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Archibald Johnston papers

Accession 1770

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807

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Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, Archibald Johnston papers (Accession 1770), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807


Descriptive Summary

Title: Archibald Johnston papers
Dates: 1894-1923
Accession Number: 1770
Creator: Johnston, Archibald, 1864-1948
Extent: 10 linear feet
Language of Material: English
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: Archibald Johnston was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania on May 30, 1865. In 1889, he joined the Bethlehem Iron Company, where he was responsible for the erection of the gun forging and armor plate plant. In 1901 he was elected to the company's Board of Directors, and between 1906 and 1908 was president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The bulk of this collection is concerned with Johnston's work at Bethlehem Steel; a smaller portion consists of strictly personal papers.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.


Historical Note

Archibald Johnston, the son of Joseph and Martha Johnston, was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania on May 30, 1865, and died on February 2, 1948. He received a mechanical engineering degree from Lehigh University in 1889, and on February 11, 1891 married Estelle S. Borhek of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Johnston joined the Bethlehem Iron Company upon graduating from Lehigh and remained with that firm until his retirement in 1927. Johnston's career at Bethlehem was marked by steady advancement. He began in the physical testing department, but was soon put in charge of the erection of Bethlehem's new gun forging plant, the first of its kind in the country. He continued to supervise the plant after it went into operation. In I89O Johnston took over the construction of Bethlehem's armor plate plant, also the first in the country, and remained in charge when that plant went into production. In 1900 Johnston was appointed Assistant General Superintendent of the entire Bethlehem plant. In 1901 he was named General Superintendent and was elected to the Board of Directors.

In 1906 E. M. Mcllvain, unable to agree with the policies of Bethlehem's new owner, Charles Schwab, resigned as President of the company, and was succeeded by Johnston. In 1908 Schwab reorganized Bethlehem's top management structure. He himself assumed the title of President, and Johnston was named First Vice President, the title he held until his retirement. In this position Johnston was in charge of government sales, both foreign and domestic. He negotiated the sales of guns, armor, battleships, and complete naval stations, often remaining outside the country for' six months at a time.

Johnston held numerous other positions in the various operations controlled by Bethlehem Steel Corporation. He was Second Vice President of Juragua Iron Co.; Vice President of Bethlehem Steel Products Co. and Bethlehem Iron Mines Co.; a Director of Harlan and Hollingsworth Corp., and Samuel L. Moore & Sons Corp.

From 1917 to 1921 Johnston, a Republican, was mayor of the City of Bethlehem, Pa.

Johnston was a Director of the First National Bank of Bethlehem, and a trustee of Homeopathic State Hospital, in Allentown, Pa., and the Moravian College and Theological Seminary, in Bethlehem.

He was a member of the following professional organizations: American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Institute of Mining Engineers, American Iron and Steel Institute, Iron and Steel Institute (Great Britain), and Theta Delta Chi.

He belonged to the following clubs: Union League and University (Philadelphia); Metropolitan (Washington); Railroad (New York); Lehigh Country Club (Allentown); Country Club of Northampton County (Easton, Pa.); and Bethlehem Country Club (Bethlehem).


Scope and Content

The vast majority of this collection is concerned with Johnston's work at Bethlehem Steel: correspondence, specifications, proposals, memos, blueprints, salary records, pamphlets, and photographs. A much smaller portion consists of strictly personal papers, such as family correspondence, and class notes from college.

Before the collection was arranged certain types of material were withdrawn and placed in other sections of the library. The bulk of the imprints - annual reports, pamphlets, article reprints, printed copies of government specifications - were given to the Published Collections Department. A few imprints, such as printed copies of patents, were left with the manuscripts.

Second, most of the photographs, blue prints, and drawings were given to the Audiovisual and Digital Initiatives Department. Pictorial material which was an integral part of documents, such as pictures included in tests of armor plate, was retained with the manuscripts.

The remaining material was grouped into three series: Correspondence, Reports and Tests, and Miscellany.

Johnston filed his letters both by subject and by correspondent. Major activities, such as a patent infringement suit or the construction of an oil refinery in Argentina, generated large amounts of correspondence with a narrow focus. This Johnston filed by subject. In addition, Johnston corresponded with a large number of individuals and companies about a wide range of topics. These letters he filed by correspondent. Some correspondents rated their own individual file, while others, with whom Johnston corresponded infrequently, were grouped together in alphabetical folders. Series I reflects this system. Subseries A contains letters filed by correspondent, while Subseries B contains letters filed by subject.

