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Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records

Gerber, H. Joseph, 1924-1996  Search this
Gerber Scientific Instrument Company (Hartford, Conn.).  Search this
75 Cubic feet (182 boxes)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Marketing records
Business records
Legal documents
1911 - 1999
Records document the Gerber Scientific Instrument Company, Hartford, Connecticut, and its four subsidiaries: Gerber Garment Technology, Inc., Gerber Scientific Products, Inc., Gerber Systems Corp., and Gerber Optical, Inc. Gerber Scientific designs, develops, manufactures, markets and services computer aided design and computer aided CAD/CAM systems. The records include correspondence, memoranda, product literature, trade literature, patent records, instruction manuals, proposals, engineering records, photographs, technical reports, drawings, press releases, and newspaper clippings.
Scope and Contents:
The Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records document the company's designs, development, manufacture, and marketing of computer-aided design and computer-aided CAD/CAM systems. The records are arranged into twelve series and consist of Personal, Corporate Records, Engineering Department Records, Product Literature, Instruction Manuals/User Guides, Proposals, Photographs, Trade Literature, Press Releases and Newspaper Clippings, Patent Records, Lectra Systèmes Litigation Materials, and Audio Visual Materials.

Series 1, David R. Pearl, 1968-1984, contains three volumes of diaries kept by David R. Pearl, President of Gerber Garment Technology. The diaries were maintained by Pearl from July 21, 1968 to June 6, 1977, to document Pearl's and H. Joseph Gerber's activities concerning the development of the technology and the establishment of a business to market computer-controlled fabric cutting devices. One notebook contains some materials later than 1977. There are diary entries for September 12, 1979, February 1, 1980, and October 29, 1984.

Series 2, Corporate Records, 1968-1999, includes administrative records, an Industrial Projects Eligibility Review, annual reports, shareholders reports, newsletters, New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) materials, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) materials, Gerber Museum documents, and empty Gerber Scientific Instrument Company binders. The administrative documents consist of a corporate history, mission statement, organizational chart, company map, time line and biographies of key corporate personnel. There are two organizational charts: one for the Engineering Organization (software, mechanical and electrical divisions) from 1987 and one for the subsidiary Gerber Garment Technology, Inc. (Gerber Garment Technology (GGT)), dated 1985. Additional organizational charts can be found with the 1968 annual report. The Industrial Projects Eligibility Review was submitted to the Connecticut Development Authority by Gerber Scientific Intsrument (GSI) to facilitate financing for future expansion of the company. A copy of the company's articles of incorporation are here. The newsletters included in this series are in-house publications for employees only. The newsletter Communiqué, 1960, is in Series 4, Product Literature. The NYSE materials include press releases, photographs, the listing application to the NYSE and printed material about Gerber Scientific, Inc. joining the NYSE in October 1980. Gerber Scientific is traded on the Stock Exchange as GRB. The Securities and Exchange Commission files contain Form S-3, a registration statement and the Annual Report, and Form 10-K for Gerber Scientific, Inc. The Gerber Museum file includes photographs of artifacts and a 1996 memo and fax discussing the establishment of a museum to honor H. Joseph Gerber.

Series 3, Engineering Department Records, 1966-1990, is the largest series and is arranged alphabetically by the engineer's last name and then alphabetically by subject/topic. The records include the files of: Ed LaGraize, David Logan, Bud Rich, Ron Webster, and Ken Wood. The majority of engineering files belong to David Logan. Logan joined Gerber Scientific Instrument in 1957 as a project engineer. From 1959 to 1961, he was chief engineer and then became Vice President of Engineering from 1961 to 1963. From 1963 to 1980, Logan served as Senior Vice President of Engineering. He holds several patents, primarily in the field of plotting devices and control systems. The engineering files contain technical memoranda, correspondence, drawings, product literature, trade literature, notes, and drawings.

Series 4, Product Literature, 1953-1996, contains informational sheets for a variety of products available from Gerber Scientific, Inc. and its subsidiary companies. Gerber Scientific Instrument (GSI) creates designs, manufactures and promotes data reduction equipment of many types. Data reduction equipment allows complex mathematical problems to be solved quickly and accurately. Both analogue and digital systems are offered. The bulk of the product literature falls into the following categories: instruments, data reader systems, recorders, special scanning tables, oscillogram amplitude tabulators, standard system scanners, and plotters. The series is arranged alphabetically by name of product with a few exceptions.

