Interview with John E. Krauss, 1958 May 14 [audio](part 1)

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  • Krauss' family background; Father's job in the powder yards; Stories about dangers in the powder yards
    Partial Transcript: "My father came from Switzerland... He was a watchmaker by trade..." "...It was the big explosion of about 1908. Grocers and other businessmen were permitted to travel through the yard. "
    Synopsis: Krauss says his father came to the United States from Switzerland and his mother was Scotch-Irish from Northern Ireland. His father came to New York and had his money and watch making tools stolen. He became a baker in New York, moved to Philadelphia and heard that DuPont needed more employees, so he walked to Wilmington. He tells a story about Francis Gurney du Pont, who he says was absent minded and smoked in the powder yard. His father drew du Pont's attention to the cigar, he stamped it out and put up a "No Smoking" sign at the yard gates. [The interview is interrupted by a phone call.] Krauss talks about a 1908 explosion which happened when Sam Frizzell's grocery wagon raced a cart full of gunpowder toward a narrow bridge.
    Keywords: Du Pont, Francis Gurney, 1850-1904; Explosions; Immigration; Ireland; Irish Americans; Sam Frizzell's store; Smoking; Swiss Americans; Switzerland; Watch making; Work
  • Home in Squirrel Run; Father's wages; Father's job
    Partial Transcript: "I was born in Squirrel Run in a company house. It was a frame house, and I remember very distinctly that the house had a half an acre of ground, plenty of room for a garden..." "...My dad used to speak very positively about the fact that when breaking a man in, he could size him up in the first couple of hours -- what sort of a workman he was going to be."
    Synopsis: Krauss talks about his family's home in Squirrel Run and says that his father started to teach his older siblings French, but the local community asked him to speak English only. Krauss looks at a photograph of his family from 1905. He talks about the family dog saying that they owned a house in Walker's Bank. He says his father earned $40 a month and as high as $60 a month. He talks about how his father judged a newly hired man's character.
    Keywords: Dogs; English language; French language; Homes; Labor; Pets; Salaries; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Wages; Walker's Bank; Work
  • Family life in Squirrel Run; Going to school; Rotten egg prank and aftermath
    Partial Transcript: "Squirrel Run was a pioneer village. There were no planned activities in those days. We just were boys."
    Synopsis: Krauss talks about family life in Squirrel Run. He tells a story about getting in trouble for breaking rotten eggs on the handrail at the entrance to Christ Church. They were discovered by a lecturer who told members of the audience to estimate the cost of their clothes ruined by the rotten eggs. He said the total was $125 which amounted to $25 for each boy. He says that as punishment he spent his summer vacation cutting a cord of wood for the family to use as fuel in the winter.
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); School; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Yellow School (Wilmington, Del.)
  • Pretending to drown beneath a canvas canoe
    Partial Transcript: "Another incident happened to me here on the Brandywine. I lived, as I said, on the Brandywine, or in it. I used to make canvas canoes..." "...I was out there one summer, paddling around in a canoe, mind full of nothing and trying to find something to do, so I turned the canoe over, and got under it. You know there's an air space under there, and you can stay under there an indefinite time with a canvas canoe, particularly if you don't get it down too far and crush out the air. I got under it and started yelling for help."
    Synopsis: Krauss talks about another childhood prank. He says that he pretended he was drowning beneath a capsized canvas canoe.
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Canoes
  • School days; Mother's side of the family; Relationship with the Gentieu family
    Partial Transcript: "On the first day of each school year, from my earliest recollection, I picked out a seat that was the farthest away from the teacher's desk. I usually lasted there about three or four days, before I was moved up front."
    Synopsis: Krauss talks about his days as a student. He describes pulling pranks even though he was in high school and says he should have known better. He tells a stories about tying two girls pigtails together. He tells another story about getting willow switches for the principal to punish students. He explains how he sabotaged the switches so that they would break when the principal swung them. He talks about his mother's side of the family and that she was one of eleven children and the first generation to settle in America. He talks about his mother's siblings and what happened to her brother's family after he died in a powder yard explosion. Krauss talks about his family's relationship with the Gentieu family. He says that Pierre Gentieu and his father had a close relationship because they both spoke French.
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Corporal punishment; Explosions; Family; French language; Gentieu family; Gentieu, Pierre A., 1842-1930; Immigration; Irish Americans; School; Switches
  • Attending West Chester Teachers College; Working as a teacher; Working for the Underwood Typewriter Company
    Partial Transcript: "I went to West Chester Teachers College about 1905. I was sixteen..." "...My father should have accomplished more than he did, but getting off to such a rough start in this country interfered. He had a good background of education for that period. He had what would have been equivalent to Junior College here in this day. He had become a watchmaker by trade, and they were making watches entirely by hand in Switzerland at that. He hit this country just as they started to manufacture watches by machinery."
    Synopsis: Krauss says that his mother pushed him to attend college and talks about his father's education ad watchmaking trade. He says that his brother worked with the Penn Publishing Company. He describes his time at West Chester Teachers College. He taught at schools in St. Georges, Delaware, New Jersey, and Lower Merion in Pennsylvania. He says that at one time he was the highest paid teacher in his county. He says that he worked as an assistant principal, and could not become a principal because he needed a degree. He left that job for an offer at the Underwood Typewriter Company.
    Keywords: Ardmore, Pa.; Lower Merion high school; St. Georges, Del; Underwood Typewriter Company; West Chester Teachers College; West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Working in the powder yards during school vacations; Working on a DuPont farm
    Partial Transcript: "I worked as a helper in a rolling mill at Hagley for a few months during vacation from college at West Chester. It was good money at that time; I was getting 40 cents an hour. But I wasn't very long at that, less than two months..." "...They raised primarily hay and corn, just big crops. There wasn't any truck farming. They were still driving horses, using the hay for feed, and I suppose they disposed of some of the excess corn."
    Synopsis: Krauss says that he worked as helper at a Hagley Yard rolling Mill during vacation times from West Chester Teachers College. He talks about what part of the powder yards were considered Hagley Yard. He says that he didn't work in the powder yards for long and switched to a job at one of DuPont's farms. He describes farm operations.
    Keywords: DuPont; Farms; Hagley Yard; Work