During the historical society’s annual meeting of 1955, members discussed plans for a museum, library, and park to be established on the site of the du Pont mills along the Brandywine River. Dr. Heacock spoke on the history of the Brandywine mills and articulated the need for a historic site to celebrate the region’s industrial past.
In 1795, it was reported that there were 130 mill seats along the Brandywine. The river’s power and proximity to the ocean made it a desirable place for industry. The river mills manufactured flour, paper, textiles, lumber, and gunpowder. In the 1780s, Oliver Evans, a Delawarean, revolutionized the industry by designing a belt elevator to carry grain or flour between floors and a hopper boy to cool the flour. The powder mills of the du Pont family manufactured gunpowder throughout the 19th century and the business was one of the major suppliers during the Civil War.
The plan discussed in this 1955 meeting came to fruition when Eleutherian Mills opened two years later. The organization originally operated out of the Henry Clay factory, a textile mill built in 1814. In 1984, the institution changed its name to Hagley. Today, the Hagley Museum and Library tells the stories of the du Pont mills, but also the history of business and industry in the United States.
Hagley and the Delaware Historical Society share similar missions and collecting policies. Our organizations often collaborate for events and educational programs. Alongside Winterthur, the public archives, as well as dozens of other public libraries and local repositories, these institutions help represent our state’s rich and diverse history.