United States of America -- Maryland -- Carroll County -- Westminster
United States of America -- Maryland -- Carroll County -- Marston
United States of America -- Maryland -- Carroll County -- New Windsor
Papers documenting the farming and family life of the Robinson family of Prince George's County and after 1975, Charles County, Maryland. Papers documenting the farming and family of the Via family of Greene County, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Prince George's and Calvert Counties, Maryland, by 1949.
Scope and Contents:
An extensive and comprehensive collection of papers relating to family, farming, and the Southern Maryland tobacco culture, the Robinson and Via Family Papers cover many aspects of family and farm life. The papers are particularly important in regard to the tobacco culture that defined Southern Maryland for generations. The papers concern two distinct family groups, the Robinson and Via families who are connected through the marriage of Franklin A. Robinson and Adina Mae Via. The papers consist of material generated by the Robinson and Via families in their personal and working lives and as farm owners and operators.
The papers are especially strong in 20th century material. They consist of various types of farm records: account books, bills, receipts, tenant farming agreements, ephemera, land rental and purchase agreements, insurance policies, photographs and 8mm and 16mm films of farming practices and procedures, equipment and landscapes, related to the farming of tobacco, small grains, and livestock. The personal records include diaries, letters both personal and business, greeting cards, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, high school yearbooks, baby books, house plans, recipe books, photographs and 8mm films of birthdays, holidays, weddings, baptisms, family occasions, and family travel, oral histories, and funeral ephemera including photographs, and transcription discs. Of particular interest are the "Serenity Farm Tobacco Production Photographs" documenting the crop year 1999-2000 and the films detailing agricultural practices. There is a memorandum book for Black Walnut Thicket, 1885-1901, the Baden farm in Baden, Prince George's County.
This collection includes a comprehensive range of 8mm and 16mm films and photographs documenting farming practices and landscapes as well as family gatherings, birthdays, holidays, and vacations. The researcher is alerted to the fact that in some cases with the memorandum and account books, books printed for a given year were often saved and used for subsequent years, some were dated, some were not.
The collection is divided into seven series arranged by subject and most often chronologically at folder level within each series.
The collection is divided into seven series:
Series 1: Ferndale Farm (Potomac Landing), Prince George's County, Maryland, 1861-1973, undated
Subseries 1.1: Farm papers, bill, and receipts, and publications, 1861-1973, undated
Subseries 1.2: Farm papers, bill, and receipts, 1945-1960, undated
Subseries 1.3: Farm papers, bills, and receipts, 1960-1965, undated
Series 2: Robinson Family, 1845-2017, undated
Subseries 2.1: Family Papers and Publications, 1845-1993, undated
The Robinson family is thought to be of Scottish origin and appear in the records of Prince George's County, Maryland by the early 18th century. The line has been definitively traced to James Robinson (?-1849). James' father was probably Benjamin Robinson (?-1810), of Prince George's County, Maryland. (Will Book TT1, pg. 15, Records of Prince George's County, Maryland, Maryland State Archives (MSA))
James Robinson and Sarah Wynn were issued a marriage license on February 28, 1802 in Prince George's County, Maryland. (Marriage Records of Prince George's County, Maryland) Eleven children lived to maturity (not listed in birth order); Thomas Wells (1803-1869), Ann, Priscilla, James Monroe, Benjamin (1813-1882), John C. (1819-1895), Mary Sophia, Thomas Stanley (1800-1874), Alfred, Sarah Ann, Matilda, and Rebecca Maria.
James worked as a farm manager for Benjamin Oden near Upper Marlborough, Prince George's County. (Oden Papers, Maryland Historical Society) The Robinsons and their children, moved to Wood County, Virginia (now West Virginia) by April 18, 1818 where James acted as Oden's land agent (Deed Book 6, pg. 123, Land Records of Wood County, West Virginia). They brought with them three enslaved described in the above reference as, "Kate a woman 45 years of age very black; Colonel a boy aged 8 years yellow complexion: and George a boy aged six years of a dark brown complexion." They settled on part of what was known as the "Burnt Mill" tract in the general area where the Hughes River meets the Little Kanawha River. (Deed Book 9, pg. 110 and Deed Book 14, pg. 40, Land Records of Wood County)
Thomas Wells Robinson may not have accompanied his family to Virginia as he has a presence in Prince George's County prior to 1822 and was employed as a farm manager for Benjamin Oden at least until 1832. He married Elizabeth J. Richards on December 15, 1829 (Robinson Family Bible). They had nine children; Richard Thomas (1831 1906), Rebecca Maria (1832-1895), Mary Wynn (1834-1916), James George (1835-1883), Virlinda Victoria (1837-1838), Elizabeth Ann (1839-1916), Sarah Ann Sophia (1840-1874), Franklin Alexander (1841-1905) and John Alfred (1843); seven lived to maturity. (Robinson Family Bible) Elizabeth died on August 17, 1843 from complications in childbirth. She was buried in the graveyard of Page's Chapel (later known as St. Thomas Episcopal Church), Croom, Prince George's County.
In 1843, Thomas purchased the plantation of Dr. Benjamin B. Hodges for $10,000 or approximately $15 an acre. Hodges was a brother-in-law of Benjamin Oden. The deed dated September 7, 1843 describes the parcel as containing, "Six hundred and twenty nine acres of land more or less and constitute that plantation or Estate of the said Benjamin Oden heretofore commonly called "Brown's Quarter Place" being the Land tracts and parcels of land sold by the said Benjamin Oden to the said Benjamin B. Hodges and by deed bearing date the tenth day of December eighteen hundred and thirty five and recorded in Liber AB no. 10 folio 162 also one of the land Records of the County aforesaid". (JBB no. 3 pgs. 312 314, Land Records of Prince George's County) The land was level to rolling bordered on the north by a tributary of Piscataway Creek and generally termed "white oak land". Underlying the whole property was a large strata of gravel and sand. The entire parcel went by the name, Potomac Landing.
Thomas supplemented his land holdings with later purchases. With the exception of twenty acres purchased from Sarah Talbert in 1844, (JBB no. 3 pg. 475, Land Records of Prince George's County) and the purchase of lot #3 consisting of 195 acres, part of the estate of John Townshend in 1856, these purchases were not contiguous to Potomac Landing. By the time of his death in 1869 these non-contiguous parcels had been sold. Thomas sold eighty-six acres of Potomac Landing and Jeffries to Edward Eversfield in October of 1843. (JBB no. 3, pg. 198, Land Records of Prince George's County) On January 13, 1846 Thomas married the widow Martha Ann Walls, daughter of George and Martha Naylor Walls. They had two sons; Benjamin Wells (1848-1849) and Robert Henry (1851-1937).
In addition to his sons, Thomas owned enslaved. The number varied from six in 1849 (JBB 6, folio 186, Land Records of Prince Georges' County) to eleven as noted in the census for 1850, and finally six as noted in the census of 1860. The 1867 Maryland Slave Statistics noted that, "at the time of the adoption of the Constitution of Maryland, in the year 1864, . . ." Thomas owned six enslaved, their names and ages being; Isaac Franklin age 31, Alfred West age 19, Susan West age 17, Margaret Franklin age 14, Fannie Franklin age 12, and Peter Franklin age 9. All were noted as being in good physical condition. (Prince Georges' County Slave Statistics 1867 1869, C 1307 1, MdHR:6198, page 185, MSA)
Thomas's financial problems began in the mid-1800s when Deeds of Trust appear in the county records securing outstanding loans. In 1856 and 1857 Thomas joined with others as bondsman for his son, Richard who was serving as "Collector of the State and County Taxes" for the 4th collection district, making he and the other signatories liable for any uncollected taxes. This, coupled with poor investments, led to his almost being "sold out" in 1859-1860 by J.W. & E. Reynolds of Baltimore to pay his debts. He executed three drafts on Penn & Mitchell, also of Baltimore, to pay off J.W. & E. Reynolds. (Equity Case #597, Prince Georges' County) Thomas was in poor health and his son James managed the farm in 1857 and 1858, and again from 1861 to October of 1862 (Equity Case #873, Prince Georges' County)
In October of 1862 Thomas' two sons, James and Franklin, traveled to Richmond to join the Confederate States Army. James enrolled in the 5th Battalion, Local Defense Arsenal and Franklin enrolled in the 5th Virginia Infantry, the Stonewall Brigade. (CSA Military Records, National Archives) James visited home frequently but was captured by the Union Army in St. Mary's County, Maryland on May 15, 1864 and spent the remainder of the war in Point Lookout Prison Camp. He was released on May 14, 1865. Franklin was not able to visit home at all during the war but survived to return home in 1865.
In 1865, Thomas surveyed a parcel of 172 acres for his daughter Rebecca Maria. Rebecca had married her second cousin, William B. Robertson, on November 18, 1855. He made a gift of fifty acres, and Rebecca agreed to purchase the remainder. The Robertsons named this parcel Holly Grove. In Equity Case #849 (1872) filed after Thomas' death, his widow Martha and Samuel H. Berry, as executrix and executor, sought to recover payment for this land. At that time, William B. Robertson described this 172 acres of Potomac Landing: "There was no fences on the line which separated this land from the old gentleman's land, but he was to put a fence on it which he agreed to do before we agreed to come there. The land was thin, unimproved, with gullies and scrubby pine. If witness had been a judge of land he would not have given five dollars for it. All the improvements were one comfortable quarter the other indifferent with a poor oak shingle roof, worn out which made it not tenantable." Further along in his testimony, William gave an account of a conversation, "In a few days my father in law Thos. W. Robinson came to Washington and told me there his children had returned from the South, his two sons, that his debts were small and he was a happy man." Rebecca and William built a house on the property, a side-hall, double parlor plan that most likely her brother James was builder. They also built accompanying farm structures. (Records of Prince George's County, Maryland, Equity Case #849, MSA)
Thomas' son, Franklin, managed the farm after the War. In December 1868 Thomas entered into a sharecropping agreement with Edward Hanson, an African-American. After about a year-long illness, on May 16, 1869, Thomas died, deeply in debt. He was buried beside Elizabeth in the graveyard at St. Thomas' Church. He named as executrix his wife, Martha, and his friend and lawyer, Samuel H. Berry, as executor. His will divided the farm into thirds, one third going to his wife and their son Robert Henry, one third to his son James, and one third to his son Franklin. The land was surveyed according to the will. His personal property was sold but not enough profit was realized to pay off his creditors. The Commissioners of Prince George's County sued the estate on behalf of Thomas' creditors. The outcome was that in 1876 the property was sold at public auction. The Notice of Sale dated September 1, 1876 in the local county newspaper, The Prince Georgian, describes the farm as, "containing 514 2/3 acres More or less. The Improvements consist of a SMALL DWELLING, Three Barns, Stabling, and other necessary outbuildings. It is well wooded and watered, and the soil of fair quality. It has recently been divided into three lots and will be offered in lots, a description of which will be given at the time of sale." The sale was held on September 27, 1876, Lot No. 1 was purchased by Robert for $6.00 an acre, Lot #2 was purchased by Franklin for $5.00 an acre and Lot #3 was purchased by James for $4.00 per acre. Robert and Franklin eventually paid off their mortgage, but James defaulted on his purchase and later moved to St. Mary's County, Maryland. His portion later came to be owned by the Hawkins family, some members who had worked on the Robinson farm. (Equity Case #873, Prince Georges' County, MSA)
Lot #1, purchased by Robert from his fathers' estate, consisted of 177-1/3 acres, including the dwelling and farm buildings. On July 24, 1872, he married Amanda Malvina Baden (1849-1940), daughter of Robert W. G. and Margaret Caroline Early Baden. The Baden and Early families were both prominent south county families. Robert and Amanda had eight children; Caroline Early (1873 1967), Lucy Tennent (1875 1958), Albert Henry (1878 1914), Martha Perry (1880 1961), Robert Gover (1882 1882), Frank Alexander (1883 1970), Margaret Baden (1886 1956) and Grace Malvina (1889 1965).
