Business, Industry, and Agriculture

Collections listed below document aspects of business, industry and agricultural history. Materials may be accessed by request in the Reading Room in Seidman House. Contact Leigh Rupinski at (616) 331-8726 or rupinskl@gvsu.edu to schedule a research appointment.

Need help? Try our Getting Started guide.

National Retail Furniture Institute Records (RHC-70)

The National Retail Furniture Association (U.S.) was a professional association for the home furnishings industry, and held institutes for retailers of home goods. C. Reid Webber was managing director and organizer of the Second Session of the National Retail Furniture Institute. He was an advertising and sales counselor, operating the organization of Webber Advertising Associates in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The collection contains volumes compiled by C. Reid Webber of correspondence and speeches given at the Second Session of the National Retail Furniture Institute, July 13-18, 1925.  Volumes include copies of The Little Record, the campus magazine of the National Retail Furniture Institute, correspondence from the registrants, and transcripts of the speeches given at the gathering.

View the National Retail Furniture Institute Records Finding Aid


Russel Kirkhof Papers (RHC-05)

Russel Kirkhof (1896-1979) was an inventor, mechanic, businessman in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kirkhof began his career as an errand boy in a small electrical repair shop in Grand Rapids, and ended his career as a multi-millionaire head of Kirkhof Manufacturing Corporation. At first prospering in electrical repair, Kirkhof assured his business success when he invented the resistance welding transformer. The collection documents the personal life and career of Russel Kirkhof. Personal materials include correspondence, diaries, interviews, photographs, materials related to Kirkhof's relationship with Grand Valley, and the Kirkhof residence. Business records include patents, investments, personal correspondence, legal correspondence, tax records, business ledgers, real estate speculation, and philanthropy.

View the Russel Kirkhof Papers Finding Aid


Morton Manufacturing Company Records (RHC-20)

The Morton Company was organized by Matthew Morton about 1870, at Lapeer, Michigan to build steam engines. The company also operated under the name Morton Valve Company and produced valves for saw mills and water works plants, horse power devices, and agricultural machinery. Matthew Morton developed and patented the first milling machine and machines used in locomotive repair work. Their machines were sold to Navy yards, manufacturers of heavy machinery, steel and tin mills, and railroad shops. During World War II, the Morton Company produced special boring and milling machines for the tank program and special welding machines for the jet program. In 1968, Morton filed for bankruptcy due to an insufficient volume of business and closed in 1972. 

View the Morton Manufacturing Company Records Finding Aid


Arnold Ott Papers (RHC-31)

Michigan-born chemist and entrepreneur Arnold Ott worked at Dow Chemical Company and the Upjohn Company, where he authored 55 domestic and foreign patents before starting the Ott Chemical Company in Muskegon. He served on the first Board of Control of Grand Valley State College and was instrumental in its founding. Ott was the longest standing member of the Grand Valley State University Board of Control, beginning as a charter member in 1960 and serving for 28 years, including two terms as board chair. He worked as an entrepreneur and civic leader throughout his career. The collection includes personal papers and biographical information, photographs and stereograph collection, speeches, business records, and records of his participation on the Grand Valley Board of Control from 1960-1988. The collection also includes three scrapbooks documenting the life of Arnold Ott and his wife Marion as well as the Ott Chemical Company and the Otts' involvement with Grand Valley State College. Materials in the scrapbooks date from 1917 to 1967.

View the Arnold Ott Papers Finding Aid


William Welsh Papers (RHC-89)

William Welsh was a teacher and surveyor in Knox County, Ohio during the 1850s, and enlisted in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1861. In 1864 he transferred to the 19th U.S. Colored Infantry and eventually attained the rank of Captain. Following the Civil War, Welsh continued his military service until 1871. The collection contains six journals kept by Welsh, containing entries dating from 1855 to 1908, as well as a folder of loose letters, notes, and newspaper clippings.  The journal entries document the activities of Welsh, including his teaching and surveying activities in Knox County, Ohio, farming, weather, and personal observations. Entries occasionally mention the Civil War and other important matters of the time.

