Fred Fortess papers
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
Fred Fortess was an authority on the use of fabrics in clothing and a long-time professor at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University). He was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1914. He studied physical organic chemistry at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Chicago. He worked at the Celanese Fibers Marketing Company for 31 years, where he contributed to the development of synthetic rubber in World War II, received 40 patents on new dyeing and finishing textile processes, and helped to develop the synthetic fibers Arnel and Fortel. He joined the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science in 1973 as Director of Apparel Research and head of its School of Textiles. He served as President of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), as well as on numerous other committees. He received the Medal of Honor of the Southern Burn Institute for contributions to fire safety and the Harold DeWitt Smith Award of the American Society of Testing and Materials. Fortess died in Philadelphia in 1991.
The Fred Fortess papers house the administrative and research materials of Fred Fortess, an authority on man-made fibers who worked for Celanese Fibers Marketing Company and Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. This collection, dating from 1940 to 1999, with the bulk of the collection dating from the 1970s and 1980s, consists of a variety of research materials relating to the manufacture, care, and evaluation of fibers and fabrics, as well as administrative and educational records from Fortess’ appointment at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. Specifically, it includes correspondence and memoranda; fabric samples; research proposals and reports; writings by Fortess and others; administrative and financial records; course documents and other educational materials; newspaper and magazine articles; notebooks; photographs; mineral samples; audiovisual materials; and ephemera.
This collection thoroughly documents the range of research subjects and topics pertaining to the textile industry, specifically man-made fibers and fabrics. It also highlights the research and educational opportunities available to the students and faculty at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science’s School of Textiles during the 1970s and 1980s. This collection chronicles Fortess’ role as an administrator and professor at the College through two decades of correspondence and memoranda with various companies, professional organizations, and teaching institutions. Additionally, the Fortess papers showcase Fortess’ extracurricular interests, most notably his numerous awards from various textile science organizations and materials regarding his life-long fascination with geology and mineralogy.
This collection is unique in showcasing both the career and scientific contributions of Fred Fortess as well as the evolution of the textile industry and the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science over the course of several decades. While the Fred Fortess papers contain limited information regarding Fortess’ education at University of Chicago, it largely references Fortess’ 31-year career with Celanese Fibers Marketing Company and his on-going communication with its employees and executives. The majority of the collection details Fortess’ role as a professor, researcher, and administrator at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science during the 1970s and 1980s. This collection highlights a wide variety of textile-related subjects; however, it focuses on Fortess’ interest in man-made fibers and their potential advantages. Researchers interested in specific fabrics, textile-producing companies, and textile topics such as fusing and flammability will find this collection to be a valuable initial resource to prompt further inquiry.
This collection is consisted of four series: “I. Research, 1940-1994,” “II. Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, 1946-1999,” “III. Professional organizations, 1961-1990,” and “IV. Personal, 1946-1990.”
Series “I. Research” dates from 1940 to 1994, with the bulk of the series dating from the 1970s and 1980s, and documents the research activities of Fortess and his professional colleagues. These activities include the testing of textiles, fibers, and other materials; long-term research projects conducted at the College for various organizations; collaboration with other institutions; and presentations of findings through paper presentations and other writings. Materials in this series include correspondence, fabric samples, laboratory test results, contracts, research proposals and reports, writings, notebooks, reference materials, and ephemera. This series is divided into seven groups that are all arranged alphabetically, and then chronologically within the alphabetical arrangement.
The first group is comprised of companies and organizations that collaborated with Fortess and the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, or commissioned work from Fortess and his laboratory at the College, and is arranged alphabetically by company. This group dates from 1951 to 1990, with the majority of the records dating from the 1970s and 1980s. Companies and organizations in this group include other centers of textile and fiber research, chemical corporations, clothing manufacturers, fiber producers, insurance companies, medical supply companies, publication companies, and various departments of the United States Government, as well as other types of organizations. These institutions include small, local companies that specialize in one product, but also larger corporations such as DuPont and Johnson and Johnson. Examples of well-documented companies in this group include Bobbin International, Incorporated, a publication to which Fortess contributed; Celanese Fibers Marketing Company, Fortess’ employer previous to the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science; Milliken and Company, an organization that hosted several workshops; the United States Department of the Army, with whom Fortess worked on an extensive sponging project based out of Natick, Massachusetts; and the United States Department of Commerce, where Fortess served on the Apparel Advisory Committee.
