Interview with William H. Buchanan, 1958 August 7 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Family background and early life; Father's nickname; Alfred I. du Pont's residence
    Partial Transcript: "DuPont was almost the only company he ever worked for."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks a bit about his family's history. He talks about his father whose given name was Albert Wesley Buchanan and nicknamed "Yaba" Buchanan. He explains the origins of the name and his father's job in the powder yards. He says that he worked on a DC generator located in Breck's Mill. He describes power generation in the mill and says that power from that generator powered local church organs on Sundays. He describes Alfred I. du Pont's estate, Swamp Hall, recalling that he had a boiler room to heat his home and an ice plant in his basement.
    Keywords: Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Hagley Community House (Breck's Mill); Henry Clay (Del.: Village); Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); Water turbines
  • Father's friendship with Alfred I. du Pont; The neighborhood; Picking an unknown object up from the railroad tracks; Home on Breck's Lane; Siblings and family; Daily life
    Partial Transcript: "When Alfred I. du Pont lived up there on Breck's Lane, him and my daddy was quite friendly." "Living conditions on Rising Sun Lane were the same as over on Breck's Lane."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about his father's friendship with Alfred I. du Pont. He talks about Alfred I. du Pont's first car which had trouble getting over a local hill. He says it was the first car he recalls ever seeing in the Brandywine area. Buchanan describes the Rising Sun Lane as he recalls it from childhood. Buchannan talks about burning himself on a railroad track. He discusses living conditions in the area, describing the layout and furnishings of his family's home on Breck's Lane. He says that they raised chickens and pigs in their yard. He talks about bathing and daily life.
    Keywords: Automobiles; Bathing; Blakeley's tavern; Brandywine Creek; Breck's Lane; Chickens; Dadd's store; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Floorplans; Friendship; Furniture; Gregg's store; Henry Clay (Del.: Village); Licorice; Pigs; Railroads; Rising Sun Lane; Siblings; Swimming
  • Memory of maternal grandmother; Death; Religion;
    Partial Transcript: "I do remember Grandmother Gordon. She was crippled up with rheumatism, and her knees and arms were bent up like that all the time."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about his mother's side of the family. He talks about spending time visiting his disabled grandmother. Buchanan talks about death and says that funerals were held in the family home and bodies were preserved in ice. He briefly describes wakes and funerals that he attended in the area around the Brandywine. He talks about religion and says that he is a confirmed Episcopalian. He says that his mother's side of the family was Catholic and that some of his siblings took Catholic spouses. He talks more about wakes, saying the last one he can recall attending was for a man whose last name was Snyder.
    Keywords: Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Death; Embalming; Family; Funerals; Grandparents; Ice
  • Engine near the Hagley dam; Lighting in the family home; Holidays; Electrifying the family home
    Partial Transcript: "When the water got low, then he'd start this engine up. That's what ran those mills along there."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about an engine near the Hagley dam, saying that the engine was used during the summer when the water level was low, and in fall when leaves clogged the water turbines. He talks about oil lamps and lighting in his family's home and describes the layout of a home where his family lived on Breck's Lane. He talks about electrifying his family's home on 176 Breck's Lane. He talks about holidays and recalls getting a gift basket with a turkey around Thanksgiving. He talks more about electricity and talks about buying his mother an electric iron.
    Keywords: Breck's Lane; Chamber pots; Electircity; Electirification; Engines; Homes; Irons (Pressing); Kerosene; Knob and tube wiring; Lighting; Oil lamps; Thanksgiving; Waterpower
  • Buying a building in the powder yards; Scrapping metal at Hagley; Encounters with Mrs. Copeland
    Partial Transcript: "Right alongside of the blacksmith shop, they had a building they used for a lunch room. That was during the first war. It was for the office force, foremen, supervisors, and people like that. I don't remember the powder men going in there, but that's where the others got their lunch. Well, when the yard closed down, doing away with different things there, I bought that building."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about a garage that he bought from the powder yards and lost because he did not remove it quickly enough. He says that he successfully purchased and removed a garage from Chicken Alley. He talks about scrapping operations at Hagley after the powder yards closed. He describes encounters with Mrs. Copeland.
    Keywords: Buildings; Chicken Alley; Copeland family; Free Park (Del.: Village); Hagley Yard; Real estate; Scrapping
  • Pumping water from the Brandywine; Taking care of the power lines at Hagley
    Partial Transcript: "That's what they call the sand hole. There was a reservoir up there. "
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about pumping water from the Brandywine into a reservoir at Hagley. He talks about rescuing a coworker who climbed an electrical pole and froze. Buchanan says his coworker says he got shocked, but he thinks he was overcome by the extreme heat that day. He returns to talking about the reservoir and the availability of drinking water in the area. He explains that the reservoir water was principally used for fire plugs and other uses in the yard.
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Drinking water; Electiricty; Power lines; Pumps; Reservoir; Telephones; Water
  • Hagley electric plant; Explosions at Hagley
    Partial Transcript: "At one time in this power house we had a Corliss steam engine, and we had one machine that was 110 v. D.C. for the lights. we had another machine that was 550 v. D.C. for some of the motors. Then there was another one that was 1100 17. That was an alternator. That was A.C. That took care of the lights in the yard and homes and different things like that. It was transformed down to whatever voltage they wanted."

    "They were all blowed to pieces. You could see any part of a man you wanted to see. For a long while after that, we'd be working up the yard and you'd find little pieces of flesh and we'd just take our heel and make a little hole and put it down and stamp it down and say nothing to nobody."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about the equipment in the electric plant. He says that some of the powder mills ran on D.C. power and describes other power systems at Hagley. He says that there were some powder mills that ran on water power until the day the yards closed. He says he was in Philadelphia during the explosion that killed his uncle and injured his father then recalls the 1915 explosion that he witnessed. He says that part of his job was turning off the electricity for the powder yards in the event of an explosion. He says that the explosion in 1915 killed 32 men. He describes the clean up process, noting that they were finding parts of the victims for a long time afterward.
    Keywords: Alternating current; Corliss Steam engines; Corning/ graining mills; Delaware Power and Light; Direct Current; Electiricty; Explosions; Powdermills; Steam power; Water power
  • Strike at Hagley; Social activities; Story about his father dealing with a trespasser in the powder yards
    Partial Transcript: "That's one thing, the company never had very many strikes. In fact, I never believed in strikes myself."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about his father going to work during a strike. He says that he crossed the picket line and went to work in the power plant. Buchanan and the interviewers try to figure out what year the strike occurred. Buchanan says that his father and Alfred I du Pont were both boxers, but never boxed with each other due to their close friendship. He talks about social activities and a man named Benny Watson. Buchanan talks about a time when his father encountered a cigar smoking trespasser in the powder yards. He says that his father told the man about the dangers of having a lit cigar in the yard.
    Keywords: Benny Watson; Boxing; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Hagley Yard; Singing; Social acitivites; Strikes; Trespassers; Work
  • Buchanan's education; Watching George White's lynching
    Partial Transcript: "I didn't go too many years to school. We went by readers then. It was either second or third reader. The kindergarten was in one room and then we went to the next room. I started work when I was 8 or 9."
    Synopsis: Buchanan talks about going to school. He describes watching an African American man named George White being lynched for the rape and murder of a local schoolteacher. He describes the crowd and explains that the victim was tortured and burned. He says that outside of that incident he does not recall any other crime or social disharmony on the Brandywine.
    Keywords: African Americans; Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Crime; Education; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Kindergarten; Lynching; Murder; Racism; Rape; School; Torture; White, George; WIlmington, Del.