skip to searchskip to content
Betts & Seal records
print eadcite thisAsk Hagley
Betts & Seal records

Accession 2179

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807

Finding aid prepared by Warren Adams, 1998, 1828-1867

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-01-25T13:29-0500

Finding aid prepared using best local practices and Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, Betts & Seal records (Accession 2179), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807


Descriptive Summary

Title: Betts & Seal records
Dates: 1828-1867
Accession Number: 2179
Creator: Betts & Seal.
Extent: 9.5 linear feet
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: Mahlon Betts (1795-1867) established a foundry in Wilmington, Del., in 1828, which was later operated by his son Edward Betts (1825-1917) and the latter’s cousin Joshua Seal (1820-1896). They were all connected to the larger network of metal-working technicians in the Greater Philadelphia area. The records offer a rare time-capsule look at the workings of a small but innovative foundry during the first phases of American industrialization.

Administrative Information


Purchased from the Ministry of Caring


Historical Note

The Betts family of Wilmington, Delaware, produced three generations of innovative founders and machinists. They played an important role in the founding of three of the city's major manufacturing enterprises The Betts Machine Company, the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company and the Pusey & Jones Company.

Mahlon Betts was born in Attleboro, Bucks County, Pa., on March 16, 1795. He came to Wilmington in 1812, where he married Mary R. Seal at the Wilmington Friends Meeting on November 8, 1818. He built a foundry at 8th and Orange Streets in 1828. On March 1, 1836, Betts formed the new partnership of Betts & Pusey with Samuel N. Pusey for the business of manufacturing railroad cars at a plant at Water & West Streets. He leased the foundry at 8th and Orange to his son Edward, who carried on the business as Betts & Stotsenburg. Mahlon Betts died in Wilmington on March 4, 1867.

The foundry then passed to Mahlon's oldest son, Edward (1825-1917), who operated it with a succession of partners as Betts & Stotsenburg with Evan C. Stotsenburg, 1837-1849; as E. Betts & Co. with his cousin Joshua Seal, 1849-1851; as Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal, 1851-1854 and Betts, Pusey & Co., 1854-1857, both with Joshua L. Pusey and John Jones; and as Betts & Seal, 1857-1867. The foundry closed in December 1867.

Edward Betts and his brother Alfred (1835-1918) also built a machine shop in 1860, which they operated under the name of E. & A. Betts, and later the Betts Machine Company, until 1917.


Scope and Content

The records of Betts & Seal cover the operation of the foundry from 1828 to 1867. the result is a rare time-capsule look at the workings of a small but innovative foundry during the first phase of American industrialization.

As might be expected of a small, one-building operation, account books predominate. There is, however, one wage book covering the years 1848-1868; other enteries for wages are scattered through the other account books. The latter also contain data on the partners' earnings and expenses, business travel, inventory and furnance operations. They record the purchase of scrap iron and brass for remelting, coal and charcoal for fuel, oyster shells for flux, and moulding sand from Dutchess County, N.Y., and Gloucester County, N.J. The Works Diaries are actually a kind of daily accounting journal with notations of castings made with the weight in pounds. The cupola account (1851-1867, incomplete) shows the consumption of raw materials and the output of the melting furnance. The Debit Ledger No. 2 (1844-1846) contains an apprenticeship agreement for E. B. Taggart. The Order Books (1828-1849) are a chronological list of orders, usually with dimensioned sketches of the pieces to be made. These include gears, pulleys, shafts, flywheels, axles, pipe, flywheels, anchors, railroad car wheels and pump parts.

The records render a good description of the relationship among different partners in the firm and between the firm and its workers, customers and suppliers. The foundry's customer list reads like a who's who of early New Castle County industries, including the DuPont Company powder mills, the textile mills of the Bancrofts, Deans, Puseys and Riddles, the paper mills of Jessup & Moore, turbine inventor Emile Geyelin and the iron works of the Alan Wood family. Of course, the partners dealt heavily with businesses owned by related families such as Harlan & Hollingsworth and Pusey & Jones. The firm also enjoyed good trade with the millowners along the streams lying between Wilmington and Philadelphia, such as the Crozers, Leipers, Daniel Lammot, and even Joseph Ripka of Manayunk, the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Thomas Wood's Fairmount Machine Works, and the new metalworking industries of Chester. Its long-distance trade is skewed to the south--to points around the Chesapeake basin--rather than to the north and east, which were well-supplied with foundries of their own. Even so, the records show an exchange of tools and parts with important northern foundries and machine shops, such as Corliss in Rhode Island, the Novelty Iron Works in New York and Cyrus Alger's South Boston Iron Works.