The next group contains various research topics that are well documented in the collection, and is arranged alphabetically by topic. This group dates from 1945 to 1990, with the majority of the records dating from the 1970s and 1980s. Generally, topics covered in this group pertain to various types of fibers and textiles, as well as their manufacture, care, and evaluation. Examples of particularly well-documented topics in this group include carpets, color, consumer information, dyeing, fabric standards, flammability, fusing, the Kawabata Evaluation System (KES), laundry, man-made fibers, and wool.
The third group in this series contains paper presentations, reprints, and other writings by Fortess. This group dates from 1949 to 1990, with the majority of the records dating from the 1970s and 1980s. These writings include paper presentations Fortess gave at conferences, workshops, seminars, meetings and classroom lectures; reprints of journal articles are also included, as are project proposals and reports. Writings found in this group concern a variety of topics, including companies, projects, and topics featured in the first two groups of this series. Users of this collection should note that these writings are arranged summarily, so researchers interested in these writings should search the entire group if interested in a particular document.
The fourth group contains paper presentations, reprints, and other writings by authors other than Fortess. This group dates from the 1950s to 1990, with the majority of the records dating from the 1970s and 1980s. Writings found in this group concern a variety of topics, including companies, projects, and topics featured in the first two groups of this series. These writings include paper presentations given at conferences, workshops, seminars, meetings and classroom lectures. Project proposals and reports on completed projects are also present, as are reprints of journal articles regarding Fortess, the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, and textiles and fibers in general. Users of this collection should note that these writings are arranged summarily, so researchers interested in these writings should search the entire group if interested in a particular document.
The fifth group contains notebooks, and dates from 1969 to 1989. These notebooks contain contact information, notes from conferences and meetings, and other notes pertaining to Fortess’ research and professional activities.
The sixth group contains reference materials such as glossaries and encyclopedias, and dates from 1968 to 1986. These materials include encyclopedia articles on topics relevant to Fortess’ research, as well as encyclopedia articles that Fortess helped write.
The seventh group contains brochures, clippings, clothing catalogs, pamphlets, posters, and other ephemera, and dates from the 1970s to the 1980s. These materials pertain to various companies and topics documented within this series, as well as some that are unique to this group.
Researchers should note that there are many overlapping subjects within this series. For example, Fortess conducted research on topics such as flammability and dyeing for companies that are found within the first alphabetical group. Reference materials and ephemera may also be related to specific companies and topics found within this series, and writings often discuss the findings of research regarding specific topics. Likewise, materials and topics documented in this series may overlap with Series “II. Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science,” and Series “III. Professional organizations,” since research was conducted at the college and often in collaboration with various professional organizations.
Series “II. Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science” dates from 1946 to 1999, with the bulk of the series dating between the 1970s and 1980s, and is comprised of two subseries: “IIa. General administrative and education files” and “IIb. Correspondence and memoranda.” All the materials in this series pertain to Fortess’ career at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science and feature a range of materials including administrative records, correspondence, memoranda, course documents, resumes, and ephemera. Researchers interested in the College’s policies and programs and Fortess’ administrative role as the Director of Apparel Research and Head of the School of Textiles will find this series of value.
Subseries “IIa. General administrative and education files” dates from 1951 to 1990 with the bulk of the subseries dating from the 1970s and 1980s. The subseries is arranged alphabetically into four groups – “Educational materials,” “General administration,” “Assorted seminars and workshops,” and “Other educational institutions” – with each group arranged chronologically. “Educational materials” contains teaching materials for both classes for students and seminars for textile professionals hosted by the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. Many professional seminars were designed for the Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) personnel. Specifically, “Educational materials” contains course lecture notes; exams; slides and transparencies; teacher evaluations; student papers; as well as Fortess’ notes and drafts for several textbooks published by Random House Publications. “General administration” contains materials regarding Fortess’ administrative role as the Director of the Apparel Research Program at the College and eventually as the Head of the College’s School of Textiles. These materials include financial records and affairs, such as annual giving reports, departmental budgets, and records of faculty salaries; documents pertaining to the College’s faculty research policies, including the Joint Job Training Program; faculty and administration directories; and newspaper and magazine articles highlighting the College’s programs and research. “Assorted seminars and workshops” contains materials regarding the various professional activities and meetings that the College hosted from the 1970s to 1990s. The College was a frequent site for textile-related conferences, workshops, and seminars due to its substantive role in the textile industry as a major research institution. These materials include advertising brochures and ephemera; meeting minutes, attendance, and agendas; handwritten notes; handouts; and lecture materials. “Other educational institutions” contains materials collected by Fortess from other teaching institutions, both nationally and abroad. Notably, these materials feature information about schools’ apparel, textile, and chemistry programs and include course syllabi; course listings; faculty contact information; handouts and notes from conferences; and admissions brochures. Examples of schools include Clemson University, North Carolina State University, and University of Maryland.
