Philadelphia Area Archives Research Portal (PAARP)

Navigation Aids

Philadelphia Area Archives Research Portal (PAARP)
Search Finding Aids
 

Main Content

Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades records

1746-2014 [bulk 1888-2014], 150 linear feet

01

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Williamson College of the Trades (Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades). Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Repository:
Williamson College of the Trades (Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades)
Creator:
Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades
Title:
Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades records
Date [bulk]:
1888-2014
Date [inclusive]:
1746-2014
Call Number:
01
Extent:
150 Linear feet
Language:
English
Abstract:
Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades (now known as Williamson College of the Trades) in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania (Delaware County) was established in 1888 with an endowment from Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist Isaiah V. Williamson. The tuition-free school initially offered vocational training for high school-aged men in areas such as bricklaying, carpentry, and machine shop. Since becoming a post-secondary institution in 1961, the school now offers associate degrees in various fields of specialized technology. The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades records, 1746-2014 (bulk 1888-2014), consist of administrative and financial records; a variety of visual, audio, and audiovisual materials; alumni and student publications; alumni records and personal papers; blueprints, deeds, and other documents relating to the School's property; and several other materials that document the functions of the School and the individual experiences of its students, teachers, and other associates.
PDF Version:

Return to Top »

Biography/History

"On December 1, 1888, Isaiah Vansant Williamson [(1803-1889)], a Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist, founded The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades. His purpose in founding the School was to provide financially disadvantaged young men with the opportunity to become productive and respected members of society... The founding of The Williamson Free School with a two million dollar endowment was one of [Williamson's] last charitable acts before he died in 1889.

"Upon founding the School, [Williamson] directed through a deed of trust that the Quaker ideals of hard work, honesty, religious faith, and modest lifestyle be instilled in the students... Although some of the original rules have since been adapted to the times, the School remains dedicated to the values upon which it was founded.

"The 220-acre campus, located in Middletown Township, Delaware County, PA, was purchased in 1889. Frank Furness, one of the most prominent architects of the day, was employed to design the buildings. The School opened in 1891 and it offered three-year programs in bricklaying, carpentry, machine shop, and pattern-making. With the first graduation in 1894, the School became a significant pioneer in America's vocational education movement.

"In 1957, when a fire destroyed all but one of the shop buildings, it looked like Williamson might be forced to close, but the School was saved when the Board of Trustees entered into agreement with the Trustees of the Rodman Wanamaker estate, creating The John Wanamaker Free School of Artisans, now an integral part of Williamson. The agreement funded the construction of four new shop buildings and a general education building, and provided an endowment that covered an increase in the number of scholarships offered.

"Until 1961, students were of high school age and the School's curriculum emphasized the trades. However, due to the rise of secondary education and the significant advances of technology, the Williamson Board of Trustees decided to convert the School to a post-secondary institution. Programs were upgraded and in 1972 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted the School the authority to award the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree. Williamson now offers Craftsman Diplomas in Carpentry and Masonry and Associate [degrees] in Specialized Technology Degrees in Construction Technology (with an emphasis on carpentry or masonry); Horticulture, Landscaping and Turf Management; Machine Tool Technology; Paint and Coatings Technology; and Power Plant Technology."

Bibliography:

Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades. "A Brief History of the Williamson School." 2011. Accessed January 16, 2015. http://www.williamson.edu/about/history.htm.

Scope and Contents

This collection, dating from 1746 to 2014, consists of administrative and financial records; a variety of visual, audio, and audiovisual materials; alumni and student publications; alumni records and personal papers; blueprints, deeds, and other documents relating to the School's property; and several other materials that document the functions of Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades (now known as Williamson College of the Trades) and the experiences of its students, faculty, and affiliates. Most of the documents in the collection are from the span of the School's existence, 1888 to the present.

The largest portion of this collection is publications and a variety of visual, audio, and audiovisual material. Photographs and photograph albums, as well as VHS, DVD, audio reels, audiocassettes, glass plate negatives, lantern slides, super-8, film negatives, and slides, range in date from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries and document the teachers, Trustees, students, activities, campus, facilities, and other aspects of Williamson. The publications consist of: a nearly complete run of "The Mechanic" (Williamson's yearbook), 1899, 1904-2013; the staff newsletter, "Willy Weekly," 1992-2004; and another newsletter, "IV Monthly," 1998-2014. Also available is a nearly complete run of the School magazine, which began as "Williamson Life," then became "Williamson Alumni Magazine," and finally, once it was incorporated into the School's operations, is now known as "The Williamsonian." Available issues include: "Williamson Life," 1896-1899; "Williamson Alumni Magazine," 1910-1936; and "The Williamsonian," 1937-2013.

Additional documents in the collection include: materials relating to the establishment of Williamson and its history including a deed from 1746, Board of Trustees records, correspondence of past presidents, financial records, administrative records, blueprints and other documents relating to the buildings and grounds, legal materials, and materials relating to the faculty and staff, recruitment, admissions, school events, and the School's curriculum. Student-related materials include papers and ephemera that document student life, events, activities, and athletics, as well as some student records. There is a small amount of records from the Ladies Auxiliary. Other materials include obituaries of faculty and staff, trustees, presidents, alumni, and others connected to Williamson; newspaper clippings about the school and alumni; postcards; scrapbooks; awards and certificates; materials donated by alumni and others organized by donor (some of which contain materials relating to World War II and Williamson students who contributed to the war effort); materials collected on about a half dozen specific Williamson graduating classes; materials relating to archival requests from alumni, faculty and staff, and others; and various other papers, records, and ephemera.

