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DuPont Company Brandywine powder yards and neighboring worker communities' photographs

1820-1970 Majority of material found within 1890-1960
 Collection
Identifier: 2017-226

Abstract

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company was established in 1802 by Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) and his son Éleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834). This collection of more than 1250 discrete photographs depicts the landscape and buildings at or near the company's explosives manufacturing plants along Brandywine Creek near Wilmington, Delaware. Approximately 900 images depict powder yard sites, including the DuPont Experimental Station, either during the mills' final decades of operation or prior to, during, and after excavation and restoration work on the site in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the remaining images depict the worker communities which surrounded the powder yards.

Dates

  • 1820-1970
  • Majority of material found within 1890-1960

Creator

Extent

4 Linear Feet

Physical Description

1431 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller, some duplicates ; 141 photographic reproductions : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller, some duplicates ; 75 photocopies ; 24 pages of notes ; 10 photographic reproductions : color ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller ; 5 postcards : b&w ; 3.5 x 6 in. or smaller ; 5 floor plans ; 4 flyers ; 2 postcards : color ; 3.5 x 5.5 in. ; 2 photographic prints : color ; 8 x 10 in. ; 2 research reports ; 1 brochure ; 1 clipping ; 1 inventory ; 1 letter ; 1 negative : b&w ; 4 x 5 in. ; 1 pamphlet ; 1 photographic print : color ; 5 x 7 in. ; 1 photographic reproduction : b&w ; 14 x 11 in. ; 1 print : b&w ; 5 x 6 in. ; 1 property description ; 1 tear sheet.

Historical Note

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company was established in 1802 by Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) and his son Éleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834). The du Ponts purchased the Eleutherian Mills site on the banks of Brandywine Creek just north of Wilmington, Delaware. In 1813, E.I. du Pont expanded downstream by purchasing what became Hagley Yards. During wartime the company was a major supplier for the United States government. During peacetime, the company marketed their product towards sportsmen and hunters. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, the powder-making operation on the Brandywine expanded as the company acquired many buildings that had begun as other industrial sites. At one time, the Brandywine works comprised four main yards: Eleutherian Mills (also known as Upper Yard), Upper Hagley Yard, Lower Hagley Yard, and Lower Yard, which was located on the eventual site of the DuPont Co. Experimental Station.

By the early twentieth century, the company had begun to shift its focus away from gunpowder production and towards chemistry innovations. In 1903, DuPont Co. established an experimental laboratory in the Rokeby Mill building downstream from Hagley Yard, and, after that building burned down in 1906, moved its facilities across the river to form the Experimental Station. The company closed the Brandywine powder yards in 1921, having remained open for the course of the First World War, and in 1926 the company formally dissolved its entire powder production unit.

The industrial villages along Brandywine Creek grew up in tandem with the powder mills and other nearby mills, and they were populated largely by Irish, French, and Italian immigrants and their descendants. By the 1890s, several distinguishable neighborhoods existed near the powder yards. On the west bank of Brandywine Creek, these included Wagoner's Row, the Upper Banks, Free Park, Squirrel Run, and Henry Clay (which encompassed Breck's Lane, Creek Road or Main Street, and Rising Sun Lane). On the east bank, there was Chicken Alley, Duck Street, Charles's Banks, and Walker's Banks.

The community supported several stores, saloons, and churches. Churches included Christ Church Christiana Hundred, St. Joseph's-on-the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church, Green Hill Presbyterian Church, and Mount Salem Methodist Church. Local schools included the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School, which began in 1817 and operated as a nonsectarian school for the community until 1856, when it became an Episcopal church school serving nearby Christ Church. Other schools included the "Yellow Schoolhouse" on Barley Mill Road, a small school on Rising Sun Lane, and, beginning in 1893, the Alexis I. du Pont School.

The community was served by the Wilmington and Northern Railroad and, beginning in 1907, trolley service in Henry Clay was provided by the Peoples Railway. In the 1890s, the Breck's Mill building in Henry Clay became known as the Hagley Community House and was a community focal point, serving as a recreation center and social hall. The Eleutherian Mills residence on company property likewise served for a time as a DuPont Co. employees' clubhouse and was converted into military barracks during the First World War. The villages largely diminished with the closing of the powder yards.

In 1952, in the same year the company celebrated its 150th anniversary, du Pont family members donated much of the land on which the former powder mills stood, and the company created an endowment for the Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation for the purpose of preserving the site and establishing a museum. The site opened as a museum in 1957, and in 1966 the museum property was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Arrangement

The arrangement by subject as the materials were found in the Hagley File (Accession 1969.001) was maintained during processing. The only exception are images identified as originating from collections previously digitized and which were already available in the Hagley Digital Archives, but which contain notes or additional information written by Hagley staff. These images are filed alphabetically at the end of the collection by the title of the originating collection.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of original photographs, copy work from other Hagley Museum & Library collections, and items loaned for copy to Hagley Museum & Library from various individuals. It comprises more than 1250 discrete images depicting the landscape and buildings at or near the DuPont explosives manufacturing plants along Brandywine Creek near Wilmington, Delaware. Approximately 900 images depict powder yard sites, including the DuPont Experimental Station, either during the mills' final decades of operation or prior to, during, and after excavation and restoration work on the site in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the remaining images depict the worker communities which surrounded the powder yards.