Subseries “IIb. Correspondence and memoranda” dates from 1970 to 1990, with bulk dates from 1979 to 1981, and is arranged chronologically. This subseries preserves the records’ original order; therefore, it features five distinct groupings of material, each with its own arrangement. The subseries begins with a run of correspondence between 1979 and 1981 that is arranged alphabetically by last name of correspondent. The second grouping contains inter-office memoranda, and is likewise arranged alphabetically by correspondent’s last name. The third grouping is arranged chronologically by month between 1979 and 1981 and features alternating folders of ‘Fortess correspondence’ and ‘Inter-office memoranda.’ A fourth grouping of ‘Completed work’ adopts the third grouping’s chronological arrangement by month between 1979 and 1981. Lastly, all correspondence and memoranda that did not fall into these previous four groupings is clumped chronologically by decade as ‘Assorted correspondence.’ It is probable that Fortess’ secretary, Cathy Earnst, compiled the four original correspondence groupings.
While this subseries may overlap with research correspondence found in Series “I. Research,” a majority of the materials in subseries “IIb. Correspondence and memoranda” pertain to the administrative affairs of the College. These letters and memoranda are written between Fortess and numerous company executives and administrators and faculty at various teaching institutions. Trevor Little, Joel Sternberg, Frank Scardino, and Mel Weiner are individuals largely featured among the College’s inter-office memoranda.
Series “III. Professional organizations” dates from 1961 to 1990, with the bulk of the series dating from the 1970s and 1980s, and is arranged alphabetically by professional organization. This series contains materials related to professional organizations with which Fortess significantly participated outside of his role at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. Professional activities documented in this series include conferences, seminars, workshops, and planning sessions. Materials in this series include correspondence; newsletters; itineraries; meeting minutes, notes, and attendance; and ephemera.
Notable examples of professional organizations that are well documented in this series include the American Apparel Manufacturers Association (AAMA), where Fortess served on the Apparel Research Committee (ARC) and the Consumer Affairs Committee; the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), where he served as president; the American Association for Textile Technology (AATT); the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), where Fortess led the D-13 Committee on Textiles and earned the Harold DeWitt Smith Memorial Award; the Clothing Manufacturers Association (CMA); and the Great American Flag project.
Researchers should note that materials and topics documented in this series may overlap with Series “I. Research,” since professional organizations were often closely involved with ongoing research issues in their related fields of interest. Likewise, at many conferences and other professional events, Fortess served as the representative of the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, making materials in Series “II. Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science” and Series “III. Professional organizations” relevant to each other.
Series “IV. Personal” dates from 1946 to 1990, with bulk dates between 1960 and 1989, and is arranged chronologically. It features biographical information and awards from throughout Fortess’ professional career, and documents interests in geology and mineralogy. The series contains records regarding Fortess’ career objectives and professional goals while at Celanese Fibers Marketing Company, as well as Celanese patents from the 1940s to 1960s. It also includes many awards, some of them framed, that acknowledge Fortess’ contributions to a number of professional organizations. Notably, these awards recognize his Presidency and involvement with numerous research committees at the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). Furthermore, this series contains several versions of resumes and biographical sketches that detail Fortess’ professional experience. Photographs document Fortess with Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science students and faculty in various classroom settings; his presence at numerous professional conferences and award banquets; and professional portrait. This series includes Fortess’ collection of business cards and nametags as well as assorted audiovisual materials from conferences. The series includes invitations and pamphlets from Phi Psi Fraternity and the University of Chicago Alumni Association. A large portion of this series contains materials from the 1950s to 1990s pertaining to Fortess’ interest in geology and mineralogy; specifically, gem and mineral show brochures; research and presentation notes; and mineral samples.
This collection would prove valuable to researchers interested in the American textile industry during the late 20th century. It demonstrates the scope of research interests regarding textile manufacture and testing, as well as the evolving technologies, concerns, and solutions of the field. In particular, it evinces the popularity and demand for man-made fibers during the 1970s and 1980s, through the lens of their champion – Fred Fortess. This collection also documents the history and practices of America’s first textile school during the 1970s and 1980s.
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 Chase Markee and Evan Peugh
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 November 10
- 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.