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 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 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 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.
Interview with F.L. (Les) Mathewson, 1968 July 3 [audio](part 1)
Mathewson describes the addition of electricity to the powder yard, his impressions of A.I. du Pont, and his neighbors. He also discusses his childhood, his father's work responsibilities, and his own job at the Hopewell plant in blasting. He describes the intricacies of blasting work and his experiences with the trap-shooting club.
Interview with F.L. (Les) Mathewson, 1968 July 3 [audio](part 2)
Mathewson describes the addition of electricity to the powder yard, his impressions of A.I. du Pont, and his neighbors. He also discusses his childhood, his father's work responsibilities, and his own job at the Hopewell plant in blasting. He describes the intricacies of blasting work and his experiences with the trap-shooting club.
Interview with John Peoples, 1957 June 13 [audio](part 1)
Peoples describes his job and working conditions in detail, his impressions of Frank du Pont, flooding along the Brandywine, explosions, life at Squirrel Run, and anecdotes about his neighbors.
Interview with John Peoples, 1957 June 13 [audio](part 2)
Peoples describes his job and working conditions in detail, his impressions of Frank du Pont, flooding along the Brandywine, explosions, life at Squirrel Run, and anecdotes about his neighbors.
Interview with Daniel F. Shields, 1958 March 19 [audio]
Shields describes his working career at DuPont, including various explosions, his impressions of du Pont family members, and anecdotes about other employees.
Interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel, 1959 February 20 [audio]
Bickel details different developments in the explosives industry, including the development of Duco and Nitramon, the company's explosives training, the DuPont Company culture, and the relationship between branches of the overall organization. He ultimately transferred back to Wilmington in 1944.
Interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel, 1959 February 27 [audio]
Bickel details different developments in the explosives industry, including the development of Duco and Nitramon, the company's explosives training, the DuPont Company culture, and the relationship between branches of the overall organization. He ultimately transferred back to Wilmington in 1944.
Interview with Richard F. Rowe, 1968 July 9 [audio](part 1)
Rowe discusses swimming in the Brandywine during the summer. He also recounts an incident in which he saved a drowning girl. He talks about his father's death, sickness, crime, and superstitions.
Interview with Richard F. Rowe, 1968 July 9 [audio](part 2)
Rowe discusses swimming in the Brandywine during the summer. He also recounts an incident in which he saved a drowning girl. He talks about his father's death, sickness, crime, and superstitions.
Interview with John A. Dougherty, 1956 October 19 [audio](part 1)
Dougherty describes his various jobs for the company, his supervisors, the move to the DuPont building in Wilmington, the houses and layout of the community at Hagley, and various neighbors.
Interview with John A. Dougherty, 1956 October 19 [audio](part 2)
Dougherty describes his various jobs for the company, his supervisors, the move to the DuPont building in Wilmington, the houses and layout of the community at Hagley, and various neighbors.
Interview with William Frederick Lynch, 1956 October 5 [audio](part 1)
Lynch describes the opening of the Experimental Station, explosions that occurred during his working career, his job responsibilities, and his work on the volunteer fire company. He also discusses the company during World War I and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with William Frederick Lynch, 1956 October 5 [audio](part 2)
Lynch describes the opening of the Experimental Station, explosions that occurred during his working career, his job responsibilities, and his work on the volunteer fire company. He also discusses the company during World War I and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 May 28 [audio](part 1)
Reed describes his early working career with DuPont in the dynamite plant in Gibbstown, his movement to the Hopewell, Virginia plant, the beginnings of DuPont's values regarding safety, and the introduction of on-site medical care. He also discusses the typical plant working environment and the challenges he faced at the Hopewell plant.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 May 28 [audio](part 2)
Reed describes his early working career with DuPont in the dynamite plant in Gibbstown, his movement to the Hopewell, Virginia plant, the beginnings of DuPont's values regarding safety, and the introduction of on-site medical care. He also discusses the typical plant working environment and the challenges he faced at the Hopewell plant.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 May 29 [audio](part 3)
Reed describes in detail the planning and execution behind the 150th anniversary celebration of the DuPont company as well as his role as director of these events. He also describes the efforts of du Pont family members in planning, including Louise du Pont Crowninshield. He also describes his role as the director of the Hagley Foundation, including the building the museum and library, the selection of the trustees, and the development of the by-laws.
Interview with Philip Dougherty, 1955 February 16 [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.
Interview with Harry E. Lee, 1955 February 2 [audio]
Lee discusses his career at DuPont, including transportation, his impressions of various members of the du Pont family, the company during wartime, and an explosion at Hagley in 1914. He also briefly touches on daily life in Wilmington at this time.

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