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Ellwood Family Collection (DeKalb)


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Family Papers

Wire Manufacturing Business Records

Percheron Horse Business

Series Oversize

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Ellwood Family Collection (DeKalb), 1820-1978 | Northern Illinois University

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Collection Overview

Title: Ellwood Family Collection (DeKalb), 1820-1978

ID: RHC/RC/001

Extent: 12.25 Linear Feet

Arrangement: The Ellwood Collection contains three series of records: (l) family papers, (2) wire manufacturing business records, (3) Percheron horse business records.

Date Acquired: 10/00/1965. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: American Steel and Wire Company, Automobiles, Barbed Wire, Bridgewater Gas Company, Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919, Draft horses- Percheron, Ellwood, Isaac L., Ellwood House, Ellwood Wire & Nail, Gary, Elbert, Gates, John W., Gurler, Henry B., Gurler, Lulu May, Horses, Livestock, Miller, Henry, Miller, William A., Steel industry and trade., Washburn-Moen Manufacturing, World War I

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Series one, family papers, holds published and unpublished histories of the family, genealogical charts and research files, a wide range of legal documents, memorabilia, and personal correspondence of family members. This series provides a detailed record of family relationships and activities, especially during the 1835-1915 period. It is the largest extant collection of Ellwood family documents available to researchers.

The I. L. Ellwood manufacturing business, series two, represent only a small portion of the records which have been preserved: the main body of these documents are in the Western Manuscripts Collection of the University of Wyoming. The records of Ellwood Manufacturing Company’s successor, American Steel and Wire Company, have been preserved in Harvard University’s Baker Library. Still, the primary documents in this series are important since they document the formation of the wire trust and the litigation between the major parties involved in a struggle for control of the industry (1873-1898).

The third series documents the establishment and operation of Will Ellwood’s Percheron draft horse breeding business in DeKalb, 1885-1900. Correspondence, sales records, and catalogs may be found in this series, although much of the correspondence (especially the letterbooks) is badly deteriorated.

Collection Historical Note

Isaac Leonard Ellwood was one of three DeKalb men credited as the original inventors of barbed wire: the others were Joseph Glidden and Jacob Haish. In partnership with Glidden, Ellwood founded the Barb Fence Company in DeKalb, Illinois in 1875. A year earlier Ellwood had purchased a half interest in Glidden’s barbed wire patent. When Glidden sold his half-interest in 1876 to the Washburn-Moen Manufacturing Company, Worcester, Massachusetts,  Ellwood retained control of production and distribution for the West. After negotiating the removal of Jacob Haish as a rival in 1881, the Ellwood, Washburn-Moen partnership monopolized the industry. The Ellwood Wire and Nail Company was organized as a sister organization and in 1889 I. L. Ellwood reorganized his business as the I. L. Ellwood Manufacturing Company. In 1898 Ellwood sold his barbed wire interests to John W. "Bet-a-Million" Gates who created the new American Steel and Wire Company, now a division of United States Steel.

When I. L. Ellwood first arrived in DeKalb in 1851, he worked on Henry Miller’s horse breeding farm in nearby Kingston. Ellwood’s eldest son, Will, began his own business as an importer and breeder of Percheron work horses in 1883, and much of the collection described below relates to this enterprise.

Subject/Index Terms

American Steel and Wire Company
Barbed Wire
Bridgewater Gas Company
Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919
Draft horses- Percheron
Ellwood, Isaac L.
Ellwood House
Ellwood Wire & Nail
Gary, Elbert
Gates, John W.
Gurler, Henry B.
Gurler, Lulu May
Miller, Henry
Miller, William A.
Steel industry and trade.
Washburn-Moen Manufacturing
World War I

Administrative Information

Repository: Northern Illinois University

Accruals: Mrs. Patience Towle added materials to the collection in 1978 as did Professor Earl W. Hayter in 1979.

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on access to the collection.

Use Restrictions: Property rights in the collection belong to the Regional History Center; literary rights are dedicated to the public.

Acquisition Source: heirs of the Isaac L. Ellwood Estate, Mrs. Patience Towle,  Professor Earl W. Hayter

Acquisition Method: The Ellwood Collection came to Northern Illinois University in October 1965, as a gift from the heirs of the Isaac L. Ellwood Estate.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Family Papers],
[Series II: Wire Manufacturing Business Records],
[Series III: Percheron Horse Business],
[Series Oversize],

Series III: Percheron Horse Business
Box 10
Folder 1-7: A-Z, 1885-1895
Folder 8-18: A-Z, 1886-1888
Folder 19: A-Z, 1887-1888
Folder 20-27: A-B, 1890-1895
Box 11
Folder 1-15: C-Z, 1890-1894
Folder 16: Assorted Items, no date
Folder 17: Agents Weekly Report, 1887
Folder 18-23: Catalog Requests, Arkansas-Montana
Box 12
Folder 1-5: Catalog Requests, New Mexico-Wyoming
Item 2: Letterbooks, March 20- August 27, 1897
Box 13
Item 1: Letterbooks, August 4-November 24, 1897
Box 14
Item 1: Letterbooks, November 1897- January 10, 1898
Box 15
Item 1: Letterbooks, January 9-February 12, 1898
Box 16
Item 1: Letterbook, February 12-24, 1898
Box 17
Item 1: Index to Ledger No. 3, A-K
Box 18
Item 1: Index to Ledger No. 3, L-Z

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Family Papers],
[Series II: Wire Manufacturing Business Records],
[Series III: Percheron Horse Business],
[Series Oversize],

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