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Downingtown Paper Company collection


Held at: Downingtown Area Historical Society [Contact Us]PO Box 9, Downingtown, PA, 19335

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Downingtown Area Historical Society. 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

Frank P. Miller (1859-1923) started a paper mill just south of the Borough of Downingtown, Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1881. He called his first mill, located on rented land, "Solitude Mill." In 1887, Miller purchased 14 acres of land in Downingtown and built a new, steam-powered mill (also called Solitude Mill) that could produce four tons of product a day and was closer to the railroad. In 1901, the Frank P. Miller Paper Company received an influx of capital from Frank P. Miller's brother-in-law, J. Gibson McIlvain, and was incorporated.

In 1924, the company's name changed to the Downingtown Paper Company, or "Dopaco." Miller had passed away the previous year, but the McIlvain family were still heavily involved. By 1955, the company's yearly sales totaled eleven million dollars. It became even larger when it consolidated with the Downingtown Paper Box Company and Simplex Paper Box Corporation (Lancaster, Pa.) in 1957, and acquired the Wilson Paper Box Company (Richmond, Va.) in 1965. Sales were up to $16.6 million by 1967. The 60-acre plant was producing 325 tons a day.

In 1968, Dopaco was sold as a subsidiary to Sonoco Products Company (Hartsville, S.C.). After a large fire that caused approximately $500,000 in damages, Sonoco permanently closed the Downingtown paperboard mill in 2005.

Andrew J. Brookover (1877-1947) came to the Frank P. Miller Paper Company as a mill superintendant in 1906. By the time of his retirement 33 years later, he had advanced to general manager of the mills and a vice president of the company, now called the Downingtown Paper Company (Dopaco). Each of his sons at one point were associated with Dopaco. Thomas E. Brookover (1915-2001) became the company's first chief chemist in 1938, about a year before his father's retirement. Thomas remained with the paper mill until his own retirement in 1980.


"The Downingtown Paper Company, 1881-1968." Document found in collection.

Shields, Mike. "Brookover ends a family tradition." Circa 1980. Document found in collection.

The bulk of this collection is financial records from the Frank P. Miller Paper Company era; there are also some later records of Downingtown Paper Company (Dopaco), especially relating to longtime employee Thomas Brookover. A detailed inventory of the collection is available on-site.

Financial records of the Frank P. Miller Paper Company, which form the largest portion of this collection, include daybooks, purchase records, and appraisals of company property, 1880-1924. One daybook contains records from Solitude Mill (Miller's first mill) from May 1888 to May 1890. These records are in a recycled ledger from "Rokeby Works," 1839-1841.

Materials from the Dopaco era include administrative and financial records, such as minute books (1922-1940), a time book, stock certificates, and inventories; a box of photographs, circa 1955-1970, showing Dopaco buildings, machinery, and employees; four oversized photographs showing employees at Dopaco banquets, circa 1950s; and Dopaco company newsletters, "Dopaco Diaries," 1947-1959.

Some materials in the collection relate specifically to Thomas Brookover, a longtime employee of Dopaco (and later Sonoco) from 1938 until 1980. There are newspaper clippings, reports and presentations by Brookover about the paper industry and Dopaco in particular, and some court documents. Several materials pertain to the environmental impact of the papermaking industry: waste water treatment, recycling, and related issues.

Most materials are from Sonoco Paper Company, 2008, or Bill Brookover, 2011.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Downingtown Area Historical Society directly for more information.

Downingtown Area Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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Contact Downingtown Area Historical Society for information about accessing this collection.

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