Born in 1864 into a loving family, Alfred was one of five children. He had a happy childhood swimming, hunting, and playing with friends and siblings in the Brandywine Valley region of Delaware. His father, Eleuthère Irénée duPont II, a partner in the family gunpowder business, was a major influence on young Alfred. Father and son often toured the family powder mills together, as the senior duPont explained the production process to his eager son. He also apparently picked up his lifelong fascination with machines from his father. In 1876, when he was 12, Alfred’s father gave him a small steam engine. It didn’t take Alfred long to figure out how to disassemble and reassemble the engine.
Even as a young boy, Alfred showed signs of a kind of individualism that he would exhibit throughout his life. Instead of playing with his privileged duPont cousins, he preferred the companionship of the children of DuPont mill workers.
Alfred also loved to hear his mother’s tales of exotic travel. He was particularly intrigued by her stories of trips to Florida, where she encountered alligators, the Everglades, white sand beaches, and the St. Johns River in Northeast Florida which flows north into the Atlantic Ocean.