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 Pierre Ferraro and Eugene Ferraro, 1955 June 13 [audio]
The Ferraros describes explosions in 1890, 1898, and 1915, the villages along the Brandywine, the political views of the workers, various impressions of members of the du Pont family, and life in Walker's Bank, including entertainment, wages, and chores.
Interview with Joseph A. Haley, 1955 February 23 [audio]
Haley describes his impressions of Alfred I. du Pont, his working career with the company, entertainment and amusement along the Brandywine, and the various aspects of the powder business.
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 Walter Aurand, 1981 May 14 [audio]
Influenced by his high school teacher and educated in chemistry at the University of Delaware, Walter describes life in Wilmington during the early twentieth century. His interview details a work atmosphere at DuPont, a powder explosion that killed three women, testing the bullets in New Castle, and safety in the workplace.
Interview with Joseph M. Campbell, 1957 August 15 [audio](part 1)
Campbell describes the working conditions at Hagley and at the Experimental Station, attempts to unionize, his interactions with the du Pont family, and moving into the neighborhood at Squirrel Run, including the various nationalities that lived there and what the workers would do for fun.
Interview with Joseph M. Campbell, 1957 August 15 [audio](part 2)
Campbell describes the working conditions at Hagley and at the Experimental Station, attempts to unionize, his interactions with the du Pont family, and moving into the neighborhood at Squirrel Run, including the various nationalities that lived there and what the workers would do for fun.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 March 31 [audio](part 1)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 March 31 [audio](part 2)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 April 7 [audio](part 3)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
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 John Peoples, 1957 June 13 [audio](part 1)
Peoples describes his job and working conditions in detail, his impressions of Frank du Pont, flooding along the Brandywine, explosions, life at Squirrel Run, and anecdotes about his neighbors.
Interview with John Peoples, 1957 June 13 [audio](part 2)
Peoples describes his job and working conditions in detail, his impressions of Frank du Pont, flooding along the Brandywine, explosions, life at Squirrel Run, and anecdotes about his neighbors.
Interview with Franklin W. Bradway, 1958 February 13 [audio](part 1)
Bradway details DuPont's contract work with the Allied governments during both world wars and the Korean War, the development of the plant at Old Hickory, and the rise and fall of the sporting powder business. He eventually became a manager of the smokeless powder division and later the vicechairman of the Board of Benefits and Pensions.
Interview with Franklin W. Bradway, 1958 February 13 [audio](part 2)
Bradway details DuPont's contract work with the Allied governments during both world wars and the Korean War, the development of the plant at Old Hickory, and the rise and fall of the sporting powder business. He eventually became a manager of the smokeless powder division and later the vicechairman of the Board of Benefits and Pensions.
Interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel, 1959 February 20 [audio]
Bickel details different developments in the explosives industry, including the development of Duco and Nitramon, the company's explosives training, the DuPont Company culture, and the relationship between branches of the overall organization. He ultimately transferred back to Wilmington in 1944.
Interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel, 1959 February 27 [audio]
Bickel details different developments in the explosives industry, including the development of Duco and Nitramon, the company's explosives training, the DuPont Company culture, and the relationship between branches of the overall organization. He ultimately transferred back to Wilmington in 1944.
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 John A. Dougherty, 1956 October 19 [audio](part 1)
Dougherty describes his various jobs for the company, his supervisors, the move to the DuPont building in Wilmington, the houses and layout of the community at Hagley, and various neighbors.
Interview with John A. Dougherty, 1956 October 19 [audio](part 2)
Dougherty describes his various jobs for the company, his supervisors, the move to the DuPont building in Wilmington, the houses and layout of the community at Hagley, and various neighbors.
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 Robert E. Pyle Sr., 1958 October 27 [audio](part 1)
Pyle describes his childhood and education in Wilmington, the interview that got him his job, his work in the smokeless powder plant at Hopewell, his salary, various explosions, and his working career at DuPont.

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