1857 Lammot du Pont

Lammot du Pont (1831-1884) contributed a spark of innovation to the staid DuPont of the mid-19th century, improving black powder and leading the company into the new field of high explosives. In 1857 Lammot patented "B" blasting powder – also known as soda powder – which used inexpensive Peruvian and Chilean sodium nitrate and made DuPont a major force in the blasting powder industry. He founded the Repauno Chemical Company, which led to the entry of DuPont into high explosives.Show more

Iré́née du Pont (1876–1963), Lammot du Pont (1880–1952) and Pierre S. du Pont (1870–1954)

Walter D. Teague and Lammot du Pont at the DuPont Company exhibit, New York World's Fair

DuPont blasting powder played a prominent role in the nation’s early development. Westward settlement in the first half of the 19th century entailed massive excavation and construction projects for roads, canals and railroads. Already a manufacturer of black powder for hunting and military purposes, DuPont began selling its product for these industrial and commercial uses. In 1857 a breakthrough in industrial blasting powder occurred when Lammot du Pont successfully substituted South American sodium nitrate for the Indian potassium nitrate traditionally used in black powder. This new “B” blasting powder reduced costs by freeing American powder makers from the British controls on Indian nitrate while providing a superior explosive force. In 1859 DuPont made its first expansion outside the Brandywine Valley when it acquired the Wapwallopen blasting powder mill near the coal mines of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. DuPont blasting powder continued to serve the needs of industrial customers through the Civil War and Reconstruction era. By the 1870s, however, the new explosive dynamite had proven to be three times as powerful as black powder and production declined rapidly after DuPont entered the dynamite business.

 

Lammot du Pont earned a chemistry degree from the University of Pennsylvania, began in the saltpeter and sulfur refinery at the Brandywine in 1849, and worked his way up to DuPont partner by 1857. In 1858 he made a fact-finding trip to Europe and the next year helped recondition the newly purchased Wapwallopen powder mill. During the Civil War, Lammot, acting as an emissary of the U.S. government, went to Great Britain to purchase 3 million pounds of saltpeter. By 1872 he had been elected president of the Gunpowder Trade Association that regulated prices and production for the industry. In the 1870s Lammot spearheaded DuPont’s move into high explosives by pushing for the acquisition of a heavy interest in California Powder Works, a major producer of dynamite. In 1880 he overcame staunch internal resistance from senior partner Henry du Pont to found the Repauno Chemical Company in a joint venture with the Laflin & Rand Company. Lammot was so dedicated to the Repauno enterprise that he resigned from DuPont to focus all his attention on it. He died there in 1884 during an explosion, leaving behind a legacy of innovation that came to characterize DuPont during the next century.