Interview with Irénée du Pont, Jr., 2014 August 15

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  • du Pont's early life and family
    Partial Transcript: "I was fortunately born into a family that had parents who remained in love through out the rest of their lives..." "...I surprised them in 1920."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about his family life as a child. He describes being the youngest child and only boy in a family with nine children. He talks about his memories of DuPont in the 1920s and 1930s and his experiences as a student at Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Delaware. He talks about his memories of the development of Neoprene. DuPont talks about his brother in law, Crawford H. Greenwalt and the circumstances that led to his marrying DuPont's sister.
    Keywords: Bill Heart; Crawford H. Greenwalt; du Pont; Duncan Bolton; Eleanor McCormick; Elmer Bolton; family; Glenn Brown; Neoprene; Nylon; Tower Hill School; Wallace Carruthers; Wilmington, Delaware
  • du Pont's college education and early working years
    Partial Transcript: "I had heard that chemistry was the thing to study..." In our class where there were fourteen boys graduating, four of us went to Dartmouth..." "I graduated from MIT in February of 1943..."
    Synopsis: du Pont discusses his college years. He says that there was a pipeline from Tower Hill School to Dartmouth College, which he took advantage of. He says that after starting at Dartmouth, he transferred to MIT.
    Keywords: Charlestown, West Virginia; college; Dartmouth College; DuPont; Farmingdale, New York; Glenn Brown; Hannover, New Hampshire; Long Island, New York; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Ranger Aircraft Engines; Tower Hill School
  • du Pont in the Second World War
    Partial Transcript: "Well, I think my father was delighted that I went to his college and pledged his fraternity, that was the only thing I ever did that I think pleased him, nevertheless he was very tolerant." "It was interesting, I really enjoyed every minute of it."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about his father's reactions to his educational choices. He also talks about his work as a test engineer during the Second World War. He says that his job at Ranger Aircraft was to make sure parts met military specifications. He says that he enjoyed his work at Ranger but describes himself as not the brightest engineer there or later when he joined DuPont. He says that after the war he went on vacation to Florida and on returning was invited to work at DuPont by Matthew Wyeth. He says that he got in not due to talent but his name.
    Keywords: Andrew Wyeth; DuPont; Fairchild Engine & Aircraft Corporation; Fairchild Engine Division; Matthew Wyeth; Ranger Aircraft Engines; test engineering
  • du Pont's insight on the atomic bomb project
    Partial Transcript: "...this must have been the 6th of August, I was running a single cylinder engine..." "I didn't know what an atomic bomb was and I certainly didn't know where Hiroshima was, but that was my first introduction to that part of history."
    Synopsis: du Pont describes his reaction to the news of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. He talks about Thanksgiving of 1942, when his father said that Crawford Greenwalt was not at the table because he was making a bomb so powerful it would end the war. He says that his father got in trouble with his brother, Pierre for mentioning it. He talks about how he did not have much contact with the DuPont company during the war years.
    Keywords: 1942; atomic bomb; Crawford Greenwalt; du Pont; DuPont; Hiroshima, Japan; Irenee du Pont Sr.; Manhattan Project; Pierre du Pont; World War Two
  • Working at various DuPont plants
    Partial Transcript: "Barbie and I enjoyed those three years in Parkersburg, everything was going well..." "When I got to DuPont it was an entirely different environment because at Ranger there was a great deal of suspicion..." "At DuPont everybody seemed to be supportive... they worked as a team..." "I just enjoyed what the boss said to do... each job was different..."
    Synopsis: DuPont talks about his early days of working for DuPont. He says they are fond memories. He says that the work environment at DuPont was better than the one at Ranger because the staff worked together. He says that cooperation with a stranger across departments never would have happened at Ranger. He then talks about his shift to management at the DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
    Keywords: Al Webber; DuPont; management; manufacturing plants; Nylon; Parkersburg, West Virginia; Ranger Aircraft Engine
  • Working in Belle, West Virgina
    Partial Transcript: "Well, I went from Parkersburg to Belle..." "They had a major injury... that was a wake up call..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about his experiences working at the DuPont plant in Belle, West Virginia. He describes his time at that plant as having been more difficult than his time at Parkersburg due to the age of the plant. He details the various jobs that he held there. He says that after working in Belle he got transferred to Wilmington, Delaware.
