Ask the Hagley Historian! What’s an interesting thing I may miss when I take a tour of Hagley?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Question: What’s an interesting thing I may miss when I take a tour of Hagley? 

Answer: The DuPont Company’s 150th Anniversary Marker! This marker is located in the Upper Yard, which is the section of the powder yards that E.I. du Pont built in 1802. It is just off of the road the tour bus uses. You may have seen it while riding the bus or on a walk through the Upper Property during an evening at Bike and Hike. 

In the late 1940’s the DuPont Company began planning for their 150th anniversary, which was in 1952. DuPont’s Advertising Department led the effort and planned publicity and marketing campaigns, films, a commemorative book, and a celebration on the site where the DuPont Company started. An element of the celebration in the former powder yards would be a monument to the company and its founder. 

Domenico Mortellito, artist and exhibit designer in DuPont’s Advertising Department, had the task of creating the monument. His design included plaques with bas-reliefs of E.I. du Pont, a powder wagon, and one of the original powder mill buildings. It also included a plaque with a statement about the DuPont Company. Mortellito wanted the plaques to be mounted on a stone wheel mill roller set in a granite base. The roller chosen was one that dated to DuPont’s first decade in operation, which E.I. du Pont purchased in France and used in the powder yards to grind sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter. The design also included a hollow in the base to place a DuPont Company time capsule to be filled with 150th-anniversary commemorative materials.

Drawing and text from Domenico Mortellito’s initial design for the Commemorative Marker. 

Mortellito submitted his design in December 1951. DuPont Company executives approved it with only minor changes to wording on the plaques. Mortellito then submitted final design drawings and met with DuPont Company engineers and outside contractors to arrange construction of the base and plaques, to prepare the stone roller, and decide the exact location for the monument. He also took care of the details for preparing the spot where the monument would sit. 

Bronze bas-reliefs of E.I. du Pont, an early powder mill building, and a powder wagon for the Commemorative Marker.

DuPont unveiled the Commemorative Marker at the company’s 150th-anniversary celebration on July 18, 1952. Representatives from all of DuPont’s plants, DuPont executives, du Pont family members, and their families and guests attended the ceremony. Celebration events included a play based on E.I. and Sophie du Pont’s early years on the Brandywine, performances by the DuPont Company Band and Chorus, and speeches from DuPont executives and du Pont family members. 

The completed Commemorative Marker at the 150th anniversary ceremonies, under its veil of multi-colored DuPont Nylon. 

There are a number of records in Hagley’s collections on the 150th-anniversary marker and celebration. Domenico Mortellito’s files are part of the DuPont Company Public Relations and Advertising Department records. These include Mortellito’s design drawings, inter-office correspondence on the monument and celebration, commemorative brochures, planning documents, and programs from the ceremony. Hagley also has plenty of photographs of the monument and ceremonies, many of which are in the Digital Archives

The next time you come to Hagley, be sure to get your tour guide to point out the 150th Anniversary Marker!

Lucas Clawson is the Hagley Historian at Hagley Museum and Library.​