By 1880 Robert had paid off his debt on the property and was fully engaged in farming. Unlike his father, or perhaps because of his father, Robert did not add to his land holdings, choosing to remain relatively debt free for his lifetime. The only land transactions he participated in were the sales of 79-3/4 acres in 1921 of Amanda's inheritance from her father and her interest in two smaller parcels of her father's land sold in 1894 and 1928 respectively. In 1928 he transferred 3.09 acres to his son Frank.
As late as the Federal census of 1880, Franklin was living with Robert and his household, both men engaged in farming. Sometime after 1880, Franklin took up residence on his part of Potomac Landing. His brother James most likely built the side-hall double parlor house that copied the main house at Potomac Landing. On February 18, 1897, Martha Robinson, died at the age of ninety. She was buried in the graveyyard of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Baden, Prince George's County.
Robert continued cultivation of tobacco and small grains as his father before him. The first reference to the farm being named Ferndale is found in the "Communion Record" of Robert's daughter, Martha Perry "Pattie", dated 1896. (Robinson and Via Family Papers) The exact origin or reason for this new name is lost but perhaps the name Potomac Landing held such bitter memories of debt and hardship that, as a symbolic break with the past, a new name was found. It also may have simply been a way to distinguish this portion of Potomac Landing from the others. The farm continued to be listed on tax bills as Potomac Landing well into the 20th century, but was known to the general public and businesses as the Ferndale Farm. (Robinson and Via Family Papers)
Robert served as deputy inspector at the State Tobacco Warehouse in Baltimore for eight years under W.B. Bowie. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Brandywine. In July of 1905, Franklin died, a bachelor farmer. He was buried facing south in the graveyard of the Church of the Atonement, Cheltenham, (a chapel in St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish) where he had served as vestryman, treasurer, and cemetery custodian. Franklin died intestate and a lengthy process of dividing his estate began. This resulted in the sale of his part of Potomac Landing (Lot #2) in July 1908 to William E. Boswell. The court declared Robert ineligible for any inheritance due to his being " . . . a brother of the half blood." The Boswell family later sold the property to the Billingsley family of St. Mary's County. (Equity Case 3209, Prince George's County)
In 1910, after living in the farm's original home for approximately sixty seven years, the Robinson family built a new home. It was described in a 1956 insurance policy as, "2 story, frame, metal roof, 16x43, wing 14x28, 9 rooms." (Robinson and Via Family Papers) The house design was a simple Victorian with plastered walls, and lit by carbide gas. Electrical lighting was installed in 1951. The house was built with monies from Robert and Amanda, and their son Frank, who served as builder and contractor.
On Tuesday March 9, 1937, "During a celebration in honor of his wifes birthday anniversary, Mr. Robinson collapsed at the table and died immediately without a word or a sigh." (Robinson and Via Family Papers) Robert was buried beside his mother in the cemetery at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Baden.
At Robert's death, Ferndale Farm was valued at $30.00 an acre, the total acreage, 174 acres, being valued in the whole at $5,220.00. Robert died intestate, again the fate of the land was in question. He left eight heirs, his widow, Amanda, six of his children and his son Albert Henry's only surviving child, R. Henry Robinson. Rather than have the farm sold and his mother's life disrupted, Frank purchased the estate and personal property from the heirs. Before this could take place, a deed had to be granted the heirs for the property since one had never been recorded after the 1876 sale. Equity case 873 was reopened sixty-two years after its supposed resolution. Frank testified, "over a period of about thirty years I would on a number of occasions, talk about the fact that he had purchased and paid for this property and that a deed had never been executed to him and [he] kept saying he was going to have someone straighten this matter out for him." It was discovered that Robert had fully paid for his part of Potomac Landing. On February 14, 1938 the farm was deeded from Amanda along with Robert''s heirs to Frank. (Book 499, page 334, Land Records of Prince George's County) According to the deed and a 1937 fire insurance policy the farm consisted of 177 1/3 acres, "1 two story dwelling, one tenant house, 1 barrack, 1 tobacco barn, 1 corn house & cow stable, 1 Stable, and 1 Granary & Stable." (Robinson and Via Family Papers)
Frank A. Robinson, now the sole owner of Ferndale Farm, was born August 17, 1883. He learned farming and in addition took up the trade of builder and contractor. As a young man, he worked in the general store of his uncle Robert Baden. He was the contractor for the first Bank of Brandywine and many homes in and around the town of Brandywine, including the home of his cousin Robert E. Baden, DDS. He was secretary of the Building Committee for construction of the Chapel of the Incarnation in Brandywine, a mission chapel for St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish. His success in the building trade gave him disposable income that he invested in land. His first purchase was in August, 1915 of a 2-9/100 acre of land in Brandywine that was being sold by the Board of County School Commissioners; the purchase price was $300. In March 1916 he purchased 38.09 acres of his Uncle Franklin's farm. This property adjoined Ferndale Farm.
Over the next fifty-four years of his life, Frank bought and sold many pieces of real estate. Perhaps his most significant purchases were: 18-1/3 acres purchased from The German American Colonization Land Company of Maryland in October 1915 (Book 115, pg. 140, Land Records of Prince George's County); 147.99 acres purchased from August and Wilhelmina Noltensmeir in December 1917 (Book 129, pg. 263, Land Records of Prince George's County) and 320 acres called the Vineyard purchased from William M. Wilson in March 1928. Frank used these three parcels as collateral for other purchases. Never once did he mortgage Ferndale Farm, insuring that no matter what financial stormy seas might blow, his home was secure. Over the course of his life, especially in the case of the Noltensmeir farm, when cash was needed a parcel of land would be surveyed off and sold. He inherited his grandfather Thomas' love of land but had fortunately developed a shrewd business sense to go along with it.
On November 20, 1929, he married Elizabeth Freeland Bourne, daughter of Joseph Blake and Maria Gantt Bourne of Calvert County, Maryland. They had three children: Mary Elizabeth (1930-2009), Franklin Alexander (1932-2023), and Robert Lee (1935-1997). In addition to his construction business he continued farming, raising tobacco, hay, and small grains. He engaged in sharecropping with tenants on his various properties. He was active in community affairs serving on the Board of The Maryland Tobacco Growers Association (MTGA), the Vestry of St. Thomas Parish, and as sheriff of Brandywine. On January 9, 1940 Amanda Baden Robinson died. She was buried next to her husband at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Baden. In February 1958, Frank and Elizabeth conveyed 1.57 acres of Ferndale Farm to son Franklin where he and his fiancée, Adina M. Via, were building their new home prior to their marriage in July of that same year.
The booming economy and suburbanization of the Washington metropolitan area in the early 1960's led to the high quality gravel lying beneath Ferndale into becoming a valuable commodity. In October 1962, Franklin and his parents granted a three-year lease to William C. Nolte for mining sand and gravel on the Ferndale Farm at .174 per yard. (Book 2747, pg. 11, Land Records of Prince George's County) From now until 1975 when the property was sold, gravel would be mined from under the farm by various companies. In November 1962, Elizabeth and Frank transferred to Franklin the 38.09 acres Frank had purchased from Fitzhugh Billingsley in 1916. (Book 2754, pg. 99, Land Records of Prince George's County) That same year they transferred 6.754 acres, part of the Vineyard, to son Robert and his wife Lois, (Book 2765, pg. 201, Land Records of Prince George's County)
On December 28, 1965, Frank and Elizabeth participated in a land exchange/purchase of the farm of Ralph W. and Cordelia H. Brown located along the Patuxent River in Benedict, Charles County, Maryland. Franklin had rented this farm the year before and was impressed enough by its location and arability to work out a purchase. Frank and Elizabeth traded 65.9920 acres that would eventually become Franklin's under Frank's will. On February 21, 1966 they deeded the Charles County farm to Franklin and Adina. Adina named this property Serenity Farm. The property consisted of 480.66 acres. (Liber 179, page 708 etc., Land Records of Charles County)
On February 5, 1970, after a short illness, Frank died at Cafritz Memorial Hospital. He was buried at St. Paul's Episcopal Church near his parents. In his will, probated March 4, 1970 he left thirty acres of the property purchased from the German American Land Company and A. Noltensmeir to Elizabeth. He willed forty acres of the same parcel to daughter Mary Robinson Conner. The remainder of Ferndale Farm was willed to Franklin and the remaining acreage of the Vineyard was left to Robert Lee.
Franklin Alexander Robinson was born August 13, 1932 at the Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C.. He received his schooling in the public school system of Prince George's County, graduating from Gwynn Park High School in June 1951. He was a charter member of Gwynn Park's chapter of The Future Farmers of America. He was extremely active in FFA, achieving the Degree of Maryland Farmer in 1950 and their highest award, the Degree of American Farmer at their convention in Kansas City, Missouri in October 1953. He obtained his private pilots license in 1954. He entered the United States Army in February 1955 and went through basic training at Camp Gordon, Augusta, Georgia. After basic training he was transferred to Camp Hanford, Washington State. There he worked part time on the farm of Dick and Theresa Laurent during his off duty hours and began a lifelong friendship with them. He returned home to farming on an agricultural discharge in October of 1956. On July 27, 1958 he married his high school sweetheart, Adina Mae Via, daughter of Robert Milton and Virginia Woods Via. They had three children: Franklin Alexander (1959), Robert David (1962), and Adina Theresa (1963).
Franklin continued expanding and improving the farming operation by modern methods and means. At times, he farmed over one thousand acres, both owned and rented. On February 21, 1966, his parents deeded their purchase of the Ralph W. and Cordelia H. Brown farm in Benedict to he and Adina, later known as Serenity Farm Franklin and Adina engaged an architect to draft house plans for an anticipated new residence. A small A frame vacation home was built on the property so the family could spend weekends there.
On December 14, 1966, after a long illness, Adina died from complications associated with Hodgkin's Disease. She was buried in Trinity Memorial Gardens, Waldorf, Charles County. Franklin married Margaret Walker Lennox (nee Tallen, known as Rita) on August 21, 1970 (Marriage Records of Prince George's County, Maryland). This marriage ended in divorce in 1977. There were no children from this marriage.
