1902 New Owners
When the company turned 100 in 1902, it was widely respected but also weighed down by tradition. That year, three young du Pont cousins–T. Coleman, Pierre S. and Alfred I.–purchased the company from their older relatives and began to transform it from an explosives manufacturer into a broad, science-based chemical company. The trio modernized company management, built research labs, and marketed new products like paints, plastics and dyes.
Alfred I. du Pont (1864-1935) helped ensure DuPont’s survival into a second century by engineering the 1902 rescue of the family business. The orphaned son of E.I. du Pont II, Alfred left MIT in 1884 after only two years to go to work manufacturing powder in the Brandywine mills. Five years later he became a partner in the company and was dispatched to Europe by the U.S. Army Chief of Ordnance to purchase the patent rights to smokeless powder. By the early 1890s, Alfred was assistant superintendent of the Hagley and Lower Yards. When the company was reorganized in 1899, Alfred became a director.
In 1902 Eugene du Pont died and with no clear successor, DuPont’s senior partners contemplated selling out to competitor Laflin & Rand. Alfred protested and formed a partnership with cousins T. Coleman and Pierre S. du Pont to buy the company.
Impressed by the determination of the three young family members, the senior partners agreed to sell. Alfred served as vice president of the new corporation, took charge of black powder manufacture, and sat on the newly formed Executive Committee. Alfred also helped shape DuPont’s research program. In a 1904 dispute over whether the company should base its research efforts in departmental or general laboratories, he headed a subcommittee that recommended DuPont follow both tracks at once. A veteran of the powder yards, Alfred was more of a traditionalist than his enterprising cousin Pierre, and the two were increasingly at odds during the 1900s. Alfred’s unseemly marriage to a divorced cousin further compounded his problems. In 1911 he was stripped of his responsibility for black powder manufacture during a dispute over the modernization of the Brandywine yards. In 1915 T. Coleman du Pont relinquished the presidency and Pierre purchased his shares through the newly formed DuPont Securities Company. Enraged, Alfred joined in a lawsuit filed against DuPont Securities by other family members. The shareholders sided two to one against Alfred, and he resigned from DuPont. Alfred devoted the rest of his life to a variety of business ventures in Delaware and in Florida.