Preserve DuPont Country Club - Letter to the Editor
The News Journal recently chronicled the end of a historic chapter in our community’s storied history: DuPont Company’s intentions to sell the DuPont Country Club in Brandywine Hundred.
As Brandywine Hundred and Greenville’s County Councilman, I have had the privilege of representing the Brandywine Valley for over two decades. In this capacity, I have been in regular contact with the DuPont Company, the surrounding communities, and the DuPont Country Club membership about this anticipated sale.
We have a duty to protect our treasured scenic and historic Brandywine River valley for the benefit and enjoyment future generations.
It was the duPont family's generous beneficence that has preserved our scenic and historic hills and valleys for two centuries.
The Brandywine River, winding from southeastern Pennsylvania into Delaware, is one of the most important scenic and historic small rivers in our country.
We are all encouraged by the DuPont Company’s affirmation to ensure that future ownership will continue to operate the property as a country club and will make an investment in the property.
New Castle County Councilman
DuPont Company through the years
Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, known as Irénée to his family, buys 95 acres on the Brandywine River (above what is now Hagley Museum). The du Pont family, which immigrated to the United States from France, plans to start making gunpowder. Peter Bauduy, a friend living in Wilmington's large French community, joins the company as a partner. The business, named E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., begins with $36,000 in capital. Eighteen shares are sold for $2,000 each.
The first gunpowder is ready for sale. The kegs are marked "Brandywine Powder."
Sales reach $43,000. 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's trademark is changed to "DuPont."
During the War of 1812, DuPont sells more than 1 million pounds of powder at an average of 40 cents a pound to the U.S. government and military units. Sales reached $148,597 worth about $2 million today.
Irénée buys the Hagley estate from Thomas Lea to add new powder mills. Employees get a company savings plan with Irenee paying 6 percent on accounts of $100 or more.
Baudey leaves the company, sets up his own powder works south of Wilmington and sues Irénée over his DuPont share value. The litigation lasts until 1824 when it is resolved in Irenee's favor. An explosion kills nine men, the company's first casualties. Irénée establishes a pension plan for the widows and orphans.
In March, five powder mills explode and destroy most of the DuPont operations. After the explosion, Irénée begins to rebuild. No powder was produced for a year in the upper yard section of the powder mill.
Irénée dies in Philadelphia on Oct. 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. Between 1850 and 1855, sales increase at an average annual rate of 22 percent.
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 gun powder.
DuPont begins buying land interests in rival powder works, including California Powder Works. California Powder owned a dynamite subsidiary, Hercules Powder; near Cleveland.
Lammot du Pont buys Hercules after building a dynamite plant near Gibbstown, N.J. called Repauno Chemical Co. He is killed in an 1884 explosion. DuPont buys back Lammot's interests and becomes the country's largest dynamite producer.
A large tract is bought at Carney's Point, N.J., for beter shipping access, new laboratories and the development of a smokeless powder.
The company patents a SMOKELESS POWDER made of a cellulose material soaked in nitric acid. Cellulose would, in time, become the basis for DuPont scientist to develop plastics, lacquers, films, fabrics and more.
The partnership is made a corporation in Delaware.
In January, the third generation of du Ponts decide to sell the business to a competitor. Alfred I. du Pont, a fourth generation du Pont, wants to buy the company and enlists the help of his cousins, T. Coleman and Pierre S. du Pont. March: The cousins buy the business for $12 million. They begin to create the notion of a "big company." July: The company, employing about 800 people, celebrates its centennial by holding a party for 3,000 people with fireworks and target shooting. August: The company becomes the country's largest explosives maker with the purchase of Laflin & Rand Powder Co. for $4 million - worth about $80 million today.
A second research operation, the Experimental Station, is opened near the old mills. Sixteen full-time research scientists are hired. Work begins on finding alternative uses for nitrocellulose products.
The company votes to build a new headquarters in downtown Wilmington to house 500 office workers. Pierre wants to name it the Wilmington Trust building to promote his bank, but Alfred says it should be a "monument to our ancestors." It is named the DuPont Building. Pension plan for workers with more than 15 years of experience is added as a benefit.
DuPont has acquired a total of 108 competitors. The federal government files an antitrust lawsuit against the company under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The oval trademark is created.
The company acquires Fabrikoid Co., producer of an artificial leather. It is DuPont's 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.
DuPont strikes a deal with the Justice Department to spin off the Hercules and Atlas powder companies. The new companies will produce half of the country's black powder and 42 percent of the dynamite. Sales total $35 million-worth about $636 million today
World War I begins in Europe. Smokeless powder is used in warfare for the first time. DuPont agrees to supply powder to the allies.
The company stock is selling for $300 a share. Pierre quietly arranges through DuPont Securities (later Christiana Securities) to buy out his cousin Coleman for $200 a share. 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 accelerates its diversification, buying nitrocellulose plastics maker Arlington Co. This acquisition is followed by Fairfield Rubber Co. and the Harrison Inc., a paint and chemicals producer. Explosives are 97 percent of business.
