Interview with Charles H. Lickle, 1968 June 13 [audio]

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  • Family background and education at Washington College; first job with DuPont Co. monitoring a pellet press
    Keywords: Boredom; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Hagley Yard; Gunpowder; gunpowder pellets; Industrial safety; Manufacturing processes; Pelletizing; Wages
    Transcript: Wilkinson: We'd like to get a little information before we talk of your own immediate career on your family, Mr. Lickle. Would you tell us something, where you came from and your parents and so on?

    Lickle: I came from Baltimore, Maryland. I was brought up on the Rappahanock River, in Virginia. My father was [a Doctor of Medicine and had been] a cavalryman in the Confederate Cavalry; this was my father, not my grandfather because he was quite old when I was born [and died when I was five years of age]. My mother came from Virginia. I went to Washington College in Chestertown, Md. and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1915 and then came to work for the DuPont Company, expecting to be "General Manager" of one of the buildings, which I was. I was the only person employed in the building, and I expected to be president of the company some two or three years later, which wasn't quite factual. [Laughter]

    Wilkinson: How did you make this connection at DuPont?

    Lickle: There was a very charming widow in Chestertown who had four lovely daughters, one of whom subsequently married Lammot du Pont. This widow was being visited by Rogers Wilson, who was a brother of Paul Wilson. Paul had been married to T. Coleman du Pont's daughter [Alice], who was later Mrs. Buck. So, Roger Wilson suggested that my roommate at college, Edmond S. Graves - I use his name because he stayed here after I did (unfortunately he died a few years ago) - and I come up here to work at the Hagley Yards. He also persuaded a boy named Guy Stollenwerk, whose brother was a famous drop-kicker at Harvard, to come so that made three of us. At that time Rogers Wilson was superintendent of the Yard here and had a part of the house where Emil Krauss lived; this was right at the entrance to the Yard, near the Keg Shop. It was a good-sized house, and whether or not he had another home I do not know; but I do know he had quarters there in that house.

    Wilkinson: That would be on the property that S. Hallock du Pont presently owns?

    Lickle: Yes. The thing that attracted us was the opportunity to come with the DuPont Company, but more than that was the tremendous salary we were to be getting. We were to get $75.00 a month and then an extra check for $15.00 as a 20% bonus. DuPont was quite careful to make sure you realized that was a bonus and that it might stop at any time. As I recall, at that period secretaries were just moving up from $8.00 a week (I'm speaking of a competent secretary, not a stenographer), so it was a relatively large amount for a boy, just out of college.

    Wilkinson: How was the job described to you before you came?

    Lickle: It was described in rather glowing terms about being here in the powder mill, and that it wouldn't be long before we would be promoted. It turned out it was the most boring, most awful job that I could ever wish on anyone. And that is just watching a machine perform.

    Wilkinson: No preliminary training?

    Lickle: No training required and no mentality, I might add. [Laughter] I am sure there are a lot of people who like machines. I know the people who worked the nitroglycerin buggies were generally Polish, with no imagination and no initiative. It turned out this pellet press…

    Wilkinson: Could you give us the location of this?

    Lickle: I can only locate it to this degree. My recollection is that I used to come out on a very small Toonerville type trolley that came to the entrance of Bobby Carpenter's present property. When I told you the other day that the motorman used to deliver papers, that was stretching it a bit. He didn't deliver papers all along the route, but as he got out toward this area, he would frequently stop in the middle of the block and make about 10 or 15 newspaper deliveries. This was the motorman, stopping the trolley and getting off and delivering the paper. After we got off the trolley we would walk down this road, and when we entered the plant proper I cannot recall whether I turned right or left. My guess would be that I turned right. I do know this, close by the pellet press buildings there was a spring from which we all used to get water, and I also know that upstream from the pellet press building were the corning mills and the glaze mills. I seem to recall that as we came on that road, which would probably be the road on which I came in this morning, there was some nitrate of soda, but it wasn't the Soda House.

    Wilkinson: Now fixing the Iron Bridge as a landmark...

    Lickle: I can't recall the Iron Bridge; the spring sticks in my memory but not the Iron Bridge. I think it was upstream from the Iron Bridge. There was a series of these buildings.

    Wilkinson: What were they built of?

    Lickle: My recollection is that they were stone buildings with the usual tin top. I am sure they were masonry of some sort. They were probably about the size of this room [small conference room] and in it was this machine which obviously had been designed by someone in the Engineering Department. A great deal of care was taken to see that all moving parts were bronze to iron to avoid sparks. I know that in later years the powder companies supplied employees with powder shoes which had wooden pegs in them and overalls which had slotted pockets. I don't think we had any particular clothing. I cannot recall such a thing as a change house. As a matter of fact, those days were a little before employee relations were too important. You just came to work, and that was it. Now, coming back to the machine, it stood about 8 feet high. I am sure it was designed by DuPont because no one else ever had occasion to use it. We worked three shifts, and alternated. These were the regular 8 hour shifts. My job was to see that black powder was in the hopper that fed in to where fingers went up and down forming the pellet. There was never too much powder allowed in the building. You brought about 50 pounds of powder in a wooden box, and as the pellets were formed and dropped down you put them in a box and moved them out. Where I moved them and where I got the powder, I cannot recall that.

    Wilkinson: You don't recall any wagons?

    Lickle: No, there wouldn't have been a horse and wagon for danger of a spark, unless they had rubber shoes. A spark was the one thing that you had to be terribly afraid of. And there was one other problem in connection with the pellet press that we had to watch for. There were needles that cleared the channels that formed holes in the pellets and sometimes those holes would tend to plug. Then I would have to go up with this needle and clear it. Now, I'm assuming and I'm quite sure that one of them must have been bronze and one of them iron, that they weren't both iron. That was just about as boring an operation as I can 'imagine anyone doing. Because it was just nothing to do.

    Wilkinson: When this box of loose powder had been dumped in and the cylinders had been stamped out, did you have a reservoir of powder somewhere nearby in other boxes?

    Lickle: No, not in the building. That was the point. We only had a minimum of powder in the building.

    Wilkinson: Well, was the operation timed so that you would always have another box ready to go into the machine?

    Lickle: I cannot recall where I went to get the powder. Maybe there were storage bins, maybe they were buried. I can't recall where I went to get the powder.

