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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A MOTHER’S MADNESS?
After initial newspaper notices, Louis’ death faded quickly. When the Wilmington Club published a book in 1955 describing its first 100 years, the authors listed Louis as a member, but wrote nothing of his end.
One must be suspicious of Zilg’s assertion that Louis was still hurt over the loss of Bessie Gardner. Alfred married Bessie in 1887, five years before Louis did the deed. Hall suggests the “madness” of their mother, Charlotte Henderson du Pont, affected her son Louis more than Alfred and the other siblings, and that Louis’ dissolute and aimless life reflected the impact of his mother’s illness and early death. Still, she died in 1877, 15 years before Louis shot himself.
Since there is no in-depth study of Louis du Pont’s life and death, all we have is supposition about why he died in such a manner. The standard biography of Pierre S. du Pont by Alfred D. Chandler Jr. and Stephen Salsbury (1971) mentions that Pierre loved to visit his cousins’ home, Swamp Hall on Brecks Lane, not far from the Hagley gunpowder plant. Pierre was especially fond of Louis, who was two years older than he. Despite the close relationship, the biographers fail to say anything about Louis’ death or Pierre’s reaction to it.
Hall’s account of the death has Louis slumped over a table, not prostrate on the floor. This, of course, makes sense because Louis was engaged in writing a letter when he pulled the trigger. But most newspaper accounts at the time depict him lying on the floor. The newspapers also wrote that there was no explanation for “the tragedy.”
Page 4: A Mother's Madness?, continues...