    Keywords: ammonia; Belle, West Virgina; Charleston, West Virginia; Chestnut Run; DuPont; hazards; injuries; Nylon; Parkersburg, West Virginia; Wilmington, Delaware
  • Moving to Wilmington, Delaware
    Partial Transcript: "Alright, so I was moved from the Belle works to the planning division of the polychemicals department in Wilmington." "That was an education in something new..." "I got out of the planning division and they accepted me as a sales correspondent in the Teflon section of sales..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about moving from DuPont factories in West Virginia to DuPont facilities in Wilmington, Delaware. He says that he worked in planning and in sales for Teflon. He says that he was moved to Chestnut Run to work as a consumer educator in the field of plastics. He talks about how the lab made guns with plastic parts and cites that as one of the labs most impressive inventions.
    Keywords: Belle, West Virginia; Chestnut Run; Delrin; DuPont; Lucite; Nylon; plastics; Remington Arms; Teflon; Wilmington, Delaware
  • Bill Gore and Teflon
    Partial Transcript: "He would come out to Chestnut Run and have us make special pieces..." Finally, he left the company and formed the W.L. Gore Company..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about having known Bill Gore. Gore was and inventor who formerly worked for DuPont and discovered many new applications for Teflon. He eventually formed his own company. He says that type of thing was not seen as a problem by DuPont because people who left to start their own companies often became DuPont customers as was the case with Gore.
    Keywords: Bill Gore; Chestnut Run; DuPont; Teflon; W.L. Gore Company
  • Working in DuPont's film department
    Partial Transcript: "They made a job for me as assistant director of manufacture of Tedlar." "Tedlar is a close cousin to Teflon."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about working at DuPont's film division making a Tedlar, a substitute for paint. He says that its is not used very often anymore due to its cost, vinyl siding is cheaper and fulfills the same purpose.
    Keywords: Tedlar; vinyl siding
  • Career on DuPont's executive committee
    Partial Transcript: "I was always surprised when I would get an advancement and it was always undeserved... I don't know why they went that far and finally... I got on to the executive committee of the corporation."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about joining DuPont's executive committee after having held many jobs within the company. He says that he felt he had no necessary credentials for the position. He talks about how Irving Shapiro changed the executive committee and invited him to retire. He says that he felt the committee lasted too long and had outlived its usefulness. He says that the committee encouraged an unneeded level of bureaucracy at the company. He says that Shapiro's leadership did not feel unusual to him and that as he remembers, the last du Pont who took a serious interest in executive leadership was his uncle, Pierre du Pont.
    Keywords: bureaucracy; Christiana Securities; DuPont; Irving Shapiro; Lammot duPont Copeland; management; titanium dioxide; trusts
  • Relationship with Pierre du Pont
    Partial Transcript: "Uncle Pierre... I was 34 when he died... In 1954 when I was 34, I had just come to Wilmington..." "He's probably the most misunderstood man that's ever been successful... he was very modest..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about his relationship with his uncle, Pierre du Pont. He says his uncle was very modest and one of the most misunderstood successful people of the twentieth century. He says that Pierre liked people but was shy. Discusses the expansion of DuPont Company during World War One. He says that he thinks his uncle was involved in the Manhattan Project. He says that his adult relationship with his uncle was going with his father to visit him on Sunday mornings during the last year he was alive.
    Keywords: Manhattan Project; Pierre du Pont; Wilmington, Delaware; World War One; World War Two
  • du Pont family Fourth of July celebrations
    Partial Transcript: "They considered themselves factory hands..." "Uncle Pierre on the Fourth of July... my father would set off fireworks..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about the personalities of his father and uncles. He recalls one Fourth of July party where they personally lit their own fireworks. He describes the ballistic properties of fireworks in the 1920s and 1930s.
    Keywords: DuPont; fireworks; Fourth of July; Granouge; Irenee du Pont; Pierre du Pont; Roman Candles; World War One
  • du Pont family history with a focus on Pierre du Pont
    Partial Transcript: "Of the family of eleven births of Lammot and Mary du Pont, there were seven who produced children..." "Basically, he was a scientist..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about his family history with a focus on his uncle, Pierre du Pont. He talks about the role of his father, Irenee Sr. and uncle Pierre in the DuPont company. He says that first and foremost his uncle was a scientist who did engineering work for fun.
