PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records




Manuscript Group 110
90 cu. ft.

Telling the story of a canal which had already been in use for a few years before the Commonwealth launched the scheme of its state-owned Pennsylvania Canal in 1826, these records reflect significant eras of inland waterway transportation and commerce, the enterprise of late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century Pennsylvania citizens and men of affairs, the interrelationships of navigation companies and railroad companies, and the eventual supplanting by the railroads of transportation services long performed in Pennsylvania by artificial canalways. Records provide some information on the period-in the 1790s-when Robert Morris and other Philadelphians were promoting the Delaware and Schuykill Canal Company, which was eventually made unnecessary by the building of the Schuylkill Navigation Company (SNC) and the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Canal Company, the latter which was eventually supplanted by the Union Canal Company, which established its artificial waterway in the valleys of the Tulpehocken and the Swatara to connect the city of Reading on the Schuylkill with Middletown on the Susquehanna.

Records touch at some points on the careers of engineers like William Weston, who began but never completed the Delaware and Schuylkill and the Schuylkill and Susquehanna canals, and Loammi Baldwin, who planned the Union Canal, disagreed with the Board of the Union Canal Company and broke with those gentlemen to let them adopt another plan which failed of satisfaction for several decades. They touch at other points on the careers of celebrated engineers like Edward Miller and Soloman White Roberts and of noted bridge builders like Charles Ellet, Jr. Many other points of interest are covered in the collection's materials, including: information relative to the first tunnel built in the United States; files that outline the history of water power in manufacture for more than a century; and documents that chronicle the rise of the coal mining and transport industries of Pennsylvaina during the 19th century. More specifically, the records reveal the relations of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, later known as the Reading Company, with both the Schuylkill Navigation Company and the Susquehanna Canal Company, i.e., the canal commonly called the Susquehanna and Tidewater, descending along the bank of the Susquehanna River from opposite Columbia and Wrightsville to Havre de Grace, Maryland.

Of interest in the assemblage of volumes and documents are maps and map books, from those which record early years of exploration and construction to others which picture property holdings and services of the last years of operation. Of similar importance are day-by-day, year-by-year, reports of rainfall and weather conditions along the canal; descriptions of conditions at dams, bridges, and locks, or on towing paths; registers of boats, their tonnages, and destinations; of amounts of water power dispensed; of heights of water at dams; of toll charges and regulations; and of costs of repair and maintenance.

The problems of finance and the solutions adopted by the Board of Managers are revealed in the books of subscribers to stocks, the books of loans and of dividends, the minutes of stockholders' meetings, the ledgers of business performed, the letter books and letters of the entire succession of presidents of the company, and the printed annual reports (few in number) of the Board of Managers. The record of human leadership in the enterprise is offered through many an eminent name: Cadwalader Evans, first president; Clement C. Biddle, first secretary and treasurer; Joseph S. Lewis and Joshua Lippincott, second and third presidents; Stephen Girard, financier; and Asa Packer, prominent promoter. The correspondence of Frederick Fraley, sixth president, is preserved for forty years; that of Engineer James F. Smith for thirty-three years; that of Engineer, Superintendent and Manager Edwin F. Smith for almost a half-century.

**For additional information on Schuylkill Navigation Company maps and drawings, please Click Here to be directed to a page on the Reading Area Community College website. Here you will find an inventory to hundreds of SNC drawings, maps and surveys, as well as digital copies of a few of the maps that have already been scanned.**




PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records