French History at Hagley

The Hagley Library’s extensive collections contain a wealth of information on French history and culture. These items date from the fifteenth century to the present and span a variety of subjects, including the Revolutionary period, French business and commerce, consumer culture, and interior design. Researchers will find French-related information throughout Hagley’s Manuscripts and Archives, Imprints, and Pictorial Collections departments or online via the Hagley Digital Archives.

The Hagley Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society awards travel grants for visiting scholars. Some housing is available on the property. The Center also organizes conferences, research seminars, and academic programs. For more information, email


Researchers can find information on life in France from the fifteenth through the early eighteenth centuries in Hagley’s holdings. These collections highlight subjects such as landholding and property rights, the upward mobility of middling citizens, military tactics and technology, business development, trade, industry, visual and performing arts, and urban growth. Items concerning this period help interpret society and culture in France and provide context for industrial development and revolution.

Items and Collections on Pre-Revolutionary France:

Papers of the du Pont Family, 1588-1785 Although this collection focuses specifically on the du Pont and allied families, it illuminates the complex world of France’s upwardly mobile citizens during this period.

Books such as Paris à Travers les ages: Aspects Successifs des Monuments et Quartiers Historiques de Paris Depuis le XIIIe Siècle Jusqu'à nos Jours (1885) visually document change over time in French cities. This two-volume set includes several drawings and maps showing development in Paris from the fifteenth to the late nineteenth centuries. The images are interpreted through detailed text explaining historical growth in context.

Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonnédes Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, par une Société des Gens de Lettres is another valuable source on eighteenth-century France. Scholars can use this extensive work to learn about philosophy, the arts, business, and industry of the era.

Other collections and items documenting this period:

16 Plans of Sieges and Battles Celebrated in the History of France (ca. 1573-1710) -- Set of sixteen diagrams and maps of battles important in eighteenth-century France.

Engraved portraits of French noblemen and noblewomen of the 17th century, accompanied with sheets with short biographical notes -- Visual and biographical information on early French notables.

The Guttmann Collection on Explosives, Firearms, and Military Science, 1450-1905 -- Includes early French treatises on ordnance and military engineering.

Les Bibliothéques Françoises de La Croix du Maine et de Du Verdier, sieur de Vauprivas (1772-73) -- Multi-volume literary history of France to the sixteenth century.


The chaos of the French Revolution and subsequent political and social realignments are well documented in the Hagley Library’s collections. Researchers studying this tumultuous time will find information that explains and interprets events in France from the perspective of the nation’s leading intellectuals. Hagley’s holdings include manuscript collections, published works, drawings and engravings, and numerous printed materials.

Items and Collections on the Revolution through the Restoration:

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) was known as one of the great political and economic thinkers of his time. Du Pont de Nemours’ status ensured him a place at the center of political events in France and the young United States. The papers and published works of P. S. du Pont de Nemours, his family, and his associates form many of Hagley’s collections concerning late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century France.

P. S. du Pont de Nemours’ papers include correspondence with many of the era’s leading intellectuals and politicians, including Charles Maurice de TalleyrandMarquis de LafayetteMadame de Staël-HolsteinLouis XVI, and Napoleon Bonaparte. He additionally communicated with American figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Du Pont de Nemours’ published and unpublished writings detail the inner workings of the French government, social life, and ideologies held by the Physiocrats.

Du Pont de Nemours, along with his sons Victor Marie and Eleuthère Irénée, amassed an extensive library of books, pamphlets, and journals on French politics, history, agriculture, economy, and commerce written by his many friends and critics. Examples include works by François Quesnay, François Véron de Forbonnais, and Madame de Staël-Holstein. These and other collections at the Hagley Library allow researchers access to the many intellectual, political, and economic writings of Revolutionary France.

Other Collections:

D’Andelot Family Papers (1697-1956), Accession 0227 -- Personal papers that describe the chaos of the French Revolution.

Françoise Robin Poivre Du Pont de Nemours (1748-1841) Papers, 1793-1834 -- Papers of the second wife of P. S. du Pont de Nemours, describing social and political life in early nineteenth-century France.

Anne Louise Germaine Necker de Staël-Holstein (1766-1817) Correspondence, 1799-1810 -- Madame de Staël, one of the era’s most notable female political and social writers, frequently corresponded with P. S. du Pont de Nemours. Some of this correspondence is available at Hagley.

Publications issued by governmental bodies such as the Assemblée des Notables, Assemblée Nationale Constituante, Convention Nationale, and the Conseil D’État -- These publications document many of the French government’s policies and directives during this tumultuous period.


The personal papers of families and individuals include vivid depictions of life in France during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These collections describe aspects of French society and culture, such as the interactions among family members, parenting, courtship rituals, and managing domestic resources. A majority of Hagley’s holdings are from up-and-coming families like du Pont, Garesché, and Keating, making them valuable sources for studying the lives of middle and upper-class French citizens.

These papers also provide insights into the United States during this period from the perspective of French emigrants, travelers, and entrepreneurs. Collections at Hagley contain accounts of American landscapes, politics, businesses, people, and culture colored by experiences in France and Europe. These papers give a variety of impressions representing both the positive and negative sentiments French natives felt toward the United States.

