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Pennsylvania Power & Light Company records

1796-1995 Majority of material found within 1920-1975
 Collection
Accession: 1962

Abstract

Pennsylvania Power & Light Company formed in 1920 through the consolidation of eight electric utilities companies serving central and eastern Pennsylvania. The collection primarily includes corporate papers documenting the company’s acquisition of various competing electric companies in the early-to-mid twentieth century by way of franchise building, market research and corporate communications, hydroelectric development through studies and surveys on Pennsylvania’s waterways, and material documenting the company’s various power plants in central eastern Pennsylvania. Financial and accounting records of the Pennsylvania Water & Power Company, which PP&L acquired in 1955, are also included.

Dates

  • 1796-1995
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1975

Creator

Extent

107 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Pennsylvania Power & Light Company formed on June 4, 1920 through the consolidation of eight electric utilities companies serving central and eastern Pennsylvania. The organization of PP&L was a result of a period of intense competition among electric companies in the 1890s followed by a period of consolidation and merger in the decade before the First World War. Between 1917 and 1930, a second wave of mergers occurred largely using pyramiding holding companies that created a unified national network of large regional holding companies. By the late twentieth century, PP&L’s corporate ancestry included more than 1,000 separate power companies, the earliest of which formed in 1882.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, electric utilities companies competed directly for community business. Many began as small gas and direct current electric companies, which limited their distribution over a wide service area, unlike systems using alternating current. Such companies usually reduced their rates below cost to attract new business, resulting in many falling into bankruptcy. Accordingly, stronger companies acquired their weaker counterparts. By 1907, the central eastern portion of Pennsylvania had ninety-two different operating power companies. The intense competition among these smaller, unstandardized electric companies diminished drastically in the period between 1907 and 1917, when the number of power plants serving a system of more than 124 power plants was reduced to only nine.

After the First World War ended, central eastern Pennsylvania’s demand for power continued to grow. The cement, steel, anthracite mining, and other industries became PP&L’s primary customers after the company’s formation in 1920. In addition, the company embarked on a rural electrification program in the 1920s to supply electricity to farms, households, and other businesses in the Pennsylvania countryside; shortly thereafter, the company served about 78,000 customers. In 1926, PP&L built Lake Wallenpaupack on the Wayne-Pike County line to store water for the company’s 44,000-kw hydroelectric plant located on the bank of the Lackawaxen River. Recreation was incorporated as part of the company’s original plan, as Lake Wallenpaupack became a popular vacation spot for swimming, fishing, camping, and boating. The company sustained its efforts to study river systems and their tributaries for hydroelectric and reservoir development, and continued to market their water supply reservoirs as popular recreational and vacation spots throughout the twentieth century, thus advocating positive corporate publicity.

In 1927, the nation’s first power pool was created by an agreement among PP&L, Philadelphia Electric Company, and the Public Service Electric and Gas Company, forming the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Interconnection. The agreement permitted the three companies to supply power to one another in emergencies or in times of high demand, while also serving to lower electric costs for all members of the pool. The agreement served as a model for utility pooling arrangements for decades. By the 1930s, PP&L intensified its rural electrification program, using an aggressive sales campaign aimed at introducing electricity to farmers. Simultaneously, PP&L combatted the effects of the Great Depression by expanding their customer reach through the merger and consolidation of electric companies in Lancaster County and the surrounding areas. By the late 1930s, PP&L grew its customer base to 469,000.

During the Second World War, PP&L became the largest single user of anthracite coal in the world, and employed the use of the world’s largest anthracite coal-fired boilers at its Hauto Steam Electric Station. After the war, PP&L expanded its services further by acquiring electric companies serving Renovo Township and Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania, and in 1948 purchased the Palmerton Lighting Company. Upholding its distinction as the world’s largest user of anthracite, PP&L in 1949 opened the Sunbury Steam Electric Station, the largest anthracite burning plant in the world at the time. However, by the 1950s the company anticipated the gradual decline of its anthracite supply and planned for an increase in use of bituminous coal; by the early 1980s, 95% of the company’s coal-fired generation was fueled by bituminous.

PP&L continued its steady growth in the post-war years, opening the Martins Creek Steam Electric Station in 1954 along the Delaware River. It was the first system to use the outdoor design, thereby eliminating the standard building that housed the turbine generation in earlier plants. In the following year, PP&L acquired the Pennsylvania Water & Power Company and with it the Holtwood hydro and steam electric generating plants on the Susquehanna River. Additionally, PP&L acquired one-third interest in the Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation. Expansion continued when PP&L acquired the Scranton Electric Company in 1956, thus greatly expanding its service area by 500 square miles and 95,000 customers. Almost simultaneously, the company decided to investigate the use of atomic power as a direct result of an increase in business. By 1955, other atomic energy projects were underway in western Pennsylvania, but due to the technology’s association as a destructive weapon of war, public and shareholder qualms became a concern for the company. PP&L’s Department of Corporate Communications assembled and distributed nuclear power public acceptance programs and leaflets to help calm the public’s trepidation of the new form of energy. Nevertheless, PP&L decided that nuclear power was too far out in the future, and suspended its nuclear energy program until 1973, when the company broke ground on the Susquehanna nuclear power station in Luzerne County.

