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 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 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 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 Aloysius Rowe, undated [audio]
Rowe discusses swimming in the Brandywine during the summer. He also recounts an incident in which he saved a drowning girl. He talks about his father's death, sickness, crime, and superstitions.
Interview with Aloysius Rowe, 1968 August 12 [audio]
Rowe discusses growing up along the Brandywine and the daily life of his mother and his family, including their schooling, healthcare, and eating habits. He also describes the 1918 flu epidemic, wakes, political life in Wilmington, the development of radio and automobile technologies, and the effect of the Great Depression on Forty Acres in Wilmington. He also recounts his working experience, from his first job at Hodgson's Woolen Mill to his later experiences working for the Reading Railroad. His interview provides detailed insight into daily life during the early twentieth century.
Interview with Benjamin F. Foster, 1964 February 24 [audio](part 1)
Foster describes his working career at DuPont, including the various plants in which he worked, the installation of electrical lighting, engineering work, salaries and wages, and transferring to South America. He also describes the establishment of the Hotel du Pont, the building of homes for various du Pont family members, and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with Benjamin F. Foster, 1964 February 28 [audio](part 2)
Foster describes his working career at DuPont, including the various plants in which he worked, the installation of electrical lighting, engineering work, salaries and wages, and transferring to South America. He also describes the establishment of the Hotel du Pont, the building of homes for various du Pont family members, and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with Theodore "Ted" Pennock, 1968 August 23 [audio]
Pennock discusses learning his trade, his transfer to Hagley for better wages, his working environment at Hagley, and union activity among machine workers.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 June 6 [audio](part 4)
Reed describes the Hopewell plant in detail, his job responsibilities regarding labor and payroll, DuPont during World War I and the closure of the Hopewell plant, and the acquisitions of other companies. Reed focuses on his sales, managerial, and personnel work for DuPont. He also describes his experience at the Arlington plant and his eventual promotion to service superintendent at the Rayon Company and later move to Wilmington. He also touches on unionization in the industry.
Interview with Jasper F. Crane, 1962 June 21 [audio](part 1)
Crane details the management style DuPont brought to the company. He also discusses impacts of various antitrust laws on DuPont. He also describes his experience working abroad, his work on the business advisory committee, and his advice for a happy life.
Interview with Jasper F. Crane, 1962 June 21 [audio](part 2)
Crane details the management style DuPont brought to the company. He also discusses impacts of various antitrust laws on DuPont. He also describes his experience working abroad, his work on the business advisory committee, and his advice for a happy life.
Interview with John Gilbert Braun, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 1)
Braun's interview describes the changes in the equipment that have occurred since his time working and when the interview was conducted in 1973. He also describes his experience as a black man working for this company, workers' behavior after an explosion, the most desirable positions within the organization, and different elements of the powder mill process, including clean up. The second part of his interview discusses the place of the workers in the community, maintenance of various machines, and testing of the finished powders.
Interview with John Gilbert Braun, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 2)
Braun's interview describes the changes in the equipment that have occurred since his time working and when the interview was conducted in 1973. He also describes his experience as a black man working for this company, workers' behavior after an explosion, the most desirable positions within the organization, and different elements of the powder mill process, including clean up. The second part of his interview discusses the place of the workers in the community, maintenance of various machines, and testing of the finished powders.
Interview with Joe Costello, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 1)
Costello describes the various responsibilities of his job, the different jobs that made up the powder yard, and typical wages. He also describes his work in the office and changes throughout the company over the years, most of which have reflected safety concerns.
Interview with Joe Costello, 1973 April 17 [audio](part 2)
Costello describes the various responsibilities of his job, the different jobs that made up the powder yard, and typical wages. He also describes his work in the office and changes throughout the company over the years, most of which have reflected safety concerns.
Interview with Edward L. Bader, 1956 November 23 [transcript]
Transcript of interview conducted with Edward L. Bader about his time working in the mills for DuPont. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel, 1969 June 12, 1969 June 25 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel who worked for DuPont's explosives department. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with Joseph M. Campbell, 1957 August 15 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Joseph M. Campbell who worked for DuPont in the Hagley yards. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with William T. Cloud [transcript]
Transcript of interview with William Cloud who worked for DuPont in explosive work. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with John A. Dougherty, 1956 October 19 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with John Dougherty who worked as a DuPont powder employee. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with Philip Dougherty [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Philip Dougherty who worked in the Henry Clay Keg Factory. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with Benjamin F. Foster, 1964 February [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Benjamin Foster who worked for the Power Division of Engineering Department. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interview with Joseph B. Kauss, 1969 July 11 [transcript]
Transcript of interview with Joseph B. Kauss who recalled working for DuPont while driving around the powder yards. The interview took place in Wilmington, Delaware.

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