Series II, Reports and Tests, contains twelve subseries: Armor Plate, Blast Furnaces, Financial, Processes & Equipment, Guns, Industrial Relations, Inspection Trips, Miscellaneous Reports, Notes & Notebooks, Plant Expansion, Rails, and Tool Steel.

Series III consists of contracts and notes concerning legal contracts and a single account book. The book is for a shipping company and covers the years 1867-1882. It appears to have no connection with Johnston, his family, or any other papers in the collection. The book was received with the rest of the collection, however, and so is filed with it.

There are two significant gaps in the Johnston papers. First, there is almost ho material on Johnston's early career with Bethlehem, 1889-1892. All his printed biographies say that he was put in charge of the construction of the new armor plate and gun forging plants, yet there are no papers relating to those activities. This is especially unfortunate since Bethlehem had great trouble in producing its first armor plate, and the plant itself suffered many construction delays. Johnston's papers could provide valuable insight into the nature of these problems. This void is doubly intriguing when one considers that John Fritz's autobiography makes no mention of Johnston in its discussion of the construction of the armor and gun plants.

Second, there are no papers relating to foreign arms sales during World War I. This is unfortunate since Johnston was the chief foreign ordnance salesman, and since Bethlehem sold munitions to the Allies prior to America's entry into the war.



Arranged into 3 series, two of which have been arranged further in subseries:

Series I. Correspondence; Series II. Reports and tests; Series III. Miscellany.


Separated Material

Archibald Johnston photograph collection (Accession 1982.302), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.


