This undated collage based on a cartoon by Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937) is part of Hagley Library's William Liseter Austin papers (Accession 1879). Austin (1852-1932) was an executive of the famed Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, which manufactured railroad locomotives from 1825 until 1972, and the collection offers a rich resource on the business of the company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Austin began his career as a draftsman in the Philadelphia Patent Office in 1868, leaving the following year to become a draftsman at the Kensington Steam Engine Works. In 1870, he entered the Baldwin Locomotive Works, serving as draftsman and designer under partner and Chief Engineer, William P. Henszey (1832-1909). He remained with the company until his death, serving successively as chief designer, engineer, vice president, and president from 1910 to 1911; chairman of the board from 1911 to 1912; and director.
The papers in this collection contain Austin's engineering drawings and sketches that he created during his years working as draftsman and designer, as well as correspondence with customers relating to their specifications and to Baldwin's tests. Collectively, these materials give a cross-section of the development of individual components and locomotive types for railroads in the United States and other countries.
The collection also contains Austin's "vertical," or reference, file of clippings, notes, and correspondence, which covers various aspects of locomotive design and railroad and company history. The administrative and foreign sales records date from Austin's tenure as president and director and include a board briefing book and journal, partly in old-style shorthand, dealing with corporate and labor issues.
This item comes from a smaller section of the collection that documents some of Austin's non-Baldwin interests, including personal correspondence and cartoons about contemporary railroad, political, and social issues. Austin appears to have repurposed the cartoon to criticize the abolitionist and inventor William Sellers (1824-1905), a fellow resident of Philadelphia whose career as a mechanical engineer formed the basis for the prominent machine tool firm of William Sellers & Company.
This collection is complemented in our collections by the accompanying William Liseter Austin notebooks (Accession 1900), which contains six pocket notebooks carried by Austin on separate business trips between 1879 and 1892. The trips were undertaken to confer with representatives of Baldwin's customer railroads concerning proposed designs or faulty performance of Baldwin locomotives.