    Wilkinson: You don't recall any wagons backing up?

    Lickle: No, I definitely don't recall any wagons and that was an 8 hour shift. Boring as it could be.

    Wilkinson: Did you stay in the building while the machine was operating?

    Lickle: Oh yes, you were in there to see that these pins, these openings that formed, the purpose of that was so that it would burn evenly, otherwise it would burn very irregularly, had it started burning on the outside.

    Wilkinson: It gives you more burning surface within?

    Lickle: More burning surface and a more even burning surface, and I was told that this was used for shrapnel fuses. I never saw the shell, but it seemed logical to me because they brought out aluminum heads with the graduation on them, showed how by turning those you controlled some fire. These were obviously too big to go in that aluminum head, so there must have been a sub-head behind the aluminum head which made a firing chamber.
  • Lighting at the powder yards; transportation by trolley; Irish labor force at the powder yards
    Keywords: Electrification; Labor supply; Lighting; Street-railroads; Trolley cars; Working class Irish Americans
    Transcript: Wilkinson: What was the power that turned the machinery?

    Lickle: That I have tried to think of. I told you the other day, on a dark night, about walking down to the keg shop and guiding myself by the clearing between the trees on a real dark night. You raised the question, "Weren't there lights?" and I got to thinking about that. My first reaction, because I know I used to walk by a long line of grinding mills, was that maybe they didn't have lights for fear of lightning or something else. But, by gosh, we had to have lights in that building because we operated all night. How those lights were covered I'm sure, but I'm sure that every precaution must have been taken to prevent sparks.

    Wilkinson: We have information that the powder yards were electrified beginning about 1895, check me on my dates here. And we have seen brackets fastened to the corner wall of a rolling mill so that the light would be really on the outside but it would cast the rays in over toward the big rolling wheels. You may have had some similar arrangement.

    Lickle: We may have, and it could be that at the time I'm thinking of the lights were inadequate or it could be that power failures were not too infrequent, but I don't remember a power failure in the pellet press. Yet I am positive that I have walked stretches of the yard where you had to look up through the trees to follow. Now I come back to a question in my mind. Why did I walk down to the keg mill when I remember coming in to work at Bobby Carpenter's place? I'm assuming, now we get into fact and fancy, that when I went to the keg mill I used to cross a railroad trestle and go to a trolley line which was not the line that went out to Bobby Carpenter's place. I know the trolleys were larger and I think probably it was the Delaware Avenue trolley. Now, why? It could be that the one that went to Bobby Carpenter's, which was like a Toonerville trolley, did not work at 11:00 at night when you got off the 11:00 shift. I don't know why, and I do know that we had to go across the trestle.

    Wilkinson: Rising Sun was once the terminus for one of the lines that came out from downtown. Now, could there have been another smaller auxiliary line from Rising Sun that came up along the creek and through the woods?

    Lickle: No, it strikes me it was another city line, with larger trolleys, and we generally did not use it - it was longer. We generally went out to the Rising Sun and got the little Toonerville thing at Rising Sun. I can only assume that it may have been because of the hour.

    Wilkinson: There used to be a big trestle that would run overhead, let's say from where Hallock du Pont's machine shop is, right at our gates, ran down behind the houses along the Creek Rd. and would cut in toward Breck's Lane. At the moment I can't recall whether it went up the hill toward Rising Sun where Tower Hill School is now or not. But we have pictures of a trestle which ran in that general direction.

    Lickle: That is the trestle that I remember. I remember definitely that after I left the keg shop there was a trestle that I went over before I got a trolley,

    Wilkinson: Where did you live?

    Lickle: At the YMCA and I was out here quite a few months, maybe four or five months.

    Wilkinson: Which was 19l7?

    Lickle: This is 1915. I came here in June 1915. I had just graduated from college and was eager to get some of that great big money. Sometime about three or four months later I was over talking to Dan Toomey and Harry Kazeer. Harry Kazeer came from Kirkwood, Delaware. I couldn't remember the name the other day. He was not the type of the usual worker here at the powder mill. Why he was working here I don't know.

    Wilkinson: Were they mostly Italians? Or what nationality seemed to be...?

    Lickle: Oh, Harry Kazeer came from one of the nicer families downstate. He was not of the usual labor force.

    Wilkinson: But I mean the general labor force?

    Lickle: Oh, the general labor force was Irish. About the only ones that I knew were Yaba Buchanan, Joe Haley and Emil Krauss. Diverting a moment to that, that got me thinking after you talked to me. It was a well known fact at the time I was here and also in later years that a boy from in town never came out and tried to date a "Creeker" girl. He was just committing suicide, so to speak. Then I got to thinking after I talked to you. I don't recall any boys of our age, speaking now of my roommate, who were working here at the plant. They all seemed to be older men. And I'm also sure that no one paid any attention to us or showed any animosity or any feeling at all one way or the other. I can only - now I go into theory - I can only assume, first that we were not competitive with their own sons, and second, we would never have been competitive because we were brought here from college by the superintendent, whose brother had married T. C.'s daughter; therefore, we were not competitive and the differentiation between the labor force and management was not accompanied by the resentment that we find today. Plus the fact that I was never invited, except to Emil Krauss' house, to anyone's home.

    Wilkinson: It wasn't then that it was a war-time emergency kind of employment? 1915 we weren't in it but the Allies were. You didn't feel that you were brought in here because they needed additional labor?

    Lickle: Yes, definitely. I think they needed labor but I also think they needed someone to work in black powder, not too easy to find.

    Wilkinson: You mean the difficulty of recruiting?

    Lickle: Could have been - I don't know.
  • Lack of employee relations department at DuPont Co. and taking a job at Hercules, Inc.
    Keywords: Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irénée), 1864-1935; Hercules Powder Company; Industrial relations; Paternalism; Personnel management; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Scafidi: Did you ever get the feeling that you were a college man and they threw you into this pellet mill? Did you get the feeling they were trying to train you to work your way up?

