du Pont, Pierre S.

du Pont, Pierre S. (Samuel)

(1870–1954) industrialist; born near Wilmington, Del. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he joined his family's Delaware-based explosives company. Disenchanted with its lack of innovation, he left to join his cousin Coleman du Pont's street railway business (1899). In partnership with another cousin, Alfred du Pont, they purchased the family firm in 1902 to prevent its sale to outsiders. As treasurer he negotiated a series of takeovers and management and production reorganizations that concentrated the American explosives industry under du Pont's control. With his deputy, John Raskob, he developed new accounting practices (including financial forecasting and calculating rates of return on capital investment) that later became standard corporate practice. He led the buyout of Coleman du Pont's share in the firm in 1914 that provoked a generation-long family feud. He was president of the company through World War I (1915–19, chairman 1919–40), when it amassed large profits. He retired in 1919 but soon assumed management of the struggling General Motors (president 1920–23, chairman 1923–29), where he introduced modern management, production, and marketing techniques that saved the corporation. In retirement after 1929 he created the extensive gardens on his Longwood estate and devoted millions of dollars to the improvement of Delaware's public schools.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.