Series 5, Instruction Manuals/User Guides, 1953-1980, undated, is divided into two subseries, Gerber Scientific Instrument Company manuals and other companies' manuals. This series contains instruction manuals, maintenance manuals, and users' guides for a variety of Gerber Scientific, Inc. products. The Gerber System Model 1434, Ultra Precise Artwork Generator which provides precision photo-plotting on photo-sensitive material is well represented among the manuals. The other companies represented include Bendix Industrial Controls and the KOH-I-NOOR Rapidograph, Inc.

Series 6, Proposals, 1961-1980, consists of bound certified and signed technical and bid proposals completed by Gerber Scientific Instrument Company detailing available and actual estimated costs and pricing data for Gerber products. The proposals were assembled for specific companies such as North American Aviation.

Series 7, Photographs, 1948-1974, undated, is further divided into three subseries: Product and Client Files, 1966-1974, undated; Gerber Scientific Instrument (Gerber Scientific Intsrument (GSI) Corporate, 1948-1970, undated; and Numerical, 1966-1974, undated photographs. The majority of photographs are 8" x 10" black-and-white prints. The product and client file photographs are arranged alphabetically. The Gerber Scientific Instrument (GSI) corporate photographs include photographs of GSI buildings both interior and exterior shots, employees, employee functions such as banquets, annual meetings, tours, stockholder meetings, and trade shows. The numerical photographs are arranged numerically according to the number assigned on the reverse of the photograph. Some of the numerical photographs are identified by product name, but others are labeled unidentified.

Series 8, Trade Literature, 1947-1992, is arranged alphabetically by company name. The trade literature in this series is from competitors or from companies that used Gerber products.

Series 9, Press Releases and Newspaper Clippings, 1943-1996, is divided into two subseries, Press Releases, 1972-1982 and Newspaper Clippings, 1943-1996. The press releases are arranged chronologically. This series contains information on H. Joseph Gerber, his company and its subsidiaries, and the garment and apparel industry. The newspaper clippings are arranged chronologically and include a wide variety of local Connecticut and United States newspapers and industry specific magazines such as Bobbin and Apparel Industry.

Series 10, Patent Records, 1911-1985, contains copies of patents, correspondence with patent attorneys and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, patent search results, and other legal filings associated with the patenting process. The materials are arranged chronologically with the name of the equipment or instruments being patented noted.

Series 11, Lectra Systèmes Litigation Materials, 1968-1990, contains documents that mainly deal with Lectra (France), but there are documents about patent infringement for Lectra (Japan) and Lectra (United Kingdom). The materials consist of depositions by David Pearl, then president of Gerber Garment Technology, and David Siegelman, then Vice President and General Manager for Lectra Systèmes, Inc., in the United States. Confidential progress reports, memoranda, correspondence, competition reports, drawings and sketches, notes, and other documents summarize events in the litigation history.

Lectra Systèmes was formed on November 12, 1973 at Bordeaux-Cestas (France) by two visionary engineers, Jean and Bernard Etcheparre. They developed a computer system, the LECteur-TRAceur 200, which automatically calculated and plotted all sizes of an item of apparel. The Lectra Systèmes litigation materials document Gerber Garment Technology's claim that Lectra infringed upon Gerber's line of cutting machines. The specific patents being infringed are United States patents: 3,955,458; 4,205,835; and 3,765,289. In September 1986, Lectra introduced a new line of cutting machines that cost roughly half as much as Gerber's top-of-the-line competing system. Gerber Garment Technology filed suit in the United States and France as Gerber Garment Technology, Inc. v. Lectra Systems, Inc. Civil Action No. 1:86-cv-2054CAM. In 1992, Lectra Systems, Inc., appealled the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District infringement of Gerber's U.S. Patent No. 3,955,458 ('458 patent) and denied Lectra's claim that Gerber's U.S. Patent No., 4,205,835 ('835 patent) is unenforceable.

Series 12, Audio Visual Materials, 1986-1998, includes 3⁄4" U-matic, 1⁄2" VHS, audio cassettes, BetaCam SP, and one Super 8mm color, silent camera original reversal film. The majority the of audio visual materials cover interviews with H. Joseph Gerber, the National Technology of Medal ceremony, and sales and marketing footage for various Gerber products.
The collection is organized into twelve series.

