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 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 Fred Zeller, 1984 June 26 [audio]
Zeuner describes the daily life of those living in Wilmington in the first half of the twentieth century, including where people shopped, swimming and skating on the Brandywine, typical dress, and normal pay and working conditions in the millwright shop.
Interview with Oliver Collins, 1973 July 19 [audio](part 1)
Collins describes different kinds of turbines, wheel diameters and their various usage, and other industrial machines essential to his business. He also describes his family history and the running of the millrace, as well as overcoming problems such as rot. He describes the environment and wildlife in the area and also discusses his other interest in cutting hair.
Interview with Oliver Collins, 1973 July 19 [audio](part 2)
Collins describes different kinds of turbines, wheel diameters and their various usage, and other industrial machines essential to his business. He also describes his family history and the running of the millrace, as well as overcoming problems such as rot. He describes the environment and wildlife in the area and also discusses his other interest in cutting hair.
Interview with E.K. Bolton, 1961 September 14 [audio]
Bolton describes his working career and research in the chemical department, studying organic chemistry in Germany at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, and the company during World War I. He also describes various colleagues during his career. He also discusses the state of the industry during his career at DuPont, both in the United States and abroad.
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 T.C. Davis, 1962 June 20 [audio]
Davis discusses the development of the DuPont Company, including the modernization of the company and the family members who contributed to it. He also describes the changes in the market, budgeting and financial issues, interactions with government, the hierarchy of the management, and other business practices.
Interview with John Gilbert Braun, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 1)
Braun's interview describes the changes in the equipment that have occurred since his time working and when the interview was conducted in 1973. He also describes his experience as a black man working for this company, workers' behavior after an explosion, the most desirable positions within the organization, and different elements of the powder mill process, including clean up. The second part of his interview discusses the place of the workers in the community, maintenance of various machines, and testing of the finished powders.
Interview with John Gilbert Braun, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 2)
Braun's interview describes the changes in the equipment that have occurred since his time working and when the interview was conducted in 1973. He also describes his experience as a black man working for this company, workers' behavior after an explosion, the most desirable positions within the organization, and different elements of the powder mill process, including clean up. The second part of his interview discusses the place of the workers in the community, maintenance of various machines, and testing of the finished powders.
Interview with Joe Costello, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 1)
Costello describes the various responsibilities of his job, the different jobs that made up the powder yard, and typical wages. He also describes his work in the office and changes throughout the company over the years, most of which have reflected safety concerns.
Interview with Joe Costello, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 2)
Costello describes the various responsibilities of his job, the different jobs that made up the powder yard, and typical wages. He also describes his work in the office and changes throughout the company over the years, most of which have reflected safety concerns.
Interview with Michael Munroe, 1969 July 9 [audio]
Munroe describes his typical workdays, including how he got to work, how he set up the rolls, the kind of iron used, the death of Joseph Stewart in a work accident, and life in Wilmington. He also talks about the closure of Lobdell.
Interview with J. Edgar Rhoads, 1969 April 14 [audio](part 5)
Rhoads describes the effects of the Great Depression on the company, improvements made to leather products, and employing African Americans. He also discusses changes in the company's buildings throughout the years. Rhoads recounts his civic endeavors, including working with the Boy Scouts, with the YMCA, and with various engineering and nature groups. He also describes how he sought to use the manpower of conscientious objectors, such as Quakers, to serve the country in other ways during wartime. He describes his impressions of World War I and World War II in detail, including his relief efforts in Germany. He also discusses his own education.
Interview with J. Edgar Rhoads, 1969 April 14 [audio](part 6)
Rhoads describes the effects of the Great Depression on the company, improvements made to leather products, and employing African Americans. He also discusses changes in the company's buildings throughout the years. Rhoads recounts his civic endeavors, including working with the Boy Scouts, with the YMCA, and with various engineering and nature groups. He also describes how he sought to use the manpower of conscientious objectors, such as Quakers, to serve the country in other ways during wartime. He describes his impressions of World War I and World War II in detail, including his relief efforts in Germany. He also discusses his own education.
Interview with William H. Buchanan, 1974 July 25 [audio]
Buchanan describes his father's career, the layout of the powder yards, functions of various equipment, and the working environment at Hagley.
Interview with Harold W. Hocker, 1975 June 24-25 [audio]
Hocker describes the creation of the H.W. Hocker Manufacturing Company, including how the company handled the Great Depression, the development of brush manufacturing and the trajectory of the company, and other products that they produced, including bottle caps and aluminum cans. He also touches on the equipment used, ordering materials for the process, and learning how to make brushes. He discusses the fear of spreading anthrax in the import of bristles, waste in the brush process, and attempting to use synthetic materials. He also describes the machines used as well as other tools of the trade. Hocker talks about publishing trade catalogs and the standardization of brush-making. Finally, he describes the conception of the idea and the typical brush market.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1981 January 29 [audio](part 1)
Cheney discusses various household items her home contained and how they have changed. She also discusses baking bread, an explosion that caused her family to move, making soap for laundry, healthcare, her family's relationship with the du Pont family, her education, and her growing up years along the Brandywine, including chores and entertainments.
Interview with Catherine Cheney [audio](part 4)
Cheney discusses various household items her home contained and how they have changed. She also discusses baking bread, an explosion that caused her family to move, making soap for laundry, healthcare, her family's relationship with the du Pont family, her education, and her growing up years along the Brandywine, including chores and entertainments.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1984 January 23 [audio]
Cheney discusses gardening in the community, the layout of the Brandywine villages, the chicken house, and fear of explosions. She describes her family's garden in detail, particularly various types of crops planted.
Master index to Brandywine Valley oral histories
Index split into "first" and "second" generation interviews. First generation comprises interviews conducted prior to 1980. Second generation comprises interviews conducted between 1980 and 1990.