University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Alexander Wilson Papers

1852 - 1890
(bulk dates 1870-1889)

Manuscript Collection Number: 388
Extent: 2 linear feet.
Content: Letters, envelopes, brochures, checks, receipts, trade cards, ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: May 1999 by Anne E. Krulikowski.

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Table of Contents

Introductory Note

The personal and business papers of Alexander Wilson, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery just below Newark in Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, span the dates from 1852 to 1890 (with bulk dates 1870 to 1890) and include letters, envelopes, brochures, receipts, checks, and ephemera. The Wilson family also owned property in Elkton, Maryland, and it is possible that Wilson grew up in Maryland. As a successful businessman in New Castle County, Delaware, Wilson was involved in county government. From evidence in the collection, Wilson was a Trustee of the Poor (1877), Secretary of School District 54, New Castle County (1875), and a commissioner of the New Castle County Levy Court.

The bulk of this collection contains correspondence and documents related to the conduct of Alexander Wilson's manufacturing business. The correspondence concerns customer inquiries about the equipment that Wilson manufactured and responses to Wilson's own inquiries and orders from other manufacturers and retailers of parts and supplies. Most letters are very brief: acknowledging orders, requesting clarification of orders, and stating transportation arrangements with railroad companies, especially the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, whose tracks lay not far from Wilson's plant.

Wilson was married and had a son named William. In the early 1870s, William attended Newark Academy while Edward S. Porter was Principal. Porter was also a professor of engineering and agriculture, which he later taught at Newark College. This collection contains illustrated letterhead from Newark Academy, an 1869-70 circular for the Academy, and a letter from Porter.

Wilson had a sister named Annie E. Wilson and a brother named Wiliam T. Wilson; letters addressed to Alexander from both siblings are included in this collection. Annie appears to have been single or widowed and spent much of her time on extended visits to relatives in Philadelphia and Chester County, Pennsylvania, as well as in Delaware and Maryland. William was a college student near Pittsburgh in the early 1860s. An April 1865 letter from William notes the reaction in Pittsburgh to news of the fall of Richmond, an important event near the end of the Civil War. Later, William married, but he and his family did not live in New Castle County.

The strength of this collection lays in the advertising information presented on brochures, trade cards, and envelopes, which offer detailed information about agricultural machines, engines, parts, and tools, and often specify prices, sizes, and provide diagrams. Company letterhead often presents a fairly detailed description of a business and is often illustrated with equipment or a view of the plant, mill, or works.

Another strength of this collection lays in its record of a network of interdependent manufacturing concerns in the East and midwest, each producing goods necessary to the operation of the others. This exchange of goods was made possible by the railroad, which also figures prominently in the correspondence and receipts.

Many documents in this collection are in poor to very poor condition. Many papers were corroded by some type of acid and others have suffered silverfish damage.


Beers, D. G. Atlas of the State of Delaware. Philadelphia, PA: Pomeroy and Beers. 1868.

Arrangement note

Series I contains correspondence and documents generated by Wilson and his family. This includes notes written by Wilson, legal documents and tax receipts, checks, correspondence relating to Wilson's involvement in New Castle County government, the letters written by siblings Annie and William Wilson, funeral invitations sent to Wilson, and documents relating to Newark Academy.

Series II contains the bulk of this collection -- the correspondence and information sent by various companies and businessmen to Alexander Wilson. A group of advertising trade cards is also included in this series.

Series Outline

I.   Personal Papers And Business Documents
     1.   Personal Papers
     2.   Business Documents
     3.   Checks
II.  Correspondence Received From Other Companies
     1.   Company Correspondence
     2.   Company Envelopes
     3.   Advertising and Trade Cards

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series I. Personal Papers and Business Documents, 1852-1888.
               Personal papers include correspondence relating to Wilson's involvement
               in New Castle County, information about Newark Academy, funeral
               invitations, and the letters written by Annie and William T. Wilson. 
               Business documents include notes written by Wilson, tax and legal
               documents.  Wilson's checks, drawn on the National Bank of Newark, are
               included at the end of this series.

          Series I.1.    Personal Papers

     F1   New Castle County Trustee of the Poor, 1873-1877
          Includes ALS, Nov. 14, 1876, from John Janvier Black

     F2   New Castle County School District, 1868, 1875

     F3   Newark Academy, 1869-1871

     F4   Funeral Invitations, 1861, 1870-1871
          Includes notices for Newark residents Joseph Dean, Mrs. Martha Ram[?], Samuel 
          Scott, and Mrs. Mary J. Gillespie.

