Pierre S. du Pont

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.

Pierre S. du Pont
Pierre Samuel du Pont (1870-1954).jpg
President of General Motors
In office
Preceded byWilliam C. Durant
Succeeded byAlfred P. Sloan Jr.
Personal details
Pierre Samuel du Pont

(1870-01-15)January 15, 1870
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
DiedApril 4, 1954(1954-04-04) (aged 84)
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
Resting placeDu Pont de Nemours Cemetery
Alice Belin
(m. 1915; died 1944)
Parent(s)Lammot du Pont
Mary Belin du Pont
Residence(s)Longwood Gardens
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
OccupationBusinessman, philanthropist

He was president of DuPont from 1915 to 1919, and served on its board of directors until 1940. He also managed General Motors from 1915 to 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.

Early lifeEdit

Du Pont was born January 15, 1870, on the family estate near Wilmington, Delaware, and was named after his great-great-grandfather, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. He was the eldest of three sons born to Lammot du Pont and Mary Belin.

His great-great-grandfather, and namesake, was 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.[3]

In 1884 his father was killed in an industrial accident. As the eldest son of ten children he served as patriarch of the family. For the rest of their lives, his siblings, even his older sisters, addressed him as "Dad" or "Daddy."[4]

He graduated with a degree in chemistry from MIT in 1890 and became assistant superintendent at Eleutherian Mills on the Brandywine River.[5]


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 DuPontEdit

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.[6]

In 1915, a group headed by Pierre, which included outsiders, bought Coleman's stock.[7][8] 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.[5]

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. In 1930, he was elected a director of the Pennsylvania Railroad.[9]

General MotorsEdit

In 1915, Du Pont was elected a director of General Motors.[10] where he was a significant figure in the success of the company and was noted for building a sizeable personal investment in the company as well as supporting John J. Raskob's proposal for DuPont to invest in the automobile company.[11]

In 1920, he became president of General Motors succeeding William C. Durant,[12] and serving until his resignation 1923 when he was succeeded by Alfred P. Sloan Jr.[13] 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.[5]

DuPont and MITEdit

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).[14][15]

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.[16][17]

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.[18]

Later lifeEdit

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.

In 1943, his genealogical research book, Genealogy of the Du Pont family, 1739–1942, was published.[19]

Personal lifeEdit

Alice Belin Du Pont

He was a bachelor until age 45. On October 16, 1915, after the death of his mother, he married his first cousin Alice Belin (1872–1944), a daughter of Henry Belin Jr., from Scranton, Pennsylvania. The ceremony was at 400 Park Avenue, the home of her brother F. Lammot Belin - they were married in New York because Pennsylvania law prohibited first cousins from marrying.[20][21] They had no children.[22]

His wife died at their home in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on June 23, 1944.[22] Du Pont died nearly ten years later on April 4, 1954 at the Memorial Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware.[5] After a funeral held at Longwood, he was buried in the Du Pont family cemetery near the Brandywine River.[23]


External video
  A Separate Place: The Schools That P.S. du Pont Built (short version), 26:00, Hagley Museum and Library[24]

In the early 1920s, du Pont served as president of the Delaware board of education. At the time, state law prohibited money raised from white taxpayers from being used to support the state's schools for black children. Appalled by the condition of the black schools, du Pont donated four million dollars to construct eighty-six new school buildings.[25]

In 1927, du Pont became the president of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. He and his family were among the major donors to the group.[26]

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.

