year.Prev Next
1912 Split Into Three Parts
On July 31, 1907, an antitrust suit was filed against DuPont for restraint of trade in the explosives industry. A federal court ruled against DuPont on June 21, 1911. DuPont agreed on June 12, 1912, to divest itself of assets sufficient to create two new powder companies, Hercules and Atlas, and to turn over enough resources to ensure that they could produce 50 percent of the country’s black powder and 42 percent of its dynamite. DuPont also agreed to share its research and engineering facilities with the two companies for five years.Prev Next
1912 Hopewell, Virginia
Hopewell’s 28,000 employees were mostly new to the industry, presenting DuPont with a huge training challenge. It was also a challenge to house them. DuPont created a village at Hopewell complete with paved streets, schools, churches and shops. Although DuPont’s Development Department began considering a postwar role for Hopewell as early as 1915, it was too large to be adapted to new product lines and was abandoned at war’s end. More than 80 years later, DuPont purchased another Hopewell plant when it acquired ICI’s worldwide polyester film business. The current plant manufactures Melinex® PET and Kaladex PEN polyester films and is the largest polyester film facility in the world.Prev Next
1914 Deepwater Point
Deepwater Point, N.J., is just across the Delaware River from Wilmington. DuPont bought the point of swampy land, formerly known as Skunk's Misery, in 1914 to supplement the explosives production of the adjacent Carney's Point plant. Wartime needs, however, led Deepwater into the production of chemicals such as chlorine.
In 1917, DuPont, seeking to end reliance on German dyes, began construction of a dye works and the Jackson dye research laboratory at Deepwater, under chemist Arthur Chambers.
The early years of dye production were difficult, but by 1929 Deepwater finally made a profit. In the meantime, Deepwater had also become the site for production of some of DuPont's most important chemicals, particularly tetraethyl lead (TEL), used as an anti-knock agent in gasoline. Deepwater was the only plant in the Western hemisphere producing TEL up to 1948, when it accounted for the bulk of Deepwater's production. During the 1950s and 1960s, the site, also known as the Chambers Works, was at the center of DuPont's highly profitable dye operations. With 6,500 employees working in more than 500 buildings, Deepwater was the largest individual chemical plant in the world's largest chemical company.
In the 1970s, however, rising overhead costs and heightened foreign competition cut into Deepwater's business, and the dye works were closed in 1980. Today, Deepwater remains key to DuPont's operations as a production site for chemical intermediates and related products. It is also the site of the DuPont Environmental Treatment (DET) facility, the world's largest commercial and industrial wastewater processing plant, a landmark environmental initiative.
DuPont's Jackson Laboratory produced some of DuPont's most notable scientific successes in the dyestuffs and allied organic chemicals industries. It was constructed at Deepwater Point, N.J., in 1917 and named in honor of DuPont Chemist and Manager Oscar R. Jackson. Prior to World War I, United States textile manufacturers had depended almost completely on synthetic dyes imported from Germany, expertly produced there by state-of-the-art facilities backed by sophisticated research labs. However, Britain's wartime blockade of Germany halted these imports, including shipments of diphenylamine, a key chemical used in both dye and smokeless powder production. When dyes supplies grew critically short, America turned to DuPont, its premier chemical company, for a solution. DuPont was prepared to increase production of diphenylamine for smokeless powder, but it lacked experience in making dyes. Chemist Arthur D. Chambers of DuPont's Development Department encouraged the company's Executive Committee to proceed with research in synthetic dyes, not only to diversify the company's products but also to develop useful knowledge in organic chemistry. By the mid-1920s Jackson Laboratory had achieved both goals. In 1926 its chemists collaborated with researchers from General Motors (GM) to develop a process for making the gasoline anti-knock additive, tetraethyl lead or TEL. A few years later Jackson researchers developed a successful process for the commercial production of Freon®, a chlorofluorocarbon gas used as a refrigerant and aerosol propellant. Extended research into Freon derivatives yielded Jackson Laboratory's most famous discovery in April 1938 when Chemist Roy J. Plunkett discovered a new, slippery and remarkably durable material later known as Teflon®.
Jackson Laboratory was transferred into the newly created Organic Chemicals (Orchem) Department in 1931 and was involved in improving neoprene synthetic rubber, discovered at the Experimental Station the year before. DuPont's dyestuffs research peaked in the 1950s, with Jackson chemists developing suitable dyes for DuPont's Orlon and Dacron synthetic fibers, then declined in the mid-1960s amidst mounting global competition. DuPont left the dye business and restructured its Organic Chemicals Department in the early 1980s. Jackson Laboratory subsequently moved into a support role for DuPont's nearby Chambers Works, a specialty and intermediate chemicals plant.Prev Next
1915 Pierre S. du Pont
Tall and with a keen insight tempered by natural reticence, Pierre S. du Pont was the son of Lammot du Pont and great-grandson of E.I. du Pont, the company's founder. He graduated from M.I.T. with a chemistry degree in 1890 and became an assistant superintendent at Brandywine Mills. Two years later, Pierre and cousin Francis G. du Pont developed and patented the first American-made smokeless powder at the Carney's Point plant in New Jersey.
Pierre had spent much of the 1890s working with the management of the Johnson Company, a steel firm partly owned by DuPont. The company's president, Arthur Moxham, trained him in cost accounting and financial management, and in 1899, frustrated with the conservative nature of DuPont's management, Pierre resigned to take over the steel firm.
When DuPont was put up for sale following President Eugene du Pont's death in 1902, Pierre purchased it along with his cousins, Alfred I. du Pont and T. Coleman du Pont. The three immediately set about bringing a host of other smaller powder firms under the DuPont wing. Pierre served as treasurer, executive vice president, and acting president during the absence of the ailing Coleman du Pont until 1914, and finally as president from 1915 until 1919.
As chief of financial operations, Pierre du Pont oversaw the restructuring of the company along modern corporate lines. He created a centralized hierarchical management structure, developed sophisticated accounting and market forecasting techniques, and pushed for diversification and increasing emphasis on research and development. He also introduced the principle of return on investment, a key modern management technique. From 1902 to 1914, Pierre kept a firm rein on the company's growth, but with the onset of World War I he guided DuPont through a period of breakneck expansion financed by advance payments on Allied munitions contracts.
Pierre invested in General Motors (GM) and DuPont eventually owned 37 percent of the company. When GM faced bankruptcy in 1920, Pierre left DuPont to take over the automaker. Working with Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Pierre created a decentralized management structure to cope effectively with the company's widely varying products and markets, an approach adopted at DuPont just a year later. By the time he retired from the Board of Directors in 1928, GM was the largest corporation in the world.
Pierre du Pont served as chairman of DuPont's Board of Directors until 1940. In retirement he demonstrated continued concern for the public welfare, opening his carefully cultivated estate, to the public. Pierre also served on the Delaware State Board of Education, helping finance school construction and pushing for higher public education standards.Prev Next
1915 Elmer K. Bolton
Elmer K. Bolton (1886-1968) earned a Ph.D. from Harvard, did post-doctoral work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Germany, and turned down a teaching position at his alma mater to begin a productive career at DuPont in 1915. Within a year Bolton was heading up a team of chemists studying synthetic dyes.
Bolton became director of the Chemical Section of the Dyestuffs Department in 1921 where he was responsible for research on a wide variety of organic chemicals, including dyes and dye intermediates, rubber accelerators, rubber antioxidants, flotation agents, tetraethyl lead (TEL) and seed disinfectants. He became assistant director of DuPont’s Chemicals Department in 1929 and was promoted to director the following year. There, Bolton oversaw DuPont’s pioneering applied and fundamental research program.
Bolton is notable for his role in developing neoprene, the first general-purpose synthetic rubber, and directing the research that led to the discovery of nylon. Bolton received the Chemical Industry Medal in 1941 and the Perkin Medal in 1945 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1946. Bolton retired from DuPont in 1951 and three years later was awarded the Willard Gibbs Medal by the Chicago section of the American Chemical Society for his contributions to basic research.Prev Next
DuPont entered the plastics industry as an outlet for excess nitrocellulose and gradually expanded into a leading producer of diverse plastic products. Beginning in the 1870s, researchers discovered that nitrocellulose, when combined with certain solvents, yielded a solid solution that could be molded and hardened for commercial use. This plastic immediately found markets as a substitute for ivory and metal.
DuPont, a major producer of nitrocellulose for explosives manufacture, entered plastics production as a logical step toward diversification. In 1915 DuPont purchased the Arlington Company, a manufacturer of Pyralin®, a nitrocellulose pyroxylin plastic used in combs, collars, cuffs and automobile side curtains. Ten years later, DuPont’s acquisition of the Viscoloid Company brought more involvement in pyroxylin plastics, primarily in the toiletries industry.
During the 1930s, chemical researchers at DuPont improved existing plastics and invented new ones. In 1931, while investigating alternative uses for its high-pressure technology, chemists in the Ammonia Department discovered the methanol-based methyl methacrylate. Trademarked Lucite, this tough, clear polymer was among the first plastics derived from petroleum, not nitrocellulose. At about the same time, agreements with Union Carbide and the Shawinigan Corporation brought DuPont into production of Butacite®, a polyvinyl butyral plastic. Butacite would find a major market as an interlayer for automotive safety glass. By World War II, these petroleum-based products had replaced nitrocellulose in DuPont’s plastics industry.
When World War II brought an urgent need for new products, DuPont plastics proved up to the task. Lucite found extensive use as a glazing in bombers and fighter planes. DuPont’s Teflon® polytetrafluoroethylene, first discovered in 1938, was used in nose cones on artillery shell proximity fuses and also played a role in the Manhattan Project atomic tests due to its ability to withstand extremely corrosive environments. Wartime contracts assured DuPont and other plastics manufacturers of steady markets and fostered the rapid development of new plastics technology.
In the postwar period, DuPont avoided the highly competitive commodity plastics like polyethylene resins and instead focused on specialty plastics that could command premium prices. In 1949 DuPont president Crawford Greenewalt looked to speed plastics development by combining the Ammonia Department’s research expertise with the marketing skill of the Plastics Department to form the new Polychemicals Department. This proved an unqualified success as the department’s sales and earnings tripled in the 1950s due to the introduction of tougher, more versatile plastics like Delrin® acetyl resin, Elvax vinyl resin and Zytel® polyamide resin. Between the 1970s and 1990s, DuPont moved aggressively into new plastics markets. Today, DuPont plastics are being used in a wide array of applications including piping, beverage containers, countertops, automobile bumper systems, semiconductor processing and electrical insulation.Prev Next
1917 Making Dyes
DuPont studied the dye business for several years before making a major commitment in 1917. The dye shortage became a national emergency after the United States entered the war that year. DuPont, the nation’s leading chemical manufacturing and chemical research company, committed its resources to meet the need and built its Jackson Laboratory at Deepwater, N.J., to conduct dye research.
DuPont was interested in diversifying and dye chemistry was similar to the chemistry of nitrocellulose explosives. Also, the onset of World War I in 1914 created shortages of superior, German-made dyes, including those needed for DuPont products like Fabrikoid artificial leather and Pyralin plastics. British companies provided some information about German formulas and manufacturing processes, but producing quality dyes proved more difficult than expected. When the war ended, the company recruited German scientists to assist the work at Jackson Laboratory. Though progress remained slow and expensive – it took 10 years to show a modest profit–DuPont developed a first-rate organic chemistry research capability along the way that eventually paid high dividends. By the mid-1940s, two-thirds of the company’s Organic Chemicals Department’s products were directly traceable to prior dye-related research.
DuPont entered the dyes and dyestuffs business because, as luck or nature would have it, both explosives and synthetic dyes posed similar organic chemistry challenges. When World War I cut off access to diphenylamine, a chemical component of smokeless powder, DuPont was forced to build its own plant. Diphenylamine also was used in the production of dyes, which had been manufactured mainly in Germany. DuPont took the opportunity and stepped into the breach, building on British expertise and, after the war, the help of German scientists. Ten years of endeavor, however, demonstrated that entering a new market wholesale was far too complicated—a more promising solution was to acquire existing firms and improve their products and processes. The first such acquisition came in 1930 with the purchase of the Newport Chemical Company, which provided talented researchers and the formula for Jade Green dye.
DuPont’s hard work on the organic chemistry of dyes paid multiple dividends. In 1931, after 10 years in operation, the Dyestuffs Department at Deepwater, N.J., became the Organic Chemistry Department. By the mid-1940s, two-thirds of Orchem’s products were directly traceable to prior dye-related research. The dye business itself was less successful. DuPont’s dye-related profits peaked in the 1950s and then slumped in the mid-1960s, due in part to competitors utilizing newer technology. DuPont responded by building an automated plant in Puerto Rico during the 1970s, but raw materials shortages and increasing energy and regulatory costs proved too costly. DuPont closed the Puerto Rico plant in 1980 and abandoned the dye business.
Newport Chemical Company
DuPont purchased the Newport Chemical Company of Carrollville, Wis., in 1931 for $10 million in DuPont stock to acquire the company's dye-making and research expertise. Newport Chemical's exclusive U.S. license to manufacture a popular European-made dye named Jade Green proved especially valuable to DuPont, though Newport also possessed outstanding capabilities in manufacturing a variety of organic chemicals. Newport Chemical was absorbed into DuPont's Organic Chemicals Department, where many former Newport researchers made significant contributions to DuPont's dyestuffs research at the Jackson Laboratory. Others, such as Swiss-educated Ivan Gubelmann, helped advance DuPont's wider organic chemicals business and became part of the company's management. DuPont's acquisition of the Newport Chemical Company proved to be one of the most fruitful the company ever made.Prev Next
1917 Old Hickory
The U.S. government asked DuPont to take on five major construction projects to make explosives for Allied forces in World War I. The most challenging was to be the world’s largest smokeless powder plant and a town to go with it at Old Hickory, Tenn. The newly organized DuPont Engineering Company completed construction in only five months. Production of sulfuric acid began 67 days after groundbreaking, nitric acid nine days later, and guncotton, the raw material of smokeless powder, two weeks after that.
DuPont first targeted the Old Hickory, Tenn., site for development in 1917 when it became likely that U.S. entry into World War I would greatly boost the demand for munitions. The federal government ordered DuPont to begin work at Old Hickory in the fall of 1917, but financial and administrative disputes held up the contract until the following March. DuPont more than made up for lost time, however. The first of Old Hickory's nine smokeless powder units went into operation on July 2, 1918, an impressive 121 days ahead of schedule. By the war's end, DuPont engineers had built what amounted to an entire city for 30,000 workers, with 3,867 buildings and 7.5 miles of double-tracked railroad. During the war, DuPont charged 1 percent of product value to operate the plant. When it was turned over to the government in 1919, the company charged only $1 for construction.
Old Hickory met an urgent national defense need, and the War Department lauded the company's "remarkable achievement." But afterward, public and private accusations of waste, fraud, and war profiteering dogged the company, culminating in the 1934 U.S. Senate Nye Committee hearings. No evidence was ever found to substantiate the charges. The government abandoned Old Hickory and it was becoming a ghost town when, in 1923, the DuPont Fibersilk Company bought 500 additional acres at the site and began constructing a rayon plant. By 1937 DuPont was producing moisture-proof cellophane film at Old Hickory as well as 4.2 million pounds of yarn a year. World War II brought more expansion. By 1946 Old Hickory was home to 228 acres of plant facilities, a housing development, and a golf course.
In the postwar years, DuPont continued to locate cutting-edge production at Old Hickory. By the 1960s the production of Dacron had superseded the rayon operations, and when the film plant closed in 1964, Corfam took its place, giving way eventually to Typar spunbonded materials. Today, Old Hickory manufacturers Sontara® spunlaced materials. These nonwoven fabrics are sold throughout the world into a variety of markets, including medical gowns and drapes, critical cleaning wipes and other industrial/commercial applications.
The Old Hickory facility site – on the Cumberland River 14 miles east of Nashville – is named for Andrew Jackson, the president whose home is just a few miles away.
DuPont Fibersilk Company
The DuPont Fibersilk Company opened in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1921 as DuPont's first plant to produce the silk-like fiber that would soon be known as rayon. DuPont's new executives saw rayon as a potentially profitable opportunity to diversify the company's products beyond explosives while remaining within the general knowledge area of cellulose chemistry. DuPont's initial effort had been to buy into future rival American Viscose Company. But when this attempt was refused, the company struck a successful deal in 1919 with the French firm Comptoir des Textiles Artificiels, paying $4 million in return for a 60 percent interest in a new company, DuPont Fibersilk, which was established on April 16, 1920. Under the leadership of Leonard A. Yerkes, DuPont Fibersilk built a plant on 90 acres near Buffalo and began production of the new continuous filament viscose fiber in 1921. The fiber was named rayon in 1924.
DuPont opened a Rayon Technical Division Research Laboratory on the site in 1924 and invested in rayon-related research. The 1920s proved to be boom years for the rayon industry, with both women's and men's fashions taking advantage of rayon's silk-like properties at significant savings from the cost of silk. DuPont and other rayon producers such as American Viscose made up to a 33 percent return on their investment. During this period DuPont built additional rayon plants at Old Hickory, Tenn., and in Richmond, Va. DuPont Fibersilk was renamed The DuPont Rayon Company in 1925, and the Buffalo plant was demolished to make room for a larger facility in 1931. The entire complex at Buffalo, including the rayon plant and a cellophane plant, was renamed the Yerkes Works to honor the first director at his retirement in 1945.Prev Next
1917 Leonard A. Yerkes
Leonard A. Yerkes (1881-1967) helped develop some of the most important DuPont products of the early 20th century. The University of Pennsylvania-trained chemist joined DuPont’s Development Department in 1917 and became assistant director two years later.
In 1919 Yerkes went to France to investigate artificial silk production and the next year, after DuPont purchased the technology, became president of the newly formed DuPont Fibersilk Company. In 1924, after the acquisition of production rights to cellophane, Yerkes established the DuPont Cellophane Company to handle the new product. In 1936 these two companies were merged to form the Rayon Department with Yerkes as general manager.
Yerkes was concerned with more than production. In 1924 he established the technical division for rayon and cellophane research. He also proved to be a shrewd marketer. When cellophane enjoyed only lukewarm sales after its debut, Yerkes adopted a price-cutting strategy that effectively enticed consumers away from other wrapping products. Yerkes remained general manager of the Rayon Department until his retirement in 1945. That same year the rayon and cellophane facilities in Buffalo, N.Y., were renamed the Yerkes Works. He served on DuPont’s Board of Directors until 1952.Prev Next
1917 Paints and Coatings
Entry into the paints and coatings industry marked DuPont’s first effort to diversify beyond explosives in the years after 1902. Nitrocellulose, in addition to being the raw material of smokeless powder, was also used as a lacquer to coat brass fixtures. In 1904 DuPont acquired the International Smokeless Powder & Chemical Company, a leading manufacturer of nitrocellulose lacquer.
In 1910 DuPont bought the Fabrikoid Company, which had developed an artificial leather made of nitrocellulose-coated fabric. DuPont improved the product and successfully marketed it for use in automobile tops. DuPont entered the consumer paint market in 1917 with the purchase of the Harrison Brothers Paint Company and acquired five other firms in the next four years. The company’s inexperience led to heavy losses, however, which helped convince management to create autonomous divisions in 1921.
Chemists working on improved nitrocellulose film discovered DuPont’s most successful coating. In 1920 they produced a durable lacquer that dried quickly—a boon to the emerging mass production industries. Marketed as Duco in 1922, it was the standard finish on all General Motors (GM) cars within four years. That achievement was followed up at mid-decade by Dulux alkyd resin, which had a glossier finish than Duco and proved popular in appliance manufacture. In the mid-1950s, DuPont introduced a new line of cheaper, more durable acrylic coatings. Lucite automotive lacquer replaced Duco and Lucite appliance enamel took the place of Dulux in the appliance market. At the same time, DuPont developed more specialized coatings including Budium polybutadiene interior coating for food and beverage cans. Particularly notable was the 1961 introduction of Teflon non-stick cookware. During the 1960s and 1970s, DuPont again focused on consumer paints, introducing Lucite acrylic interior and exterior house paints. However, stiff competition and the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s compelled the company to abandon the consumer paints business, selling its Lucite lines in 1983 and its acrylics 10 years later.
Thereafter DuPont focused on more profitable automotive and industrial finishes, and by the mid-1990s it led the field in the United States. The 1999 acquisition of Herberts, a subsidiary of Hoechst AG, gave DuPont a strong position in the European market for automotive finishes and industrial and powder coatings.
Lithopone is a white pigment composed of a mixture of barium sulfate and zinc sulfide. It was discovered in the 1870s and proved popular because it was cheaper than other white pigments. DuPont first sold lithopone and lithopone paints when it acquired the Harrison Brothers Paint Company in 1917. Several other acquisitions in the 1920s, notably the Grasselli Chemical Company and the Krebs Pigment and Chemical Company, soon made DuPont the largest lithopone producer in the United States.
