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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Interview with Samuel Hackendorn, 1958 July 24 [audio]
Hackendorn describes growing up along the Brandywine, including his schooling at St. Joseph's on the Brandywine, games the children would play, the family home in Free Park, his first job at a cotton mill, and his impressions of various members of the du Pont family. He also describes his career working in different companies.
Interview with Joseph A. Haley, 1955 February 23 [audio]
Haley describes his impressions of Alfred I. du Pont, his working career with the company, entertainment and amusement along the Brandywine, and the various aspects of the powder business.
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 Ella Fitzharris, 1985 August 8 [audio](part 2)
Fitzharris recalls in more detail about some of the subjects she has discussed in prior interviews. Some topics include coal wagons, home sewing, homemade alcohol, style of dress during mourning periods, household furniture and appliances, toys and hobbies, and types of meals cooked in the home.
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 Mary Sweeney Gibson, 1980 May 13 [audio]
Gibson describes an explosion that killed her mother's first husband, her education at St. Joseph's, cooking and shopping, medical care, holiday celebrations, and peeling willows. She also describes her family's history and emigration from Ireland.
Interview with James Gamble, 1984 June 21 [audio](part 1)
Gamble describes his family's history and various artifacts received from family members, his grandfather and father's careers with DuPont and in stone quarries, his first jobs, typical foods and chores, and taverns and businesses in Wilmington.
Interview with James Gamble, 1984 June 21 [audio](part 2)
Gamble describes his family's history and various artifacts received from family members, his grandfather and father's careers with DuPont and in stone quarries, his first jobs, typical foods and chores, and taverns and businesses in Wilmington.
Interview with Walter Aurand, 1981 May 14 [audio]
Influenced by his high school teacher and educated in chemistry at the University of Delaware, Walter describes life in Wilmington during the early twentieth century. His interview details a work atmosphere at DuPont, a powder explosion that killed three women, testing the bullets in New Castle, and safety in the workplace.
Interview with Alfred Dougherty, 1984 June 29 [audio]
Dougherty describes the houses in Free Park and in Breck's Lane in detail, as well as common practices in the early twentieth century, including shopping, food preparation, and entertainment. He also describes his wedding in detail as well as his younger sister's funeral.
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 Donald Hallam, 1980 September 2 [audio]
Hallam describes his father's childhood along the Brandywine at Bancroft Mills, including entertainment, pranks, and chores. He describes the house in which his father grew up in detail. His mother also recounts working for Bancroft during the war. Hallam describes his own childhood growing up in Wilmington.
Interview with James Kindbeiter, 1984 April 6 [audio](part 1)
Kindbeiter describes community life at Hagley, including church life at St. Joseph's, the house layout, the Gun Club, children's pastimes and entertainments, daily chores, and Christmas and holiday traditions.
Interview with James Kindbeiter, 1984 April 6 [audio](part 2)
Kindbeiter describes community life at Hagley, including church life at St. Joseph's, the house layout, the Gun Club, children's pastimes and entertainments, daily chores, and Christmas and holiday traditions.
Interview with James Kindbeiter, 1984 April 13 [audio]
Kindbeiter describes Christmas traditions, the introduction of electricity, various pranks the children would play, saloons and businesses in the community, and various anecdotes about community members and du Pont family members. He also talks about his working career at the Experimental Station, including his mentor Leon Lloyd.
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 Martina Lawless, 1984 February 21 [audio](part 1)
Lawless discusses daily life and chores, the hotel in which the family lived, an explosion in the Packing House, the Catholic community at St. Joseph's, medical care, her education at Ursuline and Villamarie in West Chester, and weddings and baptisms.
Interview with Martina Lawless, 1984 February 21 [audio](part 2)
Lawless discusses daily life and chores, the hotel in which the family lived, an explosion in the Packing House, the Catholic community at St. Joseph's, medical care, her education at Ursuline and Villamarie in West Chester, and weddings and baptisms.
Interview with Faith Betty Lattomus, 1984 April 19 [audio](part 1)
Lattomus describes the layout and communities of the various villages along the Brandywine, her house in Wagoner's Row, chores and daily routines, transportation, and entertainments and parties. She also describes her involvement at Christ Church and teaching Sunday school there.
Interview with Faith Betty Lattomus, 1984 April 4 [audio](part 2)
Lattomus describes the layout and communities of the various villages along the Brandywine, her house in Wagoner's Row, chores and daily routines, transportation, and entertainments and parties. She also describes her involvement at Christ Church and teaching Sunday school there.
Interview with Ralph Beech Brown, 1981 April 28 [audio]
Brown's interview details his childhood in Newark, Cecil County, and Wilmington, his experiences as a carnival worker, the working environment and explosions at the powder mill, and his experience as an electrician at the Playhouse Theatre.
Interview with James Cammock, Herb Devenney, Edward Devenney, and Jim Kindbeiter, 1984 May 9 [audio](part 1)
Herb Devenney, Ed Devenney, James Cammock, and James Kindbeiter, sons of powder mill workers, reminisce about growing up at Hagley in this group interview and tour of the museum grounds. Some topics of discussion include daily life of the workers and their families, identification of various families and their living spaces, schedules and duties of the powder mill workers, and various changes that had occurred in the last century.
Interview with James Cammock, Herb Devenney, Edward Devenney, and Jim Kindbeiter, 1984 May 9 [audio](part 2)
Herb Devenney, Ed Devenney, James Cammock, and James Kindbeiter, sons of powder mill workers, reminisce about growing up at Hagley in this group interview and tour of the museum grounds. Some topics of discussion include daily life of the workers and their families, identification of various families and their living spaces, schedules and duties of the powder mill workers, and various changes that had occurred in the last century.

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