Materials from Williamson's Alumni Association, organized in 1896, are part of this collection. Included are the Association's constitution and by-laws (1957-2007), meeting attendance records (1945-1972), meeting minutes (1944-2005), officer nominations and ballot forms with a list of committees and members (1967-2002), member dues records (1924-1953), financial records, correspondence, donation records, directories, fundraising and event planning materials, materials from alumni activities and award dinners, and other records. Also present in the collection are additional boxes of materials from the Alumni Association containing: student record cards (20th century) with name, graduating class year, pledges and subscriptions to the Alumni Association, and some mailing addresses; and additional Alumni Association records, especially those concerning a lawsuit the Association brought against the School around 1957-1960.

Over-sized materials include a large number of class and club and athletic team photographs, as well as some documents and photographs relating to the buildings and grounds.

Also available on-site, but not included as part of this archival finding aid, are a wide variety of objects including tools, class and Williamson flags, wooden objects, school clothing, and other artifacts.

Additional finding aids are available on-site, namely: a detailed arrangement outline for the archives, a folder-level inventory covering most of the collection, and item-level inventories of the photographs, slides, audiovisual materials, and (oversize) flat files.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into divisions and files as follows:

I: Creation of the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades

  • I-1: Creation of The WFSMT
  • I-2: Biography and Information
  • I-3: General History
 II: Board of Trustees
  • II-1: Board of Trustees - Organization
  • II-2: Board of Trustees - Meetings
  • II-3: Board of Trustees - Social Events
  • II-4: Board of Trustee Recognition
 III: Presidents of the WFSMT
  • III-1: Presidential Correspondence
 IV: Finance
  • IV-1: Financial Reports
  • IV-2: Financial Statements
  • IV-3: Donations - Outside Firms
  • IV-4: Property
 V: Institutional Advancement
  • V-1: Institutional Development/Advancement Reports
  • V-2: Alumni Relations
  • V-3: Annual Giving
  • V-4: Endowment Support
  • V-5: Charitable Club and Societies
  • V-6: Capital Campaigns/Giving
 VI: Personnel and Administration
  • VI-1: Personnel Management
  • VI -2: Employee Handbooks
  • VI-3: Employee Policies
  • VI -4: Insurance
  • VI-5: Pension Programs
  • VI -6: Employment at WFSMT
  • VI-7: Employee Evaluations
 VII: WFSMT Management and Administration
  • VII -1: Office Management
  • VII-2: Safety
  • VII -3: Institutional Development
  • VII -4: Long Range Planning (more costly repairs)
 VIII: Buildings and Grounds
  • VIII-1: Building Information
  • VIII-2: Grounds Information
  • VIII-3: Williamson School Station
  • VIII-4: Building - Proposals, Repairs, Restoration
  • VIII-5: Building and Grounds Committee
  • VIII-6: Blueprints
 IX: Legal
  • IX -1: Depositions
 X: Recruiting/Admissions
  • X-1: Student Recruiting
  • X -2: Student Admissions
 XI: Education
  • XI-1: Curriculum
  • XI-2: Education
  • XI-3: Education Evaluation
  • XI-4: Library
 XII: Student Life
  • XII-1: Rules, Regulations, and Duties
  • XII-2: Student Records
  • XII-3: Student Activities
  • XII-4: Athletics
  • XII-5: Fundraising
  • XII-6: Health Care
  • XII-7: Student Awards
  • XII-8: Student Mentoring
  • XII-9: Transportation
 XIII: School Events
  • XIII-1: On Campus Events
  • XIII-2: Off School Campus Events
 XIV: Ladies Auxiliary Treasury
  • XIV-1: Finance
  • XIV-2: Members
  • XIV-3: Campaigns and Projects
 XV: Alumni Association
  • XV-1: Alumni Committee Organization
  • XV-2: Alumni Association Finance
  • XV-3: Alumni Awards and Recognition
  • XV-4: Alumni Projects
  • XV-5: Alumni Events
  • XV-6: Alumni Correspondence
 XVI: Obituaries
  • XVI-1: Obituaries
 XVII: Williamson Commemoration
  • XVII-1: Williamson Commemoration
 XVIII: Newspaper

XIX: Publications

  • XIX-1: Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades Publications
 XX: Memorabilia
  • XX-1: Photographs
  • XX-2: Audiovisual
  • XX-3: Journals
  • XX-4: Postcards
  • XX-5: Awards/Appreciation
  • XX-6: Individual Collections
  • XX-7: Class Collections
  • XX-8: Miscellaneous Collections
  • XX-9: Flags and Pennants
  XXI:Literature and Art
  • XXI-1: Williamson Literature
  XXII: Partnerships
  • XXII-1: Wanamaker
  • XXII-2: Westinghouse
  • XXII-3: Rankin School
  XXIII: Archival Requests
  • XXIII-1: School Members - Information
  • XXIII-2: Campus - Information

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Williamson College of the Trades (Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades)

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories

Sponsor

This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Access Restrictions

Contact Williamson College of the Trades (Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades) for information about accessing this collection.

Processing Information Note

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Williamson College of the Trades (Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades) directly for more information.

Return to Top »

Related Materials

Related Archival Materials Note

Athenaeum of Philadelphia: Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, coll. 18099.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania: John Wanamaker collection, 1827-1987, coll. 2188.

Williamson College of the Trades (Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades): Cornelia Hennigan research on the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, circa 2000-2008.

Return to Top »

Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades
Geographic Name(s)
  • Delaware County (Pa.)
  • Media (Pa.)
  • Middletown (Delaware County, Pa. : Township)
Subject(s)
  • Alumni and alumnae
  • Education
  • Trade schools
  • Vocational school students

Return to Top »