History Footnote #1 - The DuPonts Invented Everything You Use

The name du Pont has appeared on this blog maybe a hundred times. When they built their powder mill on the Brandywine River in 1802 they put their hand in everything else in this area. You are always faced with something DuPont here (but so are you, you just haven't realized it yet...read on!)

Since the DuPont Company is going through some restructuring and big changes the local paper The News Journal (which they also used to even own, geez) published a handy timeline which inspired me to partially recreate it here. I was asked awhile ago how the du Ponts had amassed such a fortune and influence (hi Sue!)...or maybe you just watched "Foxcatcher" and you're wondering how that super crazy guy had so much money (his great-grandfather was E.I. du Pont and his father owned Bellevue, which I wrote about here). Well, here is the answer accompanied by links to places I've written about previously on the site and photos from Longwood Gardens, home of Pierre du Pont...because photos of chemicals would be really boring.


Eleuthère Irénée [pronounced "Ear-a-neigh"] du Pont buys 95 acres on the Brandywine River (now the Hagley Museum) and the family immigrates to Delaware from France to start making gunpowder.


The first gunpowder is ready for sale. The kegs are marked "Brandywine Powder."



The mill has its first explosion and safety becomes a priority. Workers must wear shoes without nails to avoid sparks and are made to turn out their pockets to show they aren't carrying matches. A Connecticut gunpowder mill takes the name "Brandywine" so the company changes theirs to DuPont.


During the War of 1812, DuPont sells more than 1 million pounds of powder to the U.S. government. Sales reach nearly $150K, worth $2 million today.


Irénée buys the Hagley estate to add new powder mills. Employees get a company savings plan with Irénée paying 6 percent on accounts of $100 or more.


Irénée's business partner, Peter Bauduy, leaves to set up his own company. He sues DuPont over his shares and litigation lasts until 1824. It is resolved in Irénée's favor. An explosion kills nine men, the company's first casualties. Irénée establishes a pension plan for the widows and orphans.




Irénée dies in Philadelphia on October 31 after a short illness.


Irénée's sons: Alfred Victor, Henry and Alexis, form a partnership to run the company.


Demand for gunpowder and explosives during the Crimean War and the California Gold Rush is robust.


Lammot du Pont, Alfred's son and the company chemist, is granted the company's first patent for nitrate of soda. It is used as a substitute for saltpeter in making blasting powder.


The Civil War begins. Lammot goes to England on a secret mission for the government to buy enough saltpeter to supply the Union forces with gunpowder.


The DuPont company continues to buy land interests in rival powder works. Lammot du Pont is killed in an 1884 explosion. The company buys Lammot's interest and becomes the country's largest dynamite producer.


DuPont patents a smokeless powder made of cellulose material soaked in nitric acid. Cellulose would later become the basis for DuPont scientists to develop plastics, lacquers, films, fabrics and more.


The third generation of du Pont's decide to sell the business to a competitor. Alfred I. du Pont (his house, Nemours, here), a fourth generation du Pont, wants to buy the company and enlists the help of his cousins, T. Coleman and Pierre S. du Pont (these gardens and Longwood are his home, more here...and his own post is coming up very soon!).

In March, the cousins buy the business for $12 million. In July, the company, employing about 800 people, celebrates its centennial by holding a party for 3,000 people with fireworks and target shooting. In August the company becomes the country's largest explosives maker.


DuPont has acquired a total of 108 competitors. The federal government files an antitrust lawsuit. The oval trademark is created (see it here).


The company acquires Fabrikoid Co., producer of an artificial leather. It is the first acquisition of a company not involved in explosives.


A federal court rules against DuPont, saying its explosives business restrained trade by dominating the industry. The company is reorganized to wrest control from Alfred, who some family members believe shows little interest in changing the company {yeah, their descendants are still miffed about it!}


World War I begins in Europe. Smokeless powder is used in warfare for the first time. DuPont agrees to supply powder to the Allies.


