Pierre S. du Pont

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Pierre S. du Pont
Pierre Samuel du Pont (1870-1954).jpg
Pierre Samuel du Pont

(1870-01-15)January 15, 1870
DiedApril 4, 1954(1954-04-04) (aged 84)
Resting placeDu Pont de Nemours Cemetery
ResidenceLongwood Gardens
EducationChemistry (1890)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
OccupationBusinessman, philanthropist
Board member of
Spouse(s)Alice Belin
Parent(s)Lammot du Pont & Mary Belin

Pierre Samuel du Pont (/dˈpɒnt/; January 15, 1870 – April 4, 1954) was an American entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist and member of the prominent du Pont family.

He 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 from 1915-1920, became GM's president in 1920,[1] and served on GM's board of directors until 1928.[2] Among other notable accomplishments, he was among the founding board of directors of the Empire State Building which opened in 1931.


Du Pont was named after his great-great-grandfather, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, a French economist (who had been granted the ennobling suffix "de Nemours" after election to the Constituent Assembly) and patriarch of the du Pont family. Du Pont de Nemours immigrated to America with relatives including his son, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, who founded the DuPont company in 1802, and whose descendants would form one of the richest American business dynasties of the ensuing two centuries.

Early life and education[edit]

Pierre S. du Pont was born January 15, 1870, on the family estate near Wilmington, Delaware. He was the eldest of three sons born to Lammot du Pont and Mary Belin. He graduated with a degree in chemistry from MIT in 1890 and became assistant superintendent at Eleutherian Mills on the Brandywine River.

Early business career[edit]

He and his cousin Francis Gurney du Pont developed the first American smokeless powder 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, Ohio, he employed John J. Raskob as a private secretary, beginning a long and profitable business and personal relationship between the two.

Expansion of DuPont[edit]

Pierre S. du Pont on the cover of TIME Magazine

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.[citation needed]

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.

He was featured on the cover of Time magazine January 31, 1927 issue. That same year he was elected an honorary member of the Delaware Society of the Cincinnati.

General Motors[edit]

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 du Pont retired from its board of directors, GM was the largest company in the world.

DuPont and MIT[edit]

Plaque honoring Pierre Samuel du Pont at Longwood Gardens

Du Pont was one of the first of many of his family members to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both his younger brothers, Irénée du Pont (1897) and Lammot du Pont II (1901), graduated from MIT. Du Pont, his relations and the DuPont corporation were generous benefactors over the years, and helped set up multiple endowments, fellowships, scholarships and faculty chairs for the university. When MIT moved to its current location in Cambridge in 1917, Pierre, T. Coleman du Pont and Charles Hayden donated $215,000 to house the Department of Mining Engineering and Metallurgy (now the Department of Materials Science and Engineering).[3][4]

Du Pont served on multiple boards and committees, and from 1916 to 1951 he was a member of the MIT Corporation, the university's board of trustees. Along with his brother Lammot, he was given the honor of being made a life member emeritus when he stepped down from the board in 1951.[5][6]

In 2000, the DuPont MIT Alliance (DMA) was formed. Over the next 10 years, the DuPont corporation donated $55 million to the university to fund as many as 20 different research projects.[7]

Retirement and legacy[edit]

A photo taken in 2016 by Michael Bellino of Kennett High School's main facade, composed of the main building which Pierre S. Du Pont largely funded.
External video
Pierre S. DuPont High School, Wilmington, Delaware (66688).jpg
A Separate Place: The Schools That P.S. du Pont Built (short version), 26:00, Hagley Museum and Library[8]

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.

He made a significant contribution to the du Pont legacy with his genealogy research. His book, Genealogy of the Du Pont family, 1739–1942, published in 1943. He died April 4, 1954.

P. S. Dupont High School in Wilmington is named in his honor. A building at the University of Delaware, Du Pont Hall, is also named for him. It houses the offices and laboratories for the College of Engineering.[9] Du Pont also donated $900,000USD towards the construction and establishment of Kennett High School in 1924, equal to over $12.8M dollars today.[10]

Du Pont is famous for opening his personal estate, Longwood Gardens, with its beautiful gardens, fountains, and conservatory, to the public. Its construction was inspired by his international travels, visiting the great gardens of the world. He was a bachelor until age 45. He married his cousin Alice Belin in 1915 after the death of his mother, and had no children.

Published works[edit]

  • Pierre S. Du Pont (1943). Genealogy of the Du Pont family, 1739-1942. Hambleton. ASIN B0007FG8N6.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1918 DuPont, GM & Cars". DuPont. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  2. ^ "1915 Pierre S. du Pont". DuPont. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  3. ^ "NanoLab Renovation". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  4. ^ "Bulletin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Presidents' Report" (PDF). 63 (3). October 1927: 57. Retrieved January 22, 2015. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "MIT Museum Collections - People: du Pont, Pierre S." Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  6. ^ "Former Corporation Members". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  7. ^ Ron Schachter (May 2007). "The Big Business of Research: Research universities are finding new ways to leverage their intellectual capital". University Business. Retrieved January 22, 2015. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "A Separate Place: The Schools That P.S. du Pont Built". Hagley Museum and Library. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  9. ^ "Du Pont Hall History". University of Delaware. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
  10. ^ "Here's to old Kennett High". Retrieved 2018-04-25.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Thomas Neal
Chairman General Motors
Succeeded by
Lammot du Pont II
Preceded by
William C. Durant
President General Motors
Succeeded by
Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.