Thomas Coleman du Pont
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
March 4, 1925 – December 9, 1928
Preceded byL. Heisler Ball
Succeeded byDaniel O. Hastings
In office
July 7, 1921 – November 7, 1922
Appointed byWilliam D. Denney
Preceded byJosiah O. Wolcott
Succeeded byThomas F. Bayard, Jr.
Personal details
Born(1863-12-11)December 11, 1863
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedNovember 11, 1930(1930-11-11) (aged 66)
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseAlice Elsie du Pont
ChildrenFrancis Victor DuPont,[1] Alice Hounsfield du Pont Wilson Buck, Ellen Coleman du Pont Meeds Wheelwright, Rene de Pelleport du Pont Donaldson, Eleuthere Irenee du Pont [2]
Residence(s)Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
OccupationEngineer, corporate executive

Thomas Coleman du Pont (December 11, 1863 – November 11, 1930) was an American engineer and politician, from Greenville, Delaware. He was President of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, and a member of the Republican Party who served parts of two terms as United States Senator from Delaware.[3]

Early life and family

Alice Elsie du Pont

Du Pont was born at Louisville, Kentucky. He was a cousin of U.S. Senator Henry A. du Pont and great-grandson of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Du Pont attended preparatory school at Urbana University and earned an engineering degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT, he was initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity.

He married a cousin, Alice Elsie du Pont (granddaughter of Charles I. du Pont), and in 1891 they had a daughter, Alice Hounsfield du Pont. In 1921, the younger Alice married Clayton Douglass Buck, future U.S. Senator and two-term governor of Delaware. She inherited her father's family home, Buena Vista, and in 1965 the Bucks sold it to the State of Delaware for $1. The state now operates it as the Buena Vista Conference Center. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.[4]

Business career

Du Pont started his career in the family's coal mines, the Central Coal and Iron Company, and soon pursued opportunities in street railways. In 1894, he began working as the general manager of the Johnson Street Rail Company in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

With his cousins, Alfred I. du Pont and Pierre S. du Pont, T. Coleman du Pont bought out the family's explosives business in Delaware. He was president from 1902 until 1915, during which time he oversaw the acquisitions of more than one hundred competitors. He was a key player in the formation of the holding company, E. I. du Pont de Nemours Company of New Jersey. In 1907, the DuPont Company was sued for antitrust violations; he sold off his stake of the business in 1914.

T. Coleman du Pont had control of the Hotel McAlpin, Claridge Atlantic City, Wallick's, and other American hotels. Together with Lucius M. Boomer, president of Boomer-du Pont Properties Corporation and husband of Jørgine Boomer, du Pont owned a number of other hotels. In 1918, they purchased the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, then in 1920 the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., and in 1925 the company purchased The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia from the heirs of the founder, George C. Boldt.[5][6][7]

In 1915, du Pont acquired control of The Equitable Life Assurance Society from J. P. Morgan[8] and was responsible for the building of the Equitable Life Building in New York City, once the largest building in the city.[9]

DuPont Highway

In 1908, du Pont proposed a modern road that was to run the length of Delaware from Selbyville north to Wilmington as part of a philanthropic measure. This roadway was planned to improve travel and bring economic development to Kent and Sussex counties. The DuPont Highway was to be modeled after the great boulevards of Europe and was to have a 200-foot (61 m) wide right-of-way consisting of a 40-foot (12 m) wide roadway for automobiles flanked by dual trolley lines, 30-foot (9.1 m) wide roadways for heavy vehicles, 15-foot (4.6 m) wide unpaved roadways for horses, and sidewalks. Utilities were to be buried underground below the horse roadways. The highway was also to include agricultural experimental stations and monuments for future surveying. Trolley revenues would help pay for the construction of the roadway.

After portions of the DuPont Highway were built, these portions were planned to be turned over to the state at no charge.[10] The Coleman DuPont Road, Inc. was established in 1911 and construction of the DuPont Highway began.[11] The DuPont Highway would end up being built as a two-lane concrete road on a 60-foot (18 m) alignment with a 32-foot (9.8 m) wide roadway.[12]

The Delaware State Highway Department took over construction and the DuPont Highway was completed in 1923 when the final section near Odessa was finished.[13] The DuPont Highway was a boon to southern Delaware, which had formerly been economically isolated from the large cities of the northeast. In conjunction with the rise of the automobile, the highway spurred the growth of the Delaware beaches by greatly improving access to the coast for tourists from northern Delaware and adjacent portions of the Northeast megalopolis. Southern Delaware also developed into a major truck farming region due to having much greater access to urban markets. No longer fully reliant on the railroads to transport their goods, farmers in Sussex and Kent counties could market their fruits, vegetables, and broiler chickens directly to consumers in the north.[14]

The DuPont Highway became US 113 between Selbyville and Dover and US 13 between Dover and Wilmington.[15][16]

Political career

Coleman du Pont in his Senate office

Du Pont retired from business activities in 1915 and became involved in Republican Party politics, as a member of the Republican National Committee from 1908 until 1930. It was largely under his leadership that the Union Republicans and Regular Republicans came back together and built the modern Delaware Republican Party.

