Collections

Overview

Hagley Museum and Library collects, preserves, and interprets the unfolding history of American enterprise. Hagley's collections document the interaction between business and the cultural, social, and political dimensions of our society from the late 18th century to the present. Our research collections are organized into four departments

Collection Descriptions

Audiovisual Collection and Digital Initiatives

For information about collections in our Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives, please contact us at 302-658-2400 ext 276 or via email at askhagley@hagley.org

The Hagley Library’s Audiovisual and Digital Initiatives Department collects, preserves, and makes available a growing collection of photographs/prints, motion picture film/video, audio, and electronic records related to the history of business and technology. The department provides reference for internal and external researchers which includes coordinating reproduction requests and permission to publish administration. Department staff accession, process, and catalog collections to enhance access for researchers world-wide. The department administers Hagley’s digital assets and infrastructure: 1) the effort to digitize collection materials for preservation and access; 2) the maintenance of Hagley’s digital platforms to provide access and preserve digital content; and 3) serve as the foundation’s primary contact for the development and implementation of digital projects.

The Hagley Audiovisual collection covers a wide range of topics from heavy industry to neighborhood corner stores and from nineteenth century trade cards to digital images from this century.

Subjects in the collection, under the broad scope of business and technology, include materials related to the following industries: railroads, textiles, chemicals, heavy machinery, coal mining, explosives, synthetic fibers, iron/steel, shipbuilding, building construction / architecture, computers/automation, mass communication, aeronautics, and many other topics.

The service and consumer economy is represented with collections related to industrial design, departments stores, fashion/clothing, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, service stations, convenience stores, etc.

The collection also includes audiovisual content from trade organizations including, most prominently, the United States Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Foreign Trade Council among other smaller organizations advocating for the interests of business community.

And, finally, the collection has material related to the du Pont family and the community surrounding the original DuPont Company powder yards along the banks of the Brandywine near Wilmington, Delaware.

For a more detailed look at the Hagley Audiovisual and Digital Collections search our online Finding Aids Database and Public Access Catalog

The Hagley Digital Archives provides online access to a limited but growing selection of items from the library's collections of images, documents, and publications related to the history of business, technology, and society. Hagley's online archives gives users from all over the world an opportunity to incorporate Hagley materials into their research. It can be accessed on the web at digital.hagley.org

For further information, contact Kevin Martin, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives at 302-658-2400 ext 276 or use our Ask Hagley online form.

Manuscripts and Archives Collection

For information about collections in our Manuscripts and Archives Department, please contact us at 302-658-2400 ext 330 or send us an email at askhagley@hagley.org

Hagley's Manuscripts and Archives Department has more than 2,500 separate collections, ranging in size from a single item to 3,000 linear feet. They cover the full spectrum of American business and technology from the mercantile houses of the late eighteenth century to the multinational corporations of the twenty-first, including also the personal and family papers of the entrepreneurs, inventors, designers, and managers who helped build them.

The business records of the DuPont Company and du Pont family papers constitute one of the library's great assets. The history of northeastern railroads and of iron, steel, coal, and oil production are well represented, along with a myriad of smaller collections on industrial, commercial, and mercantile activities in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. While much of this documentation concerns business activities in the Mid-Atlantic region, firm records such as those of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Sun Oil (Sunoco), and DuPont cover national and often international operations.

The scope of manuscript and archival materials has expanded steadily to include wide-ranging areas of business activity. Firms with innovative technological practices― ranging from leading military contractors such as Sperry Gyroscope (and the personal papers of Elmer Sperry) to the MCI records that detail many aspects of the computer and communications revolution―have deposited their records at Hagley. Records and photographs of Sperry–UNIVAC, the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, Engineering Research Associates, and the IBM antitrust suit trace the early history of the computer and aeronautics industries. The records of the RCA Corporation include thousands of technical reports that document the development of a wide array of consumer and military electronics products.

The development of American consumer culture and business' central role in this process is a major collecting emphasis. Consumer-oriented companies such as Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Avon Products, and the Strawbridge & Clothier department-store chain offer rich insights into the relationships between such firms and the consumer marketplace. The Irving Koons collection provides invaluable information on mass marketing, advertising, market research, and packaging, and Ernest Dichter's papers contain rich research studies on consumer motivation. Product designs are well represented in the papers of industrial designers Raymond Loewy, Thomas Lamb, Marc Harrison, Richard Hollerith, and Marshall Johnson. The papers of interior designers such as William Pahlmann and Ken White illustrate the changes in corporate, residential, and retail spaces throughout the second half of the twentieth century.

Hagley's unique holdings of business- and trade-association archives offer national perspectives on business attitudes towards government policy and corporate strategy. Hagley holds the records of America's four major national business associations: the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, the National Industrial Conference Board, and the National Foreign Trade Council. These extensive collections offer almost limitless research opportunities on national and international business practices. Perspectives on particular business sectors can be gained through the archives of industry-wide associations such as the American Iron and Steel Institute and the International Housewares Association.

Personal papers form an important component of Hagley's collections. The papers of individual business people frequently contain evidence of family and social life, including correspondence of their spouses and children, opening windows into the changing lifestyles and mentalities of the middle and upper classes. Personal papers of du Pont and Pew family members and of John J. Raskob, for example, document the role of business leaders in party politics and civic affairs.

