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Samuel Stockton White Dental Manufacturing Company records

Creation: 1847-1970
Accession: 1320


Samuel Stockton White (1822-1879) was a Philadelphia dentist who, in the mid-1840s, began manufacturing porcelain teeth using feldspar. Within the next decades, the company he founded had become the largest manufacturer of dental instruments in the world. The S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company records largely relate to patents and the manufacture of dental equipment. The company maintained its competitive edge by constant improvement and innovation and was thus dependent upon patent protection.


  • Creation: 1847-1970



148 Linear Feet

Historical Note

Samuel Stockton White (1822-1879) was a Philadelphia dentist who, in the mid-1840s, began manufacturing porcelain teeth using feldspar. White gradually abandoned his practice for the manufacture of teeth, dental instruments, and supplies. His porcelain teeth won the highest award at the Crystal Palace Exposition in London in 1851 and again at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876.

Within the next decades, the S.S. White Company had become the largest manufacturer of dental instruments in the world. Branch offices for the sale of the firm's products were opened in New York (1846), Boston (1850), Brooklyn (1852), Chicago (1858), Atlanta (1891), Rochester (1897), New Orleans, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Peoria, and Omaha. Branches were established abroad in Berlin (1897), St. Petersburg (1899), Toronto, London, Paris, Japan, and Australia.

In 1881 the firm was incorporated, changing its name from the S.S. White Co. to the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Co. The company acquired the extensive plant of Johnston Bros. on Staten Island, New York, which produced a large portion of the products marketed by the firm. The manufacture of teeth was discontinued in 1937. This company was the first to produce the all-metal dental chair, a flexible shaft engine, certain filling products, and precision steel instruments. It also published the pioneering periodical The Dental Cosmos, from 1859 to 1936.

Over the course of the twentieth century, the company continued to expand. A subsidiary division was founded to apply its patented flexible shaft technology to clients in aircraft, automotive, and other industrial markets. In 1968, the Pennwalt Corporation acquired the business, retaining the name S.S. White in the agreement.

In 1972, Pennwalt restructured the flexible shaft business into the S.S. White Industrial Division and relocated to Piscataway, New Jersey, separate from the S.S. White Dental Products division.

In 1986, Pennwalt sold off the dental products division, with the carbide bur and diamond product lines retaining the rights to the S.S. White brand name and trademark. This part of the business was purchased by James L. Gallop (1932?-), who renamed the business SS White Burs, Inc. and relocated the company to Lakewood, New Jersey.

In 1988, the S.S. White Industrial Division was purchased from Pennwalt by Rahul Shukla (1947-), who renamed it S.S. White Technologies, Inc. As of 2021, the company focuses on the two main products lines of S.S. White flexible shafts and orthopedic revision surgical tools.

Scope and Contents

The records of the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company are relatively complete for the time span they cover. The greater part of the collection is concerned with patents and the manufacture of dental equipment, as the company maintained its competitive edge by constant improvement and innovation and was thus dependent upon patent protection. The patents include many issued to Edward Hartley Angle (1855-1930), a noted developer of modern American orthodontics, as well as to the industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972) and inventor of the high-speed flexible shaft in dental engines, Eli T. Starr (1834-1904).

The collection is arranged into the following nineteen series: Administrative records; Accounts, books, and notebooks; Correspondence; Patent inventions, preliminary files; Company development files; Patent applications; Patent application histories; Letters Patent, manuscript; Letters Patent, printed; Corrected patents; Patent notebooks; Copyright and patent protection files; Trademarks and copyrights; Patent agreements, assignments, and licenses; Patent investigation files; Legal material; Printed items concerning dental equipment; Samuel S. White personal papers; and Miscellany.

The Administrative records series include acts of incorporation, bylaws, and amendments, salary data, list of salesman, minutes of stockholder meetings, and biographies of James W. White (1826-1891, president 1881-1891) and S.S. White, Jr. (1855-1923, president 1912-1915). There are also papers relating to the subsidiary F.W. Stewart Corp. and the estate of J. Clarence White (1848-1921), secretary of the company.

The Accounts, books, and notebooks series include private accounts, general ledgers, employee records, ledgers from foreign branch offices, records of patent royalties, balance sheets, sales records, sales statistics, and information on labels.

The Correspondence series includes letters to William J. Peyton (1855-1888) and Joseph I. Peyton (1847-1897), patent attorneys, Washington, D.C.; letters sent by the company, letters from the United States Patent Office and from individuals, with related patent papers; correspondence and reports from dentists seeking to interest S.S. White in their inventions.

