Walter Samuel Carpenter, Jr., was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on January 8, 1888 to Walter Samuel Carpenter and Belle Morgan Carpenter. He entered Cornell University to earn a degree in civil engineering, but left in 1909 during his senior year to go to Chile and work with his uncle Edmund Carpenter for the DuPont Company. Edmund Carpenter’s mission was to investigate the possibility of purchasing nitrate of soda processing plants to ensure a reliable source of this raw material so vital to DuPont Company’s manufacture of gunpowder and other explosives. While in Chile, Walter Carpenter assumed responsibility for purchasing the sodium nitrate needed for DuPont’s explosives operations. Carpenter’s brother R.R.M. “Ruly” Carpenter, who is mentioned throughout this diary, was married to the sister of the DuPont Company’s president, Pierre S. du Pont II.
Walter Carpenter returned to the United States in 1911 and was assigned to DuPont’s development department in Wilmington, Delaware, becoming the department’s director in 1917. He became a vice-president in 1919 at the age of 31. Carpenter was an early advocate for DuPont’s production of ammonia derivatives, rayon, celluloid, and lacquers. He became treasurer of the DuPont Company in 1922 and in 1940 becamee the first company president who was not a member of the du Pont family.
During his tenure as DuPont’s president, Carpenter guided the company’s involvement in the Manhattan Project, which included the construction of nuclear reactors in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington. He stepped down as president in 1948 and subsequently served as DuPont’s chairman of the board until 1962. Carpenter remained honorary chairman until 1975. Throughout his life, he was a major benefactor of Cornell University and the University of Delaware. Carpenter died in Wilmington, Delaware, on February 2, 1976.
Witzel, Morgen, ed. “Carpenter, Walter Samuel, Jr.” The Encyclopedia of the History of American Management. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes, 2005.
Atomic Heritage Foundation, “Walter S. Carpenter, Jr.” (accessed July 11, 2017) http://www.atomicheritage.org/profile/walter-s-carpenter-jr
Information derived from the collection.
Walter Samuel Carpenter travel diary consists of one manuscript diary kept by Carpenter during an extended visit to Chile while in the employment of the DuPont Company, who were there seeking a source of nitrates to manufacture explosives. Dating between 1909 and 1910, the diary gives a clear sense of Carpenter's activities, including working in an office with eight brokers, meeting influential people, working on codes (likely for telegraphic communications), taking Spanish lessons, his recreation and taking photographs.
In this diary, Walter Samuel Carpenter chronicled his life in Valparaíso, Chile, while working for the DuPont Company from 1909 to 1910.
Carpenter kept this diary during his time in Chile working for the DuPont Company, who were there seeking a source of nitrates to manufacture explosives. Carpenter left New York in December 1909 with Mr. Elias Ahuja (Ahúja de Andría), the DuPont Company’s Chilean representative and sailed to Valparaíso, Chile. Along the way, the pair stopped in Jamaica, Panama, and Peru. Upon his arrival in Chile, he joined his uncle, Edmund N. Carpenter, who had arrived there the previous May. Walter S. Carpenter noted that he purchased the diary in late January 1910 after his arrival in Valparaíso, but copied his earlier entries from “rough sheets kept on the boat.”
Carpenter wrote about working in an office with several brokers and frequently met with engineers, American businessmen, diplomats, and other influential people. He described his work copying cables and working on codes, likely for telegraphic communications. He frequently met with his uncle and was a close companion of Ahuja. Carpenter wrote little about his actual work, but often described socializing, taking Spanish lessons, playing tennis, going to the theater, and watching sports.
The diary is bound with purple cloth over boards and the cover features a gilt-stamped cartouche containing the words “LETTS’S NO. 101 DIARY/1910/3/-.” The front and back covers of the volume have a blind-stamped border, and “1910” is blind-stamped on the base of the spine. All edges of the pages are marbled. The volumes pastedowns and flyleaves feature printed advertisements for businesses in England. There is a black stationer’s ticket on the inside cover that reads “W.G. PATON/Bookseller, Printer, etc.,/VALPARAISO/ANTOFAGASTA & CONCEPCION” in gold print. The title page reads “Letts’s/ INDIAN AND COLONIAL ROUGH DIARY AND ALMANAC FOR 1910” and is signed “W.S. Carpenter/Jan. 1910” in black ink. The first several pages of the volume contain printed calendars, charts on lunar phases, weights and measures, postage rates, exchange rates, and a “Concise Directory” of English businesses. The volume contains 255 pages of lined paper with handwritten entries in black ink.