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Sargent and Company Records

Identifier: 1980-0038

Scope and Content

The collection includes extensive documentation of the company's activities and development from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century. Documentation includes correspondence, administrative, legal and financial records, publications, reports, blueprints, notes and family papers. Detailed information, gaps, and dates are included in the series descriptions.

The collection also includes some information concerning the Peck and Walter Manufacturing Company, a predecessor of Sargent and Company, and two subsidiary firms—Sargent Card Clothing Company and the Sargent Wharf Company>.

Note on Sampling of Series IV: Subseries H: Product Cost Records—the 25 volumes of Product Cost Records represent a systematic sampling of 472 volumes found in the collection. The records contain a detailed analysis of each cost component for production and sale of a wide variety of products, including each part of every product (e.g., each pin for a lock). These records were only kept for an eight year period, until a simplified card system was developed. The 472 volumes formed several natural groupings, such as Locks, Coffin hardware, Escutcheons, and “Old cost sheets.” The number of volumes in each group ranged from 4 to 209. It was decided to save a 5% sample, selected in order to make the sample for each of the groups of volumes produce relatively the same variance and reliability of data in relation to each category. The following procedure was used: the square root of the number of volumes in each group was divided by the number of volumes to be saved (25). The number of volumes in each group was then divided by this factor, and this product was rounded off to determine the number of volumes to save for each group of volumes. This number ranged from 1 to 7. The volumes to be saved were selected from each category of volumes, using random number tables. This sample should thus produce statistically reliable data for the pre-sample universe of 472 volumes.


  • Creation: undated, 1720-1955


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.


Sargent and Company was a manufacturer of locks and hardware, with headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. It was founded by Joseph B. Sargent, who was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, in 1822. He began his career as a clerk in a Boston dry goods store, where he rose to the position of manager. Upon the death of his employer in 1842, Joseph and his brother, Edward, moved to Griffin, Georgia, and established a successful mercantile business. After a few years, the brothers moved to New York City, where they started a commission business called Sargent and Company. The Company acted as sales agent for Peck and Walter Manufacturing Company. When Peck and Walter closed, Joseph Sargent moved to New Britain, Connecticut, and created the J. B. Sargent & Company. Unable to expand the company at this location, Sargent purchased land in New Haven, Connecticut, and moved the company there on 1 May 1865, along with one hundred employees and their families. The company continued to manufacture small hardware items, and added a coffin hardware department. The following year, the company was incorporated, with capital of $300,000.

The Sargent and Company commission house in New York continued to sell hardware items, along with the goods produced in New Haven, to other manufacturers, reaching a sales volume of $1,738,000 in 1869.

Sargent and Company acted as sole agent for Mallory, Wheeler & Company, a manufacturer of locks and builders' hardware. After losing this lucrative account, Joseph Sargent began manufacturing his own locks and builders' hardware, hiring William E. Sparks, a leading expert, to run the department. The company produced a line of locks with standardized parts and simplified inner mechanisms.

By 1887, the plant had expanded to sixteen acres of floor space and employed almost 1,700 people. The yearly payroll was $1,000,000 or about $600 per employee per year. The pay rate was $1.50 per ten hour day with a six day work week. Immigrants filled lower employee ranks, with Italians the largest single group. Employees were well treated for the times, but J. B. Sargent refused to tolerate unions. An employee strike occurred in 1902 over employee demands for a union shop and a 15% wage increase. The strike lasted for three weeks until Sargent threatened to replace all striking workers.

Joseph B. Sargent was prominent in the New Haven political scene, and was elected mayor of the city in 1890. In 1892, he was nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor, but was defeated. Upon his death in 1907, his brother, George Stewart Sargent, became president of Sargent and Company.

By 1900, Sargent and Company was one of the preeminent companies in the lock and builders' hardware field, employing 2,000 workers. From 1900 to 1923, the company pioneered several new patents and processes, guaranteeing itself advantage over competitors. In 1928, however, rising manufacturing costs and a decline in profits forced the Board of Directors to elect an outsider, B. W. Burtsell, as president and general manager. Despite the fact the new management reduced costs and eliminated many unprofitable items, profits continued to decline steeply throughout the depression years, making it impossible for the company to pay a dividend to stockholders until 1938, when it sold off its New York sales office to the City of New York.

In 1972, Sargent and Company became a division of Walter Kidde & Company of Belleville, New Jersey>, a manufacturer of safety, security and protection products.


188 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Sargent and Company was a manufacturer of locks and hardware, with headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. Originally established in New York City as a commission business, Sargent and Company relocated to New Britain, Connecticut, several years later under the name J. B. Sargent & Company. Unable to expand at this location, Sargent purchased land in New Haven, Connecticut, and moved the company, one hundred employees and their families on 1 May 1865. By 1887, the plant had expanded to sixteen acres of floor space and employed almost 1,700 employees. Joseph B. Sargent was prominent in New Haven politics and was elected mayor in 1890. In 1892, he was nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor, but was defeated. Upon his death in 1907, his brother, George Stewart Sargent, became president of Sargent and Company. In 1972, Sargent and Company became a division of Walter Kidde & Company of Belleville, New Jersey, a manufacturer of safety, security and protection products.


