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 Cammock, Herb Devenney, Edward Devenney, and Jim Kindbeiter, 1984 May 9 [audio](part 1)
Herb Devenney, Ed Devenney, James Cammock, and James Kindbeiter, sons of powder mill workers, reminisce about growing up at Hagley in this group interview and tour of the museum grounds. Some topics of discussion include daily life of the workers and their families, identification of various families and their living spaces, schedules and duties of the powder mill workers, and various changes that had occurred in the last century.
Interview with James Cammock, Herb Devenney, Edward Devenney, and Jim Kindbeiter, 1984 May 9 [audio](part 2)
Herb Devenney, Ed Devenney, James Cammock, and James Kindbeiter, sons of powder mill workers, reminisce about growing up at Hagley in this group interview and tour of the museum grounds. Some topics of discussion include daily life of the workers and their families, identification of various families and their living spaces, schedules and duties of the powder mill workers, and various changes that had occurred in the last century.
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.
Interview with James Cammock, 1984 July 24 [audio]
Cammock provides many details about how he tended to his garden at Breck's Lane, including the procurement of seeds, various equipment used, standard gardening clothes, different types of fruits and vegetables and flowers planted, fertilizing practices, and the harvest and storage of crops. He also discusses maintaining a chicken coop.
Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1980 May 5 [audio](part 1)
Fitzharris discusses life in the Brandywine area including the types of clothing she wore, childhood activities, chores, other topics associated with daily home life, and social activities such as the Fourth of July picnic, weddings, and church gatherings.
Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1980 May 5 [audio](part 2)
Fitzharris discusses life in the Brandywine area including the types of clothing she wore, childhood activities, chores, other topics associated with daily home life, and social activities such as the Fourth of July picnic, weddings, and church gatherings.
Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1985 August 8 [audio](part 1)
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 C. Natalie Rogerro Meriggi, 1984 July 24 [audio]
Meriggi largely focuses on vegetable gardening and ornamental plantings at Hagley gardens. She discusses how her family gardened, including crop storage, choosing of plants, making jams and jellies, buying seeds, and typical tools used.
Interview with Les Mathewson, 1976 September 3 [audio](part 3)
Mathewson describes stone quarrying work in detail, including the process, tools, and his various job responsibilities. He also discusses his time working in the hydroelectric plant.
Interview with Les Mathewson, undated [audio](part 4)
Mathewson describes stone quarrying work in detail, including the process, tools, and his various job responsibilities. He also discusses his time working in the hydroelectric plant.
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 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 Katherine Collison, 1954 September, 1955 January [audio]
Collison describes the house itself and the hardworking maids who lived there; how the children played and entertained themselves at the powder yards; various explosions and the reactions of the families; the cultural and social makeup of the community; and Collison's relationship with members of the du Pont family, including her friendship with Sophie du Pont.
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.

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