The Madness of Count Louis
History says little about the famous A.I. du Pont’s younger brother, and what it does say is often wrong. Here, the authors attempt a more accurate account of his life and death. Yet the mystery surrounding his suicide remains.
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THE BLACKEST DAY
There is no biography of Louis du Pont, and little has been written about his death apart from contemporary newspaper accounts. Gerald Colby Zilg’s history of the du Pont family, “DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain” (1972), mentions Louis’ suicide. Unfortunately, Zilg is wrong in his facts, writing that Louis “walked into the Wilmington Country Club, took out a revolver, and fired a bullet through his brain.”
It was, says Fenton Wendell, a past president of the Wilmington Club, “the blackest day in the club’s long history.”
Articles in the New York Times and Wilmington’s Evening Journal give better accounts. When Louis entered the club at 3:30 p.m., he spoke briefly to another member, lawyer Willard Hall Porter, to explain that he would be unable to help with an upcoming club event.
Louis then asked the steward, Henry Carter, for help in posting a letter. Carter replied that he would mail the letter. Louis climbed the stairs to the library. Paper at hand, the young du Pont started his letter about 3:45 p.m. The steward heard the report of a gun around 4 p.m. He hurried to the library, where he found Louis face down on the floor. Blood oozed from behind his right ear, and a revolver lay at his feet. A nearby physician, Dr. James Avery Draper, was summoned. He pronounced Louis dead.
Louis was too young to be established in the DuPont Co. and was viewed by some in his family as a black sheep. The reporting of wealthy children’s exploits is not a new development in the age of Paris Hilton. In many ways, Louis could be called America’s first “celebutante.”
He was famous for being rich. His drinking and womanizing were known to some. Joseph Frazier Hall in his 1990 biography, “Alfred I. du Pont: The Man and His Family,” said Louis was “the most obvious [of du Ponts] to be characterized as being the beautiful and the damned.”
Page 3: A Mother's Madness?