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 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 William Stewart Allmond, 1969 July 3 [audio] (part 2)
Allmond's interviews detail the work environment at the Wilmington plant site in the early 1900s until the 1940s; various markets for car wheels; the expansion of the company and acquisition of Morton Poole Company and Nazel Engineering Works; and the effects of the Great Depression on Lobdell, which led to the company's purchase by Walter Lippincott and the United Engineering and Foundry Company in the late 1940s.
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 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 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 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 F. Wardenburg, 1961 June 21 [audio]
Wardenburg describes the making of gunpowder and the smokeless powder plants where it was shipped, the reorganization of the various departments in 1911, his work in building power plants, the development of Old Hickory plant in 1917, the relationship between the operating department and the engineering department, ammonia production during wartime, making raw materials for Nylon, and his impressions of various du Pont family members. The content of discussion centers around working conditions and the development of various working practices and products during Wardenburg's career at DuPont.
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.

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