DuPont was founded in 1802 by Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, using capital raised in France and gunpowder machinery imported from France. The company was started at the Eleutherian Mills, on the Brandywine Creek, near Wilmington, Delaware, two years after he and his family left France to escape the French Revolution. It began as a manufacturer of gunpowder, as du Pont noticed that the industry in North America was lagging behind Europe. The company grew quickly, and by the mid-19th century had become the largest supplier of gunpowder to the United States military, supplying half the powder used by the Union Army during the American Civil War. The Eleutherian Mills site is now a museum and a National Historic Landmark.
Expansion: 1902 to 1912 DuPont continued to expand, moving into the production of dynamite and smokeless powder. In 1902, DuPont’s president, Eugene du Pont, died, and the surviving partners sold the company to three great-grandsons of the original founder. Charles Lee Reese was appointed as director and the company began centralizing their research departments. The company subsequently purchased several smaller chemical companies, and in 1912 these actions gave rise to government scrutiny under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The courts declared that the company’s dominance of the explosives business constituted a monopoly and ordered divestment. The court ruling resulted in the creation of the Hercules Powder Company (later Hercules Inc. and now part of Ashland Inc.) and the Atlas Powder Company (purchased by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and now part of AkzoNobel). At the time of divestment, DuPont retained the single base nitrocellulose powders, while Hercules held the double base powders combining nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine. DuPont subsequently developed the Improved Military Rifle (IMR) line of smokeless powders.
In 1910, DuPont published a brochure entitled “Farming with Dynamite”. The pamphlet was instructional, outlining the benefits to using their dynamite products on stumps and various other obstacles that would be easier to remove with dynamite as opposed to other more conventional, inefficient means.
DuPont also established two of the first industrial laboratories in the United States, where they began the work on cellulose chemistry, lacquers and other non-explosive products. DuPont Central Research was established at the DuPont Experimental Station, across the Brandywine Creek from the original powder mills.