The rest, as they say, is history.
That history will come into sharp focus this summer when
corporate descendents -- and, most likely, a fair number of
familial descendents -- return to those roots to celebrate the
bicentennial of the company which bears its founder's name. The
general public will have the opportunity to share in the unique
bit of Americana what has been and, to a large degree, still is
the Du Pont story.
Although there have
been several companies closely associated with the individuals
and, in some cases, families responsible for their being, none
remained as 'the family business' for as long as Du Pont.
Neither Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Firestone nor Mellon held
on for as long. From 1802, when
Eleuthère Irénée established the original partnership, one or Du
Ponts, or Du Pont in-laws, had the helm until Charles McCoy
became chief executive in the late 1960s.
The coup de grâce to family
ownership was administered in 1977 when Christiana Securities --
the family-controlled holding company which owned 28% of Du Pont
stock -- was absorbed. Du Pont's acquisition of Conoco Inc.in
1981, which resulted in Seagram Ltd. becoming the major
stockholder, is generally regarded as the culmination of the
Native and long-time Delawareans are
in agreement that the Du Pont of today is not the Du Pont of a
generation ago. The company, in fact, has lost the distinction
of being Delaware's largest private employer with the disposal
of its pharmaceuticals business. It now ranks second to M.B.N.A.
Be that as it may, the coming
bicentennial is expected to be the area's foremost public
attraction during the coming summer and plans are to keep the
history open to public view for an indefinite period after that.
And, of course, that will happen at Hagley Museum, the restored
site of the original powder mills -- which was closed as a
manufacturing site in 1922. Du Pont finally quit its greatly
diminished explosives business in the1980s.
July 19 -- the date of the 1802
partnership agreement -- is the designated anniversary, although
no powder was produced until two years later. Two hundred years
later, a ceremony will mark the occasion. Du Pont employees from
around the world will participate in such activities as the
burying of a time capsule.
That event will be a by-invitation
affair, but Jill MacKenzie, director of external affairs and
development for Hagley Museum and Library, said the general
public will be welcome the next day and thereafter at new
interactive exhibits at the main museum at the foot of Old
Barley Mill Road.
Appropriately, the Du Pont history
is broken down into centuries.
of the museum will be devoted to 'The Explosives Era' which
covers the period from its founding until 1902 when three Du
Pont cousins, Pierre, Alfred and Coleman, formed the initial
modern company to succeed the partnership, which was about to be
sold by their elder relatives.
The other floor well bring the story
up to date under the title 'Du Pont Science and Discovery'.
Admission to the exhibits will be $5
for adults and $2 for children. Access to them also is included
in general admission to the entire Hagley property, which will
be raised to $11 for adults and $9 for children and seniors,
effective with the exhibits opening.
MacKenzie said there has been a
reasonable effort to tell an historically accurate Du Pont story
through the exhibits. "It's impossible, of course, to tell the
full story because it is so complex," she said. Such things as
the 'powder trust' anti-trust case early in the 20th Century and
criticism of the company's role as a supplier of munitions in
World War I are included. "We don't dwell on them, but we don't
ignore them either," she said.
Hagley this year is looking to
better annual average of 85,000 visitors, she said. A full
agenda of public events separate from those associated with the
Du Pont bicentennial will be maintained.
The library is available, she said,
to those with a deeper historic or scholarly interest. The
depository for company and family papers and materials dating
back to the original Pierre Samuel du Pont -- Eleuthère Irénée's
father, who brought the family to America in the wake of the
French Revolution -- as well as collections pertaining to other
companies and business organizations, Hagley is a research
institution. It is not a lending library, but reading privileges
are granted to those with a demonstrated interest.
In addition to Hagley, the company
is sponsoring a variety of public events this year. Included are
a Winterthur exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in
Washington and the National Science Olympiad at the University
of Delaware. Company spokesman Cliff Webb said other events are
likely and will be announced as determined.