Lithopone encountered stiff competition in the 1930s from another white pigment, titanium dioxide (TiO2). Lithopone pigments were not as durable as titanium dioxide pigments, but they were much cheaper. However, improvements in TiO2 production in the 1920s lowered its cost and threatened to displace lithopone paints. Blocked by other firms' patents from marketing its own line of TiO2 pigments, DuPont purchased a TiO2 producer, the Commercial Pigments Corporation (CPC), in 1931. DuPont then merged CPC with its Krebs subsidiary to form the Krebs Pigment and Color Corporation and sold a pure TiO2 pigment under the name Ti-Pure, while making an improved lithopone pigment, Duolith, by mixing lithopone with TiO2. Over the next several decades DuPont gradually phased out its use of lithopone pigment in favor of TiO2.Prev Next
1918 DuPont, GM & Cars
DuPont’s link with General Motors (GM) began with Pierre S. du Pont, who bought GM stock in 1914. In 1915 Pierre was elected a GM director, then board chairman, to help strengthen GM’s management. After World War I, GM executive and former DuPont Treasurer John J. Raskob persuaded DuPont’s directors to invest $25 million in GM. Pierre became GM’s president in 1920. By then DuPont’s GM holdings provided half of DuPont’s total earnings. DuPont disposed of all its GM stock in 1961.
DuPont’s link with General Motors (GM) began with Pierre S. du Pont, who bought GM stock in 1914 and watched wartime demand increase its value sevenfold in a year. Despite high profits, though, GM suffered from divided management. In 1915 Pierre was elected a GM director, then board chairman, to help solve that problem, but America’s entry into World War I in 1917 left him little time. After the war, GM executive and former DuPont Treasurer, John J. Raskob, persuaded DuPont’s directors to invest $25 million in GM. Raskob saw a sure market for DuPont’s artificial leather, plastics and paints; plus, the investment would also yield reliable returns. Pierre became GM’s president in 1920. His brother Irénée succeeded him at DuPont. By then DuPont’s GM holdings had doubled, accounting for a third of all GM stock. In 1929 GM stock provided half of DuPont’s total earnings. During the 1920s DuPont and GM developed new refrigerants (GM owned Frigidaire) and anti-knock gasoline additives, and DuPont’s Engineering Department helped GM build plants and workers’ housing. Most significantly, however, DuPont adopted the bold restructuring plan that Pierre and Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., successfully implemented at GM. The close relationship between the two companies eventually attracted the attention of federal antitrust prosecutors, who filed suit in 1949. Eight years later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against DuPont, and in 1961 the company finalized the disposal of its GM shares.
John J. Raskob
John J. Raskob (1879-1950) rose from private secretary to the highest executive levels at DuPont. He attended business college after high school and was working as a stenographer at a pump-manufacturing firm when Pierre du Pont hired him as a bookkeeper for his midwestern steel and street railway businesses in 1900. When Pierre became treasurer of DuPont in 1902, he made Raskob his private secretary. Raskob’s talent for financial management soon made him Pierre’s assistant. In 1911 Raskob became DuPont’s assistant treasurer. In 1914 he became treasurer, was elected to the Board of Directors, and joined the Executive Committee. The next year he was named secretary treasurer of the Christiana Securities Company and also joined the General Motors (GM) board of directors. From 1918 to 1928, as vice president and chairman of the Finance Committee of General Motors, and as vice president in charge of finances at DuPont, he guided the financial operations of both companies.
Raskob resigned from GM in 1928 but stayed with DuPont until his retirement in 1946. During the 1920s and 1930s he was involved in a variety of business activities and spearheaded the construction of the Empire State Building. He also was active in politics. Raskob was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1928 to 1932, when he resigned to become a leading opponent of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. He was active in the Catholic Church and received many honors for his work on behalf of various charities and educational programs.
Donaldson Brown (1885-1965) graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1902, did graduate work in engineering at Cornell, and joined DuPont in 1909 as an explosives salesman. His financial acumen became apparent in 1912 when he submitted an efficiency report to the Executive Committee that used a return-on-investment formula. Treasurer John J. Raskob took Brown under his wing and encouraged him to develop uniform accounting procedures and other standard statistical formulas that enabled division managers to evaluate performance company-wide despite the great diversification of the late 1910s. In 1918 Brown helped Raskob execute DuPont’s heavy investment in General Motors stock, and when he took over the treasurer’s office from Raskob the same year, he brought in economists and statisticians, an exceptional practice at the time. Brown joined the Executive Committee in 1920.
By 1921 DuPont had gained a controlling interest in the flagging General Motors Corporation, and Pierre du Pont made Brown GM’s vice president of finance. Brown helped bring about GM’s financial recovery and in 1923 he developed the mechanisms that allowed DuPont to retain the GM investment. Brown was appointed to GM’s Executive Committee in 1924, and working with President Alfred P. Sloan, he refined the cost accounting techniques that he had been developing at DuPont. The principles of return-on-investment, return-on-equity, forecasting, and flexible budgeting were subsequently widely adopted in corporate America. Brown retired as an active executive of GM in 1946 but remained on the boards of both GM and DuPont. In 1959 he was one of four DuPont directors who resigned from GM’s board due to the Supreme Court’s antitrust decision.Prev Next
1919 William C. Spruance
William C. Spruance (1873-1935) was an engineer and executive whose skillful management helped DuPont make its transition from explosives manufacturing to diversified chemical production in the early 20th century. He joined DuPont in 1903 as a consulting engineer in the High Explosives Operating Department and headed that department's new Light, Heat and Power Division for several years before becoming Director of the Explosives Manufacturing Division.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the U.S. Army urgently sought Spruance's expertise in munitions production. He took a leave of absence from DuPont to serve as Assistant to the Army Chief of Ordnance and also as Chairman of the Army's Commodity Commission on Powder and Explosives. Colonel Spruance received the Distinguished Service Medal for his wartime contributions.
When Spruance returned to DuPont in 1919, he was appointed to the company's Board of Directors as well as to the Executive Committee as Vice President in charge of production. Spruance was among several executives who helped reorganize DuPont in 1921 to allow greater day-to-day flexibility for manufacturing divisions while freeing the Executive Committee to consider long-term, company-wide issues. Spruance encouraged diversification of DuPont's products by supporting its fledgling rayon business in the early 1920s, and by visiting France in 1923 to assess the potential for cellophane manufacturing in the United States. Later that year he led negotiations to acquire the U.S. rights for cellophane production and helped form the DuPont Cellophane Company. Spruance served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of both the DuPont Cellophane Company and the DuPont Fibersilk (later, Rayon) Company, two cornerstones of DuPont's diversification effort. The company's Spruance plant, opened in 1929 at Richmond, Va., was named in his honor.Prev Next
1921 Buffalo, New York
Buffalo was the site of DuPont black powder storage facilities as early as 1873, but it was nearly half a century before a plant opened there. DuPont licensed the French process for creating artificial silk in early 1920 and established its Buffalo plant a year later to produce "fibersilk," soon renamed rayon.
Additional rayon plants were opened at Old Hickory, Tenn. and at the Spruance plant in Richmond, Va., but Buffalo was also expanded several times during the 1920s and 1930s to meet the booming market for the new fabric. The site was headquarters for the DuPont Rayon Company, a subsidiary headed by Leonard A. Yerkes, and also home to a research facility established in 1928.
Since Yerkes had assembled DuPont's top cellulose experts in Buffalo, it was natural to base the company's first cellophane manufacturing facilities there in 1924. In the 1940s the Rayon Department Technical Division developed Cordura, a high-tenacity rayon used in tires, and made breakthroughs in nylon and Dacron development, but the Buffalo research arm was finally closed in 1950 and its operations transferred to Wilmington. The Buffalo plant discontinued Cordura in 1954, rayon in 1955, and in 1986 domestic production of cellophane was phased out. The Buffalo plant, meanwhile, had begun manufacturing Tedlar® weather-resistant, polyvinyl film in 1962 and Corian® in 1967, which are still in production today.Prev Next
1923 Charles M. A. Stine
DuPont first embarked on systematic, large-scale basic research due to the efforts of Dr. Charles M. A. Stine (1882-1954). The result was the invention of some of the world's first important synthetic materials and a long-term company commitment to corporate growth through discovery.
Stine earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Johns Hopkins University and in 1907 joined DuPont's Eastern Laboratory where he improved the TNT production process. In 1916 Stine established the Organic Chemicals Division within the DuPont Chemical Department, and in 1923 he became the director of the entire department. Stine favored a theoretical approach over simple empiricism and set out to convince Lammot du Pont and other senior managers to invest in a pure research program, highlighting increased scientific prestige for DuPont, easier recruitment of scientists, and the possibility of profitable discoveries.
In 1927 DuPont accepted Stine's proposal and earmarked $300,000 annually for pure research. A new laboratory, informally dubbed "Purity Hall," was also established at the Experimental Station. Stine began assembling teams of scientists to work along a number of lines of investigation, but he had trouble finding a head for the organic chemistry section. After a frustrating search and five refusals, he finally secured Harvard instructor Wallace Carothers. Stine encouraged Carothers to pursue his interest in polymerization, which resulted in the discoveries of neoprene synthetic rubber and nylon.
In 1930 Stine was made a vice president and director of DuPont and given a seat on the company's Executive Committee. Stine had earlier been enthusiastic about the possibilities of nuclear research, but as World War II drew to a close, he became convinced that DuPont could not shoulder the expense alone. His concerns influenced the company's decision not to become involved in the postwar nuclear industry. Stine's record at DuPont made him an internationally recognized scientist and in 1939 he was awarded the Perkin Medal of the American Society of the Chemical Industry. He retired in 1945, having helped establish DuPont as the leading chemical corporation of the mid-20th century.Prev Next
1923 Duco Paint
Duco, a durable, quick-drying finish invented by DuPont, helped make the 1920s revolution in consumer goods mass production possible, becoming the standard finish on automobiles, hardware, appliances and toys. General Motors (GM) introduced Duco finish on its Oakland models in 1923 and it more than fulfilled expectations, reducing finish time from two weeks to two days and drastically cutting rejection rates.
DuPont began producing nitrocellulose-based pyroxylin lacquers after acquiring the International Smokeless Powder & Solvents Company in 1905. The purchase of the Arlington Company 10 years later deepened the company’s involvement. Although they were quick-drying and widely used on brass fixtures, conventional lacquers were too brittle for more demanding uses. By the 1920s, however, the automotive industry had become a huge potential market. Although mass production had vastly increased output, finishing remained a bottleneck because conventional paints took up to two weeks to dry.
In 1920, chemists working with film at DuPont's Redpath Laboratory in Parlin, N.J., produced a thick pyroxylin lacquer which was quick-drying but durable and could be colored. DuPont marketed it under the name Viscolac in 1921. Assisted by General Motors (GM) engineers, DuPont refined the product further and renamed it Duco. The success of Duco led to further experimentation with finishes and late in the 1920s, DuPont developed Dulux, an even more effective alkyd finish. Duco retained a niche market, however, and DuPont continued to produce it at Parlin until the late 1960s.
DuPont has been using Dulux enamel in automotive coatings since 1926. Dulux actually owes its existence to a flaw in its more famous cousin, Duco. This nitrocellulose lacquer first brought color to automobiles when General Motors (GM) used it in 1923. It was thick and quick-drying, which pleased carmakers, but frustrating for consumers who couldn't apply it like the oil-based paints they were used to. So DuPont researchers tried mixing synthetic alkyd resins with oil and found that the resulting enamel's drying time was slower than Duco but faster than that of traditional oil paint. Dulux alkyd resin, named in 1926, also had a pleasing high-gloss look. By the early 1930s it won over consumers under the label Dulux "Brush" Duco.
Dulux high-gloss enamels were also used widely in the 1930s on refrigerators and washing machines, outdoor signs, gasoline service stations and pumps, and railroad cars. Once tried as an undercoating for Duco auto paint, Dulux also found a niche as a low-cost alternative to Duco auto finishes. In 1954 some automobile manufacturers chose an improved Dulux alkyd enamel over Duco, and over DuPont's new water-based Lucite acrylic lacquer. However, Lucite soon pulled ahead in household sales, and after DuPont developed a new acrylic polymer in 1957, Lucite also outshone Dulux in the appliance and industrial markets. DuPont sold its consumer paint business in 1983.Prev Next
1923 Dynamite in Chile
Since the late 19th century, Chile had been a key source of sodium nitrate used in the "B" blasting powder developed by Lammot du Pont. By 1927 the development of synthetic ammonia removed the industry’s need for Chilean nitrates, and mining operations were cut back. Despite this reduced demand, Compania Sud-Americana de Explosivos continued to supply explosives to the Chilean market through World War II. In 1967 DuPont absorbed the company as a consolidated subsidiary and renamed it Industrias Quimicas DuPont S.A. DuPont sold its operations at Rio Loa in 1971 after lengthy negotiations with the Chilean government.Prev Next
Cellophane inaugurated a consumer revolution. Its sanitary wrapping enabled producers and retailers to attractively display their products and allowed consumers to see what they were buying. DuPont scientist William Hale Charch developed a moisture-proofing system for cellophane in 1927. After that, a series of price cuts and an aggressive marketing campaign portraying cellophane as essential to a cleaner, healthier lifestyle made the film one of the company’s top products. By 1938 its sales accounted for 25 percent of DuPont’s annual profit.
Cellophane was invented in Switzerland, and first produced there commercially in 1912. DuPont acquired U.S. patent rights in 1923 and began production in Buffalo [Link to Buffalo: 1921] a year later. But a serious problem soon appeared. Water could not get through but water vapor could, making cellophane useless for food packaging. DuPont scientist William Hale Charch solved the problem. After testing more than 2,000 alternatives, Charch and a team of researchers had devised a workable process, patenting a moisture-proofing system in 1927.
During World War II, DuPont’s Buffalo, N.Y., Richmond, Va., Old Hickory, Tenn., and Clinton, Iowa, plants all produced large quantities of the material for military use. And although cellophane continued to be highly profitable through the 1950s, by the 1960s new products such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and DuPont’s own Mylar® were supplanting it. Cellophane production limped on through the 1970s and early 1980s until DuPont discontinued it in 1986.Prev Next
Rayon was the world’s first man-made fiber. Developed and marketed by DuPont, it initiated the transformation of the textile industry that continues with new generations of DuPont synthetics. In the 1880s a Frenchman, Count Hillaire de Chardonnet, discovered that nitrocellulose derived from rags or wood pulp could be used to produce a man-made fiber.
By the turn of the century, "artificial silk" made from the Chardonnet process had become popular for decorative uses. At the same time, English inventors developed a newer, more effective process and product called Viscose.
During its early 20th century diversification efforts, DuPont grew interested in the Viscose process, particularly after raw silk prices and consumer attraction to artificial silk both rose. DuPont attempted to enter the fiber business by acquiring the American Viscose Company, but was rebuffed, and in 1920 licensed the French process instead. The company then established the DuPont Fibersilk Company in Buffalo, N.Y., under Leonard Yerkes to develop the process. After the generic name "rayon" was coined in 1924, the enterprise was renamed the DuPont Rayon Company.
The product was profitable from the start, and through the 1920s rayon earned DuPont a 33 percent return on investment. Among the process improvements DuPont made were the production of short-strand "staple" fiber, suitable for bulk woven items, and dry spinning. Sales of textile fiber dropped during the 1930s, leading DuPont to introduce the highly successful Cordura rayon tire cord, but by the end of the decade rayon was six times as plentiful as silk in American clothing, and the market supported eight DuPont rayon plants.
DuPont’s rayon operations had a secondary benefit. The expertise gained there proved critical to the rapid development of nylon during the late 1930s. Although rayon was a man-made fiber, it was not a pure synthetic since its basic component, cellulose, was naturally fibrous. After World War II rayon fell victim to the success of the "true" synthetics, Orlon, Dacron and nylon. DuPont produced its last rayon textile yarn in 1960 and tire cord was phased out two years later.Prev Next
1924 Film Business Begins
DuPont’s involvement with films and photographic products began in the 1910s when researchers tried to develop a film base as an outlet for excess nitrocellulose. DuPont formed a joint venture in 1924 called the DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Corporation which started making 35mm movie film in 1925 in Parlin, N.J., and color film in 1927. In the early 1950s, DuPont focused on non-cellulosic films and developed Mylar® polyester film. Investigation of solid photopolymer compositions led to Riston® photoresists and Dycril photopolymer printing plates.
DuPont’s involvement with films and photographic supplies began in the 1910s when company officials suggested making film base as an outlet for excess nitrocellulose. During the next decade, DuPont spent over $500,000 trying to develop a film base and emulsion coatings. Rather than go it alone, DuPont formed a joint venture in 1924 with the Pathé Cinema Société Anonyme of Paris called the DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Corporation. The company produced 35mm positive movie film and sold about $4 million worth of film per year by the late 1920s.
In addition to photographic products, DuPont also investigated the use of cellulose film as packaging material. After acquiring the U.S. patent rights to cellophane in 1923, DuPont chemists developed a moisture-proofing system that revolutionized the food packaging industry. By 1938 cellophane accounted for 25 percent of DuPont’s annual profit.
In the early 1950s, the newly organized Film Department focused its research on non-cellulosic films and soon developed a polyester film called Mylar. Displaying superior strength, heat resistance and insulating properties, Mylar opened new markets in magnetic audio and video tape, packaging, and batteries.
During the 1940s and 1950s, DuPont’s Photo Products Department bought out the minority interest in DuPont-Pathé Film and acquired two companies to develop X-ray and photographic paper businesses. Photo Products also investigated the use of solid photopolymer compositions to make printed circuits for incorporation in all kinds of electrical devices. DuPont Riston photoresists cut circuit panel preparation time from minutes to seconds and was a hit with companies involved in the production of sophisticated printed circuits like IBM. Since the 1960s, DuPont has consistently developed new technologies in photo imaging, printing and packaging materials. Dycril photopolymer printing plates set new standards for printing quality, Fodel photo imageable compositions are used in flat panel displays, and the joint venture DuPont Teijin Films is the world’s leading supplier of PET and PEN polyester films.
DuPont began experimental production of motion picture film stock at DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Corporation in Parlin, N.J., in 1914. The effort was intensified as part of its post-World War I diversification strategy. By 1920 DuPont’s new Cellulose Products Manufacturing Department was producing film, while the company’s Redpath Laboratory was quickly improving it. When DuPont learned in the early 1920s that a French firm, Pathé Cinema Societé Anonyme, and its American affiliate, Pathé Exchange, planned to manufacture film in the United States to avoid the high tariffs levied on imported film, the company suggested a joint venture. In October 1924 DuPont and Pathé Exchange formed the DuPont-Pathé Film Manufacturing Company. The venture, 51 percent owned by DuPont, started making film in February 1925 at the Parlin facility. It gave DuPont an assured market for one of its new, nitrocellulose-based products while also allowing an exchange of technical information between DuPont and Pathé Cinema in Paris. Both companies sought to gain on America’s leading film manufacturer, Eastman-Kodak.
DuPont’s color film, introduced in 1927, soon captured half the Hollywood market. At this time, however, Eastman Kodak bought Pathé Cinema, and two years later, in 1929, a new film distribution company, R.K.O., purchased most of the assets of Pathé Exchange. In 1931 the DuPont-Pathé joint venture dropped the Pathé name and became the DuPont Film Manufacturing Corporation. Ten years later, on December 31, 1941, DuPont bought the minority interest, now only 35 percent, and the film operation became part of the new DuPont Photo Products Department.Prev Next
1925 First Ammonia Made
The Belle, W.Va., plant was established in the West Virginia coal country as part of a post-World War I effort to produce ammonia. DuPont spent $27 million on a highly complex production facility with huge atmospheric compressors that was producing 25 tons of ammonia per day by 1926. Extremes of heat and pressure took a heavy toll on equipment and operating costs mounted. Although production reached 220 tons per day by 1929, it was another 10 years before Belle showed a profit.
Belle’s high pressure ammonia technology yielded a host of collateral benefits. Methanol was manufactured on a small scale at first and then rapidly expanded to 1 million gallons a year. By 1935 Belle had become DuPont's largest facility. Its more than 80 different chemical products included the first synthetic urea used in fertilizers and plastics. In 1939 DuPont began producing nylon chemical intermediates at Belle, and by 1944 the plant was producing 30 million pounds of nylon salts a year. Expansion of nitrogen and nylon intermediate production at Belle continued after the war, and new product lines were introduced regularly. In 1969 Belle began producing Benlate, a highly effective fungicide. Belle produces products ranging from crop protection chemicals to Dymel® aerosol propellants.Prev Next
1925 William Hale Charch
William Hale Charch (1898-1958) made one of DuPont’s most critical cellulose chemistry innovations and helped guide the company’s development of synthetic fibers. Charch earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Ohio State University before joining DuPont in 1925. One of his first assignments was to develop a means of moisture-proofing cellophane so that the attractive wrap could be used for food packaging. Moisture-proof cellophane, marketed by DuPont, quickly transformed food packaging and marketing worldwide.
