The DuPonts: 200 years with billions in innovation

In terms of overcoming all sorts of crisis and keeping their business afloat, the du Pont family must be one of the greatest examples of geniality and endurance. Just like the Rockefeller dynasty, the duPonts are the owners of one of the oldest billion-dollar family fortune in the United States, the du Pont rank eight –according to Forbes magazine- with a fortune of at least 15 billion. From surviving the French revolution, to the great depression and other multiple economic crises in the United States, the du Pont family presents itself as always innovative, and successful.

In this article, as a successful financial advisor, Patrick Dwyer will share the remarkable history of the du Pont family, as an example of greatness, traveling in time from the 19th century to these days.

Gunpowder pioneers

It all starts in 1800, when Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours migrated to the United States, running away from the Revolutionary Terror that was taking place in France back then. He ran away with his son Eleuthere Irenee du Pont, a brilliant chemist who once was Antoine Lavoisier pupil. The two of them founded a gunpowder mill named E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, offering a product that has never been seen in America. They became the first gunpowder providers in the United States, being recognized for offering a more refined gunpowder.

E.I. du Pont was intensely interested in scientific exploration, always looking for new ways to improve their product’s quality and manufacturing process. As a gunpowder pioneer, he was always known for being concerned about his employee’s safety. He was always trying to find a perfect balance between business and relationships.

The company lasted 100 years passing from father to son, in most cases, overcoming all sorts of difficulties. There was even one time when the mill exploded and left many workers injured. By this time, Alfred du Pont – E.I du Pont, son- managed to keep the company afloat by re-engineering the mill and doing some important business moves, just so the company could move to the 20th century.

The new research department

At the beginning of the 20th century, the company’s board was about to sell the company to competitor Laflin & Rand. Three nephews protested and started a partnership that later bought most shares of the company. These three started a debate about the company’s future, arguing about the need of funding a Research department. The future was in new materials, besides the gunpowder mill.

In 1903, DuPont established the Experimental Station near Wilmington, Delaware. In this station, scientific research was promoted as a major platform for industrial growth. This facility became DuPont’s first scientific laboratory and the location where many of the company’s most remarkable research triumphs took place, including neoprene, nylon and Lycra.

Almost 30 years later, DuPont established the Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology. Back then the facility was one of a kind, dedicated to testing product for safety. Studies related to particular chemical and production processes were also being conducted there. In 1953 the Haskell Laboratory moved to Newark, Delaware, and its five divisions expanded their research into product safety hazards.

The developing of new materials

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Image courtesy of zack Mccarthy at

Starting in the 1940’s, DuPont developed and started marketing some of their signature products. Among these products, one could find Orlon, Dacron, Mylar, Kevlar, Tyvek, Lannate, Nomex, Tedlar, and others. The most relevant material developed in the 1940’s has to be Nylon, which resulted from the Engineering polymers research and was developed for high-stress applications. Besides using the material for in brushes, parachutes and women’s hosiery, scientist revealed that molded nylon had the strength necessary to replace metal parts in industrial equipment.

Between the 1940’s and 70’s they expanded their business to other countries, opening nitroglycerine plant in Canada and setting a rubber plant in the UK, where DuPont’s Organic Chemical Department kept producing neoprene, another signature material developed by Dupont in the 1930’s.

What is next for DuPont?

Starting as a gunpowder manufacturer, DuPont evolved later into dynamite, paints, plastics, dyes and materials. Being the creator of materials as Teflon, Neoprene, and Nylon, its family members no longer run the multinational company, that is now a chemical giant, but they still own a substantial amount of its shares. There is still an E.I du Pont on the company’s board of directors, and by 2014 it was estimated that the du Pont family in the United States had 3.000 members.

This business titan keeps innovating. Currently, its research department is in charge of developing ecofriendly materials and fuels made with corn. They are now developing coating for vehicles and different types of intelligent fibers. Apparently, there are no set limits for this 200-year-old company which keeps surprising and inspiring us with every new business move and material.

To read more about the history of DuPont, you can click here.


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