     F5   Correspondence from Anne E. Wilson, ca. 1874-1876

     F6   Correspondence from William T. Wilson, ca. 1865-1874

     F7   Miscellaneous Documents (2 Items)
          Includes card noting Democratic party candidates standing for election in 1884 to  
          national, state, and local offices.  Also includes "Report of School/Lettie Groves"    
          (n.d.) that lists William Wilson as a student.

          Series I.2     Business Documents

     F8   Notes Written By Alexander Wilson

     F9   Licenses/Legal Documents

     F10  Tax  Documents

          Series I.3     Checks

     F11  1852-1865

     F12  1866-1870

     F13  1871-1873

     F14  1874-1875

     F15  1876

     F16  1877

     F17  1878-1879

     F18  1880-1882

     F19  1883

     F20  1884-1888

     F21  Unknown Dates

     F22  Fragments of Checks
1         Series II.     Correspondence Received From Other Companies, 1855-1900.
               This series includes correspondence and advertising that was sent to
               Alexander Wilson.  These companies were either Wilson's customers or
               were manufacturers from whom Wilson purchased goods or services. The
               bulk of this correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of
               company; some of this correspondence is accompanied by envelopes. 
               Company names and known locations are noted for companies contained
               in each folder.  Some correspondence was written on blank stationery or
               on letterhead which can no longer be read.  This miscellaneous
               correspondence is arranged by the writer's last name.  The folder labelled
               "Unidentified" at the end of this series contains fragments of letters that do
               not contain the writer's name or in which the writer's name is illegible. 
               Following the correspondence is a collection of envelopes.  Some are
               arranged alphabetically by company name; most are placed in
               miscellaneous files because the company name cannot be identified.  A
               small collection of advertising trade cards is placed at the end of this

               One exception to alphabetical listings by company name follows Garrett &
               Son, which became Garrett, Kent & Co., which then became D. H. Kent &
               Co.  This company also owned Kent Iron & Hardware, Co.  Since these
               various names represent the same business enterprise at various stages in
               its history, the folders for all these company names have been grouped

     F23  Alexander & Co. (Elkton, Md.)
          American Iron Works (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

     F24  Baker Lime Co. (Avondale, Pa.)
          Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company
          Baltimore Weekly Sun (Baltimore, Md.)
          Bank of Hanover (Goldsboro, N.C.)
          Bank of Portsmouth (Va.)

     F25  Wm. E. Bird (New York, N.Y.)
          R. M. Black (Lagrange near Glasgow, Del.)

     F26  C. W. Blandy & Bro. (Newark, Del.)
          Bower's Complete Manure (Baltimore, Md.)
          A.S. Brownell & Co. (Boston, Mass.)
     F27  George W. Bush & Sons (Wilmington, Del.)
          E. Mortimer Bye (Wilmington, Del.)
          Miscellaneous "B"

     F28  Casho Machine Co. (Newark, Del.)
          Wm. C. L. Carnagy (Kirkwood, Del.)
          Cranston & Newbold (Newport, Del.)
          Citizens' National Bank (Middletown, Del.)
          Crew, Moore & Levick (Philadelphia, Pa.)

     F29  Miscellaneous "C"

     F30  Davis, Keys, & Co. (Elkton, Md.)
          Joseph Dean & Son (Newark, Del.)
          The Delaware Gazette (Wilmington, Del.)
     F31  George G. Evans (Newark, Del.)
          Excelsior Saw Works (Philadelphia, Pa.)
          Miscellaneous "E"
     F32  Faircloth & Grainger (Goldsboro, N.C.)
          Ferris & Garrett (Wilmington, Del.)
          F. L. Franks (Wilmington, Del.)

     F33  B. Fritch (Wilmington, Del.)
          Miscellaneous "F"

     F34  Garrett & Son (Wilmington, Del.), 1851-1865

     F35  Garrett, Kent & Co. (Wilmington, Del.), 1865-1866

     F36  Garrett, Kent & Co., 1867

     F37  Garrett, Kent & Co., 1868

     F38  Garrett, Kent & Co., 1869

     F39  Garrett, Kent & Co., 1870

1         Series II.     Correspondence Received From Other Companies (Cont'd)
          Series II.1    Company Correspondence (Cont'd)    

     F40  Garrett, Kent & Co., 1871

     F41  Garrett, Kent & Co., 1872

     F42  Garrett, Kent & Co., 1873 & n.d.

     F43  D.H. Kent & Co. (Wilmington, Del.), 1873
     F44  D.H. Kent & Co., 1874

     F45  D.H. Kent & Co., 1875 & n.d.

     F46  Kent Iron & Hardware, Co. (Wilmington, Del.), 1883-1885

     F47  Kent Iron & Hardware, Co., 1886-1887 & n.d.

     F48  W. R. & H. Gause (Wilmington, Del.)

     F49  Gawthrop & Bro. (Wilmington, Del.)
          H. Gawthrop & Co. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
          Geiser Manufacturing Co. (Waynesboro, Pa.)

     F50  B. Gill & Son (Trenton, N.J.)
          Graham, Emlen, & Passmore (Philadelphia, Pa.)
          Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.
          Miscellaneous "G"

     F51  Harbert & Raymond (Philadelphia, Pa.)
          Hilles & Jones (Wilmington, Del.)
          D. P. Holloway & Co. (Washington, Del.)
          E. F. Houghton & Co. (Philadelphia, Pa.)

     F52  Hoopes & Townsend (Philadelphia, Pa.)
     F53  Miscellaneous "H"

     F54  Miscellaneous "J"

     F55  Keystone Steam Engine and Agricultural Works (Lancaster, Pa.)
          Keystone Varnish and Japan Works (Philadelphia, Pa.)
          Miscellaneous "K"

     F56  L. H. Lee & Brother (Baltimore, Md.)

     F57  Longcope, Campbell & Co. (Baltimore, Md.)
          J. L. Lovett (New London, Pa.)
          Miscellaneous "L"

     F58  McConaughey Bros.
     F59  J. Marshall & Co. (Newport, Del.)
          James Morrow (Wilmington, Del.)
          Miscellaneous "M"

     F60  National Bank of Newark (Del.)
          Newark Iron Foundry (Del.)

     F61  New Jersey Agricultural Works (Trenton, N.J.)
          New Jersey Steel and Iron Co. (Trenton, N.J.)

     F62  A. Patterson (Wilmington, Del.)
          Pennington Bros. (Middletown, Del.)
          Pennsylvania Agriculture Works (York, Pa.)
          Philadelphia Machinery Agency (Philadelphia, Pa.)

     F63  Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad, Newark Station (Del.)
     F64  Phoenix Iron Co. (Philadelphia, Pa.)

     F65  Pusey, Jones & Co (Wilmington, Del.)
          Contains Adams Express Company, Wilmington Branch, receipts.

     F66  Miscellaneous "P"

     F67  A. M. Quinby & Co (Wilmington & Del.)
          (Formerly Quinby & Kent)

1         Series II.     Correspondence Received From Other Companies (Cont'd)
          Series II.1    Company Correspondence (Cont'd)         

     F68  H. A. Ramsay & Son (Baltimore, Md.)

     F69  Reynolds & Co (Wilmington, Del.)

     F70  Wm. C. Robinson & Son (Baltimore, Md.)
          Includes sample cards of rosin-sized sheeting.

2    F71  Miscellaneous "R"

     F72  S. G. Simmons & Bros. (Wilmington, Del.)
          Walter Smith & Co. (Sharon Hill, Pa.)
          Springer, Morley & Gause (Wilmington, Del.)

     F73  Charles Stewart (Wilmington, Del.)

     F74  George W. Stone (Wilmington, Del.) 

     F75  E. C. Stotsenburg & Son (Wilmington, Del.)

     F76  Miscellaneous "S"

     F77  Geo. G. Tyler (Baltimore, Md.)

     F78  Thos. Whann & Son (Strickersville, Pa.)

     F79  Geo. P. Whitaker (Pincipio Furnace, Md.)

     F80  Whiteley, Fassler & Kelly (Springfield, Ohio)

     F81  John A. Wilson (Wilmington, Del.)
          (Also called Diamond State Agricultural Warehouse)

     F82  S. Y. Wilson (Newark, Del.)

     F83  Wright & Son (Newark, Del.)

     F84  Miscellaneous "W"
     F85  Nathan Zigler (Newark, Del.)

3         Series II.     Correspondence Received From Other Companies (Cont'd)
          Series II.1    Company Correspondence (Cont'd)    

     F86  Unidentified

     F87  Fragments

          Series II.2    Company Envelopes

     F88  Garrett, Kent & Co. Envelopes

     F89  D. H. Kent & Co. Envelopes

4    F90  L. H. Lee & Bro. Envelopes

     F91  Miscellaneous Envelopes

     F92  Miscellaneous Envelopes

     F93  Miscellaneous Envelopes

     F94  Miscellaneous Envelopes

     F95  Miscellaneous Envelopes

          Series II.3    Advertising Trade Cards

     F96  Advertising Trade Cards  
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