Alexander Trachtenberg Papers, 1870-1975

Scope and Content Note

Records of Island Woolen Company are arranged in the following series: CORPORATION RECORDS (1899-1950); INCOMING CORRESPONDENCE (1864-1890); OUTGOING CORRESPONDENCE (1867-1891); GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE (1903-1951); AGENTS' CORRESPONDENCE (1918-1951); PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE (1910-1932); PRODUCTION RECORDS (1870-1949); and FINANCIAL RECORDS (1863-1952). This arrangement primarily follows the record-keeping system established by Island Woolen Company.

The series CORPORATION RECORDS (1899-1950) contains historical and administrative materials. Included in the series are partnership agreements and dissolutions; legal papers; and correspondence regarding the sale of the mill as well as scattered stockholder minutes and general correspondence. Of particular note is a historical sketch of Island Woolen Company prepared by Edward P. McFetridge. The narrative traces the development of the mill from its inception to 1920 and was prepared by McFetridge to document the company's financial history for the Internal Revenue Service.

The INCOMING CORRESPONDENCE (1864-1890) series is arranged chronologically. The bulk of the correspondence is from Island's traveling salesmen and concerns business conditions in Midwestern communities, particularly during the Panic of 1873; customers' orders; collection of payments; and suggestions for new or improved fabric lines. Another major topic in this series pertains to the purchase of raw wool throughout Wisconsin by men acting on Island's behalf. Of particular note is correspondence, January-November 1868, in response to an advertisement Island placed in New England newspapers for laborers. The letters provide a good description of various jobs in a woolen mill as well as Island's conditions and wages. The remaining items in this series concern supplies and other routine business. From 1875 to 1878 there is some scattered personal correspondence between Will and Henry Rich.

The series OUTGOING CORRESPONDENCE consists of eleven letterpress books dating from 1867 to 1884. The bulk of the correspondence is directed to Island Woolen Company's customers with references to orders and related issues. The remaining correspondence is concerned with supplies, raw wool purchases, and employment applications. Correspondence of 1867 was signed by Baraboo Manufacturing Company. Some of the volumes contain an alphabetical index by correspondents' names. Most of the volumes are nearly illegible because of water damage.

The distinction between incoming and outgoing correspondence was not maintained after the turn of the century. Apparently in the early 1900s an integrated correspondence system was established. The company's arrangement of its correspondence was an alphabetical sequence based on the correspondent's last name and thereunder by a two-letter combination based on the second component of the name. Regular and frequent correspondents had individual files. Internal evidence suggests Island retained an alphabetical sequence for approximately two or three years or until it was decided the file cabinets were full.

This original order was retained intact for the most part in the series GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE (1903-1951). Accordingly, this series is arranged in subseries based upon Island's chronological divisions. Island's breakdown in two-letter combinations was not retained when the quantities were small. That is, Island's folders may have been aa, ab, ac, ad, et cetera; if the quantities were small within each of these individual folders, the materials were combined into one alphabetical folder -A- and were arranged chronologically thereunder. Separate files of large quantities of materials with regular correspondents were generally retained as such. An effort was also made, whenever practical, to retain correspondence with other Wisconsin businesses and organizations as individual folder titles. Examples of these materials include David Adler and Sons, I. Barnett Woolen Mills, La Crosse Clothing Company, and Appleton Woolen Mills. Also, the fabric swatches attached to the correspondence were retained intact. The swatches were attached to the correspondence and enclosed in protective mylar.

The series GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE is arranged by the chronological subseries of 1903-1918; 1918-1922; 1923-1925; 1926-1927; 1928; 1930; 1931-1934; 1935-1939; and 1940-1951; and alphabetically by correspondent thereunder.

This series primarily consists of correspondence with customers, suppliers, organizations, and government agencies. Most of the correspondence is that of Edward McFetridge and Frank V. Rachor, Superintendent. Scattered correspondence is from Fred E. Morey, General Manager. While most of the correspondence is of a routine nature it does document the day-to-day operations of Island Woolen Company. Typical topics discussed include orders; customer complaints; cost and type of supplies; shipping; and accounting practices. The correspondence also documents employees; physical plant development; and regulations and policies; as well as the textile industry and economic conditions.

