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Robert H. Richards, Jr., Delaware oral history collection

Identifier: MSS 0179

Scope and Content Note

The Delaware Oral History collection was a project of the University of Delaware History Department which was conducted between 1966 and 1978. Two hundred and fifty-two tapes were produced, and 212 of these were transcribed.

Contracted interviewers, several of whom had obtained masters degrees in history, interviewed a variety of Delawareans, with a particular focus on documenting the following subjects: educators, immigrants, journalism, politics, and the University of Delaware, Delaware in the Depression, and the 1950s relocation of Long Island and New Jersey potato farmers to Delaware. The oral history project was coordinated by Dr. John Munroe (and later Dr. Willard Fletcher) with annual funding supplied by Robert H. Richards, Jr.

This finding aid includes an alphabetical index of interviewees with brief occupational or subject notes, date of interview, interviewer's name, and whether or not a transcript exists. Of the original 252 audio-recordings in this collection, 212 of these tapes were transcribed around the time of the original recordings (between 1966 and 1978). In 2012, Cabbage Tree Solutions was contracted to create transcriptions for the remaining tapes. Corrections to and clarifications for all transcriptions are welcome, especially for names and places.

Eight of the oral histories have been transcribed but the original tape is no longer available; these missing tapes are noted in the contents list below.

The interviews cover a wide range of topics, including the following ten subject areas. These terms can be searched as keywords in the Container List:

  1. African Americans (8)
  2. Arden (2)
  3. Art and Artists (6)
  4. Delaware in the Depression (31)
  5. Educators (35)
  6. Journalism (8)
  7. Milford (3)
  8. Politics (10)
  9. University of Delaware (33)
  10. UD Foreign Study Program (Junior Year Abroad) (10)

Another significant subject area is immigrants. The immigrants are primarily grouped by ethnicity or country of origin, but may also include the distinction "agricultural" or "Jewish."

  1. Agricultural (7)
  2. Austrian (2)
  3. Czechoslovakian (1)
  4. Finnish (1)
  5. German (14)
  6. Greek (10)
  7. Irish (4)
  8. Italian (50)
  9. Jewish (and Jews in Delaware) (35)
  10. Latvian (1)
  11. Lithuanian (1)
  12. Polish (14)
  13. Rumanian (1)
  14. Russian (18)
  15. Scots (1)
  16. Spanish (1)
  17. Ukrainian (10)


  • Creation: 1955-1981, 2012, 2020
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1966-1978


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Historical Note

This Delaware Oral History project was initiated in the University of Delaware History Department and conducted between 1966 and 1978. The project planners initially sought to document the lives of veteran Delaware politicians, but quickly expanded the range of interviewees to include immigrants, professors, agricultural workers, Delawareans during the Great Depression, journalists, University of Delaware Junior Year Abroad program participants, and others. The project was suggested to Dr. John Munroe by University of Delaware alumnus and Wilmington lawyer Robert H. Richards, Jr., and Richards's annual financial contributions to the project sustained its work.

Long-time History Department chairman Dr. John Munroe hired interviewers for the project who were paid a minimal fee from the project's funds. Most interviewers were teachers who had completed master's degrees at the University of Delaware. When possible, Munroe assigned interviewers to interview individuals with similar backgrounds (ethnic, religious, and career) knowing that such interviewers would, "have a special understanding of their subjects' careers." Some of the most frequent interviewers and their focuses include Myron Lazarus (Jewish community), Francis J. Fierro (Italian immigrants), George Vapaa (agriculture), Steve Schoenherr (German immigrants), and Rebecca Button (University and other topics). No standard list of interview questions was used for the interviews and, after Dr. Munroe suggested a preliminary line of questioning, interviewers were given great liberty to direct the conversations as they saw fit.

In addition to the funding provided by Richards and guidance offered by Munroe, the project was also supported at various times by University President John A. Perkins, Director of Libraries Dr. John M. Dawson, and Munroe's successor as History Department chairman, Dr. Willard Fletcher.

Information for historical note derived from John Munroe letter to Rebecca Johnson Melvin, August 28, 2002, Manuscript Collection Folders, Special Collections.


4 linear foot

1 oversize removal


The Delaware Oral History collection was a project of the University of Delaware History Department, directed by Dr. John Munroe and funded by Robert H. Richards, Jr.. Interviews with 317 Delawareans conducted between 1966 and 1978 cover topics including the following: educators, immigrants, journalism, politics, and the University of Delaware, Delaware in the Depression, and the 1950s relocation of Long Island and New Jersey potato farmers to Delaware.


Original audio recordings are housed in Special Collections media collections. Transcripts in the collection are arranged alphabetically by name of interviewee and boxed as follows:

Box 8: Adams-Frank

Box 9: Fulmer-Pennachi

Box 10: Phillips-Zimmerman

Box 11: 2012 transcripts: Adams-Young


Transferred from the History Department, 1981.

Materials Available in Alternative Format

Access streaming audio and transcripts of the oral histories by following the links in the finding aid. The digitized audio files are available in Artstor Public Collections. Transcripts for most recordings can be accessed in the University of Delaware Institutional Repository.

Shelving Summary

  1. Boxes 1-7: Shelved in SPEC Media audio reels
  2. Boxes 8-11: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  3. Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)


Processed by Special Collections staff. Encoded by Lora J. Davis, April 2011, and Jaime Margalotti, May 2013.

Oral histories project, 1966-1978, funded with support from Robert H. Richards, Jr.

Online access to the digital collection of audio-recordings and transcripts funded with support from Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Richards, III.


Robert H. Richards, Jr., Delaware oral history collection
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2011 April 12
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA