Interview with Joseph Kauss, 1969 July 11 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Driving tour of the former DuPont Co. power yards with Kauss beginning at the Hagley Museum parking lot
    Keywords: Abandoned buildings; Company; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & amp; grinding mill; Gunpowder industry; Historic preservation; Joe Haley; less smoke dry house; Mills and mill-work; Pellet House; Roger Wilson; wheel mills
    Transcript: Scafidi: This interview with Mr. J. B. Joe Kauss, K-A-U-S-S, was held on Friday, July 11, 1969, in a combination of, first, an automobile driving through the powder yards, second, in the conference room of the Foundation building. Participating in this interview, which began at ten o'clock, were John Scafidi and Faith Pizor. [They travel up to the yards.]

    Pizor: John, when we get up here, let's turn into the lot for a minute. Ask Mr. Kauss something that we haven't known too much about. Were you very familiar with this particular area?

    Kauss: That's where the less smoke dry house used to be, over in there somewhere. This is the original road up through here, isn't it?

    Pizor: Well this used to be - we have pictures of two big brick buildings, or stone buildings were up here on the lot, and then over here, this little building to your right, was connected to the big museum building.

    Kauss: Well over in here, did they have it listed as the less smoke dry house, or is it down along that other road?

    Pizor: It could be, we don't know.

    Kauss: This is new in here.

    Scafidi: They've paced things off some.

    Pizor: Foundations a little bit — the size of the buildings.

    Kauss: Just as I said, they used to have a big powder dry house, they should have the foundations, whether they [dug?] the foundations up or not I do not know.

    Pizor: Was that a two-story building or something?

    Kauss: Well, it was as high as a two-story building, but it was one building, you know, with the big cement blocks along the side.

    Pizor: That was probably it.

    Kauss: Where they dried the - well I'm not sure until you take me down the other way, you see, this was one road, right up along the creek when I was out here.

    Scafidi: Did the railroad come in here?

    Kauss: No, the railroad was down that way further.

    Scafidi: Apparently what they did is they knocked down some buildings and dumped them into this lot and we're riding on top of the pieces.

    Kauss: Yeah, that's what I think...

    Pizor: This little building off to the left here used to be attached to the museum building. There was like a walkway, I think it was a paint shop and a few other things. We've extended it a little bit and cleaned it up.

    Scafidi: If you know anything different about what we're talking about, tell us, 'cause a lot of this stuff is - you look at the building and you dream up something for it, and some of the times the dreams are...

    Kauss: We're going down in here - right?

    Pizor: John, the indicator doesn't blip, does that mean anything?

    Scafidi: Turn up the volume a little bit.

    Pizor: Well it's on — up to the top, all right.

    Scafidi: Was this still a keg mill while you were here?

    Kauss: Yes, that's right. That was back in about 1915 I was up there. Of course it wasn't as pretty as it is now. There was a lot of men in there, of course that was when I come in to work...I was up here the first day - that's been a long while too, it was about '53 wasn't it — how long has this place been opened, the museum itself?

    Pizor: About '53 or '54.

    Kauss: Yeah, that's what I thought.

    Pizor: Did a railroad run around along here?

    Kauss: Yeah, small narrow gauges they call them, come up to the Pellet House which is uphill, it was up here further...That looks like part of the mill up in there. Anybody ever give you the less smoke dry house being down in this section somewhere?

    Pizor: I don't know, I don't think so.

    Kauss: Let's ride up a little further, there should be - see that looks like the foundations up there, for the mill. That's what it used to - the dry - the powder they called it, less smoke powder, I can always remember because we had to go up to the Hagley Office, Carl and I went up to - I don't know whether — is the fence still on the other side of this, do you know?

    Pizor: Yeah, I think so.

    Kauss: We had to go from the car up along the fence and they said, as soon as we got up to this certain point which was about here, we walked a little fast because if that dried up goes up, you might go up with it.

    Pizor: I can imagine you did walk faster.

    Kauss: Yeah, we did.

    Scafidi: What was this thing up here, do you know, the building where the walls are still standing? Power house of any kind of...

    Kauss: Well that may have been the — I can't say for sure, it might have been some part of the operations for the dry house, we had to have pipes and stuff like that to run the machines and stuff. I think that's the [old ?] right there unless I can see something else is the foundation. Yeah, I think I remember this bridge up here.

    Pizor: Not easy because everything is changed so, upper grounds.

    Kauss: Now the wheel mill ought to start in around here, you probably have them haven't you? They had about five or six mills in along this, right on the side that they called a wheel mill. Have anything on that, you remember?

    Pizor: I don't think so. A lot of this is...

    Kauss: See, they should have foundations, unless they tore them all down, too. And then when we first come up here back in '53 - yes, see here's some more of the — the mill used to run by water power.

    Pizor: But down a little farther are some of the beginnings of...

    Kauss: Yeah, here's some of your foundations now, in there. Depends on what you call your wheel mill — used to be about six of them.

    Pizor: I think for about the next few hundred yards, placed out.

    Scafidi: Yes, see there's your [other ones?]. There should be about six of these along here — five or six. And up further than that they had what they called the grinding mill, put the charges — yeah, here they are in here.

    Scafidi: I guess those two have a wall around them.

    Kauss: That's what they called the wheel mills — isn't that what somebody else told you? Called the wheel mills.

    Scafidi: Yeah.

    Kauss: That's where they put the ingredients to start it.

    Scafidi: With the big cast iron wheels.

    Kauss: One, two, three, four - five or six.

    Pizor: These were operating when you were working here?

    Kauss: Yeah.

    Pizor: They operated during the day or...

    Kauss: Oh, they worked all times.

    Pizor: Day and night?

    Kauss: Night shifts and all. Is that where Grimes lives now?

    Pizor: Yeah. When you were here, what were those houses, do you remember?

    Kauss: Those houses at the time they were occupied by Seymour [?]. Grimes wasn't in there then, or Sharpley either. I know they were nice houses inside, but they - I think the paint looked — you see Copeland owned up in here all the time, all right?

    Pizor: Could be right, yeah, right.

    Kauss: Motsy [Lammot?] Copeland, yeah. And he lived - the man that took care of his yard at that time lived in those houses, I think it's a two-section house now.

    Pizor: Yeah, two— family.

    Kauss: Yeah, but I can't recall the fellow's name in there.

    Pizor: They were houses though?

    Kauss: Yeah they were houses there at that time. Right over here they used to have the yard - what they called the yard office where the foreman of the yard, Joe Haley, I remember his name, because I used to come down and help him out once in a while. Wasn't supposed to be down here.

    Pizor: You worked — you didn't work at this yard office, up at the black powder...

    Kauss: No, I worked up at the Hagley - where the Seitz girls lived then. Oh, I remember that - is that house still across from the Seitz home up here now, do you know?

    Pizor: Let's drive up there, go up that way, yeah.

    Kauss: That's where Roger Wilson was the first superintendent when I first came out.

    Scafidi: Is that a white house or a yellow house?

    Kauss: It was a yellow house at that time - it was right across from the office. Yeah, that's the same place where Copeland's man - I don't recall whether that's since I've been out here or not. Looks like they've done something to...

    Scafidi: Changed the interior or exterior, or something. It's got nice thick walls, I know that.

    Kauss: Yeah, I remember this place too. This is where - he was a politician or something, I forget what he was.

    Pizor: Somebody lived in here, this little house?

    Kauss: Yeah, they was...Chaney was the fellow's name lived in there.

    Scafidi: Chaney?

    Kauss: Yeah...[inaudible]...that must have been added.
  • Tour continues at Seitz house, former office building; Kauss' route to work on the People's Line trolley; goats kept to keep grass down near the powder yards
    Keywords: Birkenhead mills; Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School; Crowninshield, Louise du Pont, 1877-1958; gate house; goats; People's Line trolley; security guards; Seitz house; Street-railroads
    Transcript: Kauss: Yeah, that was the yellow house. Here's the Hagley office, right?

    Pizor: Right.

    Kauss: See, this used to be the, that's what I was saying, [Max?] Hoopes lived in there, he was the superintendent at that time, but Roger Wilson, he lived down at the end of Breck's Lane. Can I stop here? Do you care if I go in and see her, I know her?

    Scafidi: Go in here? I'll go up and get us turned around, all right?

    Kauss: [inaudible]...Her name is Seitz and her parents worked in the mills.

    Pizor: Was that building about the same when you worked there?

    Kauss: Well, see it was more - they had an office type, they really...It's pretty in there now, I mean it's a regular home now. At that time, you know, they had regular office furniture and things like that and it looks much different.

    Pizor: About the same size?

    Kauss: Yeah, outside is almost the same. I'm surprised they still kept this house up. These houses out here were really made.

    Scafidi: They are.

    Kauss: Yeah, I mean they had the good foundations and the good wood in it and all, even — I live up on Rising Sun Lane, and you'd be surprised at the joists in those houses, they're about that — almost ten-eleven inches thick, you know, the ones they put in there, about two or three inches some of them. They're well built and the foundations are very good.

    Pizor: How did you get to work, since your office was up here?

    Kauss: The car line came from Wilmington, out along the Brandywine, come up right along the creek, as we call it, you know, right before you hit the railroad bridge going down Rising Sun Lane?

    Pizor: Yeah.

    Kauss: Well, it come in between the railroad bridge and the present bridge there now, the car line came up, right up along Henry Clay, as we called it at that time, come up along Long Row. Long Row, made a turn right around the present new bridge, up around it and then it went all the way up to Montchanin and about - I'd say right opposite the machine shop or keg mill as we used to call them. That's where we had to go up, then we'd come up over the hill and up along the fence and over to the office. We came back the same way.

    Scafidi: Is that the Rising Sun Line?

    Kauss: They called it the People's Line at that time, that was the name.

    Scafidi: I've heard, you know, somehow I got the idea there were two different trolley lines — one was People's and one was...

    Kauss: There were, there were — no, the People's and the — well this present people have always kept that same name, I think, the Delaware Coach, they may have changed, that, but there were two distinct trolley lines. That was the one that came out the creek here, as we call it. And also ran out to Brandywine Springs; that was the other part of the other line.

    Pizor: Were you ever allowed, if you wanted to, to just walk through the yard?

    Kauss: No.

    Pizor: You were strictly to stay out of that area?

    Kauss: Yeah. Every man had a pass to get through this gate, to get through the lower gate, as we called, they have a gate up here by the Pellet House and then they had one up around Crowninshield's. I don't know whether it's still up there or not. Had to have a pass to go through the yard at all. In fact they had - at that time they had quite a few guards around.

    Pizor: Was there actually like guards sitting up at this gate, where the Grimes house is?

    Kauss: No, he was - funny thing, he was down around the yard office here, as we turned around here.

    Scafidi: Was this thing here?

    Kauss: Yeah, it was here, was some sort of a storage place. Used to be a carpenter shop in along here somewhere. What's it look like inside, do you know?

    Pizor: I think it's a storage house now, too.

    Kauss: Yeah, that's probably what it was. Had quite a few blowouts around here and they used to do a lot of carpentry work around here. Now that's — looks like part of an old mill in there. Have you got any clue on that?

    Pizor: Not that I know of, I think that's - it's possible, we just put a new roof on it I think.

    Kauss: See, the foundations are made — I can't imagine what that was.

    Scafidi: That might have been your carpenter shop.

    Kauss: Yeah, it could have been some sort of mechanical shop within your storage area, I'm not sure of that one there.

    Pizor: That long thing, you said they'd often call it the ingredients, it's a storehouse.

    Kauss: Ingredients storehouse.

    Pizor: This was a press house, that what you just asked me for.

    Kauss: That's right. When you had your six wheel mills, as they call them, you got that down - they had the grinding mill up here at the end somewhere.

    Scafidi: Is that where they ground up the kegs of powder? These things are all over the place, these open things with no front on them, at least they may have had roofs - do you know what they used them for, they just kind of sit here?

    Kauss: Well that's — see what the — all the mills, they also had to have your dry houses and your grinding mills which is down there. Now whether they were dry houses in there, I can't tell you.

    Pizor: It's probably storage in later years, later or earlier.

    Kauss: See what I mean, they had to move from one operation to the other before they shipped them up to the - the magazines was a way up the other end, probably have it down there.

    Scafidi: We probably do. We have the location for everything. It's just finding out — and sometimes it's wrong.

    Pizor: That has a new roof on it.

    Kauss: Well, they didn't make very heavy roofs, they wanted to give them a chance to blow out. There's an old wheel mill, right there.

    Scafidi: Were these two mills operating up here, the ones - I don't know what they called them in those days — they call them the Birkenhead mills now? We put in an old— fashioned mill wheel.

    Kauss: Well we, just as I told you, they used the water for power here all the time, and that was part of the - wasn't there a wheel mill there when you first came in here?

    Scafidi: Yeah.

    Kauss: That's what I thought, that's where they get their water power from. I remember I used to make out a report showing how many kilowatts we used each month.

    Scafidi: Used both water and electricity depending on the level of the water?

    Kauss: Still pretty up through here.

    Scafidi: Did they cut the grasses often?

    Kauss: Oh yeah. You know when I first came up here they had goats.

    Scafidi: Goats?

    Kauss: Goats.

    Pizor: Eating the grass.

    Kauss: Goats, they had it. I was amazed myself. Someone said that's to chew the grass around, we don't like to use grass cutters around these places. How I found out, we were having an inventory about six months after I came up through there. I saw these items and one thing I was down here and the guy showed me some of the goats around here and outside of the fence up there along as we went up to the office. But I think they got rid of them shortly thereafter.

    Scafidi: I think when Mrs. Crowninshield moved back into the house up there, she kept sheep.

    Kauss: Did she?

    Scafidi: I think for the same purpose.

    Kauss: Yeah, that's right.
  • Final portion of driving tour including sites of former pellet houses, refinery, and surrounding private property; recalling the pellet houses' explosion; location of former railroad spur line
    Keywords: Explosions; Gunpowder industry; Hagley House; industrial buildings; Judge Bradford
    Transcript: Kauss: Getting close to the old Pellet House. Isn't there another road up in here going up that way, a little further in there?

    Pizor: I think you're right - packing houses...

    Scafidi: Well here's the iron bridge.

    Kauss: That's right. Well isn't there a road comes down through there now somewhere?

    Scafidi: It may not still be there, I'm not sure which one he may be talking about.

    Kauss: Well, you have any diagrams of what they call pellet houses being in along here?

    Pizor: I think we've heard some stories about it, we don't know too much about them. They were right along the water?

    Kauss: Yeah, right along the water, right in here this side of the bridge. Well, that's been fixed up too.

    Pizor: Yeah, that's getting rebuilt. Who operated the pellet houses?

    Kauss: Well, believe it or not, when I was down there about nine months, six of the pellet houses went up and killed about 38 boys I think it was.

    Pizor: Wow.

    Kauss: That was the biggest blowout - that was right in along here. These pellets, I don't know whether anyone ever told you or not, they were small, about that size and they were used for fuses for big guns. But after this big blowout they had, why they separated more and put concrete blocks up between each one so if any of them went up why it would only take four or six, whoever was in it. But at that time it seems it went boom, boom, boom, boom. And we were in the Hagley office at the time — it really — all the windows came in and everything.

    Did anybody ever tell you - that's Judge Bradford's house up there, isn't it, or is that...

    Pizor: That's, see right now is the Hagley House.

    Scafidi: Is this part of a, isn't that...

    Kauss: Isn't that Dean's house?

    Pizor: Yeah, it's largely Dean's now.

    Kauss: Well, Judge Bradford used to have a house down here. Bradford had a house down there, I guess they probably tore it down.

    Pizor: Where was his house up around this area — by the Toomey's.

    Kauss: When I was up here, that was in 1915. He used to get quite a lot of money from the Company because every time they had a blowout, why it used to blow all his windows in the house. But he was the closest one to the powder yard, I think, at that time and apparently Shields was the next one.

    Here's where I thought was another road coming down here.

    Pizor: It's possible that there was, they've changed a lot.

    Kauss: We used to have the superintendent of the pellet houses, as we called it, used to be right down at the end of the road there.

    Pizor: During the war, we've heard that they used Negro women in the press house. Do you remember anything like that?

    Kauss: No, I've never seen any — not even a Negro man up in the yard. I've never seen one. Course now I know that they - before they were employed they had to come to the Hagley office and get powder shoes and things like that, you know, clothing, because they weren't allowed in the yard with your regular shoes on.

    Pizor: Was the refinery operating down here?

    Kauss: Refinery - yeah. The refinery was up this end of the road. It seems like they're cutting off here now. It's been all rebuilt in here.

    Pizor: I think she redid some of it - Mrs. Crowninshield redid some of it. She planted all the flowers.

    Kauss: [The refinery?] used to be right up at the end of this road. And your magazines were up further, am I right?

    Pizor: I think you might be, I think that becomes almost Mrs. — yeah, here is part of it.

    Kauss: Yeah, that's - oh, she really has fixed this up, look in here - yeah, gee whiz, no wonder.

    Pizor: The charcoal house up above here.

    Kauss: I think you better be sure the refinery - here's - well I don't remember that road, see we never got over in her territory, that was like sort of taboo for outsiders. But, yeah, the refining was — I know it was over at the end of this road, before her house, I know that. So it must be down - maybe half a square down? And the only other thing we got up here, the magazines are up here somewhere.

    Pizor: I think they're over on the Carpenter property now.

    Kauss: Is it? Their foundations weren't of stone or anything like that, as I know, because they used to have quite a few blowouts up in here too once in a while.

    Pizor: Soda House.

    Kauss: I can remember I took a report from a guy, they had a mill house up here, too, and the guy would put his charges in and it was supposed to run two or three hours and then he'd get out. Well he had just gotten out, maybe thirty minutes, up she blew. And they brought Jimmy, Jimmy Haley in and they said Jimmy what do you think caused it. And he said I don't know, I was about a half a mile away. That was a myth. There's a lot of stories up there.

    Scafidi: Oh I'll bet there is.

    Kauss: The magazines and the railroad — is there a railroad still up there somewhere?

    Pizor: No, not anymore that I know of.

    Scafidi: No, we knew that the Reading or somebody ran a line in from Montchanin.

    Kauss: Yeah, that's what I mean. It was just a short spur, as they call it, came from their main line down to pick up the cars.

    Pizor: I think most of this is...

    Kauss: Where they hooked the spur up should be up in here somewhere, coming in from the main line up there.

    Scafidi: Yeah, I think it probably came in from halfway...

    Kauss: Well, this is Dean's place here now, I think.

    Pizor: No, this is...

    Kauss: Still Crown...

    Pizor: All this is the Foundation, yeah it was Crowninshield's.

    Kauss: First time I've ever been up this far.

    Pizor: Was this all farmland around here, we've been told a lot of this had their horses. The office have anything to do with the farm?

    Kauss: No, not as far as I know.

    Pizor: Was that a separate operation?

    Kauss: That's right.

    Pizor: Do you happen to know who ran the farm? [Inaudible]
  • [Beginning of formal interview] Family history, education at Sacred Heart and Goldey College, and summary of work history beginning with the Bond Bottle Sealing Company
    Keywords: Bond Bottle Sealing Company; Chambers Works; Clerks; Company; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & amp; Experimental Station; German immigrants; Goldey College [Goldey-Beacom College]; Job hunting; Trade schools; Working class--Education
    Transcript: Scafidi: I wonder if I could get you to introduce yourself, formally, to the tape, we had you talking on there for about a half hour without telling people who you are.

    Kauss: My name is Joseph B. Kauss - address?

    Pizor: Yeah, we may as well get where you are living now.

    Kauss: 1922 Rising Sun Lane, Wilmington, Del.

    Pizor: Can you tell us when you were born?

    Kauss: Born March 11, 1898.

    Pizor: Great.

    Kauss: Seventy— one years old.

    Pizor: You're in good shape.

    Scafidi: And retired for six years?

    Kauss: Retired for six years and been enjoying it for a long while.

    Scafidi: That's funny, you're not supposed to enjoy being retired, you know.

    Kauss: You're all right as long as you don't get sick after you retire, that's the main thing.

    Pizor: And keep busy.

    Kauss: That's right. Keep busy. I have a yard and the golf grounds, so I'm perfectly satisfied. I have two kids, both married, and I have three or four - three grandchildren.

    Scafidi: Do they live in the area?

    Kauss: Yeah, they both live in Wilmington here — one lives in Fairfax and the other over in Collin Heights, that's over in the other end of town. Both well off as far as I know, they never come out and borrow any money [laughs] that's the main thing.

    Scafidi: Have you been a full-time baby sitter often?

    Kauss: No, my wife takes care of that end. I'm no baby - I get out of that, I'm not much of a baby sitter.

    Scafidi: Did your family — or did you father work over at the powder yards, or was be...

    Kauss: No, my father worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, he came from Germany. He was a machinist — couldn't talk much English, but finally he got a job out at the railroad. He retired from the railroad when he was sixty-five. Both of my parents are dead.

    Scafidi: Do you know when your parents, or at least your father, happened to come over from Germany? Did they tell you when?

    Kauss: I can't tell you that.

    Scafidi: We like to find out to see how people happened to get into the Wilmington area.

    Kauss: Well I do know that at that time Germany, there was a lot of - not revolutions, but a lot of politicians, things like that, and a lot of them got out at that time. Somebody used to tell me he was a captain in the army over there, I don't know whether it's true or not. We never traced it down or not. Anyhow he came over and raised ten kids. Three of us living, so he must have made out pretty good. How he did it with the wages at that time I don't know.

    Pizor: Where did you live as a child?

    Kauss: Down on the East side of Wilmington.

    Pizor: You went to school in that area?

    Kauss: For two years, then I went out to what they call the Sacred Heart Church, that's out 10th and Madison. They're gonna tear that down, sometime soon, too, I understand.

    Pizor: How long did you stay at Sacred Heart?

    Kauss: Until I was about fifteen years old. And then I - I don't know whether you know of Goldey College or not?

    Pizor: Sure.

    Kauss: Well at that time they were located at 8th and Market, so I got a job in there, got my tuition free, and I became a bookkeeper and a stenographer.

    Scafidi: Was this the age when a lot of boys left school to either pick up a trade or go to business school?

    Kauss: That's right. Your parents couldn't afford to send you to high school, you had to do something.

    Scafidi: Was it like you had gotten out of, I guess, junior high, or your junior high grades and gone to Goldey to, I guess the equivalent of learning a trade?

    Kauss: That's right.

    Pizor: When you finished at Goldey, did you have any idea where you would get a job? Did you start hunting around?

    Kauss: You didn't have any problems at all. I had to - well see like substitute jobs for a while, then I - let's see, where did I go first, I'm forgetting. I think I went to Crown Bond Bottling Company, they were located at 5th and Monroe at that time. They made caps for bottles - still a big business, I wish I had of stayed in it. [laughs]

    Then my next job was out at the railroad. They put me over in the railroad yards where the freight trains come in and out and I was supposed to check the numbers on the cars. I used to see things under the know [fixing and these?] sledge hammers and things like that. Want to get out of here...making me up to be something like that or not, but I said I'd get out of here. I got out and then I finally - I finally come out cause my next job was with Roger Wilson.

    Pizor: How did you hear about this job?

    Kauss: A fellow by the name of Krauss used to be in the Company's Personnel Division, I met him down at Goldeys, he helped down there once in a while. I guess he told Roger he knew a young guy wanted to try to work I guess, so I came out and Mr. Wilson interviewed me so the next day I went to work.

    Scafidi: What kind of interview did you have?

    Kauss: Nothing, he just come out to the gate, asked my name and what do you do - okay, come on and work tomorrow - that was it.

    Scafidi: Very formal.

    Kauss: Very formal, in fact he brought me up to the office, and the chief clerk there, his name was Sam Moore, I remember him, he saw me coming in with Mr. Wilson, and boy, this kid must be up there, see. I didn't know Mr. Wilson from a pea or anything like that. He brought me in the office and boy I was in there late, they were giving me the - well the good stuff right away.

    Pizor: Can you spell the name of the man that was head of the office that you just said was sort of impressed?

    Kauss: Moore, M— O-O— R— E, Sam Moore, that's the boy.

    Pizor: About what year was this that you came to work?

    Kauss: It was in '15.

    Scafidi: So you were about seventeen or eighteen years old?

    Kauss: Yeah, I think, I worked 9-20-1915 to 1-31-1917, then they transferred me down to the Station - 2-1-1917, I was there until to 2-1-21. I think they offered me a job someplace, but I didn't take it. I don't remember it. I didn't want to leave Wilmington, I was making out pretty good.

    But then I was off for — I had a lot of odd jobs in between. Then I went over to the Chambers Works for about 35 years. Left when I got 65, they sent me home.
  • Job tasks as a stenographer and clerk in the Hagley office in 1915; job hours and holidays; composition of the powder yards' work force and hiring women during World War I
    Keywords: Bills of lading; Clerks; Gunpowder industry; Holidays; Industrial safety; Italian immigrants; Labor supply; pay day; Payrolls; Women in war; Working class; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Pizor: Did you have a specific job in the office, when you came in '15?

    Kauss: In '15 — no, well I was a stenographer and clerk. And Mr. Hoopes — oh I was the only man that typed in the office. I did his work and made out all the bills of lading and things like that - did everything - payroll. When the paymaster was off I used to go down the yard, that's how I got down in the yard. Paymaster was off and I used to go down and pay the men off. And half of those men — surprisingly, a lot of them were Italians, they couldn't write their name, half of them, see. They had one guy that was the interpreter. He's say, "This is Giuseppe somebody." But if they were short about thirty or forty cents, they knew they were short, how they knew that I don't know. They were really funny.

    Pizor: How many men were in the office with you?

    Kauss: Let's see, Sam - about five, four or five.

    Pizor: Were you the youngest?

    Kauss: Yeah, I was the youngest.

    Scafidi: How much — did you have what you'd call a pretty full job, or did you have time to loaf?

    Kauss: No, we were busy in there. Because that's how I met the Seitz girls. One time our payroll man had gotten sick and we had to get some help from in town to get the payroll out on time. It had to be in there at a certain time, and they sent the Seitz girl out, girl by the name of [Pauline?], that's how I met them. She was surprised to see me, she hadn't seen me for a long while.

    Pizor: How were wages, were you satisfied with your wages here do you think?

    Kauss: I was at that time. Let me see how much did they give me to start. I think he started me off at about eighty dollars a month, maybe it was less than that. In that area, between seventy and eighty. Then when I was here maybe four or five months - he must have liked me or somebody talked to him about it - he gave me a raise.

    But the break I did get, I was surprised. I went down to the Station, I was down there about a year or so and I asked the boss down there for a raise, so he gave me about a forty or fifty dollar raise, then at the same month the Company had an arbitrary raise and I must have got almost eighty or ninety dollars. I was sitting pretty. I never had anything like that happen to me in my life, something like that.

    Pizor: When did you get to work and how many hours did you work when you got here?

    Kauss: In Hagley?

    Pizor: Yes.

    Kauss: Well I left down the East side, I was living down on the East side and I had to catch a car about - almost quarter after seven. At Sixth and Poplar the car came around on its way out along the creek, but if I missed that I could go up Market Street and catch the Delaware Avenue car, but I'd have to walk from there all the way up here, see, which was quite a distance. Then I'd be late. I didn't miss it much because you knew if you didn't make that car you'd have a good long walk, so you had to think twice.

    Pizor: What time did you have to report here?

    Kauss: Eight o'clock.

    Pizor: And you were finished - what four or five?

    Kauss: We used to catch the car, I think it was quarter of five, I think was the last car in.

    Pizor: This was five days a week?

    Kauss: Five and a half days.

    Pizor: Finished what — about noon on Saturday?