Specifically, issues pertaining to employees are reflected in the files of the Aetna Life Insurance Company; applications; availability statements; employee notices; Employers Mutual Liability Insurance Company; Federal Social Security; garnishments; Industrial Commission of Wisconsin; labor permits; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; Selective Service; unemployment insurance; United States National Life and Casualty Company; United Textile Workers Union; Washington National Insurance Company; Wisconsin Compensation Insurance Board; and Wisconsin Inspection Bureau. Information related to the employees is also contained in the files of the Island Woolen Company Baseball Team (1923-1925; 1926-1927).

Materials on the physical plant development are included in files such as Industrial Commission, Claude and Starck, Alan Philbrick, Johnson and Higgins, and American Appraisal Company. Information on regulations and policies as well as the textile industry itself are topics generally discussed in the correspondence with major suppliers and customers such as William G. Davidson and Company; National Aniline and Chemical Company; R.W. Nordlie; Alexander Parks; Star Woolen Company; and Swift and Company.

Economic conditions are documented particularly in the subseries of 1918-1922 with references to New York garment workers' strikes, the influenza epidemic, and World War I. The subseries of 1931-1934 also provides documentation of Island's economic status as it struggled to develop new products for the marketplace and to simply remain in business. Specifically, the 1930s files of mill applications and accounts receivable contain correspondence with references to the depression, bank holiday, relief work, and milk strikes.

Correspondence for the period of July 1891-October 1918 is missing. However, within the subseries of 1903-1918, the collection includes an alphabetical card index to correspondence for 1903-1918. The index entry includes the correspondent's name and address as well as the dates of correspondence. The card file does not contain entries for R-Z.

For the sake of researcher ease, the small amount of correspondence for November-December 1918 was combined with that of 1919-1922 thereby creating the subseries of 1918-1922. The materials from 1918 may originally have been part of another chronological grouping. For the period of March-October 1918 the only existing correspondence is in the form of stenographers' notebooks which are not transcribed.

In the correspondence subseries 1926-1927, no correspondence for the alphabetical sequence U-Z could be located at the time of processing.

The subseries 1931-1934 contains correspondence of interest regarding Island Woolen Company's attempts to manufacture automobile upholstery fabric. Scattered throughout this subseries are references to political matters including Edward McFetridge's critique of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.

Correspondence for the period of 1935-1939 is very scattered. The limited amount of general correspondence primarily pertains to supplies.

Of particular note are the correspondence subseries of 1935-1939 and 1940-1951. Extensive correspondence in these two subseries documents Island Woolen Company's relationship with government agencies and its production of woolen goods for the United States Army. Island's intentions for expansion of markets in the 1940s to South Africa and Rhodesia are indicated by the correspondence with “Progress Sales Company” and “Selling Agents.” Most of the correspondence from approximately 1943 to 1951 was conducted by Frank V. Rachor.

The series AGENTS' CORRESPONDENCE consists of outgoing and incoming correspondence between Island Woolen Company and its selling agents and factors from 1918 to 1949. A selling agent markets a certain product line for a mill, with or without the mill's name on the fabric, and receives a commission on sales. A factor is much like a selling agent but assumes credit risks on shipped goods and provides working capital to the manufacturer by discounting sales. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by agent name and chronologically thereunder. Some of the agents' initial correspondence with Island was filed by Island as general correspondence, and is located in that series.

The bulk of the agents' correspondence consists of that with J.G. Hanf and Company (1918-1941), agent for Island's suiting fabrics. Major topics discussed are labor, establishment of company policies, raw material prices, manufacturing problems, eastern mill openings and their effects on prices, market conditions, fabric style and design, and problems with distribution and bill collection, as well as production of woolen blankets for the United States Army. In addition, there are scattered letters between J.G. Hanf and Edward McFetridge which include anti-Semitic opinions; political views; and comments on sports events, including the activities of the Island Woolen Company baseball team. The J.G. Hanf and Company correspondence also includes mill memos (1924-1941), a method the agent developed for communicating brief and routine information concerning specific customers and orders to the mill. Related materials are found in the files of Theodore H. Schumann, a partner and later independent agent; and J. Valenta and Company, successor to J.G. Hanf and Company

Other major correspondents include J. Blumenstock and Cohn-Blumenstock (1926-1934), agents for Island's women's wear line, Roxbury-Cheviot; Feltex Manufacturing (1933-1934) and Getsinger-Fox (1934-1941), both agents for Island's automotive upholstery fabric; and Duval, Lellback, and Slack (1931-1932), agents for prison cloth. Correspondence topics include possible additional markets, fabric styles, consistency of fabric quality, and problems with delivery and payments. The remainder of the series largely consists of agents whose correspondence reflects attempts to initiate or continue a relationship with Island Woolen Company.