    Keywords: clocks; engineering; Irenee du Pont Sr.; Lammot du Pont Jr.; Lammot du Pont Sr.; Longwood; Mary du Pont; Pierre du Pont
  • Dealing with opposition and criticism of DuPont from Ralph Nader and others
    Partial Transcript: "There was a lot of business issues to be discussed at these new products were being launched..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about being on the executive committee at DuPont during the economically and socially unrested time of the 1960s. He talks about accusations that DuPont controlled Delaware at that time. He talks about dealing with Nader's Raider's in the 1960s.
    Keywords: Behind the Nylon Curtain; Kevlar; Nader's Raiders; new venture era; Ralph Nader; social unrest; the 1960s
  • Story about an honorary dinner in New York City
    Partial Transcript: "Well, the quickest way to get to New York City in the middle of the afternoon is to drive."
    Synopsis: du Pont tells a story about a time when he represented DuPont at a formal dinner in New York City. He relates a story about how he forgot his bow tie and improvised with his pocket knife and a regular necktie.
    Keywords: DuPont; New York, New York
  • DuPont and the environment
    Partial Transcript: "DuPont did very well on the environmental end, because they had done a very conscientious job of controlling pollution at the major plants, or anywhere..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about the company's track record with pollution and pollution control. He says that the company had a good track record and helped the EPA set pollution and waste standards.
    Keywords: DuPont; environment; Environmental Protection Agency; EPA; pollution
  • DuPont and equal employment
    Partial Transcript: "The whole issue of equal employment opportunity was very important, and I guess really taken as a whole, it was very successful..."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about the company's approach to equal employment regardless of gender, race, and sexuality.
    Keywords: DuPont; equal employment; gender; race; sexuality
  • Executive leadership at DuPont
    Partial Transcript: "Well, I only saw Copeland's last year..." "I can only say I had the highest possible respect for everything McCoy did." "Shapiro, I have only the highest admiration of him."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about the changes in executive leadership while he worked at DuPont. He compares and contrasts the leadership styles of DuPont's top executives during his time working for the company. He praises the leadership style of Irving Shapiro in particular and says that he was what the company needed at that time.
    Keywords: Charles B. McCoy; Irving Shapiro; Lammot duPont Copeland; management
  • Thoughts on the evolution of the DuPont company since his retirement
    Partial Transcript: "I wish [my dividend checks] were a little bigger, unfortunately I sold some of my stock, I wish I hadn't sold any of it."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about changes to the DuPont company since he retired. He then talks about DuPont spreading out from the chemical business and how some executives we're thinking beyond chemicals as early as 1955. He discusses some of the internal politics of the DuPont company.
    Keywords: Christiana Securities; Dave Dawson; Delaware Today; diversification; DuPont; News Journal; Sam Leonard; stock
  • Thoughts on Copeland as DuPont's CEO
    Partial Transcript: "I've never thought about this." "I think H.B. had too many interests outside of the job.."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about the unexpected appointment of Lammot du Pont Copeland as the leader of DuPont. He says that he cannot provide a good answer to the question, other than to say that Henry B. du Pont was too old and had too many outside interests. He suggests that it was possible for Crawford Greenwalt to have been an adviser behind the scenes, similarly to Pierre du Pont.
    Keywords: Crawford H. Greenwalt; DuPont; Henry B. du Pont; Lammot du Pont Copeland; Pierre du Pont; Walter Carpenter
  • T. Coleman du Pont and the highways system in Delaware
    Partial Transcript: "I never knew T. Coleman du Pont... stories about him were he liked engineering and thought it would be kind of cool to build a big, big, road and make Delaware into a commercial state." "It was a good place to see how fast a car would go." "That was how I found out an Indian Sport Scout would go 87 miles per hour."
    Synopsis: du Pont talks about his memories of T. Coleman du Pont and the construction of the DuPont Highway in Delaware. He tells a story about how T. Coleman du Pont personally outfitted a boy who was providing water for the road workers. He talks about his memories of his family using the road to visit Rehoboth, Delaware.
    Keywords: Delaware; DuPont Highway; Indian Sport Scout; Rehoboth, Delaware; Sussex County, Delaware; T. Coleman du Pont
  • Pride about the DuPont Highway
    Partial Transcript: "I don't know who in the family you'd talk about... I don't know who in the family the pride would come from."
    Synopsis: du Pont says that his family does not feel proud of the DuPont Highway. Instead he says that Coleman did right. He talks about how the highway opened up the southern part of the state of Delaware.
    Keywords: Delaware; DuPont Highway