Thursday, June 2, 2011

History of Nemours And The du Ponts. Part 15.

Looks like a lot. It was. But XKT and Rosie are Power-Tourers. On our way North, we toured Longwood Gardens and Winterthur in one day. That is impressive. We hit Nemours on the way South going home.
Here's the history of the du Pont family, from the Visitor Center at Nemours: Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, 1739-1817, was the soon of a Paris watchmaker, but despite those somewhat humble beginnings, he became one of the most influential men of his time, laying the foundation upon which the du Pont family would build its legacy. Educated by his mother, against the wishes of his father, Pierre Samuel made his name and reputation by writings on the political economy, thereby attracting the interest of the French court. His influence reached its height in 1803, when, at the request of Thomas Jefferson, he played a central role in the negotiation of one of the most important deals in American history: the Louisiana Purchase. Pierre Samuel du Pont purchased his beloved estate, Bois des Fosses, near the French town of Nemours in 1771. More than a century later, Pierre Samuel's great-grandson Alfred I. du Pont would still feel a deep connection to his roots in France - a connection reflected in his construction in Wilmington of the house he called Nemours, named in honor of the family's origins. Alfred Irenee du Pont 1864-1935: "It has been my firm conviction throughout life that it is the duty of everyone in the world to do what is within his power to alleviate human suffering." With these words, Alfred added another dimension to the legacy of the du Pont family, creating the Alfred I. du Pont Testamentary Trust, an organization dedicated to the treatment and care of disabled and ill children. Since its establishment, the trust, working with The Nemours Foundation, has worked to improve the lives of children. The Nemours Foundation, beneficiary of the Alfred I du Pont Testamentary Trust, owns and operates Nemours Mansion and Gardens and the Alfred I du Pont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, as well as other children's clinics in Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The legacy of Alfred I du Pont lives on in The Nemours Foundation's work to alleviate the suffering of children and give them a chance for a better future. Eleuthere Irenee du Pont (1771-1834), Pierre Samuel's second son, determined the future of the du Pont family and company. In 1800, a year after the family settled in America, E.I., an avid hunter and skilled gunpowder maker, quickly recognized the inferior quality of the local product and saw a promising business opportunity. By 1802, he had incorporated E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. and purchased a large tract of land on the Brandywine River. Under three decades of E.I.'s leadership, the Brandywine mills became the most extensive in the world. As a young man, Eleuthere Irenee apprenticed with the famous French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, from whom he learned how to make gunpowder. In 1801, E.I. returned to France to recruit investors for his new powder-making enterprise and to study French techniques. E.I. was familiar with the most up-to-date technology and built the mills with the safety of the workers in mind, as well as profitability and productivity. His great-grandson, Alfred, inherited not only E.I.'s talent for powder making and technological innovation, but also his concern for safety. Alfred Victor Philadelphe du Pont, 1798-1856, was Eleuthere Irenee's eldest son and successor. Like his father, he was keenly interested in chemistry and excelled in his studies. In 1818, Alfred Victor left college to apprentice in the mills. He moved up through the ranks and, in 1837, became president of the du Pont Company. But Alfred Victor preferred the peace and quiet of his laboratory to the responsibility of running the world's largest powder mill, and the business began to wither under his leadership. When he resigned in 1850, the company was badly disorganized. During the 1840's, Alfred Victor expanded the mills and built DuPont's first office building. Alfred Victor boosted worker's benefits, extending the pension system to widows and children of those killed in accidents and granting workers free health care. Not until Alfred, in the early 20th century, would a manager of the mills again have such a close relationship with and understanding of the workers. Alfred once said: "We have a right to expose ourselves without need if it is our pleasure to do so, but we are bound to protect the lives of our people to the best of our abilities." Eluthere Irenee du Pont II, 1829-1877, worked in the mills for more than three decades, though he never loved them as his eldest son, Alfred Irenee would. A skilled mechanic, E.I. II