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 Fred Zeller, 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 J. Edgar Rhoads, 1969 January 31 [audio](part 1)
Rhoads describes the emigration of his family from England to America to begin a tannery in 1702. He describes his family's business, including the movement from tanning to leather, as well as other ventures, and the expansion of the business to include other family members. He details the process of making leather and the relationship of the company with other area companies, including DuPont. He also describes his childhood in Wilmington and other towns where his family moved, his Quaker faith and missionary work, and family affairs. Rhoads also discusses his education and his entrance into the family business, as well as the state of the company during World War I.
Interview with J. Edgar Rhoads, 1969 January 31 [audio](part 2)
Rhoads describes the emigration of his family from England to America to begin a tannery in 1702. He describes his family's business, including the movement from tanning to leather, as well as other ventures, and the expansion of the business to include other family members. He details the process of making leather and the relationship of the company with other area companies, including DuPont. He also describes his childhood in Wilmington and other towns where his family moved, his Quaker faith and missionary work, and family affairs. Rhoads also discusses his education and his entrance into the family business, as well as the state of the company during World War I.
Interview with J. Edgar Rhoads, 1969 February 11 [audio](part 3)
Rhoads discusses his role in the family business, including price-setting strategies, becoming a partner in 1915, and hiring salesmen and various sales techniques. He also discusses various management practices and organizational skills that he utilized during his time at the business. He touches on United States and international competitors, and he discusses in detail the union movement in the 1930s and the company's relationship with union members. Rhoads also discusses the entrance of nylon into the belt-making business, government revisions on the leather building industry, and the succession of power within the company.
Interview with J. Edgar Rhoads, 1969 February 11 [audio](part 4)
Rhoads discusses his role in the family business, including price-setting strategies, becoming a partner in 1915, and hiring salesmen and various sales techniques. He also discusses various management practices and organizational skills that he utilized during his time at the business. He touches on United States and international competitors, and he discusses in detail the union movement in the 1930s and the company's relationship with union members. Rhoads also discusses the entrance of nylon into the belt-making business, government revisions on the leather building industry, and the succession of power within the company.