The series PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE is divided into the two subseries of Edward P. McFetridge and Will H. McFetridge. It should be noted that some correspondence in this series contains references to business matters. Conversely, some letters in the GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE series include references to personal matters.

The subseries of Edward P. McFetridge correspondence is further divided into general correspondence, Board of Education, and George Mertens Estate. The general correspondence is primarily outgoing correspondence pertaining to state and local Republican political campaigns and fundraising efforts; financial investments; family matters and personal purchases; and local issues such as the extension of postal service in Baraboo. Of particular note is correspondence for the period of 1927-1928 concerning the construction of McFetridge's private home in Baraboo. This correspondence fully details all aspects of the home building including exterior design, interior decorating, and furnishings. Prominent correspondents regarding this topic include Claude Starck and Marshall Field's.

The bulk of the local Board of Education correspondence pertains to the Baraboo High School, specifically, the maintenance and construction of its building. Correspondence regarding the George Mertens Estate constitutes the remainder of Edward McFetridge's personal correspondence. Mertens was a prominent local banker and businessman. McFetridge was the administrator of his estate and accordingly the bulk of the correspondence concerns the sale of Mertens' investments and assets.

The subseries of Will H. McFetridge has been further divided into general correspondence and McFetridge Lighting Company. The general correspondence is primarily outgoing correspondence with only a small portion of incoming letters. Of particular note are McFetridge's letters expressing his views about American involvement in World War I. These letters illustrate McFetridge's pro-American, pro-war sentiments. In contrast, McFetridge describes the views of other Baraboo citizens as pro-German, anti-war. Scattered throughout the general personal correspondence are references to the development of Devil's Lake State Park and McFetridge's involvement. (See letters of October 12, 1922; February 12, 1923; November 8, 1923; October 21, 1926.) Also noteworthy is McFetridge's correspondence with Frank Lloyd Wright. Again, these letters are scattered but generally occur from 1924 to 1926. Topics discussed include Taliesin, construction of the Island Woolen Company dam; the sale of Wright's work by the Bank of Madison; and Will's opinion of Mrs. Wright (see letters of April 18, 1924; May 14, 1924; November 12, 1924; October 21, 1926). There is no incoming correspondence from Wright. Other prominent correspondents are Charles Ringling (McFetridge rental or purchase of Ringling's Baraboo home); Louis W. Claude, Madison architect; and several politicians including a letter to Edward E. Browne regarding the oleomargarine issue (April 16, 1917). Additional subjects include prohibition; art; war relief work; family matters; bond purchases and personal finances; Republican state politicians; and Island Woolen Company's physical plant development, baseball team, publication, legal cases, and west coast sales.

The materials concerning the McFetridge Lighting Company primarily consist of federal and state income tax returns as well as government reports. For the most part, the records of the power company's operations are interfiled with those of the woolen mill and only a few could be isolated. This is especially true of the lighting company's financial records.

The PRODUCTION RECORDS series (1870-1949) documents all stages of production: purchasing raw materials; weaving; picking; finishing; and testing. Production records also indicate the various types of fabric produced. This series is arranged by type of records and is divided into monthly production summaries; raw materials inventories; lot books; design specification book; weaving room books; winding room book; finishing room books; specking and burling books; and cloth books. To facilitate description, arrangement, and microfilming, numbers were assigned to the volumes in the production records series.

The production summaries (1915-1949) provide weekly, monthly, and semi-annual summaries of goods produced. Also includes information on mill and New York shipments, returns, and sales. These are arranged chronologically and thereunder by style.

Raw materials inventories (1886-1926) are yearly or twice yearly inventories of raw materials such as wool shoddy, cloth, dyestuff, yarn, wood, oil, as well as the accounts machinery, expense, and finishing. Some of the entries contain very detailed information including shipper's name, quantity, and net costs. Some of the volumes contain recapitulations and volume 7 has an index. This subseries also includes lists of raw materials consumed and supplies for the finishing room.

The lot books record wool and shoddy purchases and include some design specification data. Detailed information on style numbers, bale numbers, invoice date, gross weight, date used and supplier's name is provided. The books date from 1883-1889 and 1944-1949.

The design specification book (circa 1880s) constitutes a “recipe book.” It provides visual and written instructions for fabric construction and includes identification of yarn used in warp and weft, weaving procedures, and draft information on graph paper. The information is arranged by style number. Samples are attached for the majority of the styles.