On July 14, 1975 the Robinson family, Franklin, his second wife, Margaret, her daughter Margaret W. Lennox, Franklin, Jr., R. David, A. Theresa and Elizabeth B. Robinson, moved to Serenity Farm. On July 17, 1975 Franklin and Elizabeth sold the remaining acreage of Ferndale Farm to Brandywine Sand and Gravel, thus ending 131 years of ownership by the Robinson family. Elizabeth Bourne Robinson died on July 15, 1976 and was buried beside her husband at St. Paul's Church, Baden. Franklin married Hiltrud (Ceddie) Harris (nee Sedlacek) on July 15, 1978. (Robinson Family Bible) This marriage ended in divorce in 1986. There were no children from this marriage. Franklin married Diedre Gale Merhiage on April 19, 1989; this marriage ended in divorce in 1997. There were no children from this marriage. He married Remelda Henega Buenavista on January 13, 2007.
The Robinson family continue day-to-day operations of Serenity Farm. The land is well suited to the growing of tobacco and small grains, which crops, (with the exception of tobacco) along with a flock of sheep, are cultivated there to the present time. After the crop year 2001 the Robinson family took the tobacco buyout program offered by the state of Maryland and ceased growing tobacco. Franklin is active in farming and community affairs having served on the vestry of St. Thomas Episcopal Parish, the Board of Directors of the Maryland Tobacco Growers Association (MTGA), the Board of the Production Credit Association, the Boards of three schools, Holy Trinity Day School, Queen Anne School, and Calverton School, and numerous other organizations. Currently the farm consists of approximately 275 acres. In 1981 a state agricultural land preservation district of 222.755 acres was created. This was the first such district in Charles County and one of the first in the state of Maryland.
The Via family traces its origins to the colony of Virginia, where the probable progenitor of the line, Amer Via, a French Huguenot, settled in Manakin Town, Albemarle County between 1670-1700. It is impossible to trace the Via line definitively due to the loss of Virginia county records during the Civil War.
The Via family line covered in this collection can be definitively traced to William Via of Fredericksville Parish, Louisa (later Albemarle) County, Virginia. The William Via family lived west of the present day town of Whitehall at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an area commonly known as Sugar Hollow. William Via III served in the Virginia Line during the Revolutionary War. He married Mary Craig, daughter of Thomas Craig and Jane Jameson, on March 17, 1784. William died on June 27, 1836, in Albemarle County (Rev. War Pension Appl. 6363, National Archives). His son Thomas married Sally, widow Griffin, on January 1, 1811 (Albemarle County Marriage Records). Their son, Hiram Karl Via (1812-1893), married Harriet Ardenia Naylor by license dated March 7, 1836 (Albemarle County Marriage Records).
Hiram and Harriet's son, Robert St. Clair Via (1844-1925), served as a private in Company I, 7th Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States Army (CSA Military Service Records, National Archives). After the war he married his first cousin, Mary Frances Naylor, daughter of Samuel Chapman Naylor and Eliza Jane Gardner, on April 3, 1866 in Rockingham County (Rockingham County, Virginia, Marriage Records). Sometime between 1870 and 1872, they moved to Linn County, Missouri, and settled about seven miles from the town of Bucklin. Their son, Hiram Chapman Via (1872-1933), was born there. In 1893, the family returned to Virginia, and settled on a farm in Greene County near the town of Stanardsville.
Hiram Chapman Via operated a mill as well as a farm. On March 15, 1899, he married Adina Eleanor Eusebia Runkle, daughter of Milton D. L. Runkle and Roberta A. Beadles (Greene County, Virginia, Marriage Records). They had three children: Bernice Olive (1902-1999), Robert Milton (1906-1983), and Deward Daniel (1909-1977).
Robert moved to Washington, D.C.. In December 1927 he began employment with the Capitol Traction Company as a streetcar conductor (Robinson and Via Family Papers). During the early 1930s, Robert rented a townhouse at 715 A St., SE, where he lived with his sister Bernice V. McMullan and her son, William C. McMullan; his brother and sister in law, and his parents. Next door, at 717, lived the Moses Albright family, including Moses's stepdaughter Ida Virginia Woods (1914-2010), daughter of Jesse Lee Woods (1894-1918) and Donna Mae Barker (1896-1928) of Frederick County, Maryland. Robert and Virginia began a courtship and on September 3, 1932 were married in Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland (Frederick County, Maryland, Marriage Records).
After their marriage, Robert and Virginia lived in various locations in the Washington metropolitan area. Their first child, Robert Delano, was born on March 24, 1933, and their second child, Adina Mae, was born on April 12, 1937. Virginia was employed outside the home while her children were in school. Her first job before her marriage had been with Woolworth's in Martinsburg, WV working the candy counter and then before the birth of her son at The Hecht Company on F St. in Washington, D.C.. After her marriage she worked briefly for the United States Postal Service in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Beginning in the 1950s, she worked first at the Hecht Company department store on 7th Street in the District and later for Charles of the Ritz as a receptionist in their beauty salon located in Woodward & Lothrop's F Street store in Washington, D.C.. She also worked as salon manager at the Charles of the Ritz salons in the Woodward & Lothrop stores in Seven Corners, Virginia, and Chevy Chase, Maryland. She retired due to health reasons in 1973.
On September 10, 1941, Robert and Virginia purchased Lot #43 in Woodlane subdivision in Prince George's County. (Book 619, pg. 12, Land Records of Prince George's County) A house was designed for them for this lot by Clyde E. Phillips. They did not construct a home on this property due to the outbreak of World War II. Robert, due to his employment in public transportation, did not serve with the Armed Services in World War II. On October 18, 1946, they purchased approximately thirty acres bordering on Burch's Creek near the towns of Clinton, also know as Surrattsville, and T.B. in Prince George's County from Joseph H. and M. Pauline Blandford. (Book 873, pg. 483, Land Records of Prince George's County) Over the next three years, hiring private contractors, doing work themselves, and with the help of Robert's brother Deward, they built the two story house designed by Phillips in 1941. They moved to the farm from Capitol Heights in 1949. Robert raised hogs, small grains and a crop of tobacco yearly on this farm and also maintained his job with Capitol Transit (formerly Capitol Traction).
In 1954, Robert and Virginia purchased a farm of approximately 150 acres in Island Creek, Calvert County, Maryland. The intention was for Robert and his son to enter into a full time farming operation on expanded acreage. Robert D. Via, known as Delano, graduated from Gwynn Park High School in June 1951. Delano was a part-time farmer and pursued a career as a country and western singer with Bashful Bob and the Rhythm Rangers, he being Bashful Bob. He was employed in various jobs, and began a tour in the Army in 1953. By the time the Via family moved to Calvert County in 1956, he decided to pursue careers other than farming. He eventually traveled and worked in various parts of the United States. He married first Delores Cooper, second Gloria J. Irick, and finally Candice Marinelli in December 1974, they had two children, Robert Marin (1975) and Kirstin Marin (1976).
On June 1, 1956 Robert resigned from his position at Capitol Transit due to health reasons. He and his family moved to the farm in Island Creek, Calvert County where he began full time farming. He and Virginia sold the thirty-acre farm in Prince George's County on June 21, 1956 to Melvin C. and Geraldine H. Rardia. (Book 2003, pg. 564, Land Records of Prince George's County) Virginia continued her employment with Charles of the Ritz. Adina, now a graduate of Gwynn Park High School, was employed by the USAF at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland. They both commuted daily from Calvert County to their places of employment.
Robert farmed in Calvert County, raising hogs, cattle, small grains and tobacco. Over the course of the next twenty-seven years, Robert and Virginia sold smaller parcels off the farm. In 1974, Robert and Virginia built a small retirement home designed for them by Calvert Masonry Contractors. Robert died on December 22, 1983. He was buried beside his daughter Adina in Trinity Memorial Gardens. At the time of Robert's death, the farm consisted of 28.694 acres. In 1998, Virginia deeded the remainder of the farm, then less than six acres, to her grandson, Franklin A. Robinson, Jr. who sold all but a one-acre lot in April 1999.
Virginia continued to live on the farm in Calvert County, maintaining a small herd of cattle. In the fall of 1989 Franklin, Jr. went to live with her. In 1993, the onset of Alzheimer's Disease required her to move to Serenity Farm and take up residence with her granddaughter A. Theresa. Virginia participated in various studies on Alzheimer's Disease conducted by the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland beginning in 1992. She was profiled in the September 1997 issue of Washingtonian Magazine. In October of 1998 she moved to All American Senior Care in Brandywine, Maryland and in 1999 she moved to Morningside, an elderly care facility in Waldorf, Maryland. In 2002, she moved to St. Mary's Nursing Center in Leonardtown, Maryland. The remainder of the farm was sold in 1999 and 2002. She died January 14, 2010 and was buried at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf.
Adina Mae Via was born April 12, 1937 at the Homeopathic Hospital in Washington, D.C.. Adina grew up in Washington, D.C. attending public schools. She moved with her family to the Burch's Creek farm, Prince George's County, in 1949. She enrolled in the Prince George's County school system, and graduated from Gwynn Park High School in June of 1955. After graduation, she was employed by the USAF at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs.
In July of 1956, she moved with her family to the Via farm in Island Creek, Calvert County. On July 27, 1958 she married Franklin A. Robinson at the Chapel of the Incarnation. They had three children: Franklin Alexander (1959), Robert David (1962) and Adina Theresa (1963). In the fall of 1958, she and Franklin took up residence in the home they had built on Ferndale Farm. She resigned from her position with the USAF in 1959.
On December 14, 1966, at Providence Hospital in Washington, DC, Adina died from complications due to Hodgkin's Disease. She had been battling this disease for many years prior to her death. She was buried in Trinity Memorial Gardens, Charles County.
Materials at Other Organizations
The Maryland Historical Society holds items (costume, farming related implements) related to the Robinson and Via families.
Materials at the National Museum of American History
The Division of Work and Industry (Agriculture Collection) holds agricultural implements and artifacts associated with both the Robinson farms and the Via farm; the Division of Home and Community Life holds clothing, textiles (crib quilt), jewelry, cosmetics and Adina M. Robinson's sewing box and dress patterns; (Costume and Textiles Collection). See accession numbers: 1989.0688, 1990.0394, 1991.0010; 1991.0722, 1992.0184, 1992.0283, 1992.0321, 1992.0474, 1992.3106, 1994.0064, 1994.0304, 1997.0327, 1998.0038, 1998.0129, 2001.0196, 2002.0087, 2003.0015, 2005.0009.
Division of Armed Forces History (now Division of Olitical and Military History, National Numismatics Collection) holds the Robert M. Via Trolley Token Collection.
The collection was donated to the National Museum of American History, Archives Center, by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., in November 1993.
Collection is open for research but negatives and audiovisuial materials are stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Some papers of living persons are restricted. Access to restricted portions may be arranged by request to the donor. Gloves required for unprotected photographs. Viewing film portions of the collection and listening to LP recording requires special appointment. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
The Archives Center does not own exclusive rights to these materials. Copyright for all materials is retained by the donor, Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.; permission for commercial use and/or publication may be requested from the donor through the Archives Center. Military Records for Franklin A. Robinson (b. 1932) and correspondence from Richard I. Damalouji (1961-2014) are restricted; written permission is needed to research these files. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The Bobcat Company Records document a post-war invention process and American manufacturing system through the case study of a dynamic machine, the Bobcat skid-steer loader. The records focus primarily on Bobcat's products, marketing, and advertising through product literature, photographs, advertisements, posters, newsletters, and audiovisual materials.
