1902 Hamilton M. Barksdale
Hamilton M. Barksdale (1862-1918) played a key role in DuPont’s reorganization between 1902 and World War I. He began his career as a civil engineer for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and in 1895 became President of the Repauno Chemical Company. When Alfred, Pierre, and Coleman du Pont took over the company in 1902, Barksdale was among the handful of young executives they hired for knowledge of modern business management principles.
Barksdale was one of seven men named to the Executive Committee, which was established in February 1903. Barksdale also took over the High Explosives Department, which included research operations at Repauno’s Eastern Laboratory. In 1911, as part of an effort to centralize DuPont’s management, Pierre made Barksdale general manager with responsibility for all company operations. Decentralization came three years later, however, and Barksdale became one of eight vice presidents. He remained on the Executive Committee only for a brief time afterward. In the last four years of his life, however, Barksdale remained a trusted advisor to DuPont management.
Barksdale was both a custodian of DuPont tradition and an agent of change. Of all the managers recruited in 1902, Barksdale was the staunchest advocate of the new, “systems” approach to organization, with its emphasis on rationality and efficiency rather than tradition. Yet earlier that year, Barksdale had turned down an offer to head up the company that would have been created had the du Ponts sold out to Laflin & Rand. Barksdale insisted that the business should remain under du Pont leadership and cleared the way for the in-family purchase that kept the century-old company intact.