Held at: Philadelphia University: Paul J. Gutman Library, Special Collections [Contact Us]4201 Henry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19144
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia University: Paul J. Gutman Library, Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
William Whitaker and Sons was one of the oldest Philadelphia textile mills. Henry Whitaker had founded the firm of Whitaker and Sons in Rochdale, England, in 1796. He visited the United States in 1807 and returned in 1809 to relocate the business to Hudson, N.Y. In 1813 he again relocated to Philadelphia, where he established the Cedar Grove Mills on Tacony Creek. Henry Whitaker retired in 1822 and was succeeded by his sons Robert and William. They in turn sold out to their cousin, William Whitaker, who continued to operate the business as William Whitaker and Sons.
William Whitaker died in 1878 and was succeeded by his sons. Eventually, one of them, James Whitaker, became sole owner. The business remained in the Whitaker family for six generations. It was incorporated as William Whitaker & Sons, Incorporated, on September 30, 1946.
The Cedar Grove Mills came to specialize in mattress ticking, which was the principal product line from the 1840s until World War II. During the Civil War the firm manufactured woolen blankets for the war effort. In 1876 the Whitakers expanded into carpet manufacture through the purchase of the Tremont Carpet Mills in Frankford. The Whitaker firm sold directly to retailers, particularly to the retail store, Boyd, White & Co.
After World War II the firm went into decline as the mattress ticking business moved south. The mills were organized by the Textile Workers Union of America (AFL-CIO) in 1943. They closed for the last time in 1970.
The William Whitaker and Sons, Incorporated records house a small portion of the records of the aforementioned company. The collection dates from 1921-1977, with bulk dates of 1930 to 1964. This collection consists mostly of financial reports, graphs, and a map of the Cedar Grove Mills. This collection is very small, but provides evidence for the financial organization of the company, and for some of its early history, as well as to provide context for the overall textile industry in Philadelphia in the 20th century.
This collection is arranged into one series: Series “I. Business records, 1921-1977, bulk dates 1930-1964.”
Series “I. Business records” dates from 1921 to 1977 with bulk dates of 1930 to 1964. This series is primarily composed of financial records, such as audit reports and statements, machinery and supply cost lists, and graphs. It also includes clippings and writings regarding company history, a Cedar Grove Mills map, and production samples and swatches. This series is arranged chronologically.
Although this collection is very small, it does provide a snapshot of the organization of a textile manufacturer in Philadelphia in the 20th century, and would be helpful in supplementing information about the trade. The production charts and swatch samples, in addition to the map of the Cedar Grove Mills, provide visual and tactile evidence of the company’s dealings as well. Combined with other collections regarding the textile industry in Philadelphia, this collection helps to highlight the influence and importance of the trade to the region’s industry.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.
- Philadelphia University: Paul J. Gutman Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Annalise Berdini
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.