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.

    For more information about the collection, click here to view the finding aid.
    Image: Vance Mitchell during 1968 interview. Click to view.

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Interview with C. Natalie Rogerro Meriggi, 1984 November 8 [audio]
Meriggi describes the differences between the Gibbons house during the interview and when she lived in it. She also describes various family possessions and how they were used or placed in the house, as well as daily chores.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1984 April 3 [audio](part 1)
Yetter discusses about homes and families in Squirrel Run. The interview is primarily concerned with daily life including cooking, cleaning, habits, and maintenance work. Types of social activities and customs are also discussed, as well as Mrs. Yetter's memories of explosions, and her life after leaving Squirrel Run.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1984 April 3 [audio](part 2)
Yetter discusses about homes and families in Squirrel Run. The interview is primarily concerned with daily life including cooking, cleaning, habits, and maintenance work. Types of social activities and customs are also discussed, as well as Mrs. Yetter's memories of explosions, and her life after leaving Squirrel Run.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1984 May 30 [audio](part 1)
Yetter discusses certain subjects at length including the "sand hole", an area close to the du Pont family cemetery, sewing, marriage traditions, gardening, types of clothing and their care, funerals, illnesses, and schooling. Home life and duties such as cleaning and cooking that was recalled in the first interview continues to be discussed.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1984 May 30 [audio](part 2)
Yetter discusses certain subjects at length including the "sand hole", an area close to the du Pont family cemetery, sewing, marriage traditions, gardening, types of clothing and their care, funerals, illnesses, and schooling. Home life and duties such as cleaning and cooking that was recalled in the first interview continues to be discussed.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1984 February 28 [audio]
Sheldrick describes her childhood home in detail, chores and hobbies, and various daily activities, such as gardening, handling garbage, and obtaining groceries. She also describes her education, Sundays at Church, holidays and celebrations, explosions, and illnesses.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1984 March 6 [audio]
Sheldrick describes the layout of the various villages along the Brandywine, including which families lived where. She also recounts various anecdotes about her neighbors and her childhood. Sheldrick describes whitewashing houses, the local barbershop, medical care, and feminine products in the early twentieth century.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1984 July 25 [audio]
Yetter discusses ornamental and vegetable gardening near the near the DuPont Company Hagley Yards. Mrs. Yetter talks about the types of vegetables her family grew and how they did so, as well as what kind of flowers was grown on their property. Other areas and family gardens in which Mrs. Yetter was familiar is also discussed.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1985 February 19 [audio](part 1)
Yetter discusses social life and activities, excursions to the city of Wilmington, people she knew as a child and young adult, cooking traditions, church, holidays, games, the layout of homes, vegetable gardening, and more details on daily life in the home.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1985 February 19 [audio](part 2)
Yetter discusses social life and activities, excursions to the city of Wilmington, people she knew as a child and young adult, cooking traditions, church, holidays, games, the layout of homes, vegetable gardening, and more details on daily life in the home.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1984 March 28 [audio](part 1)
Sheldrick describes childbirth, funerals, children's games and pastimes, and going into Wilmington. She also describes typical clothing, the hot water pump in the village, dances and weddings, and various family possessions.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1984 March 28 [audio](part 2)
Sheldrick describes childbirth, funerals, children's games and pastimes, and going into Wilmington. She also describes typical clothing, the hot water pump in the village, dances and weddings, and various family possessions.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1987 May 21 [audio]
Sheldrick describes the layout of the villages along the Brandywine, including which neighbors lived where, as well as the homes of various du Pont family members. She also discusses the various families who lived in Henry Clay Village.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1989 January 1 [audio]
Sheldrick describes the laundry process in detail, including the kind of soap the family used and darning socks. She also discusses chores in her house, medical care, and making homemade root beer.
Interview with Les Mathewson, 1976 September 3 [audio](part 3)
Mathewson describes stone quarrying work in detail, including the process, tools, and his various job responsibilities. He also discusses his time working in the hydroelectric plant.
Interview with Les Mathewson, undated [audio](part 4)
Mathewson describes stone quarrying work in detail, including the process, tools, and his various job responsibilities. He also discusses his time working in the hydroelectric plant.
Interview with Jane "Jenny" Toomey, 1984 February 8 [audio](part 1)
Toomey describes the childhood of her husband, Timothy Toomey, who grew up at Hagley Yards as well, and whose father, the boss of the powder mills, was killed in an explosion in 1910. Her interview describes her childhood, including hygiene routines, her education at St. Joseph's, celebrations at holidays, explosions, and local businesses in the area. She also describes raising her children along the Brandywine after her marriage in 1920.
Interview with Jane "Jenny" Toomey, 1984 February 8 [audio](part 2)
Toomey describes the childhood of her husband, Timothy Toomey, who grew up at Hagley Yards as well, and whose father, the boss of the powder mills, was killed in an explosion in 1910. Her interview describes her childhood, including hygiene routines, her education at St. Joseph's, celebrations at holidays, explosions, and local businesses in the area. She also describes raising her children along the Brandywine after her marriage in 1920.
Interview with Jane "Jenny" Toomey, 1985 February 12 [audio](part 1)
Toomey describes her house in Charles Banks, various foods she cooked and baked, relations between Italian and Irish immigrants, and daily chores. Her son, Joe Toomey (b. 1925), also describes his childhood, including mushroom picking, caddying at the DuPont Country Club, raising chickens, and his family's history and immigration from Ireland.
Interview with Jane "Jenny" Toomey, 1985 February 12 [audio](part 2)
Toomey describes her house in Charles Banks, various foods she cooked and baked, relations between Italian and Irish immigrants, and daily chores. Her son, Joe Toomey (b. 1925), also describes his childhood, including mushroom picking, caddying at the DuPont Country Club, raising chickens, and his family's history and immigration from Ireland.
Interview with William Henry Miller, 1984 February 16 [audio]
Miller describes a detailed history of his family and how they came to America and began working for the DuPont Company. He also describes his father's childhood along the Brandywine in Henry Clay, including how the children would entertain themselves, and his relationship with Alfred I. du Pont.
Interview with William Ball "Billy" Montgomery, 1988 April 20 [audio]
Montgomery describes his grandparents' home in detail, childhood pastimes, his grandmother's garden, various chores, and his education. He also describes the home the du Ponts built for his grandparents and holidays and celebrations, including Christmas, Fourth of July, and Halloween traditions.
Interview with William Ball "Billy" Montgomery, 1988 April 29 [audio]
Montgomery discusses informal musical groups, summer pastimes along the Brandywine, typical smoking habits, and various possessions the family owned. He also describes what courtships were like, funerals and wakes, and relationships with his family.
Interview with William Ball "Billy" Montgomery, 1988 June 13 [audio]
Montgomery describes the house on Breck's Lane in detail, cooking and chores, sports and pastimes, toys and games, gardening, and other aspects of his childhood along the Brandywine. He also describes birthdays, wakes and funerals, and weddings.
Interview with Edgar Dill Peoples, 1988 April 2 [audio](part 1)
Peoples describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including his family history and how his parents met, daily chores, cooking and gardening, games that the children would play, and typical dress. He also describes the social aspect of life at the yards, including the Swamp Lily Club and the Hagley Community House as well as Christ Church.

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