1919 William C. Spruance
William C. Spruance (1873-1935) was an engineer and executive whose skillful management helped DuPont make its transition from explosives manufacturing to diversified chemical production in the early 20th century. He joined DuPont in 1903 as a consulting engineer in the High Explosives Operating Department and headed that department's new Light, Heat and Power Division for several years before becoming Director of the Explosives Manufacturing Division.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the U.S. Army urgently sought Spruance's expertise in munitions production. He took a leave of absence from DuPont to serve as Assistant to the Army Chief of Ordnance and also as Chairman of the Army's Commodity Commission on Powder and Explosives. Colonel Spruance received the Distinguished Service Medal for his wartime contributions.
When Spruance returned to DuPont in 1919, he was appointed to the company's Board of Directors as well as to the Executive Committee as Vice President in charge of production. Spruance was among several executives who helped reorganize DuPont in 1921 to allow greater day-to-day flexibility for manufacturing divisions while freeing the Executive Committee to consider long-term, company-wide issues. Spruance encouraged diversification of DuPont's products by supporting its fledgling rayon business in the early 1920s, and by visiting France in 1923 to assess the potential for cellophane manufacturing in the United States. Later that year he led negotiations to acquire the U.S. rights for cellophane production and helped form the DuPont Cellophane Company. Spruance served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of both the DuPont Cellophane Company and the DuPont Fibersilk (later, Rayon) Company, two cornerstones of DuPont's diversification effort. The company's Spruance plant, opened in 1929 at Richmond, Va., was named in his honor.