    Lickle: Not at all. I was coming to that. DuPont at that time had no employee relations department. When I left the yard here I put in an application for a job with DuPont in the home office and one with Hercules and one with Atlas. I had no chance of being transferred and getting a job with DuPont. I was offered a job by Atlas selling out in Pennsylvania, and I was offered a job with Hercules here in the home office which I took. I might say that that was the same experience of my roommate when he left after almost a year here. He couldn't get a job in the home office. Guy Stollenwerk couldn't get a job in the home office. All of us from college. There was no employee relations and I might comment a bit further on that. Another boy [Harold Garrett] who graduated from college a year later than I did was working in a rather menial position, labor foreman of some sort over in Gibbstown, and he got fed up with it so I arranged for him to get a job with Hercules in the Purchasing Department. That was one year later. He had tried unsuccessfully to be transferred to the home office. When they found that we would take him at Hercules they did give him a job, and he retired three or four years ago as Director of Purchases from the DuPont Company. So he went all the way up. So apparently in that period from 1915, 1916 and 1917, something had happened. There still wasn't any employee relations, but something may have happened that caused them to look more kindly on transfers than they did prior to that.

    Wilkinson: Do you think it was a matter of policy?

    Lickle: I don't think there was any policy.

    Wilkinson: What did they tell you when you went to DuPont and said, "I would like to be transferred to another job with the Company"; what kind of reply did you get?

    Lickle: The usual, "We'll look into it." And no action. They lacked an employee relation department or personnel department completely. Those things all came later. I'm not criticizing DuPont because when I went to work for Hercules I worked in the DuPont Building. Hercules had two floors in the DuPont Building so I got to know practically everyone in the home office at DuPont. But that was true of all the companies. There wasn't any DuPont Country Clubs or anything like that.

    Wilkinson: You didn't approach Rogers Wilson and ask him if he could find a place for you somewhere, did you?

    Lickle: Yes, but the same thing happened. In other words I guess they did not look with too much favor on people transferring. Remember, the Company was growing very rapidly then. Here at Hagley Yard you had a paternalistic sort of system among the old timers, and that was fine. Alfred I. du Pont particularly looked upon them as his wards, so to speak. I am speaking now of the "Creekers". But there really, I don't think, was any policy in 1915, an employee relations policy.

    Wilkinson: Could you look for assistance from a personal contact that you might have with someone in the company or an outside personal association?

    Lickle: I would say that DuPont was just on the eve of starting to come into some sort of employee relationship, and of course it was pushed on the DuPont Company. Understand, I'm not being critical of them because they were much more forward looking than most industrial companies, but it was pushed on them when the war came. That of course was the sole reason for Wawaset. They had to buy the race track and build a certain number of houses or they couldn't have gotten executives in here to work. The moment the tremendously profitable business started to come in from the Allies it was then that you had to have different employee relations. They just needed people.
  • Explosion in pellet press which killed Dan Toomey and Harry Kazeer
    Keywords: Explosions; gunpowder explosions; Industrial accidents; Industrial safety; Work environment--Safety measures; workplace deaths
    Transcript: Wilkinson: Going back to the pellet processing. I will pick up some other threads a little later. Was this a new technique or had pellet pressing been going on for quite some time?

    Lickle: I had never heard of it. And I never heard that discussed. I assume it was a new technique. The reason I say that is that the last month or two that I was out here in the yard a chap named Stowe from the Engineering Department came out and he had me assigned to him, so to speak. He was trying to develop a pellet more or less about that size for another type of fuse and I was working with him on that. I don't know that he ever achieved anything, but I know we were working with about a pound - never over a cupful of powder, with a machine you turned by hand which had an aluminum scoop - and you scooped these things off. At the time I left it wasn't successful. I might say - if I ever think of it I almost wake up with nightmares, it was on a table like this, with just enough powder to take your eye out. Digressing for a moment, I think they should have exploded about 15 pounds of powder every day or every other day out here because at that age, after a week it began to look like black sand again.

    Wilkinson: In other words, to keep you alerted you were handling something dangerous. It becomes commonplace, and you ignore it.

    Lickle: Precisely. Which brings me up to the evening when I was up talking to Harry Kazeer and Dan Toomey in one of the pellet press buildings. I shouldn't have been there; there shouldn't have been three of us in one building. I don't recall whether I was coming to work on a shift or whether it was between shifts. Maybe the machine was down and the mechanic had to fix it, I don't know. But I was over talking to them and I ate the sandwiches I had brought with me - oh, no I didn't eat - I had found out that being one of the powder makers out here I had to chew tobacco and so I took up chewing tobacco.

    Wilkinson: Was this because of the dust?

    Lickle: Oh, no, because you couldn't smoke. To be grown up you had to have nicotine of some sort and therefore I had to chew tobacco. The only trouble was that I had to wash my mouth out for about a half hour before I could eat. I hated the darn stuff, whereas the powdermen could put the quid over in one side and eat their supper over on the other side. I left them and went across the road diagonally to the spring. I know the spring was there, and there must be some of the old timers here who can remember the spring because I think it was the only one up in that section along the main portion of the road.

    Wilkinson: We'll take a ride later down along the road.

    Lickle: And while I was over washing my mouth out, that building blew. That's why I remember definitely. I would say there was about 100 pounds of powder there.

    Wilkinson: How far away from it were you?

    Lickle: I would guess I was about a half a city block away or more and there wasn't too much powder.

    Wilkinson: What did you do? Fall down? Did it blow you down?

    Lickle: No, it did not bother me at all because I had these heavy walls between the explosion and me, but I went back to the building. I don't know about Harry Kazeer, but I remember Dan Toomey. He was staggering around and there were flames coming from all over his body. It had blown his clothing so that he just had tattered clothing. I partially dragged him and he partially stumbled out into the creek, and I pushed his head under the water and his scalp came back to douse the flames. Well, both of them died that night in the hospital. I think the Delaware Hospital was where they went.

    Wilkinson: Following your assistance, what was the next step. Who came and what did they do?

    Lickle: I don't know.

    Wilkinson: Did you ever hear of any strategic places around the yard of some receptacle having an ointment in it to be applied to a man who was burned in an explosion?

    Lickle: No, I'll tell you why I don't remember. No one my age should ever have been working in a powder mill. I went over to the pellet press building next to it and carried out one keg or part box of the powder, and I was going back to get the other box to bring it out, when Yaba gave me the hardest kick in the fanny I've ever had and I thank him for it. He said, "Drop that thing and get the hell out of here because one of those sparks may be over here any moment!"