was responsible for numerous improvements to the mills. Despite a trouble marriage and poor health, he was an important figure in his son's life. Alfred always remembered his father's last words to him: "Son, I am not going to be with you long. You must get an education and then come back, take off your coat and go ask your uncle Henry for a job. I think the old company may need you sometime. I just have that feeling." In 1858, E.I. II married Charlotte Shepard Henderson, a southern belle with whom he had five children. Charlotte's emotional health gradually deteriorated and she spent more time away from Brandywine than with her family. Alfred, however, would always remember her stories of exotic travels and her love for Florida. In 1876, E.I. II took Alfred to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Alfred shared his father's interest in technology, and together they marveled at the many new inventions on display. Upon returning home, E.I. II bought his son a steam engine, which Alfred promptly managed to take apart and put back together, anticipating his future technological interests. Alfred Irenee du Pont was born in the final days of the Civil War, and the deep divisions that had devastated the nation were also fracturing his family. Alfred's mother, Charlotte, was from the South, and was sympathetic to the Confederate cause. The du Ponts, however, were staunchly pro-Union, and the rift between Charlotte and the elder du Ponts was never fully repaired. Despite these tensions, Alfred's childhood was idyllic, surrounded as he was by siblings, cousins, and many of the mill workers' children. Some of Alfred's happiest childhood memories involved bucolic days on the banks of the Brandywine playing and "jousting" with family members and friends, many of whom were children of mill workers. Charlotte died on August 10, at age 42, and Eleuthere Irenee succumbed to tuberculosis just 29 days later. He was 48. E.I. II's brothers and their families, taking responsibility for the five children, decided to place them among various relatives. The children, however, aged 9 to 17 had other ideas. Refusing to leave their home, Swamp Hall, and be separated, they armed themselves with shotguns, a rolling pin, a bow and arrow, and an ax and held off the elders until they agreed to make arrangements to let them remain in the house together. Alfred and his four siblings adored Swamp Hall, the family residence, and couldn't bear the thought of leaving when their parents died. Thanks to the children's bold challenge to the family elders, they remained in their childhood home. Alfred lived on at Swamp Hall throughout his first marriage, and his four children grew up there. In 1884, Alfred left MIT after attending classes there for two years and returned to Brandywine to apprentice in the mills. During his early years in the family business, Alfred enjoyed the active social life of the extended du Pont family. A talented and enthusiastic musician from childhood days, Alfred organized the Tankopanicum Musical Club, an orchestra that performed at many community dances. Besides serving as bandleader, Alfred also wrote music and played a number of instruments. Although Alfred doubtless missed MIT and Boston, where he and his cousin Coleman had enjoyed the excitement of the city's nightlife, back on the Brandywine Alfred grew closer to his cousin Pierre, with whom he played in the Tankopanicum Musical Club; the two often discussed their plans and hopes for the future. Alfred was a talented violinist and a gifted composer. Not only were many of his pieces published, but one was performed by his friend and fellow composer John Philip Sousa; another of his works was performed at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington in 1907. After Eugene du Pont, president of the DuPont Company, died suddenly in January 1902, leaving no clear successor, the company board voted to sell DuPont to its largest rival, the Laflin & Rand Powder Company. Alfred, who had missed the board meeting where the decision was made, learned of the plan and contacted his cousins Pierre and Coleman. Together, the three orchestrated an audacious takeover of the company. For the very modest sum of $2100 in cash, the three cousins leveraged their purchase of DuPont, keeping the business in the family and assuming ownership of one of the richest companies in America. Today, DuPont is an international giant operating in more than 50 countries. Although the three cousins had only an imprecise idea of the actual value of the company they were purchasing, it was worth well more than the $12 million price tag and was poised for even greater success. Before the year was over, DuPont had purchased Laflin & Rand, thus becoming by far the largest explosives maker in the U.S. In 1887, Alfred married his cousin Bessie Gardner, the mother of his first four children. The fall of 1904 was a lonely one for Alfred; his marriage was crumbling and Bessie and the children were visiting Brussels. To escape the solitude of Swamp Hall, Alfred went on a hunting trip to Virginia. Minutes into his first day in the field, a fellow hunter accidentally shot him in the left eye. Alfred remained in the hospital for over a month, but ultimately lost the eye. The accident, however, did nothing to diminish Alfred's love of hunting, and he went on to spend many happy hours following the sport. There had been difficulties in Alfred and Bessie's marriage for quite some time, and during his convalescence following the hunting accident the strain became unbearable. Early in 1905, Alfred announced that he was divorcing Bessie and leaving Swamp Hall. Alfred had married Alicia Bradford in 1907, and loved showering her with gifts. By far the greatest of these was the spectacular new home that he built for her on a 3000-acre plot of land. He hired Carrere and Hastings, a prestigious New York architectural firm, to design the mansion in the late-18th-century French style that Alicia adored. Alfred named the estate Nemours, after the town of his family's origin. While looking to the past and his ancestors for inspiration, Alfred also endured that his new home was thoroughly modern by incorporating the latest technology and many of his own inventions. Carrere and Hastings, whose many well-known buildings include the New York Public Library, modeled Nemours after Marie Antoinette's Petit Trainon at Versailles. It surpassed anything that had been seen before in Delaware, and Town & Country hailed Nemours as "one of the purest examples of French architecture to be found in this country. The construction of Nemours allowed Alfred to put his love for invention and technology to excellent use. Among other conveniences on the estate was a machine to carbonate and bottle water, an ice-making plant, a waterwheel Alfred designed, and a mechanical entry gate that he patented. Throughout his marriage to Alicia, Alfred's relationship with his family became more contentious, as did his position in the DuPont Company. In 1911, he was removed as general manager of the powder yards, and made vice president of the organization's finance committee, a position that held little appeal for him. Four years later, he became enraged when he discovered that Coleman and Pierre had secretly arranged the sale of a large block of Coleman's stock to officers of the company. Disheartened, and always believing that the stock should have been sold back to the company, Alfred resigned in 1916, leaving the family business for good. It was in large part the fact that Coleman and Pierre had made the decision to sell Coleman's stock behind Alfred's back that so angered him and led him to file suit against DuPont to stop the sale. The case was held up in the courts for years during World War I, and in the end Alfred's position was overwhelmingly rejected by a stockholders' votes. One year after the sudden death of his second wife, Alicia, Alfred married Jessie Dew Ball in a quiet ceremony in Los Angeles. Jess, 20 years his junior, had been a teenager when Alfred had first become acquainted with the Ball family more than two decades earlier. He and the Balls had remained close over the years, and Alfred and Jessie corresponded sporadically. The Balls had moved to California, but in 1920 Jessie, now in her mid-30's returned East for an extended period, and her relationship with Alfred grew stronger. Jessie was 36 when she married Alfred. Always precocious and hardworking, as a teenager she had helped her father in his law practice, which may have helped develop her sense for business. She had moved to California in 1908, where she became the assistant principal of an elementary school. She also began her own career as a philanthropist with numerous small donations to charitable causes. Alfred had been intrigued by Florida since childhood, when his mother would tell him stories of her visits there. After their marriage, Alfred and Jessie traveled to Florida several times on their yacht, Nenemoosha, and in 1925 decided to settle in Jacksonville. They built a mansion, Epping Forest, on the St. Johns River, and Alfred immediately began to look for business opportunities. He eventually became involved in a number of successful enterprises, but his goal was more than merely making money. He was also deeply committed to helping Florida's residents establish sound financial institutions and a modern industrial base. In 1922, Alfred had commissioned the first Nenemoosha, named for the Iroquois word for sweetheart. Although he had been actively involved in all stages of its construction, Alfred had never been satisfied with his first yacht. In 1925 he commissioned a bigger and better Nenemoosha, soliciting help