DuPont, American Industry, Corporate History


The turn of the twentieth century radically renewed industrial organization across the United States. Early American corporations -- centralized manufacturing hubs with journeymen and apprentices laboring under one roof -- were seldom prepared for the transformations that scientific management and structural reorganization would bring to social relations. At the helm of World War 1, DuPont became the epitome of broader national restructuring. Through a close relationship with American military industries and legislatures, the DuPont brothers came to represent Business as an inseparable component of the State. While labor historiography has primarily focused on organizers’ relationship with regulators, important segments of its inverse -- the relationship between Industry and lawmakers -- have been ignored. In the history of DuPont’s growth lies the story of American labor’s disintegration and the organized dismantling of the civil rights campaigns. The reasons for the supposed failure of American workers to build a mass socialist party cannot be discovered in the structures of accumulation or labor markets alone, but in the insinuation of industrial change into the total sphere of American life. This paper dissects the evolution of DuPont along with American labor. The important question is why and how a corporate-state came to possess such a pervasive and socially dominant nature. DuPont is the ideal case study to analyze how capitalism transformed and joined American politicians in suppressing labor movements, writing policy, and engineering social attitudes between 1902 and 1917.