Series Descriptions and Inventory

I. Correspondence
A. Correspondent file
1 "A" General Correspondence, 1914
1 "B" General Correspondence, 1898-1908
1 Bakewell, Thomas W. (Lawyer dealing with patent infringement suits), 1906
1 Butler, Thomas (Congressman), 1906-1913
1 "C" General Correspondence, 1910
1 Carnegie Steel Company, 1898-1911
1 Conlin, Fred (General Manager of Sales for Bethlehem Steel), 1907-1908
1 "D" General Correspondence, 1908
1 DeKnight, Clarence W. (Lawyer), 1905-1906
1 DuPont Co., E. I., 1913
1 "E" General Correspondence, 1906
1 Ehrensberger, Emil (Technical Assistant at Krupp), 1897-1898
1 "F" General Correspondence, 1906
1 "G" General Correspondence, 1908
1 Grace, Eugene G., 1906-1914
1 "H" General Cerrespondence, 1900-1911
1 Harris, George T., 1914
1 Harvey United Steel Company, 1908-1909
1 "J" General Correspondence, 1906-1909
1 "K" General Correspondence, 1906-1907
1 "L" General Correspondence, 1897-1914
1 "M" General Correspondence, 1906-1910
1 Matthews, J. E. (Bethlehem's European Agent), 1908-1913
2 Midvale Steel Company, 1907-1909
2 Navy Department, United States, 1907-1909
2 "O" General Correspondence, 1908-1910
2 "P" General Correspondence, 1908-1910
2 Penrose, Boies (United States Senator), 1906-1913
2 "R" General Correspondence, 1906-1912
2 "S" General Correspondence, 1912
2 Schwab, Charles M., 1901-1914
3 "T" General Correspondence, 1906-1913
3 "V" General Correspondence, 1902-1911
3 Van Horn, R. S. (Chief of Time and Cost Department at Bethlehem), 1906
3 "W" General Correspondence, 1906
3 West, Arthur H., 1907-1908
B. Subject file
3 "A" General Correspondence
3 Argentina - Army Artillery, 1923
3 Argentina - Coast Defense Guns, 1922
3 Argentina - General Miscellaneous, 1910-1923
3-4 Argentina - Oil Refinery, 1922-1923
4 Argentina - Naval Base, 1911
5 Armor Plate - International Pricing Agreement, 1895-1908
5 Brazil - Naval Station, 1911
5 Chile - Battleship, 1911-1912
5 Chile - Coast Defense Guns, 1908-1912
6 China - Naval Base and Ships, 1911-1913
6 Cuba - Ships and Ordnance, 1911
6 Fluid Compressed Steel, 1901-1903
6 Foreign Sales Representatives, 1909-1913
6 Grey Mills, 1906-1908
6 Guns - Two Hand-Wheel Elevating Mechanism, 1908
6 Harvey United Steel Company Royalties, 1907
7 Italy - Armor Plate Specifications, 1906-1907
7 Italy - Armor Plate Plant, General Correspondence, 1907
7 Italy - Armor Plate Plant, Establishment, Description, and Proposal, 1907-1908
7 Italy - Suit instituted by the Italian Minister of Marine against Mr. Francesco Montefredini, 1907
7 Italy - Copy of a Bill for Dockyard and Naval Construction in Spain, 1907
7 Memoranda, 1906-1908
8 Ore mines - Hoff (Wharton, N. J.), 1907-1908
8 Ore mines - Iberia (Cuba), 1908
8 Ore mines - Juragua (Cuba), 1904-1908
8 Ore mines - Puerto Rican Mines, 1908
8 Ore mines - Sanford (Essex County, N. Y.), 1906-1907
8 Patent Infringement Suits - Midvale Steel Company, 1905-1909
9 Patent Infringement Suits - Niles-Bement-Pond Company, 1905-1909
9 Personal - Family, 1896-1906, undated
9 Personal - As Mayor of Bethlehem, 1920-1921
9 Personal - Political Activities, 1906-1910
10 Personal - Female Friends, 1907-1911
10 Personal - Detective Reports, 1906-1907
10 Personal - Miscellaneous, 1907-1923
10 Promotions and Raises, 1899-1911
10 Proposals, Prices, and Inquiries - Forgings, 1909-1913
10 Proposals, Prices, and Inquiries - Guns, 1909-1914
10 Proposals, Prices, and Inquiries - Miscellaneous, 1902-1908
10 Rails - Sales Letters, 1907-1909
10 Rail Strike - Blacklist Letters, 1907
11 Russia - Battleships, 1906-1907; 3Folders
11 Taylor System, 1909
11 Turkey - Navy Ships, 1910-1911
11 Union Iron Works, 1905-1908
11 United States Shipbuilding Company, 1903
II. Reports and tests
A. Armor plate
12-13, 25 Ballistic Tests of Armor Plate:
Written Reports, 1891-1911 [includes 1896 contract for armor plate between the Bethlehem Iron Company and the Imperial Russian Navy; folder 18 located in Box 25] ; 18.0 folders
Photographs of Test Plates, 1895-1911, undated
Tabulated Data, 1891-1907
Miscellaneous Data, 1900-1908
13-14 Manufacturing Processes:
Bethlehem Process, undated
Charpey's Patent Process, 1900-1903
Krupp Process, 1895-1903
Russian Process, 1896-1897
Other Processes, 1891-1911
14 Manufacturing reports:
Experiments in Armor Plate, 1901-1902
Laboratory Tests, 1896-1901
Misc. Manufacturing Reports, 1896-1909, undated
Pricing and Costs, 1902-1908
Records of Mfg. - Plates for Imperial Russian Navy, 1896-1901
Records of Mfg. - Plates for U. S. Navy, 1898-1908
Segregation in Armor Plate Ingots, 1897-1907, undated
Shipments of Armor Plate, 1891-1904
