Alfred I. du Pont’s Carillon

IMG_1536This is the plaque attached to the memorial carillon mentioned in the May 2 posting, The Sad Life of Alfred I. du Pont.  (Alfred’s father was the grandson of the founder of the DuPont company with the same name.  Both went by their middle name, “Irenee.”)   Like everything else in Alfred’s life, it, too, was the subject of controversy.

Alfred had originally planned to build a small chapel in honor of the first Pierre Samuel du Pont, the patriarch who brought his family here from France in 1800.  He abandoned that idea, many feel, because it could be confused with memorializing his cousin, the second Pierre Samuel du Pont, of Longwood Gardens fame, who he saw as his archenemy.

The carillon was not actually erected by Alfred.  That was done but by his surviving wife, Jessie Ball.  He had planned it, but died before he could begin the construction.  He even composed the dedication for the plaque and had sent it to his older sister, Marguerite, for her approval.

Marguerite was named after her irrepressibly bossy and opinionated grandmother, Margaretta, as was the custom, except her parents chose a slightly different version of the name out of spite.  The difference was an obvious dig at the constantly criticizing grandmother.   (There was no end to the squabbles in the early du Pont family.  In our times, they would have been featured on “The Real Housewives of the Brandywine Valley.”)   In one of nature’s ironies, Marguerite’s personality was as grating as her grandmother’s.  She was deeply involved in charitable work and thought any money should go to helping the poor rather than squandered on nonsensical memorials, as she bluntly told Alfred.  She thought the du Pont family was in serious decline, except for herself, ever since the first Pierre Samuel du Pont’s father, the watchmaker, convinced the aristocratic but financially needy Anne Montchanin to marry him.  (“Montchanin” is a common name for various roads, buildings, and commercial sites in the Brandywine Valley.)

Even the erection of the carillon was mired in controversy.  The architects were a firm headed by Alfred’s son, Alfred Victor, the same son he once tried so hard to de-name (see previous posting).  After Alfred died, his wife, Jessie, claimed he had to add structural beams to his son’s design.  Alfred Victor vigorously denied this insult to his reputation, but Jessie held firm.

The carillon was finished by 1936, and they could then begin constructing the A. I. du Pont Pediatric Hospital Alfred had also planned.  As you would expect, this involved still more controversy, but the constant bickering is getting tedious.  Let’s quit here.

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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