Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

While the primary responsibility of the Pennsylvania State Archives is to preserve and make available for research the records created by the activities of state government, an important secondary charge is to preserve privately created manuscripts and corporate records that illuminate the history of the Commonwealth. One of the largest such collections is Manuscript Group (MG) 427, the Baldwin-Hamilton Company Records. Established in Philadelphia in 1831 by Matthias Baldwin, the Baldwin Locomotive Works constructed more steam locomotives than any facility in the world. In the late 1890s, Baldwin began building small electric locomotives and by 1939 was producing diesel-electric locomotives. In 1948, the company prepared engineering drawings for a steam locomotive similar to one it had originally built in the 1860s that was sold to a firm in Brazil, possibly for use in mining operations or on a plantation.

In the early 1950s, the Baldwin Locomotive Works merged with the Lima-Hamilton Company and continued in operation until 1972. The Baldwin-­Hamilton Car Company Records include the engineering drawings of steam, electric, and diesel locomotives, together with the related indexes, registers, order books, and specification books. Baldwin was slow to adopt the type of streamlined designs introduced by such innovative twentieth-century locomotive designers as Raymond Loewy (see “The Big Engines That Could” by John Wall in this issue) but, thanks to the work of the firm of Hadley, Ryder and Pederson, the company eventually introduced a “shark nose” design in 1948.

Even larger than the Baldwin-­Hamilton Collection is MG 286, the Penn Central Railroad Collection. Placed on long-term deposit by the Penn Central Corporation in 1985, these records compliment similar Penn Central holdings deposited at the time with the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilm­ington, Delaware, and seven other institutions. The bulk of the deposit consists of administrative and financial records, employee insurance cards, photographs, and engineering drawings of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, incorporated in 1846, which became both “the standard railroad of the world” and the largest employer in the United States.

Other important railroad holdings at the Pennsylvania State Archives include railroad-related holdings are valuable resources for investigating the history of technology, transportation, the evolution of corporations, and the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the Keystone State and the nation.