Scope and Contents:
The records are divided into ten series which document a post-war invention process and American manufacturing system, through the case study of a dynamic machine, the Bobcat skid-steer loader. The records focus primarily on Bobcat's products, marketing, and advertising through product literature, photographs, advertisements, posters, newsletters, and audiovisual materials.
Series 1, Historical Background, 1965-2007 and undated, is divided into nine subseries: Subseries 1, Company Histories, 1965-1996 and undated; Subseries 2, Organizational Materials, 1970s-2003 and undated; Subseries 3, Factories/Plants, 1965-1996; Subseries 4, Union Materials, 1971, 2005-2007; Subseries 5, Kaizen Materials, 2003-2004 and undated; Subseries 6, Company Christmas Cards, 1965-1974 and undated; Subseries 7, Company Picnics, 1966-1979; Subseries 8, Awards, 1969-1988; and Subseries 9, Subject Files, 1963-1985.
Subseries 1, Company Histories, 1965-1998 and undated, consists of published and unpublished accounts of the early history of Melroe Manufacturing and its corporate evolution. Of note is the undated A Modern Guide to North Dakota. This guidebook is intended for "foreign" visitors (anyone from Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Seattle, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia or outside the city limits of Gwinner, North Dakota) and provides historical background as well as information on the many diverse and interesting aspects of North Dakota.
Subseries 2, Organizational Materials, 1970s-2003 and undated, consists of mission statements, codes of conduct, a corporate directory, organizational charts, and letterhead. The organizational chart, while marketing and sales specific, does provide an overview of the company's administrative functions.
Subseries 3, Factories/Plants, 1965-1996, includes information about each plant.Factories represented include Belcourt, Bismarck, Cooperstown, and Gwinner, North Dakota; and Fort Benton, Montana. The materials document each plant and consist of a range of formats from articles and clippings to birthday cards, highway maps, fact sheets, field trip schedules, histories of the plant, service awards, product literature, guides, press releases, and employee information.
The Belcourt Plant was home to Melroe Manufacturing's welding division. Dedicated in 1975 at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation (Chippewa Tribe), this plant was established to relieve the Bismarck Plant of a heavy workload in welding requirements. The plant closed in the 1980s.
The Fort Benton Plant manufactured thirty-two different models of chisel plows under Clark Equipment Company's Melroe Division for Ag Products. The Fort Benton Plant closed in 1982.
The Bismarck Plant served as Melroe Manufacturing's headquarters for the three Ag Product Plants: Bismarck, Benton, and Cooperstown. Opened in 1973, the Bismarck Plant made grain drills, the windrow pick-up combine attachment, the automatic reset plow and plow packers, and crop sprayer (the Spra-Coupe). The Bismarck Plant closed in 2009.
The Cooperstown Plant also manufactured Ag products such as grain augers, swathers, field sprayers, machinery trailers, raw crop harvesters, grain drill packers, steel buildings, and aluminum grain boxes. The best known products produced at this plant were the steel teeth for making hay stacks and the automatic reset moldboard plow. The plant also fabricated parts and components for the Bobcat skid-steer loader. Of note in the Cooperstown Plant materials are a black-and-white advertisement and programmatic brochures for Clark Equipment Company's 1975 International Teenage Exchange Program. Five teenagers from "Clark North America" were selected to live with Clark families in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, France, or Germany. The Cooperstown Plant closed in 1977.
The Gwinner Plant remains open today and is the main manufacturing facility for Bobcat of North America. The Gwinner folder contains a high school paper title "Melroe" by Craig Allen Knudson, undated, and remarks given at a Dealer Advisory Council Meeting by Jim Strande about the "B Series" from the Engineering Department.
Subseries 4, Union Materials, 1971, 2005-2007, includes information about the United Steel Workers Local 560, the union that is currently in place at the Bobcat Company. Employees formally voted to unionize on April 2, 1970, under the Allied Industrial Workers (A.I.W.). In the early 1990s, the A.I.W. was becoming too small and could no longer provide the best financial backing or representation to Melroe employees, and therefore the employees decided to merge with the United Paperworkers International Union (U.P.I.U.). In 2005, the U.P.I.U. decided to merge with the delegates of the United Steel Workers of America and form the United Steelworkers (U.S.W.). Today, the Bobcat Company is represented by the U.S.W. in District 11 which includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The materials in this subseries consist of United Steel Workers Local 560 handbooks and agreements as well as authorized announcements from the local union members and Bobcat management that were posted for employees to read. These announcements/fliers were placed in authorized areas at the factory in Gwinner. There is one grievance record from 1971 detailing the request that certain jobs be posted so personnel can bid for the position.
Subseries 5, Kaizen Materials, 2003-2004 and undated, contains materials related to the Kaizen process, which is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen activities continually improve all functions of a business, from manufacturing to management and from the chief operating officer to the assembly line workers. These materials include An Introduction to the Bobcat Production System ( BPS), undated, and a booklet that provides a road map to all Bobcat employees in utilizing "lean" concepts versus traditional mass production manufacturing. The BPS is intended to redesign production systems, machinery and labor to be as efficient as possible. Other documents include copies of power point slides and materials from a Kaizen workshop.
Subseries 6, Company Christmas Cards, 1965-1974 and undated, includes Christmas cards sent by the Bobcat Company as well as "mock-ups" of cards created by Flint Communications. The Bobcat Company purchased merchandise from companies that specialized in promotional and specialty gifts. Additonal information from those companies is included in this subseries.
Subseries 7, Company Picnics, 1966-1979, contains information about the company's annual family picnic or "family feast" at Lisbon Park in Lisbon, North Dakota. The picnics typically included a program (musical entertainment), games for children, prizes, and a softball game. The documentation includes fliers announcing the picnic, tickets, and receipts and memos detailing the prizes available and the associated costs. Prizes included, but were not limited to, portable televisions, drills, binoculars, cookware, cameras, bicycles, camping equipment, vacuums, and clocks.
Subseries 8, Awards, 1969-1988, contains information about awards given to the Bobcat Company from external organizations as well as individual awards given by the company to its employees. The Export "E" Award is bestowed by the United States Department of Commerce. Awarded for success in boosting sales of American products abroad, Melroe Manufacturing won this honor in 1969 for its increased sales of farm implements and industrial equipment to Canadian and European markets. Material about the 'E" Award includes newspaper clippings and articles, presentation remarks, and photographs. The United States Senate Productivity Award is administered through the United States Senate Commerce Committee. Each United States senator is allowed to select one winner every year. The program was established to encourage competiveness in American industry and ensure its survival in the international marketplace through increased productivity. In 1984, Senator Mark Andrews (R) announced that the Melroe Division of Clark Equipment Company was a recipient of the Productivity Award. The file contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, black-and-white photographs of the presentation, a tour of the factory in Gwinner, North Dakota, and the medal itself. There are other files about awards that recognize employees: Employee Recognition Service Awards, Patents Awards Recognition Dinner, and the 1000 Club. These materials contain lists of awardees, award programs, invitations, and napkins.
Subseries 9, Subject Files, 1963-1985, captures a varity of documentation associated with the company's corporate structure such as testimonials from owners and users of Bobcat skid-steer loaders, the first invoice for the Bobcat skid-steer loader (1963), the celebration of the 100,000th Bobcat skid-steer loader being produced and the "Melroe Mission to Japan." In 1985, a cross-sectional group of Melroe employees were selected to tour Japanese manufacturing plants and examine new concepts in both manufacturing and engineering. The lessons learned from this valuable trip were implemented at Bobcat and ultimately manifested themselves in the Kaizen materials. See Series 1, Subseries 4. The report, Bobcat Reports: The Melroe Mission to Japan contains employee observations about the trip, insights into similarities and difference between Japanese plants and Melroe plants; life style differences; and what it meant individually to the employee.
Series 2, Clark Equipment Company, 1965-1994, contains documentation about the Clark Equipment Company, one of the largest producers of material handling equipment. There are three subseries: Subseries 1, Company Histories, 1965-1978, (not inclusive); Subseries 2, Annual Reports, 1974-1994 (not inclusive); and Subseries 3, Employee Information, undated. The histories consist of typescript documents that were used for various presentations as well as a printed history, "Growing Up with Clark," Clark Magazine, spring 1978, by Steve Lokker. The employee information contains an employee handbook titled "Your Circle of Security" detailing total compensation of pay, benefits, and career opportunities at Clark, and a Guide to Maintaining Non-Union Status and Combating Union Organizational Attempts, undated. The annual reports, 1974-1994, also include information about quarterly report and annual meeting summaries.
Series 3, Newsletters, 1965-2009, consists of published newsletters for both internal and external distribution. Arranged alphabetically by title, the newsletters represent a variety of Bobcat Company news items aimed at specific audiences such as current employees, former employees (alumni), dealers, prospective customers, and the industry. For example, Bobcat Briefs, a monthly publication, contains information for and about Melroe Manufacturing Company employees. The Summit (Bobcat Sales Masters) a monthly newsletter designed for salesmen at varying levels, allowed them to stay up-to-date on their progress in the Sales Masters Program. It was created to recognize the achievements of retail salesmen. Additional newsletters targeted at salesmen/dealers include the Bobcat's Pajamas, Feller Buncher Toppers, Melroe Scoop, Winners Circle, Territory Tales and Worksaver. Worksaver is published four times a year and sent directly to a dealer's mailing list of customers and prospects. Worksaver is part of the Bobcat Company's co-op advertising program, with the single most important feature being the ability to target the Bobcat sales message. Newsletters aimed at employees include Bobcat Briefs, Bobcat Messages, Melroe Pick-up, Clark Pick-up, Melroe and Messages. The only newsletter not represented in this series is the Spra-Coupe Reporter. See series 8 for this newsletter.
Series 4, Photographs, Negatives, Slides and Transparencies, 1960-2003 and undated, contains photographs, negatives, slides, and transparencies. The materials are arranged in alphabetical order following the original filing scheme created by the Bobcat Company. The only exception to this order is "Products" which are filed numerically by model number. For example, the B300 (Loader Backhoe), 2005, is filed before the 310 (Skid Steer Loader), 1977. Each model is identified parenthetically. The bulk of the materials consists of photographs, both black-and-white and color prints documenting the company's activities. They were created and assembled by Ernie Feland, the company's photographer for 37 years.
The images document almost every aspect of the company and its culture. Included are: products, employees, company picnics and outings, factory activities, trade shows, and dealerships. Well documented are the various company outings and activities that involved dealers and vendors. Elaborate theme-based activities were created for the dealers/vendors which were the highlight of the year. The company fostered a "family friendly" atmosphere and this is evident in the images. Many of the photographs documenting company products show the product in use in various industries and with various attachments. For example, there are photographs of skid-steer loaders removing snow, moving fertilizer, drilling holes, and hauling dirt.
Series 5, Dealer Materials, 1964-2003, documents the valuable connection between the customer, dealer, and the company. Dealers are an important part of the Bobcat success story. This series is further divided into eight subseries: Subseries 1, Dealer Advisory Council Meetings, 1967-1996; Subseries 2, Sales Meetings, 1964-1999; Subseries 3, District Manager Meetings, 1971-1990; Subseries 4, Conferences, 1973, 1974,1993; and Subseries 5, Specific Dealers, 1978, 1979, 2003; Subseries 6, Dealer Advertising and Sales Promotion Kits, 1967-1996; Subseries 7, Co-op Advertising Materials for Dealers, 1979-1982; and Subseries 8, Subject Files, 1965-2003.
