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 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 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 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 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 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 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 James Cammock, 1984 April 9 [audio]
Cammock describes daily life on the Brandywine for families of mill workers; celebrations for the Fourth of July and Memorial Day; and general descriptions of the mills and his home at Breck's Lane.
Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1985 August 8 [audio](part 1)
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 C. Natalie Rogerro Meriggi, 1984 June 20 [audio]
Meriggi discusses winter pastimes, lacemaking, Christmas traditions, and winemaking. She also discusses cooking, gardening, and herb lore, medical care, the Italian community at Hagley, and her parents' feelings as immigrants. She touches on celebrations, such as holidays and weddings.
Interview with Edgar Dill Peoples, 1988 April 2 [audio](part 1)
Peoples describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including his family history and how his parents met, daily chores, cooking and gardening, games that the children would play, and typical dress. He also describes the social aspect of life at the yards, including the Swamp Lily Club and the Hagley Community House as well as Christ Church.
Interview with Edgar Dill Peoples, 1988 April 2 [audio](part 2)
Peoples describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including his family history and how his parents met, daily chores, cooking and gardening, games that the children would play, and typical dress. He also describes the social aspect of life at the yards, including the Swamp Lily Club and the Hagley Community House as well as Christ Church.
Interview with Arthur Sykes, 1984 March 8 [audio]
Sykes recounts his working career at DuPont, including explosions. He also describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including swimming in the creek, golfing, going to the movies, daily chores, shopping, He reminisces about the Prohibition period as well as members of the du Pont family.
Interview with Mary Perrone, 1984 February 22 [audio]
Perrone describes her home in Squirrel Run, her daily activities as a homemaker and head of a boarding house, illnesses and explosions that affected the community, and the Italian community at Hagley. She provides many rich anecdotes.
Rocco Perrone, Margaret Perrone, Victorine Camoirano, and Mary Oliverri Guerrina, 1985 March 12 [audio]
The interview covers daily activities and life along the Brandywine, including chores, transportation, and the relationships among the Italian community at Hagley.
Interview with Rose Murabito, 1984 March 22 [audio]
Murabito describes her family home, chores and daily activities, her education, memories of explosions, and her family's history. She also describes working at Hodgson's mill on the spinners and the reels as well as her work at a cigar factory. Furthermore, she discusses Christmas traditions, various games and entertainments, and gardening.
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.
Interview with John E. Krauss, 1958 May 14 [audio](part 1)
Krauss describes his father's working career, including an incident in which Mr. Krauss asked Mr. Francis G. du Pont not to smoke a cigar near the powder mill. His interview describes his childhood at Squirrel Run, including his education at A.I. du Pont School, his summer jobs in the mill at Hagley, his impressions of du Pont family members, and his later working career at DuPont.
Interview with John E. Krauss, 1958 May 14 [audio](part 2)
Krauss describes his father's working career, including an incident in which Mr. Krauss asked Mr. Francis G. du Pont not to smoke a cigar near the powder mill. His interview describes his childhood at Squirrel Run, including his education at A.I. du Pont School, his summer jobs in the mill at Hagley, his impressions of du Pont family members, and his later working career at DuPont.
Interview with John E. Krauss, 1958 May 28 [audio](part 3)
Krauss describes his father's working career, including an incident in which Mr. Krauss asked Mr. Francis G. du Pont not to smoke a cigar near the powder mill. His interview describes his childhood at Squirrel Run, including his education at A.I. du Pont School, his summer jobs in the mill at Hagley, his impressions of du Pont family members, and his later working career at DuPont.
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 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.

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