Oral histories on work and daily life in the Brandywine Valley

About this collection

A collection of approximately 200 interviews conducted between 1953 and 1990 with people who lived and worked in New Castle County, Delaware. The recollections of the subjects cover a period from about 1900 to 1960. While the majority of the interviews are with those who have a connection with the DuPont Company or du Pont family either as employees or inhabitants of the area surrounding the company's operation on the Brandywine River, the collection also includes interviews with those who worked in other industries in Delaware during this era such as Hodgson Woolen Mill, Lobdell Car Wheel Company, Hoopes Brother & Darlington, and Joseph Bancroft & Sons. In addition to documenting work and labor during this period, the interviewers delve deeply into the social and cultural lives of their subjects. Issues related to domesticity, gender, education, childhood, ethnicity, medicine, etc. are among the topics covered in the interviews. Also of note are interviews with a journalist (Fred Reybold) and an early broadcaster (Willard Wilson) who worked in Delaware.

    For more information about the collection, click here to view the finding aid.
    Image: Vance Mitchell during 1968 interview. Click to view.

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John M. Johnson and Franklin Hanway, 1969 August 26 [audio]
Johnson and Hanway discuss why Mr. du Pont bought the estate, the farming operations at Longwood, the development of the Italian water gardens, work benefits, and various interactions with du Pont family members.
Interview with James F. Toy Sr., 1964 April 20 [audio]
Toy describes his salary and working conditions during that time. He later made his career in carpentry. In his interview, he discusses the demolition of the mills, his impressions of Louise du Pont Crowninshield and Colonel du Pont, his work on A.I. du Pont's sunken gardens, his childhood in Long Row, and community relations at Hagley.
Interview with Oliver Collins, 1972 July 6-7 [audio]
Collins describes how he was trained as a miller, how his business expanded, the different crops ground at his facility, the process of grinding corn and wheat, different grades of flour produced, and explosions that occurred in the mill business. He also discusses the role of grain elevators in the mill process.
Interview with James Gamble, 1984 April 5 [audio] (part 1)
Gamble describes his house in Henry Clay in detail as well as his uncle's house, the layout of the villages along the Brandywine, various taverns in the community, his family history, and his education. He also recounts his childhood: swimming in the Brandywine, playing baseball and football and marbles, and sledding. He describes various explosions that he remembers.
Interview with James Gamble, 1984 April 5 [audio](part 2)
Gamble describes his house in Henry Clay in detail as well as his uncle's house, the layout of the villages along the Brandywine, various taverns in the community, his family history, and his education. He also recounts his childhood: swimming in the Brandywine, playing baseball and football and marbles, and sledding. He describes various explosions that he remembers.
Interview with Thomas Dunlop, 1985 April 19 [audio]
Dunlop describes floods along the Brandywine, the celebration of the Scottish holiday of Hugmanah, various items in the household, his father's garden, and medical care.
Interview with James Gamble, 1981 April 24 [audio](part 1)
Gamble recounts various family members and their history. He also describes the layout of the yards, his childhood at Hagley, gardening and chores, his first job at Capo's Drugstore, and his education.
Interview with James Gamble, 1981 April 24 [audio](part 2)
Gamble recounts various family members and their history. He also describes the layout of the yards, his childhood at Hagley, gardening and chores, his first job at Capo's Drugstore, and his education.
Interview with Reefa Hackendorn [audio]
Hackendorn recounts stories from her husband's childhood along the Brandywine. Eugene Hackendorn worked as a time keeper for the DuPont Company and was one of two men who survived an explosion. She also describes the family's religion and the children's pastimes.
Interview with Willard B. Crichton and Patsy Crichton, 1985 March 6 [audio](part 1)
Willard Crichton describes the state of the house after the move and the surrounding area in detail, as well as the changes made to it by the Crichton family. He also describes the surrounding area and the gardens. His interview details family history, the changes to the area following the opening of Hagley Museum, and briefly refers to a career with DuPont.
Interview with Willard B. Crichton and Patsy Crichton, 1985 March 6 [audio](part 2)