The Patent inventions, preliminary files series include experts' reports and correspondence regarding inventions submitted to the company for manufacture and marketing, chiefly 1900-1910. Files are listed in the finding aid alphabetically, but physical files are in numerical order by Patent Department file number, retained as folder number in the finding aid. Products include dental equipment (instruments, chairs, appliances); cements, fillings, amalgams, and alloys; dental machinery (engines, vulcanizers, sterilizers); impression trays; mouth mirrors; gas administering apparatus; cleansers; absorbents; articulators; dentimeters; inhalers and respirators; tooth powders; dental plates; workbenches; tool charts and dental card record forms; mouth illuminators; jaw props; removable bridges; teeth separators; matrix retainers; traveling dental cases; plate brushes; flexible cables; suction devices for dentures; and other equipment. The apparatus and equipment are depicted in photographs and trade catalogs.

The Company development files series concern manufacturing processes, including information on refinements in equipment, changes in electric furnaces, inventory control, and portable chairs. Files in this series remain in the original numerical order as assigned by the Development Division.

The Patent applications series include applications made by Robert C. Angell (1886-1959), Edward H. Angle, Arthur W. Browne (1845-1918), Walter S. Crowell (1890-1975), Henry Dreyfuss, Edmund D. Gilbert (1841-1916), Woodbury S. How (1829-1911), Eli T. Starr, Wilmer P. Uhler (1892-1982), James W. White, and others. Applications are included for: dental engine handpieces; syringes; dental chairs, parts, and attachments; electric switches; flexible shafting; dry heat presses; accessory tables; pressure regulators; strand twisting and coiling mechanisms; cable winding machine; tooth mounting cards; fluid dispenser; tooth regulating appliances; orthodontic appliances; dental articulators; surgical inhalers; cements; dental impression compounds; dental bite plates; gasometers; and dentures.

The Patent application histories series includes file wrapper histories of original, canceled, and allowed claims and printed patents for dental inventions.

The Letters patent, manuscript, series include those granted to Robert C. Angell, Henry Dreyfuss, Wilmer P. Uhler, Samuel S. White, and others. The series also includes letters patent issued in Great Britain, Argentina, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Germany, the Irish Free State, and France, assigned to the company.

The Letters patent, printed, series include patents and patent rights, from the United States Patent Office, on dental equipment, patents for dental inventions made by those besides the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Co., British patents, German patents, and other foreign patents.

The Corrected patents series records changes to patents required by the United States Patent Office before issuance. Included are patents by Arthur W. Browne, Edmund D. Gilbert, and Woodbury S. How.

The Patent notebooks series include records from the Patents & Projects Department, containing changes in products, new products, discontinuance of manufacture, disposition of patents, trademarks, and industrial designs. There are also price lists and an article on the use of electricity in dentistry.

Copyright and patent protection files series contains consecutively numbered files (some numbers missing) of the Patent Department, containing correspondence, memos, printed material, and relevant papers on various topics, including among them the right to manufacture and sell goods, trade laws, and regulations, imitations, records of unfair competition in trade, use of the company's name, interferences and infringements on patents and purchases of patent rights.

The Trademarks and copyrights series includes trademark files, listed alphabetically after early trademarks, include correspondence and other documentation concerning foreign and domestic trademarks, trademark oppositions, and copyrights on published articles.

The Patent agreements, assignments, and licenses series contain dental patents issued to both individuals and companies.

The Patent investigation files contain materials from investigations made into the validity and value of patent inventions. Materials are listed by the inventor and include correspondence, reports, opinions, legal documents, printed patents, specifications, and some blueprints.

The Legal material series primarily contains papers pertaining to patent infringement suits. This includes materials concerning lawsuits involving the Goodyear Dental Vulcanite Co. of Boston, and its treasurer, Josiah Bacon (1832-1879), the cases in which Goodyear sued several dentists for breaches of monopolistic license agreements covering the use of rubber plates. Samuel S. White and the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Co. became involved in defense of dentists' rights, along with state protective organizations and the Dentists' Protective Fund. The series also contains opposition files and legal diaries.

The Printed items series include advertisements, product information, and patent and trademark descriptions of dental equipment made by the company and its competitors.

Samuel S. White's personal papers series include some record of an 1872 partnership between White and Elisha Gray (1835-1901) to develop a system of electro-harmonic telegraphy, including agreements between White, Gray, Thomas Edison (1847-1931) and printed patents concerning the telephone and the telegraph inventions of Gray, Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) and others. His papers also concern property in Duluth, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Ohio, and Missouri; life insurance; charities; investments; and estate.

The miscellany series includes material relating to patents, foreign and domestic imprints on dentistry, The Dental Cosmos mailing applications, factory formulae at Staten Island and elsewhere, with catalogs and imprints on dental matters. Scattered issues of The Dental Cosmos are also included in this series.

Access Restrictions

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Language of Materials


Additional Description

Separated Materials

Samuel Stockton White Dental Manufacturing Company photographs (Accession 1972.244), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum & Library

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Samuel Stockton White Dental Manufacturing Company records
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Revision Statements

  • 2021: Encoded and revised by Angela Schad

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA