HENRY FRANCIS du PONT de NEMOURS

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cover new england

This is an extract of my article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: Mid Atlantic

In the travel series View America, this book describes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, points of interest and tourist attractions.

It is not a traditional travel story, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 120 full-sized photos.

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Pierre Dupont

Everyone knows the name of du Pont de Nemours, but where does this family come from ? Pierre Samuel Dupont was born in Paris in 1739, and he became a printer. He was interested in a philosophical movement that was called "Les Physiocrates", who were convinced of the importance of an economy based on agriculture. Now the family name "Dupont" happens to be as common in France as is the name "Smith" in the US.

The French Revolution (1789-1799) threw a spanner in the works, especially considering his political connections. Both Samuel and his youngest son Eleuthère Irenée dreamed of establishing an agricultural colony in Virginia, near Washington, and they sought investors for their project. On January 1, 1800 they arrived in New Jersey. However, this project flopped almost immediately, and the Dupont family moved to Delaware.

Eleuthère Dupont

Du Pont logoIn 1802, Eleuthère Irenée Dupont founded a gunpowder company, since the French chemistry provided better results than the English formula's. The economy, the mines, the railways and the army needed tons of gunpowder, and the company quickly grew to become the largest supplier in the USA. The Dupont's became suppliers to several armies, first the French army, then the English army, and finally the American army... The company went on to develop into the largest chemical company in the US.

Now there was money in abundance, and gradually Eleuthère Irenée bought as much land as he could get his hands on for his first love, land and agriculture. Fortune also brought along a name change, and Dupont became du Pont. While he was at it, he immediately added the title "de Nemours", since his father had represented this city in France, and eventually his full name became Monsieur Eleuthère Irenée du Pont de Nemours...

The Winterthur museum

In 1942, Henry Francis du Pont opened parts of his home and his collection to the public, and played with the idea to have it converted to a museum after his death. In 1951, at the age of 71, he wished to be involved in creating this museum.

He built a more "modest" house of 57 rooms, just off the main house. He also sold large portions of land, so that the present surface of 390 hectares could be better kept under control. He made sure that the land that was sold could never be built on, so that the property's panoramic view would never be limited! In 1959, the property was transferred to the Winterthur Corporation.

the Winterthur museum

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