    Kauss: Yeah, we never worked - even when I worked over at Chambers Works, we worked five and a half days. And then, the first year I was out here — New Year's - well I thought everybody was off New Year's so I just didn't show up. Mr. Hoopes called, he said, "Where were you yesterday, Joe?" "I was up to Philly, looking at the parade." "Didn't you know we were working here?" I said, "No, I just..." He said, "Well, remember from now on." Even now people say, "Nobody works on New Year's." Isn't that right? I thought the same thing.

    Pizor: And Christmas was the only day you had off?

    Kauss: Yeah.

    Pizor: Fourth of July?

    Kauss: We didn't have many holidays when we were working there - no.

    Pizor: Did you - how about vacation...

    Kauss: We had Fourth of July off and Thanksgiving, of course. Vacation, I didn't get any vacation. I don't remember getting a vacation when I worked up at Hagley. I think I got a week when I worked down at the Experimental - even when I was over at Chambers Works, I only got a week when I first went over there. This four and five-week thing — people are sitting pretty now.

    Scafidi: Did you actually have a formal lunch hour, or did you just grab a bite to eat?

    Kauss: No, just got a bite to eat whenever we felt like it. That is up here - down at the Station they had a regular break for everybody because they had about — I'd say about 350 to 400 when I first went down compared to about 3600 now I guess, it may be more down there now. Even when I was down at the Station they only had about two big laboratories and one administration building, lot of minor little buildings, see, there weren't so many down there then.

    Pizor: When you were here, do you have any idea how many men were working at Hagley?

    Kauss: In the yard? Well there wasn't too many because the mills they figured two to each wheel mill. I would say there was between 150, maybe less than that. Did anyone ever gave you any figures on that?

    Pizor: I don't think I have any.

    Kauss: There wasn't too many, you see, because they didn't need many men to any of the buildings. I don't think there were that many. I should know from that payroll, though, shouldn't I?

    Pizor: You say most of them were Italian, or a lot of them were Italian?

    Kauss: Yeah, most of them were Italians.

    Pizor: Were there many Poles?

    Kauss: People from down State — no, mostly Italians. See the Italians took care of...

    Scafidi: Were they generally young men or old men?

    Kauss: They were medium — not many younger men, mostly thirty up I would say.

    Scafidi: Did your friends consider you to be slightly nuts going to work up here?

    Kauss: Yeah.

    Scafidi: Did you consider the Italians being slightly nuts going to work down in the yards?

    Kauss: Yeah. Yeah, everybody does. I saw these guys down painting that bridge down there - I think they're nuts. [Laughter] Did you see them?

    Pizor: Yeah, I did.

    Kauss: How about that - yeah, I think they're nuts. I know I'd never do it.

    Scafidi: Did you have second thoughts about coming out here to work in a place where they made black powder?

    Kauss: No. That never bothered me. Even when I came down in the yards. Well, just as I said, that yard office is fairly — fellow Haley, he was the foreman there, I told you that. He said, "What are you doing down here?" I said, "The boss told me to come down and look around if I wanted to.” He said, "Well, don't walk up through the yard." I said, "Why?" He said, "Just don't walk up through there." He just didn't want you - I mean he didn't want to put you into anything that you're not supposed to get into, which was very nice, see. Course I didn't think about anything blowing up or anything like that, but it could have happened.

    Pizor: Was that about the only person that sort of scared you away a little bit?

    Kauss: Yeah.

    Pizor: There weren't any restrictions, signs, anything like that?

    Kauss: No. Course - well, you weren't supposed to go down in the yard unless you had something to do, but this particular time I was checking some lumber and stuff. The fellow who checked the receiving and the stuff coming in, he was sick or something and he told me to go down and check some things out, that's how I got down there. I told you before that you weren't allowed down in there, which was a fact.

    Scafidi: Did you put on a special pair of shoes to go down that once, or did you just clomp down?

    Kauss: No. Those are mainly for the operation people working in the actual operations.

    Pizor: Did Roger Wilson also hire the men who worked in the yard?

    Kauss: M-Huh, as far as I know.

    Pizor: He hired everybody?

    Scafidi: Did that change at all while you were here, or did - when Hoopes came, he did the hiring too?

    Kauss: Well - course it was supposed to come through him, see, but the men who worked in the mill, why they were old timers and they were on the job a long while and how they broke another fellow into another man's particular job, I don't know, but there wasn't too many - the hiring came right before the first world war when all these boys - there was a few girls worked in the yard, up in the yard too. Somebody tell you that?

    Pizor: I had heard. Where did they work, do you remember?

    Kauss: In the pellet house.

    Pizor: Oh, is that...

    Kauss: Yeah, that's the pellet house I was telling you about.

    Pizor: But they were white girls?

    Kauss: Oh yeah, they were white girls.

    Pizor: Someone had said that they might be black girls.

    Kauss: I don't know how many of them, not too many of them.

    Pizor: Do you have any idea why they hired girls for that?

    Kauss: As to why?

    Pizor: Why they did, yeah.

    Kauss: To help to pack these little pellets, as I call them.

    Pizor: Couldn't they find men?

    Kauss: Well, I guess the women were allowed to work, too. Quite a lot of them were working over at Carney's Point.

    Pizor: You didn't have any women in your office though?

    Kauss: No. Except when I first came out, there was an older person there. Maybe they got rid of her to take me on, I don't know. But she was old — about I'd say she was in her seventies, I guess she had quite a time getting up over the hill. Maybe they put her into a good job in town, I don't know.
  • Office equipment; response to explosions; his boss at the Experimental Station securing his deferment from the draft during World War I; powder yard guards and their barracks
    Keywords: Draft; Explosions; Gunpowder industry; Industrial relations; Industries--Security measures; L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriters, Inc.; Office equipment and supplies; security guards; Stenographers; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Pizor: What kind of office equipment did you have in your office when you came to work here in 1915?

    Kauss: It was...

    Pizor: Was it fairly modern for that time?

    Kauss: Yeah, they had manual typewriters and things like that. The old-time payrolls, you used to have to put them on a sheet, then put them down — let's see, what did we do? It was a press - you had to put your — you'd write your figures and all out and put this wet sheet on top, then we had to press them down, that would make the imprint on it, then we'd send it in town, keep a copy that we had. I don't know what they called it, there was a name for it, but I don't recall what it was.

    Scafidi: Do you happen what brand of typewriter you had?

    Kauss: Yeah, L. C. Smith.

    Pizor: I guess that later became Smith-Carona, is that...

    Kauss: Probably the same kind.

    Pizor: Did you like Roger Mort — Wilson?

    Kauss: Yeah, he was a very nice man. He seemed — I mean everyone around the crick, as we called - that's what we called that, it's the crick, see. Yeah, everybody liked Roger. Of course Max Hoopes lived across the road. The people — he didn't get down on the creek like Roger did, because Roger lived at the end of Barley Mill Road. Those houses are down now. And this fellow Seitz, that's where I was telling you, he was superintendent of the old pellet houses and so on. He lived right next to him. And Krauss lived in the same house - it was a big house, I don't know how it was sectioned off. But I know Roger lived in one of them.

    Scafidi: Did people like Wilson mingle pretty much with the men off the job?

    Kauss: Yeah. He was a fellow — see you on the road - "Hi" - like that.

    Scafidi: Did any du Ponts come wandering into the office?

    Kauss: Not many — only when something happened. That night of the big explosion — you guys never saw such a flock of them. I don't know what time I got away that night. I was taking all kinds of letters and stuff — who's dead and who's alive and what they found and stuff like that, what caused it.

    Pizor: As soon as the explosion hit, and you knew it was an explosion, what did you do?

    Kauss: That's the superintendent's job to get down in the yard and take care of things.

    Pizor: You just sort of waited until you heard what to do?

    Kauss: All gates were closed — do you know what I mean — no one was allowed up in until they gave the sign. Then these fellows from Wilmington would come out and that would be it as far as I know.

    Scafidi: Were any — did women and children come to the gates?

    Kauss: No, they was too — well, yeah that was a regular ritual, as they called it. As soon as something went up out in the yard, the people would go down to the gates and find out what mill it was. Well they knew who was operating it, they'd say Callahan or whoever was operating it, or old Peale, whatever his name was, didn't see him come back, why they were all right. But then they know he went up with it.

    Scafidi: Do you remember, you may think it's an odd question, was there a local undertaker who took over everything?

    Kauss: No, I don't know who got the jobs. There wasn't any actual undertaker out in this section, they all came from Wilmington. But I know they put all these boys in one big casket and buried them over in Silverbrook Cemetery.

    Scafidi: The pieces.

    Kauss: The pieces.

    Pizor: There was no day off or anything for mourning, or anything like that?

    Kauss: Well I...

    Pizor: Just kept right on working?

    Kauss: As far as I know.

    Scafidi: You were out there during, well at least, even though we weren't in World War I, they were producing fuse material for the British and the French, was there any worry about sabotage or German...

    Kauss: No, there didn't seem to be much of that around at that time. I mean if something blew up, they'd say well, it was just one of those things. They didn't figure any harshness or anything like that, never any thought about that while I was around.

    Pizor: Would you worry about this time about being drafted as soon as World War I started?

    Kauss: No.

    Pizor: You figured this would keep you out?

    Kauss: I'll tell you, this is a funny story. Down the Experimental Station — I was stenographer to the - what's his title, his name was Whitbridge, and he was head of the smokeless lab down there. So they come along and draft - I was draft age, I went in and all. He wrote a two-page letter as to why Joe Kauss should not go in the Army, he was needed at the Experimental Station. [...kept that out.] But that was funny. And then - let's see, how many years, about two or three years after the other war, they started laying them off down there, and they wanted to send me — I can't remember where they wanted to send me, but I wanted to go home for a while, I had a little money ahead, so I didn't worry. But I was really surprised at that — keeping stenographers from going in the Army.