Pierre quietly arranges to buy out his cousin Coleman. Alfred believes the company should have bought the stock. A family rift begins when cousin Philip, an Alfred supporter, files suit to stop the sale. DuPont continues to buy up other companies, explosives are now 97% of business.


For the WWI effort, DuPont builds the largest smokeless powder plant in the world near Nashville, Tennessee for $83.8 million, known as Old Hickory. The plant employs 30,000 men and women.


DuPont forms a joint venture with a French company to develop a new synthetic: "rayon." Pierre S. du Pont takes the helm at General Motors to protect DuPont's investment. At GM, Pierre introduces the "line and staff" organizational structure, a modified military model. Later it becomes a model for American companies. DuPont also begins selling film to Hollywood for motion pictures; it wins two Academy Awards for the making and processing of motion picture film.


DuPont introduces new paint and wood lacquers and begins production of a new product: cellophane.


Harvard University's research genius, Wallace Hume Carothers, is lured away to head the polymer research program at DuPont.


In the midst of the Great Depression, the company lays off 4,000 of its 35,000 employees. DuPont beings to produce a new refrigerant called "freon."


Carothers and his group of scientists have their first breakthrough and the company announces it will begin making synthetic rubber called "neoprene."


DuPont is now 95% explosives and launches a new slogan "Better Things for Better Living... Through Chemistry."


Lucite, a clear acrylic, is introduced by the company.


The company applies for a patent for Carothers' "Fiber 66", a faux silk made of chemicals. It is the first completely man-made fiber. The name "norun" for no-runs in stockings evolves into "nylon" and becomes DuPont's blockbuster product. Twenty days after the patent is filed, Carothers commits suicide in a Philadelphia hotel by ingesting cyanide. He had suffered from depression and carried a cyanide capsule on his watch chain. He had told friends the discovery of synthetic silk and rubber was "enough for one lifetime."


DuPont invents Teflon but it won't see consumer application for decades.


The government asks DuPont to participate in the top secret Manhattan Project. DuPont builds the Hanford Washington Engineering Works to make plutonium for the development of the atomic bomb. DuPont builds a city to supports the Works.


DuPont produces record volumes of smokeless powder and TNT. 40% of explosives used by the Allies in World War II are supplied by DuPont. It also makes nylon yarn for parachutes.



The company celebrates its 150th anniversary. Mylar polyester film is developed. A year later Dacron, a wash-and-wear polyester is produced.


Fiber K, a synthetic elastic that comes to be known as Lycra becomes one of the company's most successful products and establishes a new fiber classification, elastane or Spandex.


The company gets into scientific instruments, medical equipment, heat transfer products, building products and magnetic tape. DuPont spends $100 million to launch 41 new products in the decade and moves into molecular biology and pharmaceuticals.


The U.S. Supreme Court hears more antitrust matters related to DuPont than any other company. DuPont's cases constitute 15% of the major antitrust rulings.


The US Food and Drug Administration approves Symmetrel, an influenza medicine later used to treat Parkinson's disease.


Astronauts on the Apollo II mission walk on the moon. They wear protective suits that have 20 layers containing materials made by DuPont.

Hey, It's me ;)

Hey, It's me ;)


The company quits manufacturing black powder and dynamite.


Kevlar, a super strong lightweight fiber used in bulletproof vests and to reinforce building walls is introduced after 15 years of r&d.


The oil crisis created by the OPEC embargo comes when 70% of the company's products are petroleum based. Income falls 31%.


Charles J. Pedersen, a retired DuPont chemist, wins the company's first Nobel Prize for his discovery of chemical compounds called "crown ethers."


NASA announces CFC's are depleting the ozone layer. DuPont, a producer, decides to stop production by the year 2000.


Hundreds of farmers claim a DuPont herbicide killed their crops and file suit. DuPont pays many claims but says the product was not to blame.

Right now the company is in a state of flux. They've recently sold off their buildings and real estate in downtown Wilmington and there's some other fighting going on but it's not that interesting for this site ;) I still have a few du Pont family members to feature on this blog, a family with that much money always has plenty of scandals, fighting and exciting stories!


