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L. K. Burket and Brother ledgers


Held at: Radnor Historical Society [Contact Us]113 West Beech Tree Lane, Wayne, PA, 19087

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Radnor 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

L. K. Burket and Brother was a fuel supply company located in Radnor Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. In 1887 Lee Keller Burket renamed his coal supply company after his brother, Elmer Burket, joined the firm. The company lasted until 2005, when it closed after at least four generations of family management. Initially a coal distributor, over its existence Burket and Brother provided other types of fuel including oil and propane to local residents and businesses, and also served as a heating and cooling contractor in its later years.

"In 1886, attracted by Radnor's potential for growth, the 27-year-old Lee [Keller Burket] and a business partner named Alexander established themselves on Pennsylvania Avenue [Radnor Township, Pennsylvania] as coal merchants. 'Burket and Alexander' lasted for about a year, at which point Lee's younger brother, 25-year-old Elmer, entered the firm and its named was changed permanently to L. K. Burket and Bro[ther]...In 1887, building contractors...built one hundred homes in what today is North Wayne. Radnor's population and Burket's coal sales increased steadily from this time on. Within two years of its founding, the company was being awarded township heating contracts and was supplying coal to many local merchants, as well as to local estates...

"In 1894, the brothers built a large warehouse to accommodate their growing inventory of other goods. A list of items the company sold in this era included anthracite and bituminous coal in various sizes and grades; hickory, oak, and pine "Cut to Order"; oats; corn; bran; ground feed; linseed meal; baled hay; straw; lime; salt; peat moss; and...poultry elixirs...

"After eight years in business, the Burket firm was providing coal to most of the estates and businesses within a three-mile radius of [the] Wayne [train] station. Customers on account placed orders by mail, and later by telephone at 'Wayne 49.'...The most dramatic peril to the firm, financial or physical, came in 1896...[when] the electric company burned to the ground...[O]vernight [Burket] lost their biggest customer. Fortunately...the rebuilt electric company was back in operation within a year and the Burkets were once again supplying it with coal...

"In contrast to the company's relatively energetic activity in its first thirty years, the next seventy tilted unequivocally toward the tedious. Several agricultural goods were dropped as demand for them fell; delivery trucks eventually replaced horse-drawn wagons; and in 1930, the company started selling heating oil, which along with natural gas was destined to replace coal as a preferred residential heating fuel. (The company stopped selling coal in 1972, after sales dropped to less than five tons a year.) In the mid-1970s, computers were introduced to increase the speed and flexibility of the firm's delivery and billing procedures.

"...When Lee Burket died at 61 in 1920, Elmer became senior partner. When Elmer died at 67 in 1928, he left controlling interest to Lee's younger son, John Warren Burket...and minority interest to John's second cousin, Samuel Shutts. John Burket, however, suffering from tuberculosis, had two years earlier moved to Colorado for its drier air. Thus, for three decades, he managed the company's affairs from Denver via a steady exchange of letters with various employees, many of whom spent most of their adult lives working for the company.

"John Burket moved back to Pennsylvania in 1958 when a successor to his cousin proved difficult to work with from afar. Intending to hire a new operations manager and stay only a few months, John and his wife, Ruth, shut their home in Denver and took a temporary apartment in Rosemont - where, in fact, they remained until their deaths in the mid 1970s. Following his mother's death in 1974, John Warren Burket Jr...who had lived in Wayne and worked at the firm since 1958, inherited the company.

"Upon...[John Burket Jr.'s] death in 1980...[his wife] Harriet, and...[son, David Burket] assumed management of the firm..."

The firm closed in 2005.


Quoted text from: Burket, David. "A Century of Warmth: L. K. Burket and Brother's Centennial." The Bulletin of Radnor Historical Society Vol. IV, no. 6 (1986): 18-22. Accessed on March 19, 2014.

This collection consists mostly of financial volumes including several daybooks and account books. There are also purchase records, delivery records, and a scrapbook of receipts of company purchases (circa 1889-circa 1915). Two copy books (1888-1913) with copies outgoing correspondence and a large number of postcards from customers requesting deliveries (circa 1900) are also present.

Gift of Dave Burket, 2004.

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 Radnor Historical Society directly for more information.

Radnor Historical Society
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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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