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 Kindbeiter, 1984 April 13 [audio]
Kindbeiter describes Christmas traditions, the introduction of electricity, various pranks the children would play, saloons and businesses in the community, and various anecdotes about community members and du Pont family members. He also talks about his working career at the Experimental Station, including his mentor Leon Lloyd.
Interview with Phillip Kirkland, 1990 December 4 [audio]
Kirkland describes his career working with the spray welding devices, including a detailed description of the function of the machine and the origins of the parts. He also briefly describes his working career, including business practices of the company.
Interview with Martina Lawless, 1984 February 21 [audio](part 1)
Lawless discusses daily life and chores, the hotel in which the family lived, an explosion in the Packing House, the Catholic community at St. Joseph's, medical care, her education at Ursuline and Villamarie in West Chester, and weddings and baptisms.
Interview with Martina Lawless, 1984 February 21 [audio](part 2)
Lawless discusses daily life and chores, the hotel in which the family lived, an explosion in the Packing House, the Catholic community at St. Joseph's, medical care, her education at Ursuline and Villamarie in West Chester, and weddings and baptisms.
Interview with Faith Betty Lattomus, 1984 April 19 [audio](part 1)
Lattomus describes the layout and communities of the various villages along the Brandywine, her house in Wagoner's Row, chores and daily routines, transportation, and entertainments and parties. She also describes her involvement at Christ Church and teaching Sunday school there.
Interview with Faith Betty Lattomus, 1984 April 4 [audio](part 2)
Lattomus describes the layout and communities of the various villages along the Brandywine, her house in Wagoner's Row, chores and daily routines, transportation, and entertainments and parties. She also describes her involvement at Christ Church and teaching Sunday school there.
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 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 Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1984 July 25 [audio]
Yetter discusses ornamental and vegetable gardening near the near the DuPont Company Hagley Yards. Mrs. Yetter talks about the types of vegetables her family grew and how they did so, as well as what kind of flowers was grown on their property. Other areas and family gardens in which Mrs. Yetter was familiar is also discussed.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1985 February 19 [audio](part 1)
Yetter discusses social life and activities, excursions to the city of Wilmington, people she knew as a child and young adult, cooking traditions, church, holidays, games, the layout of homes, vegetable gardening, and more details on daily life in the home.
Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1985 February 19 [audio](part 2)
Yetter discusses social life and activities, excursions to the city of Wilmington, people she knew as a child and young adult, cooking traditions, church, holidays, games, the layout of homes, vegetable gardening, and more details on daily life in the home.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1984 March 28 [audio](part 1)
Sheldrick describes childbirth, funerals, children's games and pastimes, and going into Wilmington. She also describes typical clothing, the hot water pump in the village, dances and weddings, and various family possessions.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1984 March 28 [audio](part 2)
Sheldrick describes childbirth, funerals, children's games and pastimes, and going into Wilmington. She also describes typical clothing, the hot water pump in the village, dances and weddings, and various family possessions.
Interview with Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, 1989 January 1 [audio]
Sheldrick describes the laundry process in detail, including the kind of soap the family used and darning socks. She also discusses chores in her house, medical care, and making homemade root beer.
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 Jane "Jenny" Toomey, 1985 February 12 [audio](part 1)
Toomey describes her house in Charles Banks, various foods she cooked and baked, relations between Italian and Irish immigrants, and daily chores. Her son, Joe Toomey (b. 1925), also describes his childhood, including mushroom picking, caddying at the DuPont Country Club, raising chickens, and his family's history and immigration from Ireland.

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