Manuscripts and Archives Department
Hagley's manuscript and archival collections contain the records of more than 1,000 firms as well as the personal papers of the entrepreneurs, inventors, designers, and managers who helped build these businesses. The companies represented range from the mercantile houses of the late eighteenth century to the multinational corporations of the twenty-first.
The business records of the DuPont Company and du Pont family papers constitute one of the library's great assets. The history of northeastern railroads and of iron, steel, coal, and oil production are well represented, along with a myriad of smaller collections on industrial, commercial, and mercantile activities in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. While much of this documentation concerns business activities in the Mid-Atlantic region, firm records such as those of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Sun Oil (Sunoco), and DuPont cover national and often international operations.
The scope of manuscript and archival materials has expanded steadily to include wide-ranging areas of business activity. Firms with innovative technological practices― ranging from leading military contractors such as Sperry Gyroscope (and the personal papers of Elmer Sperry) to the MCI records that detail many aspects of the computer and communications revolution―have deposited their records at Hagley. Records and photographs of Sperry–UNIVAC, the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, Engineering Research Associates, and the IBM antitrust suit trace the early history of the computer and aeronautics industries. The records of the RCA Corporation include thousands of technical reports that document the development of a wide array of consumer and military electronics products.
The development of American consumer culture and business' central role in this process is a major collecting emphasis. Consumer-oriented companies such as Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Avon Products, and the Strawbridge & Clothier department-store chain offer rich insights into the relationships between such firms and the consumer marketplace. The Irving Koons collection provides invaluable information on mass marketing, advertising, market research, and packaging, and Ernest Dichter's papers contain rich research studies on consumer motivation. Product designs are well represented in the papers of industrial designers Raymond Loewy, Thomas Lamb, Marc Harrison, Richard Hollerith, and Marshall Johnson. The papers of interior designers such as William Pahlmann and Ken White illustrate the changes in corporate, residential, and retail spaces throughout the second half of the twentieth century.
Hagley's unique holdings of business- and trade-association archives offer national perspectives on business attitudes towards government policy and corporate strategy. Hagley holds the records of America's four major national business associations: the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, the National Industrial Conference Board, and the National Foreign Trade Council. These extensive collections offer almost limitless research opportunities on national and international business practices. Perspectives on particular business sectors can be gained through the archives of industry-wide associations such as the American Iron and Steel Institute and the International Housewares Association.
Personal papers form an important component of Hagley's collections. The papers of individual business people frequently contain evidence of family and social life, including correspondence of their spouses and children, opening windows into the changing lifestyles and mentalities of the middle and upper classes. Personal papers of du Pont and Pew family members and of John J. Raskob, for example, document the role of business leaders in party politics and civic affairs.
Hagley's collections contain significant information about many of the commercial and industrial structures that defined modern America, such as the skyscraper, the industrial plant, the department store, the office building, and the railroad station. In addition to vernacular structures, Hagley's collections document several iconic buildings, including the Seagram Building, the PSFS (the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society) headquarters, and New York City's Pennsylvania Station.
For further information, contact Lucas Clawson or Lynn Catanese in the Hagley Manuscripts and Archives Department at 302-658-2400 ext 330 or use our Ask Hagley online form.