    Scafidi: Were there any soldiers around the Hagley Yards, or in around the Experimental Station during the war?

    Kauss: They had regular guards at that time.

    Pizor: But they were their own guards?

    Kauss: Yeah, they were their own guards.

    Scafidi: Did they dress them up to make them look, you know, military or...

    Kauss: No, they had guards in sort of a, you know, that khaki stuff.

    Pizor: Did they live around here?

    Kauss: No, they was from Wilmington. In fact they got the chief of the guards for Hagley here at that time from the local police. He got retired, I think he retired or something like that. He was chief of the guards. And they had a commissary up there for them. They lived here, most of them. They had, I think it was, fifteen to twenty, and some of them had to sleep at the barracks, they had the barracks - I was trying to think, it was up in this section, around Crowninshield's somewhere.

    Pizor: Yeah, we've heard that some of them even lived around the Crowninshield house.

    Kauss: Barracks, yeah. In fact we used to go up and get meals once in a while. They served meals and everything - good meals, too. That was when we had to work night work and not get paid for it - payroll time.

    Pizor: As far as you know, there weren't any Negroes employed in this area at all?

    Kauss: No. In fact, there's very few Negroes around here now. Except these fellows who work around the yard. I know there's none on Rising Sun Lane. Yes there is one up at Carpenter's, he works for Carpenter, I forgot about him.
  • Impression of Alfred I. du Pont; taverns in Henry Clay including Hagee's and the Black Cat; telephones at Hagley; Guy Stollenwerk in charge of the refinery
    Keywords: Bars (Drinking establishments); Black Cat; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Iré né e), 1864-1935; Gunpowder industry; Hagee's Tavern; Prohibition; Simon Dorman; Stenographers; Telephone
    Transcript: Pizor: When Alfred I. was feuding with the family, did you hear much of this down here?

    Kauss: Yeah, but he was a good man; the people don't talk too much about him.

    Pizor: Did you like him?

    Kauss: Yeah. Well, I didn't know him as well as some of the older people do, but he'd been very good to people around the creek. He used to come down and play in the band, come over to Hagee's and have a drink with the boys. He was tops as far as du Ponts was concerned around here.

    Pizor: What was the name of the bar he used to go down to?

    Kauss: Hagee's, right up from Long...

    Pizor: Oh, Hagee's, still here.

    Kauss: They call that Henry Clay, but I mean that was the old Henry Clay, right as you come up the road.

    Pizor: Yeah, I've passed it often. Was that a hangout for a lot of the guys?

    Kauss: Yeah. Well, there was Simon Dorman, he was an old character. Anybody ever tell you about him?

    Pizor: Just a little bit, do you know anything about him?

    Kauss: Boys, I'd be here all day. I want to tell you stories. [laughter]

    Pizor: Oh, go ahead.

    Kauss: I don't want to get too personal with people. In fact that one about - that letter about me being exempted from the Army, I wouldn't want that to show up anywhere.

    Scafidi: Well, we won't send it to the Army.

    Kauss: No, I wouldn't want a lot of people to know that. I didn't do it - he just said — he said, "You just can't go, and I'm going to tell you why." And he showed me the letter. Which was a fact that they - when men were stenographers, well we were in demand at that time. There were more men stenographers then than women, yeah. Just as I say, I didn't have any trouble getting a job at all, any time I took a couple months off, why I would quit some of these minor jobs until I made up my mind to get settled.

    Scafidi: Was there a place next to Dorman's called "The Black Cat", a gambling joint? I just...

    Kauss: I've been in it. Did they tell you who ran it?

    Scafidi: No, no.

    Kauss: Well, I'm not going to tell you. [laughter]

    Pizor: No, I don't think the fellow could remember.

    Kauss: That's a military secret.

    Pizor: Oh really? Was it in a house, or was it...

    Kauss: Yeah, right across from Hagee's.

    Pizor: Oh, it was across from Hagee's?

    Kauss: Yeah, the house is still there. Coming up this way. There's nothing on this side of Hagee, it's on the other side.

    Scafidi: Was it a place where people just played cards, or was it a real, honest— to— goodness gambling joint?

    Kauss: Oh, they played cards and pool - did anything.

    Pizor: Shot a little crap?

    Kauss: Shot a little crap.

    Scafidi: Guess you weren't - well, working at the Experimental Station, you were around, still, during Prohibition. Were there any speakeasies?

    Kauss: Well, that was one of them.

    Scafidi: That was one of them? With a name like "The Black Cat?" Sounds like it's out of a Jimmy Cagney movie.

    Kauss: Yeah, if you wanted a drink, that's where you'd go.

    Pizor: Did a lot of the workmen go to a place like that after work?

    Kauss: They frequented Hagee's, but most of the workmen were - well these fellows that worked in the yard, there used to be a saloon up at the top of our hill, that's Rising Sun Hill, there used to be one down at the bottom, right before you hit the bridge.

    Pizor: What were their names, do you remember?

    Kauss: Let me see, at the top was — I'll have to ask my wife about them - Well I know they were there anyhow. Then the one that was ran by Dorman, it's Hagee's now. Simon Dorman, he was the postmaster, and chief — didn't have any police out there, he used to run everything.

    Scafidi: How old was he when you were here?

    Kauss: Dorman?

    Scafidi: Yeah.

    Kauss: Oh, he was up in his fifties I guess. Yeah, he was something.

    Pizor: And who went to the Black Cat if the workmen went to, say, Dorman's, was it...

    Kauss: Well, the guys around the neighborhood there, the Creekers. And there used to be a lot of guys come in town and try to show the boys how to play cards, but they mostly went home without knowing what happened - as usual.

    Scafidi: Was there a lot of...

    Kauss: Tell you about that.

    Scafidi: Do you know Warren Harden? He's related to the Betty's.

    Kauss: Betty's lived up around St. Joe's Church.

    Scafidi: Right.

    Kauss: Is he older than I am?

    Scafidi: I think so.

    Kauss: That's what I was saying. Those older fellows, they would tell you more, before I came out to the creek, as I call it.

    Pizor: When you were working around here, did you finally decide it might be easier to get a house around here or stay in a - take a room?

    Kauss: No.

    Pizor: It's easier to commute?

    Kauss: Nothing like your neighborhood, I don't care what you say. But, let's see, at that time when I come up on the car, there used to be houses, well that was Henry Clay - there used to be houses all up on both sides. And of course across the creek, that was Walker's Banks. That mill is still there, Hudson's Mill. And then you come up to the car and come across — Squirrel Run used to be in there, all houses in there. Squirrel Run, they had some nice names around here. They had houses on both sides of the creek coming up from Hagee's up to the first gate there.

    Scafidi: How did people get across?

    Kauss: Across where?

    Scafidi: The creek.

    Kauss: They had the old covered bridge down there where the Experimental - where the bridge is now to the Experimental Station.

    Scafidi: Yeah, the suicide bridge is now.

    Kauss: Yeah, that's right. Whoever figured that out was a good engineer, wasn't he?

    Pizor: You probably knew the Rowe's then.

    Kauss: Sure, one of the Rowe's lived right across from us on Rising Sun Lane. They tore that down; Copeland tore that house down.

    Pizor: We've interviewed both brothers.

    Kauss: Have you?

    Pizor: Al Rowe and Dick Rowe.

    Kauss: Did they tell you — Al's the guy tells you about the Black Cat.

    Pizor: No, he told us about Simon Dorman. [laughter]

    Kauss: How about that. Yeah, they both lived right across from us. So I hope our stories corroborate each other. Do they?

    Scafidi: So far so good.

    Kauss: Yeah, there's a lot of stories. Gee, that there fellow Joe Haley, I was telling you, he just died about two years ago — he's the guy that could give you the stories about the yard because he was the foreman, he actually knew what was going on down there. See, he could give you, he could give you the locations of almost everything down in the yard and who worked and how many. But there wasn't too many, just as I said, there weren't too many men that worked in the yard, actually, because the operations weren't of that type.

    Scafidi: Was there electricity in the yard?

    Kauss: Well, they had the, this I told you, they got most of the electricity from the water power that went along through there. Of course we had lights and all around - well they go all of the — I don't think they got all of it — I really can't answer that.

    Scafidi: How about telephone?

    Kauss: Oh, we had telephones up in the office and all.

    Scafidi: Like, could you call down into different locations in the yard?

    Kauss: Yeah, yeah. Your telephones were in Hagley, in your yard office, and up in the refinery. Guy Stollenwerk, that's the guy I'm trying to think — he used to run the refinery when I was there. Have you got his name?

    Pizor: Guy Stollenwerk, yeah, I think he was a former Harvard football player or something?

    Kauss: Yeah, yeah. He used to referee football games around town. He was good, big husky guy. Yeah, he was a great guy. Everybody like him, and that's where a lot of the Italian men used to work.

    Pizor: At the refinery?

    Kauss: Yeah. I think they picked up more money than some of the powder workers from what I understand, they must have, they all remained in there after they got in there. But it was a cold place, boy, used to have — not much heat or any thing was allowed in it on account of the operations. Even in his office — I'd go in there and get out as soon as I could. Get down to the office where it was warm.

    Pizor: Did anybody, once you got a job here, ask you if you could get them a job — any of your friends?

