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Series XIX. St. Clair Improvement Company, 1890-1925

Historical Background

The St. Clair Improvement Company began in April 1901 with a capital of $100,000. On June 14th of the same year, the company purchased a tract of 700 acres from owner Henry Clay Frick which was adjacent to the large manufacturing site located between the Monongahela River and the Pennsylvania Railroad. The St. Clair Improvement Company was formed with the mission to sell small tracts of land in order to develop businesses and homes in the area around the newly constructed steel manufacturing plant.

Frick purchased the land in the 1890s from James P. Wylie, Samuel P. Lange and other original owners. Frick recognized the conveniences of the location for the ability to operate extensive industries, coupled with the proximity to the Monongahela River and railroad tracks. In 1900 Frick utilized a portion of the land for blast furnaces from his newly formed independent steel firm, St. Clair Steel Company. Frick developed St. Clair Steel Company in part to challenge Andrew Carnegie. After they resolved their differences, Frick sold the plant to the Crucible Steel Company. As a division of Crucible Steel Company, the St. Clair Steel Company’s name was changed to the Clairton Steel Company. Frick then conveyed the remainder of the land to be developed by the St. Clair Improvement Company. Frick owned 1,990 shares, leaving the remaining four stockholders owning no more than five shares each. As usual Frick permeated his business with other stockholders who were trusted business associates, including Karl F. Overholt (Frick’s nephew), William Carr, F.W. McElroy and William H. Morrison.

The town of Clairton grew largely due to the steel manufacturing plant and the improvement company that provided the groundwork plans and marketing for the town. However, prior to Clairton receiving its official name, the undeveloped area was known as “Blair.” A letter to A.G. Mitchell, Superintendent of the Monongahela Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad (P.R.R.), explains a decision between the Improvement Company and the St. Clair Steel Company to name the town Clairton. The company was also responsible for naming the streets of the town, including Mitchell Avenue after the P.R.R. Superintendent, as well as Waddell and Shaw Avenues after other Frick associates, S.H. Waddell (one time President of the Improvement Company) and George E. Shaw (a founding member of the Shaw Coal Company). On July 26, 1901 the lot plans developed by the improvement company were submitted to the public for purchase.

Company advertisements explain that Clairton “shall be the ideal home of the man of moderate means…[and] for everybody who wants a home away from the smoke and dirt of [Pittsburgh].” Advertisements also noted positive attributes of Clairton, including pure water, natural gas, sewers, and paved streets. The town properties were sold in speculative lots for the purpose of building homes and businesses, while others were donated to congregations in order for them to build churches. The company also owned and leased two hotel type establishments named Tatnall House and Clairton Inn. The real draw for Clairton was obtaining a job at the mill, although by 1904 the Clairton Works was under the management of United States Steel Corporation, the successor of the Carnegie Steel Company. However the change in management did not stifle the growth of the town.

The St. Clair Improvement Company was eventually sold and turned over to Josiah Vankirk Thompson on March 31, 1914. Clairton was also home to Clairton Brick & Manufacturing Company and the Clairton Street Car Company, two other businesses influenced by Frick. For additional material on those companies, see Series VII Clairton Brick & Company and Series VIII Clairton Street Railway Company. In 2009, Clairton is still home to the U.S. Steel Clairton Works, formerly the St. Clair Steel Company, and is the largest coke producing facility in the United States. However, like many communities in the Mon Valley, decline in industry has seen a parallel decline in population.

Scope and Content Notes:

This series consists of correspondence, financial, and administrative materials of the St. Clair Improvement Company. This series is further divided into five subseries: Correspondence, Financial Material, Administrative Records, Bound Volumes, and Printing Plates. The material in this series documents the planning, resources, and direction of a small number of men that went into the development of the mill town of Clairton. Although much of the information focuses on the business aspects of the company, there is also information regarding the development of the community, such as the building of churches, schools, and parks.(documented in the correspondence subseries) There are also oversized maps from this series located in Series XXVIII Maps and Architectural Drawings. The material in this series dates from 1901 to 1915.

