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Du Pont
Coat of Arms of Samuel Francis Du Pont.svg
Coat of arms of Samuel Francis Du Pont
Ethnicity French American
Current region Delaware and Pennsylvania, U.S.
Information
Earlier spellings du Pont de Nemours
Place of origin France
Notable members Pierre du Pont de Nemours
Éleuthère Irénée du Pont
Samuel Francis Du Pont
Gov. Pierre S. du Pont IV
Connected families
Traditions Roman Catholics
Reformed (see Huguenots)
Episcopalians
Name origin and meaning Du Pont, "Of the bridge"

The Du Pont family is a prominent American family descended from Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817). It has been one of the richest families in the United States since the mid-19th century, when it founded its fortune in the gunpowder business. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it expanded its wealth through the chemical industry and the automotive industry, with substantial interests in the DuPont company, General Motors, and various other corporations.

Several former du Pont family estates are open to the public as museums, gardens or parks, such as Winterthur, Nemours, Eleutherian Mills, Longwood Gardens, Gibraltar, Mt. Cuba, and Goodstay. The family's interest in horticulture was planted in the United States by their immigrant progenitors from France and was also nourished and cultivated in later generations by avid gardeners who married into the family. As early as 1924, the du Ponts were recognized by Charles Sprague Sargent, the famed plantsman and director of Harvard's Arnold Arboretum, as "a family which has made the neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware one of the chief centers of horticulture in the United States."

The family's first American estate, Eleutherian Mills, located at Hagley Museum and Library, was preserved and restored by Louise E. du Pont Crowninshield. She also helped to establish the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1949. In recent years, the family has continued to be known for its association with political and business ventures, as well as philanthropic causes.

As of 2016, the family fortune was estimated at $14.3 billion, spread across more than 3,500 living relatives.

History

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours was the son of a Parisian watchmaker and a member of a Burgundian Huguenot family, and descendant of a minor noble family on his mother's side. He and his sons, Victor Marie du Pont and Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, migrated from France in 1800 to the United States and used the resources of their Huguenot heritage to found one of the most prominent of American families, and one of its most successful corporations, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, initially established by Éleuthère Irénée as a gunpowder manufacturer.

In 1802, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont established a gunpowder mill on the banks of the Brandywine River near Wilmington, Delaware. The location (named Eleutherian Mills) provided all the necessities to operate the mill: a water flow sufficient to power it, available timber (mainly willow trees) that could be turned into charcoal fine enough to use for gunpowder, and close proximity to the Delaware River to allow for shipments of sulfur and saltpeter, the other ingredients used in the manufacture of gunpowder. There were also nearby stone quarries to provide needed building materials.

Over time, the Du Pont company grew into the largest black powder manufacturing firm in the world. The family remained in control of the company up through the 1960s, and family trusts still own a substantial amount of the company's stock. This and other companies run by the du Pont family employed up to 10 percent of Delaware's population at its peak. During the 19th century, the Du Pont family maintained their family wealth by carefully arranged marriages between cousins which, at the time, was the norm for many families.

The family played a large part in politics during the 18th and 19th centuries and assisted in negotiations for the Treaty of Paris and the Louisiana purchase. Both T. Coleman and Henry A. du Pont served as U.S. senators, and Pierre S. du Pont, IV served as Governor of Delaware.

The family has also played an important role in historic preservation and land conservation, including helping to found the National Trust for Historic Preservation, preserving President James Madison's home Montpelier, and establishing numerous museums such as Winterthur and the Delaware Museum of Natural History. The Brandywine Conservancy founded by family member George Alexis Weymouth owns around 2,350 acres (951 ha) of land in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and owns permanent conservation easements on an additional 37,000 acres (14,973 ha). In 2013, Lammot du Pont Copeland's Mt. Cuba Center contributed over $20 million to purchase land for donation to the federal government to form the First State National Historical Park.

Beginning with William du Pont, Jr. and his sister, Marion duPont Scott, many members of the Du Pont family have been involved in the breeding and racing of thoroughbred racehorses, as well as establishing racehorse venues and training tracks, including Delaware Park and Fair Hill, MD.