    Kauss: No.

    Pizor: Was it considered a good job to have?

    Kauss: Well, just as he asked me the question before, if I wouldn't have wanted to work in the powder, I think I said "No." I went to work - the Hagley office is different. But as far as getting a job in the office, there wasn't that many jobs in the office. There wasn't much clerical help needed.
  • Growing up in south Wilmington in a large family; his siblings finding jobs as machinists and stenographers; social life in Wilmington as a young man
    Keywords: Amusement parks; Brandywine Springs Park (Wilmington, Del.); Dance halls; Department stores; Ice cream parlors; Labor unions; Men's clothing; Race relations; Shellpot Park (Wilmington, Del.); Stores, Retail; Working class families; Working class--Social life and customs; Young men--Conduct of life
    Transcript: Pizor: What was south Wilmington like when you lived down there? Whereabouts, exactly, did you live?

    Kauss: I lived at 5th and Pine. South Wilmington was across the bridge, as they called it. That's a dump and it's still a dump. It's - just like any other town as you come into it, you may have old houses and only have niggers, Italians, all sorts of people over in there. But now the east side is just the same, niggers and everything. In fact where I was born is torn down too to make for this new developments down there.

    Pizor: Was your neighborhood mainly German or was it...

    Kauss: Yeah, at that time, years ago, our neighborhood was German, and a lot of Irish at that time, very few Italians and a few niggers in between the little side streets. How long have you lived in Wilmington?

    Pizor: All my life.

    Kauss: Well, where you from - the west side?

    Pizor: No, I was born on 13th Street.

    Kauss: Thirteenth - up around St. Patrick?

    Pizor: No.

    Kauss: Thirteenth and where?

    Pizor: Thirteenth and West, near the Delaware Hospital.

    Kauss: Oh, well that was - that was - she was in the elite at that time, see. That was the good part of town at that time, wasn't it? Yeah, that was nice.

    Pizor: Changed.

    Kauss: But just as I say, down around the east side there, down around Pine and Church, they used to have - they kept their homes up very well down there, it's surprising how these colored people got in there and it all got down. They had nice homes down there, but the only place the colored people - they went in these little side streets, they had four or five— room houses, about twenty in a house, and that's how they lived.

    Pizor: How large was your house — you had nine brothers and sisters?

    Kauss: We had a - you know we had a small front yard, small back yard. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and a bath. And an outside toilet - lucky we had that!

    Pizor: Did your mother do all the cooking and everything for the family?

    Kauss: Yes. I often wonder how she did it, but she did it. See, at that time it seemed to prevalent among the people with large families, that as soon as one or two gets working, why they were set. They'd bring twenty or thirty dollars a week, or maybe less sometimes, all helped to bring the other crowd on.

    Pizor: Were you the older part of the family, or were you...

    Kauss: No, I was the fourth from the bottom.

    Pizor: So most of them had already been out working by the time your time came?

    Kauss: But we still didn't have enough money to go to college or anything. [Laughter] In fact, my younger brother did the same as I did - he got a job in Goldey's and worked his way through Goldey's. But I did have two sisters went to Goldey's that paid their own way.

    Pizor: Where did most of you — you had a few older brothers — where did they go to get a job?

    Kauss: Well, one of them became a machinist, the older brother; the younger one, he was in an office, same as me, he was a stenographer, same as I was. And the girls, well they had three stenographers, one of them went to night school and got it. Let's see, one of them - oh, she worked over in a box factory over in south Wilmington. She was the dumb one of the crowd [laughs]. Some of us had to be dumb. That's what I say, there was - Benny, he was a machinist — my father was a machinist, too.

    Pizor: And your brother that was a machinist, was for the Pennsylvania Railroad?

    Kauss: No, he was a drifter. That son— of-a— gun went all over half of the United States. He was down — no, he didn't get to Panama — he was out west, then around Detroit. He wouldn't stay at a job over a year or so, he said he wanted to see the country. He must have done pretty good because he always got a job. It's funny how some of them do it, isn't it?

    Scafidi: Had a good time.

    Kauss: Yeah. But then he got in the first world war and got shot up and was down at Perryville, oh for about five or six years and he passed away, got cracked up on the head a little bit. He was the only one went in the Army of the crowd.

    Scafidi: Did, your brother being a machinist, and your father being a machinist, did either of them ever belong to a union?

    Kauss: Wasn't any unions at that time.

    Scafidi: Had there ever been - did you ever hear stories about that?

    Kauss: They tried to organize at that time.

    Scafidi: Was Wilmington just a bad union town?

    Kauss: Yeah, well they tried to organize them out at the railroad, and they laid them off like, and some of them got back, some of them didn't, but soon as you talk, soon as an employee would talk, the union would try to get rid of them right away at that time. That was before the unions got organized.

    Scafidi: Was there any I.W.W., Wobblies, right after the first world war, big steel strike, any agitation around that time, around 1919?

    Kauss: None around here as far as I know. Wasn't too much agitation around Wilmington at that time. A lot of people — in the younger days, they had jobs, they were working, they were satisfied. Isn't that what you've been told?

    Pizor: My parents have said that, yeah.

    Scafidi: We did hear one time that when the bonus army came through, they had a rough time in — was it '31 or '32.

    Kauss: You mean the crowd that went down to Washington that time?

    Pizor: Yeah. Well, here you are, like about 18 or 19 years old, how was the social life in Wilmington?

    Kauss: I had a good time. Had Brandywine Springs, I guess your parents told you about it.

    Pizor: I've heard of that.

    Kauss: They used to run excursions from Philadelphia on a boat down to Wilmington. They used to get on the trolley car - that's the same People's Line I'm talking about. They used to go down to 4th and Church, up Church to about 11th or something, out 11th, they got down around, up 6th Street. They went all around town. Anyhow, they had Brandywine Springs, then they had Shellpot. That was the place we went every summer. And in winter time they had a dance hall down at 5th and Market Street. They tell you about that?

    Pizor: No.

    Kauss: They used to have - right where...

    Pizor: Queen Theater, around there?

    Kauss: Used to have a dance floor on the second floor and a dance floor on the third floor. The orchestra used to be right in between them at that time. They had any number of dance halls. Kate McCafferty, gonna give credit to her. And another woman out at 5th and Castle — what was her name — I forget her name, she was at 5th and Castle. Aw, there was a lot of these, Majestic Hall, that was out, places like that. But social life for the younger fellows, my age at that time, we had a good time. Plenty of girls around, pretty girls like her.

    Pizor: You're nice.

    Scafidi: If you're being a young fellow and having a social life, where did you get your clothes — what was the favorite store of a person your age to get something really...

    Kauss: Well Mullins was in Wilmington at that time. None of these bigger stores out — that is, Walmart, they weren't in town then.

    Pizor: Was there a store...

    Kauss: There was a place up between 8th and 9th on Market, Prettyman's...

    Pizor: Mansure and Prettyman?

    Kauss: No, there was another place, Stetser - now wait a minute. They handled a higher grade clothes. I didn't wear high-grade clothes. I was lucky if I paid thirty bucks for a suit then.

    Scafidi: Two pants?

    Kauss: That's what I was gonna say, two pair of pants or I wouldn't take it. You had to be careful.

    Pizor: Was there a men's store like 3rd and Market?

    Kauss: There's a Neppes down there at 3rd and Market, and Lippincott's was in Wilmington, but they handled mostly women's things at that time — Lippincott.

    Pizor: Was there a favorite ice cream parlor that you might go around?

    Kauss: Oh yeah, McCafferty, I bet your parents told you about that, McCafferty's.

    Pizor: Isn't there another one somebody told us about?

    Kauss: One down at 6th and Orange -

    Scafidi: Keil's?

    Kauss: Keil's, yeah, that was at 6th and Orange. Those hokey-pokey guys used to come around at nights.

    Pizor: In other words, Wilmington wasn't too dead a town?

    Kauss: No, things were good in those days.

    Pizor: Think it slowed down a little bit?

    Kauss: Yeah, but I think the kids are gonna have a worse time than I've had to make a living. They'll have to have a college education to get anywhere.

    Pizor: That's true.

    Kauss: And their social life isn't as good, I don't think, as we had, for the money at that time.
  • Transferring to the Experimental Station to be closer to the trolley line; friction between people from Wilmington and the "creekers; " spending ten years working for the Pennsylvania Railroad and playing for the corporate baseball and basketball teams
    Keywords: Career changes; employee sports' leagues; Employees--Recreation; Experimental Station; Pennsylvania Railroad (Corporate Name); Seniority, Employee; Stenographers
    Transcript: Pizor: Great. Let's see, it's about 1917, how come you moved to the Experimental Station, was there any reason?

    Kauss: I was transferred down there.

    Pizor: Would you have preferred to stay here or...

    Kauss: No, I wanted to get closer to the car line [laughter]. I didn't like that walk up over the hill. Cause it was pretty tough in wintertime. It used to snow — we had worse snows than we have now in those years, much worse.

    Scafidi: Did you put in for a transfer, or did it come out of the blue?

    Kauss: No, this fellow who had a - I had taken his job up at the Hagley office, he was a stenographer too, so he found out about a job down at the Station, so then — he was from out of town, he was from Harrisburg or some place, so he let me know when he was leaving, so I knew a chemist down there, by the name of Beatty, it wasn't the same Beatty, I think, that you're talking about — Joe Beatty this was. He was like a chemist down there. So he asked me if I wanted to come down and get that job. I said, "Sure." He said, "Okay, I'll fix it up." So they sent a letter to Mr. Hoopes, and he asked me when I was leaving. I told him good and plain that I wanted to get near the car line. [laughs] He started to laugh, you know, like anyone else would. So he said, "Okay." It was about twenty bucks more a month, but then I told you about that double raise I got, that sort of fixed me down there, I liked it down there.