Series 1: David R. Pearl Materials, 1968-1984

Series 2: Corporate Records, 1968-2002

Subseries 2.1: Administrative, circa 1977-1995

Subseries 2.2: Industrial Projects Eligibility Review, undated (contains articles of incorporation for Gerber Scientific)

Subseries 2.3: Annual Reports, 1968-1999

Subseries 2.4: Shareholders Reports, 1990-1995, 1997, 1998

Subseries 2.5: Newsletters, 1969-1996

Subseries 2.6: New York Stock Exchange, 1980 October

Subseries 2.7: Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 1983-1992

Subseries 2.8: Gerber Museum, 1996

Subseries 2.9: Gerber Scientific Instrument Company binders (empty), undated

Subseries 2.10: Stock and Financial Information, 1949-2002

Series 3: Engineering Department Records, 1966-1990

Subseries 3.1: Ed LaGraize's Files, 1978-1990

Subseries 3.2: Dave Logan's Engineering Files, 1966-1990

Subseries 3.3: Dave Logan's Competitors Files, 1966-1982

Subseries 3.4: Bud Rich's Files, 1967-1980

Subseries 3.5, Ron Webster's Files, 1963-1992

Subseries 3.6: Ken Wood's Files, 1976-1980

Subseries 3.7: Ken Wood's Case Study of Model 1434, 1966-1989

Subseries 3.8: General Engineering Files, 1970-1980

Series 4: Product Literature, 1953-1996

Series 5: Instruction Manuals/User Guides, 1953-1980, undated

Subseries 5.1: Gerber Scientific Instrument Company, 1953-1979

Subseries 5.2: Other Companies, 1962, 1980

Series 6: Proposals, 1961-1980

Series 7: Photographs, 1948-1974, undated

Subseries 7.1, Product and Client Files, 1966-1974, undated

Subseries 7.2, Gerber Scientific Instrument Corporate, 1948-1970, undated

Subseries 7.3, Numerical, 1966-1974, undated

Series 8: Trade Literature, 1947-1992

Series 9: Press Releases and Newspaper Clippings, 1943-1998

Subseries 9.1: Press Releases, 1972-1998

Subseries 9.2: Newspaper clippings, 1943-1996

Subseries 9.3: Articles, 1969-1991

Series 10: Patent Records, 1911-1985

Series 11: Lectra Systèmes Litigation Materials, 1968-1990

Series 12: Audio Visual Materials, 1986-1998
Biographical / Historical:
Heinz Joseph "Joe" Gerber was born in Vienna, Austria, on April 17, 1924. In 1940, Gerber escaped the Nazis and immigrated to New York City and then to Hartford, Connecticut, with his mother Bertha Gerber, a dressmaker. Gerber's father, Jacob, is presumed to have died in a concentration camp. Gerber attended Weaver High School and graduated in two years (1943). He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, on a scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1947. As a junior at RPI, Gerber developed the Gerber Variable Scale, his first invention. The earliest version of the variable scale was fashioned from an elastic band removed from a pair of pajamas. Gerber created a rubber rule and scale that could flow with a curve, expand, contract, and turn a corner. The scale allows for direct reading of curves, graphs, and graphical representations, giving direct numerical readings of proportions, spacing and interpolation. The Variable Scale became the building block of what would become Gerber Scientific Instrument Inc.

With financial assistance from Abraham Koppleman, a newspaper and magazine distributor in Hartford, Gerber and Koppleman formed a partnership and incorporated Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in 1948. Gerber served as president, Koppleman as treasurer, and Stanley Levin as secretary. The manufacture of Variable Scale was jobbed out and the distribution was conducted from Hartford. Gerber also worked as a design analytical engineer for Hamilton Standard Propellers of United Aircraft and for Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Shares of Gerber Scientific Instrument Company were eventually sold to the public in 1961, and in 1978, the company changed its name to Gerber Scientific, Inc. In the 1960s and 1970s, Gerber developed the first series of precision, computer-driven cutting systems for the apparel industry called the Gerber Cutter. The cutters introduced automation to the garment industry. In 1967, Gerber realized that the U.S. garment industry, due to a lack of automation, was faced with increasing overseas competition. Gerber's solution was to engineer the GERBERcutter S-70, a machine that cuts apparel quickly and effectively while using less cloth.

