Company organized to ensure parent company, the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, dominance in the transportation of anthracite coal from the Schuylkill fields of eastern Pennsylvania. Franklin B. Gowen, President of the railroad, decided to gain control of enough acreage to ensure the company's survival; but since it was illegal for railroads to own coal fields or operate mines in Pennsylvania, a separate company, the Laurel Run Improvement Company, was organized for this purpose and incorporated May 1871. Utilizing a loophole in the Laurel Run charter, the Philadelphia & Reading purchased it Nov. 1871, thus circumventing the legal restrictions, and renamed it the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company, Dec. 1871.
Company quickly acquired coal lands and by 1874 controlled approx. 1/3 of entire Schuylkill coal field. Originally did not mine its own coal, but rented collieries to independent operators. This arrangement did not work so company took direct control of mining operations, leading U.S. government to sue, 1913, claiming monopoly of trade; U.S. Supreme Court ruled against company, Dec. 1920. Under Court agreement, in Dec. 1923 the Philadelphia & Reading transferred interests in the Coal & Iron Company to a new company formed for this purpose--the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Corporation.
Bulk of collection comprises 124 letterpress copybooks from the company's engineering department. These contain letters and reports sent by engineers located at the major centers of the company's operations in the Schuylkill coal field--Ashland, Mahanoy City, Pottsville, and Shamokin. These include the Chief Engineer, Assistant Engineer, and division, resident, associate, and mining engineers and their assistants, and transitmen.
Among engineers were George S. Clemens, Joseph B. Garner, James F. Jones, Henry M. Luther, Henry Pleasants, and John H. Pollard. Correspondence deals with all aspects of mining construction and operations, engineering personnel matters, and coordination with the Railroad for the shipment of coal; also periodic reports of operations and wagon accounts detailing amount of coal shipped. Also includes correspondence related to the formation and operation of the Schuylkill Coal Exchange Committee, which was set up to ease competition among railroads in the Schuylkill region.
Four letterpress copybooks kept by S. B. Whiting while general manager of the company, 1885-1887. Whiting also kept letterbooks in which he pasted letters from his superiors: two volumes of letters from Franklin B. Gowen, President (1879-1883), and one volume (1881-1884) from George DeB. Keim, General Solicitor and Vice-President. Eight letterpress copybooks kept by S. B. Whiting while General Manager and General Superintendent, 1882-ca. 1888. Eight letterpress copybooks kept by Roland C. Luther while General Superintendent and 2nd Vice President, ca. 1888-1905. Also, a volume of printed circular letters (1874-1887) from both the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company.
Letters relating to the operation of the Anthracite Water Company among the letterpress copybooks of George S. Clemens, who served as that company's manager in the 1910s. Also, several of the circular letters pertain directly to the 1888 anthracite coal strike.
Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company Records, 1866-1927, Archives Center, National Museum of American History