Collections at the Hagley Library include a wealth of resources on business, commerce, and industry in eighteenth and nineteenth century France. These items provide a clear picture of France’s major industries and their internal operations. Equally as important, Hagley’s holdings highlight the infrastructure that enabled businesses to function in France, Europe, and throughout the Atlantic world. Records and publications concerning such topics as government regulation, banks, and international trade networks help researchers understand the commercial landscape within which French industries conducted business.
The records of American firms offer another way to approach the study of business, commerce, and industry in France. Many of these firms developed trade connections with France and reaped large rewards for their efforts. Some American concerns benefited from investments, technical information, and business advice from French associates, particularly if their owners were French emigrants or descended from French families. The records of these businesses clearly demonstrate the interconnectedness of American and French economic development during this period.
Technology and science are prominent subjects that can be explored at the Hagley Library. Collections detailing chemistry, physics, engineering, and construction help researchers understand the expansion of these fields in France and among French emigrants in the United States. Items such as the Description des Machines et Procédés Spécifiés Dans les Brevets D’invention, de Perfectionnement et D’importation Dont la Durée est Expirée, which are the French patent specifications from 1811 to 1902, provide valuable information on French technological innovations and their application to business, industry, and research.
Some of the most extensive collections on these subjects are from gunpowder manufacturer E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, and its founder Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. The DuPont Company originated in France and received extensive financial and technical assistance from French citizens during its formative years. E. I. du Pont, the company’s founder, was a skilled chemist who studied under Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. Du Pont’s study notes, correspondence with Lavoisier, and his writings and drawings on chemistry, gunpowder, and gunpowder making machinery are part of Hagley’s collections. A microfilm reproduction of Lavoisier’s papers is also available for researchers.
Records relating to government support for iron and glass manufacturing, 1774-1789 -- These records document some of the French government’s efforts to stimulate iron and glass manufacturing industries.
Banque territoriale (Paris, France), Papers, 1790-1811 -- Records of a French land bank that failed. This collection details both early nineteenth-century French banks and the process for liquidating failed financial institutions.
Carter Litchfield collection on the History of Fatty Materials, 1707-2007 -- The Carter Litchfield collection provides information on French oil mills and includes the correspondence of French chemist M. E. Chevreul (1810-1889).
Papers of Victor du Pont, 1775-1834 -- Victor Marie du Pont’s papers document his failed American businesses.
Papers of Business Firms Associated with the du Pont Family and E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 1798-1856 -- Many of the firms whose papers make up Group 6 of the Longwood Manuscripts were either French or owned and operated by French émigrés.
Andrews & Meredith, Records, 1780-1832 -- Records of an American firm that carried on trade with France and Portugal during the French Revolutionary period.