1917 Leonard A. Yerkes

Leonard A. Yerkes (1881-1967) helped develop some of the most important DuPont products of the early 20th century. The University of Pennsylvania-trained chemist joined DuPont’s Development Department in 1917 and became assistant director two years later. Show more

In 1919 Yerkes went to France to investigate artificial silk production and the next year, after DuPont purchased the technology, became president of the newly formed DuPont Fibersilk Company. In 1924, after the acquisition of production rights to cellophane, Yerkes established the DuPont Cellophane Company to handle the new product. In 1936 these two companies were merged to form the Rayon Department with Yerkes as general manager.


Yerkes was concerned with more than production. In 1924 he established the technical division for rayon and cellophane research. He also proved to be a shrewd marketer. When cellophane enjoyed only lukewarm sales after its debut, Yerkes adopted a price-cutting strategy that effectively enticed consumers away from other wrapping products. Yerkes remained general manager of the Rayon Department until his retirement in 1945. That same year the rayon and cellophane facilities in Buffalo, N.Y., were renamed the Yerkes Works. He served on DuPont’s Board of Directors until 1952.