E. I. Du Pont’s position as an anti-slavery advocate may have been more about containing black people in the South and forbidding them into the North and territories, as was common among Republicans. He may also have been opposed to the war but made a fortune through powder orders by providing 4 million barrels to the Northern government. Du Pont’s revolutionary “mammoth powder” for heavy artillery allowed greater range for bombarding American cities in the South.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Du Pont and His Powder Industry
“. . . Du Pont, a strong Whig and anti-slavery partisan could hardly feel much enthusiasm for the [Mexican] war, even if it did bring him government powder orders. [In the postwar] Ohio and Indiana farmers were industriously clearing away timber land, and potent charges of Du Pont powder were needed to extract the stumps. This was the first era of railway building, and powder was a necessity for railroad contractors. William Astor and his Oregon Fur Company needed powder for hunting in the Northwest. Mining was also beginning to develop.
Du Pont did not need a war, but the gods smiled and gave him one. In 1854 England, Turkey, and others went to war with Russia, and guns in the Crimea needed powder. Du Pont filled [orders from both England and Russia, and] shipments of the “black death” went forth to the far corners of the world.
During the American Civil War Du Pont was again the patriot – at least the Northern patriot. Naturally the war brought Du Pont large orders and he was the mainstay of the Northern government.
The Civil War created a virtual partnership between Du Pont and the government. When the war was over, this relationship was not disturbed . . . [and] Working hand in glove with the government became a regular practice for Dupont.
The last decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the formation of powerful combines and trusts in American business. It was only natural that Du Pont should be transformed from a simple powder company into a gigantic combine with international ramifications.
The development came as a result of the Civil War [and] Government orders had been so reckless that the supply of powder on the market proved a drug to the entire industry. The government sold its surplus at auction prices sand the bottom fell out of the powder industry.
Beginning in 1872 the Du Pont Company gradually brought “order” into the industry, and in 1907 it was not only supreme in the field, but had virtually united all powder companies in the country under its guidance, control, or ownership.
The result of this monopolistic policy may be seen in the fact that by 1905 Du Pont controlled the orders for all government powder orders. Having established this monopoly, Du Pont turned again to price-fixing [and] national prices were established from which there was no deviation.
During the World War Du Pont supplied 40 per cent of the powder used by the Allies, and after 1917 its orders from the United States government were enormous.”
(Merchants of Death, A Study of the International Armament Industry, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpts, pp. 29- 36)