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 Pierre Ferraro and Eugene Ferraro, 1955 June 13 [audio]
The Ferraros describes explosions in 1890, 1898, and 1915, the villages along the Brandywine, the political views of the workers, various impressions of members of the du Pont family, and life in Walker's Bank, including entertainment, wages, and chores.
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 Joseph Kauss, 1969 July 11 [audio]
Kauss describes the differences between the mills when Kauss worked there and in 1969, when the interview was conducted. He also describes his working career at DuPont in detail, including his wages, work environment, and the layout of Hagley Yards. He also describes life in Wilmington, including union and gang activity.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Albert Rider "Slick" Ely, 1988 September 24 [audio](part 1)
Ely primarily focuses on ballistic pendulums and other gun powder testing devices. He also discusses in detail how black powder was manufactured as well as the properties of dynamite, and he gives his take on the eventual exit of the DuPont Company from this area. He recounts a few stories from his work in this department.
Interview with Albert Rider "Slick" Ely, 1988 September 24 [audio](part 2)
Ely primarily focuses on ballistic pendulums and other gun powder testing devices. He also discusses in detail how black powder was manufactured as well as the properties of dynamite, and he gives his take on the eventual exit of the DuPont Company from this area. He recounts a few stories from his work in this department.
Interview with Albert Rider "Slick" Ely, 1988 December 6 [audio]
Ely discusses traveling around for work through his sales position, establishing Kenvil as a research and development laboratory, the development and use of the ballistic pendulum, his earlier career with Hercules, his impressions of du Pont family members, and the use of the friction testing device. He also touches on the company's safety measures as well as using lathes in the workplace.
Interview with Joseph M. Campbell, 1957 August 15 [audio](part 1)
Campbell describes the working conditions at Hagley and at the Experimental Station, attempts to unionize, his interactions with the du Pont family, and moving into the neighborhood at Squirrel Run, including the various nationalities that lived there and what the workers would do for fun.
Interview with Joseph M. Campbell, 1957 August 15 [audio](part 2)
Campbell describes the working conditions at Hagley and at the Experimental Station, attempts to unionize, his interactions with the du Pont family, and moving into the neighborhood at Squirrel Run, including the various nationalities that lived there and what the workers would do for fun.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 March 31 [audio](part 1)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 March 31 [audio](part 2)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 April 7 [audio](part 3)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
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 Philip Dougherty, 1955 January 12 [audio]
Dougherty recalls what he remembers about his father's and his own work, the homes in the Charles' Banks area near Hagley, explosions in 1889, 1890, and 1898, activities around the Brandywine, and memories of people in the area.

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