1902 Thomas Coleman du Pont
Thomas Coleman du Pont (1863-1930) helped transform DuPont from a family-owned explosives business into a large, centrally managed chemical manufacturer. The great grandson of E.I. du Pont, he grew up in Louisville, Ky., and graduated from MIT in 1885. Coleman began his business career in the Kentucky coal industry, and his skill and energy brought him to the attention of Arthur J. Moxham who made him general manager of a steel firm in Johnstown, Pa.
After buying a Johnstown street railway and making it profitable, Coleman entered into the electric street railway business on a national scale. His career took an unexpected turn in 1902 when cousin Alfred notified him that the family business was slated to be sold to Laflin & Rand, a leading competitor. Coleman agreed to join Alfred and their other cousin Pierre in taking over the firm, and with his proven managerial record, Coleman was the logical choice for president.
Coleman implemented a three-part strategy to reorganize the company: consolidation of the explosives industry through acquisition, innovative research and diversification beyond explosives. By 1905 the three cousins had succeeded in bringing three-fourths of the explosives industry into DuPont. To coordinate this vastly expanded business, Coleman implemented a multi-departmental structure headed by an Executive Committee. The partners also realized that new uses would have to be found for DuPont’s now greatly expanded capacity, so Coleman authorized the establishment of the Experimental Station, a laboratory designed to research and develop non-explosive products. Coleman also took DuPont into its first significant non-explosives chemical endeavor with the 1905 acquisition of International Smokeless Powder & Chemical Company. By 1905 Coleman was preoccupied with interests including real estate and construction of a modern highway system in Delaware. Pierre du Pont became acting president in 1909 and Coleman officially resigned his post in 1915. He represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1921 to 1928.