Small Repositories Subject Guide: Business and Industry

Personal papers, family papers, and institutional records document various businesses and industries in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. Some of the industries represented include real estate, manufacturing and farming, railroads, and the legal profession.

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is helping to uncover hundreds of hidden archival collections at many of the small repositories in the five county Philadelphia area. Some of the collections cataloged during the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide for archival research at area small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and indicate the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.

All the finding aids from the HCI-PSAR project are available at our finding aid website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently.

Real estate
Manufacturing and farming
Legal professions
Railroads
Newspapers and media
General

Real estate

Thomas South papers, 1861-1914 (HST.09)
Historical Society of Tacony
16 linear feet
Thomas Winfield South (1847-1922) moved to Tacony, Philadelphia in 1872 to work for the Disston Saw Works as manager and land-agent for the Disston-owned properties. South was a prominent figure in the area who worked as Director of the Suburban Electric Company, as Magistrate at the Central Police Court, and as the Assistant Director of Public Safety under Mayor Weaver (1903-1907). South invested heavily in Florida real estate with a vision of developing the St. Petersburg area, although his plans were not realized until many years later. The Thomas South papers, 1861-1914, documents much of the working life of South and includes correspondence regarding his work as a magistrate and his dealings in the development of central Florida. There are legal records and registers from his time as a magistrate, as well as a large amount of court summons.

Manufacturing and farming

Amchem Products, Inc. records, 1925-1986 (WVHS.06)
Wissahickon Valley Historical Society
7.5 linear feet
James Harvey Gravell started the American Chemical Paint Company in 1914 and moved the factory to Ambler, Pennsylvania soon after. He was an engineer, innovator, and philanthropist who made national headlines for paying off all his employees' debts and mortgages for Christmas in 1936. After Gravell's death, his company was renamed Amchem Products, Inc., and was acquired by Henkel in 1980. Amchem Products, Inc. records, 1925-1986, consist of administrative records, photographs, and company publications.

James M. Shimer Kaiser-Fleetwings papers, 1942-1958 (GML.05)
Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library
3 linear feet
Established in 1926, Fleetwings, Inc. was an aircraft components factory that moved from Long Island, New York to Bristol, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1934. Due to the company's success during World War II, Henry J. Kaiser's Kaiser Industries invested in the company and renamed it Kaiser-Fleetwings Corp.; the company folded in 1962. James M. (Jim) Shimer, Jr. (1914-2007) worked there as a technical illustrator. The James M. Shimer collection on Kaiser-Fleetwings, 1942-1955, consists of materials relating to James M. Shimer's work as a technical illustrator for Kaiser-Fleetwings. There are a large number of Shimer's drawings of aircrafts, blueprints, technical specifications, photographs of aircraft and of models, and promotional brochures for the aircraft, as well as some of Shimer's employment records and various employee newsletters and publications.

Newtown Cooperative Association financial ledgers and minute books, 1922-1962 (NHA.07)
Newtown Historic Association
2.5 linear feet
The Newtown Cooperative Association was a farmer's purchasing cooperative, organized in 1922 to gain bulk discounts on supplies for farmers in Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was absorbed in 1968 by Eastern State Farmers Exchange, which merged with Grange League Federation and became Agway. The Newtown Cooperative Association financial ledgers and minute books, 1922-1962, contain about 30 volumes of various financial records and two minute books.

Pottstown Iron Company records, 1867-1931 (POTT.01)
Pottstown Historical Society
7.33 linear feet
The Pottstown Iron Company in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania was incorporated 1866. Its facilities included large rolling mills, a blast furnace, nail factory, and steel works. The Pottstown Iron Company records, 1867-1931, include financial and stock records, and correspondence.

Legal professions

Judge Harold G. Knight diaries, 1893-1962 (HSMC.19)
Historical Society of Montgomery County
1.67 linear feet
Harold Grove Knight (1880-1965) was a judge in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania for 30 years, including over 20 years as president judge. The Judge Harold G. Knight diaries, 1893-1962, consist of over 40 volumes in which Knight meticulously recorded his daily activities over nearly 70 years. This collection also includes one volume of minutes from Knight's courtroom and one diary from his sister.

Thomas B. and Francis R. Taylor papers (OYR.1992.002)
Old York Road Historical Society
5 linear feet
Francis R. Taylor (1885-1947) was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and banker who was active in the Society of Friends with an interest in history. Francis' father, Thomas B. Taylor (1852-1911), was a Philadelphia attorney and conveyancer. The Thomas B. and Francis R. Taylor papers, 1880-1945, include records created by each of the men. Thomas' records include letterbooks and records of his work as a lawyer. Francis' records include correspondence, materials relating to Quaker educational institutions, and a biography of William Savery (Philadelphia tanner and Quaker minister, lived 1750-1804). There are also materials relating to the purchase and maintenance of the property "Brooklawn."

Railroads

Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Rail Road Company records, 1831-1981 (GHS.25)
Germantown Historical Society
80 linear feet
The Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Rail Road Company, one of the first railroads in the Philadelphia area, was incorporated in 1831 and liquidated in the late 1970s. The PG&N became part of the Reading Railroad system under lease in 1869 and became the Reading's primary entrance for passenger trains into Philadelphia. The Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Rail Road Company records, 1831-1981, include executive business records, financial records, and stock records. There are also materials relating to property and depots owned by PG&N, and records from subsidiary and other rail companies.

Roberts Family Collection, 1677-1998 (LMHS.08)
Lower Merion Historical Society
6 linear feet
John Roberts was among the first settlers of Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1683. His descendants included civic leaders, a physician, a president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and a state senator; the businesses his family started included a model dairy farm and the Pencoyd Iron Works. The Roberts Family Collection, 1677-1998, includes indentures and deeds, maps, tax receipts, wills, correspondence, photograph albums and a daguerreotype, genealogical research, and diaries. The highlight of this collection is a series of private letter books of George Brooke Roberts (president of the Pennsylvania Railroad), 1833-1897.

Newspapers and media

Labyrinth records, 1983-1995 (JJW.SC.0010)
John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia
5 linear feet
Labyrinth was a feminist newspaper published from 1984 to 2000. The Labyrinth records, 1983-1995, are comprised of administrative records, financial records, and correspondence.

General

Goschenhoppen Historians manuscript volumes collection, 1789-1968 (GH.12)
Goschenhoppen Historians
8 linear feet
Goschenhoppen, one of the oldest continuously existing Pennsylvania German communities in America, is a geographic region in Montgomery County. The Goschenhoppen Historians document and ephemera collection, 1758-1992, documents local history and is rich in genealogical data. It includes receipts and accounts, indentures, vital records, correspondence, and other original documents; ephemera, such as advertisements, pamphlets, broadsides, and sheet music, are also in the collection. Fine examples of Fraktur are of special interest.

Historical Society of Montgomery County business records collection, 1766-1985 (HSMC.08)
Historical Society of Montgomery County
13 linear feet
Historical Society of Montgomery County business records collection, 1766-1985, consists of miscellaneous records from businesses in the vicinity of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Dozens of different types of businesses are represented in the collection, including general stores, blacksmiths and forges, banks and insurance companies, post offices, and others. Most of the records are financial--account books, daybooks, ledgers, etc.--but there is also some correspondence and other types of records.