from Thomas Hastings, one of the architects of Nemours. While Jessie loved Nemours, she knew it had been built for Alicia. In Jacksonville, she was determined to make a place of her own. She designed their Florida home- a sprawling, pink stucco mansion- in the Spanish Revival style, and named it Epping Forest after the Virginia plantation of Mary Ball, the mother of George Washington. Alfred's estrangement from his family, which had begun at the time of his divorce and intensified throughout his marriage to Alicia, caused him to lose contact not only with some of his cousins, but also with the four children from his first marriage. From the moment he and Jessie were married, however, she was determined to bring the family together again. Patient and persistent, she slowly began the process of reconciling him with his children. In 1927, her patience was rewarded when the family, which then included three generations of du Ponts, spent its first Christmas together in more than 20 years. A childhood swimming accident had left Alfred with a degenerative hearing disorder, and as the years passed his hearing loss increased. Unlike his first two wives, who belittled or ignored his condition, Jessie ceaselessly tried to find a cure and, when it became clear that was impossible, she became his ears. She accompanied him to business meetings and became his most trusted adviser. Though Alfred would always suffer the frustrations of hearing loss, Jessie's undying support and determination greatly softened the blow of his affliction. For years, Alfred pondered the question of how to divide his estate in a way that would provide for those he loved while also allowing him to leave the bulk of his fortune to charity. In 1932, he revised his will, establishing the Alfred I. du Pont Testamentary Trust to fulfill his philanthropic wishes. He left Epping Florest, as well as a life interest in Nemours, to Jessie, but made it clear that he wanted the Delaware estate eventually to be left for the "pleasure and benefit of the public." The generosity that characterized the man would live on in his legacy. In 1932, Jessie opened the gardens at Nemours to the public for the first time to raise money for the restoration of Robert E. Lee's Virgina birthplace, Stratford Hall. The fund-raiser proved to be a great success, and the gardens were opened again in 1933 for the same cause. Alfred's health began to decline in the 1930's. In early 1934 he had a heart attack, from which he never fully recovered. Realizing that his life was drawing to a close, he took pains to ensure that his business and personal affairs were in order, carefully working out the details of his will and allowing Jessie and her brother Ed slowly to take over the reins of the business. He remained active until the end, however, working right up until another heart attack on April 24. He died at Epping Forest on April 29 at the age of 70. Although Alfred had made a life in Florida, at heart he always remained a boy from the Brandywine and wanted to be buried near his home; not, however, in the du Pont family graveyard but at his real home, Nemours. So he was laid to rest under a 210-foot carillon tower on the grounds of the estate. And I don't have a picture of the bell tower, since the view was from the bus and the bus stopped in front of a huge bush and I couldn't shoot it. In 1940, the Alfred I. du Pont Institute for the care and treatment of "crippled children" opened on the grounds of Nemours. Jessie put a great deal of thought into the design of the 60-bed pediatric orthopedic hospital and assembled a world-class staff of specialists. Her devotion to Alfred's long-held wish to treat disabled children was steadfast, and news of the hospital staff's accomplishments quickly spread. In 1984, the Alfred I. du Pont Institute moved into an 800,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, and over the next decade expanded its commitment to children by becoming a full-service children's hospital: the Alfred I du Pont Hospital for Children. The expanded institution was home to new medical and surgical capabilities, including programs in cardiac surgery, oncology, neonatology, and organ and bone marrow transplants. Each year, The Nemours foundation, one of the nation's largest children's health care systems, improves the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. The Nemours facilities are on the cutting edge of health care for children through innovative patient care, as well as educational, research, and advocacy programs. As Nemours enters the 21st century pursuing its vision for the future of children's health care, which it calls "Freedom from Disabling Conditions," the institute remains steadfast in its effort to fulfill Alfred I. du Pont's wish to alleviate the suffering of children.

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