Spelling of the name

The stylings "du Pont" and "Du Pont" are most prevalent for the family name in published, copy-edited writings. In many publications, the styling is "du Pont" when quoting an individual's full name and "Du Pont" when speaking of the family as a whole, although some individual Du Ponts have chosen to style it differently, such as Samuel Francis Du Pont. The name of the chemical company founded by the family is today styled solid as "DuPont" in the short form (but the long form is styled as E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company); the stylings "Du Pont" and "DuPont" for the company's short name coexisted in the 20th century, but the latter is now consistently used in the company's branding. The solid styling "duPont" is less common, but the Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children uses it, as does the duPont Registry. William S. Dutton's mid-20th-century history of the family business uses "Du Pont" both for the family mentioned generally and for the company's short name but "du Pont" in an individual's full name (for example, "Éleuthère Irénée du Pont", "Henry du Pont", "Alfred Victor du Pont", "Lammot du Pont"); for example, "when he [Lammot du Pont] went to General Henry du Pont with the proposal that the Du Ponts manufacture dynamite, he was answered by a blunt and unqualified 'No!'") The first page of Dutton's monograph contains the following footnote about the surname's styling (the mention of "Samuel Dupont" here refers to the 18th-century Parisian watchmaker, not to his 19th-century descendant): "Samuel Dupont used this form of the family name [i.e., Dupont], but beginning in 1763 his son signed himself 'Du Pont.' Later, he added 'de Nemours' to his name to prevent confusion with two other Duponts in the French Chamber of Deputies. Du Pont, in English, is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. In French, neither syllable is accented."

French orthographic tradition for the styling of de (or its inflected forms) as a surname particle, in either nobiliary or non-nobiliary form, is discussed at Nobiliary particle § France. In non-nobiliary form, the prevalent French styling of the name is "Dupont", and thus the choice by Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours to begin styling himself so during the monarchical era hints at social ambition. But the influence of French orthography and prerevolutionary class structure on how English orthography styles surnames today is outweighed by how families and individuals so named style themselves.

Alphabetical list of selected descendants of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours

Below is an alphabetical listing of selected notable members of the family.

  • Alexis Felix du Pont (1879–1948)
  • Alexis Felix du Pont, Jr. (1905–1996)
  • Alfred Irénée du Pont (1864–1935)
  • Alfred Victor Philadelphe du Pont (1798–1856)
  • Amy Elizabeth du Pont (1875–1962)
  • Benjamin Franklin du Pont (born 1964)
  • Charles Irénée du Pont (1797–1869)
  • Charles Irénée du Pont, II (1859–1902)
  • Coleman Dupont Donaldson (1922–2009)
  • Éleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771–1834)
  • Ethel du Pont (1916–1965)
  • Éleuthère Paul du Pont (1887–1950)
  • Francis Gurney du Pont (1850–1904)
  • Francis Irénée du Pont (1873–1942)
  • George Alexis Weymouth (1936-2016)
  • Henry du Pont (1812–1889)
  • Henry Algernon du Pont (1838–1926)
  • Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969)
  • Jane du Pont Lunger (1914–2001)
  • John Éleuthère du Pont (1938–2010)
  • Irénée du Pont (1876–1963)
  • Lammot du Pont I (1831–1884)
  • Lammot du Pont II (1880–1952)
  • Marion duPont (1894–1983)
  • Louise Evelina du Pont Crowninshield (1877–1958)
  • Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817)
  • Pierre S. du Pont (1870–1954)
  • Pierre S. "Pete" du Pont, IV (1935–2021)
  • Richard Chichester du Pont (1911–1943)
  • Samuel Francis Du Pont (1803–1865)
  • Thomas Coleman du Pont (1863–1930)
  • Victor Marie du Pont (1767–1827)
  • Victorine du Pont Homsey (1900–1998)
  • William du Pont Jr. (1896–1965)

Family tree

The following list is not a complete genealogy, but is ordered by descent to show the familial relationships between members of the du Pont family throughout history.