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 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 John E. Miller, 1960 June 23 [audio]
Miller describes the movement from black powder to soda blasting powder, the reformation of DuPont after the death of company president Eugene du Pont in 1902, how politics impacted the company (particularly the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the division of DuPont), sabotage among competition, and the company during both world wars. He also discusses his work abroad in Argentina, Chile, Hawaii, the Philippines, and China.
Interview with Vance Mitchell with Joseph Dougherty, 1968 July 12 [audio]
Mitchell describes his childhood and his parents' hauling business, including hazards of the trade, the introduction of the truck in transportation, and the basic job responsibilities. He also discusses his work at DuPont and at Bethlehem Steel during World War I. He reminisces about an explosion that occurred at Bethlehem Steel, the handling of shells after the end of the war, headaches that occurred from TNT and smokeless powder, and concerns about sabotage. The interview also features commentary from Joseph Dougherty.
Interview with Edward L. Bader, 1956 November 23 [audio](part 1)
Bader's interview offers details on many aspects of workers' lives in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including pay rates, the workers' homes, and the conditions in the laboratory. He recounts many different explosions, including the 1906 explosion that killed "Buck" Buchanan, the 1908 Press Room Explosion, the Packing House Explosion, one that occurred in the mill, and another that occurred in 1915. His interview also details his impressions of various members of the du Pont family, including Francis G., Lammot, Alfred I., Pierre S., Alexis, and Francis I.
Interview with Edward L. Bader, 1956 November 23 [audio](part 2)
Bader's interview offers details on many aspects of workers' lives in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including pay rates, the workers' homes, and the conditions in the laboratory. He recounts many different explosions, including the 1906 explosion that killed "Buck" Buchanan, the 1908 Press Room Explosion, the Packing House Explosion, one that occurred in the mill, and another that occurred in 1915. His interview also details his impressions of various members of the du Pont family, including Francis G., Lammot, Alfred I., Pierre S., Alexis, and Francis I.
Interview with Edward B. Cheney, 1958 June 5 [audio](part 1)
Cheney describes the neighborhoods at Squirrel Run and Wagoner's Row and the families who lived there. He describes how the du Pont family arranged for his brother to learn Greek because it interested him. He also notes how conflicts were resolved among workers and their families. He also includes poems about his childhood. His interview details his education, interactions with du Pont family members, including Mrs. Crowninshield and her Sunday School class, an accident concerning his brother George, and his later career with the company.
Interview with Edward B. Cheney, 1958 June 5 [audio](part 2)
Cheney describes the neighborhoods at Squirrel Run and Wagoner's Row and the families who lived there. He describes how the du Pont family arranged for his brother to learn Greek because it interested him. He also notes how conflicts were resolved among workers and their families. He also includes poems about his childhood. His interview details his education, interactions with du Pont family members, including Mrs. Crowninshield and her Sunday School class, an accident concerning his brother George, and his later career with the company.
Interview with Robert E. Pyle Sr., 1958 October 27 [audio](part 1)
Pyle describes his childhood and education in Wilmington, the interview that got him his job, his work in the smokeless powder plant at Hopewell, his salary, various explosions, and his working career at DuPont.
Interview with Robert E. Pyle Sr., 1958 October 27 [audio](part 2)
Pyle describes his childhood and education in Wilmington, the interview that got him his job, his work in the smokeless powder plant at Hopewell, his salary, various explosions, and his working career at DuPont.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1964 April 3 [audio](part 1)
Cheney describes the family home in detail, taking the trolley into town, how the family used heat, gas, and drinking water, her interactions with members of the du Pont family, and various ways that the children would entertain themselves.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1964 April 3 [audio](part 2)
Cheney describes the family home in detail, taking the trolley into town, how the family used heat, gas, and drinking water, her interactions with members of the du Pont family, and various ways that the children would entertain themselves.
Interview with Edward B. Cheney, 1958 June 13 [audio](part 1)
Cheney describes the neighborhoods at Squirrel Run and Wagoner's Row and the families who lived there. He describes how the du Pont family arranged for his brother to learn Greek because it interested him. He also notes how conflicts were resolved among workers and their families. He also includes poems about his childhood. His interview details his education, interactions with du Pont family members, including Mrs. Crowninshield and her Sunday School class, an accident concerning his brother George, and his later career with the company.