After this early success Charch was promoted rapidly. He became associate director of the Rayon Chemical Division in 1929 and director of the Rayon Pioneering Research Section in 1935. In 1947, Charch came to Wilmington, Del., where he established the Textile Fibers Department's Pioneering Research Laboratory at the Experimental Station. Charch spent the rest of his career directing the development of Teflon®, Orlon, Dacron and Lycra, and garnered numerous awards for his work.Prev Next
1925 Thomas H. Chilton
Thomas H. Chilton (1899-1972) led DuPont’s research in chemical engineering through his 34-year career with the company. He earned his chemical engineering degree at Columbia University in 1922, worked as a chemist in New York City, and joined DuPont in 1925. Chilton’s career began just after chemical engineering had established itself as an independent academic and professional discipline.
In June 1929 Charles M.A. Stine, DuPont’s Research Director, selected Chilton to head a chemical engineering research group called the Development Engineering Division of DuPont’s Engineering Department. Chilton and a colleague at DuPont, Allan P. Colburn, became known for the Chilton-Colburn analogy, in which some hard-to-measure operations could be understood as analogous to other, more readily measured operations. The concept became a fundamental principle of chemical engineering.
Aided by computers and mathematical modeling, Chilton and other chemical engineers in the 1950s moved beyond unit operations to a more fundamental understanding of basic chemical phenomena such as heat and momentum. Chilton served as President of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 1951 and was awarded Columbia University’s Chandler Medal for his work on the principles underlying unit operations. He retired from DuPont in 1959 and was awarded DuPont’s Lavoisier Medal posthumously for his many research accomplishments in chemical engineering.
Allan P. Colburn (1904-1955) helped DuPont build its Chemical Engineering Research Department and also helped the company forge a strong relationship with the academic community through his work at the University of Delaware. Colburn received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1929, one of only 20 Americans to earn their doctorates in this new field that year. By recruiting Colburn, Stine sought to broaden the company’s basic research capability. As a member of that group, Colburn won the first Walker Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE) for his experiments with heat transfer and energy flow.
As one of the founders of the University of Delaware’s chemical engineering graduate program, and as a leader of his profession in the 1930s, Colburn fostered a strong relationship between DuPont and the University. He served as the University’s Acting President in 1950 and as Provost and Coordinator of Scientific Research until his death in 1955. The naming of several awards memorialized him, including the Allan P. Colburn Award for Excellence in Publications by a Young Member of the AIChE, sponsored by DuPont. The Colburn Laboratory at the University of Delaware also stands as a tribute to his work.Prev Next
1926 Henry A. Wallace
Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965) changed the face of agriculture. He began inbreeding and cross-breeding corn to improve yield years before earning his college degree in agriculture in 1910. By age 15 he had disproved the conventional agrarian wisdom that ear appearance – row uniformity, kernel shape and length – could predict yield. Wallace developed the first commercial hybrid corn in 1923, and in 1926 founded the first hybrid seed corn company, which became Pioneer Hi-Bred International. DuPont purchased 20 percent of Pioneer in 1997 and completed the purchase in 1999.Prev Next
1926 ICI-DuPont Alliance
In the late 1920s DuPont’s commitment to intensive, long-range research and product diversification placed it in direct competition with powerful European companies like Britain’s recently formed Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). DuPont and ICI agreed in October 1929 to share information about patents and research developments. The firms also agreed not to compete in certain geographical territories and established successful joint ventures in Canada, Argentina and Brazil. In 1952, the companies’ alliance was dissolved, along with their shared operations in Canada and South America.Prev Next
1927 Wallace Carothers
Dr. Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) spearheaded DuPont's first decade of basic organic chemistry research. Carothers was lured from Harvard to DuPont in 1927 with the promise that he could pursue basic research, specifically looking at polymers – molecules with long, repeating chain structures. In one remarkable month, April 1930, Carothers’ team discovered neoprene synthetic rubber and synthesized the first polyester super polymer, the forerunner of nylon. During his nine years with DuPont, Carothers filed for more than 50 patents.
1928 DuPont Mexico Formed
In 1952 DuPont established rayon plants in Monterrey and Mexico City. Two years later DuPont S.A. de C.V. opened a plant at Tlalnepantla for the production of paints, Vexar plastic netting, and organic fungicides. Another facility opened at Ciudad Obregon in 1956.
DuPont’s postwar expansion came largely by way of joint ventures because through the 1960s the Mexican government required that the manufacture of any product new to the country could not be foreign controlled. In 1958 Pigmentos y Productos Quimicos, S.A. de C.V. was established, with DuPont holding 49 percent interest and Mexican investors holding the balance. The company opened a titanium dioxide plant at Tampico in 1960. That same year, DuPont helped launch Nylon de Mexico S.A. which marketed nylon products under the brand name Delcron. Another joint venture, Policron de Mexico S.A., which marketed polyester products, was merged into Nylon de Mexico S.A. in 1974. By 1975, DuPont had a $200 million plant investment and 11 affiliates in Mexico and the next year yet another joint venture was launched to produce Lycra for the Mexican market.
But increasingly, it was the wholly owned DuPont S.A. de C.V. that was the heart of DuPont’s Mexican operations. The Compania Mexicana de Explosivos had been absorbed into DuPont S.A. de C.V. during the 1960s, and the Dinamita plant diversified into the production of substituted urea herbicides and blasting caps. DuPont S.A. continued to expand through the 1980s and added a sodium cyanide plant in 1990. In the early 1990s, DuPont brought all of its Mexican operations – both wholly and partly owned – together under the umbrella of DuPont Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement helped spur DuPont Mexico’s growth, and its total investment grew 28 percent between 1996 and 1999 to $600 million, half of which involved joint ventures. In 1997 the company finally sold its Dinamita interests, closing the chapter on its explosives production. But DuPont Mexico’s 4,500 manufacturing workers continue to produce a wide range of products at 11 facilities including Ti-Pure® titanium dioxide, performance coatings and automotive finishes, crop protection products and engineering polymers.
The Lycra trademark and Lycra products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.Prev Next
1928 Chemical Expansion
The Grasselli Chemical Company was the forerunner of DuPont’s Grasselli Chemicals Department. At the time of DuPont’s purchase in 1928, Grasselli was one of the oldest diversified chemical manufacturers in the nation with 16 factories throughout the South and Midwest. DuPont looked to Grasselli to expand its product line in acids and heavy chemicals and to reach new regional markets.
One of Grasselli’s most important products was lithopone, a zinc-based white pigment. In 1930 all of DuPont’s lithopone production was centralized at Grasselli, and DuPont built upon research conducted there as it entered the titanium dioxide market in the next two decades.
Grasselli was a long-time manufacturer of inorganic and organic insecticides and became the umbrella organization when DuPont consolidated its scattered biochemicals businesses during the late 1940s. Despite some early financial and technical setbacks, Grasselli expanded its inorganic operations during the next decade to serve 20 percent of the U.S. herbicide market with its substituted urea products. In 1959 the Grasselli Chemicals Department was reorganized into the Industrial and Biochemicals Department.
La Porte, Texas
Opened in 1956 to manufacture chemicals for the Grasselli Chemicals Department, DuPont’s La Porte, Texas, site produced a broad range of chemicals serving industries from agricultural products to clothing. Through the 1960s and 1970s, the plant produced Hyvar® X bromacil weed killer and opened new facilities for formaldehyde production and other biochemicals. One of La Porte’s main products is herbicides: production of Glean herbicide began in 1983 and Velpar® in 1988. La Porte is also the site of the world’s largest polyvinyl alcohol plant. This product, marketed as Elvanol®, is used in weaving polyester blends.
In the 1990s, La Porte developed new environmental programs as part of DuPont’s goal of zero waste and zero emissions. La Porte’s revolutionary Terathane production system cut air emissions by 200,000 pounds, brought solid waste down 25 million pounds, and reduced liquid waste by 500 million pounds. The new process saved DuPont over $5 million a year, proving that environmental protection could be good for business. The La Porte Terathane team has earned Excellence Awards from DuPont and accolades from the state of Texas.Prev Next
1928 Waynesboro, Virginia
DuPont acquired 153 acres near the small town of Waynesboro, Va., in late 1928 as a manufacturing site for acetate rayon fibers. Although the company had already established viscose rayon facilities in Buffalo, N.Y., Waynesboro became the only plant devoted to the acetate process. Production of yarn began in November 1929 and a year later the Rayon Technical Division Acetate Research Laboratories were established at the site.
By the time acetate production peaked in the early 1950s, researchers at Waynesboro were already beginning to develop new products. In 1944 the Acetate Research Section had taken over development of a product called "Fiber A." The road from research to product line proved a rocky one, but was eventually successful. Demand for the product marketed as Orlon soared and an additional plant was built, allowing Waynesboro to produce 40 million pounds annually after 1958.
By then the market for acetate was disappearing. Production at Waynesboro was cut back and the Acetate Research Section was closed. A replacement was in the wings however; DuPont had decided to use Waynesboro’s Orlon spinning cells for the manufacture of Lycra elastane. Semi-commercial production began in 1960, and full production followed two years later.
The Lycra trademark and Lycra products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.Prev Next
1929 Spruance Plant
DuPont purchased land near Richmond, Va., for a new rayon factory in 1927. The plant, named in honor of rayon pioneer William Spruance, opened two years later with 600 employees. In 1930 a cellophane plant opened at the site since both rayon and cellophane use similar production processes.
DuPont expanded its production capacity in Richmond throughout the 1930s due to increased use of cellophane and the introduction of Cordura rayon. Further expansions included facilities for cellulose acetate film and Cordura yarn for car tires. During World War II, the Richmond plant had War Supply Contracts for paper cellophane, cellophane and rayon yarn. These contracts resulted in a wartime peak of 4,450 workers at the Spruance site.
Though DuPont ceased production of rayon and Cordura in Richmond in the 1950s and 1960s, the Spruance site continued to produce cellophane as well as new materials such as Tyvek®, Nomex® and Teflon®. The expansion of Kevlar® facilities in 1980 marked one of the largest capital appropriations in DuPont history. Through the 1990s, DuPont expanded facilities for products such as specialty chemicals. For over six decades, Spruance has been a key site in the development of new films, continuing to adapt to DuPont’s changing needs.
The Cordura trademark and Cordura products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.Prev Next
1929 Krebs Pigment & Chemical Company
DuPont acquired the Krebs Pigment & Chemical Company of Newport, Del., for $5.9 million in June 1929 to strengthen its position in the pigments market. Founded in 1902 by Henrick J. Krebs, Krebs Pigments and Chemical Company produced lithopone, a widely used white paint pigment also manufactured by DuPont.
But Krebs' company had another asset of special interest to DuPont. It possessed a license to use a competing, more expensive and more effective white pigment, titanium dioxide (TiO2), patented by the National Lead Company. Krebs' license covered the use of TiO2 only as an extender or additive to lithopone pigments, not the manufacture of TiO2 itself, but the Krebs acquisition offered DuPont an initial foothold in the TiO2 market.
In 1931 DuPont formed a joint venture, the Krebs Pigment and Color Corporation, with the Commercial Pigments Corporation in order to develop a TiO2 production process that would not violate National Lead's patent. But two years later National Lead and DuPont, facing the possibility of expensive patent suits, agreed instead to share their patents and processes. In 1934 DuPont purchased the Commercial Pigments Corporation's 30 percent minority interest in Krebs Pigment and Color, making the latter a wholly owned DuPont subsidiary, the Krebs Pigment and Color Corporation. DuPont placed the new subsidiary in its Krebs Pigments Department, which it renamed the Pigments Department in 1942 when it dissolved Krebs Pigment and Color Corporation's assets and transferred them into the DuPont Company. DuPont's TiO2-based Ti-Pure® white pigment eventually became one of the company's most successful products.Prev Next
Cordura was one of DuPont's most popular fiber products. Its origin dates to 1929 when chemists at the DuPont Rayon Company succeeded in strengthening relatively weak rayon filaments into fibers suitable for use as sewing threads and tire cords. Subsequent tests on commercial vehicles proved that the new rayon lengthened the life span of tires, so in November 1934 DuPont started production of Cordura durable cord rayon tire yarn.
Research during World War II improved Cordura and enabled its manufacture on standard rayon production equipment, thereby boosting both quality and output. The tendency of Cordura to strengthen when heated led to its extensive use in military tires made from synthetic rubber, which ran hotter than natural rubber.
Consequently, Cordura became widely known as an essential product for America's war effort. In 1950 DuPont introduced Super Cordura tire yarn, but Super Cordura faced a formidable rival in another DuPont product, nylon. After performance tests in the 1950s showed nylon's superiority, DuPont phased out Super Cordura and replaced it with a new industrial nylon yarn called N-56. The last Super Cordura rayon plant closed in 1963 as DuPont officially exited the rayon business.
In 1966 DuPont transferred the Cordura brand name to the N-56 nylon product line. In 1977 DuPont researchers discovered a process for dyeing Cordura, which opened a wide variety of commercial applications. By 1979 soft-sided Cordura luggage had captured about 40 percent of the luggage market. In the 1980s DuPont expanded its Cordura line into sporting apparel and equipment, including boots and shoes, golf and ski bags, and backpacks. A softer version called Cordura Plus entered the market in 1988. Subsequent improvements made Cordura even lighter in weight and gave the fabric greater protection against fading from sunlight and washing. In 1996, Cordura Plus Natural, with the look and feel of natural cotton canvas, became immediately popular with sporting goods and marine apparel manufacturers.
The Cordura trademark and Cordura products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.Prev Next
1930 Roessler & Hasslacher Chemical Company
In 1930 DuPont purchased the Roessler & Hasslacher Chemical Company (R&H) primarily to ensure a steady supply of raw materials for the manufacture of dyes and tetraethyl lead (TEL). In addition to these raw materials, however, the R&H acquisition provided DuPont with a host of specialized chemicals like sodium cyanide for electroplating, methyl chloride for refrigerants, hydrogen peroxide for oxidizing and bleaching, formaldehyde for plastic and disinfectants, dry-cleaning agents, fumigants, insecticides, and ceramic colors.
Founded in 1885 as a precious metals business, Roessler & Hasslacher (R&H) developed into a well-integrated, successful chemical business by the time of the DuPont purchase. In 1932 DuPont chemists worked to improve R&H's chemical products and changed the name to the R&H Chemicals Department. Important developments during this period included a new synthetic process for hydrogen cyanide and tremendous expansion in the methyl chloride refrigerant business. In 1942 the name of the operation was changed again to the Electrochemicals Department, and research in specialized chemicals continued through the 1960s.Prev Next
Freon made possible widespread use of refrigerators and air conditioners and served as a propellant in aerosol sprays of all types. Up to the 1920s, most commonly used refrigerants were exceedingly hazardous substances. Freon (chlorofluorocarbon or CFC) was developed by two General Motors (GM) scientists and manufactured by DuPont at Deepwater, N.J., beginning in 1930. CFCs also proved effective as degreasing agents. Non-CFC substitutes for Freon - Suva® refrigerants and Dymel® propellants – were commercialized in 1990. DuPont produced its last CFCs in the developed countries in 1995.
During the mid-20th century, Freon was little appreciated but indispensable. The DuPont-produced gas made widespread use of refrigerators and air conditioners possible and served as a propellant in aerosol sprays of all types. Up to the 1920s, most commonly used refrigerants were exceedingly hazardous substances. Late in the decade, two scientists doing research for General Motors’ (GM) Frigidaire subsidiary developed an inert, nontoxic and odorless replacement chlorofluorocarbon gas (CFC) gas called Freon . GM asked DuPont to develop the product on a large scale and a plant was built at Deepwater, N.J., in 1930. In their work with the substance, DuPont scientists discovered that Freon also made an effective aerosol propellant. Related CFCs also proved effective as degreasing agents and as the basis for Teflon®, a remarkably durable and inert plastic. Freon products were produced and marketed through a joint DuPont-GM venture called Kinetic Chemicals Company up to 1949 when the operations came under control of the Organic Chemicals Department.
Demand for Freon refrigerants and propellants continued to grow until the 1970s when scientific studies indicated that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer that shielded the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. During the 1980s DuPont began developing more environmentally friendly hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), eventually marketed as Suva refrigerants and Dymel propellants. During the 1980s, federal regulatory agencies banned the use of CFCs and DuPont began phasing out production, producing its last CFCs in the developed countries in 1995. The difficulties faced by American producers and consumers alike in curtailing their use of Freon were a testament to its profound impact on postwar life.
DuPont fluorochemicals can be found in products ranging from stadium roofs to kitchen frying pans. The first significant developments in fluorochemical research began at General Motors (GM) in the 1920s. GM, and its subsidiary Frigidaire, had been searching for nontoxic, nonflammable substitutes for existing refrigerants. Researchers discovered a promising alternative in dichlorodifluoromethane, later called Freon 12. Lacking the capacity to produce Freon in large quantities, GM turned over subsequent development to DuPont in a joint venture called Kinetic Chemicals Company. By the end of the 1930s, DuPont’s Freon sales were nearly $4 million a year. The company expanded the use of Freon to aerosols, cleaning liquids and foam-blowing agents.
Further fluorochemical research led to the discovery of polytetrafluoroethylene, which DuPont would later trademark Teflon. Tests on the new material showed that it was unaffected by most acids and corrosive chemicals and remained solid at temperatures much higher than any other plastic. During World War II, Teflon found its first significant use in nose cones on artillery-shell proximity fuses. Teflon was also used in the secret atomic research of the Manhattan Project because it could withstand the corrosive environment surrounding the production of Uranium-235. Although earliest uses of Teflon were in national defense, the fluorocarbon found its largest market in 1961 when it was introduced as a non-stick coating for cookware.
By the early 1970s, DuPont had developed a group of high-performance fluoroplastics like Tefzel fluoropolymer resins for wire insulation and Teflon PFA melt-processible plastic for chemical equipment linings and specialty tubing. Tedlar® polyvinyl fluoride brought longer life to aluminum home siding and a line of fluoroelastomers served important needs in the industrial sealant market.
Scientific research in the 1970s revealed a link between chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the depletion of the earth's ozone layer. A leading manufacturer of CFCs, primarily Freon, DuPont made an early commitment to phase out CFC production and find safer fluorochemical alternatives. DuPont developed hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) like Suva refrigerant, Formacel® foam expansion agents, and Dymel propellants for aerosols. Other fluorochemicals have been enlisted in environmental protection. For example, filtration fabrics made of Teflon fibers keep coal ash and other industrial pollutants out of the atmosphere. Today, DuPont continues to develop fluorochemicals that are environmentally responsible and serve a variety of industrial and consumer markets.Prev Next
1930 Julian Hill
Julian Hill (1904-1996) discovered a breakthrough cold-drawing technique to produce the 3-16 polyester super-silk fiber, the forerunner of nylon. Raised in Warrenton, Mo., Hill studied chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, then earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1928.
Immediately after his graduation from MIT he accepted a position with DuPont at the company's Experimental Station laboratories and began working with Wallace Carothers on the problem of synthesizing superpolymers, or complex organic compounds with molecular weights greater than 5,000.
During an experiment conducted in April 1930, Hill used a special molecular still to synthesize a 12,000-weight polyester substance for the first time, shattering the old ceiling. He also found, quite unexpectedly, that the molten material, after cooling, could be stretched or cold drawn into a thin yet extremely strong and flexible fiber similar to silk. This discovery was tempered by the new fiber's low melting point, which made it unsuitable for use in commercial textiles. Hill's work, however, enabled Carothers to cold draw a more commercially successful polymer, nylon, four years later. Hill left Carothers' research group just before the advent of nylon to work with rayon and other organic compounds such as synthetic musks. He became Assistant Director of the Chemical Department and sat on its steering committee from 1932 until 1951. From then until 1964, Hill traveled the country as Chair of DuPont's Committee on Educational Aid to foster academic research in the sciences and to recruit young chemists for the company's laboratories. He retired from the company in 1964, and died in 1996 at the age of 91.Prev Next
DuPont has been making Ti-Pure titanium dioxide (TiO2) white pigments for paper, paints and plastics since 1931 and is currently the world's leading producer. Today the company's plants in Edgemoor, Del., New Johnsonville, Tenn., and De Lisle, Miss., along with its Taiwan plant and its Altamira, Mexico, affiliate, produce about a quarter of the world's TiO2 pigments.
Ti-Pure paper and plastics-grade products are packaged in special polyethylene bags that dissolve when added directly to the mixing process, thereby eliminating waste. Ti-Pure slurry (RPD Vantage®) for paper products is delivered in liquid form and requires no packaging.
TiO2 exists naturally in titanium ores like ilmenite and rutile. Its molecular structure makes for high brightness and opacity, but first it must be chemically extracted and purified. For many years high costs discouraged widespread TiO2 use, but in 1931 the "sulfate process" was invented, lowering production costs and allowing TiO2 pigments to displace cheaper lithopone (barium sulfate/zinc sulfide). DuPont entered the TiO2 business in 1931 when it purchased a TiO2 patent-holding company, the Commercial Pigments Corporation, and offered a line of Ti-Pure products. When demand surged after World War II, DuPont engineers invented an alternate, more economical "chloride process." Introduced at the Edgemoor plant in 1951, it gradually replaced the sulfate process in all DuPont Ti-Pure plants as they expanded to meet ever-increasing demand through the 1990s. Reflecting its global scope, DuPont opened a Ti-Pure plant in Taiwan in 1994 and a technical service center in Mechelen, Belgium, in 1995 to serve the European, Middle Eastern and Asian markets.Prev Next
Neoprene was the first major product to emerge from DuPont’s fundamental research program. In the mid-1920s, high natural rubber prices set off a search for an effective synthetic, and in April 1930 a chemist in Wallace Carothers’s fundamental research group produced a rubber-like substance during a polymerization experiment. DuPont marketed its discovery in late 1931 under the trade name Duprene.
