In 1802 a French immigrant, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, chose the banks of the Brandywine River on which to start his black powder mills. He chose the location because of the natural energy that the water provided; the availability of timber and willow trees (used to produce quality charcoal required for superior black powder); the proximity to the Delaware River (on which the other ingredients of the powder, sulfur, and saltpeter could be shipped); and the quarries of granite which would provide building materials for the mills. The E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's black powder manufactory became the largest in the world. In 1921 the mills along the Brandywine closed and parcels of property were sold. It was on the occasion of the DuPont Company's 150th anniversary in 1952, that plans for a museum were established. The research library was founded by Pierre S. du Pont (1870 -1954) as the Longwood Library in 1953. Eight years later it merged with Hagley Museum and moved to the site of the original DuPont Company powder works near Wilmington, Delaware.
Origins of the name Hagley
Hagley historians only know that the name was already in use well before E. I. du Pont expanded downstream from Eleutherian Mills in 1813 by purchasing the land that became the Hagley Yards. An 1813 document refers to the land as Hagley and it had been called Hagley as early as 1797, when its owner (Philadelphia Quaker merchant Rumford Dawes) applied for insurance on buildings that were said to be located in a place called Hagley on the Brandywine. Dawes had acquired the property in 1783. Since the name Hagley did not appear on the documents transferring ownership at that time, it seems likely that Dawes gave this name to the Brandywine location.
It seems likely that Delaware's Hagley was named for an English estate that was well known in the second half of the eighteenth century. It is possible that Dawes chose the name based on the English narrative poem "The Seasons" by James Thomson. Hagley Park was the seat of Thomson's patron the Baron Lyttleton, and the poem's description of a sylvan dale is strikingly reminiscent of the Brandywine Valley. "The Seasons" was popular in Philadelphia at the time that Rumford Dawes acquired and named Hagley. No other place of that name is known to have existed in eighteenth-century Europe or America.
The English Hagley estate is located in the West Midlands countryside approximately ten miles southeast of Birmingham.
Chronology of Hagley Museum and Library
1952 - The Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, a non-profit, educational corporation received its charter from the State of Delaware.
1957 - Hagley Museum was dedicated with the opening of the Henry Clay Mill building.
1961 - The Longwood Library, founded in 1953 by Pierre S. du Pont, merged with Hagley Museum and opened at the site of the original DuPont Company's powder works at Hagley.
1962 - A second exhibition building, the Millwright Shop, opened with working models of the powder-making process.
1964 - Eleutherian Mills, the du Pont family's ancestral home, was opened to the public.
1966 - Designation of museum property as a National Historic Landmark.
1969 - Restoration of the first DuPont Company Office was completed.
1971 - Restoration of the E. I. du Pont Garden began.
1982 – Workers' Hill opened. First fireworks show produced for Hagley members in honor of the museum's 25th anniversary. The annual fireworks continues on two weekends in June.
1984 - Hagley Museum and Library was designated as the official name of the institution. (Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation continues as the legal corporation name of the organization.)
1996 - Hagley's first car show, 100 Years of Cars, held to honor 100 years of America's automotive heritage. The annual car show continues on the third Sunday in September.
1999 - The kitchen in Hagley's Eleutherian Mills opens to visitors.
2002 - Two new exhibits, "DuPont Science and Discovery” and "DuPont: The Explosives Era," open at Hagley in honor of the DuPont Company's 200th anniversary.
2007 – New accessible entrance to Visitor Center completed.