Hagley's collections contain significant information about many of the commercial and industrial structures that defined modern America, such as the skyscraper, the industrial plant, the department store, the office building, and the railroad station. In addition to vernacular structures, Hagley's collections document several iconic buildings, including the Seagram Building, the PSFS (the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society) headquarters, and New York City's Pennsylvania Station

Museum Collection

Hagley’s Museum Collection contains more than 65,000 artifacts. Its beginnings go back to the donation of the DuPont Museum Collection in 1954 which focuses on innovations produced by the company including nineteenth century improvements in gunpowder and explosives as well as twentieth century innovative products such as Pyralin, Cellophane, nylon, Dacron®, Orlon, Kevlar® and more.

A very large United States patent model collection, numbering close to 5,000, reflects nineteenth century American inventions and innovations. Other collections at Hagley reflect the du Pont family and powder workers who owned, managed and worked at the Hagley site.

Only a very small percentage of the collection is on display at any time. If you wish to examine an object listed as not on display, please schedule an appointment at least two weeks in advance in order for staff to pull objects out of storage for the visit.

For questions about the collection, please contact Museum Registrar Keith Minsinger at kminsinger@hagley.org or by phone at (302) 658-2400 extension 309.

For inquiries related to donating objects to the collection, please contact Curator of Collections and Exhibits Debra Hughes at dhughes@hagley.org or by phone at (302) 658-2400 extension 308.

 

Published Collection

For information about collections in our Published Collections​ Department, please contact us at 302-658-2400 ext 227 or via email at askhagley@hagley.org

The Published Collections Department holds Hagley's printed and published materials, with particular emphasis on publications not typically found in general or college and university libraries. It began with books and periodicals collected by Pierre S. du Pont on the development of business and industry in America, a practice that successive librarians have continued. Hagley has substantial holdings of printed material on national and international business history with particular strength in business activities in the region between the Hudson and the Potomac and west to the Allegheny Mountains. The Published Collections Department also holds the library of French Physiocrat Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the finest collection on late-eighteenth-century French society and politics on this side of the Atlantic.

The published collections have expanded by obtaining tens of thousands of publications from firms, trade associations, and individuals associated with American business as well as printed materials from government entities that pertain to business practices. Business publications form the largest component of the published collections. Company magazines, such as Better Living from DuPont and Store Chat by Strawbridge & Clothier, typically contain articles prepared by the company's advertising or public relations department. These magazines often include profiles and news of employee activities such as events, promotions, or retirements, and occasionally "family" or "women's" pages. Company histories and other promotional materials directed to customers usually combine interesting visuals with statements of corporate self-image. Because corporate reports were not usually circulated outside the company, they often contain what was once proprietary information; Hagley's collection of corporate reports, therefore, offers interesting insight and information on historical business perspectives.

Hagley's collection of more than 40,000 trade catalogs, which runs from the mid-nineteenth century to date, is one of the finest in the country. These catalogs usually contain illustrations and descriptions of items marketed to firms for use in their manufacturing or commercial activities. They range from describing tools and industrial machinery―such as Presses, Dies, Tools and Special Machines for Working Sheet Metal (1909), by the Adriance Machine Works―to promoting items for eventual use by individuals―as with the Age of Steel in Office Equipment (1900), from the Rand Kardex Service Corporation. Thousands of products from virtually all American industries can be researched in Hagley's holdings of trade catalogs.

Publications pertaining to particular business sectors form another substantial segment of the Published Collections Department's holdings. Hagley aggressively collects trade journals devoted to single industries, whether consumer goods-oriented, such as Browning's Magazine: A Periodical of Fashions and Fancies (1890-1922), or directed to manufacturers, as with The Industrial Review and Textile Reporter (1887-1893). These journals contain extremely rich information on business practices and interactions with customers. Pamphlets issued by trade associations―such as The Competitive Challenge to Steel (1961), from the American Iron and Steel Institute―offer insights into how an industry views political and business developments.

Published Collections also holds publications generated by America's principal national business associations. Pamphlets often present the public face of business on political issues, such as Prevention or Punishment in the Administration of the Anti-Trust Laws (1929), from the National Association of Manufacturers―or are intended to explain matters of concern to constituent members―as with Understanding the Balance of Payments (1970), from the National Industrial Conference Board. These national perspectives on business are complemented by Hagley's holdings of general business periodicals, ranging from Hazard's Register and Niles' Register in the early nineteenth century to Fortune in the twentieth and twenty-first.

To complete Hagley's documentation of business and industry, the Published Collections Department has a selection of encyclopedias, mechanical dictionaries, engineering textbooks, and manuals describing now-obsolete technologies, artifacts, and office practices. The volumes distributed by the International Correspondence Schools, such as Elements of Bridge Engineering (1897), are especially valuable. The department selectively collects government publications pertaining to business practices as well as legal documents for nationally significant cases involving antitrust, bankruptcies, reorganizations, and patent disputes.

Guidebooks and catalogs for the great international expositions form one of the most dramatic assets of the Published Collections Department. Covering most American and international expositions since London's Crystal Palace World's Fair in 1851, materials range from richly illustrated guidebooks to detailed descriptions of exhibits.

Subject Guides

Each of the subject guides below provide an overview of the Hagley Library's collections around a specific topic. Please keep in mind that Hagley is constantly receiving new research collections and it is always a good idea to speak with our staff about your interests. You can also begin your research online by going to the Search Our Collections page.

American Women's History

Architecture

Business and the State

Consumer Culture

Food

French History

Industrial Design

Seagram Company

World's Fairs