Because neoprene was more resistant to water, oils, heat and solvents than natural rubber, it was ideal for industrial uses such as telephone wire insulation and gasket and hose material in automobile engines. DuPont improved both the manufacturing process and the end product throughout the 1930s. The company discontinued the Duprene trade name in 1937 in favor of the generic "neoprene" to signify that the material is an ingredient, not a finished consumer product.
Elimination of the disagreeable odor that had plagued earlier varieties of neoprene made it popular in consumer goods like gloves and shoe soles. World War II removed neoprene from the commercial market, however, and although production at the Deepwater plant was stepped up, the military claimed it all. DuPont purchased a government-owned neoprene plant in Louisville, Ky., to keep up with increasing demand after the war. Basically unchanged since 1950, neoprene continues to be essential in the manufacture of adhesives, sealants, power transmission belts, hoses and tubes. Since 1996 neoprene has been produced under DuPont Dow Elastomers LLC, a joint venture with Dow Chemical.
DuPont's manufacturing plant on the Ohio River just outside Louisville, Ky., has been producing neoprene, or "synthetic rubber," since September 1942. When the United States entered World War II in December, the federal government purchased the plant, which DuPont continued to manage. Neoprene was a vital war material, especially when the war with Japan cut off supplies of natural rubber. At the end of 1948 DuPont bought the plant back from the government, and on January 1, 1949, the Louisville facility began operations under the company's sole ownership. The area also proved attractive to other chemical companies and soon became known as "Rubbertown." Through the 1960s and 1970s, DuPont modernized and expanded the Louisville Works. After a series of explosions and fires in August 1965 killed 11 workers there, DuPont developed new technologies for neoprene production that greatly reduced the possibility of explosions.
In 1955 the Louisville plant started manufacturing Freon-22 refrigerant and aerosol propellant. Thirty-three years later, however, plant managers began planning for a phase-out of this product when DuPont decided to curtail all production of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) products for U.S. markets. By 1992 Louisville was producing ozone-safe, non-CFC substitutes like Suva® refrigerants and Dymel® propellants. In 1998, just after DuPont acquired Protein Technologies International, Louisville started producing protein isolates, or concentrated soy protein, for industrial applications like paper and paperboard coatings. Through nearly 60 years of change, however, the plant continued to make its original and versatile product — neoprene.Prev Next
1933 Remington Arms
DuPont’s financial strength allowed Remington to buy smaller firearms companies and expand its foreign business. During World War II, Remington operated five government-owned ammunition plants and continued its military contracts in the postwar period. After increasing its share in Remington during the 1970s, DuPont purchased the company outright in 1980. Remington continued to perform well over the next decade, but DuPont bolstered its chemical products base and increasingly focused on biomaterials research rather than explosives. As a result, DuPont sold Remington’s assets to RACI Acquisitions in 1993.
1935 Toxicology Pioneer
DuPont established the Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology in 1935. Named for DuPont executive Harry G. Haskell, it was one of the first of its kind. Scientists at Haskell Laboratory test each new DuPont product for safety. They also study particular chemicals and production processes. In 1953 the Haskell Laboratory moved from the Experimental Station to new quarters near Newark, Del., and its five divisions–toxicology, biochemistry, pathology, physiology and physics–expanded their research into workplace and product safety hazards.
George H. Gehrmann, M.D.
George H. Gehrmann, M.D. (1890-1959) led DuPont's pioneering efforts within the field of occupational health, helping to set new standards for preventive medicine in the chemical industry. Appointed medical director in 1926, he faced his greatest professional challenge in the early 1930s when DuPont physicians found a pattern of fatal bladder tumors among the company's dye workers. Gehrmann traveled to Europe to solicit information and solutions. Impressed by the cleanliness and sophistication of German dye plant operations, as well as by their toxicology investigations, Gehrmann resolved to introduce similar high standards to America. Soon after he returned from Europe, he recommended that DuPont undertake medical screening and periodic examination of workers, rigorous personal and plant hygiene standards, and the establishment of a laboratory to monitor toxicological effects of chemicals. The company implemented these practices, and in 1935 built and equipped the Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology, the first such laboratory in the United States. Under Gehrmann's leadership, the Haskell Laboratory became a leading center for toxicological and occupational health research.
During his career at DuPont, Gehrmann fostered other innovations in occupational health, such as a program to treat alcoholism, healthy diets for sedentary executives, and in-house psychiatric consultation to address the stress-related nature of many medical symptoms. Respected as a leading figure in American occupational health, Gehrmann was president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Since 1956 the ACOEM has invited top practitioners to present the annual Gehrmann Lecture named in his honor.Prev Next
Butacite was part of a new wave of petrochemical-based plastics that proved far more durable and versatile than their nitrocellulose-based predecessors. The advantages of these plastics were first revealed in 1931 when DuPont’s Ammonia Department discovered Lucite methyl methacrylate. By the late 1930s, DuPont, through a series of joint research agreements with Union Carbide and the Shawinigan Corporation, had developed the polyvinyl butyral plastic Butacite. The new plastic was an immediate success as a replacement for pyralin in automotive safety glass.
The strength and shatterproof qualities of Butacite made it ideal for non-architectural uses as well. An early application was mirrors in high-risk areas, such as athletic locker rooms and naval vessels. Architects and designers also found multiple applications for Butacite in safety windows, glass doors, bathtub enclosures, shop windows, skylights and tabletops. Butacite retains popularity in its own right as safety glass and as construction material. But as a key interlayer in related DuPont products like SentryGlas®, SentryGlas Plus and Spallshield®, Butacite offers new levels of safety and innovative design. In the 1990s SentryGlas was certified as the first hurricane-resistant architectural glass, making it highly desirable in hurricane-prone areas. Similarly, Spallshield has also met increased security needs for shatterproof and penetration-resistant windows and glass barriers.Prev Next
1937 Business in Argentina
A post-World War II expansion program was hindered by the economic policies of Dictator Juan Peron and further complicated by the 1952 antitrust breakup of the DuPont-ICI venture. DuPont retained nearly three-fourths of Ducilo’s assets, however, and with the fall of Peron in 1955, began expansion in earnest. A Freon® plant went into operation in 1957, and nylon and cellophane production was stepped up three years later.
By 1965 Berazategui’s five plants employed 3,700 workers and were specializing in nylon production. Nylon manufacturing capacity was increased throughout the 1960s with a bulked continuous filament (BCF) nylon yarn facility going online at the end of the decade. In the 1980s and 1990s, the plant began manufacturing Zytel® and Minlon® nylon resins as well as high-tenacity yarns and tire cord. Despite its size and complexity, the plant attained one of the top safety records of all DuPont sites worldwide.Prev Next
1938 Roy Plunkett
In 1938 Roy Plunkett was investigating refrigerants he had stored in a cylinder. Upon reopening the container he found that the gas was gone. It had polymerized, forming polytetrafluoroethylene, a resin that was extremely slippery and highly resistant to chemicals and heat. During World War II the material was particularly useful in the Manhattan Project. In the 1950s, the material–now trademarked Teflon®–became common in the electronic, chemical and automotive industries. The market for Teflon boomed in the early 1960s when it became available for non-stick cookware.
Roy J. Plunkett (1910-1994) is best known as the inventor of Teflon, but he also had a long career at DuPont for several decades after his famous discovery in 1938. Plunkett joined DuPont directly after receiving his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Ohio State University in 1936. He was only 27 years old in April 1938 when he found something unusual while experimenting with gasses relating to Freon® refrigerants. Overnight, a sample had frozen into a whitish, waxy solid. Rather than discard the apparent mistake, Plunkett and his assistant tested the new polymer and found that it had some very unusual properties: it was extremely slippery as well as inert to virtually all chemicals, including highly corrosive acids. The product, trademarked as Teflon in 1945, was first used by the military in artillery shell fuses and in the production of nuclear material for the Manhattan Project. After World War II, DuPont found a wide range of uses for Teflon, such as electrical cable insulation, soil and stain repellant for fabrics, and coating for non-stick cookware.
Plunkett left DuPont’s Jackson Laboratory, the site of his famous discovery, in 1939 to become Chief Chemist at the company’s Chambers Works tetraethyl lead (TEL) plant. He remained there in several administrative positions through 1952, then moved to the Organic Chemicals Department before finally returning to Freon Products. He retired as Director of Operations of Freon Products in 1975. Plunkett received many honors, including election to the Plastics Hall of Fame in 1973 and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985. DuPont honored him with an award in his name, first given in 1988 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his discovery of Teflon. The Plunkett Award recognizes those who contribute important new products using Teflon.Prev Next
1939 Seaford, Delaware
In 1939, with nylon nearing full-scale production, DuPont sought a location for a new plant. The company chose a 609-acre site near Seaford in southern Delaware because of its proximity to raw material supplies and major markets. The rural community welcomed DuPont's $8.5 million investment with an impromptu parade. DuPont employed 900 construction workers and 400 subcontractors.
In building the Seaford Village Housing Project, the company made Seaford a model of its community relations efforts. The initial project was finished in a mere seven months, but even before completion the company began work on a second facility, doubling the site's capacity to 8 million pounds of nylon yarn a year. Seaford went into production on December 12, 1939. The first yarn produced there is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The six-story plant ran 24 hours a day, producing enough yarn in its first year of operation for 64 million pairs of nylon stockings. Seaford lost many of its first male employees to the war effort, but female workers maintained essential national defense production of nylon for parachutes and B-29 bomber tires.
After the war, Seaford remained central to the company's textile fibers production program. In 1948 DuPont chemical engineers converted one of Seaford's production units into a pilot plant for "Fiber V," later to be known as Dacron. Bulked continuous filament (BCF) nylon, soon to be a standard in the carpet industry, was developed at Seaford in 1958, part of a larger effort by the Engineering and Textile Fibers Departments to create an "optimum nylon plant."Prev Next
1939 Better Things
DuPont has re-invented itself twice in 200 years, from an explosives maker to a chemical company, then to a science-based "discovery" business. Each change has transformed its relationship with the public and the company has learned that its activities are often misunderstood if left unexplained. DuPont’s ongoing conversation with the public about its goals, its achievements – and its mistakes – is at the heart of its public relations.
Although the company established an Advertising Division in 1911 to promote its increasingly diversified products, it still relied on its earned reputation for honest dealings and quality products to assure the public of its good intentions. Up to the early 20th century, DuPont, like most businesses, regarded its motives to be a private matter. But as the company grew larger after 1900, and its relations with the public more impersonal, older notions of propriety gave way to a new questioning that extended to businesses as well as to individuals. More than ever before, public trust had to be earned by not only producing diligently but also informing accurately. DuPont would soon learn that the most effective way to address public perceptions was to work with, rather than against, the public’s desire for information.
It was a series of explosions in January 1916 that spurred DuPont to institute an organized public relations effort. President Pierre S. du Pont was furious about the error-riddled and inflammatory newspaper accounts of the accidents, but Charles K. Weston, city editor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, confided to a company official that DuPont’s failure to provide timely and accurate information had only inflamed the inevitable rumors and speculation. The papers, in turn, reported the rumors for want of anything more substantive to print. Soon after, Weston was hired to be the first director of DuPont’s new Publicity Bureau, and he established regular contact with journalists and instituted standard procedures for issuing press reports. News coverage of accidents, which once ran for days on mere rumors, now often ended after a single, factual article. The Publicity Bureau also marked the company’s first formal distinction between advertising, where the company fully controlled content with paid messages, and publicity, which relied on constant submissions about products and events to writers and editors who then conveyed that information at their own discretion to readers.
By the mid-1930s, public opinion of DuPont had soured due to Depression-era anxiety, anti-big-business sentiment, and congressional hearings into World War I profiteering that tarred DuPont as "merchants of death." Despite Lammot du Pont’s reservations about spending large sums on public relations, the company engaged the firm of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn to emphasize its peacetime contributions to society. The result was DuPont’s sponsorship of "The Cavalcade of America," a radio show dramatizing American history. For 22 years after its 1935 debut, "Cavalcade" created positive associations with DuPont’s public image, and helped assure Americans that the company’s primary focus was on the benefits of science, not on munitions. Heeding the public relations axiom that well-known personalities and decision makers lend authority to a campaign’s content, "Cavalcade" included scriptwriters like Arthur Miller, Stephen Vincent Benet and Alexander Woollcott, while historians like Arthur Schlesinger and James Truslow Adams checked the show’s scripts for accuracy.
After the success of "Cavalcade," DuPont reorganized the Publicity Bureau as the Public Relations Department in 1938 and increased its staffing. Four years later, Harold Brayman, a 20-year newspaper veteran and former National Press Club president was hired as public relations director. Brayman, with former newsman Glen Perry, launched the modern era of DuPont’s public relations. Key among Brayman’s policies was the 1946 implementation of a "precinct system," derived from his experience covering politics, in which business leaders at a local level explained DuPont’s broad, societal contributions to employees and to their communities. Within several years, the system, which featured an effective, grass-roots, educational campaign, had become a model for other corporate public relations efforts.
This new sophistication helped DuPont more effectively manage its World War II activities, including sensitive work on the atomic bomb. DuPont’s great research and production capacity for materials such as neoprene, nylon and rayon helped win the war, and remained vital to the national defense effort in the Cold War years. These materials, like most of DuPont’s products, were in great demand in the civilian, peacetime market as well, allowing DuPont to ride a wave of postwar prosperity and consumer optimism through the 1950s. But sometimes size was a mixed blessing. Brayman and the Public Relations Department were kept busy through these years defending the company’s reputation against renewed federal antitrust charges for its General Motors (GM) holdings.
Describing his department as "ends minded, not means minded," Brayman used a variety of communications media and techniques to disseminate information about DuPont. Better Living magazine, a glossy employee publication, was titled after the successful advertising campaign magazine promising "Better Things for Better Living...Through Chemistry." Fortune magazine and The Saturday Evening Post each published a series of articles about DuPont. "This Work Goes On" was a film about the company’s history based on the book, "Du Pont: One Hundred and Forty Years," by public relations staffer William S. Dutton. DuPont’s "Wonderful World of Chemistry" exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair included upbeat, song-and-dance presentations and exhibits such as the House of Good Taste.
In the 1960s, America’s postwar economic expansion and consumer optimism yielded to concerns about environmental pollution and social justice. In this new, turbulent era, books such as Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring" began to turn the tide of public opinion against the chemical industry. A nation once enamored of chemicals and their benefits now grew uneasy and suspicious. DuPont, its sales sluggish and its future direction uncertain, earned a reputation as a "sleeping giant," resting too much on its great, but now past, successes. In the early 1970s environmental researchers produced new data indicating that the chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) DuPont manufactured for refrigerants might be destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer. In response, DuPont publicly vowed to stop making CFCs if they were conclusively linked to health and ozone problems. The company aired televised messages that projected a corporate image of integrity, competence and efficiency.
In 1973, as public policy problems overshadowed daily business operations, DuPont elected company attorney Irving S. Shapiro as chairman and CEO. Shapiro had helped negotiate DuPont’s court-ordered divestiture of General Motors (GM) stock in 1962, and had also served as the company’s liaison to Ralph Nader’s researchers as they prepared their critical 1971 report, "The Company State." Accompanying Nader’s "raiders" on their interviews with DuPont personnel, Shapiro walked a fine line between openness and defensiveness. In an era when DuPont was often on the defensive, Shapiro maintained an easygoing relationship with the press. In 1979 he appointed DuPont general counsel Charles E. Welch to the newly created position of Vice President for External Affairs.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, DuPont continued its two-pronged policy of turning problems into solutions and diversifying the media for its messages. In 1987, it helped establish the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFC production by century’s end and in 1991 it introduced Suva® as its first substitute for CFC-based refrigerants.
In 1992 DuPont used recycling technology to convert plastic soda bottles and car fenders into 13,000 square feet of sail for the tall ship HMS Rose, which visited U.S. ports that summer with a DuPont plastics recycling exhibit aboard. The company also has distributed a multimedia student package about chemical protective clothing that includes a computer disk, videocassette and swatch book containing several DuPont products.
Corporations now live in glass houses. New information technologies, combined with numerous disclosure and regulatory requirements, have increased the importance of a firm’s public relations. A company’s immediate progress may be slowed by the need to earn public trust, but in the long run a company will not get very far if it does not make room on board for its consumers. As former DuPont Chairman Charles McCoy once observed, "private corporations live by public permit."
History of the Public Relations Department, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (no author cited), October 1954. Hagley Museum Archives, Box 8, Folder 4.
William L. Bird Jr., "Better Living": Advertising, Media, and the New Vocabulary of Business Leadership, 1935-1955 (Evanston, Illinois, 1999).
L.L.L. Golden, Only by Public Consent: American Corporations Search for Favorable Opinion (New York, 1968).Prev Next
Nylon was the world’s first true synthetic textile fiber. It now is found in hundreds of applications from carpets and clothing to luggage and automobile parts. Brand names include Antron, Tactel, Cordura and Zytel®. Nylon emerged from research on polymers, very large molecules with repeating chemical structures that Dr. Wallace Carothers and his colleagues conducted in the early 1930s at DuPont’s Experimental Station. After much additional research and development, DuPont built a full-scale nylon plant in Seaford, Del., and began commercial production in late 1939.
Nylon was the world's first true synthetic fiber and one of DuPont's most successful products. It also set the pattern for research and development that DuPont followed for nearly 50 years. Nylon was discovered by Dr. Wallace Carothers, whose work at DuPont focused on polymers, very large molecules with repeating chemical structures. In April 1930 a lab assistant working with esters–compounds which yield an acid and an alcohol or phenol in reaction with water–discovered a very strong polymer that could be drawn into a fiber. This polyester fiber had a low melting point, however. Carothers changed course and began working with amides, which were derived from ammonia. In 1935 Carothers found a strong polyamide fiber that stood up well to both heat and solvents. He evaluated more than 100 different polyamides before choosing one for development.
Nylon was commercialized remarkably quickly, in part due to DuPont's experience with rayon. After determining that low-cost production was possible and settling on a target market (women's hosiery), DuPont produced a preliminary batch of nylon staple. To confirm that the nylon hose would be practical, the staple was delivered to a commercial knitting mill under conditions of extreme secrecy (the research chemist who delivered the samples to the mill slept with them on the train). It took two test runs and further development to convince DuPont to build a pilot plant in Wilmington and, finally, a full-scale production facility in Seaford, Del. Commercial production began in late 1939.
DuPont did not register "nylon" as a trademark, choosing to allow the word to enter the American vocabulary as a synonym for "stockings." From the time it went on sale to the general public in May 1940, nylon hosiery was a huge success: women lined up at stores across the country to obtain the precious goods. In 1941, DuPont established a second nylon plant in Martinsville, Va., to meet the demand. With the onset of World War II, production was channeled into a host of national defense uses including parachutes and B-29 bomber tires.
In 1950 DuPont issued its first license to another firm for the production of nylon. At the same time the company developed it for other markets, particularly as belting in truck and automobile tires. At mid-decade, after a successful six-year test at Wilmington's Hotel du Pont, DuPont began producing a nylon staple for carpeting. In 1959 DuPont introduced an improved product, bulked continuous filament (BCF) nylon, which, along with Antron nylon, introduced in 1960, revolutionized the carpet industry. The development of new varieties of nylon continued during the 1960s and 1970s with durable Zytel nylon resins and Qiana, a silk-like nylon. Although its profitability has diminished over time as competitors entered the market, DuPont remains the world's leading producer of nylon chemical intermediates, polymers and textile fibers.
Nylon changed the way people dressed worldwide and rendered the term "silk stocking"–once an epithet directed at the wealthy elite–obsolete. Its success also encouraged DuPont's management to adopt a long-term strategy of growth through products developed out of basic research.
Zytel® Nylon Resin
Zytel nylon resin is a versatile engineering plastic developed by DuPont chemists in the 1930s during their research on nylon 6,6, the durable polyamide polymer used in nylon stockings. During World War II when the U.S. government advised substituting plastics for metals wherever possible, DuPont began large-scale production of its new nylon resin for use in engine gears, cams, valves and ball bearings. After the war DuPont named the resin Zytel and marketed it as a lightweight, heavy-duty industrial and engineering plastic resistant to heat and corrosive chemicals. However, Zytel tended to crack when notched by poor mold design or surface scratches. In 1973 DuPont researcher Bennet N. Epstein solved the cracking problem by blending it with small amounts of other resins to make "Super Tough" Zytel ST. Its introduction during the 1973-74 oil shortage proved timely as automobile manufacturers used it in gas tanks, interior panels and engine components to reduce vehicle weight and increase gas mileage. The success of Zytel ST in automobiles soon led to new applications in appliances, wire insulation, sporting gear and home furnishings. In 1994, DuPont introduced Zytel HTN (high temperature nylon) for applications involving toxic chemicals, high humidity levels and extreme temperature environments.Prev Next
1940 Walter S. Carpenter Jr.
Walter S. Carpenter Jr. (1888-1976) served DuPont for eight decades. While a student at Cornell University, Carpenter learned applied engineering in DuPont’s summer programs at Gibbstown and Carney’s Point, N.J. In 1909, during the fall of his senior year, he quit school to manage DuPont’s Chilean nitrate interests. In 1911 he became assistant to older brother R.R.M. Carpenter in the fledgling Development Department. There, and later as vice president in charge of development, Carpenter helped guide DuPont’s early diversification into celluloid and dyes.
