Austin & Austin business and financial records
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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
The Austin & Austin Hope Mill on Catskill Creek, located in Catskill, New York, was operated by the Austin family from 1813 to 1872. Specializing in the production of rag paper, the mill was passed down through two generations of the family during the 19th century. Abner Austin (1771-1848) was the initial driving force behind the business, working with his brother Russell (1769-1829) to establish and grow their business. In 1813, the brothers had procured 90 acres of land from Nathan Benjamin, which included the paper mill along with its water rights on the Catskill Creek, which powered the mill. Initially, Russell ran the family farm, while Abner oversaw the paper mill and family store. However, in 1816 the brothers dissolved their partnership and Abner ran the farm and paper mill on his own. After Russell's death in 1829, Abner ran the family farm as well. The business would become moderately successful under the Abner's leadership, drawing customers primarily from New York State.
Later in life, Abner was joined in the family business by his sons Walter (1807-1872) and Charles (1805-1854) and the company's name was changed to Austin & Son. After Abner's death in 1848, his sons would continue to run the business until Walter's death in 1872. In the mid 1880s the mill would eventually go out of business due to both foreign paper imports and the growing popularity of paper made from wood pulp.
This collection is composed largely of bills received and receipts of payment by Austin & Austin from the years 1834 through 1871 and, to a lesser extent, other financial records and some correspondence relating to the Austin & Austin business.
Bills often tally purchases made by Austin & Austin over the course of several months and sometimes over the course of a year or more, though bills for single purchases are frequent as well. Austin & Austin dealt frequently with merchants such as S. Francis, Charles Cornwall, Lockwood & Ingersoll, Alfred Foote, Grant & Co., Pinckney and Viertz, and R.H. Allen & Co. The large majority of Austin & Austin's purchases appear to have been from merchants based in Catskill, though merchants from New York City are also prevalent. Common purchases include food, livestock feed, farming implements, cloth, clothing, and shoes. Nearly every bill is structured the same way: the recto lists the buyer (Austin & Austin or a particular Austin family member) and the seller at the top, followed by a list of goods purchased and their prices, followed by a total, with an acknowledgment of receipt of payment that is often written in a different hand at bottom. The verso is labeled with the name of the merchant and the date the bill was settled. Each bill appears to have been folded to a uniform size, presumably because they were filed in the same receptacle. In this collection, bills are filed chronologically. In the few cases in which a bill was issued in the last year of one decade and paid in the first year of the next, it is filed according to the year the bill was issued and not the year it was paid (e.g., a bill issued in 1849 and paid in 1850 will be filed under 1840s bills and receipts).
This collection also contains some letters received by Austin & Austin. All of these letters except three are from the merchant R.H. Allen or agents of R.H. Allen & Co., and all but one deal exclusively with business matters. A single personal letter is also included in the collection, and is dated August 28, 1854. It is addressed to Walter Austin from George Kellogg and concerns whether Walter will be able to meet Kellogg and Walter's aunt Cynthia as their boat arrives in New York.
Researchers interested in the operations of the Austin & Austin business specifically and the financial operations of mills, farms, and homesteads in New York State during the nineteenth century generally would be interested in this collection. Additionally, researchers interested in the materials and practices of financial record-keeping in the nineteenth century will also be interested in this collection.
Sold by Arnold Kaplowitz, 2020.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Cory Austin Knudson
- Finding Aid Date
- 2020 February 18
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.