About Pierre Samuel du Pont
Pierre Samuel du Pont (January 15, 1870 – April 4, 1954) was president of the E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company from 1915 to 1919, and served on its Board of Directors until 1940. He also managed General Motors for some time.
Early life and education:
He was the son of Lammot du Pont and great-great-grandson of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, a French economist (the extra "de Nemours" was added by the original Pierre to ennoble himself after he was elected to the Constituent Assembly). Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours' son, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, who emigrated to America with his grandfather, founded the DuPont company in 1802, and his descendants were among the richest American business dynasties of the 19th and 20th centuries. Pierre was born in Wilmington, Delaware and was named after his ancestor. He graduated with a degree in chemistry from MIT in 1890 and became assistant superintendent at Brandywine Mills.
Early business career:
He and his cousin Francis Gurney du Pont developed the first American smokeless gunpowder in 1892 at the Carney's Point plant in New Jersey.
Most of the 1890s he spent working with the management at a steel firm partly owned by DuPont (primarily by T. Coleman du Pont), the Johnson Street Rail Company in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Here he learned to deal with money from the company's president, Arthur Moxham. In 1899, unsatisfied with how conservative DuPont's management was, he quit and took over the Johnson Company. In 1901, while du Pont was supervising the liquidation of Johnson Company assets in Lorain, OH, he employed John J. Raskob as a private secretary, beginning a long and profitable business and personal relationship between the two.
Expansion of DuPont:
He and his cousins, Alfred I. du Pont and T. Coleman du Pont, purchased E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in 1902, in order to keep the company in family hands, after the death of its president, Eugene I. du Pont. They set about buying smaller powder firms. Until 1914, during Coleman du Pont's illness, Pierre du Pont served as treasurer, executive vice-president, and acting president. In 1915, a group headed by Pierre, which included outsiders, bought Coleman's stock. Alfred was offended and sued Pierre for breach of trust. The case was settled in Pierre's favor four years later, but his relationship with Alfred suffered greatly, and they did not speak after that.
Pierre served as DuPont's president until 1919. Pierre gave the DuPont company a modern management structure and modern accounting policies and made the concept of return on investment primary. During World War I, the company grew very quickly due to advance payments on Allied munition contracts. He also established many other DuPont interests in other industries.
du Pont was a significant figure in the success of General Motors, building a sizeable personal investment in the company as well as supporting Raskob's proposal for DuPont to invest in the automobile company. Pierre du Pont resigned the chairmanship of GM in response to GM President Alfred Sloan's dispute with Raskob over Raskob's involvement with the Democratic National Committee. When Pierre retired from its Board of Directors, GM was the largest company in the world.
Retirement and legacy:
Pierre retired from DuPont's board in 1940. He also served on the Delaware State Board of Education and donated millions to Delaware's public schools, financing the replacement of Delaware's dilapidated negro schools.
A building at the University of Delaware, Du Pont Hall, is named in his honor. It houses the offices and laboratories for the College of Engineering.
Pierre is famous for opening his personal estate, Longwood Gardens, with its beautiful gardens, fountains, and conservatory, to the public. Pierre was a longtime bachelor, eventually marrying his cousin Alice Belin in 1915 after the death of his mother, and had no children.
Pierre S. du Pont's Timeline
January 15, 1870
Wilmington, DE, USA
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
April 4, 1954
Kennett Square, PA, USA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology