Hagley Museum and Library

Specialty: Business and technology

Hagley Museum and Library is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to the preservation and understanding of America’s economic and technological heritage. Located on 235 acres along the banks of the Brandywine River in Wilmington, Delaware, Hagley is the site of the gunpowder works founded by E. I. du Pont in 1802. This example of early American industry includes restored mills, a workers’ community, and the ancestral home and gardens of the du Pont family. The Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society organizes and administers the Hagley Museum and Library’s interaction with the world of scholarship. It brings attention to Hagley’s research collections, generates intellectual dialogue, and administers research grants and conferences.

Collections

Hagley Museum and Library collects, preserves, and interprets the unfolding history of American enterprise. With 300,000 digitized items and 2 terabytes of electronic records and web archives, it brings important historical data to a wider audience than ever before. Hagley’s collections document the interaction between business and the cultural, social, and political dimensions of our society from the late 18th century to the present.

Hagley’s main strength is in the Middle Atlantic region, but the scope of collecting includes business organizations and companies with national and international impact. Hagley’s 37,000 linear feet of manuscripts collections contain the records of more than 1,000 firms as well as the personal papers of the entrepreneurs who helped build them. The library is also the repository for the records of national business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Iron and Steel Institute. The companies represented range from the mercantile houses of the late 18th century, through the artisan workshops of the 19th century, to the multinational corporations of the 20th century. The collections illustrate the impact of the business system on American society-—its economic, technological, political, and labor history.

Many collections chronicle the development of high technology, design, and marketing in the 20th century, including the early history of the computer and aeronautics industries, the history of atomic energy from the Manhattan Project onward, and aspects of the computer and communications revolution, the development of electronic mail, and the evolution of national telecommunications policies. Modern design, whether in architecture or product design and packaging, are the focus of several collections, as is the incorporation of the sciences, like psychology, into design and marketing strategies. The Imprints Department includes rare trade catalogues for a range of scientific and technological companies. The Pictorial Collections Department provides visual and aural documentation for many of Hagley’s research areas. Other formats found throughout the holdings range from daguerreotypes to Polaroid prints, lithographs and engravings, videotapes, and sound recordings.

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Lithograph of California Powder Works, Santa Cruz Co., California. Image courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library.