Series I: Administrative Records (>undated, 1878-1955, bulk 1902-1954) is comprised of eight subseries: Annual Reports (1939-1942), Reports to Stockholders (1917-1954), Reports (1903-1955), Office Files (1878-1955, bulk 1902-1955), Union Relations (1902-1954, bulk 1946-1954), Stanley R. Cullen Files (1941-1955), Cost Analyses (1909-1952, bulk 1909-1936), Private Journals and Ledgers (1888-1921). Reports were undertaken by the company to appraise policies and procedures or to examine developments affecting the industry. Reports were prepared in-house or by consultants. Office Files consists of alphabetically arranged subject files, including such topics as employee relations, foremen's training, trade associations and public relations. A few publications are also included. Union Relations contains subject files, surveys, reports and publications. Included in these files are materials regarding communism in the work force, employee attitudes, strike negotiations, and publications from the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (U.E.). Stanley R. Cullen Files represent the personal files, daily activity loges, and notebooks of the company's personnel director. Costs Analyses contains records of standard costs and labor and production expenses. Private Journals and Ledgers is a very small subseries consisting of five bound volumes, some with security locks, of general and private records.

Series II: Legal Records (1830-1953) includes general agreements, specific electrotype agreements and settlements. Correspondence (1871-1917) is arranged alphabetically by subject or name. Lawsuits and Opinions (1870-1912) is arranged alphabetically by subject and includes extensive material on the Yale and Towne suit against Sargent and Company. Patents (1830-1916) includes patent designs, patent assignments, and patents. This subseries represents a thorough record of the company's technological expertise for nearly 90 years.

Series III: Correspondence (undated, 1884-1942) is arranged in four subseries: General Correspondence (1884-1912), Selected Topical Correspondence (1896-1942), Sales Correspondence (1886-1942), and Letter Copy Books (1887-1903). General Correspondence has four sections. The first section is an alphabetically arranged section of general business letters, incoming and outgoing (1885-1887). The second section, alphabetically arranged, contains general business correspondence, incoming and outgoing (1894-1902). The third section consists of a partial alphabetical sequence of letters (A-C and T-W only) from 1884-1912. The fourth section consists of letters chronologically arranged from 1911 to 1918. Selected Topical Correspondence contains papers and letters regarding a variety of topics, including: the Association of Hardware Manufacturers, the coffin hardware department and its dealings with funeral goods companies, the New York and Chicago offices of Sargent and Company, foundry data, Ziegler Sargent's work with Hopkins Grammar School, inventors, machinery, purchases of plants and products, J. B. Sargent's foreign trips, the screw industry, and hunting traps. Sales Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and includes materials dating 1886 and 1937-1942, the bulk of which dates 1942. The correspondence is from sales agents, company managers and customers. Letter Copy Books comprise the fourth subseries. Included in these bound volumes are letter press copies of outgoing letters of H. B. Sargent and E. R. Sargent. Also there are New York Office letter books, credit books, order books and general letter books.

Series IV: Production Records (undated, 1866-1950) is organized into eight subseries: Machinery Repair Manuals (undated), Plant Orders (1823-1850), Inventories (1880-1900, 1948-1950), Production (1866-1950), Specifications: World War II Production (1940-1949), Blueprints (1920-1944), Process Sheets and Production Schedules (1944, 1946), and Product Cost Records (1916-1924). Production includes subject files regarding inventory, equipment information, emergency product change records, defense housing, and hardware specifications. Blueprints consists primarily of designs for wartime production of ordnance parts, housing hardware and other military products. Product Cost Records includes 25 volumes of systematically sampled cost analysis books for the period 1916-1924.

Series V: Labor Records (1864-1927) is arranged in six subseries: Employee Registers (1854-1919) consists of bound volumes that record the name, address, date employed and previous employment history of Sargent and Company employees. Payroll records, maintained by date or by department, comprise the bulk of this series. Wage Ledgers, Salary Ledgers, and Piece Work Ledgers all contain employees' name, weekly rate and aggregate salary. Contracts contains records of subcontracting work and apprentice agreements. Other Labor records contains labor related materials that are not appropriate for the previously identified subseries.

Series VI: Sales (1852-1955) is organized into three subseries: Sales Records includes notices from management to salesmen, confidential prices, sales manuals and various account books and price books. Sales Journals consist of bound volumes with titles such as “Coffin Hardware,” “New England Territory,” “Locks” and “Small Exports.” Catalogs includes catalogs from Sargent and Company and other companies.

Series VII: General Accounts (1858-1955) includes the following subseries: Cash Books (1867-1910), Day Books—New York Office (1900-1910), Day Books (1872-1880), Journals (1864-1888, 1900-1927), Invoices Payable (1899-1904), Check Registers (1878, 1897, 1906-1910), Trial Balances (1897-1926), Ledgers (1864-1928), and Financial Records and Accounts (1868-1954). Ledgers includes sets of ledgers for the New York and New Haven offices, coffin hardware and states. Financial Records and Accounts consists of various ledgers, journals and internal financial statements.

Series VIII: Predecessor and Subsidiary Companies (1853-1879) is a small series that contains the limited records of Peck and Walter Manufacturing Company, the predecessor of Sargent and Company, and two subsidiary firms—Sargent Card Clothing Company and the Sargent Wharf Company. This series is comprised of record books pertaining to the initial formal organization of these companies.

Series IX: Sargent Family Papers (1720-1955) consists of genealogical materials collected by Zeigler Sargent and other family members, personal and some business correspondence of family members. Biographical materials and family photographs. Zeigler Sargent's manuscripts and notes regarding family and Sargent Company history constitute a substantial portion of the series. Also included is the Sargent genealogical publication, Sargentrivia. Records in this series are alphabetically arranged by family member name and then by type of material.

Custodial History

The Sargent and Company Records were donated to Yale University by Zeigler Sargent and other company officials between 1940 and 1964.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the University of Connecticut Library by Yale University in January 1980.

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

Digital reproductions of materials in this collection may also be found in the Archives & Special Collections digital repository


David E. Heckel, Sargent Planes Identification and Value Guide. Charleston, IL: Forty Five Publishing, c1997. Dodd Reference TJ 1201. P55 H42 1997
Sargent and Company Records
Archives & Special Collections staff
1990 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US