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Ramsay family papers

1828-1958
 Collection
Accession: 2014

Abstract

William Gouverneur Ramsay (1866-1916) was a civil engineer for railroads and explosives corporations, including Repauno Chemical Company, Great Northern, and DuPont Company. His wife, Caroline “Lena” Johnston Canby (1872-1958) was interested in cultural and educational institutions and traveled extensively. The Ramsay family papers primarily consist of William G. Ramsay's personal and business papers, as well as his family's personal papers which primarily consist of correspondence, much of it between William Ramsay and Lena Ramsay prior to and after their marriage. the letters describe social life in Wilmington, literature, courtship and marriage, household administration, family life, child rearing and health.

Dates

  • 1828-1958

Creator

Extent

4 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

William Gouverneur Ramsay (1866-1916) was a civil engineer for railroads and explosives corporations, including Repauno Chemical Company, Great Northern, and DuPont Company. His wife, Caroline “Lena” Johnston Canby (1872-1958) was interested in cultural and educational institutions and traveled extensively.

William Gouverneur Ramsay (1866-1916) was the son of Joseph Gales Ramsay (1843-1899) and Anne Morris Ramsay (1846-1910). He was born August 23, 1866 at the Presidio, San Francisco, California. He trained as a civil engineer at the University of Virginia, finishing his course work in 1887. His employment included numerous engineering positions with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, for which he worked sporadically from 1883 until 1892.

In 1892, Ramsay joined the Chicago sales office of the Repauno Chemical Company and Eastern Dynamite Company. While in Chicago, he was involved with the construction of the Chicago drainage canal. In 1894, Ramsay was transferred to the New York sales office of Repauno where he was head of the sales office until June 1898. He left to organize Company "A," 1st U.S. Volunteer Engineers in response to the Spanish-American War. He served in the war as captain of the company and was promoted to major.

After his return from military service in 1899, Ramsay became president of the newly-established Great Northern Manufacturing and Supply Company, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. The company primarily sold powder it purchased from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company and other powder manufacturers for mining use in the Indiana coal fields. Great Northern went out of business in 1902. With the company's demise, Ramsay joined the newly-formed engineering division of the Eastern Dynamite Company as chief engineer. When Eastern Dynamite assigned its assets to Du Pont in 1903, Ramsay became Du Pont's chief engineer and directed the construction of many of the largest explosives factories in the United States.

In 1916, Ramsay became a director and vice president of the DuPont Company and retained his position as chief engineer. He died September 28, 1916 at his home "Dallhousie" at Guyencourt north of Wilmington, Delaware.

Caroline “Lena” Johnston Canby (1872-1958) was a daughter of Samuel Canby and Rebecca Tilghman Canby. She was educated at Misses Hebbs School in Wilmington, Delaware and married Ramsay in January 1892. She was interested in cultural and educational institutions and traveled extensively. She was a member of the Delaware Society of Colonial Dames of America and was one of the first presidents of the Wilmington Garden Club. The Ramsays had five children: Caroline Johnston Ramsay, born 1893 (married Alfred du Pont Chandler, Sr., and was the mother of Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., the historian); Elizabeth Gouverneur Morris Ramsay, born 1894 (married Van Wyck Ferris); Joseph Gales Ramsay, born 1896; Mary Morris Ramsay, born 1898 (married William Elliot Phelps); and Jane Tilghman Ramsay, born 1900 (married Winder Laird Stabler).

Arrangement

Letters are arranged by recipient of the correspondence.

Scope and Content

The Ramsay family papers primarily consist of William G. Ramsay's personal and business papers, as well as his family's personal papers which primarily consist of correspondence, much of it between William Ramsay and Lena Ramsay prior to and after their marriage. the letters describe social life in Wilmington, literature, courtship and marriage, household administration, family life, child rearing and health.

The collection contains useful information for researchers interested in business history. William Ramsay's business papers, although chiefly from the middle years of his career, show the career path of a DuPont Company officer, and his role as president of the newlyformed Great Northern Manufacturing and Supply Company. Additionally, the letters written by Ramsay to his wife, particularly during the years of their courtship, document his early career and describe the strenuous work of an engineer involved in railroad construction.

The William G. Ramsay series is arranged into two subseries: Business papers, and Personal papers.

The Business papers subseries illustrates the career path of a DuPont Company officer, and his role as president of the newly-formed Great Northern Manufacturing and Supply Company. The business papers include correspondence Ramsay received while working for Repauno Chemical Company, Great Northern, and DuPont. The letters primarily pertain to routine matters and subjects include the powder business, employees, competitors, customers, prices, and agents' concerns. The Great Northern correspondence also discusses strategy for selling powder to Indiana mines and dealings with local miners' unions. Additional business records include notebooks; drawings and specifications for powder magazines; records regarding the assignment of Great Northern; DuPont booklets on life insurance and pension, and a program and reports from a superintendents meeting.

The Personal papers subseries consists primarily of correspondence he received from his wife, Caroline "Lena" Canby Ramsay, prior to and after their marriage. The letters are personal and discuss social life and times in Wilmington, Delaware; literature; courtship and marriage; household administration; family life; and health. Other letters Ramsay received were from his parents, brother, friend and business colleague, Hamilton M. Barksdale, and others. There is also a letter book which contains copies of letters Ramsay wrote regarding his military service and insurance.

The Caroline "Lena" Johnston Canby Ramsay series primarily consist of correspondence Lena Ramsay received from her husband, William G. Ramsay. Also included are letters recieved from her parents, sisters, and mother-in-law; stories by Lena Ramsay; school copy books.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Related Material

William G. Ramsay photographs (Accession 1992.239), Audiovisual Collections & Digital Initiatives, Hagley Museum and Library

DuPont Company Records (Accession 500), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

John J. Raskob Papers (Accession 0473), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

Gift of Sophie Chandler Consagra, 1991, 1992

Separated Materials

William G. Ramsay photographs (Accession 1992.233), Audiovisual Collections & Digital Initiatives, Hagley Museum and Library

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Ramsay family papers
Status:
Author:
Lynn Ann Catanese
Date:
1992
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