Browse Exhibits (2 total)

A Tale of Two Brothers

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In 1780 and 1786, two brothers were born to a Quaker cabinetmaker in Wilmington, Delaware. Benjamin, the elder brother, was apprenticed to Thomas Parker in Philadelphia to learn clockmaking. While learning his craft, he spent nearly all his free time going to lectures and meetings throughout the city, and, despite his mother's concerns, even learned French from the many emigrants fleeing the Revolution. While he initially pursued clockmaking as his trade, he later discovered that his true passion was history. Upon returning to Wilmington with his family in 1813, he gave up clockmaking and turned to writing as his main vocation.

Ziba, Benjamin’s younger brother, was apprenticed to Benjamin in Philadelphia from a young age. But he moved back to Wilmington much earlier, in 1807, and promptly opened his own shop. Through account books and newspaper records we know that Ziba pursued his trade with passion, but still contributed to the greater Wilmington community alongside his work.

Benjamin and Ziba’s stories offer a glimpse into the passions and interests prevalent in Wilmington during the 19th century. While the brothers initially had the same training in clockmaking, they diverged in their professional lives and how they wanted to be viewed by their peers. Do we perceive them today how they wanted to be seen, or has history imposed itself upon their stories?

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Waterpower on the Brandywine

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The Brandywine Creek winds through southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. Today it is crossed by bridges and abutted by state parks. In the summer people float down it on inner tubes; it is a part of the natural landscape. Two hundred years ago, however, the Brandywine was viewed as a source of power and a site of industry. In the fourteen and half miles of creek between Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware, where it drains into the Delaware River, the Brandywine drops 160 feet. This change in elevation meant the Brandywine was the perfect site for establishing water powered mills in early Delaware.

By the early nineteenth-century, the river was churning with industry. This is evident on an 1816 map of the region, which resides today in the collection of the Hagley Museum and Library, a repository for America's early industrial history. The water of the Brandywine propelled the creation of paper, textiles, gunpowder, flour, and more. Many of its mill seats were also sites of innovation, where new technologies were implemented, or even invented.

The individuals who ran businesses on the banks of the creek were often involved in multiple industries, demonstrating their entrepreneurial spirit. One such man was William Young, who produced both paper and textiles at Rockland Mills between 1795 and his death in 1829. 

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