Interview with Clarence A. Fahs, 1966 May 4 [audio]

Hagley ID:
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  • Daily work at the Hagley machine shop; Identifying objects in photos; 1917 explosion at Hagley
    Partial Transcript: "I can't tell you much about my work in the shop...I can't identify pieces that I worked on..." "Well, we had a number of explosions..."
    Synopsis: Fahs says that he cannot recall specific daily work details of the machine shop. He proceeds to discuss daily work with that caveat in place. Fahs identifies some objects in photos and how they relate to the gunpowder making process. Fahs talks about the 1917 explosion at Hagley. Fahs lists some of the places he traveled to procure materials for the Hagley machine shop. He returns to the 1917 explosion and says that part of why it had such a high cost of human life is because the yards had a lot of people working in them due to the demands of World War I. He describes what different explosions sounded like and how he could tell what exploded based on the noise. He says that he had no specified role in the event of an emergency but that the company had its own firefighting unit.
    Keywords: "Shooks"; 1917 explosion at Hagley; Black Powder; Blueprints; Carney's Point, New Jersey; Explosions; Firefighting; Hagley machine shop; Hagley Yard; Hartford, Conn.; Norristown (Pa.); Philadelphia (Pa.); Pulp kegs; Reading (Pa.); Shooks; World War (1914-1918)
  • Contact with the chief officers of DuPont; Explosion at Carney's Point; Changes in powder manufacture
    Partial Transcript: "He (Alfred I. du Pont) was kind of an idol around here; when the men used to tell about him they said whenever they were slack they used to go down and sit around Rising Sun Bridge and he'd be down there with them."
    Synopsis: Fahs says that he did not see any members of DuPont's leadership. He says that Alfred was held in legendary status by the time he was there. He says that he remembers people still living at Squirrel Run village when he worked for DuPont and that they were mostly Irish. He talks about the trolley and the route it used to run. He recalls an explosion that happened at Carney's Point, N.J. He talks about some of the changes in black and smokeless powder production. He talks about how drying towers, shakers, and presses worked.
    Keywords: Carney's Point (N.J.); Drying towers; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; Explosions; Smokeless powder; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Street-railroads; wages
  • Identifying people and things in old photographs; Story about working as a buyer for DuPont and using contractors based in the city of Reading, Pa.
    Partial Transcript: "I just happened to take that picture of him right there, and happened to get the honey wagon."
    Synopsis: Fahs looks at and identifies people in an old photograph. When asked if he's in the picture, he said that he was the photographer. He describes the men and their jobs. He talks about anti-German sentiment around World War I. He says that he worked with a Pennsylvania Dutch-owned company in Reading with successful results. He talks in greater detail about his interactions with factories and foundries in Reading. He says that as a buyer for DuPont he was entrusted with a large amount of responsibility on the part of the company. He talks about taking some of his coworkers to see the factories in Reading and elsewhere.
    Keywords: Central Machine Company; Gray Iron Foundry Company; Offices; Pennsylvania Dutch; Philadelphia (Pa.); Photographs; Reading (Pa.); Southwark Foundry & Machine Co.; Waynesboro Foundry and Machine Company; World War (1914-1918)
  • Identifying people and things in photos; Taking a personal interest in photography
    Partial Transcript: "Where was ? I was on the second floor, in this part here..."
    Synopsis: Fahs talks about where his office at DuPont was. He describes the layout of the building he worked in. He discusses the placement of the railroad lines in the area. He describes the form and function of the honeywagons and human waste disposal at Hagley. Fahs says that he enjoyed taking photos and talks about photography in the early twentieth century. He talks about World War I era buildings at Hagley. The interviewers ask him about the hydroelectric plant, but he says he cannot provide them much information on it. He talks about catwalks around Bancroft's Mill.
    Keywords: DuPont; Hagley Yard; Honeywagons; Hydroelectric dams; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Offices; Thundergust Run; Waste disposal; Wilmington (Del.); World War (1914-1918)
  • Industrial fire in Wilmington, Del; Steamers from Baltimore to Philadelphia; Discussion of cars
    Partial Transcript: "I came home one night,... and my daughter came in the door and said, 'Daddy, Rockland's on fire!'... I watched it from my front window..."
    Synopsis: Fahs talks about watching a factory burn down from his front window. He discusses steamer ships that traveled between Baltimore and Philadelphia. He describes boats that made deliveries to some of the factories and businesses located along the water in the Wilmington area. He discusses a photo of a car, he believes that the car dates from around 1900.
    Keywords: Baltimore (Md.); Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Du Pont, T. Coleman (Thomas Coleman), 1863-1930; Grubs Wharf; Philadelphia (Pa.); Rockland (Del.); Steamships; Wilmington (Del.)
  • Quality of life while working at DuPont; Staffing and hiring at DuPont during the First World War; End of the First World War and the closing of Hagley
    Partial Transcript: "I got a regular vacation, a week at first, then it was two weeks." "They made all of the dynamite machinery over there.." "..I had a lot of work out that wasn't finished..."
    Synopsis: Fahs discusses his wages and vacation time while he worked at DuPont. He talks about what he knew of DuPont's hiring and staffing practices during World War I. Fahs says that at the end of the war he had a lot of work still in process. He says that he was told to cancel all the outstanding work and to tell the factory owners that DuPont had lawyers ready to defend them, should they bring a suit. Fahs says that he left the company in 1921 and was there when the yards at Hagley closed down. He says that many records were burned after the war. He talks about how he was reassigned to the Bett's Shops in Wilmington, Del., at which he stayed for a little more than a year.
    Keywords: Bett's Shops; Celebrations; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.; Hagley Yard; Hiring; Money; Salaries; Staffing; Vacations; Victory; Wages; Wilmington (Del.); World War (1914-1918)
  • Leaving DuPont; Taking classes to become a teacher; Teaching career; Job and life regrets
    Partial Transcript: "Well, I had been promised a job in the DuPont building, in the engineering department..."
    Synopsis: Fahs says the he left DuPont because, although he was promised a job working in the engineering department inside the DuPont Building, he never got the job and was sent to the machine shops in Wilmington, Del. After getting the bad news about his job he took classes to become a vocational teacher. He says that he did well enough that the supervisor of the program suggested he go to New York State Normal School to become a full teacher, and that if he did a job would be waiting for him. He describes the challenges of going to school out of state while having a wife and two children. He says that he attended summer sessions and camped out on campus. He says that when he came back to Delaware most of the school administration that knew him had left. After waiting a few months, he eventually got a job as a teacher in a school's sheet metal shop. He taught sheet metal, ancient history, English, and math. He expresses a belief that good teachers are born and not made. He details his teaching career and says that he taught day and night classes and vocational and regular students. He says that he does not regret leaving industry for teaching. He says that although he made a bit less money teaching than at DuPont he appreciated the piece of mind offered by being a teacher. He retired in 1954.
    Keywords: Disputes; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.; Edgemoor (Del.); Education; Engineering; English; History; Labor; Mathematics; Money; New York State Normal School; Oswego (N.Y.); Teaching; Vocational education; Wages; Wilmington (Del.); Wilmington Trade School; Work