Subseries 1. Correspondence, 1901-1915

Scope and Content Notes:

The letters in this subseries are primarily incoming and date from 1901 to 1915, although the majority of the letters are from 1901 to 1902 and 1911 to 1915. The reason for the large gap between letters is not known. Many of the letters from the public between 1901 and 1902 ask for maps, plans, and prices of lots. A newspaper advertisement was the motivating factor for much of the correspondence. The advisement told readers to write the Improvement Company to inquire about prices and lot information.

Correspondence between 1910 and 1914 is comprised mainly of parties interested in remaining l ots or the number of lots sold. The majority of the later letters are from W. H. Smith to Karl F. Overholt, President of the Improvement Company beginning in 1911; however, there are a small number of letters from Overholt and Smith to H.C. Frick. The materials in this subseries are arranged in chronological order. In addition, letterpress copybooks found at the end of this subseries contain the outgoing letters of the company. Please refer to the Subseries 5 Bound Volumes, to see the outgoing correspondence found in the letterpress copybooks.


Box 580
Folder 1 Correspondence, June 14-28, 1901
Folder 2 Correspondence, July 1-8, 1901
Folder 3 Correspondence, July 9, 1901
Folder 4 Correspondence, July 10-14, 1901
Folder 5 Correspondence, July 15-20, 1901
Folder 6 Correspondence, July 22-31, 1901
Folder 7 Correspondence, August 1-14, 1901
Folder 8 Correspondence, August 16-September 12, 1901
Folder 9 Correspondence, September 23-October 29, 1901
Folder 10 Correspondence, November 1-December 26, 1901
Folder 11 Correspondence, January 3-February 27, 1902
Folder 12 Correspondence, March 3-April 14, 1902
Folder 13 Correspondence, April 17-30, 1902
Folder 14 Correspondence, May 3-15, 1902
Folder 15 Correspondence, May 19-28, 1902
Folder 16 Correspondence, June 2-30, 1902
Folder 17 Correspondence, July 1-30, 1902
Folder 18 Correspondence, August 3-28, 1902
Folder 19 Correspondence, September 2-29, 1902
Folder 20 Correspondence, October 6-31, 1902
Folder 21 Correspondence, November 5-December 3, 1902
Folder 22 Correspondence, December 5-20, 1902
Folder 23 Correspondence, March 6, 1903-October 27, 1906

Box 581
Folder 1 Correspondence, June 10-December 21, 1911
Folder 2 Correspondence, April 20-December 30, 1912
Folder 3 Correspondence, January 25-March 29, 1913
Folder 4 Correspondence, April 9-May 13, 1913
Folder 5 Correspondence, May 17-30, 1913
Folder 6 Correspondence, June 3-27, 1913
Folder 7 Correspondence, July 3-31, 1913
Folder 8 Correspondence, August 1-September 12, 1913
Folder 9 Correspondence, September 16-October 14, 1913
Folder 10 Correspondence, October 17-November 14, 1913
Folder 11 Correspondence, November 18-December 26, 1913
Folder 12 Correspondence, January 2-30, 1914
Folder 13 Correspondence, February 2-27, 1914
Folder 14 Correspondence, March 3-July 28, 1915
Folder 15 Correspondence, undated

Subseries 2. Financial Material, 1905-1914

Scope and Content Notes:

Material in this subseries consists of the financial records of the St. Clair Improvement Company. Included are summary of general ledger statements, balance sheets, and mortgages. Monthly summary of general ledger statements include assets, accounts receivable, liabilities, profit and loss, earnings, expenses, balances due on mortgages, and balances due on unsettled sales. The financial material documents the development of financial support, customer interest and mortgage prices relative to the developing mill town of Clairton. The majority of this subseries comprises general ledger balances from 1905 to 1914 with the rest of the financial material being intermittent records.