Subseries 1, Dealer Advisory Council Meetings, 1967-1996, documents Dealer Advisory Council (DAC) activities and meetings. The first DAC was held in 1965 at the Ash Forks Camp on Lake of the Woods, Canada. Dealers competed in a sales contest prior to the meeting to determine which twelve of them would attend. Over the years the roster of dealers attending grew, and those chosen to serve on the council had an outstanding sales record. The company sought these dealers' advice on all aspects of Bobcat marketing, engineering and manufacturing, and both dealers and company management were encouraged to share their ideas and experiences. It is through a strong dealership system that the company sells its products and many times, it was a solid demonstration that sold the product. Dealers frequently were invited to the Bobcat Boot Camp in Lisbon, North Dakota, where they spent one week training on various Bobcat Company products as well as competitors' products.
To this day, dealers meet annually in different locations throughout the United States with particular emphasis on North Dakota, Minnesota, Idaho, Wisconsin, and parts of Canada. The meetings were well planned and followed a structure with receptions, orientations, dinners, plant tours, presentations, group discussions, and award presentations.
These records provide insight into the relationship between the company and its dealers with dealer distributor materials such as the dealer kits. The photographs in Series 4 document this aspect of the company well. Among one of the boot camp's first trainers was none other than inventor Cyril Keller.
The materials are arranged chronologically by meeting date and contain correspondence, agendas, memos, lists of dealers (in some instances with profiles), certificates (recognizing outstanding sales achievement), invitations, licenses for fishing, invoices for airline tickets, presentation scripts, photographs (the majority document fishing and hunting trips), and brochures. Many of the meetings also had programs for "ladies" since many of the dealer's wives accompanied them.
Subseries 2, Sales Meetings, 1964-1999, documents the annual gathering of all Bobcat dealers. Unlike the DAC Meetings, the annual sales meetings were larger in scale and had more programmatic functions. Meetings were held in a variety of locations throughout the United States, and almost all of the meetings were held either in January or February. The meetings are arranged chronologically and contain the location of the meeting if known. There is unevenness to the type and amount of documentation for each meeting. Many files include agendas, memos, correspondence, name tags, meeting programs, banquet programs, and presentation remarks. Some meetings contained more unusual materials. The 1974 Kona, Hawaii Meeting had a "Clark Money Tree Mid-Term Quiz" designed for dealers and dealer salesmen as a means of testing their knowledge of the Clark Retail Finance programs. The quiz was graded, and if the individual passed, a doctor of finance was issued along with a cash prize. Additionally, an audio disc from the 1974 Kona, Hawaii Meeting, Swing and Sway The Bobcat Way with Bobcat- The One and Only and Cattin Around was intended for use by dealers for a wide variety of promotional and selling situations: background music for radio and TV commercials, local fairs, exhibits, and conventions.
Subseries 3, District Manager Meetings, 1971-1990, consists of documentation for district managers' meetings which dealt with the "how" of demonstrating, advertising, financing, and servicing and the "why" of compact size, maneuverability, all-wheel drive, visibility, time, and labor for Bobcat products. These meetings appear to have been held in conjunction with the annual sales meeting.
Subseries 4, Conferences, 1973, 1974, 1993, includes speeches, photographs, agendas, invoices, memos, programs, and notes. The bulk of the materials consists of Clark Executive Conference materials from 1973.
Subseries 5, Specific Dealers, 1978, 1979, 2003, contains files for specific Bobcat dealers in the United States. The files are arranged alphabetically by dealership name and include advertisements, announcements, correspondence, and other branded materials with the Bobcat logo.
Subseries 6, Dealer Advertising and Sales Promotion Kits, 1967-1996, consists of folders filled with a memo or letter to the dealer, dealer lists, newsletters, logo types, line drawings, price lists, brochures, product information sheets, specifications, and posters designed to assist dealers in promoting a certain product, campaign, or sale. Reg Stansfield served as the dealer development manager (regional, European and worldwide) from 1978 to 1988. It's clear that the company was interested in measuring performance, seeking room for improvement, and knowing about problems. Stansfield had a great interest in training and in helping salesmen avoid making unnecessary mistakes. He created "Sales Success Strategy" cards with sales tips which were included in the dealer promotion kits. These tips were part of the "Melroe Success Formula," which was to promote, demonstrate, sell, and support. Arranged chronologically, these kits provide valuable information on what the company was sending its dealers and the accompanying instructions. The kits also provide a comprehensive overview of the types of industries using Bobcat products, such as colleges, cemeteries, landscapers, stockyards, rendering, and the poultry industry.
Subseries 7, Co-op Advertising Materials for Dealers, 1979-1982, includes materials that were assembled into binders and were distributed to dealers as a way to assist them in promoting and advertising Bobcat products. The binders were organized into categories: direct mail, newspaper, radio, television, Yellow Pages, specialties, signs and displays, and fairs and shows.
Subseries 8, Subject Files, 1965-2003, are arranged alphabetically by topic. These files include topics such as dealer financial profiles, golf tournaments, review guidelines, motivational concepts, sales specialist's guides, website programs, and Y2K compliancy. The dealer-initiated materials include examples of specific materials developed by dealers for promoting Bobcat products and sales. For example, the J.S. Equipment Company of Sacramento, California, developed a Bobcat Bulletin and the K.C. Bobcat of Kansas City, Missouri, developed a mailer card touting their Bobcat Center with equipment and accessories. Proper use of the Bobcat brand name adds value, helps develop customer loyalty and presents a consistent identity. Spelled out in a brochure of Brand Identity and Standards for Bobcat Dealers are the four trade name categories used by dealers: "Bobcat of (location);" "Bobcat (Name);" "(Name) Bobcat;" and "An Independent Trade Name." Additionally, it details unacceptable uses of the Bobcat trademark logo and the associated color standards.
The Melroe Annual Sands Hill One Invitational Engolfment (MASHIE) files chronicle the establishment of an annual golf tournament designed for the company (Melroe) and its dealers to get to know each other better and have fun while doing it. The golf tournament included visits to the factory and offices as well as an awards dinner.
The motivational concepts file contains a variety of notes and lists detailing motivational concepts for dealers. There is an untitled poem about Christmas, Santa, and a Bobcat as well as a 1977 planning session document from Flint Advertising. The Y2K compliancy materials consist of memos, correspondence, spreadsheets, and questionnaires for dealers about their computer compliancy for the year 2000.
Series 6, Marketing and Promotional Materials, 1954-2007, are divided into ten subseries: Subseries 1, Correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, 1974-1976, 1990; Subseries 2, Budget/Finances, 1961-2000 (not inclusive); Subseries 3, Advertisements, 1964-2001; Subseries 4, Artwork/Storyboards, undated; Subseries 5, Advertising Proof Books, 1954-1993; Subseries 6, Surveys/Profiles, 1977, 1979, 1990-1991; Subseries 7, Promotional Ideas/Retail Sales, 1970s-2007; Subseries 8, Sales Campaigns and Programs, 1972-2001; Subseries 9, Contests, 1965-1999, undated; and Subseries 10, Posters, 1977-2005, undated.
Almost all of the promotional pieces were created by Flint Communications of Fargo, North Dakota, under the direction of the Bobcat Advertising/Marketing Department. Flint was established in 1946, by Harold Flint. Today, Flint consists of a network of six companies, known as the Flint Group, serving a diverse list of businesses, industries, government entities, and not-for-profit clients. The Flint Group includes Flint Communications, Fargo, North Dakota; HatlingFlint, St. Cloud, Minnesota; SimmonsFlint, Grand Forks, North Dakota; WestmorelandFlint, Duluth, Minnesota; AadlandFlint, Anchorage, Alaska; and Flint Interactive, an online services firm with staff in multiple locations. In some instances the marketing and promotional pieces have a Knight Printing Company tag affixed to them. This tag provided critical information to both Flint and the Bobcat Company for reordering purposes and dating. For example KN-500-397-#650152-F translated means Knight Printing Company-quantity 500-March 1997-Bobcat Company job number, and the F equals Flint.
The marketing and promotional materials were intended for dealers in the Bobcat dealership network. Many of these pieces were distributed through targeted promotional programs which were designed to maintain regular contact with all existing users, to foster rental customers, and generate new inquiries. The promotional pieces consisted of giveaways, sponsorships, machine displays on dealership frontage, special displays at shopping centers, casual machine displays at stockyards and auctions, presentations and lectures to associations and colleges, group demonstrations, and highway billboards. The promotional methods included permanent advertisements, building and truck designs, ads in newspapers, local television and radio spots, envelope stuffers and stickers for correspondence, fairs, shows, and customer service schools, open houses at dealerships, handouts for salesmen and mechanics, and special telephone canvassing campaigns. These methods maximized the "Worksaver" Program.
Basic markets for the Bobcat include agriculture, agri-business (feed, fertilizer, grain elevators, meat packing), construction (excavating, landscaping, paving, utility, sewer, roofing, concrete, sand and gravel, snow removal, asphalt, and brick), industry (foundries, glass, steel mills, chemicals, coal and coke, lumber, papers, smelters and refiners, castings), forestry, rental yards, and miscellaneous (garbage, rubbish removal, waste paper, nurseries).
Subseries 1, Correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, 1974-1976, 1990, contains correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, the advertising manager and public relations director at Melroe Manufacturing from 1964 to 1981.
Subseries 2, Budget/Finances, 1961-2000 (not inclusive), includes budgets, price lists, advertising schedules (with proposed ad expenditures). There are monthly budget spreadsheets with actuals, budget, and variation for media, production, printing, film and photo, travel, conventions, co-op advertising, sales aids, and miscellaneous.
Subseries 3, Advertisements, 1964-2001, documents advertisements (both color and black and white), color proofs (used to evaluate the ads' final appearance), some examples of the four-color process-a printing process that combines different amounts of the four colors red, yellow, blue and black, copies and/or originals torn from trade and industry magazines. The advertisements are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by language. There is some clip art with Bobcat Company logos and an advertising manual for the international market. The manual was intended to help dealers prepare their own advertising.
Subseries 4, Artwork/Storyboards, undated, include artwork-the visual components of many advertisements-with and without typeset text for a variety of Bobcat Company products. Many are black and color ink on tracing paper or a transparency such as a photographic image on clear plastic. Also included is documentation on the development of the Bobcat Company logo and storyboards for the Bobcat of Futureville with plans on how to set-up/lay out a Bobcat dealership.
Subseries 5, Advertising Proof Books, 1954-1993, consists of advertisements that were placed in newspapers or various industrial, construction, and farming publications. The proofs are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by product or the industry in which the product was used; for example, agriculture, contruction, forestry, industry, and rental. In some instances, the alphabetical heading is further refined such as construction (regional) versus construction (national). This distinction was drawn to distinguish the type of advertisement and where it would appear. Advertisements appeared in publications such as The Dakota Farmer, Montana Farmer- Stockman, The Farmer, Canadian Machinery and Metalworking, and Heavy Construction News.