Willard Crichton describes the state of the house after the move and the surrounding area in detail, as well as the changes made to it by the Crichton family. He also describes the surrounding area and the gardens. His interview details family history, the changes to the area following the opening of Hagley Museum, and briefly refers to a career with DuPont.
Interview with Agnes Quinn [audio]
Quinn describes prohibition in Wilmington, shopping and making textiles, her relationship with her grandmother, the layout of the neighborhood, social activities at Breck's Mill, floods along the Brandywine, and running her tavern. She also describes Christmas traditions along the Brandywine, including attending church at dawn at St. Joseph's on the Brandywine, the decoration of the tree, sledding, and gifts received.
Interview with Phillip Kirkland, 1990 December 4 [audio]
Kirkland describes his career working with the spray welding devices, including a detailed description of the function of the machine and the origins of the parts. He also briefly describes his working career, including business practices of the company.
Interview with Dr. Margaret Seitz, 1984 June 11 [audio]
Seitz describes her family's history working in the powder mills, her sisters' relationships with members of the du Pont family, her family's home, Christmas celebrations, and her father's childhood.
Interview with Anthony W. Grieco, 1988 October 7 [audio]
Grieco describes his daily job responsibilities in the box shop and his soldering work, explosions that occurred at the packing house during his working career, race riots in Chester, and his life in a boarding house. He also describes daily life in Wilmington, including weekend entertainment.
Interview with Les Mathewson, 1976 September 3 [audio](part 3)
Mathewson describes stone quarrying work in detail, including the process, tools, and his various job responsibilities. He also discusses his time working in the hydroelectric plant.
Interview with Les Mathewson, undated [audio](part 4)
Mathewson describes stone quarrying work in detail, including the process, tools, and his various job responsibilities. He also discusses his time working in the hydroelectric plant.
Interview with William Henry Miller, 1984 February 16 [audio]
Miller describes a detailed history of his family and how they came to America and began working for the DuPont Company. He also describes his father's childhood along the Brandywine in Henry Clay, including how the children would entertain themselves, and his relationship with Alfred I. du Pont.
Interview with Richard Toy, 1984 August 16 [audio]
Toy describes the family's house in Henry Clay, the geography of the area and its changes throughout the years, how the Toy family became involved in DuPont, and various family members and their lives.
Interview with Edwin Zeuner, 1984 June 26 [audio]
Zeuner describes the daily life of those living in Wilmington in the first half of the twentieth century, including where people shopped, swimming and skating on the Brandywine, typical dress, and normal pay and working conditions in the millwright shop.
Interview with Carl Wise, 1984 February 27 [audio]
Wise describes his childhood growing up in Wilmington, including working for the DuPont box factory during his summers, delivering newspapers and milk, his education at Wilmington High School, and various customs and pastimes. He also briefly describes some highlights of his working career.
Interview with Katherine Collison, 1954 September, 1955 January [audio]
Collison describes the house itself and the hardworking maids who lived there; how the children played and entertained themselves at the powder yards; various explosions and the reactions of the families; the cultural and social makeup of the community; and Collison's relationship with members of the du Pont family, including her friendship with Sophie du Pont.
Interview with William Stewart Allmond, 1969 July 3 [audio] (part 2)
Allmond's interviews detail the work environment at the Wilmington plant site in the early 1900s until the 1940s; various markets for car wheels; the expansion of the company and acquisition of Morton Poole Company and Nazel Engineering Works; and the effects of the Great Depression on Lobdell, which led to the company's purchase by Walter Lippincott and the United Engineering and Foundry Company in the late 1940s.
Interview with Harvey L. Fell, 1968 June 10 [audio]
Fell describes farming for DuPont in detail, including the amount of workers, the number of barns and buildings, livestock raised, horses that pulled the wagons, sporting and hunting dogs, barn burnings, and farm equipment. He also describes the community along the Brandywine, his impressions of various du Pont family members, and the layout of Wilmington and the powder yard.
Interview with Joseph H. Martin, 1956 November 8-9 [audio](part 1)
Martin describes in detail various members of the du Pont family and anecdotes about them, including Francis I. du Pont, Alfred I. du Pont, Colonel A. Henry du Pont, and T. Coleman du Pont. He also discusses the explosion of 1890.

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