Folder 16 Balance Sheets, January 1905
Folder 17 Balance Sheets, February 1905
Folder 18 Balance Sheets, March 1905
Folder 19 Balance Sheets, April 1905
Folder 20 Balance Sheets, May 1905
Folder 21 Balance Sheets, June 1905
Folder 22 General Ledger Balance, September 1905
Folder 23 General Ledger Balance, October 1905
Folder 24 General Ledger Balance, November 1905
Folder 25 General Ledger Balance, December 1905
Folder 26 General Ledger Balance, January 1906
Folder 27 General Ledger Balance, February 1906
Folder 28 General Ledger Balance, March 1906
Folder 29 General Ledger Balance, April 1906
Folder 30 General Ledger Balance, May 1906

Box 582
Folder 1 General Ledger Balance, June 1906
Folder 2 General Ledger Balance, July 1906
Folder 3 General Ledger Balance, August 1906
Folder 4 General Ledger Balance, September 1906
Folder 5 General Ledger Balance, October 1906
Folder 6 General Ledger Balance, November 1906
Folder 7 General Ledger Balance, December 1906
Folder 8 General Ledger Balance, January 1907
Folder 9 General Ledger Balance, February 1907
Folder 10 General Ledger Balance, March 1907
Folder 11 General Ledger Balance, April 1907
Folder 12 General Ledger Balance, May 1907
Folder 13 General Ledger Balance, June 1907
Folder 14 General Ledger Balance, July 1907
Folder 15 General Ledger Balance, August 1907
Folder 16 General Ledger Balance, September 1907
Folder 17 General Ledger Balance, October 1907
Folder 18 General Ledger Balance, November 1907
Folder 19 General Ledger Balance, December 1907
Folder 20 General Ledger Balance, January 1908
Folder 21 General Ledger Balance, February 1908
Folder 22 General Ledger Balance, March 1908
Folder 23 General Ledger Balance, April 1908
Folder 24 General Ledger Balance, May 1908
Folder 25 General Ledger Balance, June 1908
Folder 26 General Ledger Balance, July 1908
Folder 27 General Ledger Balance, August 1908
Folder 28 General Ledger Balance, September 1908
Folder 29 General Ledger Balance, October 1908
Folder 30 General Ledger Balance, November 1908

Box 583
Folder 1 General Ledger Balance, December 1908
Folder 2 General Ledger Balance, January 1909
Folder 3 General Ledger Balance, February 1909
Folder 4 General Ledger Balance, March 1909
Folder 5 General Ledger Balance, April 1909
Folder 6 General Ledger Balance, May 1909
Folder 7 General Ledger Balance, June 1909
Folder 8 General Ledger Balance, July 1909
Folder 9 General Ledger Balance, August 1909
Folder 10 General Ledger Balance, September 1909
Folder 11 General Ledger Balance, October 1909
Folder 12 General Ledger Balance, November 1909
Folder 13 General Ledger Balance, December 1909
Folder 14 General Ledger Balance, January 1910
Folder 15 General Ledger Balance, February 1910
Folder 16 General Ledger Balance, March 1910
Folder 17 General Ledger Balance, April 1910
Folder 18 General Ledger Balance, May 1910
Folder 19 General Ledger Balance, June 1910
Folder 20 General Ledger Balance, July 1910
Folder 21 General Ledger Balance, August 1910
Folder 22 General Ledger Balance, September 1910
Folder 23 General Ledger Balance, October 1910
Folder 24 General Ledger Balance, November 1910
Folder 25 General Ledger Balance, December 1910
Folder 26 General Ledger Balance, January 1911
Folder 27 General Ledger Balance, February 1911
Folder 28 General Ledger Balance, March 1911
Folder 29 General Ledger Balance, April 1911
Folder 30 General Ledger Balance, May 1911
Folder 31 General Ledger Balance, June 1911
Folder 32 General Ledger Balance, July 1911
Folder 33 General Ledger Balance, August 1911
Folder 34 General Ledger Balance, September 1911
Folder 35 General Ledger Balance, October 1911

