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 Harold W. Hocker, 1975 June 24-25 [audio]
Hocker describes the creation of the H.W. Hocker Manufacturing Company, including how the company handled the Great Depression, the development of brush manufacturing and the trajectory of the company, and other products that they produced, including bottle caps and aluminum cans. He also touches on the equipment used, ordering materials for the process, and learning how to make brushes. He discusses the fear of spreading anthrax in the import of bristles, waste in the brush process, and attempting to use synthetic materials. He also describes the machines used as well as other tools of the trade. Hocker talks about publishing trade catalogs and the standardization of brush-making. Finally, he describes the conception of the idea and the typical brush market.
Interview with Eugene Bruno, 1981 March 12 [audio](part 1)
Bruno's interview details his childhood in Wilmington, Delaware. He describes the homes in Squirrel Run, how the children used to spend the weekends there after the move having picnics and watching the adults play bocce ball, and his job working at Hodginson Brothers Woolen Mills. He also describes Wilmington in the early twentieth century, particularly the area of Little Italy, where he grew up.
Interview with Eugene Bruno, 1981 March 12 [audio](part 2)
Bruno's interview details his childhood in Wilmington, Delaware. He describes the homes in Squirrel Run, how the children used to spend the weekends there after the move having picnics and watching the adults play bocce ball, and his job working at Hodginson Brothers Woolen Mills. He also describes Wilmington in the early twentieth century, particularly the area of Little Italy, where he grew up.
Interview with Eugene Bruno, 1984 June 11 [audio](part 1)
Bruno's second interview goes into greater detail about his early childhood at Hagley. He describes details such as his father's winemaking hobby, his mother's housework and food storage, and traditions and customs observed by workers' families at Squirrel Run.
Interview with Eugene Bruno, 1984 June 11 [audio](part 2)
Bruno's second interview goes into greater detail about his early childhood at Hagley. He describes details such as his father's winemaking hobby, his mother's housework and food storage, and traditions and customs observed by workers' families at Squirrel Run.
Interview with Eleanor Kane, 1984 February 21 [audio]
Kane describes her family history and her grandparents' home in detail, including the interior, backyard and garden, and their neighbors, the Seitz family. She describes her mother's childhood as well as her own childhood visiting her grandparents, including transportation, wedding traditions, and her grandfather's illness during his working career.
Interview with Ethel Jones Hayward, 1983 August 23 [audio]
Hayward describes the chores her family members performed, her education, typical pastimes and amusements, the layout of the villages, some explosions, and Christmas traditions.
Interview with Ethel Jones Hayward, 1987 April 4 [audio]
Hayward describes Christmas traditions along the Brandywine, including decorations, foods prepared, and gifts received. She also describes family life during her early childhood, including daily life, clothing, and her doll collection.
Interview with Ethel Jones Hayward, 1989 January 18 [audio]
Hayward discusses laundry day growing up, medical care, trips into the city, and her impressions of the du Pont family.
Interview with George Macklem, 1984 April 13 [audio]
Maclem describes visiting his grandmother in Henry Clay Village, his family history, local businesses around Hagley, and the city of Wilmington during the early twentieth century.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1981 January 29 [audio](part 1)
Cheney discusses various household items her home contained and how they have changed. She also discusses baking bread, an explosion that caused her family to move, making soap for laundry, healthcare, her family's relationship with the du Pont family, her education, and her growing up years along the Brandywine, including chores and entertainments.
Interview with Catherine Cheney [audio](part 4)
Cheney discusses various household items her home contained and how they have changed. She also discusses baking bread, an explosion that caused her family to move, making soap for laundry, healthcare, her family's relationship with the du Pont family, her education, and her growing up years along the Brandywine, including chores and entertainments.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1984 January 23 [audio]
Cheney discusses gardening in the community, the layout of the Brandywine villages, the chicken house, and fear of explosions. She describes her family's garden in detail, particularly various types of crops planted.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1987 February 3 [audio]
Cheney discusses details of her childhood in Free Park, including the family's canning traditions and chicken coop, how they made their clothing or shopped in Wilmington, parties and events at Hagley Community House, an explosion that injured her foot, and her education, and later teaching career, at Alexis I. du Pont School. Her interview details various Christmas traditions during her childhood, including how the tree was decorated, baking cookies and cakes, gift exchanges, the candy and orange that the children received from Henry Francis du Pont, and how homemade ornaments were created.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1987 October 2 [audio]
Cheney discusses some of her family's Christmas traditions as well as those of Hagley in general. Moreover, she details childhood memories of everyday life in Free Park, including the games the children played, chores, and various childhood illnesses. Her interview also discusses her teacher training at the University of Delaware and her later teaching career.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1984 February 15 [audio]
Cheney details gardening at Hagley, including using fertilizer and lime on plants, food storage during winter, gardening tools, and using the moon to determine planting cycles. She also discusses laundry, cooking, and various other household chores.
Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1984 March 26 [audio]
Cheney provides details of her life at Free Park, including fear of typhoid in the water supply, delivery of groceries and other items, her sibling dynamic, She details gardening at Hagley, including drying and storing herbs, what kinds of plants were chosen for the garden, different gardening tools, and composting.
Interview with Helen Edwards, 1984 March 8 [audio]
Edwards describes her working career in the powder yards in 1917 and 1918 in detail, including various work tasks, sewing silk bags, the hiring process, various explosions, and how married and unmarried Bloomer Girls worked alongside each other during World War I.
Interview with Helen Edwards, 1986 April 16 [audio]
Edwards describes her working career at DuPont, including an explosion that occurred in 1918 and the flu epidemic in 1919. She also describes her home life, including the family cat, typical dress, the early years of her marriage, Wilmington in the early twentieth century, and cooking and chores.
Interview with Bertha Gregg, 1989 March 17 [audio]
Gregg describes her duties at Hagley. Her interview describes her courtship and early years of marriage with her husband, Pete, a grocer; a flu epidemic that she suffered during a pregnancy; her family history; daily life in Wilmington; and holiday and special traditions.
Interview with Bertha Gregg, 1989 March 23 [audio]
Gregg describes her duties at Hagley. Her interview describes her courtship and early years of marriage with her husband, Pete, a grocer; a flu epidemic that she suffered during a pregnancy; her family history; daily life in Wilmington; and holiday and special traditions.
Interview with Mary Braden Jackson, 1986 July 13 [audio]
Jackson's second interview describes Sam Frizzell's store, the du Pont family as landlords, Christmas and Thanksgiving traditions, and Easter and Fourth of July parties, Mrs. Crowninshield's Willing Workers, the library at Christ Church, and daily life along the Brandywine. She also describes the 100th and 150th anniversary celebrations of the DuPont company in detail.
Interview with Mary Braden Jackson, 1986 August 17 [audio](part 1)
Jackson's third interview describes the Squirrel Run house in detail, Tom Toy's tavern and Dugan's tavern, her understanding of the mill workers' job responsibilities, her father's garden, ordering from Larkin's catalog, and typical dress and shoes. She also discusses her working career at Pennsylvania Railroad and dating customs.
Interview with Mary Braden Jackson, 1986 August 17 [audio](part 2)
Jackson's third interview describes the Squirrel Run house in detail, Tom Toy's tavern and Dugan's tavern, her understanding of the mill workers' job responsibilities, her father's garden, ordering from Larkin's catalog, and typical dress and shoes. She also discusses her working career at Pennsylvania Railroad and dating customs.
Interview with Mary Braden Jackson, 1989 January 19 [audio]
Jackson's fifth and final interview details the laundry process, how her mother made clothes, and her relationship with her stepmother.

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