Du Pont was appointed to the U.S. Senate on July 7, 1921, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of U.S. Senator Josiah O. Wolcott. During this term, he served with the Republican majority in the 67th Congress. However, he lost his bid to complete the term in a special election on November 7, 1922. On the same day he also lost his bid for the full term to follow, in both instances losing to Democrat Thomas F. Bayard, Jr., a Wilmington lawyer who was married to one of du Pont's cousins.

Du Pont was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1924, defeating the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator L. Heisler Ball for the nomination, and going on to defeat Democrat James M. Tunnell, a Georgetown, Delaware lawyer. During this term, he served with the Republican majority in the 69th and 70th Congress, until health problems caused him to resign.

In all, du Pont served two separate terms, one from July 7, 1921, until November 21, 1922, during the administration of U.S. President Warren G. Harding, and the other from March 4, 1925, until December 9, 1928, during the administration of U.S. President Calvin Coolidge. In 1927, he introduced a bill proposing the construction of "a coast-to-coast superhighway, five hundred feet wide, as direct as possible from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast". However, this proposed superhighway never came to be, due in part to the economic pressures of the Great Depression.[17] The later years of his life were marked by his implication in the Teapot Dome scandal, and by lawsuits over various Florida real estate deals.[citation needed] In 1922, du Pont and his wife donated property on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to the Del-Mar-Va Council of the Boy Scouts of America for development of what is now known as Camp Rodney.[18]


Du Pont suffered from cancer of the larynx and died at Buena Vista. He was buried in the Du Pont de Nemours Cemetery in Greenville, Delaware.[3]


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. U.S. Senators are popularly elected and took office March 4 for a six-year term.

Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1922 (Special) U.S. Senator T. Coleman du Pont Republican 36,894 49.6% Thomas F. Bayard, Jr. Democratic √ 36,954 √ 49.7%
1922 U.S. Senator T. Coleman du Pont Republican 36,979 49.4% Thomas F. Bayard, Jr. Democratic √ 37,304 √ 49.8%
1924 U.S. Senator T. Coleman du Pont Republican √ 52,731 √ 59% James M. Tunnell Democratic 36,085 41%
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority Committees Class/District Notes
July 7, 1921 –
November 7, 1922
67th U.S. Senate Republican class 1 Appointed, but lost both the special election to finish the term and the general election for the next term.
March 4, 1925 –
March 3, 1927
69th U.S. Senate Republican class 2  
March 4, 1927 –
March 3, 1929
70th U.S. Senate Republican class 2  


  1. ^ "Public Roads - Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956: Creating the Interstate System (Sidebars), Summer 1996 -".
  2. ^ "E.I. du Pont, Student, Dead" The Evening Journal, Wilmington, Delaware, 09 Feb 1920, Mon, Page 1
  3. ^ a b "T. Coleman du Pont, Ex-Senator, is Dead". New York Times. November 12, 1930. p. 19. Retrieved July 21, 2007.
  4. ^ "Buena Vista History" (PDF). State of Delaware. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  5. ^ "COLEMAN DU PONT PURCHASES THE WALDORF-ASTORIA". The New York Times. February 3, 1918. p. 1. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  6. ^ "DU PONT INTERESTS BUY THE MARTINIQUE". The New York Times. October 3, 1919. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  7. ^ "DU PONT GETS THE WILLARD". The New York Times. May 5, 1920. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  8. ^ "T.C. DU PONT BUYS EQUITABLE LIFE". The New York Times. June 1, 1915. p. 1. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  9. ^ "EQUITABLE SITE BRINGS $14,000,000". The New York Times. August 13, 1912. p. 1. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  10. ^ Milner, pp. 6, 8.
  11. ^ "Delaware State Highway Department Annual Report" (PDF) (1958 ed.). Dover, Delaware: Delaware State Highway Department. 1958: 4–13. Retrieved November 13, 2014. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Milner, p. 14.
  13. ^ Milner, p. 16.
  14. ^ Milner, p. 28.
  15. ^ "Annual Report of the State Highway Department" (PDF) (1925 ed.). Dover, Delaware: Delaware State Highway Department. December 31, 1925: 17. Retrieved November 18, 2010. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Delaware State Highway Department (1931). Official Road Map of the State of Delaware (PDF) (Map). Dover: Delaware State Highway Department.
  17. ^ Axline, Jon (January 22, 2024). "A Massive Undertaking: Constructing Montana's Interstate Highways, 1956–1988". Montana: The Magazine of Western History. 63 (3): 46–96. JSTOR 24416216.
  18. ^ "Boy Scouts Give Thanks for Gift". Wilmington Morning News. November 17, 1927. p. 13.

Work cited

Further reading

Party political offices Preceded byHenry A. du Pont Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Delaware(Class 1) 1922 Succeeded byJohn G. Townsend Jr. Preceded byL. Heisler Ball Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Delaware(Class 2) 1924 Succeeded byDaniel O. Hastings U.S. Senate Preceded byL. Heisler Ball U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Delaware 1925-1928 Served alongside: Thomas F. Bayard, Jr. Succeeded byDaniel O. Hastings Preceded byJosiah O. Wolcott U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Delaware 1921-1922 Served alongside: L. Heisler Ball Succeeded byThomas F. Bayard, Jr.