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 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.
Interview with Jane "Jenny" Toomey, 1985 February 12 [audio](part 2)
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.
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 William Ball "Billy" Montgomery, 1988 April 29 [audio]
Montgomery discusses informal musical groups, summer pastimes along the Brandywine, typical smoking habits, and various possessions the family owned. He also describes what courtships were like, funerals and wakes, and relationships with his family.
Interview with Edgar Dill Peoples, 1988 April 2 [audio](part 1)
Peoples describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including his family history and how his parents met, daily chores, cooking and gardening, games that the children would play, and typical dress. He also describes the social aspect of life at the yards, including the Swamp Lily Club and the Hagley Community House as well as Christ Church.
Interview with Edgar Dill Peoples, 1988 April 2 [audio](part 2)
Peoples describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including his family history and how his parents met, daily chores, cooking and gardening, games that the children would play, and typical dress. He also describes the social aspect of life at the yards, including the Swamp Lily Club and the Hagley Community House as well as Christ Church.
Interview with Arthur Sykes, 1984 March 8 [audio]
Sykes recounts his working career at DuPont, including explosions. He also describes his childhood along the Brandywine, including swimming in the creek, golfing, going to the movies, daily chores, shopping, He reminisces about the Prohibition period as well as members of the du Pont family.
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 Mary Perrone, 1984 February 22 [audio]
Perrone describes her home in Squirrel Run, her daily activities as a homemaker and head of a boarding house, illnesses and explosions that affected the community, and the Italian community at Hagley. She provides many rich anecdotes.
Interview with Mary Perrone, 1984 July 24 [audio]
Perrone outlines her wedding and reception in great detail, their neighbors and friends along the Brandywine, the workplace death of Charlie Gaino, her two married homes, and household routines and chores.
Interview with Rocco Perrone, 1984 July 10 [audio](part 1)
Perrone describes daily life in Squirrel Run, Christmas at Winterthur, picnics and bocce in the summer, medical care, Perrone's impressions of various du Pont family members, traveling home to Italy, and other daily activities along the Brandywine.
Interview with Rocco Perrone, 1984 July 10 [audio](part 2)
Perrone describes daily life in Squirrel Run, Christmas at Winterthur, picnics and bocce in the summer, medical care, Perrone's impressions of various du Pont family members, traveling home to Italy, and other daily activities along the Brandywine.
Interview with Arthur Sykes, 1984 March 21 [audio]
Sykes describes in detail playing marbles with his father. He talks about the various rules and kinds of marbles.
Interview with Fred Marenco, 1984 March 5 [audio]
Marenco describes childhood pranks and pastimes, keeping boarders at his family's home, holiday parades and celebrations, and life in the Wilmington area in the early twentieth century. He also discusses community life, including relations between Irish and Italian families, the lack of crime, social status, relationships with the neighbors, and working odd jobs for DuPont.
Rocco Perrone, Margaret Perrone, Victorine Camoirano, and Mary Oliverri Guerrina, 1985 March 12 [audio]
The interview covers daily activities and life along the Brandywine, including chores, transportation, and the relationships among the Italian community at Hagley.
Interview with Rose Murabito, 1984 March 22 [audio]
Murabito describes her family home, chores and daily activities, her education, memories of explosions, and her family's history. She also describes working at Hodgson's mill on the spinners and the reels as well as her work at a cigar factory. Furthermore, she discusses Christmas traditions, various games and entertainments, and gardening.
Interview with John Schaefer, 1988 April 16 [audio]
Schaefer describes his family's history and emigration to America, peeling willows during his childhood, daily chores, gardening, typical dress, weddings, and childhood amusements along the Brandywine.
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.

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