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 Samuel Hackendorn, 1958 July 24 [audio]
Hackendorn describes growing up along the Brandywine, including his schooling at St. Joseph's on the Brandywine, games the children would play, the family home in Free Park, his first job at a cotton mill, and his impressions of various members of the du Pont family. He also describes his career working in different companies.
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 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 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 Oliver Collins, 1972 July 6-7 [audio]
Collins describes how he was trained as a miller, how his business expanded, the different crops ground at his facility, the process of grinding corn and wheat, different grades of flour produced, and explosions that occurred in the mill business. He also discusses the role of grain elevators in the mill process.
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 Daniel Toomey, 1969 August 7 [audio](part 1)
Toomey describes the house and the neighborhood in which he was born, transportation in the early twentieth century, holiday celebrations, healthcare, and daily life growing up.
Interview with Daniel Toomey, 1969 August 7 [audio](part 2)
Toomey describes the house and the neighborhood in which he was born, transportation in the early twentieth century, holiday celebrations, healthcare, and daily life growing up.
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 Phillip Kirkland, 1990 December 4 [audio]
Kirkland describes his career working with the spray welding devices, including a detailed description of the function of the machine and the origins of the parts. He also briefly describes his working career, including business practices of the company.
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.