    Pizor: Were there many men transferred from the office?

    Kauss: No, no.

    Pizor: They put in a transfer, would they just stay?

    Kauss: M— huh, most of them - well at the time I was up there they had Morey, he was the chief clerk and White - he was like the shipping clerk, and they had a fellow bookkeeper. He went to South America too - what was his name? There were three older men, much older than I was, that were in there at the time. They had me and one other guy.

    Pizor: When you went over to the Experimental Station, you were about 19 years old about then? Were you starting to think about getting married?

    Kauss: No.

    Pizor: Oh, you were still a good bachelor.

    Kauss: I escaped about getting married until I was about 25.

    Scafidi: Did your parents consider you hopeless or something?

    Kauss: No, I was having too much fun. We didn't have any trouble getting women at that time. It's the truth.

    Scafidi: Well, did you ever try dating a girl from on the creek, being a...

    Kauss: Yeah I did date one - married her. [laughs]

    Scafidi: I've heard there was a little friction between the city fellows and the creekers?

    Kauss: There was, oh yeah, I think I was the first city fellow that they let me through the lines down there passed the Black Cat - yeah, there was a little friction. In fact, different gangs at that time were afraid to go in different sections. In other words, the guys out around where [S?] and Sheila, they were afraid to come down past Market Street. And same way the other crowd wouldn't pass Market Street both ways. And our crowd didn't want to go over the bridge, over 11th Street bridge or over 3rd Street bridge — right? Great stuff.

    Scafidi: So gang wars are really something new?

    Kauss: But they didn't shoot or stab each other, that was just - we used to punch each other, but they got over it.

    Pizor: How long did you stay at the Experimental Station?

    Kauss: About a year and a half I guess it was.

    Pizor: Did you like working over there?

    Kauss: Yeah, loved it.

    Pizor: Had a lunch hour?

    Scafidi: The office was warm?

    Kauss: Nice and warm, half a square away from the car line. Well, I was half a square away from the People's Line, a square away from the Delaware Avenue at the same time. Very enjoyable.

    Pizor: Why did you decide to leave there?

    Kauss: Why? Right after the first world war they started to have layoffs, and then they were shipping guys here and there and I guess I didn't want to go or something. And after that I got a - I didn't tell you, but I had about a ten-year interval between the time I left the Station and went over to Chambers Works. I was off about two or three months, found out that they needed stenographers down at the Pennsylvania Railroad. I went down there and I got a job very quickly, I don't know why. Must have needed them real bad. They have a system down there, I don't know whether you've heard about it - seniority system. No matter who you are, except the superintendents and top supervision, they have your names on the board and you're listed according to your job and they also show you how much each man makes. In other words, if a guy happens to leave or anything, and you're capable of doing his job, you can ask for that job. If they didn't give it to you, they'd have to tell you why.

    So I got in there and I was on the bottom list for a while. I started to move up and guys come up, and I was there about three years and they found out I could play baseball and basketball, boy I was set. I played baseball and basketball — well played baseball a couple nights a week. Played basketball through the winter. And then they finally made me chairman of athletics. At that time I was supposed to be graded as a secretary to the superintendent of motor [firm?]. He was a good guy, he was Col. Maxfield, he was in the army over in France and he had charge of all the transportation over in France.

    He wrote a couple books on it and of course I typed them for him and I had a good knowledge of France and those places from typing the books. So when I got in with this Col. Maxfield, they put a P after your name, that means personal. See if some of these other guys ahead of me, if they got knocked off their jobs if they got slack, they just shipped them someplace, or they could bump down the line as long as they were qualified — they couldn't touch old Joe because I had a personal, a P after — that lasted for ten years, so I had a good time down there. Had an expense account, when we'd go away, you know, playing baseball, basketball. Hadn't any complaints at all. Been off six years and haven't been sick yet. I guess I'll get sick and go off like that, and then I won't shoot off so much.

    Scafidi: Did the Pennsylvania Railroad sponsor these activities?

    Kauss: Yeah, they put out about $50,000 yearly, it was all over the system. We would start in Wilmington. We had a baseball team, we had a basketball team, and through the winter we would bowl also. They would have a - in the summertime they'd have field meets. We'd have one in Wilmington, and whoever finished first, second or third in Wilmington would go to Delmar, and they'd do the same procedure, then they'd go to Cape Charles. And that's what they call the Southern Division — Cape Charles or Baltimore. Whoever won the finals in baseball or track, they'd send them to Philadelphia, if they won there, they'd send them to Altoona. Every summer we — lot of times - long passes. We used to go to some of these big ball games — they used to have the same thing with baseball. See, they'd have competition on the divisions and they'd have a baseball game maybe down in Wildwood. Whoever won down there would go to Philadelphia and Altoona. One year they went all the way out to Indianapolis to play the champions of the Western Division, went out there, all pullmans. People don't realize what the railroad put out at those time.
  • DuPont employee golf tournaments; leaving the Pennsylvania Railroad to avoid transferring to Cape Charles and briefly becoming a pool shark; applying for and receiving a job at the DuPont Experimental Station
    Keywords: Career changes; Employees--Recreation; Great Depression; pool sharks; Stenographers; Women clerks; Women household employees
    Transcript: Scafidi: Did DuPont have anything like that at all?

    Kauss: The only thing DuPont's had, they had a ball team over at Carney's Point, good ball team, had some good ball players.

    They used to have a golf tournament down at the old golf ground. They used to bring fellows in from different places, different plants - the champs, but they cut that out almost ten or fifteen years ago. I don't know why, it was a good thing, had some good golfers there. But I guess the Company thought they were spending too much money.

    Scafidi: In the early time you were here...

    Kauss: Did somebody tell you that before?

    Pizor: No.

    Kauss: Didn't they?

    Scafidi: Were you encouraged to shoot skeet or whatever it is you do?

    Kauss: No. I know a crowd used to come up here to shoot. Where did he used to shoot up here - Motsy [Lammot?] Copeland? Anybody ever tell you about that?

    Pizor: Someone said he used to shoot at a cat sometimes.

    Kauss: Didn't he have a gallery up in here?

    Pizor: I don't know.

    Kauss: I think there was one up here and there was another one down by the Experimental Station.

    Kauss: Well that was the ballistics you're talking about aren't you? They have a regular ballistic up along the road now - that was part of the Experimental Station that time. But Mr. Copeland, he had a shooting range up in the yard somewhere. I'll bet Grimes could tell you where it was — maybe he don't want to tell you. [laughter]

    Pizor: We're gonna interview him soon.

    Kauss: Yeah, he can tell you a lot of stories. He could probably — when he first come up here, probably some of those old foundations and things were there and he could know just more so than what I told you. Course the Seitz girls couldn't tell you about the yard, but they could tell you more about the surrounding area around here.

    Pizor: Well, why did you leave the Pennsylvania Railroad after ten years, you were happy there?

    Kauss: Same problem — railroads got slack. They wanted to send me down to Cape Charles - I didn't want to go to Cape Charles.

    Pizor: And if you said "No," you sort of had to quit?

    Kauss: Yeah, you either had to go or lose your seniority. As soon as you quit, you lose your seniority.

    Pizor: So this is like almost the beginning of the Depression?

    Kauss: M— huh, just about the time.

    Pizor: You think it was gonna be hard?

    Kauss: But I wasn't married then, I wasn't worried about...

    Pizor: You still weren't married?

    Kauss: No.

    Pizor: So you didn't have any worries?

    Kauss: No, not worried.

    Pizor: So did you go hunting for a job when you lost it at Pennsylvania Railroad?

    Kauss: Not for a while. A fellow by the name of - have you ever interviewed Charlie Baldo?

    Scafidi: No, would you spell his name?

    Kauss: B-A— L-D-O. Well, if you've got the Rowe's, you've got two of the best around the creek, I think, because they were here as youngsters, see, they were actually born out on Rising Sun Lane, if I'm not mistaken. But Charlie Baldo, his father, worked here and he lived over in Walker's Banks.

    Pizor: We haven't had anyone...

    Kauss: But Charlie never worked up here, he worked down at Experimental Station all the time. He worked down there through the summer, when I was over at the Chambers Works, and he accumulated about 40 or 45 years before he retired at 62, because he got all those summer months that he worked, see, they counted that as part of his set-up, see. So I don't know whether - I don't think he could help you much. Those Rowe boys, you've got some good stuff from them.

    Scafidi: M— m-m, yeah. You keep, well it's not constant, but every once in a while you get laid off or you quit, and you go and you live on your savings - what bank did you save at?

    Kauss: I didn't bank too much money.

    Scafidi: In the mattress?

    Kauss: To tell you the truth, I used to be a pool shark [laughter]. There used to be about eight pool rooms on Market.

    Scafidi: Did your father - how old was your father, now?

    Pizor: My father wasn't born here, he's about sixty.

    Kauss: About sixty, does he remember the pool rooms and things like that down...

    Pizor: Probably.

