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Wood-Randolph family papers

1797-1884
 Collection
Identifier: 2445

Abstract

The Wood family was founders of one of Philadelphia's great Quaker mercantile and manufacturing families, and within a couple of generations founded the Wawa Dairy Farms. The papers were primarily collected by Julianna Randolph (1810-1885), wife of Richard D. Wood (1799-1869), and include correspondence from Julianna Randolph, her parents Edward (1784-1834) and Mary Taylor Randolph (1790-1868), and her husband Richard Wood. The letters are almost entirely limited to correspondence within the Wood-Randolph kinship group.

Dates

  • 1797-1884

Creator

Extent

1.4 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

The Wood family was founders of one of Philadelphia's great Quaker mercantile and manufacturing families, and within a couple of generations founded the Wawa Dairy Farms.

Richard Wood (-1685)of Bristol, England, was part of the seventeenth century Quaker migration to the lower Delaware Valley, his descendants settling eventually in what is now Cumberland County, New Jersey. Richard D. Wood (1799-1869) married Julianna Randolph (1810-1885) in 1832, and they became the founders of one of the Philadelphia's great Quaker mercantile and manufacturing families.

Julianna Randolph was a seventh-generation descendant of Edward Fitz Randolph and Elizabeth Blossom, early settlers in Scituate, Massachusetts, and later in Piscataway, New Jersey. Her grandfather, Edward Randolph (1754-1837), a Revolutionary War soldier who became a merchant at Philadelphia and elder in the Society of Friends, dropped the "Fitz" which many family members wrote as a middle name.

Richard Davis Wood was born in Greenwich, New Jersey on March 29, 1799 to Richard Wood III (1755-1822), a general store owner and elected member of the Assembly of the State, and Elizabeth Bacon (1776-1826). Richard married Julianna Randolph on October 16, 1832 in a Friends' meetinghouse. They had nine children: Richard, Mary, Edward, Carolina, Randolph, George B., Julia, Walter, and Stuart.

He began his business career at the age of 21 when he opened a store in Salem, New Jersey. His very first shipment of goods nearly sank after the transport vessel sprang a leak not long after leaving the Greenwich warf. True disaster was averted, however, because the goods were salvaged and consumers flocked to the Salem store to purchase the damaged goods at bargain prices. Two years later in 1822, he joined with William L. Abbott and Samuel C. Wood to form the Philadelphia dry goods house of Wood, Abbott & Wood. Wood became a central figure in the Quaker mercantile community, serving on the boards of banks, insurance companies, the Schuylkill Navigation Company, and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

In 1844, Wood came to the aid of his older half-brother David C. Wood, whose iron furnance and foundry at Millville, New Jersey was in financial difficulties. Richard became emeshed in his half-brother's affairs, the two quarrelled, and Richard finally bought the property at sheriff's sale in 1850. Soon after, Richard began investing in other iron companies and coal lands, including the Cambria Iron Company, which Wood rescued from disaster, and the Allentown Iron Company. To better utilize the water power at Millville, he constructed a cotton textile factory, later incorporated as the Millville Manufacturing Company, and turned an old-fashioned iron plantation into a thriving manufacturing town. Wood also promoted railroads in the territory, including the Millville & Glassboro and Cape May & Millville railroads.

After Wood's death in 1869, his six sons continued most of his business enterprises, and gradually, they divided them among themselves. The oldest, Richard (1833-1910) and George (1842-1926), and to a lesser degree, Edward (1840-), eventually became the dominant owners of the textile manufacturing and wholesale business, while the younger sons, Walter (1850-1934) and Stuart (1854-1914), controlled the pope foundry, which had expanded from Millville to a modern facility at Florence, on the Delaware River above Philadelphia in 1867. The pipe foundry passed out of family ownership when Walter died childless in 1934. George, in the meantime, had founded Wawa Dairy Farms some twenty miles southwest of Philadelphia, and his descendants in turn transferred their interests from textiles to develop Wawa as the region's dominant convenience store chain.

Scope and Contents

The papers were primarily collected by Julianna Randolph Wood (1810-1885) and passed down to her descendants. They include her own letters to parents, siblings, husband, and children, as well as those of her husband, and of her parents Edward (1784-1834) and Mary Taylor Randolph (1790-1868). The letters are almost entirely limited to correspondence within the Wood-Randolph kinship group and have a distinctly domestic flavor. As such, they illuminate the social world and beliefs of an old Delaware Valley family that is maintaining its deep roots in the Society of Friends even as it enjoys increasing success through multiplying business enterprises.

The papers show participation in typical Philadelphia Quaker institutions. Many letters are written to and from children while away from home at the Westown School (which Julianna Randolph attended), the Haverford School, and Haverford College, and these are generally of a didactic nature. Other letters describe outings to Cape Island (Cape May), the Virginia Spring, or Crawford Notch. Much of the news is confined to family matters, including births, illnesses and deaths, but there are also observations on larger contemporary events, such as the Panic of 1857, the election and assissination of Lincoln, the Civil War, and the beginnings of Reconstruction.

The letters of Edward Randolph reveal his greater involvement in the business of Quaker meetings. In a letter from 1829, a 19-year old Julianna describes a visit to the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company's works at Mauch Chunk, then a showplace of Quaker enterprise and a popular tourist desination, and her ride on the two-year old gravity railroad. There is also a transcript of a poem by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) on the anniversary of the death of her son, Henry Ellis, by drowning at age 18, along with a handwritten family pedigree by Walter Wood.

The letters of Richard D. Wood (1799-1869) discuss business as well as family matters, especially as he begins training his sons to enter the family firms. He refers to many of his business ventures, including the Millville Furnance and the Millville Manufacturing Company cotton factory, his investments in the Allentown and Cambria Iron Companies, his directorships in the Schuykill Navigation Company and Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the promotion of the Millville and Glassboro Railroad, and other investments. Many of the letters are written home while on trips that combined business and pleasuring, including cotton-buying journey through Tennessee and Alabama, and to Manchester, London, and Paris. Towards the end of his life, the Woods and their younger children took an extended trip to Egypt and the Holy Land, returning through Europe. He also socialized with his extended family, especially with his brothers Dr. George Bacon Wood (1797-1879), an eminent physican and professor of medicine, and Horatio Curtis Wood (1803-1879).

Julianna Randolph Wood published Richard D. Wood's diaries and letters with some commentary in 1871 to 1874 in a limited edition manuscript of one hundred copies for the use of family members. This biography, which is now available online, give day-by-day accounts of many of the events summarized in this collection of letters. The whereabouts of the original manuscript diaries is unknown.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Materials

Wawa Inc. historical collection (Accession 1772), Manuscript and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

R.D. Wood & Co. records (Collection 1176), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Richard Wood diaries (Collection 2079), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Wood and Bacon account books (Collection 1589), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Wawa Dairy Farms records (Accession 2400), Manuscript and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Wawa Public Relations files (Accession 2401), Manuscript and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Wood-Randolph family papers
Status:
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400