Interview with F. Wardenburg, 1961 June 21 [audio]

Share/Save:
  • Correcting inaccuracies in a book on DuPont materials; Coming to work for DuPont
    Partial Transcript: "Do you mind if I point out a couple of inaccuracies..." "I came to DuPont in 1907..."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg corrects some inaccuracies in a book about materials manufactured by DuPont. He talks about the name "Celluloid" and how that was a brand name, rather than a generic term. He talks about DuPont's organizational structure. He describes how he came to work at DuPont. He said that he had no idea what DuPont was and that he worked in Colorado before joining the company. He compares DuPont's organization and approaches to problem solving. He says that he never felt particularly loyal to his former company.
    Keywords: Black powder; Celluloid; Colorado; Hopewell plant; Loyalty; Management; Organization; Smokeless gunpowder; World War (!914-1918)
  • World War I; Rapid company expansion; Securing water and power for new factories
    Partial Transcript: "It seems to be of little importance to what I consider your puzzle..."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg talks about World War I. He says that the company had to expand at a rapid rate in order to fill the increased orders for smokeless powder. He says that he was involved in building and designing the power plants necessary to power these new factories. He talks about manufacturing guncotton and the large amounts of acid involved in the manufacturing process. He says that the factories needed large waterways to drain their waste. He talks about the importance of and methods of securing a water supply for these factories.
    Keywords: Carney's Point (N.J.); Charleston (W.Va.); E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Hopewell Works; Electricity; Gun cotton; James River; Nitrocellulose; Power; Smokeless powder; World War (1914-1918)
  • Building factories; Loyalty to DuPont and Pierre Samuel du Pont
    Partial Transcript: "Up to the time of the World War the construction program of the DuPont Company was putting up one dynamite plant a year, costing about a million dollars."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg talks about the rapid expansion of DuPont during and after World War I. He says that DuPont diversified after the war because the war left them with a lot of money and a large talented staff capable of taking on new and varied challenges. He talks about refining nitrocellulose, or guncotton. He talks about developing a method for using caustic soda in guncotton manufacture. He talks about discovering that copper screen wire, for manufacturing nitrocellulose, could be washed and reused and dealing with the fallout of the company suddenly having too much wire on hand. He talks about overtime pay and says he did not earn it and instead says that his generation was happy to work for the war effort. He talks about loyalty to the company and his thoughts on Pierre Samuel du Pont. He also talks about the executive committee of DuPont Co.
    Keywords: Caustic soda; Construction; Development; Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.; Executives; Guncotton; Management; Nitrocellulose; Overtime pay; World War (1914-1918)
  • Diversification at DuPont following World War I; DuPont's 1922 reorganization
    Partial Transcript: "Take one diversification, the dye plant..."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg discusses DuPont's diversification following the World War I. He focuses on the dye plant, which he says was diversified and modernized during the war. He talks about budgetary limits and when an issue would have to move up the chain of command. He talks about DuPont's acquisition of a sulfuric acid production facility and DuPont's reorganization in 1922. He says that he served on a committee made from people who were leaders, but not heads in their department. He talks about plant construction and how different departments handled building plants. He talks about DuPont buying up other smaller companies in the 1920s, in addition to creating new departments.
    Keywords: Budgets; Diversification; Dyes; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.; Management; Sulfuric acid; World War (1914-1918)
  • Ammonia production at DuPont; Developing methanol as an antifreeze
    Partial Transcript: "The Germans had show in the first world...to get nitrogen from the atmosphere..."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg explains why it was important for DuPont to produce ammonia. He describes the synthesis of ammonia and using nitrogen found in the atmosphere for this process. He talks about how DuPont manufactured hydrogen. He says that most of their ammonia went to nitric acid and refrigeration. He talks about methanol, which started out as a byproduct and which they decided to produce as an antifreeze. He says that methanol is poisonous and that other antifreeze makers tried to outlaw DuPont's product.
    Keywords: Alcohol; Ammonia; Antifreeze; Atlas Powder Company; Freon; Hercules Powder Company; Hydrogen; Manufacture; Methanol; Nitric acid; Nitrogen; Refrigeration
  • Manufacturing ammonium nitrate; Keeping track of manufacturing quotas
    Partial Transcript: Ammonium nitrate was an ingredient of explosives long before DuPont company went into the manufacture of ammonia."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg talks about ammonium nitrate and its role in explosives. He talks about how ammonia now is mostly used in fertilizers or as ammonia. He talks about producing nitrogen for fertilizer. He describes how his department managed sales, including the seasonal antifreeze basement. He also talks about how his department kept track of its manufacturing quotas.
    Keywords: Ammonium nitrate; Antifreeze; Formaldehyde; Manufacturing; Methanol; Nitrogen; Quotas; Sales
  • Manufacturing Nylon and its components
    Partial Transcript: "We made all the raw materials for nylon, all of it, until the chemical department developed a scheme for manufacturing Nylon intermediates..:
    Synopsis: Wardenburg talks about how his department once made the intermediates used for making Nylon.
    Keywords: Manufacturing; Nylon; Organic chemistry
  • Thoughts on Pierre Samuel du Pont; Workings of DuPont's executive committee
    Partial Transcript: "I knew him for many years...and he was on an entirely different plain than I was because of his age and experience...I cannot refer to myself as a dear friend of Pierre du Pont as much as I admired him...
    Synopsis: Wardenburg discusses his impressions of Pierre Samuel du Pont, whom he admired. He believes that even after retirement Mr. du Pont had an active role in running the company. He discusses the workings of DuPont's executive committee.
    Keywords: Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; DuPont's Executive Committee; Executives; Management; Meetings
  • Becoming the manager of the ammonia business; Expanding into foreign markets
    Partial Transcript: "I did a good job, I suppose...Then I was the chief engineer..." "...we had no foreign business..."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg talks about how he became the manager for ammonia. He talks about DuPont expanding into overseas markets. He explains DuPont's take over of the National Ammonia Company. He describes the mechanics of other company takeovers by DuPont.
    Keywords: Ammonia; Expansion; Management; National Ammonia Company; Promotions; Work
  • The Great Depression at DuPont; Working with General Motors
    Partial Transcript: "That was the most difficult. It is always difficult to reduce expenditures..."
    Synopsis: Wardenburg talks about the Great Depression and the difficulty of cutting expenses. He says that the savings of laying people off are minimal and states that the Great Depression did not force DuPont to reorganize its executive leadership. He also talks about work that DuPont did with General Motors.
    Keywords: E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; General Motors; Great Depression