During World War I, Carpenter became a member of the War Executive Committee and when Pierre du Pont re-staffed the Executive Committee with a group of younger executives in 1919, Carpenter, 31, was the youngest. Two years later he became treasurer of DuPont, and in 1927 he was appointed to the Board of Directors of General Motors (GM), a position he held until 1959.
During the Great Depression, Carpenter pushed the company’s leaders to accept and adapt to increased government regulation of corporate affairs, although he was overruled by the du Ponts. Upon Lammot du Pont’s departure in 1940, Carpenter took over the presidency, becoming only the second non-family member to hold the position up to that time. Carpenter soon faced the challenge of World War II, and under his leadership, DuPont supplied explosives and a host of other products to the war effort. He also guided DuPont’s heavy involvement in perhaps the most ambitious research and development undertaking in history, the Manhattan Project. Carpenter stepped down as president in 1948, but continued to serve as chairman of DuPont’s Board of Directors until 1962. He was appointed honorary chairman that same year, a position he held until 1974.Prev Next
The development of Orlon acrylic fiber stemmed from DuPont’s work on rayon. In 1941 a DuPont scientist seeking to improve rayon discovered a means of spinning acrylic polymer–which unlike nylon, decomposes rather than melts – through a solution. DuPont began developing the substance dubbed "Fiber A." Initially the material was targeted as a replacement for wool, but difficulties in spinning and dyeing soon cropped up. In 1950 the May Plant in Camden, S.C., went into production of the material renamed Orlon.
Development of Orlon was difficult, and finding a market was equally problematic. DuPont initially offered it as a filament yarn, but sales were disappointing until Orlon staple, a bulky yarn composed of short fibers, was introduced. By the mid-1950s a boom in women’s sweaters was underway and Orlon was there to meet the demand. By 1960 sales reached 1 million pounds a year, and Orlon had become a 19-year-old overnight sensation. During the 1960s, DuPont developed new varieties of Orlon to meet specific needs in combination fabrics, blankets and carpet fibers. These efforts, coupled with expansion into European markets, kept demand high until the late 1970s, when European production was discontinued. DuPont continued to offer Orlon acrylic carpet fibers until 1990.
The Dordrecht, Netherlands, plant is the oldest and principal plant of Du Pont de Nemours (Nederland) N.V., a wholly owned subsidiary established in 1959. It was DuPont’s second plant on the continent, beginning production of Orlon in December 1961. At first DuPont Nederland supplemented its Orlon sales by distributing DuPont products shipped in from across the Atlantic, but rapid expansion aimed at reducing dependence on imports followed. During the 1960s and 1970s, Orlon production was stepped up, with the company introducing new and superior varieties. Nevertheless, DuPont was forced to close the Dordrecht Orlon facilities in 1978 after the world market for acrylics had become saturated.
By then Dordrecht’s manufacturing capacity had been dedicated to newer products and markets. A finishing and coloring plant for Delrin® acetal resin opened in early 1963, followed a year later by a Lycra elastane plant. Teflon® production began in 1966 and a fluorocarbon resin unit opened in 1967. With the opening of a HCFC-0124 and HFC-134 plant in 1992, Dordrecht helped lead the switch from production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to alternative hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The opening of Dordrecht’s Orlon and Lycra plants were well-timed to capitalize on a rapidly growing European textile fiber market. But the diversity of its production has kept it a leader in DuPont’s European operations. Today the plant manufactures products including Delrin resins, Viton high-performance elastomers, and Terathane glycols.
The Lycra and Terathane trademarks and their products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.
The May plant in Camden, S.C., produces polymers. Originally constructed in 1948-1949 on an 800-acre site near the Wateree River, the plant opened on July 3, 1950, to produce continuous filament yarn of Orlon acrylic, a new fiber developed by DuPont in the 1940s. Named after Benjamin M. May, former general manager of the Rayon Department, the plant had an annual production capacity of 6.5 million pounds. However, it never reached that goal. Orlon filament yarn was not easily dyed, and markets for its natural color – a yellowish gray – were limited to window awnings and curtains. In 1957 DuPont discontinued all production of Orlon filament yarn.
In May 1952 the May plant began production of Orlon staple fiber, similar in texture to wool, which proved successful when the "sweater look" became popular in the 1950s. DuPont nylon markets also expanded, and the company opened its fifth nylon plant in April 1968 at Camden to manufacture bulked continuous filament (BCF) for carpet fiber. Seven months later the Camden facility also began production of nylon textile yarn, and in May 1971 added Dacron polyester textile filament to its products. Fourteen years later, DuPont discontinued polyester filament production at Camden, but in 1986 and 1987 the company expanded the site's carpet fibers capacity. In 1988 the May plant started production of nylon hosiery yarn and expanded it the next year. In 1998 DuPont undertook a $200 million expansion at Camden, including three new plants.
The Dacron trademark and Dacron products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.Prev Next
1942 Canadian Expansion
Although Kingston briefly produced other fibers such as Dacron polyester, nylon was its principal product. Between 1992 and 2000, the plant’s bulked continuous filament (BCF) nylon yarn operations were expanded three times at a cost of more than $156 million. These expansions helped DuPont increase its share of the North American carpeting market by 35 percent. Kingston is also one of the company’s key research centers, with laboratories for plastics and chemicals as well as packaging systems. Among other successes, the Kingston Research & Business Development unit is responsible for the development of aseptic pouches, which give perishables a shelf life of six months with no refrigeration.
1942 Manhattan Project
In the fall of 1942, design work began on the facility in Wilmington while DuPont personnel helped Army officials locate a site. The team chose Hanford, located along the Columbia River in central Washington, not only for its proximity to hydroelectric power, but also for its sparsely populated, remote location. Having been accused of profiteering after World War I, DuPont charged only a $1 fee for its work at Hanford and turned over to the federal government all patent rights that resulted from its work there.
The scope of the project called for unprecedented innovation in materials, design and management all done by DuPont’s specially formed "TNX" division. Although government scientists were impatient, DuPont worked deliberately, determined to make no misstep. In March 1943, DuPont supervisors and construction workers began building chemical reactors, separation plants, raw material facilities, acres of housing, and miles of roads. Soon the once desolate town was the third largest city in Washington State with a population of 55,000. By late 1944, the project was completed and functioning flawlessly, all at a cost of $2.5 million. DuPont was determined to stay out of military production in peacetime, and withdrew from Hanford nine months after the end of the war.Prev Next
1948 Crawford H. Greenewalt
Crawford H. Greenewalt graduated from MIT with a degree in chemical engineering in 1922 and began his professional career at DuPont’s Philadelphia plant. Two years later, he was transferred to the Experimental Station to participate in the company’s groundbreaking work in high-pressure technology. Greenewalt’s chemical engineering expertise was complemented by family ties to the du Ponts, most notably his marriage to the daughter of Irénée du Pont.
In the 16 months after the end of the Manhattan Project, Greenewalt served as Stine’s assistant, assistant director of the Development Department, and assistant general manager of the Pigments Department. In June 1946, he became a vice president and member of the Executive Committee, and in January 1948 he succeeded Walter S. Carpenter as president.
Greenewalt made the pursuit of large-scale research projects designed to produce "new nylons" DuPont’s major postwar objective. As part of this push, he convinced DuPont’s Executive Committee to spend $30 million on new research facilities and to fund university research programs. Between 1948 and 1962, Greenewalt oversaw the development of Orlon, Dacron, and Lycra synthetic fibers. In the latter part of his presidency, DuPont also began to expand overseas, establishing the International Department to coordinate global ventures.
By the late 1950s, however, DuPont had become overly reliant on textile fibers, faced slowing growth, and diminishing returns from textile research. In 1961 Greenewalt urged every department to focus on developing new markets and announced a program of diversification "beyond existing fields of interest and beyond chemistry." Greenewalt stepped down from the presidency the next year, but continued to advocate the development of new product lines until his retirement from the Board of Directors in 1988.Prev Next
1949 Engineering Polymers
Engineering polymers suited for use in high-stress applications originated in the revolutionary polymer research, which led to the discovery of nylon. In addition to commercial uses in brushes, parachutes and women’s hosiery, DuPont scientists began exploring nylon’s potential in three-dimensional forms. Experiments in the early 1940s revealed that molded nylon exhibited the strength necessary to replace metal parts in industrial machinery.
In 1950 DuPont trademarked Zytel® for its nylon molding resins which began to replace metals in the textile, automotive and appliance fields. By then DuPont’s research into high-performance polymers extended beyond nylons to include acetals and polyesters. Delrin® acetal resin, often called "synthetic stone," was developed in the 1950s. It offers both metal-like properties and the ability to be molded into complex shapes.
During the 1960s and 1970s, DuPont continued to make breakthroughs in engineering polymers through new blending techniques and exploration of composites, plastics in which a filler is added to impart particular characteristics. In 1973 the company developed Zytel ST, a super tough nylon resin derived from blending nylon with other resins. The product was an immediate success with automotive companies seeking to reduce car weight by substituting resins for metal. Rynite® PET is a thermoplastic composite that contains uniformly dispersed glass fibers and provides excellent electrical insulation characteristics. Today, DuPont engineering polymers provide a broad portfolio of materials for automotive, electrical, electronic, consumer and industrial applications.Prev Next
The polymer that became polyester has roots in the 1929 writings of Wallace Carothers. However, DuPont chose to concentrate on the more promising nylon research. When DuPont resumed its polyester research, ICI had patented Terylene polyester, to which DuPont purchased the U.S. rights in 1945 for further development. In 1950 a pilot plant at the Seaford, Del., facility produced Dacron fiber with modified nylon technology. DuPont opened its huge Kinston, N.C., plant in 1953 to produce Dacron.
Kinston, North Carolina
Kinston, N.C., is the site of the world’s first plant devoted to the commercial production of polyester fiber. DuPont invested $3 million in a laboratory and $40 million in production facilities on the 10-acre site, and began the manufacture of Dacron in 1953. DuPont’s arrival in Kinston added some 5,000 people to the city’s population. Despite fluctuations in the synthetic fiber market over the years, DuPont has kept the Kinston plant open continuously, although two filament production lines were closed in 1998.
That same year, employees marked DuPont’s 45th anniversary in Kinston with a remarkable safety achievement, including records for the fewest on-the-job injuries and fewest combined on-and-off-job injuries ever. Having reduced its pollution levels by some 2.3 million pounds over the years, the Kinston plant has achieved distinction for its environmental record, winning the North Carolina Governor’s Excellence in Waste Reduction Award and a Certificate for Significant Achievement from the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources Office of Waste Reduction.
The Dacron trademark and Dacron products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004. Today, Kinston produces Sorona.Prev Next
Mylar is an extraordinarily strong polyester film that grew out of the development of Dacron in the early 1950s. During the 1960s cellophane gave way steadily to Mylar with its superior strength, heat resistance, and excellent insulating properties. The unique qualities of Mylar made new consumer markets in magnetic audiotape and videotape, capacitor dielectrics, packaging and batteries possible. By the 1970s, Mylar had become DuPont’s best-selling film, despite mounting competition. Mylar is now a product of a joint venture, DuPont Teijin Films.
By the 1960s Mylar and cellophane generated almost two-thirds of the sales of the Film Department and practically all of its earnings. Today, the versatility of Mylar continues to be one of its major strengths: perforated Mylar film is used as food wrap and instrument manufacturers produce high-quality drumheads from Mylar. The product’s balance of properties and wide range of capabilities make it ideal in a broad array of applications in the electrical, electronics, magnetic media, imaging and graphics, and packaging markets.Prev Next
1954 DuPont Canada
DuPont Canada’s roots go back to 1876 and an investment in Ontario’s Hamilton Powder Company that thrived supplying nitroglycerine to Canada’s railway builders. In 1911 the Nobel interests, who also had invested heavily in Hamilton, persuaded DuPont to form Canadian Explosives (CXL), owned 45 percent by DuPont and 55 percent by Nobel.
By 1927 the firm had expanded into chemical production and DuPont and ICI, the British chemical giant that succeeded Nobel, renamed the firm Canadian Industries Limited (CIL). During the Great Depression. DuPont assumed a more dominant role in the partnership due to the success of products such as Duco paints and cellophane.
After World War II, the U.S. Justice Department launched antitrust proceedings, and in 1954 CIL was split, with DuPont retaining its textile fiber and cellophane operations. DuPont of Canada Ltd., 75 percent owned by DuPont, began an aggressive campaign of expansion and diversification, set up its own Research and Development and Technical groups, based in Kingston, Ontario, and soon began to outperform many of DuPont’s U.S. divisions. Chemical operations and homegrown successes, such as the Sclair polyethylene resins process, kept the company’s fortunes high during the 1960s. But in the next decade the company endured its first yearly losses, however, it had more than recovered by 1979. During the 1980s and 1990s, the subsidiary, renamed DuPont Canada Inc., instituted innovations like a pilot nylon recycling facility at Maitland, Ontario, and the development of engineered-stone flooring systems.
At the end of 1999, the firm employed 3,300 people, maintained five manufacturing centers, and operated five main product lines including nylon, performance coatings and polymers, specialty fibers, specialty polymers and films. Although still 75 percent owned by DuPont, the Canadian subsidiary also has found its national identity to be a key asset. Les Operations du Quebec, for example, ensures that the company meets the needs of French speaking customers. DuPont Canada has developed its own successful product lines and Canadians dominate its management. Despite strong ties to the parent company, DuPont Canada is both a "Canadian" firm and a key part of a global enterprise.Prev Next
1957 First European Plant
The origins of the Maydown project grew out of a dispute with the British chemical giant ICI. In the early 1950s, ICI opened a U.S. dye facility. In response, DuPont’s Organic Chemical Department laid plans to enter the British rubber market by building a neoprene plant. In 1957, DuPont UK Ltd. announced plans to build that plant on a former naval airfield at Maydown, seven miles from Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Construction started that year. Since it began operations, Maydown also has manufactured Orlon, (from 1968) Lycra (from 1969) and Hypalon. These products have subsequently ceased production or, in the case of Lycra, transferred ownership.
Maydown started producing DuPont™ Kevlar® in 1988 and as of 2012 was one of only four Kevlar plants in the world, and the only one in Europe. Maydown helps supply Kevlar globally but also continues to develop new and innovative products.Prev Next
Tedlar plastic coating has been a stalwart DuPont product since 1961, when the company introduced it for the booming construction industry. That year DuPont constructed a plant at its Buffalo, N.Y., site to manufacture the new polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) film. The weather-resistance of Tedlar and its availability in several colors made it an attractive laminate for wood shutters, aluminum siding and many other housing applications.
By the early 1970s, Tedlar applications had widened to include automobile trim. Ten years later it was being used as a surface laminate for flexible architectural structures like tents, canopies, outdoor pavilions and covered sports arenas. In the early 1990s, Tedlar surfacing appeared on flexible outdoor signs, banners and awnings. The chemical structure of Tedlar makes it impermeable to dirt, oil and grit, so a good rainstorm will serve to keep it clean. It also resists penetration by the sun's ultraviolet radiation, thereby offering protection against discoloration and sun damage. Tedlar continues to appear in new applications such as airplane and train interior surfaces, truck trailer sides and building panels.
DuPont plants in Buffalo and Japan manufacture several varieties of Tedlar to meet many different needs. A major variety is Tedlar SP film, whose translucent quality, useful for backlight displays, offers an alternative to the choices of transparency or opaqueness with Tedlar. Tedlar requires an adhesive, but Tedlar SP can be applied in multiple layers without any adhesive or heat sealing. Both varieties come in a wide range of colors and glosses. Tedlar is chemically related to DuPont's Teflon® film. In fact, DuPont combined both of these tough, non-stick film and finishes products into a single surfaces business in 2000.Prev Next
1962 Lammot du Pont Copeland
Lammot du Pont Copeland (1905-1983) was the great-great-grandson of founder Eleuthère Irénée (E.I.) du Pont, and the company’s 11th president. After graduating from Harvard in 1929 with an industrial chemistry degree, Copeland worked in the laboratory of the Fabrics and Finishings Department at DuPont’s Fairfield, Conn., plant.
In 1942 he replaced his father, Charles Copeland, on DuPont’s Board of Directors and was appointed to the Board’s Finance Committee. He served on the Development Department’s postwar planning board during World War II and became secretary in 1947. Copeland was named vice president and chair of the Finance Committee in 1954 and was appointed to the Executive Committee in 1959. Crawford Greenewalt, recognizing that Copeland would serve as a unifying force on the board, chose Copeland as his successor. Copeland served as DuPont’s 11th president from 1962 to 1967, overseeing the company’s "New Ventures" effort to commercialize over two dozen new products including Lycra, Surlyn®, Tyvek® and Symmetrel. Copeland retired as president in 1967. He remained as chairman of the Board of Directors until 1971 and continued to sit on the board until 1982.Prev Next
Commercialized in 1962, Lycra brand elastane fiber capped two decades of research to produce a good synthetic elastomeric fiber. Lycra is a segmented polyurethane. Lycra was made first in Waynesboro, Va. The stretch and recovery properties of Lycra provide fabrics and garments with comfort, fit and freedom of movement. Textile mills would knit or weave Lycra–it was never used alone–with virtually every other fiber, including cotton, wool, silk and nylon. The Lycra trademark and Lycra products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.
DuPont has been making Lycra elastane at its plant in Paulinia, Brazil, near Sao Paulo since January 1975. The plant has also produced Riston photoresists as well as Teflon and SilverStone nonstick coatings. In October 1999 DuPont announced it would build a $100 million, state-of-the-art Lycra production facility at Paulinia in order to meet the increased demand in South America for the popular fabric. Opened in late in 2001, the plant incorporated new developments in Lycra processing and automation that doubled the output of the present facility. Within a few years of opening, the new Paulinia plant began exporting Lycra to other markets in South America. Paulinia kept pace with DuPont’s standards for safety, environmental protection and sustainable growth. When in operation, the plant recycles about 98 percent of its waste, and in 1998 its management created the first community advisory panel in Brazil. In addition, Paulinia’s safety record has won recognition from DuPont and in turn has helped DuPont earn several safety awards for its South American operations.Prev Next
1965 Stephanie L. Kwolek
Stephanie L. Kwolek developed the first liquid crystal polymer which provided the basis for Kevlar® brand fiber. Kwolek earned a degree in chemistry from what is now Carnegie Mellon University. She joined DuPont in 1946, enlisting in the search for polymers and lower temperature condensation processes needed to produce specialty textile fibers. Researchers struggled to develop a stiffer and tougher nylon-related fiber until 1965, when Kwolek broke the deadlock by devising a liquid crystal solution that could be cold-spun. Kwolek was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1996.
Kevlar is well known as the material in body armor worn by police officers and soldiers. In 1964 Stephanie L. Kwolek at DuPont’s Pioneering Research Laboratory synthesized an aromatic polymer (one spun with a solvent rather than melt spun) that produced a durable and exceptionally strong fiber. Throughout the 1980s, DuPont introduced new varieties of Kevlar for such uses as cut-resistant gloves and lighter-weight body armor. More than 2,500 lives have been saved by officers wearing body armor.
Chemist Stephanie L. Kwolek developed the first liquid crystal polymer which provided the basis for Kevlar brand fiber. A native of Pittsburgh, Kwolek earned a degree in chemistry from what is now Carnegie Mellon University. She joined DuPont in 1946 and in 1950 joined the search for new polymers and lower temperature condensation processes needed to produce specialty textile fibers. DuPont scientists struggled to develop a stiffer and tougher nylon-related fiber until 1965, when Kwolek broke the deadlock by devising a liquid crystal solution that could be cold-spun. Her discovery ultimately resulted in the commercialization of Kevlar, a fiber that is five times stronger than the same weight of steel. Kwolek was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1996.
Kevlar was little known during the 15 years when DuPont spent $500 million to develop the product that Fortune magazine called "a miracle in search of a market." DuPont began developing the substance for use in tires under the working name "Fiber B" at a pilot plant in Richmond, Va.Prev Next
Tyvek is a classic case of a slow starter. It grew out of research into nonwoven fabrics begun by William Hale Charch in 1944, took 15 years to develop, and required another 15 years to become profitable. Today Tyvek building wrap can be seen in nearly every housing development, and it has gained a firm foothold in the envelope market. Tyvek also is popular in sterile packaging and as protective clothing.
