Du Pont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain

Du Pont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain

Gerard Colby

Language: English

Pages: 1141

ISBN: 0818403527

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Award-winning journalist Gerard Colby takes readers behind the scenes of one of America’s most powerful and enduring corporations; now with a new introduction by the author

Their name is everywhere. America’s wealthiest industrial family by far and a vast financial power, the Du Ponts, from their mansions in northern Delaware’s “Chateau Country,” have long been leaders in the relentless drive to turn the United States into a plutocracy.

The Du Pont story in this country began in 1800. Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, official keeper of the gunpowder of corrupt King Louis XVI, fled from revolutionary France to America. Two years later he founded the gunpowder company that called itself “America’s armorer”—and that President Wilson’s secretary of war called a “species of outlaws” for war profiteering. Du Pont Dynasty introduces many colorful characters, including “General” Henry du Pont, who profited from the Civil War to build the Gunpowder Trust, one of the first corporate monopolies; Alfred I. du Pont, betrayed by his cousins and pushed out of the organization, landing in social exile as the powerful “Count of Florida”; the three brothers who expanded Du Pont’s control to General Motors, fought autoworkers’ right to unionize, and then launched a family tradition of waging campaigns to destroy FDR’s New Deal regulatory reforms; Governor Pete du Pont, who ran for president and backed Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Republican Revolution; and Irving S. Shapiro, the architect of Du Pont’s ongoing campaign to undermine effective environmental regulation.

From plans to force President Roosevelt from office, to munitions sales to warlords and the rising Nazis, to Freon’s damage to the planet’s life-protecting ozone layer, to the manufacture of deadly gases and the covered-up poisoning of Du Pont workers, to the reputation the company earned for being the worst polluter of America’s air and water, the Du Pont reign has been dappled with scandal for centuries.

Culled from years of painstaking research and interviews, this fully documented book unfolds like a novel. Laying bare the bitter feuds, power plays, smokescreens, and careless unaccountability that erupted in murder, Colby pulls back the curtain on a dynasty whose formidable influence continues to this day.

Suppressed in myriad ways and the subject of the author’s landmark federal lawsuit, Du Pont Dynasty is an essential history of the United States.





















estate one of the horticulture wonders of the world. Within this splendor Pierre contentedly settled in a 30-room mansion at the center of the estate, staffed by over one hundred servants who carefully looked after the bald-headed bachelor. One of these servants was a dark, handsome lad named Lewis Mason. Lewis had come to work for Pierre as a young boy of 17. Faithful, gentle, and always humble, Lewis was particularly close to Pierre, so close that rumors began to fly along the Brandywine. The

seem strange in their force of conviction when they are considered against the more burning questions of those days; they serve to demonstrate the limitations the “liberal” Du Ponts imposed on themselves through their extreme caution in making public statements in these early years of the Depression, and their unwillingness to commit themselves ideologically to either the Hoover camp (which they saw as feeble) or the Swope camp (which they mildly distrusted). For Pierre, prohibition represented

Light Company, GWDC, and Du Pont, Delaware’s largest employer, could still claim, “I don’t believe there is Du Pont family control of Delaware”31—even as he was enriched every time a Delawarean used the phone, read the newspaper, or turned on a light. 5. DU PONTS AT THE CROSSROADS The Du Ponts reached their zenith of prestige and political power in the Twenties. But as happened with most other American plutocrats, their golden age ended unexpectedly with the crash and the ensuing years of the

country were taking the hint. “Du Pont for President!” shouted the New Jersey host of a $75-a-head cocktail party, and Pete’s dodging of controversial issues such as abortion and right-to-work and his chameleon pragmatism had served him well in all surroundings. “Pete strikes me as a conservative,” said Texas GOP chairman Chet Upham. “He comes across to Texans extremely well. I think he’d do real well.” Wisconsin GOP leader Paul Swain happily called him a “moderate Republican, rather than being a

an investment for his grandchildren, not control. He would like to buy 35 percent for cash and a standstill agreement. But the Conoco directors wanted him to sign the agreement for beyond the 15-year period he had agreed to. By now, Bronfman was wary. Flom had been getting tenacious with the Bronfmans that afternoon while, they later claimed, misleading them about how well the Dome negotiations were going. As late as 3:30 P.M. Flom had allegedly told Charles that “nothing is going to happen with

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