American Hardware Corporation Records
Scope and Content
The collection consists exclusively of 577 volumes and one box of payroll lists and financial ledgers and journals relating to American Hardware Corporation and the predecessors and divisions associated with it, including Corbin Cabinet Lock Company, Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company, orbin Screw Corporation, and P. & F. Corbin.
- undated, 1859-1953
The collection is open and available for research.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from these Records must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.
New Britain, Connecticut, established its dominance as the center of American hardware manufacturing as early as the late 1700s. Blacksmith shops provided a multitude of goods, including nails, hinges, locks and keys that were distributed by traveling peddlars to the farms and small towns of early America. By the mid-1800s entrepreneurs formed factories to better produce goods that were in increased demand.
The Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company originated in 1839 when H. E. Russell, Cornelius B. Erwin, and Frederick T. Stanley formed a partnership to produce locks and builders' hardware, under the name of Stanley, Russell & Company. When Mr. Stanley withdrew from the partnership in 1840, Smith Matteson and John H. Bowen were added, changing the name of the company to Matteson, Russell & Company. In 1846, with the death of Mr. Matteson and the expiration of the partnership terms, the company's name changed to Russell & Erwin. In 1851 the partnership was reorganized as a joint stock company and was from that time known as Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company, until its merger with P. & F. Corbin in 1902. Cornelius Erwin served as president of the company from 1851 until his death in 1885. The company is best known as the pioneer of the wrought steel lock industry.
P. & F. Corbin originated in 1849 when brothers Philip and Frank Corbin, and Edward Doen established the firm of Doen, Corbin & Co., to manufacture ox balls. The company's name changed to P. & F. Corbin in 1851. In the last half of the 19th century they broadened their products to include coffin trimmings, knobs, and stove handles. In 1868 they began specializing in the manufacture of builder's hardware and locks.
The American Hardware Corporation was formed in 1902 as a holding company through the merger of the Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company and P. & F. Corbin, which were at that time separate and independent and rivals in the market for builders' hardware. At the time of the merger the two companies produced nearly one-half of the total hardware of this type in the United States. The two merged companies remained as distinct divisions of American Hardware Corporation and two other divisions - Corbin Cabinet Lock Company and the Corbin Screw Corporation - were added later.
Philip Corbin, president of P. & F. Corbin, served as American Hardware Corporation's first president until his death in 1910. Charles M. Jarvis served from 1910 to 1913, succeeded by Henry C. M. Thomson. In 1924 Mr. Thomson was succeeded by George T. Kimball.
Corbin Screw Corporation, a unit of the American Hardware Corporation, was formed in 1903 from the merger of the screw divisions of P. & F. Corbin and Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company. It specialized in machine and other types of screws, bolts, chains, and escrutcheon pins.
Corbin Cabinet Lock Company was established in 1882 as a unit of P. & F. Corbin and became a division of the American Hardware Corporation in 1905. It produced cabinet hardware, padlocks, trunk locks, mail boxes, post office lock boxes, house letter boxes, straps, and brackets.
During both World Wars the companies manufactured such items as gun parts and hand grenades. In 1950 they employed 4,200 persons and occupied 2,255,912 square feet of floor space in three factories in New Britain.
In 1964 American Hardware was bought out by Emhart Corporation and in 1970 a new plant was built in Berlin. In 1989 Emhart was taken over by Black & Decker. Today, Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware in Berlin, Connecticut, manufactures padlocks and is owned by a Swiss concern, which also owns Sargent Lock Company in New Haven, Connecticut.
580 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
The records consist of financial records associated with the American Hardware Corporation of New Britain, Connecticut, its predecessor companies P. & F. Corbin and Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company, and divisions Corbin Cabinet Lock Company and Corbin Screw Corporation.
The series are organized by company division.
Series I: American Hardware Corporation (1889-1953)
Series II: Corbin Cabinet Lock Company (1882-1939)
Series III: Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company (1864-1935)
Series IV: Corbin Screw Corporation (1903-1935)
Series V: P. & F. Corbin (1859-1944)
The materials were sorted by division with the corporation, thereunder by type of item and then chronologically. Payroll lists are always the first type of documents, followed by various types of financial records.
This collection was held at the New Britain Industrial Museum before it arrived at the University of Connecticut Libraries in 1995.
The records were donated by the New Britain Industrial Museum in 1995.
906 financial ledgers were removed from the collection in August 2003. The ledgers consisted of financial records of American Hardware Corporation and its predecessor companies: P. & F. Corbin, Russel & Erwin Manufacturing Company, Corbin Cabinet Lock Company and Corbin Screw Corporation. These items were removed only after each volume was evaluated to determine whether its content justified the cost and labor of retention. All of the materials removed were solely "books of numbers", with virtually no historical information about the companies.
- Administrative records Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Connecticut (state) Subject Source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
- Financial records Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Hardware industry Subject Source: Fast
- New Britain (inhabited place) Subject Source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
- American Hardware Corporation Records
- Archives & Special Collections staff
- 2003 July
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- This finding aid was prepared with generous support from the Judith and Eldon Bernstein Fund.