James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Eleuthère Irénée DuPont, ca. 24 October 1804 (Abstract)

§ From Eleuthère Irénée DuPont

Ca. 24 October 1804. Informs JM that by the same day’s mail he is sending the description and plan of a new machine for making gunpowder in the fastest and most economical way.1 Hopes that JM’s zeal for the arts and the goodwill he has always shown DuPont and his father will cause him to view with pleasure a discovery interesting as a useful manufacture and important to DuPont’s success. Is now occupied in experimenting on a new method of manufacture having the double advantage of simplifying the work and improving the quality of the powder. If he obtains a good result, he will inform JM.

FC (DeGH: Longwood Manuscripts, group 3, box 2). 2 pp.; in French. Undated; date assigned here on the basis of William Thornton to DuPont’s associate Peter Bauduy, 27 Oct. 1804: “I had the pleasure of receiving your Favour of the 24th: Instant, with the Papers of Mr. DuPont which were handed to me by the Secretary of State” (C. M. Harris and Daniel Preston, eds., Papers Relating to the Administration of the U.S. Patent Office during the Superintendency of William Thornton, 1802–1828 [microfilm ed.; 5 reels; Washington, 1986], reel 1).

1Filed with the FC are two copies, both undated, of a document addressed to JM by DuPont, one in French (4 pp.; in the hand of DuPont) and one in English (5 pp.), describing DuPont’s new machine for granulating gunpowder. “The High price of Labour in the united States having always been a principal cause of discouragement in the establishment of Manufactories,” DuPont noted, “I find that one of those machines will perform the work of six Hands. I have erected four of them which are put in motion by a water wheel & will do the whole work of my manufactory without any other trouble than the attendance of a man to watch and feed them.” DuPont said that he had tried others’ machines but found them wanting, noting that “the quantity of dust that they produce and which inevitably flies on the wheels which compose the machinery appears to me very dangerous in a work where the least shock or friction may produce a fatal consequence.” DuPont explained that his machine was “composed of a copper Cylinder bored with holes of a diameter equal to size of the powder required,” was hermetically sealed, which “diminishes the loss in fabrication and by keeping the building perfectly clean lessens the dangers of the work,” and contained haircloth buffers to remove the dust from the granulated powder. “Thus by the movement of one machine I have succeded in granulating powder and separating the dust from it.” Following this description DuPont annexed an explanation apparently meant to accompany a drawing that has not been found, and he asked JM to grant him a patent. A patent for DuPont’s “Machine for granulating gunpowder” was issued on 23 Nov. 1804 (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1832–61). description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:431). Another English version of DuPont’s description is printed in Bessie Gardner du Pont, ed. and trans., Life of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont from Contemporary Correspondence, 1778–1834 [11 vols.; Newark, Del., 1927), 7:31–35.

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