Betts & Seal records
Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library
PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807
Finding aid prepared by Warren Adams, 1998
This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-01-25T13:29-0500
Finding aid prepared using best local practices and Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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The Betts family of Wilmington, Delaware, produced three generations of innovative founders and machinists. They played an important role in the founding of three of the city's major manufacturing enterprises The Betts Machine Company, the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company and the Pusey & Jones Company.
Mahlon Betts was born in Attleboro, Bucks County, Pa., on March 16, 1795. He came to Wilmington in 1812, where he married Mary R. Seal at the Wilmington Friends Meeting on November 8, 1818. He built a foundry at 8th and Orange Streets in 1828. On March 1, 1836, Betts formed the new partnership of Betts & Pusey with Samuel N. Pusey for the business of manufacturing railroad cars at a plant at Water & West Streets. He leased the foundry at 8th and Orange to his son Edward, who carried on the business as Betts & Stotsenburg. Mahlon Betts died in Wilmington on March 4, 1867.
The foundry then passed to Mahlon's oldest son, Edward (1825-1917), who operated it with a succession of partners as Betts & Stotsenburg with Evan C. Stotsenburg, 1837-1849; as E. Betts & Co. with his cousin Joshua Seal, 1849-1851; as Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal, 1851-1854 and Betts, Pusey & Co., 1854-1857, both with Joshua L. Pusey and John Jones; and as Betts & Seal, 1857-1867. The foundry closed in December 1867.
Edward Betts and his brother Alfred (1835-1918) also built a machine shop in 1860, which they operated under the name of E. & A. Betts, and later the Betts Machine Company, until 1917.
The records of Betts & Seal cover the operation of the foundry from 1828 to 1867. the result is a rare time-capsule look at the workings of a small but innovative foundry during the first phase of American industrialization.
As might be expected of a small, one-building operation, account books predominate. There is, however, one wage book covering the years 1848-1868; other enteries for wages are scattered through the other account books. The latter also contain data on the partners' earnings and expenses, business travel, inventory and furnance operations. They record the purchase of scrap iron and brass for remelting, coal and charcoal for fuel, oyster shells for flux, and moulding sand from Dutchess County, N.Y., and Gloucester County, N.J. The Works Diaries are actually a kind of daily accounting journal with notations of castings made with the weight in pounds. The cupola account (1851-1867, incomplete) shows the consumption of raw materials and the output of the melting furnance. The Debit Ledger No. 2 (1844-1846) contains an apprenticeship agreement for E. B. Taggart. The Order Books (1828-1849) are a chronological list of orders, usually with dimensioned sketches of the pieces to be made. These include gears, pulleys, shafts, flywheels, axles, pipe, flywheels, anchors, railroad car wheels and pump parts.
The records render a good description of the relationship among different partners in the firm and between the firm and its workers, customers and suppliers. The foundry's customer list reads like a who's who of early New Castle County industries, including the DuPont Company powder mills, the textile mills of the Bancrofts, Deans, Puseys and Riddles, the paper mills of Jessup & Moore, turbine inventor Emile Geyelin and the iron works of the Alan Wood family. Of course, the partners dealt heavily with businesses owned by related families such as Harlan & Hollingsworth and Pusey & Jones. The firm also enjoyed good trade with the millowners along the streams lying between Wilmington and Philadelphia, such as the Crozers, Leipers, Daniel Lammot, and even Joseph Ripka of Manayunk, the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Thomas Wood's Fairmount Machine Works, and the new metalworking industries of Chester. Its long-distance trade is skewed to the south--to points around the Chesapeake basin--rather than to the north and east, which were well-supplied with foundries of their own. Even so, the records show an exchange of tools and parts with important northern foundries and machine shops, such as Corliss in Rhode Island, the Novelty Iron Works in New York and Cyrus Alger's South Boston Iron Works.
Perhaps most importantly, the records include good runs of both incoming and outgoing correspondence for the years of Betts & Seal's tenure. These include fairly detailed descriptions of castings being ordered, usually with dimensioned sketches in the margins, that give a good sense of the work involved in making the individual pieces. In addition to orders for castings, there is also correspondence relating to the purchase of tools and supplies and freight bills for shipments by rail and water.
Alan Wood & Brother.
Alan Wood & Company.
Atlantic Iron Works (Norfolk, Va.)
Baldwin Locomotive Works.