Source: Timeline partially reproduced from The News Journal (Sunday, April 19, 2015).

Every High Society Family Has a Secret...Or a Black Sheep

The Real Estate Agent

When Daniel Cauffiel, manager of the real estate division for the DuPont Company, was persuaded by the du Pont's to finally move over the Pennsylvania/Delaware border, he purchased Charles Lore's land with its view of the water and the cool breeze it brought during the warmer months. The ideal summer house.

In the mid-1920's he moved the Victorian style house that Charles had built and commissioned this Colonial Revival home, modeled somewhat after his childhood home (sadly Lore's home was torn down sometime in the 1940's). The fruit trees, ponies, cattle, pigs and chickens stayed but the family hired a family friend to act as farmhand. Daniel was very much your "gentleman gardener" (i.e. other people did the farming) but he still enjoyed overseeing his little garden. He expanded the orchard buying 102 apple trees, 48 pear trees, 28 cherry trees, 32 plum trees, 98 peach trees, 4 apricot trees, 6 quince trees (they're a bit like pears), grape vines and currant bushes (guess he wasn't that keen on apricots ;) I'm not sure what happened but the orchard is nearly gone now with just a few apple and pear trees still bearing fruit. Darnit!!

Daniel was originally from Johnstown, Pennsylvania a place where his family had deep roots and most of them remained there. On Daniel's father's side the family came to America in the 1600s. His great-grandfather was killed by Native Americans as the white settlers encroached deeper into Pennsylvania and his great-grandmother claimed to be the first white woman to cross the Allegheny mountains.

Through his maternal side, Daniel was related to George Ross, signer of the Declaration of Independence for Pennsylvania. His mother Mary Hammer Cauffiel and grandmother, Elizabeth Barefoot Hammer (great names!), and many other family members belonged to the Sons/Daughters of the American Revolution organizations through George.

Daniel began his career in the real estate for the coal mine industry in Western Pennsylvania before moving to work for the DuPont Company. The du Pont's had been manufacturing the best quality gunpowder since the early 1800's but by 1900 intense competition had popped up. Instead of closing shop, the company restructured and moved into textiles and chemicals. Daniel and his real estate department, of course, played a large part in the restructuring of the company.


It was in 1918, that Daniel found himself in a spot of trouble. He had bought some land at basement prices, claiming they were needed for the powder plants that the Secretary of War had asked the DuPont Company to build for the government. But instead he sold that land (which he'd purchased for $20,000) to another company for $120,000. Nice profit if you can get it. As you might imagine, the government was none too pleased and started up a little investigation of their own into Daniel's actions. It turns out he had been making these deals for land in his name and the buyers and sellers had no idea it was intended for government use.

He must have made some amends for the misunderstanding or gotten away with it because I don't see it mentioned much again. Here's a quick excerpt from the hearings between the government and the men Daniel sold too:

Mr. Jefferis [for the govt.]: What was the amount of this check that you gave to Cauffiel?

Mr. Moore: I don't remember.

Mr. Jefferis: Have you any idea at all?

Mr. Moore: No, I haven't.

...And more of that. Yeah, I think they managed to get away with it!

Once the beautiful Cauffiel house was completed in 1928, the family moved enjoyed its beautiful views of the water and sunny porches that stayed warm even during winter during their weekend retreats from the city. Daniel didn't enjoy the home for long though; he died suddenly two years later in 1930 from a bowel ailment he was thought to have recovered from four years earlier. The house passed into the hands of his children Luella, Daniel W., Chalmer, T. Coleman, DeWitt, Beatrice and Hazel.

Luella and DeWitt were the only children to never marry and they moved into the house and lived there full-time until their deaths (at 102 and 96-years old, respectively). Developers were waiting in the wings like vultures for the property to become available but DeWitt outsmarted them. He arranged for the land to become part of the public park across the road (that's Bellevue, which we've seen quite a few times here) and to remain protected. Well played DeWitt! Luella and DeWitt had also kept the home perfectly intact from the '30s so that it could one day be a museum or public place. The only addition by them was air conditioning.