Data recorded in the winding room book (1916) includes the employee's name; date; number of pounds; and wages for piecework, day work, and salary averages.

Weaving room books (1870-1949) consist of daily, weekly, and monthly production data for weavers. Information recorded varies slightly within each volume but generally includes the weaver's name; loom number; quality; range, lot, and style numbers; number of picks; number of yards and ounces; number of pieces; color; cost per yard; piece work hours; loom hours; average cost per hour; and comments. Some of the volumes contain yearly summaries. Weaving room books are arranged by a sequential number or chronologically and thereunder by weaver's name. Some overlap exists between volumes 16 and 17, and volumes 19 and 20, with 17 and 20 containing more detail while 16 and 19 are more summary.

Data recorded in the finishing room books (1872-1895) includes date; quality; style, lot, and loom numbers; weight; number of yards; picks and pieces; and comments. Arrangement is by sequential entry numbers.

Specking and burling books (circa 1880s-1887), are records of specking and burling tests on finished fabrics. Data includes style, lot, and loom numbers; dates; and specking and burling table numbers. Arranged chronologically and thereunder by sequential fabric? number.

The cloth books (1877-1888) record data on style and quality numbers; number of yards and ounces; and dates. Recapitulations are included. Arranged chronologically and thereunder by a sequential number.

The FINANCIAL RECORDS series provides very thorough and complete documentation of Island's financial activities from its inception, 1863, to its final closing, 1952. All levels of accounting procedures are included. The point of entry books, such as daybooks and cashbooks, as well as summary accounting records, such as ledgers and trial balances, were kept. Each type of accounting record varied in completeness, detail, and thoroughness. For this reason, and also because of Island's somewhat complex accounting system, all of the financial records were retained. The series is arranged by type of record and thereunder, as far as feasible, in the order the records were created. The subseries are invoices, cash books, daybooks, journals, orders, commission book, National Credit Office, ledgers, accounting reports, and miscellaneous. Records within each subseries are arranged chronologically. The two exceptions to this are orders and accounting reports which are arranged alphabetically.

The invoices, arranged chronologically, from 1863 to 1882, document changes in the administrative hierarchy. These materials provide the only record of the early co-partnerships and their transactions. Also, the invoices indicate the partners functioned as salesmen as well as administrators. Island apparently provided room and board for its employees which is documented only by the invoices. The majority of the invoices are for supplies but a few are for personal items of the partners.

The cash book subseries dates from 1867 to 1918, with a gap from 1870-1872. Cash books provide a chronological, usually detailed, record of original entry for cash receipts and disbursements transactions. Entries from the cash book are posted to the appropriate journals and ledgers.

The subseries of daybooks, 1868-1890, has some volumes that overlap and some missing years. Similar to cash books, the daybooks are records of original entry and provide a chronological listing of all receipts and expenditures. The entries in the daybooks are typically very detailed accounts of transactions. A considerable amount of order information is recorded in the daybooks. With the exception of volumes 56 and 57, the entries are posted to journals and ledgers.

The journals subseries has been further divided into the following types: general, accounts receivable, order books, sales books, and accounts payable. General journals (1866-1918) are chronological records of original entry for each transaction. Some of the entries are detailed and include narrative descriptions. General journals completely replaced the function of the daybooks in 1891. Journal entries are comprised of postings from the cashbooks and daybooks. In turn, journal entries are posted to the appropriate ledgers and the journal entry includes a citation to the ledger page number. There are many overlapping volumes and gaps in the general journal volumes.

The accounts receivable (1870-1909) volumes are a chronological record of amounts due on completed sales of goods. Data entered includes customers' names and addresses, purchasing date, amount due, terms of sale, and date of delivery. However the quantity or type of material purchased is not indicated. Entries in some of the volumes include citations to ledgers.

Related to accounts receivable records are order books (1876-1893). Early order books were possibly maintained by the salesmen. Information recorded includes customers' names and addresses; goods ordered (type and quantity); and comments concerning the financial standing of the customer, promised delivery dates, methods of payments, and the customer's personality. Volumes 102-103 are arranged chronologically while volumes 104-107 and 110 are arranged by style number. Swatches of various styles are attached to the orders in volumes 108-109.

