Oral histories on work and daily life in the Brandywine Valley
About this collection
A collection of approximately 200 interviews conducted between 1953 and 1990 with people who lived and worked in New Castle County, Delaware. The recollections of the subjects cover a period from about 1900 to 1960. While the majority of the interviews are with those who have a connection with the DuPont Company or du Pont family either as employees or inhabitants of the area surrounding the company's operation on the Brandywine River, the collection also includes interviews with those who worked in other industries in Delaware during this era such as Hodgson Woolen Mill, Lobdell Car Wheel Company, Hoopes Brother & Darlington, and Joseph Bancroft & Sons. In addition to documenting work and labor during this period, the interviewers delve deeply into the social and cultural lives of their subjects. Issues related to domesticity, gender, education, childhood, ethnicity, medicine, etc. are among the topics covered in the interviews. Also of note are interviews with a journalist (Fred Reybold) and an early broadcaster (Willard Wilson) who worked in Delaware.
Hackendorn describes growing up along the Brandywine, including his schooling at St. Joseph's on the Brandywine, games the children would play, the family home in Free Park, his first job at a cotton mill, and his impressions of various members of the du Pont family. He also describes his career working in different companies.
Johnson and Hanway discuss why Mr. du Pont bought the estate, the farming operations at Longwood, the development of the Italian water gardens, work benefits, and various interactions with du Pont family members.
The first part of the interview describes their family history, the houses in Squirrel Run and Wagoner's Row, the political opinions of residents in the community, their education at A.I. du Pont School, and the various transfers of property that occurred in the area. The second part of the interview concerns guard duties around the property, interactions with members of the du Pont family, the children's entertainments and sports, holiday parties, different businesses in the community and in Wilmington, and daily life.
Toy describes his salary and working conditions during that time. He later made his career in carpentry. In his interview, he discusses the demolition of the mills, his impressions of Louise du Pont Crowninshield and Colonel du Pont, his work on A.I. du Pont's sunken gardens, his childhood in Long Row, and community relations at Hagley.
The Ferraros describes explosions in 1890, 1898, and 1915, the villages along the Brandywine, the political views of the workers, various impressions of members of the du Pont family, and life in Walker's Bank, including entertainment, wages, and chores.
Taylor describes Wilmington in the early twentieth century, including the ethnic makeup of the city, pastimes of young people, learning his trade, the temperance movement, healthcare in the city, church and community life, and other day-to-day routines in the early 1900s. He also describes working conditions during his career.
Collins describes how he was trained as a miller, how his business expanded, the different crops ground at his facility, the process of grinding corn and wheat, different grades of flour produced, and explosions that occurred in the mill business. He also discusses the role of grain elevators in the mill process.
Dillon describes in detail the process of hauling willows, including cutting them down, peeling them, tools and techniques used, and caring for the horses. He also describes farm life at the turn of the century, including the business aspect of farming.
Fitzharris recalls in more detail about some of the subjects she has discussed in prior interviews. Some topics include coal wagons, home sewing, homemade alcohol, style of dress during mourning periods, household furniture and appliances, toys and hobbies, and types of meals cooked in the home.
Dunlop describes the house in which he grew up, games the children played growing up, newspapers and reading materials, learning his trade at Bethlehem Steel, his education, and day-to-day life during his childhood.
Gibson describes an explosion that killed her mother's first husband, her education at St. Joseph's, cooking and shopping, medical care, holiday celebrations, and peeling willows. She also describes her family's history and emigration from Ireland.
Dougherty describes the houses in Free Park and in Breck's Lane in detail, as well as common practices in the early twentieth century, including shopping, food preparation, and entertainment. He also describes his wedding in detail as well as his younger sister's funeral.
Hackendorn recounts stories from her husband's childhood along the Brandywine. Eugene Hackendorn worked as a time keeper for the DuPont Company and was one of two men who survived an explosion. She also describes the family's religion and the children's pastimes.