1837 Alfred V. du Pont
Alfred Victor du Pont (1798-1856) was the last of E.I. du Pont’s children born in France and the first to head the powder company. A year-and-a-half old when he arrived in America, Alfred grew up in the powder mills. At age 19 he left home to study chemistry at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, returning in the spring of 1818 after an explosion that killed 33 people and injured his mother. Alfred began his career with DuPont by rebuilding the mills. After E.I. died in 1834, Alfred’s succession was delayed for three years while his father’s former assistant, James Antoine Bidermann, reorganized the partnership. After he took over in 1837, Alfred compounded E.I.’s investment in pension plans for disabled workers and the widows and orphans of those killed at the mills.
Alfred’s chief interest, however, was technology. He tested guncotton for the Navy when the product was in its infancy and explored the properties of other explosives in a laboratory at the mill. Alfred also designed an automatic barrel stave maker and replaced the water wheels at the mills with more efficient turbines. Alfred built the firm’s first office building near the main family residence, and constructed Edge Moor, a powder magazine and pier on the Christina River. Most importantly perhaps, Alfred passed his own enthusiasm on to his son Lammot. However, Alfred’s attention to business details did not match his interest in innovation and technology, and in the 1840s his brothers and sisters pressed him to keep closer track of the company’s books. The Mexican War and another major explosion in 1847 diverted his attention for a time, but on January 1, 1850, Alfred bowed to pressure from his partners and resigned. In declining health, he retired to his laboratory and died on October 4, 1856