B. Blast furnaces
15 Memoranda, 1902-1904
15 General Reports, 1901-1908
15 Costs, 1902-1908
15 Coal and Coke, 1900-1908
C. Financial
15 Financial Statistics and Annual Reports, 1905-1921
15 Monthly Sales and Billings, 1906-1908
15 Report on Expense Accounts of Various Depts., 1901-1907
15 Report of Bethlehem Steel Treasury Dept., 1908
15-16 Salaries, Wages, & Bonuses:
Bonus Information, 1902-1908
Salaries - Gen. Supt. Office, 1902-1905
Salaries - Notebooks, 1902 & 1907
Salary and Payroll Lists, 1906-1907
Salaries and Wages in Depts., Shops, & Subsidiaries, 1899-1907
Salaries and Wages - Individuals, 1899-1902
Salaries and Wages - Miscellaneous, 1900-1916
D. Processes and equipment used in the steel industry
16 General Discussions of Processes, circa 1919
16 Bessemer Process:
A.L. Holley on Bessemer Rails, 1879
A.L. Holley on Phosphorus Removal, 1879
Handwritten Description of Bessemer Blow, undated
16 Open Hearth Process, 1900-1905
16 Blast Furnace Gas Engines, 1900
E. Guns
17 Descriptions, 1905-1923
17 Two Hand-Wheel Elevating Mechanism, 1906
17 Gun Erosion & San Marcos Experiment, 1911
17 U. S. Navy Gun Factory vs. Private Factories, 1904
17 Miscellaneous Gun Information, 1899-1913
17 Sight for 4" Gun, 1908
17 12" Turret, 1905
F. Industrial relations
17 1923; 2.0 folders
G. Inspection trips
18 Foreign trips:
Unbound Reports, 1893-1901
Bound Report - Trip to Germany, France, Britain, 1897
Ephemera, 1896-1904
Itineraries, Passports, Letters of Introduction, 1895-1901
Checks, Bills, Letters of Credit, 1896-1914
19 Domestic trips:
Unbound Reports - Locations Unknown, undated
Unbound Reports, 1898-1908
Joliet, 1894
South Chicago, 1894
Homestead, 1894
Duquesne, 1894
Braddock, 1894
Homestead, Duquesne, Steelton, Carbon of Pittsburgh, McCormick of Harrisburg, 1896
South Chicago, Homestead, Steelton, Carbon of Pittsburgh, Otis of Cleveland, Paxton and Central Iron of Harrisburg, Worth and Lukens of Coatesville, 1896
Homestead, Pottstown, Carbon of Pittsburgh, 1897
Blast Furnace Lines - Carnegie Furnaces, undated
Clairton, Donora, Duquesne, Homestead, Sharon, Cambria of Franklin, Pa., Central of Harrisburg, Worth and Lukens of Coatesville, 1905
Trips of Bethlehem Steel Plants, 1925, 1936
H. Miscellaneous reports
20 Armor Piercing Projectiles, 1901-1910
20 Bethlehem Steel Co.-Decline in Ordnance Production, 1924
20 Battleships-Costs of Signal Towers, 1901-1902
20 Brass-Instructions for Using Parsons White Brass, 1899
20 Coal Consumption - At Smith Shop, 1900
20 Coal Consumption - Turbines vs. Reciprocating Engines, 1911
20 Conversion Table - Fahrenheit to Centigrade, undated
20 Duplex Process - Newspaper Clipping, 1907
20 Freight Rates, 1907
20 Government Contracts, Conference on, 1923
20 Handwritten Notes-Various, 1886-1908, undated
20 Heating Furnaces - Mill No. 1, 1901
20 Indicator Cards-Steam Engine, 1901-1903
20 Ingot Molds, 1900-1901
20 Ore, Chemical Analysis of, 1910
20 Physical Tests of Steel, 1896-1906
20 Planing Machines, 1900-1904
20 Lists, 1916, 1917, undated
20 Manufacturing and Production Reports - General, 1899-1908
20 Manufacture and Sale of Armor Plate, Guns, and Shells, 1891-1923
20 Memoranda - Miscellaneous, 1908, undated
20 Memoranda - Descriptions of Various Bethlehem Steel Plants, 1923
20 Microphotography, 1908
20 Sales, South American, 1912
20 Silicon - Influence on Foundry Iron, undated
20 Specifications - Pumping Engine for Philadelphia & Bristol Water Company, 1909
20 Timekeeping, 1900, undated
20 Water-Treatment, Consumption, and Distribution, 1898-1900
J. Notes and notebooks
21 Calculations and general notes, 1892-1893, circa 1940
21 Inspection trips - Foreign notebooks, 1896-1923
21 Inspection trips - Foreign, loose notes, 1897-1914
22 Inspection trips - Domestic, notebooks, 1896-1897, undated
22 Personal - College notes, 1886-1889
22 Personal - Notebooks, 1892-1893, circa 1940
22 Personal - Loose notes, 1914, undated
K. Plant expansion
25 Northhampton plant, 1902-1916, undated
25 Miscellaneous, 1901-1904
L. Rails
23 American Railway Association Committee on Standard Rail & Wheel Sections, 1907-1908
23 Drop Tests, 1895-1908
23 Failures, 1908
23 Manufacturing Costs, 1903-1908
23 Manufacturing Practice, 1907-1908
23 Memoranda, 1908
23 Specifications and Contracts, 1907
23 Specifications and Drawings, 1908
23 Micrographs, undated
25 Segregation in Ingots, 1907
M. Tool steel
17 General, 1901-1907
17 Taylor-White Experiments, 1885-1907
III. Miscellany
24 Contracts and notes on contracts, 1908-1913
24 Account book of a shipping company, 1867-1882 [Relationship of account book to Archibald Johnston is unknown]