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 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 W. J. Beadle, 1962 June 19 [audio]
Beadle describes his career with DuPont in the paint operations division, and later the development department and the treasury department. He also describes DuPont's relationship with General Motors, how DuPont acquired different companies and expanded in the 1920s and 1930s, and the motivations of the management, including the trajectory of development within the corporation. He describes the beginnings of DuPont International, his movement to the financial aspect of the business, his impressions of du Pont family members, and developing pension and trust plans.
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 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 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.