Box 584
Folder 1 General Ledger Balance, November 1911
Folder 2 General Ledger Balance, December 1911
Folder 3 General Ledger Balance, January 1912
Folder 4 General Ledger Balance, February 1912
Folder 5 General Ledger Balance, March 1912
Folder 6 General Ledger Balance, April 1912
Folder 7 General Ledger Balance, May 1912
Folder 8 General Ledger Balance, June 1912
Folder 9 General Ledger Balance, July 1912
Folder 10 General Ledger Balance, August 1912
Folder 11 General Ledger Balance, September 1912
Folder 12 General Ledger Balance, October 1912
Folder 13 General Ledger Balance, November 1912
Folder 14 General Ledger Balance, December 1912
Folder 15 General Ledger Balance, January 1913
Folder 16 General Ledger Balance, February 1913
Folder 17 General Ledger Balance, March 1913
Folder 18 General Ledger Balance, April 1913
Folder 19 General Ledger Balance, May 1913
Folder 20 General Ledger Balance, June 1913
Folder 21 General Ledger Balance, July 1913
Folder 22 General Ledger Balance, August 1913
Folder 23 General Ledger Balance, September 1913
Folder 24 General Ledger Balance, October 1913
Folder 25 General Ledger Balance, November 1913
Folder 26 General Ledger Balance, December 1913
Folder 27 General Ledger Balance, January 1914
Folder 28 General Ledger Balance, March 1914
Folder 29 General Ledger Balance, January-June 1910
Folder 30 General Ledger Balance, July-December 1910
Folder 31 General Ledger Balance, January-June 1911
Folder 32 General Ledger Balance, July-December 1911
Folder 33 General Ledger Balance, May-December 1912
Folder 34 General Ledger Balance, January-June 1913
Folder 35 General Ledger Balance, July-December 1913
Folder 36 General Ledger Balance, January-March 1914

Box 585
Folder 1 Trial Balance, Ledger A, August 1905
Folder 2 Sundry Calculations, January-June 1905
Folder 3 Property Assessments, January 1914 and undated
Folder 4 Clairton Inn, Tatnall House, and Thorpe House Income, January 1914
Folder 5 Mortgage Calculations, 1904-1905

Subseries 3. Administrative Records, 1901-1914

Scope and Content Notes:

The material in this subseries reflects the administrative functions of the St. Clair Improvement Company, including the information on lot prices, taxes, mortgages, rents, and advertising. The advertising materials best illustrate the development and construction of Clairton. It is interesting to see how the Improvement Company tried to sell the town of Clairton to potential homebuyers prior to it being built. There is some miscellaneous material comprised of handwritten notes, calculations concerning sales of lots, rental lists, company properties, and taxes. Material in this subseries is arranged in alphabetical order.

Folder 6 Account Payable Receipt, March 31, 1914
Folder 7 Advertisements, undated
Folder 8 Annual Meeting Minutes, St. Clair Improvement Co. and Clairton Street Railway Co., March 1911
Folder 9 Articles of Agreement, Blank, undated
Folder 10 Assessed Value of Unplotted Lands, 1913
Folder 11 Back Taxes by Mortgage Holders, February 13, 1907
Folder 12 Balance Due on Mortgages, 1906-1907
Folder 13 Bills, 1901-1902
Folder 14 Bonds, undated ((Blank))
Folder 15 Bonds and Mortgages, September 15, 1905
Folder 16 Capital Stock Tax, 1913
Folder 17 Clairton Election for Borough Officials, 1913
Folder 18 Clairton Inn, Public School, 1902, 1913, undated
Folder 19 Company Forms, Blank, undated
Folder 20 List of “Company Matters,” July 11, 1912
Folder 21 Deeds, 1905
Folder 22 Deeds, 1910-1914
Folder 23 Deeds, Blank, undated
Folder 24 Deed (original), Memo, undated
Folder 25 Homestead Park, 1907-1913
Folder 26 Insurance, undated
Folder 27 “Industries near Clairton,” undated
Folder 28 Land Agreement with Clairton Steel Company, 1902
Folder 29 Land Agreement with U.S. Steel Corporation, 1905

