Hagley Museum And Library
Hagley Museum and Library is home to functioning 19th-century powder mills and an extensive history of American industry.
The Hagley Museum and Library chronicles the origins of the du Pont family, as well as the rise of industry and technology in America. Located on the banks of the Brandywine River in Wilmington, Delaware, Hagley is home to restored powder mills, gardens, and the first du Pont family property in the country.
French-American industrialist Éleuthère Irénée du Pont originally built black powder mills in this location in 1802. Because of its prime location on the Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line and its proximity to the Delaware River, it soon became the largest mill of its kind in the world. The name ‘Hagley’ had been in use for the area at least as early as 1797. It is likely that the name comes from an English estate called Hagley Hall, which was mentioned in James Thomson’s popular 18th-century poem series The Seasons.
In 1803, E.I du Pont built his home in the Georgian style on a hill overlooking his powder mills. Five generations of the du Pont family lived and worked in the home and its surrounding complex, which includes a barn, the First Office of the DuPont Company, the E.I du Pont Garden, and more. The du Pont family home is filled with antique French furnishings, American folk art, and other treasured family items.
The museum also holds demonstrations in the powder yard, made up of historic stone buildings, 19th-century machinery, river turbines, mills, steam engines, waterwheels, and more. Museum workers demonstrate the black powder-making process, as well as its explosions.
In addition to the powder yards, the museum is home to a workers’ community, which showcases the lives of the thousands of workers who contributed to the success of the du Pont mills. The community includes the John Gibbons House, where the Hagley Yard Foreman lived, the Brandywine Manufacturers’ Sunday School, where Victorine du Pont taught for thirty years, and the Workers’ Garden, among other establishments.
Yet another of the museum’s exhibits is the Crowninshield Garden, a neoclassical garden built on the ruins of the Eleutherian Mills. Constructed by craftsmen and members of the du Pont family, the garden was intentionally built to convey the passage of time. Its layers of Italian pools, colonnades, statues, and complex planting schemes resist categorization; the juxtaposition of the industrial ruins and the elaborate garden architecture create a stunning, historic effect.
Hagley is a library as well as a museum: the library collects and preserves information pertaining to the history of American enterprise. Opened in 1961, the library’s collections document the intersection of business, technology, and society from the 18th century to now. Its research collections include those on the Reading Railroad, Bethlehem Steel, Wawa, the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and hundreds more. The library is also home to du Pont family archival documents.
Open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm for self-guided and guided experiences, Hagley Museum and Library is an ideal destination for those interested in the Industrial Age, the du Pont family, or the history of business. Tickets are $15 for adults.
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