Perhaps most importantly, the records include good runs of both incoming and outgoing correspondence for the years of Betts & Seal's tenure. These include fairly detailed descriptions of castings being ordered, usually with dimensioned sketches in the margins, that give a good sense of the work involved in making the individual pieces. In addition to orders for castings, there is also correspondence relating to the purchase of tools and supplies and freight bills for shipments by rail and water.


Access Points

Alan Wood & Brother.
Alan Wood & Company.
Atlantic Iron Works (Norfolk, Va.)
Baldwin Locomotive Works.
Bancroft and Sellers (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Bancroft, Joseph, 1803-1874.
Bancroft, Samuel, 1804-1891.
Betts & Seal.
Betts & Stotsenburg.
Betts, Edward, 1825-1917.
Betts, Harlan & Hollingsworth.
Betts, Jesse, 1764-1854.
Betts, Mahlon, 1795-1867.
Betts, Pusey & Company.
Betts, Pusey & Harlan.
Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal.
Bidermann, James Antoine, 1790-1865.
Brass founding.
Bush & Lobdell.
C. & J. Marshall.
Cabeen & Company.
Camden Iron Manufacturing Company.
Catasauqua Manufacturing Company.
Charles B. Campbell & Company.
Charles I. du Pont & Company.
Charles Warner & Company.
Corliss Steam Engine Company.
Crozer, John. P. (John Price), 1793-1866.
Dean, Joseph, 1784-1861.
Delaware Iron Works.
Diamond State Rolling Mill.
Du Pont, Alfred Victor, 1798-1856.
Du Pont, Charles I. (Charles Irénée), 1797-1869.
Du Pont, Lammot, 1831-1884.
E. & A. Betts.
E. Betts & Company.
E. Haldeman & Company.
E.C. Stotsenburg & Son.
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company.
Fairmount Machine Works (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Ferris & Garrett.
Franklin Iron Works (Reading, Pa.)
Garrett, William E. (William Evans), 1798?-1885.
Geyelin, Emile C. (Emile Camile), 1828?-1900.
Gibbons, Richard P. (Richard Pim), 1819-1904.
Great Central Fair for the United States Sanitary Commission (1864 Philadelphia, Pa.)
Haines, Barclay.
Harlan & Hollingsworth.
Harlan, John P. (John Paxson), 1809-1860.
Harlan, Samuel, 1808-1883.
Harvey, Edmund A., 1821-1911.
Hollingsworth, Elijah, 1806-1866.
Hollingsworth, Harvey & Company.
Hoopes & Townsend.
Iron and steel workers--Delaware--19th century.
Iron industry and trade.
Iron molders.
J. Morton Poole & Company.
J. Pusey & Sons.
J. Wood & Bros. (Conshohocken, Pa.)
Jackson & Sharp.
Jenks, Alfred, b. ca. 1794.
Jessup & Moore.
Jessup, Augustus E.
Jones, John, 1818-1897.
Joseph Bancroft & Sons.
Lammot, Daniel, 1782-1877.
Leiper, George Gray, 1786-1868.
Lobdell, George G., 1818-1894.
Lukens, Rebecca W. (Rebecca Webb), 1794-1854.
Marshall, Phillips & Company.
Marshallton Iron Works.
McComb, Henry S., 1825-1881.
McCullough Iron Company.
Mendenhall, Joseph, 1809-1880.
Merrick & Sons.
Miller & Allen, Machinists & Engineers (Chester, Pa.)
Mills and mill-work.
Moore, Charles, 1807-1890.
Nathan Trotter & Company.
National Iron Armor & Ship Building Company.
Novelty Iron Works.
Pascal Iron Works (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company.
Poole, J. Morton (John Morton), 1812-1879.
Price, James E., 1842-1919.
Pusey & Jones.
Pusey, Jacob, 1792-1871.
Pusey, Jonas, 1791-1851.
Pusey, Jones & Betts.
Pusey, Jones & Company.
Pusey, Joshua L., 1820-1891.
Pusey, Samuel N., 1814-1885.
Reaney, Son & Archbold.
Riddle & Maxwell.
Riddle, James, 1803-1873.
Ripka, Joseph, 1788-1864.
Rockland Manufacturing Company.
Schuylkill Iron Works.
Seal, Joshua, 1820-1896.
Sellers Brothers.
Sellers, John, b. 1826.
South Boston Iron Company.
Stotsenburg, Evan. C. (Evan Canning), 1807-1882.
Tatnall & Lea.
Tatnall, Edward, 1782-1856.
Tatnall, Henry L. (Henry Lea), 1829-1885.
Tatnall, Joseph, 1816-1895.
Trimble, Isaac Ridgeway, 1802-1888.
Warner, Charles, 1816-1891.
William Lea & Company.
Wilmington (Del.)--Foundries.
Wood & Lukens (McKeesport, Pa.)
Wood, Alan, 1800-1881.
Wood, Thomas, 1814-.
Wood, W. Dewees (Waters Dewees), 1826-1899.