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.[27] It houses the offices and laboratories for the College of Engineering.[28] Du Pont also donated $900,000 towards the construction and establishment of Kennett High School in 1924, equal to over $12.8M dollars today.[29]

Published worksEdit

  • Pierre S. Du Pont (1943). Genealogy of the Du Pont family, 1739-1942. Wilmington, DE, US: Hambleton. hdl:2027/wu.89082418435. OCLC 609194857.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "1918 DuPont, GM & Cars". DuPont. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  2. ^ "1915 Pierre S. du Pont". DuPont. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  3. ^ Bedingfield, Robert E. (4 December 1954). "$36,000 FOUNDED DU PONTS' EMPIRE; World's Greatest Chemical Company Was Begun by French Refugee in 1802" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  4. ^ Okrent, Daniel (11 May 2010). Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Scribner. loc 5628(Kindle). ISBN 978-0743277020.
  5. ^ a b c d "PIERRE S. DU PONT DIES AT AGE OF 84; Was Honorary Chairman and Former President of Huge Chemical Organization" (PDF). The New York Times. 6 April 1954. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Pierre S. du Pont Is 75" (PDF). The New York Times. 16 January 1945. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  7. ^ Times, Special to The New York (28 February 1915). "GEN. DU PONT SELLS OUT.; Retires as Head of Powder Company -- Deal Involves $20,000,000" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  8. ^ Times, Special to The New York (9 September 1915). "DU PONT CO. REORGANIZED.; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. to Pay $120,000,000 in Cash and Stock" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  9. ^ "CHANGES IN CORPORATIONS.; Pierre S. du Pont Elected to Board of Pennsylvania Railroad" (PDF). The New York Times. 9 December 1930. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  10. ^ "GENERAL MOTORS CHANGES; Directory Increased by Three Members; New Names on Board" (PDF). The New York Times. 17 November 1915. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  11. ^ "$7,000,000 DU PONT CO.; New Corporation Will Take Over General Motors Stock" (PDF). The New York Times. 24 November 1920. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  12. ^ "DURANT AGAIN OUT OF GENERAL MOTORS; Retires as President of Company, and Pierre S. du Pont Succeeds Him. WILL TAKE LONG VACATION Morgan Firm Interested With du Ponts in Second Overturn ofDurant Control" (PDF). The New York Times. 1 December 1920. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  13. ^ "SLOAN NEW HEAD OF GENERAL MOTORS; P.S. du Pont Resigns as Presi- dent and Chairman of the Executive Committee" (PDF). The New York Times. 11 May 1923. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  14. ^ "NanoLab Renovation". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  15. ^ "Bulletin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Presidents' Report" (PDF). 63 (3). October 1927: 57. Retrieved January 22, 2015. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ "MIT Museum Collections - People: du Pont, Pierre S." Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  17. ^ "Former Corporation Members". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  18. ^ 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}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ Pierre S. Du Pont (1943). Genealogy of the Du Pont family, 1739–1942. Hambleton. ASIN B0007FG8N6.
  20. ^ Times, Special to The New York (7 October 1915). "P. S. DU PONT WEDS COUSIN. Wealthy Powder Manufacturer Marries Miss Alice Belin" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  21. ^ "CHARLES A. BELIN.; Brother of Mrs. Pierre S. du Pont Dies in Tucson, Ariz" (PDF). The New York Times. 20 February 1931. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  22. ^ a b "MRS. P. S. DU PONT SUCCUMBS IN HOME; Former Alice Belin Was Wed to Industrialist Here in '15 Bryn Mawr Alumna of '92" (PDF). The New York Times. 24 June 1944. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  23. ^ Times, Special to The New York (8 April 1954). "DU PONT SERVICE HELD; 150 Attend Funeral for Noted Industrial Leader, 84" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  24. ^ "A Separate Place: The Schools That P.S. du Pont Built". Hagley Museum and Library. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  25. ^ Okrent, Daniel (11 May 2010). Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Scribner. loc 5645(Kindle). ISBN 978-0743277020.
  26. ^ Okrent, Daniel (11 May 2010). Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Scribner. loc 5604(Kindle). ISBN 978-0743277020.
  27. ^ Times, Special to The New York (24 October 1915). "$500,000 GIFT TO COLLEGE.; Anonymous Delaware Benefactor Supposed to be Pierre S. du Pont" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  28. ^ "Du Pont Hall History". University of Delaware. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
  29. ^ "Here's to old Kennett High". Retrieved 2018-04-25.

External linksEdit

Business positions
Preceded by Chairman of General Motors
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of General Motors
Succeeded by