American Federation of Labor Records, 1888-1955

 
Contents List
Container Title
Subseries: Executive Correspondence
Scope and Content Note

This section consists of letterbooks used by company presidents, vice-presidents, officers, and by others acting for them during their absences from the New York headquarters. Included are letterbooks of George McKenzie; miscellaneous pages from a series of early management correspondence; “management letterbooks” (a series apparently begun about the time of McKenzie's retirement), which incorporates letters from the presidencies of Bourne and Alexander; travelling letterbooks; special letterbooks; executive summaries; and personal letterbooks.

These letterbooks are indexed alphabetically by company, office, or individual name. Branch offices are usually designated in the indexes by city name. When they existed, indexes have been filmed preceding the volumes to which they relate. Access to this material is also facilitated by the fact that each letter was marked by Singer clerks to indicate the page numbers of the most recent and next letters addressed to the same correspondent. Within each category the volumes have been arranged by the volume number on the spine. In most cases this sequence reflected chronological order. If the volume number was missing because of deterioration of the binding, identification that was supplied by archivists based on internal evidence has been indicated in the list below by the use of brackets.

McKenzie correspondence
Scope and Content Note

For the period 1877-1885, McKenzie was vice-president. In the letterbooks of this period McKenzie articulated management decisions for domestic and foreign agents, commented on news from various offices, and gave directions and advice. S.A. Bennett, an attorney whose correspondence is also included here, handled legal and patent matters. (This correspondence is very similar to his activities documented in the LEGAL RECORDS described below.) Bennett also assumed McKenzie's correspondence when the latter was in Europe. Edward Clark, president of Singer during this time, appears only infrequently.

For the period 1885-1888, he was president. McKenzie appears infrequently in the correspondence of this period apparently because of the ill health which eventually resulted in his retirement in 1889. Instead, Bennett, Frederick G. Bourne, T.E. Hardenburgh, and Alexander McKenzie handled most of the correspondence with U.S. and foreign agents, offices, and factories. They also sent lengthy reports to McKenzie while he was traveling. The advice of U.S. agents common in this correspondence series includes suggestions on supervising branch managers, approval of proposed circulars, and settling of territorial disputes. McKenzie's final volume (only 45 pages) consists of letters of a more personal nature such as Christmas greetings and gifts. However, there is a detailed and relatively frank letter here discussing business with Vice-President William F. Procter and a letter to Edgar Allen expounding his personal philosophy.

Reel   1
Vol. 1: , 1877 April-1878 November
Reel   2
Vol. 2: , 1878 November-1879 April
Reel   3
Vol. 3: , 1879 August-1880 June
Reel   4
Vol. 4: , 1880 June-September
Reel   5
Vol. 5: , 1880 September-1881 March
Reel   6
Vol. 6: , 1881 March-September
Reel   7
Vol. 7: , 1881 September-1882 January
Reel   8
Vol. 8: , 1881 January-August
Reel   9
Vol. 9: , 1882 August-December
Reel   10
Vol. 10: , 1883 January-May
Reel   11
Vol. [11]: , 1883 May-October
Reel   12
Vol. [12]: , 1883 October-1884 February
Reel   13
Vol. 13: , 1884 February-May
Reel   14
Vol. 14: , 1884 May-November
Reel   15
Vol. [15]: , 1884 November-1885 February
Reel   16
Vol. 16: , 1885 February-July
Reel   17
Vol. [17]: , 1886 August-1888 February
Early management correspondence
Scope and Content Note: Filed here are some loose pages removed from their respective letterbooks by an unidentified Singer employee prior to donation to the Historical Society. These pages confirm the existence of a series of letterbooks probably dating from the 1860s and 1870s which is probably no longer in existence. One volume of this type was received intact by the Historical Society. This volume contains 1864 correspondence of Julius Voight, apparently a New York clerk, regarding orders and shipments, outstanding debts, and corrections required on weekly reports. A few letters of Inslee Hopper concerning more important management matters are also included. The loose pages have not been filmed.
U.S. Mss AI
Box   5
Folder   1-11
Loose pages from missing letterbooks, 1860-1869
Micro 2013
Reel   18
Voigt letterbook, 1863
Management Correspondence
Scope and Content Note

This correspondence is described below by chronological period.

Frederick G. Bourne, 1888-1893, President : This is Bourne's correspondence to U.S. and foreign agents, offices, and factories. S.A. Bennett again handled the correspondence while Bourne was on European trips, sending him detailed reports, while Charles Miller and T.E. Hardenburgh handled more routine matters.

