Black Powder, White Lace

Between 1802 and 1902, over two-thousand Irish emigrants moved to the United States to work in the E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's black powder yards on the Brandywine River in northern Delaware. Margaret Mulrooney’s book Black Powder, White Lace: The du Pont Irish and Cultural Identity in Nineteenth-Century charts the origins of this community in Ireland, their migration and settlement along the Brandywine, and the world they created in their new home. Originally published in 2002, the University of Delaware Press issued a second edition in 2023.

This exhibit serves as a digital companion to the book and provides access to select original sources that inform each of Mulrooney’s chapters. It offers readers a chance to go behind the book's text and appreciate the primary documents that the author used to construct her narrative. The materials featured here, all found within Hagley’s collections, document the social, cultural, and economic history of the "du Pont Irish" and the du Pont family for whom they worked. Supplementing visual and written sources in its archives, Hagley also holds more than one hundred oral histories in the Brandywine Valley Oral History Project, which allow you to hear the voices of those who lived near and labored in the powder years and who generously provided Hagley staff with their stories decades ago.

The items referenced in this compendium are only an appetizer to what is available about the “du Pont Irish” at Hagley Museum and Library. Explore our library's digital archives and our museum's online collection. Even more materials can be seen by visiting our collections in person in Wilmington, Delaware. We hope this digital companion encourages you to read Mulrooney’s book and to explore the documents and artifacts held in Hagley’s collections.