Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Robert A Gross


While the history of the du Pont family and Du Pont Company have been well-documented, little is known about the everyday lives of the Irish Catholic immigrants who lived and worked at the home plant near Wilmington, Delaware. to correct this oversight, "Labor at Home" explores every aspect of the powder workers' domestic world--from religious beliefs, family structure, gender relations, and ethnic ties, to houses, furnishings, and yards--and uses this data to support new conclusions about cultural identity and class affiliation. as early as the 1820s, for example, powder mill families began to convey their increasing affiliation with bourgeois American society by amassing their savings, by selectively purchasing status-laden goods like tea sets and parlor furnishings, by acquiring property, by financing churches and schools, and by pursuing occupational and social mobility. Paradoxically, they also maintained certain beliefs and customs that proclaimed their identity as wage-earning Irish Catholics. Growing potatoes, drinking large quantities of whiskey, displaying crucifixes, and encouraging assertive female behavior perpetuated their unique ethno-religious heritage, yet these practices fueled the prejudices that confined the Irish to the lower ranks of society. Hence, this dissertation further demonstrates that status, identity, and consciousness are determined in complex and often contradictory ways.



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