Bourne, 1893-1899, President. (Douglas Alexander, second vice-president; Charles Miller, secretary; W.F. Procter, vice-president; E.W. Church and T.E. Hardenburgh, acting secretaries) : The correspondence of this period continues as above, except that it is increasingly directed to foreign agents and factories at Kilbowie, Glasgow, Podolsk, and Canada. Here Alexander handled executive correspondence while Bourne was abroad. After Bennett retired in 1894 Alexander assumed increasing responsibility for communication with American and foreign agents, offices, and factories.

Bourne, 1899-1905, President. (Alexander, second vice-president; Hardenburgh, treasurer; and Foster, personal secretary?) : This section is largely correspondence to foreign agents and offices containing executive decisions and advice on problems brought to the attention of the executive office via regular reports or other correspondence, with Foster signing routine matters.

Douglas Alexander, 1905-1924, President. (Foster and Hardenburgh, treasurer; Oscar Graham, assistant treasurer, eventually treasurer) : This is largely correspondence to foreign agents, offices, and factories. Alexander handles all correspondence pertaining to the direction of the branches abroad, and prior to 1915 his correspondence with Hamburg is especially detailed and extensive. There is evidence that the Hamburg office under W.S. Church supervised other European offices, a task which had earlier fallen to the London Office. In this section Foster handled brief acknowledgements, enclosures, and routine matters, while Hardenburgh and Graham answer inquiries regarding tax matters and other routine financial questions. These patterns of correspondence remain unchanged while Alexander was absent on European trips.