In the 1960s, PP&L opened the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in York County and the Keystone power plant in Armstrong County. These plants’ massive generating power pushed PP&L to invest in its own unit coal trains in 1964, leasing its first fleet from the Pennsylvania Railroad. PP&L was one of the railroad’s largest coal customers. Upon its transition from burning anthracite to bituminous coal, PP&L bought its entire output of bituminous coal to be transported in these unit cars, and ultimately purchased its own 1,000-car fleet. Eventually, the company used the output of five of its own coal mines as well as the output from other company’s mines.

Throughout the 1970s, PP&L adapted to new movements such as consumer activism and environmentalism. The company formed a citizens’ task force, which later set the stage for public participation in site selection for substation and transmission facilities, as well as land use policies. In 1972, the company opened the Montour Preserve, which incorporated educational facilities for classes, workshops, and school fieldtrips. PP&L also helped boost its public image by cooperating with contractors in building a small amount of energy efficient homes using heat exchangers and solar energy. At Brunner Island, the company began fish-farming and, in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, even tried wind as a potential energy source by constructing a wind-driven generator. However, the latter experiment proved inefficient and was shut down by 1982. As cheap energy declined throughout the 1980s, and as the company surpassed one million customers, PP&L embarked on a campaign to reduce the growth rate of customers’ needs for electricity. In addition, the company focused its efforts on marketing using an economic development program to combat a decline in electricity sales.

In the 1990s, PP&L faced another era of consolidation and deregulation, and thus transitioned from a geographically organized electric utility in a monopolistic environment to a functionally organized electric supplier better suited for a competitive global economy. In 1994, the company formed a holding company known as PP&L Resources Inc. to serve as parent to an unregulated subsidiary called Power Markets Development Company, which invested in power projects both domestically and globally. In 1998, PP&L purchased thirteen Montana power plants and shortly thereafter acquired the Montana Power Company’s energy marketing and trading operation. Following this trend, PP&L in 2011 purchased two major utilities in Kentucky, the Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company. In the same year, the company expanded its reach internationally by acquiring the Central Networks electric distribution in central England, thereby accelerating the growth of its regulated electricity operations. In 2015, PPL Corporation spun off its energy supply business and formed an independent power producer called Talen Energy Corporation.

Arrangement

The records are largely organized by series based on the PP&L office from which they arrived at Hagley, with the exception of Series V, VI, and VII.

Series I, Files from the Office of the President, are arranged based on a numerical filing system imposed by the depositor. Individual file folders retain these numbers, but are not listed in this guide.

Series II, Files from the Office of the Corporate Secretary - Predecessor Company File, are arranged alphabetically by company name, which retains the order in which they were received by Hagley Museum & Library. Additionally, individual files retain their file number as designated by Pennsylvania Power & Light Company's records management department. Note that an addendum of five boxes were added after the first phase of processing was complete. These documents are located in boxes 74-78 but remain in alphabetical order by company name.

Series III, Rates and Market Research, are arranged in the original order in which they arrived from the depositor. Series IV, Department of Corporate Communications, are arranged in the original order in which they arrived from the depositor.

Series V, Pennsylvania Water & Power Company - Files from the Office of General Accounting, are arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.

Series VI, Corporate and miscellany, are arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.

Series VII, Reports, surveys, and studies Subseries A, Floods and flood control, is arranged chronologically; Subseries B, Hydroelectric development and water supply projects, is arranged chronologically; Subseries C, INCODEL, is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.

Series VIII, Historical file, is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.

Scope and Content

The twentieth century corporate records of PP&L largely document the company’s growth through merger and consolidation of smaller electric power companies, PP&L’s efforts in various marketing and research campaigns, financial and statistical data, and the development and documentation of hydroelectric projects along central eastern Pennsylvania’s river systems. The records also give some insight into PP&L's environmental policies through analysis and surveys of river systems, recreational advocacy of its reservoirs and man-made lakes, and its response to both changing fuel sources used in its power plants as well as growth in consumer demand for electricity following the Second World War. Reports and proceedings from the Interstate Commission on the Delaware River Basin, or INCODEL, a sub agency formed in 1936 with the primary agenda of combatting river and stream pollution, gives insight into early-to-mid twentieth century environmental cleanup efforts and water supply projects.

Files kept by PP&L president Jack K. Busby, who started in the position in 1957, include a wide variety of topics spanning just over two decades. Of particular note are files of correspondence regarding coal transportation with the Penn Central Company, as well as files on utility taxes and rates, the Keystone Power Plant Project, reports and correspondence on the Advisory Committee of Reliability of Electric Bulk Power Supply of the Federal Power Commission, and finally files on the Northeast Blackout of November 1965 which resulted in the failure of the power grid in much of PP&L's service region. PP&L’s predecessor companies are largely represented in the collection due to the company's records management and preservation policies. Many of the documents within the files, however, predate ownership by PP&L. A wide variety of documents are contained within the series, but it primarily consists of deeds, agreements, leases, letters patents, as well as Certificates of Public Convenience and other items associated with the Public Service Commission. Also of note are documents related to labor agreements with various companies and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) as well as orders and specifications for street railway cars with accompanying photographs.

