Interview with Benjamin F. Foster, 1964 February 24 [audio](part 1)

Hagley ID:
  • Conversation about recording equipment
    Partial Transcript:
    Synopsis: The interview begins with the interviewers discussing how the recording equipment works.
  • Getting hired by DuPont; Working at DuPont's Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania plant
    Partial Transcript: "My brother had been with them for years..." "...I went, and so they hired me to work for the Manufacturers Contracting Company which was owned by the DuPont Company and did most of its black powder construction work. Then I went down to my boss at the Western Electric and told him I was going to Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania, and he said, "Where the hell is Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania?"
    Synopsis: [The interview begins mid-sentence.] Foster talks about how he came to work for DuPont and describes his first job at DuPont setting up a power station for their Wapwallopen plant. He describes an accident during construction when he and W.K. du Pont fell into a pit of water on a cold night. He says that Wapwallopen plant made blasting powder. He explains that he also worked at the Belin plant in Pennsylvania. He discusses the management of and other people who worked in the Wapwallopen plant. He says the plant was closed around the time of World War I.
    Keywords: Accidents; Belin plant; Blasting powder; Du Pont, William K. (William Kemble), 1875-1907; DuPont; Electricians; Hiring; Powerplants; Wapwallopen plant; Wapwallopen, Pa; Work
  • Working in Birmingham, Alabama
    Partial Transcript: "Spruance was a very fine fellow."
    Synopsis: Foster talks about working for DuPont in Birmingham Alabama. He discusses disputes between members of management that he was aware of. He talks about Alfred I. du Pont's role in the company.
    Keywords: Birmingham, Ala.; DuPont
  • Inaudible
    Partial Transcript:
    Synopsis: There is no conversation.
  • Working in Birmingham, Alabama; Pulp kegs; Drying smokeless powder
    Partial Transcript: "Well, when you were transferred, part of your job was to go to these plants that Mr. Alfred I.'s men had put up and change the electrical..."
    Synopsis: [Foster is difficult to understand.] Foster talks about working in Birmingham Ala. He explains that Alfred I. du Pont had his own engineering department and part of his job was to follow up on work after Alfred I. du Pont's team left. Foster talks about his knowledge of DuPont's experimentation with kegs made out of pulp. He describes drying smokeless powder in water and generating electricity.
    Keywords: Birmingham, Ala.; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; DuPont Experimental Station; Power; Pulp Kegs; Smokeless powder; Spruance, William C. (William Corbit), 1873-1935; Steam power
  • Working with Dr. Chambers; Working in Birmingham, Alabama
    Partial Transcript: "Mr. DeBlois and I were sent to Ashburn, Missouri, on a light, heat, and power job. That was a dynamite plant; he was the assistant superintendent and I was out there six weeks. Dr. Chambers was made head of this plant just before the first World War."
    Synopsis: Foster talks about working at DuPont's Ashburn, Missouri with a person named Dr. Chambers. Foster continues discussing DuPont's plant in Birmingham, Ala. He describes the plant's machinery and power generation.
    Keywords: Ashburn, Mo.; Birmingham, Ala.; Conable plant; Dr. Chambers; DuPont; Work
  • Power plants along the Brandywine; Working in Wilmington, Delaware; Construction of the DuPont Building
    Partial Transcript: "The power was having to be carried a greater distance. Then they carried 500 volts around some of the house elevators, but the elevators weren't too good."
    Synopsis: Foster talks about power plants along the Brandywine Creek and the power generated by the creek. Foster talks about working in Wilmington, Delaware and the construction of the DuPont Building which began in 1906.
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; Du Pont, T. Coleman (Thomas Coleman), 1863-1930; DuPont Building; Power plants; Wilmington, Del.
  • Setting up a new plant; Working in an ammonia oxidation plant; Work during World War I; Getting a switchboard
    Partial Transcript: "They did that on a small scale. Mostly in connection with the Real Estate Department. Then they would call in the specialists on the steam and electric power. For example, they were considering building the arc process for making electricity at a nitrogen fixation plant in Canada, and John Pratt, James Edger, Major Ramsey, myself, and the chief engineer, Mr. Lee, of the Duke Power Company which owned a power site in Canada near Lake St. John went up there for ten days of study. We had Mr. Hugh Cooper, a consultant, with us, and he and Mr. Lee and I got into an argument as to the foundation of the dam and where they were going to build it."
    Synopsis: Foster talks about the measures DuPont took to determine if a given site was suitable for a new plant. Foster describes working in an ammonia oxidation plant. He talks about working in different facilities during World War I and getting a switchboard at one of DuPont's plants.
    Keywords: Ammonia; Construction; Hopewell pant; Old Hickory Plant; Plants; Surveying; World War 1914-1918
  • Electroplating TNT; Salaries and wages
    Partial Transcript: "Instead of putting it in a can, the whole thing was coated with copper. Being in the Engineering Department I received the chance of getting into all these different operations. "
    Synopsis: Foster talks about electroplating dynamite. He says that before World War I he earned $90 per month, and DuPont paid for his traveling expenses. He estimates that powder yard workers earned between $1.50-$2.00 per day, on a six day week. He talks about the Fairchance powder making plant in Pennsylvania.
    Keywords: DuPont; Electroplating; Engineerting department; Fairchance plant; Salaries; TNT; Wages
  • Foster's education; Knowing an antique collector; Manufacturing smokeless powder
    Partial Transcript: "That was just the nearest school. Reverend Porter started it for boys that needed help in getting their education and the Government leased them this arsenal which took in a whole block in Charleston and part of it became the school. The school was started by the Reverend Dr. Porter and his son; they were both ministers."
    Synopsis: Foster talks about his boyhood and going to school at the Porter Military Academy. Foster talks about an antique collector he knew who claimed that at one time owned the Russian crown jewels. Foster talks about the materials used for manufacturing smokeless powder and gives a brief overview of his later career.
    Keywords: Alcohol; Antiques; Nitrate Ammonia; Porter Military Academy; Smokeless poweder

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