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 Thomas E. Doremus, 1958 January 10 [audio](part 2)
Doremus describes in detail his father and grandfather's powder mill business, his meeting with Mr. T. Coleman du Pont and the Remingtom Arms Company in New York City, his role in the development of the DuPont trademarked oval, the role of the company in World War I, the relationship of Annie Oakley to DuPont, his job in China, his impressions of various du Pont family members, and his world travels.
Interview with Emily Peoples Blackwell, 1970 July 6 [audio]
Blackwell details various childhood experiences, including playing and sledding in Squirrel Run, paddle boating in the Brandywine, attending Christ Church, and studying at Alexis I. du Pont School and Beacom's Business School. She also discusses interactions with members of the du Pont family, including Alfred I., Bessie G., Madeline, and Louise Crowninshield. Her interview provides details into daily life at Squirrel Run and of powder workers' families.
Interview with Thomas E. Doremus, 1958 January 16 [audio](part 3)
Doremus describes in detail his father and grandfather's powder mill business, his meeting with Mr. T. Coleman du Pont and the Remingtom Arms Company in New York City, his role in the development of the DuPont trademarked oval, the role of the company in World War I, the relationship of Annie Oakley to DuPont, his job in China, his impressions of various du Pont family members, and his world travels.
Interview with Thomas E. Doremus, 1958 January 16 [audio](part 4)
Doremus describes in detail his father and grandfather's powder mill business, his meeting with Mr. T. Coleman du Pont and the Remingtom Arms Company in New York City, his role in the development of the DuPont trademarked oval, the role of the company in World War I, the relationship of Annie Oakley to DuPont, his job in China, his impressions of various du Pont family members, and his world travels.
Interview with Thomas E. Doremus, 1958 January 30 [audio]
Doremus describes in detail his father and grandfather's powder mill business, his meeting with Mr. T. Coleman du Pont and the Remingtom Arms Company in New York City, his role in the development of the DuPont trademarked oval, the role of the company in World War I, the relationship of Annie Oakley to DuPont, his job in China, his impressions of various du Pont family members, and his world travels.
Interview with Thomas E. Doremus, 1958 January 30 [audio]
Doremus describes in detail his father and grandfather's powder mill business, his meeting with Mr. T. Coleman du Pont and the Remingtom Arms Company in New York City, his role in the development of the DuPont trademarked oval, the role of the company in World War I, the relationship of Annie Oakley to DuPont, his job in China, his impressions of various du Pont family members, and his world travels.
Interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel, 1959 February 20 [audio]
Bickel details different developments in the explosives industry, including the development of Duco and Nitramon, the company's explosives training, the DuPont Company culture, and the relationship between branches of the overall organization. He ultimately transferred back to Wilmington in 1944.
Interview with Ferdinand D. Bickel, 1959 February 27 [audio]
Bickel details different developments in the explosives industry, including the development of Duco and Nitramon, the company's explosives training, the DuPont Company culture, and the relationship between branches of the overall organization. He ultimately transferred back to Wilmington in 1944.
Interview with Francis J. Friel, 1960 September 20 [audio](part 1)
Friel describes his childhood in Wilmington, including his school years, fairs in the city, explosions and fires in the mills, and his career at DuPont. He also describes his impressions of various members of the du Pont family.
Interview with Francis J. Friel, 1960 September 20 [audio](part 2)
Friel describes his childhood in Wilmington, including his school years, fairs in the city, explosions and fires in the mills, and his career at DuPont. He also describes his impressions of various members of the du Pont family.
Interview with Charles H. Lickle, 1968 June 13 [audio]
Lickle describes in detail his first job at DuPont, including a description of duties and pay, a paternalistic system that existed among the "old timers" at Hagley Yard, pellet processing, an explosion that killed two of his colleagues, and his life boarding at the YMCA in Wilmington. He also describes his impressions of the du Pont family. He briefly outlines his career with Hercules.
Interview with Richard F. Rowe, 1968 July 9 [audio](part 1)
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 Richard F. Rowe, 1968 July 9 [audio](part 2)
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 John A. Dougherty, 1956 October 19 [audio](part 1)
Dougherty describes his various jobs for the company, his supervisors, the move to the DuPont building in Wilmington, the houses and layout of the community at Hagley, and various neighbors.
Interview with John A. Dougherty, 1956 October 19 [audio](part 2)
Dougherty describes his various jobs for the company, his supervisors, the move to the DuPont building in Wilmington, the houses and layout of the community at Hagley, and various neighbors.
Interview with William Frederick Lynch, 1956 October 5 [audio](part 1)
Lynch describes the opening of the Experimental Station, explosions that occurred during his working career, his job responsibilities, and his work on the volunteer fire company. He also discusses the company during World War I and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with William Frederick Lynch, 1956 October 5 [audio](part 2)
Lynch describes the opening of the Experimental Station, explosions that occurred during his working career, his job responsibilities, and his work on the volunteer fire company. He also discusses the company during World War I and his impressions of du Pont family members.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 May 28 [audio](part 1)
Reed describes his early working career with DuPont in the dynamite plant in Gibbstown, his movement to the Hopewell, Virginia plant, the beginnings of DuPont's values regarding safety, and the introduction of on-site medical care. He also discusses the typical plant working environment and the challenges he faced at the Hopewell plant.
Interview with Clarence L. Walker, 1956 October 26 [audio]
Walker describes the process of peeling and cutting willows to burn for charcoal, how his friend obtained a job from A.I. du Pont, and his impressions of various members of the du Pont family. He also tells a story about Annie Oakley.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 May 28 [audio](part 2)
Reed describes his early working career with DuPont in the dynamite plant in Gibbstown, his movement to the Hopewell, Virginia plant, the beginnings of DuPont's values regarding safety, and the introduction of on-site medical care. He also discusses the typical plant working environment and the challenges he faced at the Hopewell plant.
Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 May 29 [audio](part 3)
Reed describes in detail the planning and execution behind the 150th anniversary celebration of the DuPont company as well as his role as director of these events. He also describes the efforts of du Pont family members in planning, including Louise du Pont Crowninshield. He also describes his role as the director of the Hagley Foundation, including the building the museum and library, the selection of the trustees, and the development of the by-laws.
Interview with Frank S. MacGregor, 1961 July 21 [audio]
MacGregor discusses various coworkers with whom he worked, how he began at the company, the development of rayon, interactions between DuPont and various firms, and his responsibilities as control manager. He also describes his work in the paint industry, the company during wartime, why the DuPont company built the Hotel du Pont, and his experiences working abroad in Argentina.
Interview with F. Wardenburg, 1961 June 21 [audio]
Wardenburg describes the making of gunpowder and the smokeless powder plants where it was shipped, the reorganization of the various departments in 1911, his work in building power plants, the development of Old Hickory plant in 1917, the relationship between the operating department and the engineering department, ammonia production during wartime, making raw materials for Nylon, and his impressions of various du Pont family members. The content of discussion centers around working conditions and the development of various working practices and products during Wardenburg's career at DuPont.
Interview with Philip Dougherty, 1955 February 16 [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 Harry E. Lee, 1955 February 2 [audio]
Lee discusses his career at DuPont, including transportation, his impressions of various members of the du Pont family, the company during wartime, and an explosion at Hagley in 1914. He also briefly touches on daily life in Wilmington at this time.

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