Harry Fletcher Brown (1867-1944) was a Harvard University-trained chemist who rose to become a DuPont vice president after he spearheaded the development of a stable, smokeless explosive powder for Great Britain.


Harry Fletcher Brown (1867-1944) was a Harvard University-trained chemist who rose to become a DuPont vice president after he spearheaded the development of a stable, smokeless explosive powder for Great Britain.

That accomplishment is credited by some as vital to the Allied Forces victory in World War I, and “would forever secure him a place in the history of the chemical industry,” according to a condensed biography of Brown based on John Perkins and Robeson Bailey’s 1960 “Harry Fletcher Brown, an Essay in Appreciation.”

Despite this noteworthy accomplishment, Brown is remembered best locally for his community service and philanthropy following his retirement from DuPont in 1930. From his career at DuPont, Brown amassed enough money to become one of Delaware’s great benefactors of education and social services in the first half of the 20th century, the biography said.

At his death, Brown left $4.5 million in 11 bequests, all benefiting public institutions. He gave gifts to the University of Delaware for a chemistry building, a dormitory, and an endowed chemistry professorship. He underwrote building a new wing for the Delaware Art Museum, and gave money to the YMCA and YWCA for a community building initially used by the black community during the segregation era. He also provided funds for the Delaware Hospital and School of Nursing in Wilmington.

When it was learned that Brown had donated $600,000 for a new vocational school that opened in 1938 in Wilmington, the state of Delaware voted to name the school in his honor.

“The man had a love that was incredible, and it was imbedded in the plaster, brick and stone,” said 1953 H. Fletcher Brown Vocational High School graduate Frank Pantano.

Brown’s community service roles included: board member for the Wilmington Institute Free Library, director for the Historical Society of Delaware, director for Children’s Bureau of Delaware, the chairman of the advisory committee of the YWCA, trustee and chairman of the finance committee of the Delaware Hospital, and a life membership of the National Education Association. In addition, Brown was a president and member of the Delaware State Board of Education.

Brown was born on July 10, 1867, in Natick, Mass. to William H. and Maria F. (Osgood) Brown. On October 26, 1897 Brown married Florence Matilda Hammett (d. 1952) of Newport, R.I. The couple had no children. He died February 28, 1944.