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 Faith Betty Lattomus and Madaline Betty Walls, 1969 June 12, 1969 June 25 [audio]
The first part of the interview describes their family history, the houses in Squirrel Run and Wagoner's Row, the political opinions of residents in the community, their education at A.I. du Pont School, and the various transfers of property that occurred in the area. The second part of the interview concerns guard duties around the property, interactions with members of the du Pont family, the children's entertainments and sports, holiday parties, different businesses in the community and in Wilmington, and daily life.
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 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 Stuart Taylor, 1969 July 22 [audio]
Taylor describes Wilmington in the early twentieth century, including the ethnic makeup of the city, pastimes of young people, learning his trade, the temperance movement, healthcare in the city, church and community life, and other day-to-day routines in the early 1900s. He also describes working conditions during his career.
Interview with Martin Dillon, 1969 July 28 [audio](part 1)
Dillon describes in detail the process of hauling willows, including cutting them down, peeling them, tools and techniques used, and caring for the horses. He also describes farm life at the turn of the century, including the business aspect of farming.
Interview with Daniel Toomey, 1969 August 7 [audio](part 1)
Toomey describes the house and the neighborhood in which he was born, transportation in the early twentieth century, holiday celebrations, healthcare, and daily life growing up.
Interview with Daniel Toomey, 1969 August 7 [audio](part 2)
Toomey describes the house and the neighborhood in which he was born, transportation in the early twentieth century, holiday celebrations, healthcare, and daily life growing up.
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 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 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 Frank T. Stirlith, 1960 January 12, 1960 January 14 [audio](part 1)
Stirlith describes his family history and immigration to the United States, his childhood growing up in Chester, life in Wilmington during his adult years, his career at DuPont, and his impressions of and interactions with various members of the du Pont family. He also recounts, in detail, William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, which he heard in Wilmington in 1896.
Interview with Frederick K. Reybold, 1968 August 8 [audio]
Reybold describes treating politics in journalism, interviewing Grover Cleveland, the newspaper business in Wilmington, and his impressions of T. Coleman du Pont and Alfred I. du Pont, and his resignation after being told not to report A.I. du Pont's divorce case. He the construction of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
Interview with Frank T. Stirlith1960 January 12, 1960 January 14 [audio](part 2)
Stirlith describes his family history and immigration to the United States, his childhood growing up in Chester, life in Wilmington during his adult years, his career at DuPont, and his impressions of and interactions with various members of the du Pont family. He also recounts, in detail, William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, which he heard in Wilmington in 1896.
Interview with Frank T. Stirlith, 1960 January 12, 1960 January 14 [audio](part 3)
Stirlith describes his family history and immigration to the United States, his childhood growing up in Chester, life in Wilmington during his adult years, his career at DuPont, and his impressions of and interactions with various members of the du Pont family. He also recounts, in detail, William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, which he heard in Wilmington in 1896.
Interview with Charles H. Lickle, 1968 June 13 [audio]
Lickle describes in detail his first job at DuPont, including a description of duties and pay, a paternalistic system that existed among the "old timers" at Hagley Yard, pellet processing, an explosion that killed two of his colleagues, and his life boarding at the YMCA in Wilmington. He also describes his impressions of the du Pont family. He briefly outlines his career with Hercules.
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 George Christ, 1969 July 23 [audio]
George M. Christ, a worker in the blacksmith shop at Hoopes Brothers and Darlington, describes his career manufacturing wagon wheels. In his interview he details the wheel-making process, various types of tires, the rate of production of wagon wheels, and how the workers utilized the shrinker machine to make wheels.
Interview with Thomas Hoopes, 1969 July 23 [audio](part 1)
Hoopes gives a history of the company including the addition of rubber to wagon wheels, the changes the company underwent during World War II, the introduction of electricity, the relationships with the competition, best business practices, the management of the company, and different types of tires.
Interview with Thomas Hoopes, 1969 July 23 [audio](part 2)
Hoopes gives a history of the company including the addition of rubber to wagon wheels, the changes the company underwent during World War II, the introduction of electricity, the relationships with the competition, best business practices, the management of the company, and different types of tires.
Interview with John E. Miller, 1960 June 23 [audio]
Miller describes the movement from black powder to soda blasting powder, the reformation of DuPont after the death of company president Eugene du Pont in 1902, how politics impacted the company (particularly the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the division of DuPont), sabotage among competition, and the company during both world wars. He also discusses his work abroad in Argentina, Chile, Hawaii, the Philippines, and China.
Interview with Vance Mitchell with Joseph Dougherty, 1968 July 12 [audio]
Mitchell describes his childhood and his parents' hauling business, including hazards of the trade, the introduction of the truck in transportation, and the basic job responsibilities. He also discusses his work at DuPont and at Bethlehem Steel during World War I. He reminisces about an explosion that occurred at Bethlehem Steel, the handling of shells after the end of the war, headaches that occurred from TNT and smokeless powder, and concerns about sabotage. The interview also features commentary from Joseph Dougherty.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1964 April 3 [audio](part 1)
Cheney describes the family home in detail, taking the trolley into town, how the family used heat, gas, and drinking water, her interactions with members of the du Pont family, and various ways that the children would entertain themselves.

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