The Penn Central Railroad Company was created in 1968 by a merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad and survived until 1970 when it filed for bankruptcy. Many of its rail lines are today owned by Amtrak and by the Consolidated Rail Corporation and its successors. The bulk of this collection consists of records of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, [ca. 1847-1968]. Incorporated on April 13, 1846, by the turn of the century the Pennsylvania Railroad Company had become the largest single employer of men and women in the United States. In addition to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company records, this collection also contains selected materials from the New York Central Railroad, Penn Central Corporation, Penn Central Transportation Company, Lehigh Valley Railroad, Erie Railroad, Erie-Lackawanna Railway, and their subsidiary companies. Only a small sampling of Pennsylvania Railroad Records have been consulted in preparing this guide.

Included among the Pennsylvania Railroad Company materials are administrative and financial records of the president, board of directors, secretary, comptroller, and treasurer; legal files, motive power and equipment records, and engineering drawings and blueprints that illustrate the construction details of locomotives, cars, bridges, and track routes. Numerous records and photographs in this collection document the African American experience. The photographs are arranged in three series. The Pennsylvania Railroad Library Photograph File includes a historical reference file of P.R.R. photographs [ca. 1850-1960]. The Conrail Mechanical Engineering Department Photograph File contains nearly two thousand prints, c. 1930, showing construction details and interior views of locomotives and rolling stock. The Penn Central Auction Photograph Albums depict P.R.R. locomotives, views of snow and ice conditions along the rail lines, various suburban landscapes, and a number of views of the devastation wrought by the 1889 Johnstown Flood.


Presidents Frank Thomson (1897-1899),
A. J. Cassatt (1899-1906), and James McCrea (1907-1913)

Presidential Correspondence, [ca 1899-1913]. Included is correspondence between A. J. Cassatt, Pennsylvania Railroad General Solicitor James A. Logan, F. T. D. Myers, and a Committee of Alexandria County Colored People (Virginia) concerning passage of the "Jim Crow" bill and incidents connected with the bill. One such incident was the arrest of the daughter of General Robert E. Lee for violating the Virginia "Jim Crow" law by refusing to move to the White section of the car. There is also a letter to Mr. Cassatt from Jerry M. Newman, a bellman from Hot Springs, Virginia, requesting a job either as a messenger at Broad Street Station or as a porter on a Pullman car. Also included are photographs of workmen in the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels under the North and East Rivers, 1913-14.

President M. W. Clement (1935-1949)

Presidential Correspondence, 1935-1949. Includes the following items:

• Letters between Clement and C. M. Davis, President of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company, requesting the Pennsylvania Railroad’s permission to photograph P.R.R. coach #4292 in connection with an American Civil Liberties Union suit alleging racial discrimination (June 1949), a suit brought by an African American clergymen for denying equal accommodations on a train in Chicago (January 1943).

• An invitation to Clement to attend the premiere of a Firestone Tire & Rubber Company film entitled "Liberia, Africa’s Only Republic," which portrayed the social, economic and political life of "this little-known nation founded by American Negroes which is celebrating its 100th anniversary." (November 1947)

• Letters from Clement to others concerning possible recruitment of redcaps "from other sources" (July 1943).

• Letter from Clement to Theodore W. High in response to "action of certain members of train crews in violating privacy of colored women employees in rest room at Pennsylvania Station (30th Street), Philadelphia (April 28, 1943)."

Presidents J. M. Symes (1954-1959), A. J. Greenough (1960-1962), and Chairman of the Board S. T. Saunders (1963-1967)

Correspondence, 1954-1967. The correspondence dated October, 1961 includes a letter to A. J. Greenough, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad from Eric Johnston, chairman of the African-American Trade and Development Association, requesting that the Pennsylvania Railroad become a member of the organization. The purpose of the association was to improve relations between American business firms and companies and the countries of tropical Africa. Greenough’s letter to Johnson regretfully declined the invitation.

Secretary’s Office

Board Files: BF Series, [ca. 1847-1906]. Included are the following two items:

• Letter from headquarters, Supervisory Committee on Colored Enlistments, No. 1910 Chestnut Street, June 27, 1863, to the Pennsylvania Railroad requesting financial contributions to raise and maintain "colored troops" in Pennsylvania. After they were mustered into service by the governor at Camp William Penn in the Chelten Hills, all expenses of recruitment, subsistence, and transportation were to be provided by the public. In his reply to S. T. Bodine dated September 3, 1863, Pennsylvania Railroad Secretary Edmund Smith stated that the request had been referred by the board to a special committee. However on back of letter appears the notation: "Res. that it is inexpedient for this company to interfere by donating or otherwise with the organization of U.S. forces."

• Letter from W. A. Rice, Financial Agent for the Colored Industrial School in Bordertown, New Jersey, requesting that the railroad donate $250 in order to purchase additional property across the street from the school. Included is a drawing showing the three lots already owned by the school and the Leed’s lot which was then for sale. Also present is a copy of the Act of the General Assembly No. 451 from the state of New Jersey, a brochure entitled The Colored Industrial Educational Association of New Jersey, and an announcement card for the Rev. W. A. Rice to appear as a soloist.

Minute Books of the Board of Directors, 1847-1956. Under the topical heading of "Black Recruits," the index reveals that the transport of black recruits was discussed at the April 1, 1863 meeting; aid towards the formation of black troops was requested at the February 3, 1864 meeting; and on April 6 and 20, 1864, the board discussed a letter from Thomas Webster of Philadelphia requesting a donation of $2,000 to aid in recruiting a "colored regiment."