For the WWI effort, DuPont builds the largest smokeless powder plant in the world near Nashville, Tenn., for $83.8 million. Known as Old Hickory, the plant employed 30,000 men, and women. DuPont built nearly 4,000 houses, apartments, hotels, schools, churches, theaters and hospitals, as well as 1,112 buildings for the plant. Jackson Laboratory is built at Deepwater, N.J. for work dyes and later tetraethyl lead gasoline additive, which improves automobile engine performance.
DuPont forms a joint venture with a French company for the development of the new synthetic "rayon." Pierre S. du Pont takes the helm at General Motors to protect DuPont's investment. Working with Alfred P. Sloan at GM, du Pont introduces the "line and staff" organizational structure, a modified military model. Later, it is introduced at DuPont and becomes a model for American Companies. The company also begins selling film to Hollywood for motion pictures; it wins two Academy Awards for the making and processing of motion picture film.
Duco paint and wood lacquers are introduced. DuPont Cellophane Co. begins production in Buffalo, N.Y.
Earnings more than double to $43 million from 1923 to 1926. That equals about $439 million.
Du Pont files a patent for moisture-proof CELLOPHANE. At the insistence of Charles M.A. Stine, the company approves a basic research program that would be protected from business and economic swings.
Harvard University's research genius, Wallace Hume Carothers, is lured away to head the polymer research program at the Experimental Station.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the company lays off 4,000 of its 35,000 employees as net income drops 30 percent. DuPont forms a joint venture with GM called Kinetic Chemicals Inc. to produce a chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant, FREON.
DuPont buys the Newport Chemical Co. in Newport, Del. Forms the Krebs Pigmen and Color Corp. under its Grasselli Chemicals unit to make titanium dioxide pigment, a white pigment. Carothers and his group of scientists have their first breakthrough and the company announces it will begin making synthetic rubber; called NEOPRENE.
DuPont's product mix was now 95 percent non-explosives. The company launches a public relations campaign and the slogan "Better Things for Better Living... Through Chemistry" debuts on the weekly radio show "The Cavalcade of America." The titanium dioxide pigment plant opens at Edgemoor. Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology opens at the Experimental Station.
LUCITE, a clear acrylic, is introduced.
The company applies for a patent for Carothers' Fiber 66, "a new silk" made of chemicals. It is the first completely man-made fiber. The name "norun" for no-runs in the 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. Carothers, who suffered from depression and carried a cyanide capsule on his watch chain, had told friends the discovery of both synthetic silk and synthetic rubber was "enough for one lifetime."
Roy Plunkett discovers polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) and TEFLON is born. It won't see consumer applications for decades.
The Seaford nylon plant is built for $8.5 million. The city calls itself the "Nylon Capital of the World." For the first time, the company gives workers two weeks of paid vacation.
DuPont produces record volumes of smokeless powder and TNT. Forty percent of the explosives used by the Allies in WWII is supplied by DuPont. It also makes nylon yarn for parachutes.
DuPont builds 54 plants at 32 locations for the war effort. The government asks DuPont to participate in the top secret Manhattan Project. DuPont builds the $350 million Hanford (Washington) Engineering Works to make plutonium for the development of the atomic bomb. DuPont built a city to support the works.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears more antitrust matters related to DuPont than any other company. DuPont's three cases constitute 15 percent of the major antitrust rulings.
A $30 million expansion at the Experimental Station is completed and 19 new buildings open. Company spends $47 million on research.
The company celebrates its 150th anniversary at Hagley. Antitrust trial involving GM begins. Executive Committee begins to stay away from acquisitions for fear of further antitrust actions. MYLAR polyester film is developed.
DACRON, a wash-and-wear polyester, is produced at new Kinston, N.C., plant. Haskell Lab moves to Newark. DuPont is ordered to break up its business with chemical company ICI Ltd.
The Chestnut Run Textile Research Laboratory opens.
Fiber K, a synthetic elastic that came 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. Company also moves into molecular biology and pharmaceuticals.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves SYMMETREL, an influenza medicine. It's later used to treat Parkinson's disease.
CORIAN, a solid building material used in kitchen and bath countertops, is introduced.
Astronauts on Apollo II mission walk on the moon. They wear protective suits that have 20 layers containing materials made by DuPont. The company buys Endo Laboratories, makers of Coumadin anticoagulant.
The company quits manufacturing black powder and dynamite. It also abandons Corfam, its artificial leather product called "DuPont's $100 million Edsel" by the New York Times. BENLATE fungicide is introduced.
KEVLAR, a super strong lightweight fiber used in bulletproof vests and to reinforce building walls, among other things, is introduced after 15 years of research and development and $500 million. Company sales top $5 billion.
The oil crisis created by the OPEC embargo comes at a time when 70 percent of the company's products are petroleum based. Income falls 31 percent.
DuPont sells The News Journal Co. to Gannett Co. for $60 million. The paper had been owned since 1972 by Christiana Securities, a du Pont family holding company.