    Wilkinson: The building was aflame?

    Lickle: No, I wouldn't say it was aflame. It obviously wasn't throwing it off that much or I wouldn't have gone to the building next to it. It was a very heavy wall and there wasn't too much powder in it. About a month or two months after that is when I left. I think the thing that upset me more than anything else was at nighttime walking down this yard with the groaning of those shafts. It was the most ungodly sound you've ever heard after an explosion. These were the shafts carrying the power down to the grinding mills, and they made the most ungodly banshee sound.

    Wilkinson: You were going to tell us something about Harry Kazeer. The different kind of person he was.

    Lickle: Harry Kazeer was not one of the type that usually worked out here at the Yard. This brings me up to a similar story which is rather dramatic. It is hearsay, but it came from my college roommate, who knew the facts, so I'm sure it is correct. After I left, a boy came down here from Philadelphia who was, I think, a Harvard man and he came out to the Yard. He was a friend of Guy Stollenwerk's and he roomed with my ex-roommate - he took my place at the YMCA when I left. And he was foreman of the packing building when the 42 boys were killed.

    Wilkinson: This was in 1917.

    Lickle: Was that 1917? My roommate stayed here for two years. He was here for two years then, because he was here at that time and he identified his foot - part of his foot - because he remembered seeing him put two pairs of socks on that morning. Most of the rest was picked out of trees. It was utterly inconceivable by today's standards that they would ever put 42 persons in one building - that is completely inconceivable by any safety standards today - but here is the dramatic part of that. This ties in a bit with Kazeer. That boy's parents thought he was working for a brokerage firm in Philadelphia. He had gotten into some sort of a scrape, and he had come down here and gone to work in the Powder Mill and was killed, and they were still writing to him at the brokerage firm in Philadelphia. They were forwarding letters, and he had a friend in the brokerage firm who was forwarding letters up to his parents from Philadelphia. They thought he was in the brokerage business at the time he was killed here.

    Wilkinson: This explosion in the pellet press where Toomey and Kazeer were killed, any effort made to explain how it happened?

    Lickle: No, I never heard anyone attempt to explain. I would say that it is similar to all such explosions. I don't think anyone ever can explain them.

    Wilkinson: Things fly off and there is no way of reconstructing the situation.

    Lickle: Something breaks and the machine is gone, the building is - there is just no way.

    Wilkinson: It does seem odd though that people coming into the powder mill fresh out of school with no previous experience wouldn't have had some preliminary instruction on how to handle this stuff. Or what to do.

    Lickle: None whatever. That ties in with the fact that 42 boys were in the packing house. I think it was a Presbyterian attitude - if it's God's will - it's God's will.

    Wilkinson: We've been told that one reason the Irish Catholic made a good powderman was that he was somewhat fatalistic, or that he had a certain confidence that in the afterworld he was probably…

    Lickle: I think that is true, but my later experience on our dynamite plants at Hercules is that for certain jobs that require nothing but observation, or should I say trundling nitroglycerin buggies, the very, very unimaginative stupid Polish was superior after probably two or three years training as to just what track to follow. [Laughter] I'm exaggerating slightly because once he had that down there was no deviation.

    Wilkinson: You will be interested in a quote that E.I. du Pont made - it was taken from something he wrote quite early. He said he liked the Irish workmen because they didn't do too much thinking for themselves.

    Lickle: Well the Polish I think are even better than that. Only it takes them a little longer to catch on.
  • Coincidence of hiring college-educated men for powder yard jobs; separation of workers' community from Wilmington; living at the Wilmington YMCA and eating at Mrs. Sherwood's boarding house
    Keywords: Boardinghouses; Wages; workers' communities; YMCA of the USA
    Transcript: Pizor: Tell me, who ran the other pellet operation. I gather there was more than one?

    Lickle: Yes, my roommate was in one of them. Guy Stollenwerk was also in one of them and different men were in there. Harry Kazeer and Dan Toomey. I know there were two press buildings and I think three.

    Pizor: Was there any reason that you know of that they put college people or better educated persons on this kind of job?

    Lickle: Absolutely not.

    Pizor: Anyone could have done it?

    Lickle: As a matter of fact, I would say there was every reason not to. It is just a coincidence that Rogers Wilson happened to be down talking to the mother while this "Speddy" Graves and I were talking to the daughters. And one of the daughters, incidentally, lives here in Wilmington. She's co-owner of the Secretariat - Mary Rogers Hynson - it was her mother that married Rogers Wilson, and one of the sisters was one of the wives of Lammot duPont.

    Wilkinson: I was grasping for that Stollenwerk name and that's in the name of, is it the second wife of Lammot du Pont?

    Lickle: This girl, Carolyn Hynson married Stollenwerk and was divorced from Stollenwerk, a famous drop kicker at Harvard, and she at one period was Lammot du Pont's second wife.

    Wilkinson: You mentioned Emil Krauss. We of course didn't meet Emil but we met his son John. Do you remember his son John?

    Lickle: Very vaguely. I've heard of him occasionally. I understand he's done quite well with the Company.

    Wilkinson: Well, he became, I think, the first college recruiter. He started that sometime in the early 1920's I believe and then stayed in the company, and he died about three or four years ago. But we tape recorded John's recollections. He lived down in Squirrel Run I think, or on the Creek road. Do you remember anything about the house where Mr. Krauss had you come for dinner? You say he was the only one that invited you down.

    Lickle: No, I remember it being a rather sizable house, much larger than anything along the creek. I think it was frame, but I'm not sure. And I think it was sort of Victorian. Not true Victorian with all the castle-like apertures and excesses, but more a pleasing country house, much larger than the average.

    Wilkinson: Did you have any free time to either swim or fish in the creek?

    Lickle: No, that is why perhaps there was no resentment, if you care to call it that, or objection, because we came to work and then we went back in town.

    Scafidi: Did you get the idea when you were visiting Mr. Krauss that the people along the creek lived in a different world from the people in Wilmington?