There is also material related to rate changes and various court cases involving PP&L. However, the majority references an instance in 1956 when the company was ordered by the Public Utility Commission to refund $6,320,736 system wide due to excessive charges. Files from PP&L’s Department of Corporate Communications consists largely of documents, publications, and related correspondence used for public, corporate, and media relations purposes. Much of the material was produced in the 1960s to garner favorability among potential investors and shareholders. Included are correspondence and other material related to public information programs, promotional advertising, rates, tours, and reports on new projects. There is also correspondence related to Reddy Kilowatt, a popular branding character for electricity generation created in 1926. Of particular note are files regarding PP&L’s push for public acceptance of its nuclear power program, as well as material documenting the company’s use of unit coal trains starting in the 1960s.

A significant portion of the collection includes general accounting material from the Pennsylvania Water & Power Company, which PP&L absorbed in 1955. Among the files included are annual reports to regulatory commissions such as the Federal Power Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission for Penn Water and its affiliates, Consolidated Gas, Electric Light & Power Company of Baltimore, and the Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation (formed by Consolidated Gas and Penn Water in 1929). Accordingly, there are financial and funds statements, indentures, contracts, and other financial documents in the series related to each company. Most notably, there are power contracts made with the cities of Coatesville, Lancaster, and York, Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Also included are Penn Water directors and stockholders' minutes leading up to the merger with PP&L, as well as financial data, financial effects, and legal factors related to the merger. There is some correspondence and cost computations regarding the Conowingo hydroelectric facility. Also included are maps and river surveys used by Penn Water for development of the Holtwood hydroelectric plant and Susquehanna River property distribution. Of note is a copy of Benjamin Henry Latrobe's 1801 survey of the Susquehanna River.

A miscellaneous series of internally produced PP&L documents includes fact sheets of PP&L’s subsidiary companies in the 1980s, as well as notes and correspondence related to the production of the company’s annual reports and its Statistical Review. Other material of note includes material produced by PP&L’s Public Affairs and Human Resources Departments, such as customer relations training programs from the late 1950s, and perspectives on PP&L’s future energy plans and marketing strategies in the 1980s. There is also some material on the Employee-Management Cooperation Plan formed between management and workers in the mid-1930s. This plan helps shed light on PP&L’s financial situation during the Great Depression and, as a result, the need to cooperate with its largely organized workforce, which eventually led to an increase in wages across the board.

There is a large series of reports, surveys, and studies produced by PP&L engineers, external organizations, or government agencies on various river systems, hydroelectric projects and developments, and water supply projects in central and eastern Pennsylvania, and largely used by PP&L and other electric companies to discern the economic advantages of developing certain river systems and their tributaries. The majority of these documents focus on the Delaware River Basin, Susquehanna River, Lehigh River, Schuylkill River, and the Lackawanna River, as well as these rivers’ various tributaries. Included are reports and studies on significant flooding problems along Pennsylvania’s major waterways, primarily the Susquehanna River and its drainage basin. Notably, there are numerous reports on hydroelectric developments, reservoirs, and other water supply projects in Pennsylvania, largely east of the Allegheny River. Finally, reports produced by the Interstate Commission on the Delaware River Basin (INCODEL) include their activities, purpose, developments, projects, jurisdiction, and annual conference proceedings.

Lastly, series VIII consists of fragmented material from Pennsylvania Power & Light Co.'s historical vertical file. The files include documents, correspondence, newspaper clippings, copies of articles from industrial trade journals, and other papers that are of historical significance to towns and electric companies that fell within PP&L's service area, largely being central and eastern Pennsylvania. Some files contain more information than others, and document the history of those towns as related to the early formation of electric companies that were eventually purchased by or merged into PP&L. Some files focus exclusively on the history of the electric companies. Other larger PP&L projects are documented, such as the dedication of the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station, Martins Creek Power Plant, and the history and development of Pennsylvania Water & Power Company's Holtwood Hydroelectric Development. Of note are a series of photographs documenting the demolition of the Harwood Coal Company's coal breaker in 1928, and documentation of the initial construction phase of the Holtwood Dam by the McCall Ferry Power Company before the Pennsylvania Water & Power Company took over operations.

Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply; time-seals of different lengths to select materials.

Litigators may not view the collection without approval.

Related Material

Pennsylvania Power & Light Company predecessor and subsidiary company records (Accession 1552), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Pennsylvania Water & Power Company presidential records (Accession 2627), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Pennsylvania Power & Light Company photograph collection (Accession 1984.210), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

On Deposit from Pennsylvania Power & Light Company.

Separated Material

Published materials such as pamphlets, brochures, annual reports of PP&L subsidiaries, and PP&L statistical reports were transferred to Hagley's Published Collections Department.

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Pennsylvania Power & Light Company records
Status:
Author:
Andrew D. Engel, 2014; Clayton J. Ruminski, 2017.
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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