Keystone Mushroom Farms, Inc. records1904-1964
Keystone Mushroom Farms, Inc. was a producer, canner, and distributer of mushrooms in Coatesville, Chester County, Pennsylvania. It was the successor of two previous businesses, L.F. Lambert Spawn Co. and Keystone Mushroom Company, Inc., which were formed in the early 1920s with complementary functions of spawn research; production and sales; and mushroom propagation, canning, and distribution. These records document the L.F. Lambert Spawn Co. and the Keystone Mushroom Company, Inc. The collection includes financial records, correspondence, payroll, reports, and shipment and inventory information. Of special interest are the records documenting Lambert's work with the War Production Board to produce penicillin.
34 Linear Feet
Keystone Mushroom Farms, Inc. was a producer, canner, and distributer of mushrooms in Coatesville, Chester County, Pennsylvania. It was the successor of two previous businesses, L.F. Lambert Spawn Co. and Keystone Mushroom Company, Inc., which were formed in the early 1920s with complementary functions of spawn research; production and sales; and mushroom propagation, canning, and distribution.
The unifier was Louis Ferdinand Lambert (1866-1954), an emigrant Belgium mycologist who came to Chester County from St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1918, introducing the method of growing mushroom spawns from spores, rather than tissue, and looking for a market and a means of making this process profitable. After several unsuccessful business ventures, Lambert settled his spawn plant in Coatesville in 1922. His growing houses produced the first white mushrooms in 1925, a popular strain perfected by Lambert and trademarked "Snow White." His laboratories improved the process of growing and bottling mushroom spawn and sold it on a large scale locally, as well as to growers across the U.S. and abroad. L.F. Lambert Spawn Co. was maintained as a family-operated single proprietorship.
The Keystone Mushroom Company was incorporated in December 1920, at Pomerov (later Coatesville), Pennsylvania, to grow and can mushrooms on land purchased from L.F. Lambert. Lambert was a stockholder, and, while not among the first officers of the company, was elected treasurer in 1930, a position he held until his death. By 1936, Keystone was producing a line of canned mushroom products, including soup, broth, consommé, and spread, from the harvest of their houses and of area growers. These products were sold largely through commission brokers from stock warehoused throughout the U.S. In 1941, Keystone leased the growing houses of the Lambert Spawn Co., and by this annually renewable agreement, the two functioned as a unit under the supervision of the management of the Keystone Mushroom Company.
During World War II, Mr. Lambert's work in mycology led to a War Production Board contract to produce penicillin in the company's laboratories. When Lambert died in 1954, his companies were consolidated under the name Keystone Mushroom Farms, Inc. In 1956, the business was incorporated.
Scope and Contents
Records of L.F. Lambert Spawn Co. include financial records (sales books, journals, ledgers), Louis F. Lambert's correspondence, payrolls, and general correspondence files. The general correspondence files date from 1918 to 1954 and contain orders, invoices, inquiries, general incoming letters, and file copies of outgoing letters. Correspondents include individuals and businesses such as growers, suppliers, canners, and distributors. The files are arranged alphabetically and grouped chronologically in their original order.
The Lambert Penicillin Project documents the War Production Board contract and the development of penicillin through Sharpe & Dohme, a Philadelphia pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Keystone Mushroom Co., Inc. records contain general correspondence files of incoming and outgoing letters dating from 1956 to 1962 and brokers' files of incoming and outgoing letters with some orders, invoices, and freight bills. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by brokers' names. The letters date from 1957 to 1960. Keystone sold most of its canned products through food brokers and commission merchants who distributed Keystone mushrooms throughout the U.S. There are some financial statements and reports, accounts receivable ledgers dating from 1930 to 1956, sales and cash receipts, and payroll records.
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Language of Materials
Keystone Mushroom Farms, Inc. photographs (Accession 1977.247), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Keystone Mushroom Farms, Inc. records
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- 2021: Laurie Sather