The Black Sheep

Honestly, I haven't a good clue if Daniel got along with his brother Joe or even had any contact with him later in life (I found no mention of them together but that doesn't prove anything definitively). They moved in vastly different circles and came from some eleven children, they would not necessarily have been close...so who knows? Joe Cauffiel was Daniel's younger brother by two years. And he was pretty crazy. Which means he's worth mentioning here as a sidenote. Because I love an interesting sidenote.

Joe stayed behind in Johnstown, where the Cauffiel's are from when his brother left the business for the DuPont's. He was in the real estate business like his brother but eventually ran for and became mayor in 1912. It's probably a bad sign when your mayor is nicknamed "Fighting Joe"...and it was.

His first years in office were spent being repeatedly sued for various breaches of contract. Though he was a conservative prohibitionist even his peers viewed him skeptically. (Understandable considering he described his mayoral candidacy as "declaring war on several councilmen"). All of this anger stemmed from the local government's utility company digging up parts of the streets to install streetlights. As a car enthusiast, this apparently really bugged Fighting Joe and he decided to run for mayor. I guess people have run for political office on less.

His first public test as mayor came during a confrontation between city workers and the steel company installing tracks over a bridge in town. Joe showed up and announced: "If they don't remove the obstruction we'll blow it off the street with dynamite" I don't think the term "politically correct" ever occurred to Joe. Still, it really did well with the people. They ate it up.

As an early prohibitionist before the nationwide act came into effect, Joe created a "vice commission" to close down saloons on Sundays and holidays. Unfortunately for Joe his staff and his vice commission officers kept getting publicly drunk and ordering shipments of liquor for themselves. His experiment wasn't quite working out. A fistfight erupted between Joe and a councilman and a week later the council voted to remove the police department from the mayor's supervision. The city hired a police chief and a city administrator instead.

Angry as ever, Joe refused to swear them in and showed up to police court on the day of the inauguration in a black suit, top hat and with a gold-handled cane....Then he discharged all the prisoners in jail.

Fighting Joe would serve as mayor again during the official beginning of Prohibition. His first arrest was an elderly greenhouse worker who he sentenced to jail for "one day less than a year." Just like in every other town in America during Prohibition, residents began making their own concoctions and accidentally poisoning either themselves or people they had sold their moonshine to. Much like the first time, Joe's vice squad were easily corrupted and at times appeared in their own boss' police court for public intoxication.

In his last year of that term, a policeman was killed and another injured in a shootout with a crazed man. Since the crazed man had happened to be black the KKK decided they should show up and burn a cross. Joe followed this up with an announcement that all African-Americans in town should leave for their own safety and called in state police for backup (though I saw the transcript and he definitely did not use those words, he was an inelegant racist after all). He manipulated the law and the police to impose heavy fines and drive more blacks out of the city.

Next he issued another public order: "I want every Negro who has lived here less than seven years to pack up his belongings and get out." Real classy. He also wanted any visiting African-Americans to register with the police chief before staying in town and he ordered all remaining black homesteads to be searched for weapons. The KKK, still in town I guess, ignited twelve crosses around Johnstown, visible for miles.

There's no concrete report about how many black families left and changed the face of the city but many did move. Joe's actions made national headlines and he was even publicly condemned by some newspapers. The governor sent Joe a letter that made it clear he was to leave office at the end of his term and shut up. He did. For a little while.

I can't only focus on Joe's terrible qualities, that would be too one-sided. He did pass legislation to slow down the trains as they passed through town cutting down the loss of life from the frequent accidents that had occurred. He did not smoke or drink until later in life when he took up cigars because he thought payday should go towards the family's well-being not wasted on gambling and he also started the Family Service Society to help mothers and children. But he was still a pretty rotten apple (though most politicians are).

