Two New Trapshooting Collections at Hagley

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A winter day event at the Du Pont Gun Club, 1914, spire of Christ Church can be seen in the backgroundThe Manuscripts and Archives Department at the Hagley Library is pleased to announce the addition of two new collections relating to the sport of trapshooting in Delaware, particularly New Castle County.

In January 2013, Hagley received records relating to the Delaware State Trapshooting Tournament (1973-2012) including shoot programs mailed to participants, issues of Trap & Field magazine (1975-2012) featuring the Delaware State Shoot, and tournament programs from the Grand American Handicap Tournament, the largest trapshooting tournament in the world.

The ‘Grand’, as trapshooters refer to it, was first held in 1900 at the Interstate Park in Queens, New York. For the next two decades, it was held at the du Pont Gun Club in Wilmington, Delaware, as well as other cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, and Columbus. The shoot moved to Vandalia, Ohio, in 1923 and was held at that location until 2006 when the governing body of the sport, the Amateur Trapshooting Association, moved its headquarters and the tournament to Sparta, Illinois, in 2006. In its infancy, the shoot hosted a mere twenty shooters, but has grown to host more than 5,800 shooters by the turn of the millennium.

Delaware State Trapshooting Championship program, 1973Last month, the Manuscripts and Archives Department also received the records of the Wilmington Trapshooting Association, currently located in Newark, Delaware. The du Pont Gun Club was founded on the modern-day site of the DuPont Experimental Station with the backing of the DuPont Company, T. Coleman du Pont, and Victor du Pont in November 1910. The DuPont Company employed nearly twenty men with the sole responsibility of promoting the building of gun clubs, so it was appropriate to have one on the banks of the Brandywine.

DuPont Company President T. Coleman du Pont pledged an annual gift of $200 for awarding trophy spoons to tournament champions. In its early months, membership reached more than 100 members, and, within a year, it was more than 500. The club threw over 1,000,000 targets in its first year of operation-- contractors are reported to have reclaimed nearly twenty-three tons of lead from the first inch of earth that year. Lights were installed in 1915 for night shooting, eventually leading to the beginning of the end for the club. Even though night shooting stopped late in 1915, a suit was filed in Delaware courts due to complaints of noise. The case was heard in court where it was testified that not only noise, but also shot falling onto a local road, had become a nuisance. The club finally closed in 1916.

A number of members formed a new club, the Wilmington Trapshooting Association, originally located at Bellevue, was sponsored by Alfred I. du Pont and William du Pont, Jr. The club moved twice more before settling at its current location on Pulaski Highway near Newark, Delaware. Records include board minutes, financial ledgers, and photographs that outline not only the history of the club in its infancy, but through the twentieth century.

Trapshooting history can be found in many collections at Hagley. These include the papers of Irénée du Pont, Sr., John J. Raskob, DuPont/Vice Presidential Files of Hamilton Barksdale, DuPont Company Advertising, Aurora Gun Club, Kinloch Gun Club, and the scrapbook of Harriet Hammond, founder of the Nemours Gun Club, the first gun club exclusively for women in the United States.

Andrew Engel is an archivist in the Manuscripts and Archives Department at Hagley Library