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Du Pont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain

Book Description

Award-winning journalist Gerard Colby takes readers behind the scenes of one of America’s most powerful and enduring corporations; now with a new introduction by the author

Their name is everywhere. America’s wealthiest industrial family by far and a vast financial power, the Du Ponts, from their mansions in northern Delaware’s “Chateau Country,” have long been leaders in the relentless drive to turn the United States into a plutocracy.

The Du Pont story in this country began in 1800. Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, official keeper of the gunpowder of corrupt King Louis XVI, fled from revolutionary France to America. Two years later he founded the gunpowder company that called itself “America’s armorer”—and that President Wilson’s secretary of war called a “species of outlaws” for war profiteering. Du Pont Dynasty introduces many colorful characters, including “General” Henry du Pont, who profited from the Civil War to build the Gunpowder Trust, one of the first corporate monopolies; Alfred I. du Pont, betrayed by his cousins and pushed out of the organization, landing in social exile as the powerful “Count of Florida”; the three brothers who expanded Du Pont’s control to General Motors, fought autoworkers’ right to unionize, and then launched a family tradition of waging campaigns to destroy FDR’s New Deal regulatory reforms; Governor Pete du Pont, who ran for president and backed Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Republican Revolution; and Irving S. Shapiro, the architect of Du Pont’s ongoing campaign to undermine effective environmental regulation.

From plans to force President Roosevelt from office, to munitions sales to warlords and the rising Nazis, to Freon’s damage to the planet’s life-protecting ozone layer, to the manufacture of deadly gases and the covered-up poisoning of Du Pont workers, to the reputation the company earned for being the worst polluter of America’s air and water, the Du Pont reign has been dappled with scandal for centuries.

Culled from years of painstaking research and interviews, this fully documented book unfolds like a novel. Laying bare the bitter feuds, power plays, smokescreens, and careless unaccountability that erupted in murder, Colby pulls back the curtain on a dynasty whose formidable influence continues to this day.

Suppressed in myriad ways and the subject of the author’s landmark federal lawsuit, Du Pont Dynasty is an essential history of the United States.

“A conscientious and significant book . . . a big book, but every ounce is lean meat, worth savoring.” —Los Angeles Times

“Something of a miracle . . . Sculpture whacked out of the side of a mountain.” —The New York Times

“Most intriguing . . . Educational, interesting and provocative.” —Women’s Wear Daily

“More than fascinating.” —The Tampa Tribune

Gerard Colby is a writer, investigative journalist, and educator. He has written for the North American Newspaper Alliance, the Nation, the Los Angeles Times,  In These Times, and Colby has taught the history of the political economy of Central America at Burlington College and political science and international economics at Johnson State College in Vermont, and is currently studying for a master’s degree in American history at the University of Vermont.

Colby is a cofounder of the Henry Demarest Lloyd Investigative Fund and former president of the National Writers Union. He is the author of DuPont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain, coauthor with Charlotte Dennett of Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, and a contributor to Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press, edited by Kristina Borjesson.