Howard Daniel forwarded this review of the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware.
It sounds like a place where token collectors might find a lot of information, and possibly collectors in other areas too.
A review of the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware, United States of America.
While very well-known in the field of business history, the archives of the Hagley Museum and Library (200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, Delaware 19807, USA) are often overlooked in other fields even though its materials are relevant to a wide swath of American history and culture. Housing the largest collection of American business company records in the world, the archives are located on the site of the original nineteenth-century DuPont gun powder mill, in a suburb of Wilmington, Delaware.
The archive got its start as the official DuPont Company museum before expanding its collection and broadening to its present-day focus on all American enterprise and history of industry and technology. It is most likely because of this auspicious connection to the DuPont Company and family legacy that the facilities are very well-maintained and the archive’s acquisition budget and support for visiting researchers is quite enviable. I spent a very pleasant month in residence at the archives there in the summer of 2012, looking at materials to help turn my dissertation into a book on the history of U.S. food labels and the role of companies, federal regulators, and diet scientists in reshaping how we eat and think about our food.
Most researchers come to the Hagley to look for materials directly related to a particular American business or trade association. According to one of the archivists I spoke with during my stay, the three most utilized records are the official (and massive) records of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the DuPont Company and family records, and the Ernest Dichter Papers.
This last one, in particular, fascinated me. Ernest Dichter (1907-1991) was a psychoanalyst turn advertising consultant in the 1950s. (He could be a character straight out of the television series Mad Men.) The Dichter files are capturing a lot of attention right now among those interested in consumer and advertising history, because he kept detailed records of consumer study research conducted for a variety of American companies in the 1940s through 1980s. They offer fascinating insight into the way companies thought about their consumers and how marketing shaped product design.
However, real opportunity lies in potential non-obvious discoveries one can make in the Hagley’s other collection materials. For example, I visited Hagley having been tipped off about its Litchfield Collection on the History of Fatty Materials, an excellent trove of food-related materials assembled by a private collector who was himself an edible oils engineer. The Litchfield Collection had a wide assortment of materials, ranging from old, out-of-print books to advertising pamphlets (listed as “PAM” in the library catalog), and on topics ranging from public advertising and popular culture to margarine and vegetable oils trade and technology.
It was at the Hagley that Len Augsburger discovered the long lost first account book of Henry Voigt from 1792; definitely worth a visit by numismatic researchers.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
TRIP REPORT: LEN AUGSBURGER VISITS ANNAPOLIS AND WILMINGTON
To read the complete article, see:
Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington
To visit the Hagley web site, see:
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