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 Ella Fitzharris, 1985 August 8 [audio](part 2)
Fitzharris recalls in more detail about some of the subjects she has discussed in prior interviews. Some topics include coal wagons, home sewing, homemade alcohol, style of dress during mourning periods, household furniture and appliances, toys and hobbies, and types of meals cooked in the home.
Interview with Thomas Dunlop, 1985 April 19 [audio]
Dunlop describes floods along the Brandywine, the celebration of the Scottish holiday of Hugmanah, various items in the household, his father's garden, and medical care.
Interview with Mary Sweeney Gibson, 1980 May 13 [audio]
Gibson describes an explosion that killed her mother's first husband, her education at St. Joseph's, cooking and shopping, medical care, holiday celebrations, and peeling willows. She also describes her family's history and emigration from Ireland.
Interview with James Gamble, 1984 June 21 [audio](part 1)
Gamble describes his family's history and various artifacts received from family members, his grandfather and father's careers with DuPont and in stone quarries, his first jobs, typical foods and chores, and taverns and businesses in Wilmington.
Interview with James Gamble, 1984 June 21 [audio](part 2)
Gamble describes his family's history and various artifacts received from family members, his grandfather and father's careers with DuPont and in stone quarries, his first jobs, typical foods and chores, and taverns and businesses in Wilmington.
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 Alfred Dougherty, 1984 June 29 [audio]
Dougherty describes the houses in Free Park and in Breck's Lane in detail, as well as common practices in the early twentieth century, including shopping, food preparation, and entertainment. He also describes his wedding in detail as well as his younger sister's funeral.
Interview with Reefa Hackendorn [audio]
Hackendorn recounts stories from her husband's childhood along the Brandywine. Eugene Hackendorn worked as a time keeper for the DuPont Company and was one of two men who survived an explosion. She also describes the family's religion and the children's pastimes.
Interview with Donald Hallam, 1980 September 2 [audio]
Hallam describes his father's childhood along the Brandywine at Bancroft Mills, including entertainment, pranks, and chores. He describes the house in which his father grew up in detail. His mother also recounts working for Bancroft during the war. Hallam describes his own childhood growing up in Wilmington.
Interview with Faith Betty Lattomus, 1984 April 19 [audio](part 1)
Lattomus describes the layout and communities of the various villages along the Brandywine, her house in Wagoner's Row, chores and daily routines, transportation, and entertainments and parties. She also describes her involvement at Christ Church and teaching Sunday school there.
Interview with Faith Betty Lattomus, 1984 April 4 [audio](part 2)
Lattomus describes the layout and communities of the various villages along the Brandywine, her house in Wagoner's Row, chores and daily routines, transportation, and entertainments and parties. She also describes her involvement at Christ Church and teaching Sunday school there.
Interview with Ralph Beech Brown, 1981 April 28 [audio]
Brown's interview details his childhood in Newark, Cecil County, and Wilmington, his experiences as a carnival worker, the working environment and explosions at the powder mill, and his experience as an electrician at the Playhouse Theatre.
Interview with Anthony W. Grieco, 1988 October 7 [audio]
Grieco describes his daily job responsibilities in the box shop and his soldering work, explosions that occurred at the packing house during his working career, race riots in Chester, and his life in a boarding house. He also describes daily life in Wilmington, including weekend entertainment.
Interview with James Cammock, 1984 April 9 [audio]
Cammock describes daily life on the Brandywine for families of mill workers; celebrations for the Fourth of July and Memorial Day; and general descriptions of the mills and his home at Breck's Lane.
Interview with James Cammock, 1984 July 24 [audio]
Cammock provides many details about how he tended to his garden at Breck's Lane, including the procurement of seeds, various equipment used, standard gardening clothes, different types of fruits and vegetables and flowers planted, fertilizing practices, and the harvest and storage of crops. He also discusses maintaining a chicken coop.
Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1980 May 5 [audio](part 1)
Fitzharris discusses life in the Brandywine area including the types of clothing she wore, childhood activities, chores, other topics associated with daily home life, and social activities such as the Fourth of July picnic, weddings, and church gatherings.
Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1980 May 5 [audio](part 2)
Fitzharris discusses life in the Brandywine area including the types of clothing she wore, childhood activities, chores, other topics associated with daily home life, and social activities such as the Fourth of July picnic, weddings, and church gatherings.
Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1985 August 8 [audio](part 1)
Fitzharris recalls in more detail about some of the subjects she has discussed in prior interviews. Some topics include coal wagons, home sewing, homemade alcohol, style of dress during mourning periods, household furniture and appliances, toys and hobbies, and types of meals cooked in the home.
Interview with C. Natalie Rogerro Meriggi, 1984 July 24 [audio]
Meriggi largely focuses on vegetable gardening and ornamental plantings at Hagley gardens. She discusses how her family gardened, including crop storage, choosing of plants, making jams and jellies, buying seeds, and typical tools used.
Interview with William Henry Miller, 1984 February 16 [audio]
Miller describes a detailed history of his family and how they came to America and began working for the DuPont Company. He also describes his father's childhood along the Brandywine in Henry Clay, including how the children would entertain themselves, and his relationship with Alfred I. du Pont.
Interview with Richard Toy, 1984 August 16 [audio]
Toy describes the family's house in Henry Clay, the geography of the area and its changes throughout the years, how the Toy family became involved in DuPont, and various family members and their lives.
Interview with Albert Rider "Slick" Ely, 1988 September 24 [audio](part 1)
Ely primarily focuses on ballistic pendulums and other gun powder testing devices. He also discusses in detail how black powder was manufactured as well as the properties of dynamite, and he gives his take on the eventual exit of the DuPont Company from this area. He recounts a few stories from his work in this department.
Interview with Albert Rider "Slick" Ely, 1988 September 24 [audio](part 2)
Ely primarily focuses on ballistic pendulums and other gun powder testing devices. He also discusses in detail how black powder was manufactured as well as the properties of dynamite, and he gives his take on the eventual exit of the DuPont Company from this area. He recounts a few stories from his work in this department.
Interview with Albert Rider "Slick" Ely, 1988 December 6 [audio]
Ely discusses traveling around for work through his sales position, establishing Kenvil as a research and development laboratory, the development and use of the ballistic pendulum, his earlier career with Hercules, his impressions of du Pont family members, and the use of the friction testing device. He also touches on the company's safety measures as well as using lathes in the workplace.
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.

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