    Lickle: Oh yes, definitely. This was a community in itself, and as I say, I think it was a well-known fact that no city boy dare ever came out here to take a girl out on a date. It was a different community, and that was proven so after they closed the place down, and Alfred I. used to take them on the boat trips. [Tape recorder turned off at request]

    Wilkinson: You have told us of your months of work here - the explosion obviously stands out - your association with Kazeer, Toomey, you're walking down the yards in the dark of the night guided by the stars, taking the trolley home to the Y, the tediousness of this job, you just stood by and watched this machine…

    Lickle: And kept the hopper supplied with the loose powder and took out, removed the pellets as the box filled up. It was a very unemotional, unimaginative, uninspiring job. But the money was excellent.

    Wilkinson: Who was the paymaster?

    Lickle: I got my pay in check form in an envelope. I can't recall whether it was handed to me or whether it was mailed to me at the Y. I don't know.

    Wilkinson: The little stone building on the road that leads up toward Christ Church from the Hagley Yard, on the right hand side, was that the Hagley Yard office in your time?

    Lickle: I can't recall. I can't recall where I got my checks. I do know that I immediately deposited them in the Wilmington Trust Company. I know that. I say that because I think the Wilmington Trust Company was very much more farsighted than many places in that they would even bother with small accounts - gambling that some of them might become worthwhile some day.

    Scafidi: Do you remember how much it cost you to live?

    Lickle: More or less. I am quite sure that I paid $3 a week for a room at the Y which of course was excellent because we could play volleyball and go in the pool every afternoon if we weren't working.

    Wilkinson: Where was the Y then?

    Lickle: The Y at that time was at the corner of Orange and 10th, right where J.A. Montgomery Company is today. The DuPont Building covered only about half of that block, and the DuPont Company had a certain number of floors, Hercules had two, and I think Atlas had two.

    Wilkinson: $3 a week rent, and what about laundry and meals?

    Lickle: I think somewhere around 35 or 40 cents would buy a very satisfactory dinner. I do remember there were two very outstanding boarding houses in Wilmington - a Mrs. Sherwood's and Mrs. Matlack's. It is amazing how many people who became quite prominent in Delaware boarded at those places at one time or another.

    Wilkinson: Did you take your meals at one of these places?

    Lickle: I did, with Mrs. Sherwood. But then if I recall correctly the board was something like $7 a week - something on that order.

    Scafidi: Then you could put away a fair amount of money?

    Lickle: Oh yes. There was no question about it, about how wealthy you were going to get in a short time, provided you didn't get the illusions of the present day youth that you had to get a car right away. And at that time, which you probably know, there wasn't much fun in driving anyhow. The tires would go out on you, and you had a toll road wherever you'd go. There was a toll gate where the old country club is.

    Wilkinson: The old Kennett Turnpike was a toll road, wasn't it?

    Lickle: That was a toll road, and Eugene du Pont lived right close to the toll road there. I can't remember what it cost you, but it was pennies I know. And it was a toll all the way up to Philadelphia.
  • Clothing of powder yard workers; pastoral setting of Hagley site and property
    Keywords: Crowninshield, Louise du Pont, 1877-1958; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Dwelling); Work clothes
    Transcript: Wilkinson: The pellet line operation handling black powder was a dusty job and I assume your clothes got dirty.

    Lickle: As a matter of fact it wasn't too dusty.

    Wilkinson: Was it slightly damp when you processed it?

    Lickle: It had to be. I'm sure that it must have been; otherwise you couldn't have pressed it into this form. It was not a dusty operation.

    Wilkinson: So you didn't have an excessive laundry bill?

    Lickle: No and again after I talked to you, I don't want to get fact interposed with fancy - but if they didn't provide clothes for the employees - and I don't think that they did because I can't recall a change house - those chaps who worked in the corning mill and worked in the glaze house, they should have gone home with some fairly dangerous clothing.

    Wilkinson: Well, we've been told that the men who had beards, now this may have been a little earlier, a man would get a broom and sweep his beard to make sure that he got the dust out of his beard.

    Lickle: I don't see how they could avoid going home from the glazing mills…

    Wilkinson: Well, there were change houses scattered through the Hagley property we know, and we've been told by some of the older men that they did change clothes going to and from work.

    Lickle: I don't recall that I ever had any overalls or shoes furnished, yet I know that in later years we used to buy and furnish our employees with overalls with no pockets, just the slits so you could hold waste but couldn't hold matches or anything like that, and the wooden pegged shoes.

    Wilkinson: Were the yards pretty well covered with trees?

    Lickle: Yes, except for the god-awful groaning of the shafts, it was really a very lovely pastoral place because as you walked up, here were the grinding mills which had all the atmosphere of antiquity except for the sheet iron tops on them, but the walls were pretty and here were vines and trees and heavy shrubbery and the creek out there. It was very beautiful.

    Wilkinson: You never heard any comment that the trees were allowed to stand because they acted as baffles in case of an explosion?

    Lickle: No.

    Wilkinson: This has been a theory that we've had.

    Lickle: Could be. On the other hand, it was such a rustic beautiful setup that there wasn't any particular point in removing the trees. Now if you take them down there is another thing - since you bring that up as a theory - I don't know what they did here - now I'm theorizing. I know that on some of our [Hercules] plants, we kept sheep - in California we kept upwards of 5,000 head of sheep to hold the grass down because of the dryness in the summer and prevent fire. During a drought here it may be that there was enough moisture given off by those trees to keep this place from drying out thoroughly. That was always a hazard because if you get dead grass you have a tremendous hazard around an explosives plant.

    Wilkinson: Mrs. Crowninshield used to keep sheep. She took over this upper property, and we understand that lamb or mutton was commonly served as Sunday dinner at Mrs. Crowninshield's. But that is a different story altogether.

    Lickle: I was amazed. I asked the young girl up at the desk if that yellow house was on Mrs. Carpenter's and I was amazed to know that Mrs. Carpenter's property came this close to the Library here.

    Wilkinson: The cemetery seems to act as a between-zone. The big stone wall that you noticed is the cemetery wall.

    Lickle: Well she owns to the creek a little further up.

    Wilkinson: Yes, it bends down behind our library building.

    Lickle: Mrs. Crowninshield died, didn't she?

    Wilkinson: Yes, she died in 1958.

    Lickle: What is happening to her property?

    Wilkinson: Well, it was willed to our Foundation. We have custody of it.

    Lickle: Of the whole property?