Of the images of the DuPont powder yards, the following sites identified as being in or near Eleutherian Mills Yard (also called Upper Yard) are represented in the collection: Eleutherian Mills barn, boarding house, Cannon House site, corning mill, Charcoal House, Eleutherian Mills dam, Dust Mill, Eagle Glaze Mill, entrance area, First Office of the DuPont Company, First Home of the du Pont family in Delaware, general views, the Iron Bridge at Louviers, the suspension bridge, Lammot du Pont's chemical laboratory, jitney stops (for museum), gunpowder magazine, millrace, Saltpeter refinery, Second Office, Soda House, and the Specific Gravity House.

The following sites identified as being in or near Hagley Yard are represented in the collection: Belin House, Birkenhead rolling mills, Blacksmith Shop, a stone bridge, Hagley dams, Rumford Dawes House (used as an office building), Dye House (Picker House), entrance area, general views, Gibbons House, graining houses, corning mill, gunpowder magazines, hydraulic elevator, hydroelectric plant, Left Bank of Brandywine Creek, Old Machine Shop, New Machine Shop, former Rumford Dawes grist and rolling mill, Henry Clay Mill, Barley Mill (site of New Machine Shop), packing house, press house, pulp keg mill, pump house, millrace, rolling mills, spring house, steam plant, and the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School building.

The dam, entrance area, glaze mill, and rolling mills at the Lower Yard of the DuPont Brandywine works are also depicted in the collection.

The collection also contains photographs of archaeological work conducted in the 1950s at Eleutherian Mills and at the Birkenhead rolling mills and the Dye House and Picker House in Hagley Yard. In addition, there are images of powder yard and other workers (including office staff and female powder workers during World War I), powder wagons, the company's Experimental Station, proposed museum plans, the 150th anniversary ceremonies of the DuPont Company held in 1952, and reproductions of maps of the area from various dates. There are also photographs of the aftermath of explosions that occurred at the powder yards in 1890, 1920, 1921, and possibly 1896.

Images of the worker communities near the powder yards form the other main subject of this collection. The collection includes depictions of worker housing, du Pont family homes, churches, taverns, schools, and other facets of social and work life in the area.

The village of Henry Clay and the community of Walker's Banks are particularly well represented, and the collection includes general views of the village, images of individual houses, railroad tracks, street-railroad tracks, roads, businesses, the Cooper Shop, Breck's Mill, Rokeby Mill (the first DuPont Experimental Station), Breck's Mill dam, Walker's Mill, Rockford Park, and "New Bridge" covered bridge over Brandywine Creek at Rising Sun Lane. Long Row, Pigeon Hole Row, and Walker's Banks row houses are identifiable in several images. Some of the general views of the village were photographed from the top of nearby Rockford Tower (constructed 1899-1901).

Other neighborhoods represented in the collection include Chicken Alley, Squirrel Run, Upper Banks, and Wagoner's Row (including Fleming's Corner). There are also images of the following local churches: Christ Church Christiana Hundred, St. Joseph's-on-the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church, Green Hill Presbyterian Church, and Mount Salem Methodist Church. Also included are images of floods on Brandywine Creek and the construction of the Tyler McConnell Bridge in 1952.

Images of residents include recreational scenes of ice skating, sledding, swimming, and canoeing as well as group photographs of the Clay Target Club, bands (including Alfred I. du Pont's Tancopanican Band), and the Hagley basketball team. There are also photographs of Alexis I. du Pont School students and faculty.

The collection finally includes images of the following du Pont residences near the Brandywine powder yards: Hagley House, Hagley (also called the Jacob Broom House), Upper Louviers, Lower Louviers, Pelleport, Rokeby, Swamp Hall, the Charles I. du Pont house, and Eleutherian Mills. Eleutherian Mills is particularly well represented, and the collection includes images of Louise du Pont Crowninshield's garden in addition to photographs of the residence itself.

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection is available in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Related Material

Brandywine Valley oral history interviewees' photographs (Accession 2017.225), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Hagley File (Accession 1969.001), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

Transfer from Hagley File, 2017 (Accession 1969.001).

Processing Notes

The materials in this collection were selected by Hagley staff for subject matter from the former Hagley File subject photograph file maintained by the former Hagley Museum & Library Pictorial Collections Department. Images with relevant subject matter that could be identified as being donated or loaned by individuals interviewed for Oral histories on work and daily life in the Brandywine Valley (Accession 1970.370) were transferred into a separate collection, Brandywine Valley oral history interviewees' photographs (Accession 2017.225).

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
DuPont Company Brandywine powder yards and neighboring worker communities' photographs
Status:
Author:
Angela Schad
Date:
2017
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400