Interview with Edward B. Cheney, 1958 June 13 [audio](part 2)
Cheney describes the neighborhoods at Squirrel Run and Wagoner's Row and the families who lived there. He describes how the du Pont family arranged for his brother to learn Greek because it interested him. He also notes how conflicts were resolved among workers and their families. He also includes poems about his childhood. His interview details his education, interactions with du Pont family members, including Mrs. Crowninshield and her Sunday School class, an accident concerning his brother George, and his later career with the company.
Interview with William Stewart Allmond, 1969 June 10 [audio] (part 1)
Allmond's interviews detail the work environment at the Wilmington plant site in the early 1900s until the 1940s; various markets for car wheels; the expansion of the company and acquisition of Morton Poole Company and Nazel Engineering Works; and the effects of the Great Depression on Lobdell, which led to the company's purchase by Walter Lippincott and the United Engineering and Foundry Company in the late 1940s.
Interview with Elizabeth Beacom, 1967 May 29 [audio]
Ms. Beacom recounts details about her father's work, life in Squirrel Run, an 1890 explosion, memories of Louise Crowninshield, and her own education and career which included work as Mrs. Crowninshield's secretary.
Interview with William H. Buchanan, 1958 August 7 [audio]
Buchanan's interview touches on many subjects including details of his father's work, his reminisces about home and social life in the community, his memories of Alfred I. du Pont, and details about powder yard explosions.
Interview with William H. Buchanan, 1958 August 7 [audio]
Buchanan's interview touches on many subjects including details of his father's work, his reminisces about home and social life in the community, his memories of Alfred I. du Pont, and details about powder yard explosions.
Interview with Martin Dillon, 1969 July 28 [audio](part 2)
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 Maurice du Pont Lee, 1969 February 6-7 [audio](part 1)
Lee describes his high school and college education in detail, the influence of his cousin Louis Cazenove on his interest in engineering, his work for the company in Hannibal, Missouri, various explosions, his work in smokeless powder and the expansion of Carney's Point, his move from explosives to dye stuffs, and the company's international dealings during World War I. Lee also describes his family, including his mother, Alfred I. du Pont, Lee's role in helping his cousins gain their inheritance, and various family members' leadership qualities. Furthermore, he discusses the building of A.I. du Pont hospital and interactions with his coworkers.
Interview with Maurice du Pont Lee, 1969 February 6-7 [audio](part 2)
Lee describes his high school and college education in detail, the influence of his cousin Louis Cazenove on his interest in engineering, his work for the company in Hannibal, Missouri, various explosions, his work in smokeless powder and the expansion of Carney's Point, his move from explosives to dye stuffs, and the company's international dealings during World War I. Lee also describes his family, including his mother, Alfred I. du Pont, Lee's role in helping his cousins gain their inheritance, and various family members' leadership qualities. Furthermore, he discusses the building of A.I. du Pont hospital and interactions with his coworkers.
Interview with Ann Hudson (Mrs. Joseph Hudson), 1968 August 1 [audio](part 1)
Hudson describes growing up along the Brandywine, including the neighborhood and buildings, her family history, the trolley lines, and local businesses. She also describes her education and Sunday school, games and amusements, medical care, and excursions on Alfred I. du Pont's boat. She recounts her memories of explosions and reactions to them.
Interview with Ann Hudson (Mrs. Joseph Hudson), 1968 August 1 [audio](part 2)
Hudson describes growing up along the Brandywine, including the neighborhood and buildings, her family history, the trolley lines, and local businesses. She also describes her education and Sunday school, games and amusements, medical care, and excursions on Alfred I. du Pont's boat. She recounts her memories of explosions and reactions to them.
Interview with Louise F. Poole, 1974 March 4 [audio]
Poole describes her family's genealogy in detail, her hobbies and activities in Wilmington, Wilmington society in the early twentieth century, and daily life.
Interview with Oliver Collins, 1973 July 19 [audio](part 1)
Collins describes different kinds of turbines, wheel diameters and their various usage, and other industrial machines essential to his business. He also describes his family history and the running of the millrace, as well as overcoming problems such as rot. He describes the environment and wildlife in the area and also discusses his other interest in cutting hair.
Interview with Alfred Evans, May 1973 [audio]
Evans describes how he obtained the job through his brother. He also describes his impressions of Delaware and Boca Grande. He also presents details about Mrs. Crowninshield's personality, including how she sought to send those who could not pay to school and how she encouraged him to take a vacation with the car.

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