View the William Welsh Papers Finding Aid


Alabastine Company Collection (RHC-100)

The Alabastine Company produced a paint-like wall covering made from gypsum, which was mined from the abundant shale beds near Grand Rapids. Though the company was founded in New York, the company took its name from the Alabastine mine near Wyoming, Michigan. This small collection contains colorful printed ephemera, such as brochures, advertisements, and promotional materials from the Alabastine Company dating from the 1890s to the 1940s. 

View the Alabastine Company Collection Finding Aid


A.K. Gibson Printing Scrapbook (RHC-71)

Archibald K. Gibson was born in July 1871 and lived and worked in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gibson was a member of the Society of the Philistines, an association of book lovers. The collection consists of samples of fine printing collected by A.K. Gibson, correspondence to Gibson from publishers and book sellers on letterhead, sketches, bookplates, announcements, and illustrated catalogs.

View the A.K. Gibson Printing Scrapbook Finding Aid


Hyatt C. Ransom Letters (RHC-104)

Hyatt Clark Ransom (1823-1874) held a number of quartermaster positions through his career in Indiana, Minnesota, Montana Territory, Dakota Territory, and New Orleans. The collection contains handwritten letters, mostly to Ferris Forman Hyatt (1826-1883), lumberman, investor, and president of the First National Bank of Flint. The connections among the correspondents reflect the development of the lumber industry in Michigan, particularly in Flint.

View the Hyatt C. Ransom Letters Finding Aid


Limited Editions Club Records (RHC-68)

The Limited Editions Club was founded in 1929 by George Macy, a New York entrepreneur and promoter of fine printing. The Club published a dozen books each year, each carefully chosen, edited, illustrated, and printed by renowned craftsmen and limited usually to 1000 copies. The records, which accompany a collection of the published books, includes correspondence between George Macy and book designers, illustrators, printers, editors and authors. The collection also includes first-day cover for a stamp in commemoration of the Festival of Britain 1851-1951, sketches by illustrators, correspondence, club announcements and ephemera. 

View the Limited Editions Club Records Finding Aid


Theodore Peticolas Diary (RHC-51)

Theodore Victor Peticolas, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1800, was a fruit farmer in Union Township, Clermont County, Ohio at the time he maintained this diary. In it Peticolas details his farm work, crops, family, neighbors, and social life during the year of 1863.

View the Theodore Peticolas Diary Finding Aid  


Jackson Forge Mining Company Ledger Book (RHC-150)

The Jackson Iron Company began in 1845 in Jackson, Michigan with Abram V. Berry as president and Philo M. Everett as treasurer. In 1847 the company organized men and machinery, began taking ore out of the mine, and constructed the Carp River Forge before being purchased by Joel B. Curtis, president of the Sharon Iron Co. A ruled ledger of 451 pages, bound in full leather. This collection contains manuscript entries in black ink from June 1853 to January 1856. The account ledger shows expenses after the merging of two companies: the Jackson Iron Mine of Jackson, Michigan, and the Sharon Iron Company of Sharon, Pennsylvania. Expenses are shown in detail for the company and include food, lodging and business expenses, such as shipping and laying plank for roads and railroads. Many employees and payments are listed.

View the Jackson Forge Mining Company Ledger Book Finding Aid


Silas Seekles Lee Papers (RHC-136)

This collection includes five letters and a map belonging pioneer Michigan lumberman Silas Seekles Lee (1820-1903) concerning his lumbering interest in the areas of Tuscola and East Saginaw, Michigan; and other lumbering interest as a shareholder in the Tittabawassee Boom Company, Midland County and Montcalm County between December 21, 1863 and September 19, 1864. The letters concern the lumbering issues Lee encountered, including settling of deals and accounts, low water levels in the rivers and the accordingly slow pace of work, the difficulty of finding men and the problems of men in relation to the draft, and encounters with Native Americans. This collection also contains one check issued in Flint for $300, dated January 26, 1866 and one receipt from Moses W. Field and Co. Wholesale of Detroit, dated November 1865.

View the Silas Seekles Lee Papers Finding Aid