    Wilkinson: Yes, all that was her property up here, and the house is kept just about as she left it. She had furnished it nicely in late Federal, early American style, and you may have noticed that we open it in the spring for a month and open it in the fall for a month for public visitation. The garden down below the house is not open because of hazards, accidents, but some time before too long we hope it will be.

    Lickle: As custodian of the Foundation, I think I could sell a few acres out here for you. I was telling Dr. Wilkinson the story of one of my superiors when he came up from Hopewell, Virginia as vice president of Hercules and asked me to buy a place for him which I did - I bought a place in Wawaset for him - in fact I held it in my own name for about a year. He decided he didn't want to build there, and he came to me and said, "I've decided where I want to build. I want two or three acres along the Brandywine." I said, "Phil, I can't buy them for you." "Hell," he said, "I'll pay an over price. Suppose they are worth $3,000. I'll pay $5,00 or $10,000. I only want three or four acres." He went to Jack Jessup - I don't know if you know Jack, then President of the Bank of Delaware. He couldn't believe that it was impossible for him to buy 2 or 3 acres.

    Wilkinson: It is a domain, as you know, and has been held pretty tightly and yes, it is hard to break in.

    Lickle: Slightly.
  • Shift towards more highly trained personnel; impressions of du Pont family members and paternalism in the powder yards
    Keywords: Du Pont family; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irénée), 1864-1935; Du Pont, Irénée, 1876-1963; Du Pont, Lammot, 1880-1952; Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; Hercules Powder Company; Industrial relations; Paternalism; Personnel management; Skilled labor; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Pizor: Do you remember what any of the other men who weren't college graduates were making?

    Lickle: I would assume the same thing. I would assume that we who were on that pellet press job were paid the same thing. I had no reason to think that they weren't. It was just at that era when salaries and wages were advancing. You raise quite a number of interesting questions, as to whether DuPont at that time had any personnel policies, and I see the tangent on which you are speaking, as to whether there may have been something in mind that we who had come from college would go some place - I'm sure that that was not the case. I think that Rogers Wilson was running this operation. That was it. I don't think anyone in the home office had the slightest idea who was working out here, or who wasn't working here. As I say, the evidence is that until a year later, Harold Garrett was later to become Director of Purchases of DuPont, which was quite a good job, and he couldn't get transferred until they found out that Hercules was going to take him. But the year before that, not a one of the three of us could get transferred to the home office.

    Pizor: I might have missed this, but when you graduated from Washington College, what kind of a degree did you have?

    Lickle: Bachelor of Science.

    Pizor: But you weren't an engineer?

    Lickle: No, I was not an engineer nor was I a chemist. I might tell you that one of the boys who started with DuPont later went to Harvard to get his law degree because we all recognized in a very short time that the chemistry that we had was completely inadequate. We had what might be termed a good background for commercial work, but we were not specialists in anything.

    Wilkinson: You mentioned mathematics and science as your two areas of concentration?

    Lickle: As a matter of fact I was fairly good in mathematics, but I was not in today's terms or even later in the war, [well-qualified]. DuPont was then commencing to look for more highly skilled and more highly trained personnel. We weren't. We had a Bachelor of Science degree with a smattering of everything.

    Wilkinson: This was the time when DuPont, as you know, began to diversify into paint and heavy chemicals.

    Lickle: I might tell you that the du Pont family, as you well know, had a tradition of going to MIT, but of the early directors in the DuPont Company, speaking now of around 1915, very few of them were college graduates. And of the early officers, directors of Hercules Powder Company, Russell Dunham, Bacchus, [Markel], Prickett, [Skelly], none had a college degree. Today of course you can't get a decent job as a mail boy without a college degree. They came up, I would say, largely with extraordinarily uncommon common sense.

    Wilkinson: This was recognized by T. Coleman and Pierre and others.

    Lickle: Yes, it was uncommon common sense.

    Scafidi: Were there any young du Ponts working in the yard when you were there?

    Lickle: No, not to my knowledge. None were there as I can recall. There may have been Creekers, not using this as a derogatory expression.

    Wilkinson: No, this is how they referred to themselves, Down-the Creekers and Up-the-Creekers.

    Lickle: I don't recall any Creekers of my age working here. They were most all older until they got the young group in the packing house. Now why they weren't working here I don't know. Maybe the fact that they weren't working here is the reason I was. [Laughter]

    Wilkinson: Francis I. du Pont was a young man at this time - he was over at the Experimental Station. My impression was though that the black powder operation was under the over-all direction of Lammot du Pont.

    Lickle: It was. He was the general superintendent.

    Wilkinson: So Rogers Wilson answered to him.

    Lick1e: He answered to Lammot du Pont.

    Wilkinson: And he had authority over the other black powder plants?

    Lickle: Precisely. I've seen Lammot out here in the yard several times, and he was the general superintendent.

    Wilkinson: What was the attitude when the big boss came walking by? Anything different than usual?

    Lickle: No, not particularly.

    Wilkinson: Did he ever stop and say anything or ask you what you were doing?

    Lickle: He never asked me. It was just a nod, that's all. Did you know him? He was not the type to stop. Irenee would have been the type to stop and bum a chew of tobacco from one of the men, but Lammot wasn't that type.

    Wilkinson: More aloof?

    Lickle: Well, he just lacked the ability to be gregarious.

    Wilkinson: How about Mr. Pierre?

    Lickle: Very considerate, very considerate, too - I don't like the word gentlemanly but that probably explains it - just too proper. Proper is a better word, to really get along with the working man. Irenee on the other hand, could be right at home. He could be over here in that bar drinking beer with them in the evening and talking with them, and they would feel like he was one of the group. And Alfred I. was very much the same way.

    Wilkinson: Alfred I. had already left the company at that time but you undoubtedly heard stories about him. Can you recall any of these?

    Lickle: I not only heard stories about him, I knew him. I didn't know him intimately at all but his office was in the Delaware Trust Building. I knew him by sight, and I knew him to say hello to, and he had this yellow cur dog that his car had hit which was his inseparable companion. There was another background story on that which various persons knew. A good friend of mine in Hercules Engineering, Joe Thomas, whose wife was Alfred I.'s secretary before Alfred I. went to Florida, was sort of an inventive genius. Joe was always interested in metal machine tools. So Alfred I. set up a shop on Madison Street right off of Delaware Avenue on the second floor of a garage there - quite an extensive shop. Joe used to go over there at nights and work on things that he was trying to invent for Hercules, like a dynamite packing machine. Well, what most persons don't realize is that Alfred I. was there in overalls working with him because that was one of his hobbies and relaxations. He'd be over there working with these machine tools at night, trying to invent something that Hercules would use, but no one knew that he was Joe's helper, so to speak.

    Wilkinson: We have run across his inventive abilities; he improved the glazing barrel for example, he devised a jet of steam to go into it which speeded up the process, and various other things, a new kind of chipping machine to break up powder chips into smaller pieces. This relationship with Alfred I. to his workmen, you must have picked up some knowledge of this. Do you recall any stories of how he viewed his work people and what he did for them?

    Lickle: Only that he felt - it was a paternalistic attitude. He felt that these people on this plant were his personal responsibility. And I think anyone might have been reasonably sure that there would be no hunger or hardship too hard for a person out here who had been with the Company or his family had been with the Company. The DuPont Company and/or the family owed something more than just employee-employer relationship. And I think that that manifested itself as I was telling you a while ago when we stopped [the tape recorder].

    Scafidi: When you got here in 1915 did you get the feeling that you couldn't separate the Company from the family? Or was that feeling entirely gone?

    Lickle: I had no such feeling at all. But again, I think you must differentiate very, very much between the feeling that existed between the family and the Creekers and the feeling that existed as far as the family was concerned and the people that were down in the home office in the DuPont Building. This was paternalism, so to speak.

    Wilkinson: Well, they had grown up together.

    Lickle: That is right. They had grown up together, not one generation but several generations.

    Wilkinson: And there had never been a sharp distinction between the family on the hill and the families down in the village?

    Lickle: No, but that did not exist downtown. That was a different thing.

    Wilkinson: No sense of a remote corporation, your boss. It was either Mr. Alfred or Mr. Irenee.

    Lickle: No, but downtown was a different thing. Downtown was a business office. This was an operation, so to speak.
  • World War I smokeless powder contracts for England; liquidating Hercules black powder plants after the war
    Keywords: Demobilization; Gunpowder, Smokeless; Hercules Powder Company; Liquidation; Military supplies; Public contracts; Scrap metals; Weapons industry; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Wilkinson: Do you remember how many people were working in the mills at the time you were here?

    Lickle: No. I don't know and I wouldn't have an idea because you had the number built up a bit down in the keg shop. I don't know whether when you speak of the mills you would differentiate the keg mill.

    Wilkinson: No, I would say the overall operation.

    Lickle: No, I don't know.

    Wilkinson: Dynamite and smokeless powder as types of explosives of course have long been in existence and from what we know of the industry we feel that black powder was on its way out as of World War I or post World War I. Did you get any sense that you were making a product that shortly would be replaced or rivaled by some other more powerful explosive?

    Lickle: None whatever. I realized that what I was on was entirely war work.

    Wilkinson: And these pellets were primers for other types…

    Lickle: For shrapnel, was my impression. That's what I was told. You had the (drawing), then you had an aluminum head with graduations on it. Then there was a revolving device there, which timed it, and then back here was the main explosive, which may have been TNT or whatnot, and steel for shrapnel. The purpose here was to have it explode after some pre-determined period. I think the theory was that if you had troops on the ground this would explode right at the right time, so then they could mow all the troops down. I think this was the theory.

    Wilkinson: Do you recall as of 1915 what foreign power was the best customer in buying this stuff?

    Lickle: Yes, England. And I know that as far as our company, Hercules, was concerned, and I assume it was true of DuPont, J. P. Morgan was acting as the buying agent. I know that where we made our large income, and I assume this is also true of DuPont. England insisted on Cordite, which is still the name they use for smokeless powder, with an acetone base. We were making our smokeless powder with an alcohol base, so Morgan was offering what seemed to be a fantastic prices at that time, for a powder made from an acetone base which would not deplete the then small supply of acetone. Whoever took the contract had to get his acetone from some place else, wherever that was. So we took a contract, was hazardous to say the least. We started working on vinegar at Baltimore. That wasn't too successful. So we went to San Diego, and we bought a batch of garbage scows and equipped them with a mowing machine device on the front and harvested the kelp from the tremendous banks of kelp right off the shore.

    Wilkinson: This is Hercules doing this?

    Lickle: Yes. Then we put the kelp in 50,000 gallon redwood tanks and let it ferment, and it smelled to high heaven. We then used evaporators and recovered the acetone to make the smokeless powder that way. This method was of course completely uneconomical and we thought the English at the time were a little off their rocker, insisting on the acetone, but that's what they wanted and that was the source of our money. Now, I'm sure that DuPont had to go into some similar contracts, but as I say, most of them were British, and J. P. Morgan was the buying agent. And that started the close relationship between Pierre du Pont and J. P. Morgan personally which later had something to do with the purchase of the Coleman du Pont stock. I am familiar with some of these things because after the war I was in charge, for some few years, of the liquidation of some of the surplus war plants [for Hercules], so I had something to do with the sale of the San Diego - wasn't in San Diego, it was really in Chula Vista south of San Diego - plant. It was completely uneconomical, so that plant was demolished entirely. Then at various times in addition to the smokeless powder plants that we abandoned I did get into the liquidation of a few of our black powder plants, but I might say there was very little to liquidate, practically nothing. Most of them were out in the countryside and very small and the easiest way to do it was to set them afire.

    Wilkinson: The later construction of mills in the black powder plants went to light frame, didn't it? They got away from this heavy structure?

    Lickle: Yes.

    Wilkinson: When had that transition come, do have you any idea?

    Lickle: No, I can't tell you. But I can tell you something about the transition in England. We went in partnership with Bleechers, Inc. to bleach cotton linters, which are used for plastics and rayon and things like that, and we were to provide the know-how, Bleechers were to provide the capital and labor. Our plant was at Holden Vale which is a little north of Manchester, the most god-awful valley you have ever seen - always cloudy. They tell the favorite story there that if you can see the building over there it is not raining. But anyhow our linter storage warehouses, which we have had for years here in Hopewell, have all been sheet iron and we wanted to build them in Holden Vale because it is so much cheaper. Bleechers said, "Heavens no, we want stone this thick. We always build all of our warehouses of stone." "No, it will cost too much, there is no point to it." "Yes, but in this climate your corrugated iron won't last over fifteen or twenty years." We finally prevailed by selling them on the idea that maybe rayon wouldn't even be using linters twenty years from now. "Don't let us build for 200 years. Who knows what the state of the industry will be at that time." So reluctantly they let us build them of corrugated galvanized metal.