He briefly returned for a final term as mayor from 1928-29 until he went to jail. Sentenced to 2-3 years for official misconduct he was denied parole. He died not too long after his release from jail, in 1932 at the age of 61 and two years after Daniel's death.

ps: You can stay in this house. The park rents it out, usually to bridal parties who are marrying at Bellevue Hall, but really anyone can stay there. With no internet and no computers it's really like stepping back into the 1930's! And now here's the Cauffiel family you've been reading about:

All Photos from "Familyoldphotos", from the Collection of Joe's Daughter Sylvia

All Photos from "Familyoldphotos", from the Collection of Joe's Daughter Sylvia

Sources: 123456, 7, and a park guide

A Schoolhouse Paid for With Liquor

After posting this place as my first "History Footnote" (errrr, I'll try that again, soon ;) my mother, who reads my blog (hi Ma!) told me she thought she knew what this place was and sent me the name and a few links...which lead me down my usual black hole research route. Looks like this one doesn't get to maintain its air of mystery any longer.


In 1789 the US Constitution finally created a (sort of) cohesive country from the 13 states that had won the Revolution. Delaware was the first state to join. Right after that in 1791, Delaware wrote its own state constitution. One of their ideas was to publicly fund schools. This won't make you blink now but it was crazy radical in 1791. There had been small schools since the Swedes settled the area (I say "settled" loosely, the Lenape tribe had already been here for ages of course). But then schools were usually private, supported by either a church or neighbors who had hired a tutor collectively for their children. For the ordinary child (ordinary either in intelligence or financially) there was to be no school.

Tax-funded education was considered by Delawareans to be the "strongest defense a free government could have" and so they came up with a plan for funding. Five years later (hey look, government's been moving slow since the dawn of time!) tax money from marriage and tavern licenses was set aside exclusively for education. And this wasn't a measly portion, it made up a fifth of the state's money!


Finally in 1799, there was enough money for the schoolhouse to finally become a reality. Robert and Jehu Forwood and Thomas Bird, Jr. were deeded this land to build a school. And I mean that literally, Robert Forwood built the school himself and he did it in two months. The Forwoods and Bird Jr. paid 50 cents for the property and after Robert completed the one-room building it opened for business in August of 1799.

The building was actually a square shape then with a large oak desk for the teacher and seats facing back-to-back: boys faced one way towards a male teacher and girls the other way towards a female teacher. (And yes the female teacher was paid a little less for the same work which is frustratingly still going on).

By 1829 a Free School Law had been passed, which meant more schools would be created in "walking distance" of each district and each school would be publicly funded, free to all (white) children. School still wasn't guaranteed at Forwood. Each year voters decided whether to open the school at all; though it looks like they voted for Forwood to open every year.

By 1855, there were over 100 students attending school in the little square building. Quickly, they expanded to the size you see now and students for the first time actually received desks to sit at.

In 1899, there was a large gala to celebrate the school's 100-year anniversary. Speakers recited original poems, oral histories about the schoolhouse and stories about past students like then-current US Surgeon General, William A. Forwood and many others who had fought in the Civil War with distinction. One guy brought the mood temporarily down with his speech about the school still being funded by liquor tax money but it seems everyone mostly ignored him.

Thomas Bird and his orchestra accompanied the party with music as the party goers set up long tables with ice cream, cake, watermelon and other delicacies under the summer sun. That sounds like such a good day.