Sales books (1912-1950) document Island's product and waste sales. Specific data recorded includes the customers' names and addresses; terms of sale; style, lot, and order numbers; quantity purchased (yards and pieces); monetary value; shipping instructions; method of payment; and returns. Volume 111 also contains information on Island's purchase of wool and waste. The sales books are arranged chronologically with the exception of volume 113 which is arranged alphabetically by customer name. Volume 114 includes cash receipts, cash disbursements, a purchase journal, and a proof journal.

Accounts payable volumes (1866-1891) provide a record of amounts owed to Island's creditors. Entries in the majority of the accounts payable books concern Island's raw wool purchases. Information recorded includes the names and addresses of local suppliers; amount, type, and quantity of wool; and monetary value of wool. Also, documented in the volumes is Island's payment to the suppliers in the form of finished goods rather than cash. Data includes a record of the types of cloth used as payment. Volume 119 also contains a spinning record and volume 120 contains a record of wood purchases.

The subseries orders consists of order forms for 1912 arranged alphabetically by customer name. Information on the forms includes customer name and address; style number; quantity; price; terms; and expected delivery date. The orders were retained because little documentation exists on the ordering process for this time period.

The volume identified as a Commission Book (1885-1891) is perhaps a record maintained by an agent. Information includes the customer name and a monetary amount. For the period from 1894 to 1897 there are cross references to appropriate ledger pages.

The subseries National Credit Office (1920-1946) documents Island's procedure of obtaining credit histories of actual and potential customers. The National Credit Office received copies of Island's orders and approved or rejected them. The NCO also determined credit limits for Island's customers. Material primarily includes correspondence and credit reports. Some of the National Credit Office material is scattered in the AGENTS' CORRESPONDENCE series and in the customer files within the GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE series.

The subseries of payroll (1887-1890; 1910-1952) provides information on Island Woolen Company employees and their earnings. These records document the wage differences among the various departments as well as the division of labor between males and females. Data recorded in the payroll books includes employee name and number; total time; rate (hourly, regular earnings, overtime); cash advanced; deductions (merchandise, coal, light, social security, withholding tax, insurance); and total amount earned. Volumes 123-124 also include monthly bank statements. Volume 122 is arranged chronologically and alphabetically by employee name thereunder. Volumes 123-124 are arranged in reverse chronological order and thereunder by departments. The total wages for each department are stated. The remaining materials in this subseries are monthly time rolls, monthly statements, piece work tickets, salary lists for piece work, and various reports. The data in these records is similar to that of the payroll books. Piece work tickets indicate length of time to complete a piece, quantity of piece, and salary earned.

The ledger subseries (1865-1949) consists of volumes arranged by accounts with entries in a summary form. Typical account titles in the early ledgers include machinery, shoddy, wool, buildings, cash, and names of partners, employees, customers, and suppliers. Ledgers for the later years also contain journal entries, bank statements, capital investments, assets, analyses of insurance, McFetridge Lighting Company, trial balances, liabilities, sales, labor, and expenses. Some of the ledgers contain other forms of financial data. Specifically, cash book entries are on pages 291-320 of volume 125 and pages 1-132 of volume 139 are a journal. Volumes 128, 132, 134, 136, and 138 have separate volumes of alphabetical indexes. Volumes 142 and 144 were identified as “partnership general ledgers” while volumes 143 and 145 were identified as “transfer general records ledgers.” With the exception of volume 125, the ledgers consist of postings from journals and contain cross references to the appropriate journal pages.

The subseries of accounting reports (1886-1950) includes analysis statements, audit reports, depreciation schedules, financial statements, and partnership statements. Insurance appraisals document the growth and development of the physical plant and include drawings of the structure and grounds. Included in the tax case materials are examination working papers which provide documentation of Island's financial standing for more than twenty years. The trial balances contain detailed monthly summary analyses. Volumes 147-149 contain cross references to ledger pages. The bulk of the records in this subseries are from the 1920s and 1930s.

Four volumes comprise the final subseries, miscellaneous. The insurance book (1888-1893) contains information on insurance coverage on the buildings, machinery, and raw materials. Data in the order register (1913-1918) includes a check number, name of payee, date billed, and date paid. The information is posted to volume 140 (ledger). Identified by Island as a Wool Book (1873-1876), volume 153 contains a record of wool purchases as well as sales and collections. It also includes correspondence from attorneys and notices of bankruptcy and an index. The wool consignment book (1911-1912) was compiled by William McFetridge and seems to contain scattered information on wool purchases and consignments.