1837–1845 Manuscript Correspondence of William P. Cresson Company of Philadelphia.
An interesting, varied group pertaining to this industrious Philadelphia firm
William P. Cresson Co. of Philadelphia was actively engaged in the hardware commission business in the 1830’s and 1840’s.
The company offered a variety of products with a strong focus on metal ware, household building materials and household furnishings.
In the late 1840’s, the firm began selling cooking stoves, and became stove manufacturers, and likely, hollow ware manufacturers as well. During the late 1840’s and 1850’s, a number of stove patents were applied for in the firm’s name.
William P. Cresson, manufacturer and philanthropist, (1814–1892) was the son of Caleb Cresson (1775–1821). Caleb Cresson was himself a prominent and wealthy Philadelphia Quaker merchant, and the husband of Sarah Emlen (1787–1870).
W.P. Cresson’s family clearly enjoyed a prosperous and affluent style of living that would have been consistent with the successful endeavors of William’s father.
This archive can be described as follows:
I. William P. Cresson Co., Incoming Business Correspondence.
20 letters, all written in 1842; 18 letters, all written in 1845.
Cresson had a sizeable business and this incoming correspondence records a variety of New England firms that were involved with this mid-Atlantic firm. An example of the correspondence, in part:
John D. Johnson writes an interesting letter to Cresson regarding brass makers and brass agents concerning manufacturing prices and the intricacies of dealing with the brass makers (May 4, 1842). Johnson later writes of other concerns selling brass at cheaper prices, of the instability in the brass market, and of a future hope:
[O]n the whole I think that the manufacturers are beginning to have some confidence in each other and I believe the time is not very far distant when we shall all be willing to come under prescribed rules and regulations but until this can be [achieved] we must be somewhat irregular.” Johnson then writes briefly of “making an article for paper makers…
A one page ALS from Joel Bartlett of Harmony, [Maine] concerns a discussion of the Cresson firm selling shank handles made by Bartlett on commission. Bartlett informs that the shank handles he is manufacturing are of high quality and is willing to send along samples. (May 10, 1842) [On Bartlett, ref. Folsom, Fifty Years in the Northwest (1888) pp185–186.]
J. Danforth & Co. asks Cresson to sell bottles and Brittania ware and coffee pots (May 12, 1842). Later, Danforth sent by steam boat from Middleton, Connecticut “tea setts”, tea pots, sugars and creamers, and soup bowls. (In exchange, Danforth asks Cresson to send along some blind fastenings, saw, “stretchers” (?) and windows springs.)
Josiah Hayden of Haydensville wants to send Cresson cheap pens. A number of merchants ask (plead?) for payments for goods sold, or goods hoped to have been sold. Others ask for advice concerning the reduction of their manufacturing output and future trade prospects in wire and gauge metals. From Pine Plains, Dutchess County, New York, Cresson purchased cradles (scythes) from Silas Harris (May 29, 1842).
From Dotterer & Taylor of Reading, Pennsylvania comes a letter of exact specifications for a proposed “15 horse engine” with three boilers (June 5, 1842). This is followed by an excellent letter from another steam engine manufacturer, a John H. Gage, in Nashua [N.H.] who writes to Cresson of a steam engine order and what he can offer the company at the present time (June 10, 1845.)
Another firm writes requesting Cresson to send by rail a large quantity of “cram paper” that will be suitable for packing sad irons (January 24, 1842). A New York entity asks Cresson to provide prices and quantity available for a large order for tea kettles, coffee mills, hatchets, shoe blacking, mill saws, cow hides, Eagle and New England wood screws and shank augers (June 30, 1845).
Various other letters are devoted to outstanding debts and bills paid, or not paid, or agents traveling to and from, delayed by various inconveniences of pre-1850 American transportation.
II. William P. Cresson Family and Business Receipts, 1837–1845.
109 manuscript receipts, a blend of business and private household expenses.
These receipts range from 1837-1845, the majority are from the late 1830’s. Among the more interesting receipts, in part:
Two receipts (one for gold fillings, “replacing part of a plug”, etc.) are from noted dentist Samuel Sheldon Fitch (1801–1876). S.S. Fitch was a Jefferson graduate and a pioneer in dentistry. Fitch’s A System of Dental Surgery (1829) was a standard work in its day and from its successful proceeds Fitch devoted his efforts as a publisher and patent medicine manufacturer. [See Atwater I: 321–325]
Receipts to benevolent societies: The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor (“for one large comfortable”) and the Magdalen Society of Philadelphia.
A receipt to Dennis Rearson for marble post stones for Laurel Hill cemetery to be cut and engraved.
Jappaning 175 feet of iron chain; repairing stoves and ovens; one black Russian hat, a receipt for a passage from Pittsburgh to Louisville; shovel and tong stands; “altering pew cushions”, a receipt for blankets, a valice trunk, “to hanging 4 Looking Glasses”, expenses for resetting curb stone; “2 sett dishes Brittania Ware”; etc.
A receipt for US almanacs bought of Watson & Reynolds by Cresson for what appears to be H. Peale. This is possibly Henrietta Peale (1806–1892), daughter of artist, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860).
Twenty-five receipts specific to purchases by Mrs. William P. Cresson record a wide variety of Philadelphia merchants and providers of household and domestic services, in part:
Foodstuffs purchased: Peaches, raisins, prunes, almonds, wines, hams, soda & water crackers, sherry, mustard, rice, etc.
Household wares: gold plates, moulded dishes, linens, gold pencils, sweeping brush, cut lamps, cone pitcher, cone boats, etc.
Services rendered: glazing English glass, paying Sarah Binns, dressmaker, capes and corsets made, merino shirts made, etc.) A receipt is also seen for altering front chamber, nursery, dining room, parlors, stair and entry carpet; fixing stair rods and fitting oil “cloaths”; putting up parlor, bed and window curtains payable to a Rachael Fletcher, etc.
Description: 1837–1845 Manuscript Correspondence of William P. Cresson Company of Philadelphia.
[Philadelphia and from Various Places]. 1837–1845. Approximately 145 manuscript items, viz., 38 handwritten letters and 109 manuscript receipts. All in very good condition. Housed in an archival box.
Of mention, a portrait of W.P. Cresson is located at the Smithsonian, and this description includes a facsimile of a daguerreotype portrait of W.P. Cresson from an online source.