Monday, February 21, 2011

Du Pont - A Family A Company

Back in ancient history, during the reign of King Thomas de Gordon of the Sovereign County of Nouveau Castle in the land of Delaware, money flowed freely about the empire. Through his ascendancy, King de Gordon brought into his inner circle a former leader of the royal armed guards of Nouveau County and a woman who was possessed of singular skills. She was a member of the bourgeoisie named Madame Sherry Freebury.
For some small minded critics (most certainly of low peasant heritage), King de Gordon and Madame Freebury were present day incarnations of King Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour.
It was an extravagant era. The King and the Madame built their own Taj Mahal (The Hockessin PAL Center). They invested a million or so francs to bring the Wild West here to our sovereign East Coast county (the OK Corral facade at Carousel Park). A like amount went to renovate a barn at Rockwood Mansion that unhappily sits unused 300 days a year.
Yet it was a magical era. The King himself decreed that hair should sprout on his own bald pate, (which had alas been barren since his twentieth year). Voila....there was hair!
The money flowed like wine at a Versailles bacchanal. To the critics who said they should quit their profligacies, the two shouted them down, “Let them eat cake!”.”Apres moi, le deluge”!
And during that dynasty, Aisle Say himself benefited. He was given a commission by The King and The Madame to write a Living History drama at Rockwood Mansion about the Shipley family, the builders of this Gothic edifice (one of only two or three of this peculiar architectural design in these United States).
That venture went so swimmingly that Aisle Say embarked in 2002 - the bicentennial year of the DuPont Co – to write a Living History drama set to original music entitled “DuPont - A Family A Company”.

My father was a lifer with DuPont, he of the '50's gray flannel suit, pressed white shirt and horn rimmed glasses. He would bring home clothes for my family to wear test. Dad was handed wing tips made of Corfam. That synthetic, created at the X station, was promoted to be the synthetic shoe that never wore out. That was very true. It never wore out because the shoes were never worn after the first week. They did not breathe and within hours the wearer experienced a foot sauna. Corfam was DuPont's Edsel.

A history buff, where else would I go to research the family and company but Hagley Museum and Library. With the mission to create an hour drama, time and space would be a challenge; 200 years must be severely compacted into a few 'watershed' scenes. Here was the task:
Historically accurate; period costumes; period music; period instrumentation; authentic dialects
To educate and entertain the audience on the evolution of DuPont from the banks of the Brandywine to present day statewide impact and global significance.
To state that the collective fundamental precepts of quality, integrity, compassion and stewardship for the employee and the public stand the test of time over two centuries.
I selected the following scenes: 1) The Banks of The Brandywine, where Eleuthere and wife Sophie view the rushing waters which will be used to power the gun powder mill turbines; 2) a camp fire scene of the Irish mill workers. These men worked 10 hour 6 day weeks. The threat to them and their families was 'A Trip Across The Creek', always a one way trip. With an explosion of the mill, the force of the energy was directed 'across' the creek. (I discovered in my research that I am here today due to an ill-fated 'trip across the creek'. In 1847 there was a disaster at the mills. Millworker O'Brien perished. The widow O'Brien married Mr. Devlin. I am their great-great grandson on my mother's side.)
The third scene takes place in 1902, when the 3 cousins, A.I, P.S and Coleman, buy the company from the du Pont elders. This purchase would change the world and for us, irrevocably make Delaware into a global presence.
There are more scenes, taking us up to 1960, but my editor tells me I am out of space.
I have a dream to bring this Living History set to music to every elementary and middle school in the state. I don't intend to give up.

If any of the readers have an idea for an article, please email me at

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