Reel   19
Vol. [1]: , 1885 July-1886 January
Reel   20
Vol. [2]: , 1886 January-August
Reel   21
Vol. [3]: , 1886 August-1887 May
Reel   22
Vol. [4]: , 1887 May-1888 May
Reel   23
Vol. [5]: , 1888 May-1889 June
Reel   24
Vol. [6]: , 1889 June-1891 May
Reel   25
Vol. [7]: , 1891 May-1893 May
Reel   26
Vol. [8]: , 1893 May-1895 December
Reel   27
Vol. [9]: , 1895 December-1897 September
Reel   28
Vol. [10]: , 1897 September-1898 Sept
Reel   29
Vol. [11]: , 1898 Sept-October
Reel   30
Vol. 12: , 1899 October-1900 July
Reel   31
Vol. 13: , 1900 July-1901 January
Reel   32
Vol. 14: , 1901 January-1901 November
Reel   33
Vol. 15: , 1901 November-1902 August
Reel   34
Vol. 16: , 1902 August-1903 January
Reel   35
Vol. 17: , 1903 January-1903 September
Reel   36
Vol. 18: , 1903 September-1904 January
Reel   37
Vol. 19: , 1904 January-1904 September
Reel   38
Vol. 20: , 1904 September-1905 February
Reel   39
Vol. 21: , 1905 February-1905 August
Reel   40
Vol. 22: , 1905 August-1906 January
Reel   41
Vol. 23: , 1906 January-1906 July
Reel   42
Vol. 24: , 1906 July-1906 December
Reel   43
Vol. 25: , 1906 December-1907 June
Reel   44
Vol. 26: , 1907 June-1907 October
Reel   45
Vol. 27: , 1907 October-1908 May
Reel   46
Vol. 28: , 1908 May-1908 November
Reel   47
Vol. 29: , 1908 November-1909 May
Reel   48
Vol. 30: , 1909 May-November
Reel   49
Vol. 31: , 1909 November-1910 August
Reel   50
Vol. 32: , 1910 August-1911 July
Reel   51
Vol. 33: , 1911 July-1912 November
Reel   52
Vol. 34: , 1912 November-1913 October
Reel   53
Vol. 35: , 1913 October-1914 August
Reel   54
Vol. 36: , 1914 August-1915 May
Reel   55
Vol. 37: , 1915 May-1916 September
Reel   56
Vol. 38: , 1916 September-1917 June
Reel   57
Vol. 39: , 1917 June-1918 February
Reel   58
Vol. 40: , 1918 February-December
Reel   59
Vol. 42: , 1919 December-1921 February
Reel   60
Vol. 43: , 1921 February-1922 July
Reel   61
Vol. 44: , 1922 July-1923 June
Reel   62
Vol. 45: , 1923 June-1924 June
Traveling Letterbooks
Scope and Content Note: This group of volumes consists of correspondence of Singer executives while abroad. Included are reports to New York offices and letters to various European agents and offices. During the period 1882-1884 McKenzie spent considerable time at Kilbowie, and his books contain references to construction of the new factory there. The volume dated August 29-September 22, 1885 contains four sets of minutes of the Kilbowie Factory. The traveling letterbooks of Douglas Alexander as second vice-president and F.G. Bourne as president (1896; 1897-1900) include pencil copies and drafts of outgoing correspondence. Some of Alexander's letters deal with periods when he was traveling in the United States.
McKenzie
Reel   63
Vol. 1: , 1879 December-1880 January
Reel   63
Vol. 2: , 1880 January-1880 February
Reel   63
Vol. 3: , 1880 February-April
Reel   63
Vol. [4]: , 1881 April-1881 May
Reel   63
1882 March-1882 April
Reel   63
1882 April-1882 June
Reel   63
1883 January-1883 February
Reel   63
1883 September-1883 October
Reel   63
1883 October-1883 November
Reel   63
Vol. 1: , 1884 May-1884 June
Reel   63
Vol. 2: , 1884 June-1884 July
Reel   64
Vol. 3: , 1884 July-1884 August
Reel   64
Vol. [4]: , 1884 September
Reel   64
Vol. 1: , 1885 June-1885 July
Reel   64
Vol. 2: , 1885 July-1885 August
Reel   64
Vol. 3: , 1885 August-1885 September
Reel   64
Vol. [4]: , 1885 September
Alexander
Reel   64
1896 May-October
Reel   64
1896 October-November
Reel   64
1897 May-June
Reel   64
1897 July-1898 May
Reel   64
1898 May-1899 April (pp. 101-149)
Reel   64
1899 April-May (pp. 151-208)
Reel   64
1899 May-1900,May (pp. 1-50)
Reel   64
1900 May-June (pp. 51-73)
Special Letterbooks
Scope and Content Note: Arranged here is outgoing correspondence from Singer executives, including Bourne, Alexander, C.C. Foster, Oscar Graham, and T.E. Hardenburgh. Except for their distinctive binding it was unclear what distinguished these volumes from the regular Management series. These books contain advice to American and foreign agents that is similar to the management letterbooks, but they also contain more references to stocks and dividends. Also, about 1917, Foster and Alexander begin to sign the correspondence as officers of the International Securities Corporation. They also sign under the name of the International Fidelity Insurance Company, Bourne and Company, and Hexigon Sewing Machine Company. Much of this correspondence is routine. In the last volume, most of the International Securities Corporation correspondence of Alexander, Foster, and Graham concerns stocks, investments, and dividends.
Reel   65
Vol. 1: , 1900 March-1902 September
Reel   66
Vol. 2: , 1902 September-1905 September
Reel   67
Vol. 3: , 1905 September-1907 July
Reel   68
Vol. 4: , 1907 July-1910 November
Reel   69
Vol. 5: , 1910 November-1917 May
Reel   70
Vol. 6: , 1917 June-1924 June
Executive Summaries
Scope and Content Note: These useful volumes contain abstracts of correspondence, both foreign and domestic, circulated to Singer executives for their information. Between 1892 and 1906 the series was a single chronological run, although there are many gaps in the SHSW holdings. Later there is a single volume for Bennett and separate volumes for correspondence concerning Russia and Wittenberg.
Reel   71
1892 October-1893 September
Reel   71
1893 September-1894 May
Reel   71
1894 May-December
Reel   72
1894 December-1895 July
Reel   72
1895 December-1896 May
Reel   72
1898 November-1899 December
Reel   73
1903 January-1904 January
Reel   73
1904 November-1905 November
Reel   74
1905 November-1906 December
Special summaries
Reel   74
1909, Bennett
Reel   75
1904-1914, Podolsk
Reel   76
1907-1911, Wittenberge
Personal Letterbooks
Scope and Content Note: Filed here is correspondence of several Singer executives to family members, friends, and other business associates and vice-presidents. Two volumes (1893-1896) of Bourne's correspondence contain letters regarding personal business matters (real estate, investments, and a stable of horses, etc.). There are only a few letters to family members, and even these are not of a true personal nature. Also included is a nineteen-page volume containing balance statements and disbursements of the Clark Family trust. Douglas Alexander's personal correspondence as vice-president and president, 1900-1924, consists of letters to acquaintances, family members, and other Singer executives. Topics treated include real estate, stock, home improvements, employment of servants, and some matters relating to Singer Manufacturing Company.
Bourne, F.G.
Reel   77
Vol. 135: , 1893 May-1896 July
Reel   78
1898-1902, Clark Trust
Alexander
Reel   78
Vol. 1: , 1900 January-1909 July
Reel   79
Vol. 2: , 1909 September-1924 June