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 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 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 Maurice du Pont Lee, 1969 February 13-14 [audio](part 3)
Lee describes his work as the manager of the manufacture of cellophane and rayon, the entrance of DuPont into cellophane, the establishment of a new plant in Virginia, his philanthropic ventures in Wilmington, and the beginning of Alcoholic Anonymous in the company in the 1940s. His interview also details the design and building of the DuPont Country Club. He also discusses his mother's interest in psychic matters, the development of Rodney Square, the construction of I-95 in Wilmington, working in the Office of Civil Defense, and his work on the National Parks Commission.
Interview with Maurice du Pont Lee, 1969 February 13-14 [audio](part 4)
Lee describes his work as the manager of the manufacture of cellophane and rayon, the entrance of DuPont into cellophane, the establishment of a new plant in Virginia, his philanthropic ventures in Wilmington, and the beginning of Alcoholic Anonymous in the company in the 1940s. His interview also details the design and building of the DuPont Country Club. He also discusses his mother's interest in psychic matters, the development of Rodney Square, the construction of I-95 in Wilmington, working in the Office of Civil Defense, and his work on the National Parks Commission.
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.
Interview with Mrs. James Hammond, 1969 [audio]
Hammond describes her relationship with Mrs. Crowninshield as very close, stating that Mrs. Crowninshield considered Hammond and her children to be like her own children. She recounts various events, including outdoor luncheons and trips with her aunt. She gives a detailed description of Mrs. Crowninshield's personality and interests, including her love for gardening, decorating, and philanthropy. She also describes Mrs. Crowninshield's influence on her as well as people who influenced Mrs. Crowninshield.
Interview with Oliver Collins, 1973 July 19 [audio](part 2)
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 Clarence A. Fahs, 1966 April 22, 1966 May 2 [audio]
Fahs describes his childhood in Wilmington, including his education, milking cows for extra money, boarding for his jobs in other cities, He discusses various jobs he had before DuPont, including working at Wilmington Dental Works, Novelty Machine Works, Pullman Automobile Company, and American Chain Works. He also describes his career at DuPont, including the various machines on the grounds, the explosion in 1917, wages, salaries, and vacation.
Interview with Clarence A. Fahs, 1966 May 4 [audio]
Fahs describes his childhood in Wilmington, including his education, milking cows for extra money, boarding for his jobs in other cities, He discusses various jobs he had before DuPont, including working at Wilmington Dental Works, Novelty Machine Works, Pullman Automobile Company, and American Chain Works. He also describes his career at DuPont, including the various machines on the grounds, the explosion in 1917, wages, salaries, and vacation.
Interview with William F. Flanigan, 1960 May-July [audio](part 1)
Flanigan describes the houses in which he grew up, relationships among his neighbors, his education, a feeling of isolation in the community, and childrens' chores and pastimes. He also describes his first job at the Hodgson Woolen Mill, various ethnicities that worked at DuPont, different explosions that occurred, and daily life during his childhood and teenage years.
Interview with William F. Flanigan, 1960 May-July [audio](part 2)
Flanigan describes the houses in which he grew up, relationships among his neighbors, his education, a feeling of isolation in the community, and childrens' chores and pastimes. He also describes his first job at the Hodgson Woolen Mill, various ethnicities that worked at DuPont, different explosions that occurred, and daily life during his childhood and teenage years.
Interview with William F. Flanigan, 1960 May-July [audio](part 3)
Flanigan describes the houses in which he grew up, relationships among his neighbors, his education, a feeling of isolation in the community, and the childrens' chores and pastimes. He also describes his first job at the Hodgson Woolen Mill, various ethnicities that worked at DuPont, different explosions that occurred, and daily life during his childhood and teenage years.
Interview with William F. Flanigan, 1960 May-July [audio](part 4)
Flanigan describes the houses in which he grew up, relationships among his neighbors, his education, a feeling of isolation in the community, and the childrens' chores and pastimes. He also describes his first job at the Hodgson Woolen Mill, various ethnicities that worked at DuPont, different explosions that occurred, and daily life during his childhood and teenage years.
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 Harvey L. Fell, 1968 June 17 [audio]
Fell describes farming for DuPont in detail, including the amount of workers, the number of barns and buildings, livestock raised, horses that pulled the wagons, sporting and hunting dogs, barn burnings, and farm equipment. He also describes the community along the Brandywine, his impressions of various du Pont family members, and the layout of Wilmington and the powder yard.
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 E.G. Ackart, 1961 September 14 [audio]
E.G. Ackart recounts his working career at DuPont in his interview. He discusses anecdotes from high school, differences in working for DuPont vs. other companies, the Barksdale plant, and the structure of the engineering department and its consolidation in 1916. He also describes the company during wartime, his various colleagues throughout his working career, the development of industrial engineering, and the relationship between DuPont and General Motors. He also discusses the development of nylon, rayon, and other important materials, including how DuPont's chemists and physicists utilized ideas they found working abroad to create them. He recounts building new plants and his interactions with members of the du Pont family.
Interview with Henri Lindsey, 1968 August 22 [audio]
Lindsey describes the consolidation of Repauno and DuPont in 1903, the business during World War I, the introduction of Fabrikoid, his representation of DuPont at the Coated Fabrics Association and the Rubber Association of America, his interactions with members of the du Pont family and other work colleagues, and business practices of the company.
Interview with E.K. Bolton, 1961 September 14 [audio]
Bolton describes his working career and research in the chemical department, studying organic chemistry in Germany at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, and the company during World War I. He also describes various colleagues during his career. He also discusses the state of the industry during his career at DuPont, both in the United States and abroad.
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.

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