    Wilkinson: Considering the length of rayon as a popular fabric - well, it has come back of course, hasn't it, but there was a time when rayon seemed to fall down when synthetics came in...

    Lickle: But the cotton linters are no longer going into rayon, they are using wood pulp so we have found another outlet for cotton linters largely in paper, but we just don't like building for thirty or forty years ahead.

    Wilkinson: Well, cotton linters are also used for smokeless powder.

    Lickle: Yes, very definitely, but of course that's nil in peace time.

    Scafidi: You said you were in charge of some of the liquidations of black powder plants…

    Lickle: A few of them, Goes, Ohio; Ferndale, Penna., but there wasn't anything much to liquidate. Wasn't anything to sell.

    Scafidi: No scrap?

    Lickle: Scrap iron. The cheapest thing you could do is put a match to it so that you removed any powder, and then let the rest of it go to scrap iron.

    Scafidi: Do you recall any scrap contractors trying to get the big mill wheels?

    Lickle: No.

    Wilkinson: The local scrap dealer was your man?

    Lickle: Yes, scrap dealers from the larger cities or New York, depending on the amount of metal there would be left there. There wasn't any equipment that was suited to much of anything else and there was the fact that you always had the inherent danger so that unless you could rid yourself of that danger - remnants of powder - you didn't sell anything. A lawsuit against Hercules or DuPont was fairly serious. Whether you were right or wrong, you were almost sure to lose.

    Wilkinson: You might be interested in knowing that the Sycamore Mills down near Nashville, Tenn. - that was once a DuPont operation - and we have been supplying some information to a man who has bought up the former powder mill property, is now being converted into a country club and golf course and he's building himself a very fine home overlooking all this - the site of the Sycamore Mills which ran most of the 19th century to about 1903. So the location of mills in these remote country areas is now taking on an awful lot of value.
  • Joining the Purchasing Department at Hercules Powder Company; DuPont 150th anniversary celebration
    Keywords: Anniversaries; Du Pont, Lammot, 1880-1952; Employees--Resignation; Hercules Powder Company; Personnel management
    Transcript: Wilkinson: Well, when you came to leave Du Pont, do you recall how you went about it, and when you went to Hercules? Any severance pay? Did you report to Rogers Wilson?

    Lickle: No. I'm sure I told him ahead of time, and I'm also sure that he knew quite well that I wanted to go into the office in town.

    Wilkinson: What particular type of work did you think you could do in the office? What did you have your eye on as a type of job?

    Lickle: At that particular time it would have been. Of course I would not have attempted to compete with a trained chemist or trained engineer nor would I have attempted to compete with a graduate of law school. Anything in the commercial line. Ultimately I would like to have gone into the purchasing end, and I might say that when I went with Hercules, I did start with them in the Purchasing Department. You asked me what I thought I could do. This is rather a unique - maybe it is not unique but it is a workable approach. When I talked to the Director of Purchases at Hercules, they told me that they didn't have an opening at the moment. Of course within a year or so they had openings galore, enough for everybody. I told him, "That makes us about even because I don't have anything to do so how about if I come in here and work. I'll come in here and work for a month or two and at the end of a month or two if you think I'm worth anything you pay me for that, if you don't think I am worth anything, don't pay me anything. I have nothing to lose.”

    Wilkinson: And they accepted your offer?

    Lickle: Yes. He said, "I think I'll take a chance on that."

    Wilkinson: Fifty years later you think that can be done?

    Lickle: Yes, I still think it could be done. Yes, I think if a person is willing to say, "I'll find out what I can do in this department."

    Wilkinson: But will management accept - this is my point?

    Lickle: Oh, I think it would have to be a smaller organization. Where the management is not in the hands of committees.

    Wilkinson: Again, down on a person-to-person relationship.

    Lickle: Yes, because today it would have to be approved by 16 committees unless someone overrode it, just like when they had the l5Oth anniversary here. I knew Luther Reed. I don't know that Luther knew that I ever worked here but I was a little disappointed that I didn't get an invitation, so I wrote Mr. Lammot du Pont and told him that I am one of the few around Wilmington who worked there when he was also there. And I would like to come to the party and celebration. So he wrote me back a very nice letter and said he had long since retired and have absolutely nothing to do with it. It's in the hands of the committee, being handled by other persons but he would pass my letter on. So the next day my invitation came. He must have had a little something to do with it, despite his disclaimer. [Laughter] So that is what I meant about the fact that approach would get you a position today. If you happen to make the approach to someone like Mr. Lammot du Pont, maybe his suggestion carries a little weight.

    Wilkinson: Well, Mr. Reed has told us just within the last week or two how he handled this matter of invitations to the 1952 celebration and it was a real sticky thing all the way through. But again it was the idea that this was an employees’ observation and they chose the older employees in the local area, and they selected the older ones selected from the plants, and then there was a little backlog of special invited guests, but to throw it open in any way outside of the Company–family relationship was extremely difficult. I think 8,000 people attended the affair.

    Lickle: Well, after I came to the celebration I wondered why I did. I thought at least with all the money you people had that there would be a bar set up.

    Wilkinson: They had Coca Cola didn't they? [Laughter]

    Lickle: Yes, I was most disappointed.

    Wilkinson: And they drank a lot because it was the hottest day in the year. Mr. Lickle, I wonder if we could do a little shift in the little time we have left, maybe twenty minutes or so. You had been talking about Daniel Cauffiel as the real estate man in the DuPont Company being your father-in-law. We would like to know more about Mr. Cauffiel's operations in acquiring property and handling it for the Company. Could you repeat for us some of these incidents you were telling me upstairs?

    Lickle: Well I can tell you - I don't know how far I want to go on this.

    Wilkinson: Use your own good judgment.

    Lickle: I'd rather that be turned off.