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 Gamble, 1984 April 5 [audio] (part 1)
Gamble describes his house in Henry Clay in detail as well as his uncle's house, the layout of the villages along the Brandywine, various taverns in the community, his family history, and his education. He also recounts his childhood: swimming in the Brandywine, playing baseball and football and marbles, and sledding. He describes various explosions that he remembers.
Interview with James Gamble, 1984 April 5 [audio](part 2)
Gamble describes his house in Henry Clay in detail as well as his uncle's house, the layout of the villages along the Brandywine, various taverns in the community, his family history, and his education. He also recounts his childhood: swimming in the Brandywine, playing baseball and football and marbles, and sledding. He describes various explosions that he remembers.
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 James Gamble, 1981 April 24 [audio](part 1)
Gamble recounts various family members and their history. He also describes the layout of the yards, his childhood at Hagley, gardening and chores, his first job at Capo's Drugstore, and his education.
Interview with James Gamble, 1981 April 24 [audio](part 2)
Gamble recounts various family members and their history. He also describes the layout of the yards, his childhood at Hagley, gardening and chores, his first job at Capo's Drugstore, and his education.
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 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 Willard B. Crichton and Patsy Crichton, 1985 March 6 [audio](part 1)
Willard Crichton describes the state of the house after the move and the surrounding area in detail, as well as the changes made to it by the Crichton family. He also describes the surrounding area and the gardens. His interview details family history, the changes to the area following the opening of Hagley Museum, and briefly refers to a career with DuPont.
Interview with Willard B. Crichton and Patsy Crichton, 1985 March 6 [audio](part 2)
Willard Crichton describes the state of the house after the move and the surrounding area in detail, as well as the changes made to it by the Crichton family. He also describes the surrounding area and the gardens. His interview details family history, the changes to the area following the opening of Hagley Museum, and briefly refers to a career with DuPont.
Interview with Dr. Margaret Seitz, 1984 June 11 [audio]
Seitz describes her family's history working in the powder mills, her sisters' relationships with members of the du Pont family, her family's home, Christmas celebrations, and her father's childhood.
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 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 Edwin Zeuner, 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 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 Carl Wise, 1984 February 27 [audio]
Wise describes his childhood growing up in Wilmington, including working for the DuPont box factory during his summers, delivering newspapers and milk, his education at Wilmington High School, and various customs and pastimes. He also briefly describes some highlights of his working career.
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 Eleanor Kane, 1984 February 21 [audio]
Kane describes her family history and her grandparents' home in detail, including the interior, backyard and garden, and their neighbors, the Seitz family. She describes her mother's childhood as well as her own childhood visiting her grandparents, including transportation, wedding traditions, and her grandfather's illness during his working career.
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.
Interview with Helen Edwards, 1984 March 8 [audio]
Edwards describes her working career in the powder yards in 1917 and 1918 in detail, including various work tasks, sewing silk bags, the hiring process, various explosions, and how married and unmarried Bloomer Girls worked alongside each other during World War I.
Interview with Helen Edwards, 1986 April 16 [audio]
Edwards describes her working career at DuPont, including an explosion that occurred in 1918 and the flu epidemic in 1919. She also describes her home life, including the family cat, typical dress, the early years of her marriage, Wilmington in the early twentieth century, and cooking and chores.
Interview with Walter Aurand, 1981 May 14 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Walter Aurand who worked for DuPont in the Experimental Station as a chemist.

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