In the early 1950s, DuPont scientists succeeded in creating a form of synthetic paper by shredding and processing nylon fibers, but it took a serendipitous discovery to make the product viable. During the mid-1950s, DuPont plastics researchers separated solvent from polyethylene by the rapid release of pressure at high temperature. This process yielded a "spunbonded" web of interconnected filaments ideal for producing paper-like substances. The discovery that this material could protect against external moisture while allowing internal moisture to escape led to the transfer of the project to DuPont’s New Products Division for development. Tyvek was introduced in 1961. Spunbonded polyester and polypropylene products followed, but 15 years later none had turned a profit. The polypropylene variant was sold, but DuPont held on to Tyvek, and at the end of the 1970s it began to live up to its promise.Prev Next
Symmetrel was the first synthetic antiviral drug developed in the United States, and marked DuPont’s entry into pharmaceuticals. In 1957 scientists at the Stine Laboratory began screening substances for their antiviral properties, and by 1964 amantadine hydrochloride had proven most effective.
DuPont could not patent the well-known substance itself but could patent its use in treating upper respiratory infections. In 1966 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Symmetrel as an oral drug in syrup or tablet form, but limited its use to the treatment of a particular strain, the Asian flu. The next year DuPont began marketing Symmetrel and seeking FDA approval to broaden its uses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finally helped DuPont secure approval of Symmetrel to combat all A-type strains of influenza. But sales of Symmetrel remained limited because influenza was a seasonal disease and it was effective only if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Sales improved during the 1980s and 1990s, but not enough to support brand marketing and by 2000 DuPont was selling the drug only in its generic form, "amantadine."Prev Next
Nomex heat-resistant fiber grew out of work done in the late 1950s at DuPont’s Pioneering Research Laboratory by Paul Morgan and Stephanie L. Kwolek. After an unprecedented investment in development–including the establishment of a pilot plant at the Spruance plant in Richmond, Va., in 1959–DuPont introduced Nomex in both woven and nonwoven form in 1967. Offered in paper, felt, fabric and fiber forms, Nomex serves a variety of industries, but remains best known for its use in firefighter’s apparel.Prev Next
1967 Charles B. McCoy
As DuPont’s president and chairman in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Charles B. McCoy (1910-1995) initiated an extensive reorganization of the company designed to reverse declining profits and launch a host of new business ventures. The son of a DuPont vice president, McCoy earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1930 and a master’s degree from MIT in 1932.
Despite this advanced education, the Depression-era job market led McCoy to start work as an operator’s assistant at a DuPont cellophane plant in Richmond, Va. McCoy’s skills soon led to a chemist position at a powder plant in New Jersey followed by a series of managerial duties in the Electrochemicals, Elastomer Chemicals and Explosives departments.
In 1967 McCoy was appointed DuPont’s president, and in 1972 he became the first man since 1919 to be company president and chairman simultaneously. Faced with declining profits and rising competition, McCoy set out a strategy of cutting costs and improving productivity while identifying new ventures with the most potential for profitability. He eliminated the Explosives and Electrochemicals departments and sold the company’s Corfam operations, an artificial leather venture that was a market failure. By eliminating inefficiency in production and cutting white-collar jobs, McCoy was able to reduce expenses by about $150 million per year. In an effort to remain competitive, he also slashed prices in the fibers, plastics and film markets and integrated backward into industrial chemicals.
McCoy identified three main areas for new growth at DuPont: electronic instruments, pharmaceuticals and building materials. As part of this strategy, DuPont acquired Berg Electronics, the analytical instruments division of Bell & Howell, and Endo Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company. By the time Charles McCoy stepped down from DuPont’s chairmanship in 1973, he had helped lay the groundwork for product diversification and market growth in the 1980s and 1990s.Prev Next
1968 Riston® Dry Film Photoresists
Riston dry film photoresists have helped keep the company at the leading edge of the electronics industry since their introduction in 1968. Innovations in photopolymer imaging in the early 1960s had prompted DuPont researchers to explore new possibilities for making electronic circuits.
Soon they developed solid photoresists, which take advantage of photopolymers' resistance to light (negative photoresists) or, in some cases, their sensitivity to light (positive photoresists). When an intricate pattern of circuitry is imprinted on a photomask, laid over a photopolymer template or photoresist and exposed to light, a precise reproduction of the superimposed pattern is created on the photoresist. The photoresist is laminated to a copper surface and a chemical, physical or laser process removes the exposed copper, leaving a neatly printed wiring board.
The immediate success of Riston stemmed in part from its dry film, which was more convenient and accurate than the wet film used by competitors, and from the efficient processor that came with it, making it more attractive to customers like IBM. In 1970 DuPont increased the capacity of its Riston plant in Towanda, Pa., and by 1977 was the industry leader in photoresists. It maintains that position today, with production facilities and joint ventures in Europe, Asia and the Americas. In 1999 DuPont introduced Riston photoresists that work with direct laser imaging, as well as photoresists adapted for the exotic materials and extremely small dimensions — less than 8/100,000 inches — of advanced electronic microcircuits. DuPont's YieldMaster 2000 system for processing Riston photoresists, installed for the customer at no cost, has improved the quality, speed and yield of production.Prev Next
Lannate methomyl insecticide, introduced in 1968, has been one of DuPont's most successful crop protection products. DuPont researchers nearly overlooked the insecticide potential of Lannate in the early 1960s because the substance failed to impress them in routine laboratory testing.
However, when it was tried on boll weevils, cotton pests not ordinarily used in laboratory screening because of their difficult upkeep, it proved highly effective. Subsequent trials showed similarly positive results with a variety of chewing insects.
Lannate is a water-soluble powder packaged in a water-soluble bag that can be added to a water container and mixed with no direct human contact. It is then sprayed onto cotton, fruit and vegetable crops. Lannate operates both on contact and as a specific stomach poison for the egg, larval and adult forms of several varieties of insects like armyworms, cutworms, leafhoppers, thrips and the European corn borer. Its "low residual," or quick breakdown time after application, and its rain-fastness on leaves once dried increase its safety for mammals and the environment, though its toxicity requires prudent handling and observance of stated safety and use precautions.Prev Next
1969 Making Bad Water Good
DuPont patented the first commercial reverse osmosis membranes for treating brackish water in 1969 and improved Permasep to the point that it was capable of desalinizing seawater in 1974. Permasep is also widely used to produce highly purified water for industrial or medical use. For its innovation in developing the Permasep B-9 permeator, the company was awarded Chemical Engineering’s Kirkpatrick Chemical Engineering Achievement Award in 1971. DuPont remains committed to advancing reverse osmosis technology and is the world leader in the production of technologies designed to make potable water available wherever it is needed.Prev Next
1969 Pharmaceuticals Grows
The acquisition of Endo Laboratories provided DuPont with valuable experience in drug manufacturing and marketing and paved the way for future success in pharmaceuticals. DuPont had been struggling to develop its drug business since the late 1950s. Despite the promise of the antiviral drug Symmetrel, DuPont lacked expertise in pharmaceutical sales and in working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Industrial and Biochemicals head Edward R. Kane sought a solution in acquisition and in 1969 purchased Endo Laboratories.
Founded in 1920 as an independent, family-run pharmaceuticals business, Endo had achieved success with the anticoagulant drug Coumadin. During the 1970s, DuPont worked to expand Endo’s line of analgesics and to develop treatments for drug addiction, but Endo proved unable to accommodate the expansion and squabbling among research groups slowed development of new drugs. In anticipation of an effort to acquire new drug companies, Endo was renamed DuPont Pharmaceuticals in 1982. Eight years later, DuPont Pharmaceuticals and drug giant Merck & Company formed a joint venture known as the DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals Company. Endo re-emerged in 1994 as Endo Laboratories, LLC, as the genetics division of DuPont Merck. In 1997 three executives from DuPont Merck purchased Endo Laboratories and renamed the company Endo Pharmaceuticals, Incorporated.
Edward R. Kane
Edward R. Kane (1918-2011) earned a Ph.D. from MIT in 1943 and began his career as a physical chemist in DuPont’s Textile Fibers Department. He supervised operations and research at the Fiber V (Dacron ) semiworks at Seaford, Del., and at the Chattanooga, Tenn., nylon plant during the early 1950s. In 1955 Kane headed up a cooperative effort by the Engineering and Textile Fibers Departments to develop better nylon facilities. Through the mid-1960s he worked to develop new textile fibers and ensure the profitability of existing ones in the face of mounting competition. In 1967 Kane took over the newly formed Industrial and Biochemicals Department. Two years later, in an effort to boost DuPont’s pharmaceuticals program, he spearheaded the acquisition of Endo Laboratories. Kane became a senior vice president, director, and member of the Executive Committee the same year.
Believing that the complex responsibilities of running a vast, multinational company should be divided between two top executives, Chairman Charles B. McCoy split DuPont’s managerial responsibilities upon his retirement. In 1973 he made Irving S. Shapiro chairman and Kane president and chief operating officer. The energy crisis and increasing global competition presented the greatest challenges to Kane and Shapiro. They responded by refocusing DuPont on non-petroleum-related products like electronics, agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Kane retired in 1980.Prev Next
1969 Medical Products
DuPont's manufacture of medical products has a long history and includes X-ray films, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic instruments and the world's first patented laboratory mouse. DuPont introduced its X-ray film in 1932. Medical/diagnostic instruments followed in 1970 with the new Automatic Clinical Analyzer (ACA), which performed up to 30 different tests on blood and other bodily fluids. Later, DuPont licensed its transgenic Oncomouse for use in cancer research. And, in 1991, DuPont and Merck Pharmaceuticals formed a joint venture to develop and market new drugs. DuPont Pharmaceuticals was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in October 2001.
DuPont’s medical products have included X-ray films, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic instruments and the world's first patented laboratory mouse. DuPont introduced its X-ray film in 1932. By 1970 DuPont X-ray films held 40 percent of the market. Twenty years later the company's new UltraVision X-ray film/screen system, with its sharp image resolution, increased diagnostic accuracy. Symmetrel was DuPont's first pharmaceutical approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1966 for flu prevention. When initial sales of Symmetrel lagged, DuPont acquired Endo Pharmaceuticals in 1969 to boost its marketing and drug research capabilities. DuPont entered the medical/diagnostic instruments field in 1970 with its new Automatic Clinical Analyzer (ACA), which performed up to 30 different tests on blood and other bodily fluids. Sixteen years later the ACA's range had broadened to 67 tests. In 1981 DuPont increased its commitment to the health sciences, making biomedical products one of its major industry segments. The company's acquisition of New England Nuclear Corporation in 1981 added radiopharmaceutical tracers to its product line.
In 1986 DuPont acquired American Critical Care, which, under the new name DuPont Critical Care, sold many acute-care hospital products. That year DuPont also introduced its new Dimension analyzer, similar to the ACA, for high-volume diagnostic testing, and announced a new screening test for the AIDS virus. In 1996, however, the company sold its diagnostic and medical instrument businesses.
In 1988 DuPont licensed its transgenic Oncomouse for use in cancer research. Oncomouse was the first animal ever patented. DuPont's organ preservation solution, ViaSpan, introduced the following year, made organ transplant procedures safer and easier. In 1991 DuPont and Merck Pharmaceuticals formed a joint venture to develop and market new drugs. DuPont-Merck's antihypertensives Cozaar and Hyzaar, and the anticoagulants Coumadin and Innohep, were very successful, and in 1998 DuPont's Sustiva became the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of AIDS. Drug research and approval was extremely costly, however. In July 1998 DuPont purchased Merck's 50 percent interest and in December 2000 announced it would sell its DuPont Pharmaceuticals business to Bristol-Meyers Squibb.
DuPont's health-related products now focus on nutrition, wellness and prevention. For example, DuPont Qualicon's BAX system and RiboPrinter technology provide pathogen screening and DNA-based identification of foodborne bacteria, and DuPont's new soy protein products offer a variety of foods low in fat and cholesterol. In addition, the company manufactures Dymel propellants for pharmaceutical inhalants.Prev Next
1970 Benlate Fungicide
Before its production ceased in 2001, Benlate had long been one of the company’s most successful fungicides and was registered worldwide for many crops. The active ingredient in Benlate, benomyl, was first synthesized by DuPont researcher Hein L. Klopping in July 1959. Benlate was introduced in 1970 in a wettable powder form made at the Belle, W.Va., plant.
In 1987 DuPont introduced an alternative, dry-flowable form (Benlate 50 DF) that was recalled in 1989 and 1991 due to the presence of the herbicide atrazine in some lots. The recalls generated hundreds of claims, and growers and their lawyers began blaming Benlate 50 DF (even product free of atrazine) for a wide range of plant problems. DuPont initially paid many claims to maintain good customer relations, and at the same time initiated the most intensive investigation in the history of U.S. agriculture to determine whether Benlate 50 DF could cause plant damage. When the testing could not duplicate the claimed plant injuries, the company declined to pay any further claims.
In the following decade, DuPont faced hundreds of Benlate lawsuits. The litigation results were mixed. DuPont won cases before some courts, including a Florida administrative proceeding that found nothing wrong with the product. Other trials resulted in losses, including some for large amounts that reflected the runaway verdicts being rendered by the U.S. jury system in the 1990s. Ultimately, for business reasons, the company decided to stop selling Benlate worldwide in 2001, even though there is still no credible scientific evidence demonstrating that Benlate caused either the crop or health problems alleged in the lawsuits. This decision came as a disappointment to many growers, who continued to rely on Benlate as a safe and effective product throughout the period of litigation.Prev Next
1971 Automatic Clinical Analyzer
DuPont introduced the ACA in 1970, with the first sales in 1971. The earliest were manufactured at the company’s plant in Glasgow, Del., and performed up to 30 different diagnostic tests. By 1976 DuPont had sold 1,000 ACAs to hospitals and clinics in the United States and Europe. In just four more years that number tripled. DuPont increased its ACA manufacturing by building a new plant in Jonesboro, Ark., in 1975.
Continued development expanded the ACA’s diagnostic range to include recent heart attacks (1980) and a faster method of isolating bacterial infections (1982). In 1983 DuPont introduced a desktop model for small hospitals, clinics and emergency facilities, thereby increasing usage of the analyzer worldwide. By 1985 the ACA was capable of conducting 67 different tests. DuPont supplemented its medical diagnostic instruments line with other products in the 1980s, and the ACA continued to be a profitable item. DuPont sold its medical businesses in 1996 to concentrate on other markets.Prev Next
1972 Electronics Expansion
DuPont purchased Berg Electronics Inc., maker of electrical connectors, as part of its effort in the early 1970s to increase its activity in the promising electronics market. Inventor/entrepreneur Quentin Berg founded Berg Electronics Inc. in 1950. DuPont acquired Berg Electronics’ manufacturing assets in Pennsylvania and the Netherlands. DuPont expanded the business worldwide through the 1970s and 1980s. Then, early in 1993 DuPont sold Berg Electronics as part of a strategy to exit non-core businesses.
Electronics & Computer Technology
DuPont’s involvement in electronics and computer technology reflects its commitment to targeting new technologies and expanding markets. The company’s involvement in the electronics industry began in the early 1950s when DuPont’s Pigments Department became the nation’s first commercial manufacturer of semi-conductor grade silicon. By the late 1950s, electronics companies like Texas Instruments had developed an improved silicon process and DuPont withdrew from that market, but during the 1960s, researchers in the Photo Products Department applied their expertise in films and photopolymers to the emerging field of microcircuitry. In 1967 Photo Products introduced Riston photoresist film for the etching and plating of printed circuits. Five years later, DuPont formed the Electronic Products Division and purchased Berg Electronics, a manufacturer of electronic connectors and interconnection devices used in computers, telephone systems and other industrial electronic equipment.
During the 1970s, DuPont developed new image transferring materials for printed circuit boards and photopolymer pastes used in the construction of hybrid conductors. The company also moved into electronic biomedical instruments with the purchase of the analytical instruments division of Bell & Howell in 1970, an acquisition that made DuPont a leader in the development of the automatic clinical analyzer for testing body fluids. The recession in the early 1980s spurred the company to move away from consumer production and concentrate on industrial electronics. In 1982 DuPont bought Solid State Dielectrics, a major supplier of materials used in the manufacture of capacitors. The subsequent acquisitions of Tau Laboratories Inc. and Nanomask, S.A. made DuPont a leader in photomask products for the European and American semiconductor industries. Through a series of joint ventures DuPont also developed components for fiber optic systems and optical data storage disks.
During the 1990s, DuPont focused on supplying materials for semiconductors, selling its analytical instruments and electronics connector businesses. The acquisition of Philips photomask operation in Germany and a joint venture with Shanghai Precision Photomask strengthened DuPont’s position in the photomask market for high-density computer chips. In 1999 the company unveiled DuPont iTechnologies, a new division committed to developing high-quality electronics and computer components for the global information market.Prev Next
Cromalin, introduced in 1972, is the most popular color proofing system in use today. Color proofing in the printing business means checking the accuracy of color during the process of reproducing an artist's drawing, or photograph on the printed page. Proofing is necessary partly because errors can occur in the process, and partly because color itself is the complex product of an almost infinite combination of the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue.
In the typical "four color" printing process, colors are made by combining magenta (a reddish color), yellow, cyan (a bluish color) and black. Prior to photopolymer proofing technologies like Cromalin, high-quality color proofing meant superimposing layers of color-sensitive films on expensive printing plates. If the colors didn't turn out right, the process would have to be repeated, sometimes several times. Cromalin polymer laminates are more efficient and accurate, so final colors are more likely to look right on the first try.
Cromalin uses light-sensitive photopolymers laminated to paper stock to register either positive or negative film images. Light-exposed areas harden leaving sticky surfaces when the laminate's cover sheet is removed. Dyed powder, or toner, is applied and adheres to the sticky portions. Additional cover sheets are applied and removed, and different toners used on successively exposed sticky surfaces, until the desired color results have been achieved. In 1981 DuPont introduced an automatic toning machine to perform these functions automatically. More recently, DuPont has developed Cromalin products for computer-based digital publishing and inkjet printing. These "computer-to-plate" technologies supplement the traditional line of Cromalin "film-to-plate" products.Prev Next
DuPont introduced Sontara in 1973 after a decade of research into spunlaced, or hydro-entangled, fabrics. With five patents in the technology of spun-laced nonwovens between 1963 and 1970, DuPont became an expert in these specialty fabrics.
Spunlaced fabrics are made with a special process in which jets of water with needle-like properties are used to entangle a web of fibers on a flat surface, creating a tear-resistant, matte-like material. Because no adhesives or additives are used in the process, the resulting fabric is practically lint-free and can be used in a variety of applications from hospital surgical gowns and masks to baby wipes. DuPont has also marketed Sontara as clean, absorbent wipes for cleaning airplane windows, preparing race cars for paint layers and in a variety of other consumer cleaning needs.Prev Next
1973 Irving S. Shapiro
Irving S. Shapiro (1916-2001) became chairman and chief executive officer in December 1973. With neither family connection nor scientific experience, Shapiro admitted to being "the first real stranger to the company." He restructured the firm’s long-term debt to fund new plant capacity and also reoriented the firm into specialized, high return products such as agricultural chemicals. He maintained the company’s core commitment to research while shifting its research and development focus toward product lines not dependent on volatile petroleum supplies.
The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Irving Shapiro graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1941 and held a variety of government positions during and after World War II. In 1948, as a lawyer for the Justice Department, he won his first case before the Supreme Court. Three years later he joined DuPont’s legal team. Shapiro grew intimately acquainted with the company during the lengthy General Motors-DuPont antitrust suit, and, as the chief architect of the settlement, won the trust of the du Pont family. Shapiro became assistant general counsel in 1965 and five years later was appointed to the Executive Committee. In July 1973 he became vice chairman, preparing the way for his succession to the top job in December of that year.
Shapiro steered DuPont successfully through a difficult decade. His legal experience made him uniquely suited to handle the problems of federal regulation, fair-employment practices, economic recession, and the energy crisis that bedeviled DuPont during the 1970s. Under Shapiro’s stewardship, DuPont expanded its overseas operations. Shapiro retired in 1981 but continued to practice law in Wilmington and provide counsel to DuPont into the 1990s.Prev Next
1975 George Levitt
DuPont has nearly a century of experience in researching and producing agricultural chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. In the early 1900s, company researchers investigated plant chemistry such as nitrogen-fixation, and in the 1920s DuPont produced seed disinfectants on a small scale. The company’s purchase of the Grasselli Chemical Company and the R&H Chemical Company in 1928 and 1930, respectively, broadened its expertise in inorganic insecticides and fungicides.
World War II spurred developments in crop and insect research, leading to a "chemical revolution" in agriculture in the late 1940s and 1950s. DuPont patented a synthetic plant growth hormone in 1943, but overlooked the substance’s additional effectiveness as a weed-killer. As a result, the company instituted a new screening process that soon led to new synthetic, organic herbicides such as Telvar and Karmex in the 1950s.
DuPont’s insecticide products, such as Lannate, Lorox and Hyvar also proved successful, as did its fungicide Benlate, introduced in 1972.