Collections on Life in France and America:

D’Autremont Family Papers (1764-1897), Accession 771 -- Sections of these papers document life on the New York frontier during the late eighteenth century.

Gabrielle Josephine de la Fite de Pelleport du Pont (1770-1837) Papers -- Memoir of life in eighteenth-century South Carolina, on the New York frontier, and of the American business ventures of her husband, Victor Marie du Pont.

Margaret Izard Manigault (1768-1824) Papers, 1779-1857 -- Although Margaret Izard Manigault was an American, she had extensive ties to Victor Marie du Pont and other French citizens living in the United States.

Keating Family Papers, Accession 2431 -- The Keatings were descended from and associated with several notable French families. These papers include information on these families and their lives in France and the United States.


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.

Other Collections:

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.


The Hagley Library’s collections thoroughly document many national and international fairs from the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition to the present. Guidebooks and reports from these expositions provide in-depth descriptions of French exhibits written by visitors from the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. These sources also include drawings and photographs documenting French contributions to the fairs.

Sources on fairs and expositions in France are significant to Hagley’s holdings. The 1855, 1889, 1900, 1925, and 1937 Paris fairs are represented with guidebooks, drawings, photographs, and written descriptions. Materials concerning the French expositions offer unique and detailed perspectives on individual exhibits, buildings, and the many people who made the events possible.

Example Collections and Items:

Centennial Exhibition photograph and ephemera collection -- Collection of photographs, prints, and ephemera related to the Centennial International Exhibition held in Philadelphia from May to November 1876.

John Tallis, Tallis’s History and Description of the Crystal Palace, and the Exhibition of the World’s Industry (1852)- Tallis’s book describes London’s 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition.

Samuel Francis Du Pont Papers, 1812-1865 -- In addition to his numerous naval duties, Samuel Francis Du Pont served as the Superintendent of the 1853 New York Crystal Palace exhibition. Documents detailing this exhibition are among du Pont’s papers.

Charles Legrand, Rapport Général sur l’Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles (1898) -- Legrand gives a description of the 1897 Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles, held in Brussels, Belgium.

Expositions Internationales, Paris 1937, New York 1939 -- This book briefly overviews the Paris Exposition Internationale (1937) and the New York World’s Fair (1939).


Materials concerning French art, illustration, and drawing are a prominent part of the holdings at the Hagley Library. Items such as trade card albums and books display the works of French artists and illustrators. Hagley also has an extensive collection of posters by artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec that showcase French illustrations from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Exhibit and exhibition books provide context for artists, their works, and the arts in Paris and France.

Collections on interior and industrial design are essential to Hagley’s collections. The records of designers such as Raymond Loewy and William Pahlmann provide researchers with valuable information on design firms, clients, design processes, and designers’ education and influences. Many of these designers received some of their professional training in France, worked for French clients, or operated branch offices in French cities. Their papers help researchers understand French influences on American designers and how they appear in their work.

Design in France is another topic for exploration at the Hagley Library. Collections and items on French design illustrate trends and fashions for interiors, objects, and clothing during the twentieth century. Designers like Loewy and Pahlmann described their views of French people and material culture through their writings and illustrations. American firms, such as textiles producer Joseph Bancroft and Sons and the DuPont Company, helped develop materials taken on by French clothing designers and later used in the country’s clothing industries. These collections also highlight French interior design and design exhibitions with books that describe and explain popular interiors.

Other Collections and Items:

Designer Profile: Eileen Gray -- Boxed set of prints that highlight the work of Eileen Gray (1878-1976), a native Irish designer who lived and worked in Paris.

Exposition des Arts Décoratifs -- Portfolio of photographic prints depicting buildings at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris.

Catalogue Général Officiel / Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, Paris, Avril-Octobre 1925 -- This book is a comprehensive guide to the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.


Studying culture is one of the critical ways researchers can investigate and interpret people’s lives. Looking specifically at popular, material, and consumer culture helps identify the objects, events, artistic movements, and other aspects of cultural life that people value. Most importantly, these studies help explain the significance of cultural phenomena, especially regarding how and when it is used, by whom, and for what purposes.

The Hagley Library has numerous sources for examining culture in France. These collections’ strengths are twentieth-century popular, material, and consumer culture. The papers of designers Raymond Loewy and William Pahlmann, in addition to detailing trends in interior decoration, describe numerous goods, consumer trends, and popular fashions in France. Ernest Dichter’s research reports provide in-depth descriptions of consumer products and attitudes. French firms commissioned Dichter’s European office to do reports, which provide valuable information on their wares and the people who bought them.

Records of companies that produced consumer goods are another source for studying French culture. Firms such as AvonRCA, and Seagram sold products throughout Europe and did extensive market research to maximize sales. The records of companies operating in France help researchers understand their products and intended markets.

Other Collections:

Lammot du Pont, Jr., Aeronautics Collection -- This collection includes prints, photographs, and ephemera on French aircraft and pilots from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Records -- Series II of the Du Pont Company records encompasses the firm’s activities during the twentieth century. Items from the company’s chemical divisions include information on consumer products developed for European markets.