DuPont discontinues its dye business and gets out of the sales of explosives.
Conoco, the ninth largest oil company in the world, is acquired for $7.8 billion in cash and stock.
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 CFCs or chloroflourocarbons are depleting the ozone layer. DuPont, a producer of CFCs decides to stop production by the year 2000.
New CEO Edgar S. Woolard Jr. sets a goal to reduce fixed costs by $1 billion in two years. Benlate 50 DF is recalled because of the presence of Atrazine herbicide.
Hundreds of farmers claim Benlate 50 DF killed their crops and file suits against DuPont. DuPont pays many claims but later defends itself, saying the product was not to blame.
The company becomes a NASCAR sponsor of Jeff Gordon.
The company buys 20 percent interest in Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. of Des Moines, Iowa, a corn and soybean seeds producer. DuPont buys Protein Technologies International Inc., a soy protein producer.
Conoco is sold to shareholders through a two-part split. Executives describe it as part of a long-range plan to expand from chemicals into life sciences.
"Miracles of Science" becomes new motto. DuPont acquires the remaining 80 percent of Pioneer for $7.7 billion. DuPont divests most of its real estate holding in downtown Wilmington, selling the high-rise Nemours and Brandywine buildings. The company still owns The DuPont Building, which houses The Hotel Du Pont, The Playhouse and the corporate offices.
Haskell Laboratory begins doing studies for other companies. Sells DuPont Pharmaceuticals for $7.8 billion. Benlate production ends.
DuPont announces it will sell or spin off its nylon, polyester and Lycra businesses by the end of 2003. DuPont celebrates its 200th anniversary on July 19th.
DuPont reveals a five-year real estate plan that would make Chestnut Run Plaza its largest Delaware employment center. The plan involves the sale of the 100-acre Barley Mill Plaza campus at Del. 141 and Lancaster Pike in Greenville. The 24-building Barley Mill campus, totaling about 1 million square feet, is sold to a Stoltz Real Estate entity.
Ellen J. Kullman becomes the 19th person to head DuPont. She is the first female chief executive officer.
DuPont expands its existing food business with the $5.8 billion acquisition of Denmark-based Danisco, a food ingredients and enzymes company.
DuPont announces the $4.9 billion sale of its performance coatings business to The Carlyle Group, a global asset management firm, as part of its strategy move into agriculture, nutrition and renewable fuels.
Nelson Peltz and his Trian Fund Management purchase a 2.7 percent stake in DuPont, estimated to be worth $1.8 billion.
Trian pressures DuPont to improve the company's financial performance. They single out, among other things, DuPont's hospitality unit, which includes the Hotel du Pont and the DuPont Theatre in the DuPont Building, as a drain on the company's financial performance.
Dec. 22, 2014
DuPont announces it will move its corporate offices to suburban Chestnut Run Plaza in 2015, marking the end of an era in downtown Wilmington. The company will continue to operate the hotel and theater businesses. After DuPont spins off its performance chemicals business as the Chemours Co. in mid-2015, that new publicly traded company will move into the DuPont Building.
Jan. 8, 2015
Trian launches a proxy war to gain four seats on DuPont's board of directors. It is the largest company ever targeted by an activist investor and the first proxy war in DuPont's 213-year history.
Jan. 12, 2015
DuPont announces it will sell its 102-year-old theater business to The Grand Opera House. The DuPont Theatre in the DuPont Building, for decades called The Playhouse, is renamed The Playhouse on Rodney Square.
Trian Group files its preliminary proxy statement and launches a website for stockholders to get information about Trian's plan for improving DuPont's financial performance. Trian is seeking seats on the board.
Kullman and DuPont lead director Alexander Cutler tell Peltz the board unanimously rejected Trian's proposal to settle the proxy fight.
May 13, 2015
CEO Kullman fends off Trian's board candidates in shareholder vote.
June 2, 2015
DuPont slashes between 5 and 7 percent of its performance chemicals unit's work force ahead of it spinning of into a separate entity.
July 1, 2015
DuPont spins off its performance chemicals division into a separate company, called Chemours.
July 13, 2015
DuPont is labeled a "severe" violator of federal workplace safety standards following a second inspection of the La Porte, Texas, plant where four employees were killed in a massive gas leak in 2014.
Oct. 5, 2015
Ellen Kullman suddenly retires from the company, effective Oct. 16. Ed Breen, former head of Tyco, takes over as interim CEO.
Nov. 9, 2015
Breen named permanent CEO.
Dec. 11, 2015
DuPont and Dow Chemical announce they will merge into a new company, called DowDuPont, in what officials for both companies called an “all-stock merger of equals.” The pan is to then divide into three separate, independent publicly traded companies within 24 months.
July 20, 2016
DuPont shareholders approve a merger with former rival The Dow Chemical Company.
January 31, 2017
DuPont sells its hotel business to Buccini/Pollin, ending its 104-year-old operation of the hotel. The company also puts the DuPont Country Club on the sales block.
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