In 1975 DuPont researcher George Levitt discovered sulfonylureas, potent chemicals that interfered with plant growth enzymes but were non-toxic to mammals. DuPont patented Levitt’s remarkable discovery in 1978 and four years later introduced its Glean herbicide to wheat farmers. DuPont soon developed sulfonylurea herbicides for every major food crop in the world. In 2001 DuPont Crop Protection, part of the company’s Agriculture and Nutrition Business, manufactured 40 products and maintained operations in 40 countries around the world.Prev Next
SilverStone fluoropolymer coatings provide families throughout the world with superior non-stick, scratch-resistant cookware. The product grew out of chemical experimentation with Teflon® polytetrafluoroethylene. Teflon was discovered in 1938, but its sales were modest until its introduction as a non-stick coating for cookware in 1961. Over the next several years, DuPont sought fluorocarbon polymers that would provide even greater non-stick performance and scratch resistance.
The result, introduced in 1976, was SilverStone, a three-coat fluoropolymer system that produces a more durable finish than Teflon. SilverStone caught hold in the cookware market largely due to television advertising. During the mid-1980s, more than $9 million was spent, but only a small part of it by DuPont. Cookware manufacturers featured the product as a tagline in advertising their own wares. In-store demonstrations of the non-stick, scratch-resistant properties of SilverStone also helped boost consumer demand. In the 1990s DuPont added new product lines including SilverStone Select with an additional protective barrier, SilverStone Select with ScratchGuard and SilverStone Professional, designed for heavy use in professional kitchens.Prev Next
1979 Gossamer Albatross
In the late 1970s DuPont sponsored a pedal-powered aircraft named Gossamer Albatross. Dr. Paul MacCready’s plane was made with Mylar® and Kevlar® and other man-made materials. Its sole pilot was Bryan Allen, who used only muscle power to pedal the Albatross’ propeller. On June 12, 1979, the fragile-looking Albatross lifted slowly off English soil and headed out over the waters bound for France. However, after a breathtaking two hours and 49 minutes, Allen safely landed the plane.Prev Next
1979 George William Parshall
George William Parshall (1929-) worked for DuPont for almost four decades as a chemist in the Central Research and Development Department. Parshall earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota in 1951 and his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1954 from the University of Illinois. He joined DuPont as a research chemist later that same year, having spent the summer of 1953 assisting chemists at the company's Experimental Station.
Parshall was promoted to Research Supervisor in 1965 and was named Director of Chemical Science in 1979. He was best known for his work in molten salt and membrane catalysis and organometallic compounds. Holder of 18 patents, Parshall authored 60 research papers and two books, one of which, "Homogeneous Catalysis" (1980), became a standard reference work and was re-issued in 1992.
Parshall retired from DuPont in 1992 but continued to serve as a research and chemical management consultant, advising U.S. and other military groups on the best ways to destroy chemical and nuclear weapons. Parshall received many awards for his work in transition metal chemistry and inorganic chemistry, including the Lavoisier Medal from DuPont. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1984.Prev Next
1980 Edward G. Jefferson
Edward G. Jefferson (1921- 2006) earned a Ph.D. at King’s College, University of London, and went to work for DuPont as a chemist in 1951. He moved through managerial positions in the company’s plastics, fluoropolymers, explosives, polymer and film businesses to become a director and member of the Executive Committee in 1973. In 1979 he led a corporate research effort focusing on life sciences, particularly agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and molecular biology. Jefferson became DuPont’s president and chief operating officer in 1980 and chairman a year later.
During that time he pushed for diversification and extensive research and development. He also spearheaded DuPont’s 1981 acquisition of petroleum giant Conoco, Inc., the largest corporate merger up to that time.
The Conoco purchase was an effort to control soaring energy costs and provide DuPont with a secure petrochemical source. Other important acquisitions made by Jefferson included New England Nuclear Corporation, a producer of radioisotope chemicals and radiopharmaceuticals, and Solid State Dielectrics, a supplier of materials used in the manufacture of capacitors. Jefferson also advocated diversification into new technologies like automotive plastics, computer data storage, biomedical products and nontoxic herbicides. He placed particular emphasis on developing commercial applications for biotechnology.
Despite continued research and expansion, however, a nationwide recession combined with stiffening import competition led Jefferson to trim the company’s workforce by offering early retirement incentives to employees in 1985. When Jefferson retired in 1986, he had positioned DuPont for further investment in biotechnology and begun the downsizing the company would need to remain competitive in the global marketplace.Prev Next
1981 New England Nuclear Corporation
DuPont purchased New England Nuclear Corporation (NEN) in 1981 as part of its expanding venture into medical research and health care. Founded in 1956, Boston-based NEN was a leading producer of specialized biomedical products such as monoclonal antibodies, which are proteins that resemble those in the human immune system but target specific foreign bodies or disease agents.
Monoclonal antibody research held great promise for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Shortly after its acquisition by DuPont, NEN began producing radiopharmaceuticals with the world's first commercial linear accelerator at its new Biotechnology Center in Newton, Mass. These drugs offered researchers and clinicians a means of tracking precisely the movement and location of drugs in the body, thereby strengthening DuPont's existing capability in medical imaging and X-rays.
As the biotechnology field grew more competitive through the 1990s, DuPont focused its biotech resources on agriculture and nutrition, and on the promising field of bio-based synthetic textiles. In 1996 the company sold its medical diagnostics and imaging businesses, and in 1997 sold its wholly owned subsidiary, then named NEN Life Sciences Products, to Genstar Capital, LLC. NEN was subsequently purchased in 2000 by PerkinElmer, a manufacturer of drug research products.Prev Next
When DuPont bought petroleum manufacturer Conoco, Inc. in 1981, it was the largest merger in corporate history. The purchase gave DuPont a secure source of petroleum feedstocks needed for many of its fiber and plastics operations. Conoco also manufactured profitable commercial petroleum products and coal, produced by the wholly owned subsidiary Consolidated Coal Company. DuPont sold all of its Conoco shares in 1999 in order to free up capital for investment in other businesses.
1983 John A. (Jack) Krol
John A. (Jack) Krol (1936- ) is retired chairman and chief executive officer of DuPont. Mr. Krol joined DuPont in 1963 as a chemist in Wilmington, Del. Between 1965 and 1986, he held various marketing and manufacturing positions in DuPont Fibers until being named vice president in 1983. In 1986, he joined DuPont Agricultural Products and served as senior vice president until being named senior vice president of DuPont Fibers in 1990.
In 1992, Mr. Krol was elected vice chairman. He was named president and chief executive officer in 1995 and became chairman and chief executive officer in 1997. He retired as chairman at the end of 1998.
Mr. Krol was born in Ware, Mass., on October 16, 1936. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Tufts University. In 1959, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He attended the Bettis Nuclear Reactor Engineering School, and for the next four years he worked as a nuclear engineer, assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the Bureau of Ships in Washington, D.C. His work involved the development and design of nuclear reactor plants and systems for nuclear submarines and surface ships.
Mr. Krol is a member of the board of directors of ACE Limited, Pacolet Milliken, Delphi and Tyco International Ltd. He is Trustee Emeritus of Tufts University and a former member of the board of trustees of the University of Delaware. He was formerly the president of GEM: The National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. He also was a former member of the board of J.P. Morgan Chase, Armstrong World Industries, Inc., MeadWestvaco Corporation, Milliken & Company, Teijin Limited, the Bechtel Corporation, Hagley Museum, Business Roundtable, The Business Council, and was chairman of the United Way of Delaware.Prev Next
1983 Preserving Open Land
From the beginning DuPont has set an example for the chemical industry in waste reduction, pollution control and environmental conservation. As early as the 1820s, after E.I. du Pont devised a method of obtaining dyes from a chemical by-product of charcoal production, DuPont was reusing industrial waste products. Water pollution became a concern during the 1880s after the opening of Repauno Works, when local fishermen noticed the factory’s waste acids were killing the Delaware River’s sturgeon and shad. In response, Lammot du Pont developed a method of separating out these acids and recovering them. The company also worked to prevent similar chemical hazards to the Brandywine River, Wilmington’s major water source.
At the turn of the century, the efforts of Progressive-era reformers brought new attention to factory working conditions and the risks of handling industrial chemicals. In 1904 DuPont hired physician Walter G. Hudson to investigate the toxicity of nitric acid fumes, and through the 1920s, he monitored the toxicity of a large number of chemical compounds.
Still, DuPont’s small medical staff could not keep pace with the bewildering array of chemicals developed every year. A series of fatalities linked to benzene, tetraethyl lead (TEL) and dye manufacturing led DuPont to establish a central laboratory where all chemical products could be systematically tested for harmful effects on workers, consumers and the environment. The Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology opened in 1935 and set an important standard for safety in chemical manufacturing.
Three years later DuPont’s Executive Committee took a major step forward in protecting the environment when it adopted a resolution recognizing the importance of pollution abatement in chemical production. DuPont hired an expert in trade waste—a field still in its infancy—to coordinate the company’s pollution abatement program. But before these initiatives could be fully implemented, World War II intervened. DuPont, like other industries that had adopted measures designed to minimize waste, was generally more concerned with the conservation of precious resources than with environmental pollution. But the war marked a watershed of sorts. In its aftermath, DuPont formed an Air and Water Resources Committee composed of representatives from each of the company’s manufacturing departments and six staff departments. This group was charged with coordinating the interchange of information on all aspects of environmental protection. The company also adopted statements on its waste recovery practice stipulating that the development of a new process or the construction of a new facility would not be complete until it included satisfactory methods for waste disposal or treatment.
During the 1950s, DuPont further diversified its product line, particularly in the fields of textile fibers and insecticides. At the same time, economic prosperity and a postwar baby boom fueled a booming consumer market. But as America became more affluent, its citizens began to view clean air and water as yet another desirable commodity and environmentalism in the modern sense began to take shape. The movement coalesced in 1962 with the publication of "Silent Spring," Rachel Carson’s alarming account of the devastation caused by certain chemical pesticides.
In the aftermath of "Silent Spring" the public image of chemical manufacturing was transformed. Rather than providing "better things for better living," chemical producers were now seen as depleting natural resources and undermining quality of life. The federal government responded with the Water Quality Act of 1965 and the Air Quality Act of 1967. Chemical producers criticized these laws for the crippling costs that they incurred, but DuPont did acknowledge the need for environmental regulation. In 1966 the company established an Environmental Quality Committee to ensure compliance with the proliferation of new laws and the political, legal ways to tackle the economic problems associated with them. The company also invested heavily in pollution abatement. Between 1966 and 1970, DuPont spent $207 million on devices including smokestack scrubbers and equipment to monitor and control waste streams. On another front, the company stepped up research into safe product alternatives like Lannate, an insecticide that is rapidly metabolized by plants and easily broken down in soil.
In the early 1970s, DuPont committed itself to exceeding the minimum legal requirements for environmental protection. When the earliest scientific findings regarding the role of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in ozone depletion were published in the mid-1970s, CEO Irving S. Shapiro pledged that DuPont would cease manufacturing CFCs if credible scientific evidence of harm to the environment was obtained. This was a bold move since CFC sales amounted to $700 million per year.
When Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976, most chemical companies argued that further regulation would only undermine their competitive position in world markets. DuPont adopted a more positive approach, expressing a willingness to work with the government and environmentalists. President Jimmy Carter later publicly recognized DuPont CEO Irving Shapiro for having successfully lobbied for Congressional approval of Superfund legislation which required chemical producers to pay 88 percent of the $1.6 billion estimated cost for cleaning up toxic waste dumps.
During the 1980s and 1990s, DuPont developed a host of programs designed to reduce air emissions, curtail the generation of hazardous waste, and decrease wastewater discharges. In 1984 the company helped create Clean Sites, Inc., a private sector initiative intended to complement Environmental Protection Agency efforts to clean up abandoned dump sites. Three years later, DuPont received the Gold Medal for International Corporate Environmental Achievement from the World Environmental Center for Industry. Building on its experience in industrial plastics recycling, the company formed a joint venture with Waste Management, Inc., in 1989 to recycle post-consumer plastics. Finally, six years later, in keeping with Shapiro’s pledge, DuPont plants in the developed world produced their last CFCs and were on their way to phasing out all production by the end of the 20th century.
DuPont began the next century with a goal of zero waste and emissions production, placing it in a position unique among chemical manufacturers. Conventional wisdom argues that environmental investment reduces profits and competitiveness, but DuPont has demonstrated that waste reduction can improve corporate performance. DuPont has reduced waste while cutting costs by incorporating recycled carpet fiber into Minlon reinforced nylon and shipping neoprene synthetic rubber in bags that dissolve during the production process. Perhaps most importantly, products such as Suva non-ozone depleting refrigerants allow consumers to safeguard the environment by using DuPont products. As DuPont pursues sustainable growth, its growing emphasis on renewable resources helps ensure that the products that improve quality of life need not harm the planet.
David A. Hounshell, and John Kenley Smith, Jr., Science and Corporate Strategy: Du Pont R&D, 1902-1980 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
"Environmental Stewardship," Chemical & Engineering News, May 29, 1989, 12-15.
Allison Lucas, "DuPont: Fighting Its Way to a Cleaner Standard," Chemical Week, June 1, 1994, 41-42.Prev Next
1984 Reentering China
By the early 1990s, Chad Holliday, then head of DuPont Asia Pacific, was convinced that China had the region’s highest growth potential and plans for Shenzhen were laid. An initial investment of $20 million covered a facility for the production of Tyvek® and Riston® light sensitive film, which went into production in 1992 and was an immediate success. Five years later, a state-of-the-art plant for the production of Tynex® nylon filament opened, giving DuPont a large share of the fast-growing premium toothbrush market. Expansion at Shenzhen has also come about through local joint ventures, including a $30 million Teflon® coatings operation.Prev Next
1985 Research Triangle Park
DuPont Photopolymers and Electronic Materials, now called DuPont Imaging Technologies and DuPont Electronic Technologies, established an electronics research and development center in Research Triangle Park (RTP) in 1985.
RTP was inaugurated in 1959 as a public/private venture to attract new, technology-based businesses to North Carolina. Its appeal, and its name, derived from its proximity to three universities in three cities: the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), North Carolina State University (Raleigh) and Duke University (Durham).
In 1987 DuPont added a Marketing and Technical Support Center at its RTP facility, which has since sponsored numerous conferences aimed at informing customers and sales personnel about the company's various electronics products.Prev Next
1986 Tau Laboratories, Inc.
In 1986 DuPont acquired Tau Laboratories, Inc., a leading photomask maker, as part of its ongoing investment in the electronics business. The following year DuPont opened a photomask manufacturing facility near Austin, Texas, and through its wholly owned subsidiary, DuPont Photomasks, began to expand photomask operations in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Photomasks are an integral part of the manufacture of semiconductors. Intricate electronic circuit patterns are etched onto quartz photomasks, which then serve as a kind of master copy for reproducing the actual circuitry onto the layered, silicon wafers that make up semiconductors.
In the 1990s rapid developments in miniaturization made photomask manufacture a highly specialized and technologically sophisticated process. Currently, semiconductor production often occurs in dimensions of less than eight millionths of an inch, and some silicon wafers are smaller than the wavelength of light used to reproduce them. In 1996 DuPont decided to boost DuPont Photomasks' business potential by spinning it off as a separate company, DuPont Photomasks, Inc. (DPMI), while retaining a controlling (72 percent) share of DPMI stock. From its beginnings with the Tau Laboratories acquisition, DuPont Photomasks, Inc., has become one of the world's leading photomask research and manufacturing companies.Prev Next
1986 Richard E. Heckert
As CEO of DuPont in the late 1980s, Richard E. Heckert (1924-2010) involved the company in fast-growing businesses like electronics and life sciences while safeguarding more traditional chemical markets. Heckert was trained as a chemist at Miami University in Ohio and worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. He earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1949 and joined DuPont’s Chemical Department the same year.
Heckert climbed the managerial ranks through the Chemical, Film and Plastics Departments and took over the Fabrics and Finishes Department in 1969. In that capacity he made the decision to terminate the production of Corfam, which had failed despite heavy investment in technology and consumer research.
In 1973 Heckert was appointed to the Executive Committee and sought to remedy the sluggish corporate performance caused by increasing competition and rising energy and raw material costs. He advised that the company cut back research and development and focus on developing existing businesses. After he became CEO in 1986, Heckert adopted a strategy of investing resources in areas where the company excelled, retreating from weak sectors and moving into more promising ones. He reorganized DuPont’s electronics, imaging and medical products ventures and consolidated its automotive products operations. He also stepped up the company’s attention to marketing, instituting an annual corporate marketing excellence award. Heckert retired from DuPont in 1989.Prev Next
Since 1986 DuPont Stainmaster carpets have provided consumers with superior stain-resistant flooring and amusing advertising. The company developed Stainmaster after discovering that a Teflon® spray application made nylon carpeting much more resistant to stains. To take advantage of this revolution in carpeting, DuPont launched the largest advertising and promotion campaign in the carpet industry’s history.
The most popular spot, which aired in 1987, portrayed a boy in a high chair launching his airplane-shaped food dish into the air. By the end of the year, DuPont had aired enough of the Stainmaster spots for every adult in the United States to have seen it 53 times. Succeeding advertisements featured another toddler, this time wreaking havoc from a walker, a pack of 55 dogs on a white floor, and elegant diners making embarrassing spills. Fortune magazine capped 1987 by naming Stainmaster to its "Product of the Year" list. Product improvements include DuPont Certified Stainmaster Xtralife carpet, featuring both anti-stain and crush-resistant qualities, which premiered in 1992. The Stainmaster trademark and Stainmaster products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.Prev Next
1987 Charles J. Pedersen
Charles J. Pedersen, DuPont’s only Nobel laureate, received a master’s degree in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1927 and began his career with DuPont at the Chambers Works’ Jackson Laboratory in Deepwater, N.J. One of Pedersen’s early accomplishments was to improve the process for making the "anti-knock" gasoline additive, tetraethyl lead.
He also discovered the first "deactivators" that countered the degrading effects of heavy metals in gasoline, oils and rubbers. During a period of 10 years he filed for some 30 patents for antioxidants and other products. In 1946 Pedersen was promoted to research associate and thereafter pursued his own research projects. In 1959 Pedersen transferred to the Experimental Station where he joined the Elastomers Department. It was here that Pedersen discovered crown ethers.Prev Next
1987 Meyrin, Switzerland
Meyrin, Switzerland, is the site of the DuPont European Technical Center (ETC), the company's main research, product development and customer support center on the continent. The ETC was built in 1987 to serve DuPont's rapidly growing European markets.
Its Meyrin location places it near Geneva, headquarters of DuPont Europe, formerly DuPont de Nemours International SA. DuPont ETC engineers and technicians provide consultation to manufacturers in the automotive, appliance, electronics, filtration, sporting goods and consumer products industries. In 2001 DuPont completed a major expansion of the ETC, including laboratories for DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems and new blow-molding processing facilities for DuPont Engineering Polymers.Prev Next
1989 Edgar S. Woolard
Edgar S. Woolard graduated from North Carolina State University in 1956 with an industrial engineering degree and took a job at DuPont’s Kinston, N.C., plant the next year. He quickly demonstrated an aptitude for management, and during the 1960s he held supervisory positions at Kinston, Wilmington and Old Hickory. As managing director of the Textile Marketing Division during the economic downturn of the mid-1970s, Woolard took a hard look at DuPont’s corporate performance.
His conclusion was that the company could no longer depend on big scientific breakthroughs and huge manufacturing facilities. Instead he focused on lowering costs and streamlining the production process. In the late 1970s, as general manager of Textile Fibers, Woolard worked closely with customers and suppliers in pursuit of more efficient textile manufacturing. After he was elected executive vice president and appointed to the Board of Directors in 1983, Woolard streamlined management and production in three other departments: Agricultural Chemicals, Photo Products and the Medical Division.
Woolard was elected president and chief operating officer in 1987 and chief executive officer two years later, a period when DuPont faced economic recession, the loss of important markets to competitors, and a possible takeover. To streamline corporate decision making, Woolard eliminated the Executive Committee and directed department managers to report directly to the CEO. These measures cut corporate costs $3 billion between 1991 and 1994. Woolard also initiated DuPont’s joint venture with Merck Pharmaceutical and major investments in new agricultural chemicals. Woolard retired from DuPont in December 1995.Prev Next
1990 Replacing CFCs
In 1990 DuPont started producing hydrochlorofluorocarbon and hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants under the brand name Suva® at Corpus Christi, Texas, and Maitland, Ontario, Canada. The first major market for Suva refrigerants was automobile air conditioners, the single biggest source of ozone-depleting CFCs. In 1993 the company advanced its CFC phaseout deadline to the end of 1994, one year ahead of the timetables established by the 1987 Montreal Protocol and by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
By the end of 1994 DuPont was manufacturing eight different Suva refrigerants for use in car air conditioners, supermarket display cases, and home and restaurant refrigerators. In 1995 the company commercialized additional Suva products for home air conditioners and heat pumps. The market for non-CFC refrigerants increased in the late 1990s, and in 1999 DuPont expanded the production capacity of its Corpus Christi plant.Prev Next
1990 Beating Guinea Worms
Guinea worm disease is not curable, but it is easily preventable. The most effective method is teaching villagers in Asia and Africa how to filter their drinking water through a tightly woven cloth developed and donated by DuPont and manufactured by Precision Fabrics Group of Greensboro, N.C. The cloth is distributed to villagers who make water filters for individual households. There were more than 3.2 million reported cases of the disease in 1986. By 2011, that number had dropped to 1,060, according to the World Health Organization.Prev Next
1991 DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company
The 1991 formation of the DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company, a joint venture with prescription drug giant Merck and Company, made DuPont a competitive force in the field of life sciences. Since the late 1950s, DuPont had conducted pharmaceuticals research but found that it lacked the experience necessary to expedite FDA approval for new drugs and then market them.
