Schuylkill River (Pa.) -- Anthracite coal industry
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of approximately seventeen cubic feet of records of the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company, dating from the period 1866-1927. The bulk of the collection comprises 124 letterpress copybooks from the company's Engineering Department. These contain letters and reports sent by engineers located at the major centers of the company's operations in the Schuylkill coal field — Ashland, Mahanoy City, Pottsville, and Shamokin. They also include the Chief Engineer, the Assistant Engineer, division engineers, resident engineers, associate engineers, mining engineers and their assistants, and transitmen. Among these were George S. Clemens, Joseph B. Garner, John R. Hoffman, James F. Jones, Henry M. Luther, Roland C. Luther, Henry Pleasants, John H. Pollard, John H. Strauch, and S. B. Whiting.
Their letterpress copybooks reflect the evolving organization of the Engineering Department, as job titles were changed and individuals were promoted or transferred from one post to another. The copybooks either accompanied the man when he took up a new post or remained in the office, where they were used by his successors. The copybooks in this collection have been arranged into series by person and position. Several additional volumes have been placed in a series of miscellaneous records at the end of the collection.
The correspondence in these volumes deals with all aspects of mining construction and operations, engineering personnel matters, and coordination with the Railroad for the shipment of coal, as well as periodic reports of operations and wagon accounts detailing how much coal had been shipped. Also included is correspondence relating to the formation and operation of the Schuylkill Coal Exchange Committee, which was set up to ease competition among the railroads in the Schuylkill region.
The collection also includes eight letterpress copybooks kept by S. B. Whiting while he was General Manager and General Superintendent of the company (1882-ca. 1888) . Whiting also kept letterbooks in which he pasted letters received from his superiors: Series 1 of the collection consists of two volumes of letters received (1879-1883) from Franklin B. Gowen, President, and one volume of letters received (1881-1884) from George DeB. Keim, General Solicitor and Vice President. In addition, there are eight letterpress copybooks kept by Roland C. Luther during his tenure as General Superintendent (ca. 1888-1902) and one volume from his tenure as the company's Second Vice President (1903-1905) . Also included is a volume of printed circular letters from both the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad and from the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company (1874-1887), which is located in Series 16.
Of additional interest is the inclusion of letters relating to the operation of the Anthracite Water Company among the letterpress copybooks of George S. Clemens, who served as that company's manager in the 1910s. In addition, several of the circular letters pertain directly to the 1888 anthracite coal strike.
The collection is organized into 16 series.
Series 1: Letters received, S. B. Whiting, 1881-1883
Series 2: George S. Clemens, Shamokin, Ashland, and Pottsville, Pennsylvania, 1875-1921
Series 3: Ashland, Pennsylvania, 1866-1881
Series 4: John H. Pollard, Ashland, Pennsylvania, 1881-1905
Series 5: John H. Pollard, T. R. Spinney, and Joseph Garner, Ashland, Pennsylvania, 1888-1911
Series 6: John H. Pollard and T. B. Van Buren, Ashland and Mahanoy City, 1902-1913
Series 7: Division Engineer, Ashland, Pennsylvania, 1902-1927
Series 8: Henry M. Luther and John H. Pollard, Ashland, Pennsylvania, 1881-1905
Series 9: Joseph S. Harris, Pottsville, 1871-1877
Series 10: J. Price Wetherill, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, 1879-1881
Series 11: James F. Jones and Roland C. Luther, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, 1881-1891
Series 12: John R. Hoffman and Roland C. Luther, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, 1883-1909
Series 13: Henry Pleasants and S. B. Whiting, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, 1874-1880
Series 14: S. B. Whiting and Roland C. Luther, Pottsville and Reading, Pennsylvania, 1877-1905
Series 15: George A. Brooke and John H. Strauch, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, 1879-1909
Series 16: Miscellaneous Records, 1873-1987
Biographical / Historical:
The Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Co. was organized in order to ensure its parent company, the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, a dominant position in the transportation of anthracite coal from the Schuylkill fields of eastern Pennsylvania. For thirty years after its incorporation in 1833, the Philadelphia & Reading had been the main carrier of coal from this region, shipping anthracite coal from independently owned mines to Philadelphia. By the mid-1860s, however, the company faced increasing competition from other railroads as well as interruptions in supply due to miners' strikes. In response, Franklin B. Gowen, President of the Philadelphia & Reading, decided to gain control of enough coal acreage to ensure the company's survival. However, since it was illegal for railroads to directly own coal fields or operate mines in Pennsylvania, the company had to organize a separate company for the purpose. Accordingly, the Laurel Run Improvement Company was incorporated in May 1871. By taking advantage of a loophole in the Laurel Run company's charter, the Philadelphia & Reading purchased it in November 1871, and thus circumvented the legal restrictions on railroad ownership of coal lands. The newly-acquired company was renamed the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company in December 1871.
The company quickly acquired coal lands: by 1872, 80,000 acres had been purchased; by 1874, almost 100,000 acres - approximately one-third of the entire Schuylkill coal field. Originally, the company did not intend to mine coal itself; rather, it would rent the collieries it had acquired to independent operators, with the stipulation that the end product must be shipped over the Philadelphia & Reading railroad's lines. Unfortunately, this arrangement did not prove to be either practical or profitable and the company had to take direct control of its mining operations. Despite this step, however, the Coal & Iron Company continued to be unprofitable. In 1913 the United States government brought suit against the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, claiming that its ownership of both the Coal & Iron Company and the Railroad were a monopoly of trade. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against the railroad in 1920. Under the terms of an agreement worked out by the Court, in December 1923, the Philadelphia & Reading transferred its interests in the Coal & Iron Company to a new company formed for the purpose — the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Corporation.
Materials at the National Museum of American History
The Division of Work & Industry has a collection of photographs from the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, 1866-1927.
Materials at Other Organizations
Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware
The bulk of the surviving records of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company and its parent company, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company.
These records were obtained by the National Museum of American History sometime prior to 1978. They were transferred from the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources to the Archives Center in July 1989. An additional thirty-five volumes were transferred to the Archives Center in July 1996.
The collection is open for research 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.