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 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 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 A.D. Chandler, 1962 June 21 [audio]
A.D. Chandler describes his relationship with P.S. du Pont and Mrs. du Pont, both of whom he met in 1922. He describes his personality and interests, including history and book collecting. He also discusses his family life, political views, and social contributions. He also describes du Pont's involvement with the anti-prohibition movement. He also talks about how DuPont's management style changed throughout the years, and how it acquired various other companies. Chandler touches on Mr. du Pont's interest in sports and music. He also describes his interactions with other du Pont family members.
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 T.C. Davis, 1962 June 20 [audio]
Davis discusses the development of the DuPont Company, including the modernization of the company and the family members who contributed to it. He also describes the changes in the market, budgeting and financial issues, interactions with government, the hierarchy of the management, and other business practices.
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 Chandler Becker [audio]
Becker describes how he was hired as the assistant superintendent of Eleutherian Mills and how Louise du Pont Crowninshield took an interest in him and asked him to be the groundskeeper. He describes the unkempt state of the grounds when he arrived in 1928 and his plans to improve them, as well as how his job has changed over time. He also discusses his impressions of Mrs. Crowninshield, his home along the Brandywine, improvements made to the house throughout the years, and preparations for going to Boca Grande.
Interview with Martin Luther Valentine, 1974 January [audio]
Valentine describes DuPont's role in manufacturing smokeless powder and ballistics in both World War I and World War II, the layout of the plants in which he worked, the morale of employees during wartime, and testing ballistic missiles.
Interview with Mary Hazzard Collins, 1974 March [audio]
Collins describes her first job as keeping track of the time slips and her second job working operating the elevators at 10th and Market. Her interview details the explosion of 1918; various interactions with du Pont family members, including Irenee, Lammot, T. Coleman, and Miss Sybil Ward; and a car accident that cost her her sight in one eye. The interview also features Mr. Collins, her husband.
Interview with Catherine C. Irving (Mrs. A. Duer Irving), 1974 February 21 [audio](part 1)
Irving describes in detail her relationship with her husband's cousin, Mrs. Louise du Pont Crowninshield, including her interests and personality. She briefly describes relationships with other members of the du Pont family.
Interview with Michael Munroe, 1969 July 9 [audio]
Munroe describes his typical workdays, including how he got to work, how he set up the rolls, the kind of iron used, the death of Joseph Stewart in a work accident, and life in Wilmington. He also talks about the closure of Lobdell.

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