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 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 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 F. Wardenburg, 1961 June 21 [audio]
Wardenburg describes the making of gunpowder and the smokeless powder plants where it was shipped, the reorganization of the various departments in 1911, his work in building power plants, the development of Old Hickory plant in 1917, the relationship between the operating department and the engineering department, ammonia production during wartime, making raw materials for Nylon, and his impressions of various du Pont family members. The content of discussion centers around working conditions and the development of various working practices and products during Wardenburg's career at DuPont.
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 James F. Toy Sr., 1971 September 4 [audio]
Toy describes his work on Mrs. Louise du Pont Crowninshield's staircase in detail, the restoration of the First Office, and Mrs. Crowninshield's decorating style. He also describes in detail his memories and work on Eleutherian Mills and Winterthur.
Interview with James F. Toy Sr., 1971 September 15 [audio]
Toy describes changes in restoration made to Eleutherian Mills, including the layout of the house, as well as the First Office. He also describes how A.I. du Pont built his wall around Nemours and his work on the sunken garden.