Alfred Du Pont Chandler, Jr.

While researching the Edmund Chandler family, I came across many hard working people who were land-owning pillars of their communities. Their efforts built the foundation of our country. Our earliest Chandler ancestors came here for religious reasons and principles and while making money was important it was not everything.

Our early Chandlers were community leaders and were instrumental in establishing the schools and churches, none were famous or among the very rich. Then I read about Alfred du Pont Chandler, Jr. His branch that went back several generations, made the most of their times (the industrial revolution) and the most of their skills and abilities. The contribution that this Chandler branch to made to the growth and culture of our country is what brought them wealth and fame.

Alfred du Pont Chandler, Jr., (1818-2007) His ancestry goes back to Edmund like this: Alfred, Jr.>Alfred, Sr.>Alfred>Theophilus>Peleg>Peleg>Philip>Joseph>Joseph>Edmund.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for history and was credited with the founding of studying business history in the United States. He had the education and the intellect to figure out how American companies like General Motors, DuPont, Exxon, and Sears Roebuck became huge and successful during the late 19th and  20th centuries. When I think about Edmund the immigrant, and his “parcel of books,” I wonder if Alfred’s love of books and knowledge came down through the Chandler line?

He studied how entrepreneurial enterprises became huge companies and concluded that one of the factors was the development of modern managerial capitalism that marked American business success.  “What counts are people — their skills, knowledge and experience,” he said.

He had a life long love of learning and was active until the end moving from studying railroads and the automobile industry to Sony and electronics. Despite wealth (summers in Nantucket sailing, duck hunting on his grandmother’s rice plantation, yachting in the Antilles) he was unpretentious, good humored and pursued his scholarship with enthusiasm and zeal.

While his middle name was du Pont, he was not a direct descendant of the du Ponts.  He was related by the marriage of his gg-uncle, Theophilus, Jr., the architect. Alfred Jr.’s  family was intertwined with the du Ponts over the decades. His great-grandmother was raised by the du Ponts after the death of her parents. His great grandfather was William G. Ramsay, the first chief engineer of E. I. Du pont de Nemours Chemical Company. He transformed it from a family company to a global corporation — DuPont, the global “better living through chemistry” company. It is interesting to note it is not “du Pont” the family but “DuPont the corporation.

Like all of the Edmund Chandler descendants, Alfred, Jr.’s ancestors started out in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Joseph 3 left for North Yarmouth, which then was still part of Massachusetts, but later became part of Maine. Joseph three’s son, Philip, remained in Duxbury, but his son Peleg and family moved to Maine.  Peleg was the only child of Philip that moved to Maine from Duxbury. Peleg and family first went to North Yarmouth, then by ox cart to New Gloucester.

Peleg, the younger’s son, Theophilus Sr., moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he was the president of a railroad for a time and a lawyer. One of his sons, Theophilus P. Chandler, Jr. became a famous architect who married Sophie Madeline du Pont daughter of the founder of DuPont. The churches and homes Theophilus, Jr. designed (some of them so big that they were moat worthy) grace Philadelphia and other cities.

Theophilus, Sr.’s daughter Hannah Chandler Ropes became a nurse who nursed Louisa May Alcott back to health during the Civil War. Theophilus, Jr. and Hannah Chandler Ropes, a remarkable woman for any time, have been subjects of articles and writing in the past by our members.  We also have more information on them in our Members’ Only section, including pictures and writings, including Hannah’s own.

Theophilus, Sr.’s son, Alfred du Pont Chandler, married Mary Merrill Poor of daughter of Henry Varnum Poor founder of “Standard and Poor’s.”  Alfred was a successful Harvard educated lawyer, a tradition carried on by his son also named Alfred du Pont Chandler.

Finally, we arrive at the third Alfred, Alfred du Pont Chandler, Jr. (1818-2007) our subject. Unlike his ancestors, he did not go into law, but became a historian.  History fascinated him even at age eight as he wrote in:

Alfred Dupont Chandler, Jr. | Luck and the Shaping of a Historian’s Professional Education | The Massachusetts Historical Rev.

“Let me begin by saying that I always wanted to be a historian. In 1926, when I was eight, my father gave me a copy of Elementary History of the United States by William Fiske Gordon. I read it again and again, more than twenty times. I still have the book and looked it over one more time before my talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society. I am impressed by how readable and relevant it remains.”

He graduated from Harvard magna cum laude where he was a classmate of and on the sailing team with John F. Kennedy.  He was a Naval officer during World War II where he received a citation “for meritorious services as Assistant Fleet Camera officer from July 1943 until March 1945 while attached to the staff of the Commander Service Force, Atlantic Fleet.” He developed a method of computing the fall of shot for gunnery practice greatly aiding and speeding up training.

For those of us who have been scoffed at by relatives for digging through old family papers, much can be gleaned from them besides just ancestor hunting.  While we may not all have a Henry Varnum Poor in our family tree like Alfred, Jr., look at how cleaning out old papers in great-aunt Lucy’s  store room changed his life and influenced American life below from HBS Professor Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Preeminent Business Historian, Dead at 88 .

“In search of a topic for his doctoral dissertation, Chandler made a fortuitous discovery that would establish his life’s work and ultimately shape the course of business history. He literally stumbled upon the papers of his great-grandfather, Henry Varnum Poor, a founder of Standard & Poor’s Corporation and a well-known nineteenth-century railroad analyst, while cleaning out a storeroom in his great-aunt Lucy Poor’s home in nearby Brookline. Henry Varnum Poor had sketched the histories of more than 100 early American railroad companies and the systems of finance that funded their growth, and his papers were a treasure trove of firsthand accounts of the crucial role railroads played in the development of modern business practices. These materials became the basis of Chandler’s doctoral dissertation, which evolved into a book, Henry Varnum Poor: Business Editor, Analyst and Reformer.”

By studying economics, history and sociology he was able to study and analyze what made business, particularly American business successful.  He edited the letters of Teddy Roosevelt, edited Dwight D. Eisenhower’s letters and helped Alfred P. Sloan, creator of the modern General Motors write his autobiography, “My Years with General Motors.”

He taught at MIT, Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Business school.

Also from HBS Professor Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Preeminent Business Historian, Dead at 88:

“In The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1978 as well as the prestigious Newcomen Award and Bancroft Prize, Chandler argued that the visible hand of management had replaced, in Adam Smith’s words, the invisible hand of market forces in coordinating and allocating the resources of the economy as a result of the coming of the railroads and the telegraph in the 1800s. Although there was little need for middle managers prior to 1840, Chandler concluded, by the mid-twentieth century, the multiunit, multifunctional enterprise administered by salaried managers had become the “most powerful institution in the American economy.”

To read more about Alfred D. Chandler Jr., click the above links.  He wrote the article for the Massachusetts Historical Review describing his life.  The second link was his obituary, also very interesting reading with pictures. Both are short.

After reading about him, what came to the forefront was that what was interesting about him was his intellect and what he did with it.  Fame and wealth, if based on party-going and the acquisition of things, is like cotton candy, lots of fluff with no substance. With economic times changing again, I wonder what he would have said about today’s economic climate?

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