Series Descriptions and Inventory

I. Day Books
1 Betts & Stotsenburg, Vol. A, 1837-1840
2 Betts & Stotsenburg, Vol. B, 1840-1846
3 Betts & Stotsenburg, Vol. C, 1844-1848
4 Betts & Stotsenburg, Vol. D, 1848-1861
II. Journals
5 E. Betts & Co., Vol. A, 1849-1856
6 Betts & Seal, Vol. A, 1857-1868
III. Ledgers
7 Betts & Stotsenburg, 1837-1842
8 Betts & Stotsenburg, 1843-1861
9 Betts & Stotsenburg (index), 1843-1861
10 Betts & Stotsenburg - Debit No. 2, 1844-1846
11 E. Betts & Co., Vol. A, 1849-1852
12 Betts & Seal - General Ledger, 1857-1868
13 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1857-1858
14 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1859
15 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1860
16 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1861
17 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1862
18 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1863
19 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1864
20 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1865
21 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1866
22 Betts & Seal - Petit Ledger, 1867
IV. Cash Books
1 E. Betts & Co., 1849-1851
1 Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal, 1851-1855
1 Betts & Seal, 1857-1859
V. Foundry Blotters
1 E. Betts & Co., 1849-1851
1 E. Betts & Co., 1851-1853
1 Betts, Pusey & Co./Betts & Seal, 1856-1857
1 Betts & Seal, 1857-1858
1 Betts & Seal, 1860
1 Betts & Seal, 1861
1 Betts & Seal, 1862
1 Betts & Seal, 1863
2 Betts & Seal, 1864
2 Betts & Seal, 1865
2 Betts & Seal, 1866
2 Betts & Seal, 1867-1868
VI. Order Books
2 Mahlon Betts/Betts & Stotsenburg, 1828-1841
2 Betts & Stotsenburg, 1846-1849
VII. Works Diaries
2 Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal, 1852
2 Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal, 1853
2 Betts, Pusey & Co., 1854
2 Betts, Pusey & Co., 1857
2 Betts & Seal, 1858
2 Betts & Seal, 1859
2 Betts & Seal, 1860
3 Betts & Seal, 1862
3 Betts & Seal, 1864
3 Betts & Seal, 1865
3 Betts & Seal, 1866
3 Betts & Seal, 1866
3 Betts & Seal, 1867
IX. Miscellaneous Accounts
23 Wage Book, 1848-1868
24 Check Stub Book - Betts & Seal, 1863-1868
25 Stock & Affairs Book - Betts & Seal, 1858-1868
3 Vendor Invoices - Betts, Pusey & Co., 1856-1857
3 Vendor Invoices - Betts & Seal, 1857-1863
4 Vendor Invoices - Betts & Seal, 1863-1864
4 Check Stub Book - Wilmington & Brandywine, 1847-1853
4 Check Stub book - No bank name, 1855-1858
4 Freight Receipt Book - Betts & Seal, 1867
1 Cupalo [ sic] Account - Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal/Betts & Seal, 1851-1867
X. Inbound Letters
4 Betts, Pusey & Co., 1856
4 Betts & Seal, 1857-1858
5 Betts & Seal, 1858-1859
5 Betts & Seal, 1859-1860
5 Betts & Seal, 1860-1861
5 Betts & Seal, 1861-1862
5 Betts & Seal, 1863
6 Betts & Seal, 1863-1864
6 Betts & Seal, 1866
XI. Outbound Letterpress Books
6 Betts & Seal, 1860-1862
6 Betts & Seal, 1862-1864
6 Betts & Seal, 1864-1866