SIDENOTE: A FORMER STUDENT signs up for three months in the union army

One of those former students that had served in the Civil War was a Forwood: Cyrus H. Forwood. A 25-year old farmer, he lived on the family farm with his parents and two sisters right by the school that he had attended as a youth. His grandparents had built the Forwood schoolhouse. In 1861 he volunteered for three months of service in the Union Army. In the end, he served for three years and kept a diary detailing his time. And yes, I read his diary. {ps: the following photos were taken at Gettysburg}

Cyrus fought at a few major battles during the war. He missed the Battle of Antietam by a day. He was lagging behind because he had fallen ill and was recovering in Pt. Lookout, Maryland. At the hospital he was surrounded by sick soldiers rapidly dying and being hastily buried without a second thought as the next crop of sick men arrived. Not exactly the best way to keep your spirits up and recover quickly. Of course this was compounded by the meager rations on offer: coffee and bread with molasses for breakfast and supper, for lunch a tiny piece of meat and "horrible vegetable soup." After a month Cyrus said he felt sicker than when he arrived. Once he finally did recover he set out to join his company...on a 70 mile walk. Which is why he missed the fight but he was only a few miles away and could hear the "roar of the artillery."

After fighting at Chancellorsville in April his company, the Second Delaware, moved to Gettysburg. On July 3 the Second Delaware defended Cemetery Ridge during Pickett's Charge (the day before they had fought at The Wheatfield and in Rose Woods, a post and photos about that spot are coming up!). Southern Army General Robert E. Lee was making his big assault in hopes to destroy the Union Army and move further North. Northern Army General Grant and the Union Army halted the South's campaign in one of the bloodiest battles of the war with at least 51,000 dead and many more injured. Cyrus himself was wounded in the leg but not seriously enough to lose the leg to amputation. He was sent to a hospital in Wilmington, Delaware where he recovered before rejoining his unit.

After the battle of Gettysburg and spending the winter drilling at camp in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Second Delaware continued their pursuit of General Lee to Manassas Gap engaging in several more campaigns. General Grant suffered heavy losses that Spring but didn't retreat. Instead he pushed Union troops towards the small town of Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia, rushing to arrive before the Confederates. The Confederates were within two miles when both armies (that's 152,000 soldiers) began to flood into what would become the battlefield.

Desperate to break the Confederate line, General Grant ordered an attack. But no one planned what to do if they did break the line. So when the Union soldiers managed to move through the Confederate line, the Southerners easily counter attacked them in the 200-yard stretch that were now inhibiting. It would become known as the "Bloody Angle" and it was the longest sustained hand-to-hand combat fight in the entire war. For 22 hours they fought until the Confederates finally fell back.

Casualties were heavy, 30,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or captured during the battle. Cyrus was to be one of the 18,000 Union casualties (such staggering numbers) after he was shot through the abdomen. He died three days later in the hospital tent at Spotsylvania Courthouse just a few weeks before the end of his three-year service term. He was 28-years old.

Historical photos of Forwood School from the State Board of Education Photograph Collection

Historical photos of Forwood School from the State Board of Education Photograph Collection

Writing on the Wall

As the population grew and educational standards changed the district forced many schools to merge. In March 1939 the Forwood School was ordered to close at the end of term, 140 years from its start. The school was set for the auction block. The community attempted to save the school for public use but WWII was looming, and already happening in Europe, so any deals were slow. After Pearl Harbor and the country's subsequent involvement in the war there was a stop to any projects like this. The school was sold back to the Forwood family in 1947 for conversion into a house.

Their decedents still own it today. They are the ones developing the property and have been fighting with the community about it for over 10 years now. The land will either be used for townhouses or an office building. They do plan to restore and save the Forwood schoolhouse in the process though the community wants the school's restoration to happen they also want the land to remain for the public. The Forwoods own the land though and they seem to be gearing up for building and preservation. We certainly don't need more development around here but the Forwoods are entitled to the money and I for one and am just pleased that the preservation of the schoolhouse is in the cards. Still, the school easily qualifies for historical preservation and protection but it seems the preservationists so often lose.

That wasn't the end of the Forwood School completely though! A.I. du Pont (remember Nemours, his house?) was hugely supportive of funding schools and did so for Forwood. The newer elementary school (built in 1941 I think??) is still in use today and there's even a Forwood Junior High as well. I pass the schoolhouse everyday and now that I know what it was I always picture that summer day they celebrated their birthday with an orchestra, outdoor games and watermelon and cake. Perfect!



Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5