The 1969 purchase of Endo Laboratories provided DuPont with the successful drug Coumadin, but pharmaceuticals remained a marginal part of the company’s business through the 1980s. As part of an overall strategy to expand its Life Sciences Division, DuPont formed the 1991 venture with Merck, one of America’s oldest pharmaceutical companies with a proven ability to develop and market new prescription drugs. The DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company conducted important research in cardiovascular, radiopharmaceutical and central nervous system products. The company’s most successful products included Sinemet to fight Parkinson’s disease; Cardiolite cardiac imaging agents; and Cozaar, a hypertension drug discovered by DuPont and marketed by Merck. In 1998 DuPont bought Merck’s one-half interest in the company and began operating as DuPont Pharmaceuticals. This wholly owned subsidiary has developed revolutionary products like Sustiva to fight HIV infection and researched new treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease. Bristol Myers-Squibb purchased DuPont Pharmaceuticals in 2001.Prev Next
1993 Manufacturing in Spain
Asturias, in northern Spain, is a flagship plant for DuPont. Its success has reinforced the firm’s commitment to the European market, environmental sustainability, and new industrial relations practices. The establishment of the plant in the 1990s, aided by Spanish government and European Union incentives, reinvigorated a formerly declining area and helped introduce a new work ethic that emphasized cooperation and safety to the region.
DuPont began producing Nomex® fiber at Asturias in 1993. A tetrahydrofuran (THF) facility was added in 1996, followed by a Sontara® spunlaced products plant three years later. Because Asturias offers ready access to the rest of Europe, DuPont has made it a center for specialty services and corporate finances. Much of the plant’s success is attributable to DuPont community relations efforts. The company sought advice locally before it designed a plant in harmony with its surroundings. Landscapers planted 160,000 trees and shrubs and restored the area’s original habitats, including peat bogs and wetlands.Prev Next
1993 Jeff Gordon: Winner
DuPont has been the primary sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports’ Car No. 24 driven by Jeff Gordon since he entered Winston Cup racing in 1993. The sponsorship is a natural fit because Car No. 24 races with DuPont products. Gordon has won four Winston Cup championships wearing a driver’s suit of Nomex® and a helmet with Kevlar® sitting in cars painted with DuPont Performance Coatings. Numerous DuPont products are inside the car. The current sponsorship contract with Hendrick Motorsports extends through 2013.Prev Next
1994 Kuan Yin, Taiwan
The white pigment and mineral products plant at Kuan Yin, Taiwan, includes one of the largest titanium dioxide (TiO2) plants in the world. The facility, which produces 60,000 tons of TiO2 per year, reinforces DuPont’s position as the world’s largest and most efficient producer of the pigment.
DuPont Far East came to Taiwan in 1968 and two years later DuPont Taiwan Chemicals Ltd. began manufacturing aluminum foil and Mylar at Chungli. A crop protection plant was also established at Lung Tan. But Kuan Yin dwarfs both sites.
The Taiwanese government approved the project in 1985, construction began in 1990, and in 1994 the $340 million plant went into full production. In addition to manufacturing TiO2, Kuan Yin also produces nylon yarns and purified terephthalic acid (PTA). The delay in building the plant stemmed from local concerns about possible environmental and health risks, but the start-up at Kuan Yin was flawless, and the plant has gone on to establish an outstanding safety and environmental record. Out of 7 million man-hours worked, not a day has been lost because of an accident, even though TiO2 production requires sophisticated occupational safety precautions. DuPont began training plant managers a full year before the groundbreaking, and company officials worked hard to combat a tendency among local workers to sacrifice safety for speed, assigning every employee to 1 of 23 "Tiger Teams" that tackle safety issues at work and at home.Prev Next
1996 DuPont Dow Elastomers
DuPont Dow Elastomers opened for business in 1996 as a joint venture between DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company, combining the global market position of DuPont with new technology from Dow. DuPont Dow Elastomers offered a wide variety of products ranging from thermoset rubber polymers used by the general rubber industry to high-performance fluoroelastomers used by the chemical processing and automotive industries. Former DuPont products offered by the joint venture included neoprene, Hypalon®, Kalrez®, Nordel® and Viton®.Prev Next
1997 Chad Holliday
Chad Holliday earned a bachelor’s of science degree in industrial engineering at the University of Tennessee. He joined DuPont as an engineer at the Old Hickory, Tenn., facility. During the 1970s and 1980s Holliday worked in nearly every branch of the company, serving as a business analyst for the Fibers operations, Director of Marketing for Pigments & Chemicals, and as Global Business Director of Kevlar® and Nomex®.
In 1990 he was named vice president and then president of DuPont’s Asia Pacific operations. He became senior vice president in 1992 and executive vice president and a member of the Office of Chief Executive in 1995. Fortune magazine named Holliday one of "Tomorrow’s CEO’s" in 1996 and he was elected director and then president of DuPont the next year. The Board of Directors named Holliday chief executive officer in 1998 and chairman in January 1999. He was elected Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in January 2000. He served as CEO until Ellen Kullman took over in January 2009. He remained chairman of the board until Kullman also took over that post at the end of 2009.Prev Next
1998 Herberts Acquired
DuPont purchased Herberts GmbH, the coatings subsidiary of Hoechst AG in 1999. The acquisition made DuPont Performance Coatings the world’s largest supplier of automotive coatings and the third largest coatings company overall. Each segment has developed technology in environmentally acceptable products such as low-emission waterborne and powder coatings as well as products that contain no hazardous air pollutants. Research continues on more durable coatings that resist scratches and acid-etch environmental damage.Prev Next
1999 Investing in Pioneer
Pioneer’s leading position in superior seed hybrids fits in well with DuPont’s expanding research in biotechnology. In the mid-1980s, DuPont began researching ways to develop higher value seeds, foods and natural fibers and entered an arrangement with a seed company to develop superior corn hybrids. DuPont purchased a 20 percent interest in Pioneer in 1997 and embarked on a joint venture research alliance called Optimum Quality Grains, LLC. Two years of promising developments in new corn hybrids and soybean varieties led DuPont to buy the remaining 80 percent of Pioneer in 1999. The business is a world leader in cutting edge agricultural products like herbicide-resistant soybeans, higher-yielding, more diverse crops, oilseeds that produce healthier oils for consumers, and crops that reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in livestock waste.Prev Next
1999 The miracles of science™
Today, consumers throughout the world invariably associate the red DuPont oval with leadership in innovative science-based materials. This recognition exists because DuPont manufactures quality products and protects their integrity through branding, the process of creating and disseminating a name that can be distinguished from other products and develop customer loyalty and trademarking, which protects brand names from unauthorized and unscrupulous use. Over the years, branding and trademarking products have increased in importance as a result of DuPont’s continued diversification and a steady increase in market competition.
Throughout the 19th century, there was minimal concern among businesses about brand protection; in fact, the first federal trademark law was not passed until 1870. The earliest DuPont labels juxtaposed images of the rugged, independent hunters of rural America with the company name. As the century progressed, the company relied increasingly on a standardized label featuring an American eagle and the DuPont name all enclosed in an oval. The Eagle label became synonymous with quality gunpowder, confirming the importance of a standard product brand in developing customer loyalty.
By the early 20th century, DuPont had diversified beyond gunpowder into other products and company officials sought a standard "superbrand" to connect all products to the DuPont name. Early in 1906, the company commissioned artist G.A. Wolf to design a trademark. Drawing on the shape of the traditional American eagle label, Wolf created the modern DuPont oval, which was adopted in 1909.
The consumer boom of the 1920s underscored the importance of national brands and brand loyalty, and DuPont matched distinctive trademarks with an increasingly diverse product base. The company developed and trademarked the popular Duco pyroxylin lacquers and Dulux synthetic resin enamels. DuPont also acquired the rights to cellophane cellulose film and rayon synthetic fiber. Aggressive advertising meant that by 1929, the DuPont oval appeared in print more than 300 million times annually. During the 1930s, DuPont trademarks began to reflect its commitment to developing new products through pure research.
It was in the 1930s that DuPont officials gained a curious insight: sometimes, in order to protect the company name it was important not to trademark a product. Early in the decade the company trademarked its new synthetic rubber as DuPrene, but found it could not safeguard the integrity of the product name. DuPrene was an unprocessed material, and unreliable manufacturers who produced poor goods threatened to give the product and DuPont a bad reputation. As a result, DuPont abandoned the trademark in 1936 and applied the generic name "neoprene" to distinguish it as an original ingredient, not a finished product. DuPont applied similar logic when it chose not to trademark the revolutionary synthetic fiber nylon.
DuPont learned another important lesson in the rules of trademark registration during the 1930s. In 1936 the company sued Sylvania for marketing a plastic wrap using the DuPont trade name cellophane. Sylvania argued that no other common name for the material existed. The court agreed, finding that DuPont had not properly protected its trademark by distinguishing the branded product from the generic cellulose film. The company responded to the defeat by strengthening and expanding the Legal Department’s trademark division.
The economic boom after World War II unleashed a new wave of consumer buying and corresponding concern over branding and trademarks. Increasing competition in the chemical industry, particularly in the production of synthetic fibers, made trademarking a crucial means of establishing a product’s identity while ensuring legal protection and winning the loyalty of consumers. DuPont sewed up the postwar synthetic textile market with Orlon acrylic fiber and Dacron polyester fiber, both with names reminiscent of nylon, but trademarked since corporate officials now believed that DuPont’s reputation as a quality fibers manufacturer was secure. But the marketability of a brand name itself was becoming increasingly important. When DuPont introduced a new elastomeric fiber called "Fiber K" in 1958, it received little attention from consumers. Reintroduced two years later as Lycra, the fiber was an immediate success.
By the 1960s, the company was generating so many new products that it needed the help of a computer to create brand names that were memorable and universally appealing. As DuPont expanded across the globe, the company used computer technology to generate potential brand names and then ensure that they were appropriate in every language.
As the sheer number of DuPont brands increased, so did the company’s commitment to protecting its trademarks. In the 1970s, CEO Irving Shapiro made public confidence in the DuPont name and protection of its trademarked products a top priority. During the decade, DuPont successfully sued Japan’s YKK Company for marketing a nylon zipper called Eflon, arguing that it was a trademark infringement of Teflon® fluorocarbon resin. DuPont effectively demonstrated that it had always differentiated Teflon from the generic term fluorocarbon resin and showed that a majority of the public identified Teflon as a brand name rather than a generic. By the early 1980s, DuPont maintained a staff of about 30 trademark lawyers and spent nearly $1million per year on trademark protection.
"Trademarks: Why Companies Guard Them More Tightly," Chemical Week, January 13, 1982.
David A. Hounshell and John Kenley Smith, Jr., Science and Corporate Strategy: DuPont R&D, 1902-1980, (NewYork: Cambridge University Press, 1988).Prev Next
1999 Stacey J. Mobley
Stacey J. Mobley (1946-) was Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel at DuPont before retiring in 2008. He graduated from Howard University's School of Pharmacy in 1968, earned his law degree at Howard in 1971, and then joined DuPont Legal in 1972 after completing a fellowship program in community law in his hometown of Chester, Pa.
In 1983 he was named director of the Washington, D.C., office of DuPont External Affairs and three years later he became Vice President of External Affairs. In 1992 Mobley returned to Wilmington as Senior Vice President of External Affairs, and in 1999 was named DuPont General Counsel. Mobley also served as Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the company. He was responsible for DuPont's legal and external affairs, as well as the company's operations in Mexico, and was one of the five senior executives comprising the Office of the Chief Executive.
In January 2001, Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner appointed Mobley to chair the state's Strategic Economic Council, a 22-member group established to study and promote Delaware's economic growth. Mobley also represented DuPont in a variety of community activities such as directing Delaware's statewide United Way campaign in 1998, and chairing the DuPont RiverFest in 2000 to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware. Mobley played a key role in implementing DuPont's highly successful diversity hiring and promotion programs, including programs in law, engineering and finance designed to encourage minority students to pursue careers in those fields.Prev Next
2000 New Polymer Platform
The advanced DuPont polymer platform upon which Sorona® polymer is based generated nearly 150 patents during the most active portion of the applied research and development that led to successful commercialization of Sorona polymer. The proprietary chemistry involves modifiers and additives developed for targeted fabric functionality in end-use markets.
Sorona polymer uses 1,3 propanediol (PDO) as the key base ingredient, along with other monomers and additives, to create a family of differentiated polymers. The unique properties of Sorona polymer – including softness, easy dyeability, comfort-stretch and recovery – were actually discovered and developed in the early 1940s. But for decades PDO was cost-prohibitive to produce due to several processing factors.
The company continued to make advances over the next few decades, but in the mid-1990s DuPont applied new levels of R&D investment and focus to the challenge of producing PDO cost-effectively. That’s when the comprehensive DuPont patents were created that map the cost-effective production of PDO by two different methods – one using petrochemicals, and the other using breakthrough biotechnology based on fermentation.
The story of Sorona actually began in the early 1900s, when DuPont launched a fundamental research program that sparked the 20th century’s "materials revolution." Those original teams of DuPont scientists developed an understanding of radical polymerization and established the basic principles of condensation polymerization and the structure of condensation polymers that launched several profitable businesses in fibers, films, plastic resins and finishes.
An early DuPont fiber innovation occurred in 1910 with the development of plastic-coated fibers. Since that time, DuPont has been responsible for nearly 75 percent of the 40-plus major polymers commercially produced, all of which trace their origin to the development of condensation polymerization.
This new way of making polymers was radically different than the previous method, which was based on cellulose chemistry, and catapulted DuPont to the forefront of synthesized polymer technology. By World War II, DuPont had established a strong foundation in polymer science, which led to the introduction of several well-known DuPont polymer-based brands throughout the 20th century.
Those products and brands include rayon and acetate fiber (1920s); Cordura and nylon fiber (1930s); Orlon acrylic fiber (1940s); Dacron polyester fiber (1950s); Antron nylon fiber, Lycra spandex fiber, Nomex aramid fiber, Tyvek spunbonded olefin and Teflon (1960s); Kevlar and Sontara (1970s); Supplex and Coolmax (1980s); and Tactel, Thermolite and Thermoloft (1990s).
While research and development plays a key role in the industry-recognized polymer heritage at DuPont, the company’s knowledge of fiber engineering, mill processing, consumer trends and the textile value chain helps drive the continued success of DuPont in the textile and fabric marketplace.Prev Next
2000 Next-Generation Displays
DuPont Displays is focused on displays for devices such as cell phones, personal digital assistants, notebooks and high definition TV. Holographic Optical Elements are components that produce brighter displays by managing light more efficiently. DuPont UNIAX – new to the company in 2000 – is a leader in electroluminescent polymers, a display technology that offers the prospect of a flexible, very thin display made entirely of plastic material. In June 2001 DuPont Displays formed Three-D OLED LLC, a joint venture to design, assemble and market Organic Light Emitting Diode displays modules.Prev Next
2001 Eating Healthy with Soy
Solae® brand soy protein is a complete protein derived from soybeans and is used as an ingredient in a wide variety of food, beverage and meat products. The Solae Company is a joint venture between DuPont and Bunge. Solae is comparable in protein quality to meat, egg and milk protein and is highly digestible and lactose-free. Scientific research continues to demonstrate that substituting soy protein for some or all animal proteins in the diet can lead to beneficial health effects in the area of cholesterol lowering, reduction in coronary heart disease risk, relieving women's health concerns, maintaining bone health and potentially protecting against certain forms of cancer.Prev Next
2003 Fuels and Chemicals from Corn
DuPont and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory formed a joint research agreement leading toward the development of the world's first integrated "bio-refinery" that uses corn or other renewable resources — rather than traditional petrochemicals — to produce a host of valuable fuels and value-added chemicals.Prev Next
2004 Best Known Global Fiber Brands Sold
DuPont and Koch Industries, Inc., reached a definitive agreement to sell INVISTA, formerly DuPont Textiles & Interiors, to subsidiaries of Koch for $4.4 billion in cash. The two subsidiaries are KED Fiber Ltd. and KED Fiber, LLC.
INVISTA was the largest integrated fiber and intermediates business in the world, with 2002 revenues of $6.3 billion. Headquartered in Wilmington, Del., it operated in 50 countries and was comprised of three businesses: Apparel Interiors and Industrial and Intermediates. INVISTA is committed to its customers' growth through market insights and technology innovations combined with a powerful portfolio of the best-known global brands and trademarks in the industry, including: Lycra, Stainmaster, Antron, Coolmax, Thermolite, Cordura, Supplex, Tactel, and in the specialty chemicals business: Corfree, Dytex, ADI-Pure and Terathane.Prev Next
2006 Uma Chowdhry
Uma Chowdhry (1947- ), the first woman to be appointed laboratory director at the company’s Experimental Station research facility in Wilmington, Del., retired from DuPont in 2010 as Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, a position she assumed in 2006.
Born in Mumbai, India, Chowdhry obtained her bachelor's degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Science and completed her training in the United States. She earned a master's degree in Engineering Science at the California Institute of Technology, then a Ph.D. from (MIT) in 1976. The following year she joined DuPont as a research scientist.
Chowdhry’s early work at DuPont focused on developing catalysts for making tetrahydrofuran, a versatile industrial solvent. Her range of research interests then broadened to include electronics and ceramics. In 1987 she led DuPont’s research effort in ceramic superconducting materials and developed a world-class program that generated over 20 patents and 50 publications. Chowdhry subsequently held a number of research and business management positions with the company, integrating research and business planning and helping to improve the transfer of technologies from laboratory to market. In 1995 she was appointed business director of DuPont's Terathane business, and in January 1999 became Director of DuPont Engineering Technology. She became vice president of CR&D in 2002. In 1996 Chowdhry was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in recognition of her scientific contributions in ceramics, chemical synthesis and electronic circuitry. Chowdhry is a fellow of the American Ceramic Society, a member of the board for the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, and serves on the National Research Council's Committee on Women in Science and Engineering.Prev Next
2007 $100M Bio-PDO Facility
DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, an equally owned joint venture of DuPont and Tate & Lyle, opened a Loudon, Tenn.-based facility that produces 1,3-propanediol (Bio-PDO) from renewable resources, in this case, corn sugar. It is the first facility in the world to manufacture this new bio-based product.
Bio-PDO is a biodegradable ingredient that is used in cosmetics, liquid detergents, and industrial applications such as anti-freeze and many other applications that currently use glycols. It can also be used as a monomer to produce unsaturated polyester resins as well as other specialty polymers such as DuPont Sorona® and the latest renewably sourced polymer, DuPont Cerenol®.Prev Next
2009 Ellen J. Kullman
Ellen J. Kullman became DuPont’s first female chief executive officer on Jan. 1, 2009. She is the 19th executive to lead the company founded in 1802. She became chair of the board on Dec. 31, 2009. Prior to becoming CEO, Kullman was president of the company from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2008. She has steadily climbed the list of Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women, clinching the No. 7 spot for 2009 and 2010.
Kullman first joined DuPont in 1988 as a marketing manager. She moved up through the company as business director for several businesses, including White Pigment & Mineral Products, where she became vice president and general manager in 1995. In 1998, she led one of the company’s high-growth businesses, DuPont Safety Resources. The following year she assumed leadership of Bio-Based Materials. In 2002, she was named group vice president of DuPont Safety & Protection. She became executive vice president in 2006 with responsibility for three business platforms and several functions including Marketing & Sales. In 2008, just prior to being named CEO, she was chosen to lead the company’s focus on growth in emerging international markets. Kullman worked for General Electric before her career with DuPont. She earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Tufts University and a master's degree in management from Northwestern University.Prev Next
2011 Feeding the World
As part of its commitment to feed the world’s growing population, DuPont acquired Danisco in May 2011, forming a global leader in nutrition and health and industrial biosciences. Founded in 1989, Denmark-based Danisco supplies specialty food ingredients to a wide range of industries and includes an enzymes division called Genencor. The acquisition enabled DuPont to expand its existing food business, while gaining new opportunities to address global challenges in food production and reduced fossil fuel consumption. DuPont and Danisco had previously partnered in the development of cellulosic ethanol technology. At the time of the acquisition, Danisco had about 7,000 employees in 23 countries.Prev Next
DuPont people have transformed their company successfully for two centuries, making DuPont one of the most successful and sustained industrial enterprises in the world. Their story makes for exciting history, and this timeline tells how they did it.