Subseries 6, Surveys/Profiles for Skid-Steer Loaders, 1977, 1979, 1990-1991, contains survey and summaries from research services that conducted interviews and analysis for the company on the use of skid-steer loaders. The testimonials contained within this section are from employees at Central Bi-Products, (a meat processing facility) in Long Prairie, Minnesota.
Subseries 7, Promotional Ideas/Retail Sales, 1972-2001, include pamphlets, brochures, point-of-purchase ads, stickers, calendars, and greeting cards (Christmas, birthday, and Thanksgiving).
Subseries 9, Contests, 1965-1999 and undated, contains documentation illuminating the company's many and varied contests. Held company-wide and worldwide, the contests were intended for dealers to promote the sale of new products. Incentives included cash, prizes, or attachments for various Bobcat skid-steer loaders. The Let's Do It! contest and campaign of 1972-1973, was a competiton for all employees to think more about their productivity efforts. Employees competed quarterly for corporate awards which were given to divisons and plants with the best nine month performance. Employees were judged on return on investment, inventory control, sales volume, and forecasting while the plants were judged on productivity improvement and inventory control.
Subseries 10, Posters, 1977-2005 and undated, consists of posters created by the company for dealers to use in conjunction with various campaigns, programs, and contests.
Series 7, Product Information, 1967-2008, contains brochures, specification sheets, and catalogs detailing the various products offered for sale by the Bobcat Company. Melroe product history file consists of histories of Melroe Ag products, memorable dates in the Melroe company history and speeches about Melroe Manufacturing.
Series 8, Melroe Ag Products/Spra-Coupe Materials, 1972-1998, is divided into two subseries: Subseries 1, Melroe Ag Products Division, 1973-1983 and Subseries 2, Spra-Coupe, 1972-1998, undated. Melroe Ag Products was a division of Melroe Manufacturing which specialized in farm equipment. The products included reset plows, multi-weeders, rock pickers, chisel plows, grain drills, harroweeders, windrow pick-ups and the Spra-Coupe. The Spra-Coupe materials consist primarily of advertisements, product information, and promotional materials. The Spra-Coupe was first built in 1963 by John D. Kirschmann and brought to market in 1965. In the spring of 1972, Melroe Manufacturing acquired the Spra-Coupe, which was designed to apply chemicals using a self-propelled sprayer. The Spra-Coupe was sold primarily to custom operators and was used to replace the airplane as a means of applying liquid spray.
Series 9, Press Related Materials, 1969-2005, is arranged chronologically and divided into four subseries: Subseries 1, Press Clippings, 1969-2005; Subseries 2, Scrapbook of clippings, 1977-1978; Subseries 3, Press Releases, 1972-1999, undated; Subseries 4, Press Conferences, 1978, 1989, 1994; and Subseries 4, Articles, 1967, 1979, 1993. The press releases were used by the company as "organizational announcements" and were released internally to announce promotions, new positions, scholarship recipients, and service awards. In some instances there are black-and-white photographs found in this series as well as "special" releases from 1972-1974 containing correspondence with television stations and industry specific publications such as the Montana Farmer- Stockman and Fertilizer Solutions.
Series 10, Audiovisual Materials, 1963-2007, is divided into seven subseries: Subseries 1, Corporate documentation, circa 1960s-2007, undated; Subseries 2, Promotional, 1967-2007, undated; Subseries 3, Sales, 1963-2003, undated; Subseries 4, Safety/training, circa 1970s-1983, undated; Subseries 5, Commercials, 2004, undated; Subseries 6, Spra-Coupe, 1988-1993, undated; and Subseries 7, Supplemental documentation, 1974-1975, 1983, undated.
Of note are the commercial films made by William Snyder. Snyder was born and raised in North Dakota, and after working in Hollywood, California, for Technicolor he returned to Fargo to form Bill Snyder Films, Inc. Most of Snyder's output was 16 mm film format in color and black-and-white for industrial programs produced by corporate entities and non-profit groups. Snyder supplemented this work by producing television commercials and commercial movies for industry, including Melroe Manufacturing. Melroe hired Snyder in the early 1960s to make a "short" demonstrating the company's skid-steer loader. Eventually more movies were made: The Story of the Bobcat Kid, Bobcat a Go- Go, and Farm Boy at Heart. The movies provide an insight into the marketing strategy of a small company looking for a new and creative marketing effort called the "info-mercial." Aired on local television in the five-state area (Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming) and using Melroe employees, these movies boosted sales for the company.
Subseries 1, Corporate documentation, circa 1960s-2007 and undated, contains footage of corporate events (primarily National Dealer Meetings), the manufacturing process in the two North Dakota factories, employees at work, and other company-related moving images.
Subseries 2, Promotional, 1967-2007 and undated, consists of films that promote various models of Bobcats and attachments to consumers and dealers. Many films highlight the features, capabilities, and different uses of specific models and associated attachments. CD-ROMs were probably given to potential customers based on their interest in Bobcat products or could have been used in dealerships for customers to access the same information.
Subseries 3, Sales, 1963-2003 and undated, documents the material shown to salesmen and dealers of Bobcats for sales purposes. Methods for improving sales, techniques for selling against competitors' machines, and detailed information about Bobcats' capabilities and features are highlighted to educate salesmen on the products. Numerous motivational and instructional videos were made with Reg Stansfield, Regional Sales Manager, offering strategies to improve sales and increase productivity. Some films in this subseries may have been shown to customers.
Subseries 4, Safety/training, circa 1970s-1983 and undated, documents education of the safe operation of Bobcat machines.
Subseries 5, Commercials, 2004 and undated, contains tapes of thirty second television commercials promoting Bobcat skid-steer loaders.
Subseries 6, Spra-Coupe, 1988-1993 and undated, consists of material relating to the Melroe Spra-Coupe and its electrostatic spraying process. Customer testimonials, descriptions of the use of the machine, and the features and capabilities of the Spra-Coupe are included.
Subseries 7, Supplemental documentation, 1974-1975, 1983, and undated, consists of brochures, scripts, and descriptions for some of the audio visual materials.
Collection is arranged into ten series.
Series 1, Historical Background, 1965-2007
Subseries 1.1, Company Histories, 1965-1998 and undated
Subseries 1.2, Organizational Materials, 1970s-2007 and undated
Subseries 1.3, Factories/Plants, 1965-1996; 2007
Subseries 1.4, Union Materials, 1971, 2005-2007
Subseries 1.5, Kaizen Materials, 2003-2004 and undated
Subseries 1.6, Company Christmas Cards, 1965-1974 and undated
Subseries 1.7, Company Picnics, 1966-1979
Subseries 1.8, Awards, 1969-1988
Subseries 1.9, Subject Files, 1963-1985
Series 2, Clark Equipment Company, 1965-1994 and undated
Subseries 2.1, Company Histories, 1965-1978
Subseries 2.2, Annual Reports, 1974-1994
Subseries 2.3, Employee Information and undated
Series 3, Newsletters, 1965-2009 and undated
Subseries 3.1, Bobcat Alumni Newsletter, 1984 fall; 1987 spring
Subseries 3.2, Bobcat Brief, 1985-1993
Subseries 3.3, Bob Cat's Pajamas, 1965-2008
Subseries 3.4, Bobcat Messages, 2000
Subseries 3.5, Bobcat System, 1993
Subseries 3.6, Clark Pickup, 1975-1976
Subseries 3.7, Feller Buncher Toppers, 1984-1985
Subseries 3.8, Melroe Farm Reporter, 1973-1977
Subseries 3.9, Melroe Messages, 1987-1996, 1999
Subseries 3.10, Melroe Pickup, 1969-1975
Subseries 3.11, Melroe Scoop, 1970
Subseries 3.12, Newsloader, 1979-1982 and undated
Subseries 3.13, Scoop, 1991
Subseries 3.14, The Summit, 1990-1992
Subseries 3.15, Territory Tales, 1974-2002
Subseries 3.16, The Winner's Circle, 1983-1989
Subseries 3.17, Worksaver, 1977-2008
Series 4, Photographs, Negatives, Slides, and Transparencies, 1960-2003 and undated
Subseries 4.1, Alphabetical, 1960-2003 and undated
Subseries 4.2, Miscellaneous, 1963-1986 and undated
Series 5, Dealer Materials, 1964-2003
Subseries 5.1, Dealer Advisory Council Meetings, 1967-1996
Subseries 5.2, Sales Meetings, 1964-1999
Subseries 5.3, District Managers Meetings, 1971-1990
Subseries 5.4, Conferences, 1973, 1974, 1993
Subseries 5.5, Specific Dealers, 1978, 1979, 2003
Subseries 5.6, Dealer Advertising and Sales Promotion Kits, 1967-1996
Subseries 5.7, Co-op Advertising Materials for Dealers, 1979-1982
Subseries 5.8, Subject Files, 1965-2003
Series 6, Marketing and Advertising Materials, 1954-2007
Subseries 6.1, Correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, 1974-1976, 1990
Series 10, Audiovisual Materials, circa 1960s-2007, undated
Subseries 10.1, Corporate documentation, circa 1960s-2007 and undated
Subseries 10.2, Promotional, 1967-2007 and undated
Subseries 10.3, Sales, 1963-2003 and undated
Subseries 10.4, Safety/Training, circa 1970s-1983 and undated
Subseries 10.5, Commercials, 2004 and undated
Subseries 10.6, Spra-Coupe, 1988-1993 and undated
Subseries 10.7, Supplemental documentation, 1974-1975 and undated
Biographical / Historical:
The Bobcat Company Records document the evolution of the Bobcat skid-steer loader from a simple agricultural machine into a versatile and widely recognized tool. The Company's loaders, mini track loaders, and product attachments improved productivity in many industries such as shipping, landscaping, and construction. In 1958, approximately 20 loaders were built, and by the 1960s, the total number of units was in the few thousands. In the 1970s, 10,000 loaders were being manufactured a year. Today, Bobcat produces approximately 40,000 loaders a year and celebrated its 750,000th loader in 2008. Other companies, such as Caterpillar, Case, John Deere and New Holland all make loaders, but Bobcat dominates the market and its name is synonymous with the compact construction equipment industry. The records focus primarily on Bobcat's products, marketing, and advertising through product literature, photographs, advertisements, posters, newsletters, and audiovisual materials.
The Bobcat Company is a story of individuals, simple ingenuity, independence, and innovation and improvement. The Kellers' problem of removing turkey manure from a barn was solved with a can-do, make-do ethos of the farm which spawned a global industry. The early roots of the Bobcat machine lie in the farming heritage of central Minnesota and the North Dakota plains with two blacksmith brothers, Louis (b. 1923-) and Cyril (b. 1922-) Keller. Out of farming necessity to make manual labor easier, a story of technology grew into a world-wide industry that would become known as the compact equipment industry and would be identified with the name Bobcat.
