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 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 Francis J. Friel, 1960 September 20 [audio](part 1)
Friel describes his childhood in Wilmington, including his school years, fairs in the city, explosions and fires in the mills, and his career at DuPont. He also describes his impressions of various members of the du Pont family.
Interview with Francis J. Friel, 1960 September 20 [audio](part 2)
Friel describes his childhood in Wilmington, including his school years, fairs in the city, explosions and fires in the mills, and his career at DuPont. He also describes his impressions of various members of the du Pont family.
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 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 Frank S. MacGregor, 1961 July 21 [audio]
MacGregor discusses various coworkers with whom he worked, how he began at the company, the development of rayon, interactions between DuPont and various firms, and his responsibilities as control manager. He also describes his work in the paint industry, the company during wartime, why the DuPont company built the Hotel du Pont, and his experiences working abroad in Argentina.
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 Aloysius Rowe, undated [audio]
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 Aloysius Rowe, 1968 August 12 [audio]
Rowe discusses growing up along the Brandywine and the daily life of his mother and his family, including their schooling, healthcare, and eating habits. He also describes the 1918 flu epidemic, wakes, political life in Wilmington, the development of radio and automobile technologies, and the effect of the Great Depression on Forty Acres in Wilmington. He also recounts his working experience, from his first job at Hodgson's Woolen Mill to his later experiences working for the Reading Railroad. His interview provides detailed insight into daily life during the early twentieth century.
Interview with Benjamin F. Foster, 1964 February 24 [audio](part 1)
Foster describes his working career at DuPont, including the various plants in which he worked, the installation of electrical lighting, engineering work, salaries and wages, and transferring to South America. He also describes the establishment of the Hotel du Pont, the building of homes for various du Pont family members, and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with Benjamin F. Foster, 1964 February 28 [audio](part 2)
Foster describes his working career at DuPont, including the various plants in which he worked, the installation of electrical lighting, engineering work, salaries and wages, and transferring to South America. He also describes the establishment of the Hotel du Pont, the building of homes for various du Pont family members, and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with E.G. Ackart, 1961 September 14 [audio]
E.G. Ackart recounts his working career at DuPont in his interview. He discusses anecdotes from high school, differences in working for DuPont vs. other companies, the Barksdale plant, and the structure of the engineering department and its consolidation in 1916. He also describes the company during wartime, his various colleagues throughout his working career, the development of industrial engineering, and the relationship between DuPont and General Motors. He also discusses the development of nylon, rayon, and other important materials, including how DuPont's chemists and physicists utilized ideas they found working abroad to create them. He recounts building new plants and his interactions with members of the du Pont family.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 June 6 [audio](part 4)
Reed describes the Hopewell plant in detail, his job responsibilities regarding labor and payroll, DuPont during World War I and the closure of the Hopewell plant, and the acquisitions of other companies. Reed focuses on his sales, managerial, and personnel work for DuPont. He also describes his experience at the Arlington plant and his eventual promotion to service superintendent at the Rayon Company and later move to Wilmington. He also touches on unionization in the industry.
Interview with Jasper F. Crane, 1962 June 21 [audio](part 1)
Crane details the management style DuPont brought to the company. He also discusses impacts of various antitrust laws on DuPont. He also describes his experience working abroad, his work on the business advisory committee, and his advice for a happy life.
Interview with Jasper F. Crane, 1962 June 21 [audio](part 2)
Crane details the management style DuPont brought to the company. He also discusses impacts of various antitrust laws on DuPont. He also describes his experience working abroad, his work on the business advisory committee, and his advice for a happy life.
Interview with Benjamin F. Foster, 1964 February [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Benjamin Foster who worked for the Power Division of Engineering Department. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with Francis J. Friel, 1960 September 20 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Francis Friel who worked as a chemist for DuPont. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with Joseph B. Kauss, 1969 July 11 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Joseph B. Kauss who recalled working for DuPont while driving around the powder yards. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with F.L. (Les) Mathewson, 1968 July 3 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Les Mathewson who grew up on the Brandywine and later on worked for DuPont. The interview took place in Montchanin, Delaware.
Interview with John E. Miller, 1960 June 23 [transcript]
Transcript of interview wtih John E. Miller who worked for fifty years in DuPont's explosives department. The interview took place in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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