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Better Chemistry (and Breeding) through DuPont

The DuPont family has just opened a gunpowder mill near Wilmington, Delaware (but not too near). It is built on the foundations of a burnt out cotton mill. E.I. DuPont once worked in France's powder mills and in a saltpeter plant. He knows the modern methods of making gunpowder and he has noted the woefully inadequate methods for producing gunpowder being used in America today. In 1776, the Americans had started a Revolution without a single gunpowder mill to supply the Continental Army. The Army used captured stores until powder mills could be built. Yet, as America has grown, the old powder mills have not kept up with the demand. DuPont believes that with modern equipment, the family can quickly establish themselves in the US market and make out like bandits. Last year they presented their proposal to President Jefferson so that they could build the powder mill this year. Business will soon be booming, so to speak. By mid-century, DuPont will be supplying half the gunpowder the military uses. By the 20th century DuPont will be producing nylon, plastics and chemicals world-wide. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The DuPont family came to America to escape the French Revolution. Although they arrived with a considerable amount of money, they were using it fast in startup costs. They also brought along a special breed of Spanish sheep called Merino Sheep. Unfortunately, only one ram survived the trip. They called him Don Pedro. They bred him with over 60 ewes a year, but most American farmers did not realize what they had. A sheep like Don Pedro produced a soft wool perfect for use in clothing. A single sheep might sell for $1,000 at the time, which was an enormous amount of money, but American farmers thought that $65 for Don Pedro was as high as they would go. However, once the quality of the wool was recognized, everyone wanted a Merino Sheep. The farmers went crazy. In fact 85% of the sheep in Delaware soon carried Don Pedro's DNA. DuPont improved American sheep breeding. I'm not sure that was their intent. After all... the DuPonts were not shepherds, so I don't think they realized what they had any more than the local farmers did... at least for a while. [4]

The First Child Labor Laws and Slavery

At the dawn of the Industrial Age there is no minimum wage and no minimum age of employment. Most child labor is at home spinning cotton, so child labor at the cotton mill seems like a natural transition. (FYI, we are talking about 10-year-olds.) It is a man's right to sell his labor, and in these days it is a father's right to sell the labor of his children. These are called "free children" and the Parliament is reluctant to dictate to a father about his children... so they don't. The Parliament's responsibility is apprenticeships. In a cotton mill, an apprentice is a pauper or orphan who is required to work. No free rides. The shifts are 12 hours or more. Bedding is provided, but the kids are "hot-bunking." While one kid sleeps, the other is working. The factory manager is paid for his production so he drives the kids to exhaustion. There is not much government oversight and frankly, the owners don't get out there much either. One factory owner is a minister in Parliament, so he introduces legislation to improve factory conditions. He calls it the "Health and Morals of Apprentices Act". It is the first of the child labor laws. It has no effective enforcement teeth. It applies only to apprentices and it assumes that fathers will look after their children... or not. [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Parliament could not change the whole system at once, but applying a minimal standard to a narrow portion of the workforce opened the door for later improvements in what was a relatively new system. However, in the USA a minimalist approach could not solve the entrenched slavery issue. Thomas Jefferson had been a strong advocate for a gradual transition out of slavery. He wanted to ease the economic hit on the slave states, but as President, he became strangely silent on the subject. Either he wasn't serious before or he realized that a gradual transition could not work. The government could not afford to buy every slave and free them. If Virginians didn't love the idea of freeing the slaves, it wasn't going to happen without violence, so it didn't happen. Regarding conditions at these factories, they were worse than I am portraying here. "Disease-ridden rat-holes without sunlight or hope" would not be too strong a statement. The conditions resulted in sickly, depressed children with stunted growth. For those thinking of riding out the Zombie Apocalypse in the comfort of your bunker, remember that the body requires a certain amount of sunlight for health. So do your plants and animals. Even a winter with many cloudy days can be depressing. Sun-lamps help me even though I am not living in a bunker. They are worth having all year round. [7] [8]

In Other News

  • Napoleon becomes First Consul for life. It is by popular vote and after negotiating peace with the UK, he is a popular guy... for now. [9] [10]
  • Chemical reactions are the rearranging of atoms. John Dalton proposes a theory on how chemical reactions occur. Yeah. He's got it. [10]
  • Beethoven presents his Moonlight Sonata. Everyone has heard the 1st movement. (Click here) Elements of the 3rd movement might also be familiar. [11] [12] [10]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1802, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. DuPont - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 28 August 2015. “DuPont was founded in 1802 by Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, using capital raised in France and gunpowder machinery imported from France. The company was started at the Eleutherian Mills, on the Brandywine Creek, near Wilmington, Delaware two years after his family and he left France to escape the French Revolution.”
  2. Brown, G. I.. Big Bang: A History of Explosives, The. Sutton Pub.. ISBN 0750918780. 
  3. History: 1802. DuPont.com (2016). Retrieved on 6 June 2016. “E.I. du Pont breaks ground on the Brandywine River for his first powder mills.”
  4. Pursell, Carroll W., Jr. (April 1959). "E. I. du Pont, Don Pedro, and the Introduction of Merino Sheep into the United States, 1801: A Document". Agricultural History (Agricultural History Society) 33 (2): 86-88. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3740420. Retrieved 07 June 2016. 
  5. Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802 - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 June 2016. “The Act was not effectively enforced, and did not address the working conditions of 'free children' (children working in mills who were not apprentices) who rapidly came to heavily outnumber the apprentices. Regulating the way masters treated their apprentices was a recognised responsibility of Parliament and hence the Act itself was non-contentious, but coming between employer and employee to specify on what terms a man might sell his labour (or that of his child) was highly contentious.”
  6. Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 June 2016. “Concerned at the working conditions for children in the cotton industry, and even more concerned that some of his mills had been run by their 'overseers' (managers) contrary to his own paternalistic intentions, in 1802, he introduced the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act, legislation that tried to limit the number of hours that apprentice children worked in the mills, and obliged the mill owners to provide some form of schooling.”
  7. Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light box. Mayo Clinic (2016). Retrieved on 7 June 2016. “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs each year during fall and winter. Use of a light therapy box can offer relief. But for some people, light therapy may be more effective when combined with another SAD treatment, such as an antidepressant or psychological counseling (psychotherapy).”
  8. Ellis, Joseph J.. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson. Vintage. ISBN 9780679764410. “"I have long since given up the expectation of any early provision for the extinguishment of slavery among us," he wrote in 1805, going on to reiterate his belief that slavery was an anomaly in republican America; but his abiding posture was that the current configuration of political forces blocked any meaningful reform at present, so that all one could realistically do was wait for the future to prepare public opinion for the inevitable.” 
  9. French Consulate - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 June 2016. “The Peace of Amiens (25 March 1802) with the United Kingdom, of which France's allies, Spain and the Batavian Republic, paid all the costs, finally gave the peacemaker a pretext for endowing himself with a Consulate, not for ten years but for life, as a recompense from the nation. The Rubicon was crossed on that day: Bonaparte’s march to empire began with the Constitution of the Year X.”
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 374-375. 
  11. Piano Sonata No. 14 (Beethoven) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 June 2016. “It was completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi.”
  12. Beethoven : Sonata No.14 Op.27 No.2 ('Moonlight'). YouTube (1802). Retrieved on 7 June 2016.

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