In the fall of 1947, Louis Keller formed Keller Manufacturing (sometimes known as Keller Welding) in Rothsay, Minnesota, which provided a wide range of general repair services to customers, especially blacksmithing and welding services. In 1953, Cyril Keller joined his brother Louis as an equal partner in the business. The small family business noted that they "weld anything except a broken heart." In the summer of 1956, Eddie Velo, a local turkey farmer, approached the Kellers with the problem of cleaning manure out of his turkey barns after the turkeys had been taken to slaughter. Standard loader tractors could not be utilized because of their limited maneuverability, and they were too heavy to operate on the second story of a barn. Velo needed a tractor that could maneuver around the posts in his barn, move backwards and forward, and make sharp turns. The Kellers developed a drive system that was designed to provide the maneuverability required by Velo. A bucket was placed in the front, and a motor in the back. A third castor wheel was added to permit sharp turning. They employed a pulley-and-chain system to switch back and forth. They found that this system was too dangerous, and they abandoned it for a clutch system. The result was a system for "transmitting power from a power unit to propulsion wheels, drive shafts and the like, and in particular to a transmission system for self-propelled vehicles having independently rotatable propulsion or drive wheels."0F A completed loader was delivered to Velo in fall 1957, but the Kellers continued to refine and test it. They manufactured six additional models on speculation and ultimately sold them to area poultry farms. To address the instability issues of having three wheels, they added a counter weight at the back. Additionally, they introduced attachments for the loader-snow blade, sweeper, a bucket, and a manure fork. The Kellers sought to mass-produce their loader. After pursuing various avenues, their uncle, Anton Christianson, a dealer with Melroe Manufacturing Company of Gwinner, North Dakota, introduced them to Melroe Manufacturing. Melroe Manufacturing Company was founded in 1947 by Edward Gideon "E.G." Melroe (d. 1955), a pioneer in agricultural technology.
The Kellers were invited to bring their loader to the Melroe booth at the 1958 Minnesota State Fair, to determine the amount of interest in the loader. The interest was so great that Melroe decided to manufacture the loader. After the State Fair, an agreement was reached-Melroe would have exclusive manufacturing rights on a royalty basis. The Kellers would be employed by Melroe to further develop the loader. Access to the Melroe facilities allowed the Kellers' work to progress and be widely marketed. In the fall of 1958, Louis and Cyril Keller moved to Gwinner, North Dakota, to begin work. Louis worked on the manufacturing floor from 1958 to 1967 developing the loader, and Cyril worked from 1958 to 1980 as a salesman promoting and selling Melroe products and training dealers.
Development of the first Melroe loader prototype (M60) began in November 1958 and was completed in early 1959. The prototype utilized the Keller patented drive design, which was used on various Melroe and later Bobcat models until 1982. The name "Bobcat" originated in 1962 with Lynn Bickett, of Gould, Brown and Bickett, a marketing agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Allegedly, Bickett found the word "bobcat" in the dictionary, and noted that it was a North American mammal that is "tough, quick, and agile." These traits perfectly described the Melroe loader to them, and the Bobcat slogan, "Tough, quick, and agile," was born.
Officially designated the Bobcat Company in 2000, the company previously operated under the names: Melroe Manufacturing (1958-1969); Clark Equipment Company (1969-1995); and was also known as Ingersoll-Rand Company (1995-2007). In 1969, Clark Equipment Company of Buchanan, Michigan, acquired Melroe Manufacturing and pushed the Bobcat loader to even greater sales. Clark was a leader in forklifts, but adding the Bobcat product line expanded Clark's range and marketing potential. In 1995, Clark was acquired by Ingersoll-Rand (IR), a leading manufacturer of construction equipment and industrial machinery. IR wanted a strong brand name and the top market share that accompanied it, and Bobcat was just the thing. The IR Company provided Bobcat with a platform to focus on product innovation (front end attachments) and it encouraged global manufacturing and development. The Bobcat Company was acquired by Doosan Infracore International of South Korea in October 2007.
2 Louis Keller. Transmission system. US Patent 3,151,503, filed Dec. 1, 1958, and issued Oct. 6, 1964.
These records complement many of the Archives Center's agricultural holdings such as the William C. Kost Farm Records (documenting a 20th century family-owned farm in Illinois); the Robinson-Via Family Papers (documenting daily farm life in Prince George's County, Maryland); the Everett Bickley Collection (documenting agricultural technology of bean sorting) and the Southern Agriculture Oral History Project Records (documenting the disappearing farm). These papers also complement the Archives Center's holdings of industrial equipment such as Caterpillar, Page Tractors, and B.B. Brown (documenting tractor engines). Construction related papers include the Clyde Learned Papers (documenting a highway engineer); Lloyd F. Rader Papers (documenting civil engineering); the Leon Struck Photo Album (documenting road building) and many of our collections of civil engineering materials.
The Division of Work and Industry holds one magnetic lifter, Accession 2007.0196.01-.02
This collection was donated by Scott Nelson, President of the Bobcat Company of North America on June 23, 2008.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Viewing the film portion of the collection without reference copies requires special appointment, please inquire. Do not use original materials when available on reference video, DVD, or audio tapes. Contact the Archives Center for information at email@example.com or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. The Archives Center does not own rights to these photographs. All requests for permission to use these photographs for non-museum purposes must be addressed directly to the Bobcat Company. Potential users must receive written permission from appropriate rights holders prior to obtaining high quality copies.
An extensive collection of oral histories conducted by Lu Ann Jones throughout the southern United States between 1985-1991. A few oral histories were conducted by Pete Daniel in the early 1980s. Subjects include all facets of agriculture in the south.
Scope and Contents note:
The collection is divided into four series. Series 1: Oral History Transcripts, 1982-1991 are transcribed versions of the oral interviews. Correspondence and/or notes pertaining to the interviewed individual collected or written by the interviewer are filed in this series following the transcription. The majority of the oral histories were done by Lu Ann Jones between1985-1991. There are a few interviews done by Pete Daniel in the early 1980s and some reference copies of oral histories done elsewhere.
This series is divided into eight sub-series: Sub-series 1.1: Arkansas, Sub-series 1.2: Georgia, Sub-series 1.3: Louisiana, Sub-series 1.4: Mississippi, Sub-series 1.5: North Carolina (including transcripts of the Mexican Workers Project in English and Spanish), Sub-series 1.6: South Carolina, Sub-series 1.7: Tennessee, and Sub-series 1.8: Virginia. Files are arranged alphabetically by state and there under by name; within the file materials are arranged chronologically. Interview files may contain transcribed copies of the oral history interviews and subsequent draft copies with corrections by the interviewer or subject. The file also may contain distillations or edited versions of the interview done by the researcher for possible publication. Correspondence and notes files may include Life History Forms, correspondence, newspaper articles, interviewer's notes, business cards, and paper copies of photographs. Signed releases are on file in the registrar's office, NMAH, with copies in the control file of the Archives Center.
Series 2: Project Files and Reference Materials, 1928-2004 contain notes and correspondence kept by Jones in support of the oral history project. This series is divided into four sub-series: Sub-series 2.1: State Files, Sub-series 2.2: Project and Reference Files, 1985-1991, Sub-series 2.3: Reference Publications, Pamphlets and Articles, 1928-2004 and Sub-series 2d: Computer Floppy Disks, 1985 and undated. This series include bills, receipts, photo orders, travel brochures, reference materials, articles, correspondence, fundraising proposals and materials, USDA Extension Service bulletins, product cookbooks, and ephemera. These materials are valuable in documenting the methodology of the oral history project. They are also valuable in detailing the funding and maintenance of the project over its five-year lifespan. There is also a great deal of information on black farmers. This series is arranged alphabetically by state and county or by article/publication title and within the file chronologically.
Series 3: Photographic Prints and Slides, 1987-1991 documenting the individuals interviewed, their homes and businesses, and geographic locations that were studied as part of the oral history project. The series is arranged numerically then chronologically by year. This series is followed by detailed photographic descriptions arranged alphabetically by state then subject. Photograph files contain photographs taken by a Smithsonian photographer or Jones and any copies of photographs supplied by the subject. Most of the photographs are black and white.
Series 4: Original Interview Tapes and Reference Compact Discs (CD), 1986-1991 are the original tapes of the individual interviews conducted by Jones. This series is divided into eight sub-series. Reference numbers for CDs matching the original tapes are noted after the tapes. CDs 495-497 are for the Smithsonian Photographer's Show: Sub-series 4.1: Arkansas, Sub-series 4.2: Georgia, Sub-series 4.3: Louisiana, Sub-series 4.4: Mississippi, Sub-series 4.5: North Carolina (within this sub-series are the transcripts of the Mexican Workers Project there may be an English language transcription as well as one in Spanish), Sub-series 4.6: South Carolina, Sub-series 4.7: Tennessee and Sub-series 4.8: Virginia and Sub-series 4.9: Miscellaneous and Duplicates, within the sub-series tapes are arranged alphabetically by subject.
The collection is divided into four series:
Series 1, Oral History Transcript
Series 2, Project Files
Series 3, Photographic Prints and Slides
Series 4, Original Oral History Interview Tapes and Reference Compact Discs (CDs) are the original interview tapes and the accompanying reference copy cds.
The history of the American South is intricately entwined with the history of agriculture in North America. Until very recently, post 1950, the South was predominately rural and agricultural in both its production and culture. By the 1980s American agriculture, and particularly agriculture in the south, was under attack on various fronts especially cultural, financial, and technological. This assault threatened the very existence of the small and family farm. Many small farming operations went bankrupt and the face of American agriculture was becoming more corporate. It was amidst these troubling times that the Agricultural Division of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History undertook a massive project to document southern agriculture through oral history.
Through the efforts of NMAH staff, Pete Daniel, curator and project director, LuAnn Jones, researcher, and with countless support from staff photographers and personnel, Jones conducted approximately 159 interviews of individual persons, couples and sometimes small groups, in eight southern states over a five year period, 1986-1991. The project was funded by a series of grants from various sources. Not only were oral histories taken but also substantial documentary photographs and slides of the many interviewees. The interviews ranged from individual farmers to individuals at companies and corporations involved with agriculture. The range of crops discussed included tobacco, cotton and rice. The project interviewed a wide range of subjects: male, female, black, white, and Mexican. The project has contributed to at least two books, Mama Learned Us to Work: Farm Women in the New South by LuAnn Jones and Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall and others of which Jones was a contributing author.
Materials in the Archives Center
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana (NMAH.AC.0060)
Kulp Collection of Account Books, 1755-1904 (NMAH.AC.0149)
Robinson and Via Family Papers (NMAH.AC.0475)
William C. Kost Farm Records (NMAH.AC.0481)
Timothy B. Bladen, Southern Maryland Photoprints (NMAH.AC.0767)
A transfer from the Division of History of Technology (Agriculture), NMAH, July 2001
Collection is open for research. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The John K. Parlett Collection of Agricultural Ephemera, 1859-2011, undated, is a collection of operator's instruction manuals, parts illustrations manuals, dealership materials, farming, farm life, and agriculture-related ephemera. The material is from national companies as well as local manufacturers and businesses.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of farming and rural life ephemera, dating from about 1859-2011, and undated. The materials are national in scope and include agricultural ephemera from all regions of the United States. Since Parlett's collecting interest spanned the entire spectrum of agricultural work, the collection is not livestock or crop specific. It covers many types of farming from dairying, beekeeping, poultry, cattle, sheep, and hogs to raising tobacco, small grains, hay and forage. It includes almanacs, operator's manuals, catalogues, promotional materials, pocket ledgers and notebooks, mail order catalogs, state fair advertising and catalogues, livestock care and feeding manuals, correspondence, receipts, guarantees, chemical and fertilizer handbooks, account books, "Ladies'" notebooks and calendars, directories, price lists, corporate "yearbooks," clothing advertisements and catalogues, farming practices handbooks, agent's sales order books, seed guides, National Grange material, farming co-op by-laws and ephemera, agriculture related convention materials, poultry magazines and journals, beekeeping magazines, barn and housing design material, gardening manuals, sales contracts for machinery, appliance manuals, commodity marketing guides, auction catalogues, home canning and meat processing manuals and guides, price lists, pamphlets, sale brochures, and dealer service manuals.