    Kauss: Well, there were eight of them down there. And you always come in there - if you shoot fairly good pool, why nobody knew you, see, you'd play a few day and make three or four dollars and keep away from there for a while - nothin' to it. But then how I finally got back to DuPont's — this fellow Baldo - I worked, well I've known him from out the creek, but he worked down the Station before - he got laid off, I think, at the same time, but one of his former supervisors had gotten a job over - well he was transferred, he was a chemist, he was a supervisor - so he asked Charlie if he wanted to come over here. The guy said "yes" so Charlie went over.

    So then after I was laid off from the railroad, I called Charlie and asked him how things were over there. He said, "You want to come over?" I said, "Sure." So I went over for an interview. At that time the ferry ran from the present Marine Terminal over to Pennsgrove, and then we had to get down to the plant by car. Then I went over for an interview and went in the office. The first thing I do is meet a guy that lived down on Spruce Street, Bill McKennan. He was like an assistant to the chief clerk. He said, "What are you doing over here?" "Lookin' for a job." "All right, I'll take you in to see the chief clerk." So he made me fill out an application blank - my wife worked for - this is all on tape?

    Pizor: Yes.

    Kauss: I better not tell you that.

    Pizor: No, go ahead.

    Kauss: No - I wouldn't want this to show. Well, the thing is, my wife knows quite a few of the du Ponts and she worked for them for thirty years. She's on pension now, so am I. I put their names on the application blank. Three days, come on in to work. [laughs] She said that's what did it. I said, "Nah, I'm a good man." She said that's what did it.

    Pizor: What did you do when you went over there — you were a stenographer again?

    Kauss: Yeah, and when I was over about three years, they made me supervisor of about twenty girls. That was when the headaches started. I was supervisor of the engineering stenographic division — but, I didn't have much trouble with them. Once in a while they'd get out of hand, but they'd come around after you — I'd treat them like I would my own kids, so I got along pretty — didn't have much trouble with them at all to be truthful. Course once in a while they'd call up, cause they had a bad night, well you're all right, you see, as long they said they had a bad night. I said well don't come in, see, say just report on sick, see. Report on sick you're okay, because you can report them on sick, but before they can come back to that work again, they had to go up to the hospital and check in, see, they had to say what was wrong with them. Hospital okayed them, they could come back to work. But when they called me up and make me take the darned blame for them, see.

    Pizor: You stayed up there until you retired? What year did you retire - nineteen...

    Kauss: Six years — '63 isn't it?

    Pizor: Right.

    Kauss: But I worked in the Engineering Department. It was very interesting work there. We handled all the project work over there. In fact, most of the girls liked engineering projects. I enjoyed it.
  • His wife's family in Henry Clay; his knowledge of the [Hodgson?] brothers woolen mill operation; discussion of the difficulty of locating former powder yard workers to interview
    Keywords: Henry Clay(Del.: Village); Industrial relations; woolen mills
    Transcript: Pizor: When were you married?

    Kauss: 6-26-1926 — never forget it. Just had an anniversary up to the Club last Thursday.

    Pizor: You said your wife lived on the creek. What was her maiden name?

    Kauss: Todd - T-O-D-D.

    Pizor: And was her father or mother, any of them employed in the mills?

    Kauss: Jim - well her step— father worked down at the Experimental Station when I was down there.

    Pizor: Did you ever come to know how they came to live in that area, the creek area?

    Kauss: No. Well her mother's name was a Craig. They have quite a history around the creek. I can't tell you much about it.

    Scafidi: Did you ever hear about the Hodgson or Hudson brothers...

    Kauss: Yeah, he lives down in Florida, I saw him last summer. Last - no - I was down in January.

    Pizor: Which one - we'd like to talk to him?

    Kauss: You'll never talk to him — you'd get upset. What do you want to him about - I can tell you all about him, or anything? Who told you about Dan Hudson?

    Pizor: Dan and Billy.

    Kauss: Billy? Yeah, Billy goes down there, too. Sure.

    Pizor: Well Dan was, what, Billy's younger brother?

    Kauss: No, Billy was Dan's son.

    Pizor: Oh, wait a second, you're right.

    Kauss: Dan was a young man, Billy was a boy. He had a couple kids, three kids.

    Pizor: And they're both alive?

    Kauss: Both alive.

    Pizor: Will Dan would be - how old was this Dan then?

    Kauss: About 74.

    Pizor: Did Dan have an older brother, do you remember?

    Kauss: No — I remember his father, don't remember any brothers.

    Pizor: Where was Dan - Dan operated what, the...

    Kauss: Mill now, the present mill where the - the Experimental Station uses it now.

    Pizor: Walker's Mill?

    Kauss: Yeah, that's it, right across from Breck's Mill.

    Pizor: We're talking about the same man.

    Scafidi: Yeah, for a second there...

    Pizor: I forgot, that was in the twenties that he operated that, wasn't it? Do you remember any stories about him?

    Kauss: Ah— h-h — he used to give the girl about ten cents an hour and stuff like that. Boy I wouldn't want to go in the...he was a bird, that guy.

    Pizor: After he left here, after Walker's Mill closed, I guess in the late twenties or so - what did he do after that, do you have any idea?

    Kauss: Well they moved all the equipment down on Walnut Street, and they run the mill down there - did they tell you that? Didn't Rowe tell you that?

    Pizor: No.

    Kauss: Should have. Yeah he had a little controversy, I think, about what he wanted done with the mill and I think Copeland held it at that time. He said, "Well I guess I'll move." Mr. Copeland said, "Go ahead." So he moved his whole operation down on Walnut Street and I don't know how many years he lasted down there. But, when the woolen mills - wool started to go down, why he had to sell out and he had girls working with him for twenty or thirty years - just said "so long" - didn't give a vacation - people around the creek don't say much about that guy.

    Scafidi: Was his operation up here pretty small-time operation or...

    Kauss: Well, he had about, say thirty or forty at least.

    Scafidi: They were operating on both sides of the creek?

    Kauss: M-m— m, no — both sides?

    Scafidi: We heard that one was operating in what's the Museum building now - the Keg Mill.

    Pizor: For a short time, about 1923, he operated that mill.

    Kauss: That was probably before they moved across the road then.

    Pizor: No, they said they were operating Walker's Mill and this one.

    Kauss: Oh, were they?

    Pizor: But this one was just a short operation.

    Kauss: ...That wasn't in my time.

    Pizor: But they both moved to Florida now?

    Kauss: Yeah.

    Scafidi: Would any of their relatives be around?

    Kauss: Hodgson's relatives? No.

    Scafidi: We - it was actually on of the Rowes told us about them - discovered that they ever existed.

    Pizor: No one had mentioned them before. They weren't well-liked?

    Kauss: Just the way they treated certain of their employees and things like that - they were all creekers. The least you say about Hodgson's the better off...

    Scafidi: Well, they ran a textile operation and the Bancroft's did, too. Did people switch back and forth between...

    Kauss: Yeah. In fact, they gave better wages down at Bancroft's and every once in a while they would switch from one place to another. And then finally, Old Man Billy as they called him, he come around - for instance, my wife worked over there at the time. He use to go over..."Come on. We want Mary or Katie back," and so she's made to come back and work for Old Billy, I guess.

    Pizor: I think one of the Rowe boys said it was sort of like a school; everybody worked there for a short time.

    Kauss: That's right.

    Scafidi: They called it Billy's College...

    Kauss: Did you have both the Rowe boys in at the same time?

    Scafidi: No. We've had some interviews that were two people at once and every once in a while it works, but anytime that they pound each other and then tell them that they're wrong and we get into deeper arguments.

    Kauss: Well, all the creekers got along nice, I mean I think anybody would like Dickie - he was funny wasn't he? Dickie, that's the older one?

    Pizor: Al, I think is the older one, and [Donk?], I think they called...

    Kauss: [Donkey?]. How about the younger one, did you get him in?

    Scafidi: Do you know anybody else around who might be able to fill us in on other stuff around, even somebody old enough to...

    Kauss: For instance, what?

    Scafidi: Well, it seems that there may be some people around who even worked in the powder. We don't have very many people...

    Kauss: That's what I was saying - Joe Haley, he died about three years ago, he was the foreman down there. Is there any records in town on some of these older pensioners that worked in the mill?

    Scafidi: They started the press release thing pretty late, and I think that's really the record of the pensioners that we can get hold of not being connected with the company. We can't, you know, request something and ever be sure of getting again. We say, "Did Louie [?] ever work for DuPont's?" and instead of saying, "Yes, he worked until 1965," they say, "Maybe." [laughter]

    Kauss: Well, that's what makes me think, see, I was up here when I was seventeen. That's been a long while I'll bet most of the older fellows that worked down in the yard are gone.

    Scafidi: But then again, we've found people who are ninety-something and...

    Kauss: Yeah, well that's what I say, that'd be the only place where you could check I guess, and it'd be hard to get that I guess, that kind of a record from you pensioner's list.

    Pizor: I wonder if, Wilson, Roger Wilson...

    Kauss: He's dead. Mike Hoopes is dead, too.

    Scafidi: I think Paul Wilson is dead...and his son died also earlier in the year. The way we learn about people is mostly by word of mouth. One person we talk to says, "Did you try, you know, the Rowe brothers," and so we go to...

    Pizor: Well okay, fine, I think we did very nicely.

Digitized material in this online archive may document imagery or language that reflects racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive and harmful beliefs and actions in history. Hagley Library is engaged in ongoing efforts to address and responsibly present evidence of oppression and injustice in our collections. If you are concerned about the archival material presented here, or want to learn more about our ongoing work, please contact us at