Industry Type

Below is a list and descriptions of all known industry types for the businesses identified for the project, click a link to see additional information.

  • Bark mill –Bark mills produced a fine powder from the roots, branches, or bark of oak trees. The powder was a crucial element of leather manufacturing, as the powdered wood quickly yielded the tannin required for the tanning process. These mills contained machinery that would chop, pound, and grind the wood. Historical records reveal only one bark mill that operated on the Brandywine during the mid-nineteenth century.
  • Barley mill — Barley, a cereal grain used in baking, beer brewing, and as animal feed, must be hulled before it can be eaten. In a barley mill the grains were hulled and sometimes “pearled,” a process in which the bran layer was removed from the grains. Pearling made the barley softer and easier to cook. Barley and flour milling, which had been in operation on the Brandywine since the late seventeenth century, represented some of the earliest industrial activity in the area.
  • Cider press — Apple cider was produced at a cider press, where apples were crushed to a pulp and then pressed to extract the unfiltered cider. The pulp was pressed in a ram press, in which apple pulp was placed in a cylinder and pressed by a piston. The cylinder was “leaky,” allowing the juices through to be collected as the pulp was pressed. The only recorded cider press on the Brandywine was that of Isaac and Edward Smith at the Smith’s Bridge site.
  • Flour mill — Along with barley milling, flour or grist milling represented some of the earliest industrial activity on the Brandywine. In a flour mill, whole grains were ground into flour between two heavy millstones, one fixed to the floor and the other rotated by a shaft driven by a water wheel. The fineness of the flour could be adjusted by raising or lowering the top millstone. Locations all along the Brandywine featured flour mills as early as the mid-eighteenth century.
  • Machine shop — At least eight machine shops on the Brandywine produced mechanically cut wood and metal products and manufacturing equipment for other industries. In 1744, George Fleming established the first machine shop in the area near the foot of Adams Street. Machine shops dotted the Brandywine for at least the next 130 years.
  • Metal works — At least seven metal works and foundries operated on the Brandywine during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These operations ranged in scale from small blacksmith shops like that of Benjamin and Ziba Ferris during the 1820s to the foundry of Seidel and Hastings, which produced five to six thousand tons of plate iron each year by 1873. Metal workers and blacksmiths on the Brandywine produced machine tools, nails, iron plates for the construction of boilers, and other iron and tin products.
  • Paper mill — The Brandywine has a long history as a center of paper manufacturing. The first paper mill in the state of Delaware was opened at Kentmere by Joshua and Thomas Gilpin, Jr. in the late eighteenth century. By the twentieth century, feminine hygiene products and facial tissues were being produced on the Brandywine as well as conventional paper and cardboard products.
  • Powder keg manufacturing — When E.I. du Pont de Nemours began producing gunpowder in the early 1800s, a supplemental powder keg industry arose to provide shipping containers for DuPont powder. These airtight canisters were produced from sheet iron. Kegs were manufactured during the nineteenth century at Louviers and across the Brandywine from the Henry Clay Mill.
  • Quarry — Brandywine granite was famous for its bluish-gray or bluish-black appearance and exceptional strength and hardness. Several quarries operated on the Brandywine during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most notably in the Rockford area and at Alapocas Woods. These quarries provided stone for projects like the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridge in Brandywine park and the Delaware Breakwater project, the first breakwater of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Saw mill — The saw mills of the Brandywine, where logs were sawed into wooden planks, supplied lumber to the area as early as the mid-eighteenth century. Many of these saw mills operated adjacent to flour mills.
  • Shipyard — Although the vast majority of Wilmington’s substantial ship building activity took place at the yards on the Christina River, the Brandywine also boasted a shipyard near the 16th Street Bridge. Johnathan Zebley’s yard later became a part of Thatcher’s shipyard during the second half of the nineteenth century.
  • Snuff mill — Snuff, a powdered tobacco product which was inhaled through the nose, was manufactured at one location on the Brandywine during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By the 1820s, Isaac Jones’ snuff mill was out of operation.
  • Spindle factory — When raw cotton is spun into thread, it is spun onto wooden spindles. Records indicate the existence of only one spindle factory on the Brandywine, which supplied spindles to the many cotton mills in the area. During the mid-nineteenth century, this factory was located at the foot of Adams Street in Wilmington.
  • Stave mill — – Stave mills produced wooden strips used in the construction of barrels. Records indicate the existence of only one stave mill on the Brandywine, which was active during the mid-nineteenth century.
  • Tannery — In tanneries, animal hides were chemically treated with tannin, stretched, and dried to produce leather. The city of Wilmington had a substantial tanning industry by the mid-nineteenth century, but the earliest leather tanning in the state of Delaware took place on the Brandywine at the lower end of the Hagley property between 1815 and 1826.
  • Textile millJacob Broom established what is believed to be the first cotton mill in Delaware in 1794 in downtown Wilmington, but moved his operation to the banks of the Brandywine in 1795. In the years since, over thirty mills were in operation in the area, the most famous of these being the works of Joseph Bancroft and Sons. Textile products manufactured on the Brandywine included calicos, kersey and other woolen cloths, muslin, cotton thread and woven cloth, dyed cloth, and finished clothing products.