The range and national scope of items in the collection illustrate the progression of invention within agriculture. The machinery manuals not only describe machinery in detail, but break it down to the machinery components, how it is put together and how it is repaired. The invention aspect tracks the development of farm mechanization from hand work with intensive labor requirements to machinery developed to decrease labor costs and numbers while at the same time increasing production. The changes in agricultural technology in the later years of the Industrial Revolution, on the cusp of mechanization and the availability of mail order products for the home and farm, are documented in the collection by advertisements and mail order catalogues, for products purchased in nearby towns and equipment used in farm tasks.
The sizeable mail order component of the collection provides research opportunities into economics and marketing both to an agricultural community and an urban community. The demographic changes resulting from increased urbanization and employment opportunities in manufacturing -- and how small farms coped with them -- are documented in the collection by detailed descriptions of who was expected to do what tasks and how those tasks were accomplished. With the beginning of mail order by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872, mail order became an integral part of life in rural America. Mail order catalogs allowed rural residents to buy new equipment and follow the latest trends in fashion or household appliances without ever leaving the farm. Mail order also allowed rural American to reap the benefits of growing mass production. Homemade clothing gave way to ready-to-wear clothes sold through retail outlets and through mail order catalogues. Likewise tools and machinery that had been locally built and maintained gave way to parts and machinery that could be purchased through mail order as well as local equipment company dealers. Mail-order buying was made even more accessible in 1896 with the first rural free delivery (RFD) service.
Gender and ethnic aspects of farm life are documented in the collection. For example, sausage, lard, pudding making and similar tasks were traditionally done by women; labor was often divided along racial or ethnic lines and used different machinery and tools for various types of farms in different locations. The collection has a sizeable component of community materials related to farm life such as county and state fair catalogues, National Grange materials, and instructional booklets given away by feed and machinery manufacturers. "How to" booklets and pamphlets covering virtually every aspect of the farm and farm work targeted members of the farm family and its labor force.
The collection complements the Smithsonian's invention holdings as innovation was taking place on the farm as well as in the factory throughout the Industrial Revolution. The machinery manuals with their operation and repair guidelines, the schematic drawings and details on "new and improved" machinery provide a cohesive span of primary material to inform the evolution of farm work from hand and physical labor involving many people to the more mechanized farming capable of being done by one farmer alone or with minimal family or hired help.
The collection includes the business records (1971-1981, undated) for Custom Auto and Equipment Sales of Manassas, Virginia, a John Deere dealership. These records include equipment inventories, a John Deere Consumer Products Dealer Parts Administration Manual, JD Dart operators manual, and a Sperry New Holland dealer sales aid manual, sales accounts, all of which help document the transition from manual based accounting systems to product specific (in this case JD Dart for John Deere) computer based systems. This portion of the collection is illustrative of suburbanization. With the farm crisis of the early 1980s, Custom Auto and Equipment ceased selling farm machinery and concentrated on the urban aspect of the John Deere brand: lawnmowers, tillers and those pieces of machinery used in housing developments being built in and around Manassas. The market for farming equipment nearly ceased to exist and in an effort to salvage their business they adapted to the environment around them.
This collection also includes sales materials for Todd Equipment Company located in Chesapeake, Virginia with a branch office in Hagerstown, Maryland. Todd serves farm equipment dealers in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. They carry an extensive line of machinery catering to all types of agricultural cultivation, care, and harvesting. As of 2015 they are still in business.
The collection is arranged in eight series with items arranged chronologically and in some series alphabetically.
Series 1, Allis-Chalmers, AGCO Allis, and Deutz Allis, 1957-1980, undated, is arranged chronologically. This series contains operator's manuals, sales ephemera, brochures, service manuals, setting up directions, a lease plan, and a sales book. This series includes brand names AGCO Allis, Allis-Chalmers, Athens Plow Company, Baldwin, and Jeoffroy Manufacturing Incorporated, L&M
Series 2, Case, Case-IH, International Harvester, 1903-1986, undated. This series is arranged chronologically. This series includes brand names McCormick-Deering, Farmall, International-Farmall, and McCormick. It includes sales brochures, price lists, operator and maintenance manuals, product guides, advertisements, pamphlets and brochures, catalogues, and a program from McCormick Day, 1931 in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Series 3, John Deere and Company, John Deere Plow Company, 1910-2008, undated, is arranged chronologically. This series contains publications, operator's and maintenance manuals, sales brochures and pamphlets, sales manuals, catalogues, product magazines, and safety manuals.
Series 4, Sperry-New Holland, 1975-1984, undated, is arranged chronologically. This series contains operator's and maintenance manuals, sales brochures and pamphlets.
Series 6, Custom Auto and Equipment Sales of Manassas, Virginia Business Records, 1971-1981, undated. These records include equipment inventories, John Deere Consumer Products Dealer Parts Administration Manual, JD Dart operator,s manual, and a Sperry New Holland dealer sales aid manual, and sales accounts.
Series 6, Todd Farm Equipment, Incorporated, 1973-1980, undated, is arranged chronologically. This series contains the contents of Todd's sales manual detailing various companies and their products. The series includes sales brochures, equipment specifications and capabilities as outlined in corporate sales material, and a Todd catalogue.
Series 7, Assorted Companies, Catalogues, Periodicals, and Publications, 1859-2011, undated. This series is arranged chronologically and then alphabetically for the undated material. This series contains material from a variety of companies and purveyors of farm-related equipment, products, and disciplines as well as farm culture-related materials. This series includes mail order catalogues, sales and instructional pamphlets, almanacs, advertisements, government publications, magazines, catalogues, convention and souvenir brochures, National Grange materials, manuals, cook books, record books, price lists, county and state fair ephemera, beekeeping-related materials, dairying related publications and equipment brochures, operator's manuals, and the auction catalogue from the Parlett Farm-Life Museum auction.
Series 8, Poultry, 1912-1949, undated, is arranged alphabetically. This series contains material related to the production of poultry. It includes magazines, advertisements for poultry products, and educational materials related to poultry.
The collection is arranged in eight series.
Series 1, Allis-Chalmers, AGCO Allis, and Deutz Allis, 1957-1980, undated.
Series 2, Case, Case-IH, International Harvester, 1903-1986, undated.
Series 3, John Deere and Company, John Deere Plow Company, 1910-2008, undated.
Series 4, Sperry-New Holland, 1975-1984, undated.
Series 6, Custom Auto and Equipment Sales of Manassas, Virginia Business Records, 1971-1981, undated.
Series 6, Todd Farm Equipment, Incorporated, 1973-1980, undated.
Series 7, Assorted Companies, Catalogues, Periodicals, and Publications, 1859-2011, undated.
Series 8, Poultry, 1912-1949, undated.
Biographical / Historical:
John K. Parlett (1937-2005) was born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, and was a life-long resident of the county and state. He was a farmer and businessman and served as a St. Mary's County Commissioner from 1974-1978 and as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1981-1986.
Parlett began collecting farm equipment and agriculture-related ephemera in the 1960s. His son, John K. Parlett, Jr., stated, "The more he collected the more his passion grew." Even though Parlett lived in Maryland, his collecting was national in scope and included materials he and his wife bought on collecting trips around the country. Parlett expanded his collection of equipment and agricultural ephemera after retiring in 1986. John K. Parlett, Jr., stated, "he [Parlett Sr.] caught 'the antique bug' . . . [they] went out almost every weekend collecting more things." Parlett did not merely collect old machinery, he sought and acquired catalogues, equipment operation manuals, posters, ephemera, county and state fair ephemera, and even records from an agricultural equipment dealer, Custom Auto and Equipment Sales, in Manassas, Virginia.
Between 1988 and 1993 the collection grew so large that Parlett built a 60,000 square foot building on his farm to hold the machinery component. He converted many farm sheds, turkey and chicken houses into display areas and a library. Parlett eventually founded the John K. Parlett Farm Life Museum of Southern Maryland located on his farm, known as Green Manor. Beginning in 1996, the museum was opened annually for the Farm Life Festival, benefitting the St. Mary's County Christmas in April program, founded by Parlett. The collection was open by appointment for study; the local Amish community consulted some of the materials in the collection for help in repairing their outdated equipment. Parlett was highly respected in collecting circles. He was a tenacious and indefatigable collector who made an effort to collect all types of agricultural machinery as well as archival materials relating to farm life. Rare or obsolete items are included in this collection, as are ephemeral items relating to farm and ranch life. "If it was used on the farm or in rural America in the last 100 years, chances are it'll be at the Southern Maryland Farm Life Festival," enthused Agrifarm.com in 2008 when describing the Parlett holdings.
The last year for the Farm Life Festival was 2009. The Parlett Collection, consisting of 1007 lots of machinery, tools, tractors, household, and general store items, was auctioned by Aumann Auctions in the fall of 2011. At the auction, some materials and machinery were purchased by The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and other museums throughout the United States.
NMAH Curators Pete Daniel and Larry M. Jones surveyed the collection while Parlett was still alive. Jones was credited with advising Parlett while he was building the collection. Jones commented on the collection in 2005, "I was blown away by what he had put together; here was a man who turned an interest into one of the best rural farm life collections I've ever seen. And John has such an eye for good and appropriate stuff. It's just a sensational collection." He reportedly wrote a memo suggesting the Museum "investigate the possibility" of acquiring portions of the collection if and when Parlett was willing to donate items. There was no further discussion of acquiring any of the collection until 2010, when Craig Orr, archivist-curator, talked with John K. Parlett Jr., who expressed a willingness to donate the archival materials as the entire collection was being prepared for auction. Orr and Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., archives specialist, surveyed the collection in early 2011 and selected the materials included in the collection.
Materias in the Archives Center
Maid of Cotton, Cotton Council Collection
Southern Agriculture Oral History
Robinson and Via Family Papers
Louisan Mamer Papers
Harness-Maker's Account Books
Memphis Cotton Carnival Records
New England Merchant and Farmer Account Book
Hagan Brothers Account Books
Product Cookbook Collection
Maryland Farm Diary (1879-1894)
Bermis B. Brown Collection
Cincinnati Boss Collection
William E. Kost Farm Records, 1939-1989
Kent Family Records, 1879-1933
Division of Home and Community Life (now Division of Cultural and Community Life)
Collection items related to farming and agriculture including farm clothing, home arts materials such as needlework, quilts, sewing, kitchen appliances, farming implements and machinery, and 4-H objects. The Lemelson Center has assisted in acquiring objects and archival collections in the field of invention and innovation in various divisions of the National Museum of American History.
This collection was donated by Catherine Parlett, widow of John K. Parlett, in 2012.
This collection is open for use.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
This manuscript is made available for research purposes only. All publication rights are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.