Bancroft and Sellers (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Bancroft, Joseph, 1803-1874.
Bancroft, Samuel, 1804-1891.
Betts & Seal.
Betts & Stotsenburg.
Betts, Edward, 1825-1917.
Betts, Harlan & Hollingsworth.
Betts, Jesse, 1764-1854.
Betts, Mahlon, 1795-1867.
Betts, Pusey & Company.
Betts, Pusey & Harlan.
Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal.
Bidermann, James Antoine, 1790-1865.
Bush & Lobdell.
C. & J. Marshall.
Cabeen & Company.
Camden Iron Manufacturing Company.
Catasauqua Manufacturing Company.
Charles B. Campbell & Company.
Charles I. du Pont & Company.
Charles Warner & Company.
Corliss Steam Engine Company.
Crozer, John. P. (John Price), 1793-1866.
Dean, Joseph, 1784-1861.
Delaware Iron Works.
Diamond State Rolling Mill.
Du Pont, Alfred Victor, 1798-1856.
Du Pont, Charles I. (Charles Irénée), 1797-1869.
Du Pont, Lammot, 1831-1884.
E. & A. Betts.
E. Betts & Company.
E. Haldeman & Company.
E.C. Stotsenburg & Son.
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company.
Fairmount Machine Works (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Ferris & Garrett.
Franklin Iron Works (Reading, Pa.)
Garrett, William E. (William Evans), 1798?-1885.
Geyelin, Emile C. (Emile Camile), 1828?-1900.
Gibbons, Richard P. (Richard Pim), 1819-1904.
Great Central Fair for the United States Sanitary Commission (1864 Philadelphia, Pa.)
Harlan & Hollingsworth.
Harlan, John P. (John Paxson), 1809-1860.
Harlan, Samuel, 1808-1883.
Harvey, Edmund A., 1821-1911.
Hollingsworth, Elijah, 1806-1866.
Hollingsworth, Harvey & Company.
Hoopes & Townsend.
Iron and steel workers--Delaware--19th century.
Iron industry and trade.
J. Morton Poole & Company.
J. Pusey & Sons.
J. Wood & Bros. (Conshohocken, Pa.)
Jackson & Sharp.
Jenks, Alfred, b. ca. 1794.
Jessup & Moore.
Jessup, Augustus E.
Jones, John, 1818-1897.
Joseph Bancroft & Sons.
Lammot, Daniel, 1782-1877.
Leiper, George Gray, 1786-1868.
Lobdell, George G., 1818-1894.
Lukens, Rebecca W. (Rebecca Webb), 1794-1854.
Marshall, Phillips & Company.
Marshallton Iron Works.
McComb, Henry S., 1825-1881.
McCullough Iron Company.
Mendenhall, Joseph, 1809-1880.
Merrick & Sons.
Miller & Allen, Machinists & Engineers (Chester, Pa.)
Mills and mill-work.
Moore, Charles, 1807-1890.
Nathan Trotter & Company.
National Iron Armor & Ship Building Company.
Novelty Iron Works.
Pascal Iron Works (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company.
Poole, J. Morton (John Morton), 1812-1879.
Price, James E., 1842-1919.
Pusey & Jones.
Pusey, Jacob, 1792-1871.
Pusey, Jonas, 1791-1851.
Pusey, Jones & Betts.
Pusey, Jones & Company.
Pusey, Joshua L., 1820-1891.
Pusey, Samuel N., 1814-1885.
Reaney, Son & Archbold.
Riddle & Maxwell.
Riddle, James, 1803-1873.
Ripka, Joseph, 1788-1864.
Rockland Manufacturing Company.
Schuylkill Iron Works.
Seal, Joshua, 1820-1896.
Sellers, John, b. 1826.
South Boston Iron Company.
Stotsenburg, Evan. C. (Evan Canning), 1807-1882.
Tatnall & Lea.
Tatnall, Edward, 1782-1856.
Tatnall, Henry L. (Henry Lea), 1829-1885.
Tatnall, Joseph, 1816-1895.
Trimble, Isaac Ridgeway, 1802-1888.
Warner, Charles, 1816-1891.
William Lea & Company.
Wood & Lukens (McKeesport, Pa.)
Wood, Alan, 1800-1881.
Wood, Thomas, 1814-.
Wood, W. Dewees (Waters Dewees), 1826-1899.