Box 586
Folder 1 Leases, February 11, 1914
Folder 2 License Court Complaint, 1909-1912
Folder 3 Lot prices (Old and New), May 1911
Folder 4 Lot prices, First and Second Addition, undated
Folder 5 Lot prices, Third Addition, May 1911
Folder 6 Lot prices, Revised List, June 14, 1910
Folder 7 Lot prices, Mitchell and Miller Ave., Mitchell Ave. and Third St., August 1907 and undated
Folder 8 Lot Value, December 20, 1905
Folder 9 Memoranda of Judgments, 1914
Folder 10 Misc. Taxes, 1902-1911 and undated
Folder 11 Misc. Lots, 1901-1914
Folder 12 Misc. Notes, 1901-1914 and undated
Folder 13 Mortgages, October 25, 1906
Folder 14 Mortgages, Blank, undated
Folder 15 Notices, August 15, 1905
Folder 16 Office Furniture, March 14, 1914
Folder 17 Original Incorporation, April 10, 1914
Folder 18 Paving, Sewer, and Sidewalk Price List, undated
Folder 19 Price Lists, 1912 and undated
Folder 20 Rental Collections and Disbursements, August-December 1905
Folder 21 Rental List, April 1, 1914
Folder 22 Sale of Company, undated
Folder 23 Sold Lots, 1905 and 1911
Folder 24 Sold Lots, Unrecorded, April 1914
Folder 25 Stock and Real Estate Values, January 1914
Folder 26 Union Trust Company of Clairton, 1913
Folder 27 Unsettled Sales, 1906-1907
Folder 28 Unsold Lots, April 1914

Subseries 4. Bound Volumes, 1901-1915

Scope and Content Notes:

The bound volumes include petty cash books, deed registers, a general ledger, letterpress copybooks, and financial books of the St. Clair Improvement Company. The petty cash, deed registers, and general ledger are small record books that note company and personal names, dates and daily business transitions relative to the St. Clair Improvement Company. The letterpress copybooks contain the outgoing letters from the President’s office dealing with daily business activities and some financial matters. They also contain some letters that deal with the Clairton Street Railway and the Clairton Brick & Manufacturing Company. For additional material on those companies, see the copybooks and indexes can be found in Series VII Clairton Brick & ompany and Series VIII Clairton Street Railway Company.


Box 587
Folder 1 Petty Cash, June 8, 1908-March 30, 1914
Folder 2 Petty Cash, September 23, 1905-May 29, 1908
Folder 3 Deeds, November 1904-December 1911
Folder 4 Deeds, January 1912-March 1914
Folder 5 Record of Deeds, July 24, 1905-December 12, 1913
Folder 6 Ledger, September 1, 1911-March 16, 1914

Box 588
Volume 1 Letterpress Copybook, R.C. Cornelius, June 19, 1901-January 6, 1904
Volume 2 Letterpress Copybook Vol. I, May 20, 1901-August 28, 1905
Box 589 Letterpress Copybook Vol. II., September 1, 1905-December 5, 1906

Box 590
Volume 1 Letterpress Copybook Vol. III., December 7, 1906-August 31, 1908
Volume 2 Letterpress Copybook Vol. IV., September 1, 1908-March 23, 1911

Box 591
Volume 1 Letterpress Copybook, April 1, 1911-October 14, 1913
Volume 2 Letterpress Copybook, November 1, 1913-July 26, 1915

Subseries 5. Printing Plates, 1906

Scope and Content Notes:

There are twelve plates included in this subseries. Eight plates from July 1906 depict views of the town of Clairton, company houses, the steel manufacturing plant and public community space which were used in creating a promotional booklet for the improvement company. The four remaining plates are unidentified boarder, scroll, and spacer plates which are not dated.


Box 592
Folder 1 Broader, Scroll, and Spacer Print Engravings, undated

Box 593
Folder 1 Views of Clairton, Promotional Print Engravings, July 1906