Gerber holds more than 600 United States and foreign patents. Many of his patents relate to the United States apparel industry. In 1994, Gerber was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton for helping to revolutionize the optical, garment, automotive, and other industries. His pioneering achievements include:

-a generation of data readers (electromechanical devices that converted graphical data directly into computer readable format);

-projection systems that interactively converted information from aerial photographs for use in computers;

-devices that plotted digital output data from computer cards or tape;

-digital numerically-controlled drafting machines which verify the accuracy of the cutting path of numerical machine tools;

-a photoplotter (drafting machine configured with a unique light source to directly draw high accuracy layouts of printed circuit board masters on photographic film or glass with light beams); and

-systems with laser technology to draw at high speeds.1

Subsequent subsidiaries of Gerber Scientific, Inc., were: Gerber Garment Technology, Inc. (GGT); Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. (GSP); Gerber Systems Corp. (GSC), and Gerber Optical, Inc., (GO). GGT makes computer-controlled cutting and design equipment for apparel, automotive, aerospace and other industries. GSP produces systems for sign-making and graphic arts industries. GSC makes production systems for printing, industrial machinery and other industries. GO makes equipment for the optical-lens manufacturing industry.2

In 1954, Gerber married Sonia Kanciper. They had a daughter, Melisa Tina Gerber, and a son, David Jacques Gerber. H. Joseph Gerber died on August 9, 1996, at the age of 72.


1 National Medal of Technology, 1994.

2 W. Joseph Campbell, "High Tech and Low Key as Gerber Scientific Mounts a Recovery Philosophy that Reflects Innovative Founder," Hartford Courant, May 16, 1994.
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation, February 1996 (AC0609)

This videohistory documents the inventor, engineers, assembly workers, operators and other technicians who worked with the computer-controlled fabric cutter.

Heinz Joseph Gerber Papers (AC1336)

This collection documents Joseph Gerber's personal life including his highschool and college years, correpondence with family and friends, and speeches given by Gerber throughout his life.
The collection was donated by David Gerber, son of H. Joseph Gerber, on December 23, 2006.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Fabric cutters -- 1960-1990  Search this
Inventors  Search this
Computerized instruments -- 1960-1990  Search this
Automation -- 1960-1990  Search this
Machinery -- 1960-1990  Search this
Machine-tool industry  Search this
Marketing records
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- 1940-2000
Correspondence -- 20th century
Business records -- 1950-2000
Legal documents
Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Online Media:

John K. Parlett Collection of Agricultural Ephemera

Custom Auto and Equipment Sales  Search this
Allis-Chalmers -- 20th century  Search this
Case -- 20th century  Search this
International Harvestor. Case-IH -- 20th century  Search this
John Deere and Company. John Deere Plow Company -- 20th century  Search this
Sperry New Holland -- 20th century  Search this
Todd Equipment Company -- 20th century  Search this
Parlett, John K., 1937-2005  Search this
20 Cubic feet (60 boxes)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
1859-2011, undated
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 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.
Related Materials:
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.
Tobacco -- 20th century  Search this
Tobacco  Search this
Poultry industry  Search this
Farmers  Search this
Farm ownership  Search this
Farm management  Search this
Tobacco farmers  Search this
Farm produce -- 1820-1850  Search this
Farm buildings  Search this
Family farms  Search this
Farm life -- 20th century  Search this
Farm equipment  Search this
Farmers' markets  Search this
Farmers -- Virginia  Search this
Dairy farms  Search this
Cotton farming  Search this
Hay  Search this
Community organization  Search this
Family  Search this
Factories  Search this
Machinery -- 1940-1990  Search this
Machinery industry  Search this
Harvesting machinery  Search this
Machinery -- 1960-1990  Search this
Agricultural machinery  Search this
Machinery  Search this
Farmers -- 1930-1950  Search this
Farmers -- 1940-1990  Search this
Farmers -- 19th century  Search this
Farmers -- 1860-1870  Search this
John K. Parlett Collection of Agricultural Ephemera, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
John K. Parlett Collection of Agricultural Ephemera
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

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