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 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 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 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.