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 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 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 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 Edgar Dill Peoples, 1988 April 2 [audio](part 1)
Peoples describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including his family history and how his parents met, daily chores, cooking and gardening, games that the children would play, and typical dress. He also describes the social aspect of life at the yards, including the Swamp Lily Club and the Hagley Community House as well as Christ Church.
Interview with Edgar Dill Peoples, 1988 April 2 [audio](part 2)
Peoples describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including his family history and how his parents met, daily chores, cooking and gardening, games that the children would play, and typical dress. He also describes the social aspect of life at the yards, including the Swamp Lily Club and the Hagley Community House as well as Christ Church.
Interview with Arthur Sykes, 1984 March 8 [audio]
Sykes recounts his working career at DuPont, including explosions. He also describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including swimming in the creek, golfing, going to the movies, daily chores, shopping, He reminisces about the Prohibition period as well as members of the du Pont family.
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 Joseph M. Campbell, 1957 August 15 [audio](part 1)
Campbell describes the working conditions at Hagley and at the Experimental Station, attempts to unionize, his interactions with the du Pont family, and moving into the neighborhood at Squirrel Run, including the various nationalities that lived there and what the workers would do for fun.
Interview with Joseph M. Campbell, 1957 August 15 [audio](part 2)
Campbell describes the working conditions at Hagley and at the Experimental Station, attempts to unionize, his interactions with the du Pont family, and moving into the neighborhood at Squirrel Run, including the various nationalities that lived there and what the workers would do for fun.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 March 31 [audio](part 1)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 March 31 [audio](part 2)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
Interview with William T. Cloud, 1958 April 7 [audio](part 3)
Cloud describes T. Coleman du Pont's road project in Sussex County, including interactions with the farmers; the political climate of the early 1900s in Delaware; the function of the byproducts section; and the dynamics, exports, and events at the Wayne Black Powder Mills and the Brandywine Plant.
Interview with Philip Dougherty, 1955 January 12 [audio]
Dougherty recalls what he remembers about his father's and his own work, the homes in the Charles' Banks area near Hagley, explosions in 1889, 1890, and 1898, activities around the Brandywine, and memories of people in the area.
Interview with F.L. (Les) Mathewson, 1968 July 3 [audio](part 1)
Mathewson describes the addition of electricity to the powder yard, his impressions of A.I. du Pont, and his neighbors. He also discusses his childhood, his father's work responsibilities, and his own job at the Hopewell plant in blasting. He describes the intricacies of blasting work and his experiences with the trap-shooting club.
Interview with F.L. (Les) Mathewson, 1968 July 3 [audio](part 2)
Mathewson describes the addition of electricity to the powder yard, his impressions of A.I. du Pont, and his neighbors. He also discusses his childhood, his father's work responsibilities, and his own job at the Hopewell plant in blasting. He describes the intricacies of blasting work and his experiences with the trap-shooting club.
Interview with John Peoples, 1957 June 13 [audio](part 1)
Peoples describes his job and working conditions in detail, his impressions of Frank du Pont, flooding along the Brandywine, explosions, life at Squirrel Run, and anecdotes about his neighbors.
Interview with John Peoples, 1957 June 13 [audio](part 2)
Peoples describes his job and working conditions in detail, his impressions of Frank du Pont, flooding along the Brandywine, explosions, life at Squirrel Run, and anecdotes about his neighbors.
Interview with Daniel F. Shields, 1958 March 19 [audio]
Shields describes his working career at DuPont, including various explosions, his impressions of du Pont family members, and anecdotes about other employees.
Interview with Franklin W. Bradway, 1958 February 13 [audio](part 1)
Bradway details DuPont's contract work with the Allied governments during both world wars and the Korean War, the development of the plant at Old Hickory, and the rise and fall of the sporting powder business. He eventually became a manager of the smokeless powder division and later the vicechairman of the Board of Benefits and Pensions.
Interview with Franklin W. Bradway, 1958 February 13 [audio](part 2)
Bradway details DuPont's contract work with the Allied governments during both world wars and the Korean War, the development of the plant at Old Hickory, and the rise and fall of the sporting powder business. He eventually became a manager of the smokeless powder division and later the vicechairman of the Board of Benefits and Pensions.

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