Secretary’s Office: Pennsylvania Railroad Company Library

Pamphlet files, 1846-1964. Includes a copy of the centennial issue, The Brown Railroader, a 1946 pamphlet providing coverage of "Negro Railroaders’ activities." It consists of eighteen pages and contains articles that provide a history of African Americans on the railroad, including stories about family members of railroad employees, complimentary and congratulatory letters from African American passengers, contemporary recipes used on the trains, biographies, and a wide variety of illustrations.

Photograph File, [ca. 1830-1963]. Only a sampling of boxes was examined in preparation for this guide. Examples of photographs found showing African Americans are listed below.

Box 1: Allegheny Portage Railroad—Canals

• Folder 2.2 Construction of the South Street Bridge, Philadelphia, 1922-23. A photograph entitled "Caisson #3 ready to Launch" shows two African American men. Another photograph shows a group of men, one of whom appears to be an African American smoking a cigarette. The last photograph in this folder is of the middle pilings being formed. The man on the far left below the crane appears to be African American.

• Folder 3.1 Bus Service associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad. A photograph of the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Harrisburg includes a young boy and a porter who are African American. On the back the following inscription is found: "Pennsylvania General Transit Company (P.R.R.) bus leaving Pennsylvania Railroad Station at Harrisburg, Pa., for the trip to Wilkes-Barre. These Buses make one round trip daily between Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre." Another photograph in this folder shows an African American porter at Penn Station in New York City. The inscription on the back reads: "Motor coach for Bayville and Oyster Bay departing from the Pennsylvania Motor Coach terminal NYC."

Box 1a: Penn Central Auction Photograph Albums

• The box is marked "Copy 8x10 prints of Photo Album. "Photographic views of line on Pa. Schyul. Vlly RR., West of Port Clinton, PA." Owned by J. N. Dubarry, 1884-1887." There are two photographs that appear to depict African Americans, one showing men outside a tunnel laying down track, and the other showing men excavating a canal or tunnel.

Box 5: Conrail Public Affairs Office Photographs: Monuments-Individual Portraits

• Folder 17.1b People: Photograph album showing PRR employees in their offices around the turn of the century. African American subjects include three men wearing some type of a uniform, a photograph labeled "Pat Cole" of a seated man holding a porter’s hat, an office scene labeled "Washington" showing an African American among a group of ten men, and other similar photographs showing one or more African Americans among groups of white men.

• Folder 16 Passenger Service. Many of the labeled photographs from this folder show African Americans employed in dining cars. Examples include "Photo by William M. Rittase, 243 S. 15th Street, Philadelphia" showing two African American waiters, "Broadway Limited, 1927" also showing an African American waiter, "New P.R.R. Dining Car in Fiesta Decor" and "A Restaurant on Wheels," both from the 1950s. Other photographs portray African Americans working in dining cars during the 1920s and 1930s.

Box 10: Stations—Trains

• Folder 27.4c Stations: Other Philadelphia Stations. African Americans appear in photographs labeled: "Front-Passenger Station Chambersburg, 1884," "Haddon Avenue Station, Camden HS," "Loveland, Ohio, station," a 1949 view of Philadelphia Station, and a 1948 view of Wayne Station.

Box 12: Oversized Photographs

• One folder in the box is marked "Equipment-Dining Cars-Kitchens & Cooks." Within is a photograph of an African American man named Dennis McCloud oiling an axle, another showing two African Americans among six men working tracks, and a series of ten photographs dated 1925 depicting African American cooks.

• Folder 5. Cartoons, Drawings, and Posters. Included in the folder is a copy of Modern Railroad, November, 1958. One article in the magazine includes two photographs showing African Americans moving crates from a station.

• In another folder marked "2 sided prints of mixed categories: bridges, grain elevators, stations, scenery," there are two photographs of African Americans labeled "Slip Rock looking West, P-13" and "Sherman’s Creek Bridge" respectively.

Vice-President of Operations
Chief of Motive Power, Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical Engineering Drawings, [ca. 1875-1960]. Included are drawings of passenger car classes #P70A and PB70A, which were used as "Jim Crow" cars for the "colored race."

Vice-President of Public Affairs
Advertising Agent

Wartime Advertising Scrapbooks, 1942-1945. These scrapbooks contain many newspaper advertisements having pictures of African Americans. The scrapbooks also contain folders, leaflets, and brochures. The pictures usually tell a story of a family and their combined years of service with the Pennsylvania Railroad and depict African Americans performing various duties as waiters, porters, redcaps, brakemen, car repairmen, crane operators, and machinists.

Vice-President of Purchases, Stores and Insurance

Photographs and Specifications for Employee Uniforms, 1945-1948. There are photographs of an African American woman wearing an employee uniform for female station and car cleaners and an African American man wearing a porter’s uniform.

Voluntary Relief Department

Enrollment Cards, [ca.1865-1968]. Enrollment cards of the Voluntary Relief Department’s insurance program for Pennsylvania Railroad employees. Each card includes such information as the employee’s name, date and place of birth; name of wife, mother and father; employee certificate number; dates of service; division, department, and class; occupation and rate of pay; injuries; retirement and pension date; date of death; and other related personnel information. Some of the cards have "Negro" written on them; e.g., Lamb, Samuel . . . , Negro, or "(Colored)"; e.g., Exum, Marone Wilson . . . , (Colored). Access to information on these cards is restricted for twenty-five years after the death of the individual unless permission of the donor is obtained.

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