Guide to the Papers of Frederick T. Gretton, 1857-1953 (bulk 1881-1908)

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Papers of Frederick T. Gretton
Creator
Frederick T. Gretton
Collection Number
MSS#328
Date [inclusive]
1857-1953
Date [inclusive]
1881-1908
Extent
1.0 cubic feet (2 boxes)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
Frederick Thomas Gretton was the first chief chemist of Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, located on the South Side of Pittsburgh. He took numerous photographs of his workplace and city surroundings. These papers include correspondence, biographical materials, diary notes, a chemistry lesson book, a number of record books, sketches, and a variety of other personal material. These papers cover a wide range of various aspects of Frederick T. Gretton's life, but mostly deal with the steel industry and chemistry.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Papers of Frederick T. Gretton, 1857-1953, MSS# 328, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

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Biographical Sketch of Frederick Thomas Gretton (1864-c1933)

Frederick Thomas Gretton was the first chief chemist of Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, located on the South Side of Pittsburgh. He took numerous photographs of his workplace and city surroundings. Gretton was born in Llantarnum, Monmouthshire, England to Frederick William Gretton, a college math professor, and Mary Rydderch Gretton. He had one brother, Thomas John Gretton, and one sister, Lilly Gretton. Frederick T. Gretton attended night classes at Ebbw Vale Science and Art Institute in Wales while he worked days as a clerk and then as an assistant chemist at Ebbw Vale Steel Iron and Coal Co. A few days before graduation in May of 1881, Gretton won the prestigious Queen's Prize in a science contest. Two days after graduation, the Gretton family emigrated to the United States on the SS Arizona because of Mary Gretton's ill health. The family arrived in New York City and traveled to Pittsburgh where a friend of Frederick W. Gretton lived. Frederick T. Gretton was soon employed at American Iron and Steel Works (Jones and Laughlin) as a boilermaker's helper. Less than two weeks later, Frederick T. Gretton met with Captain William Larimer Jones and was given a job as an assistant chemist at the Edgar Thomson Steel Co. in Braddock.

Gretton left Edgar Thomson Steel in 1884 and returned to American Iron and Steel. He was the chief chemist and worked there until he resigned in 1891. Frederick Thomas Gretton was a man of many talents. In addition to chemistry, he was interested in geology and played a major role in the drilling of the first gas well in Pittsburgh. Gretton was a supporter of the arts and helped to save the Fort Pitt Blockhouse. He also took an interest in botany and photography. After leaving Jones and Laughlin, Frederick T. Gretton moved to Uniontown to live with his brother. Both returned to the South Side Pittsburgh and around 1894 they started an oil dealing business, known as the Gretton Brothers. The brothers became very wealthy when they sold the business to Standard Oil sometime around 1904. Unfortunately, Frederick T. Gretton lost his fortune in the Panic of 1907. From 1912 to 1913, the brothers owned a fruit store under the name of Gretton Brothers on Sarah Street on the South Side. Frederick T. Gretton owned and operated Gretton Brothers Dry Goods on Brushton Avenue from 1915 to 1921. There is no evidence that Thomas John Gretton was involved with this store. Frederick T. Gretton retired in the early 1920s and resided in Oakland. He died sometime between 1932 and 1934, leaving a wife, Mary F. Gretton, and two daughters, Florence and Nellie.

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Scope and Content Notes

The Frederick T. Gretton Papers are housed in two archival boxes and arranged alphabetically by folder title with the contents of a scrapbook arranged to the rear. These papers include correspondence, biographical materials, diary notes, a chemistry lesson book, a number of record books, sketches, and a variety of other personal material. These papers cover a wide range of various aspects of Frederick T. Gretton's life, but mostly deal with the steel industry and chemistry. The Gretton papers contain a substantial amount of records and typed captions of the photographs Gretton took, along with his notes on developing those pictures and a Harold Exposure Scale. There is a diary that Gretton kept while at Ebbw Vale and his early days at Edgar Thompson Steel. Entries are mostly about day-to day interactions and the processes of making steel, but there are also a few about his immigration to the U.S. The other diary notes, which cover less than two years, are basically entries about his day-today interactions at Jones and Laughlin and cultural events that Gretton attended as well as his critique of the performances.

The Gretton papers contain detailed records that Gretton kept of his various interests. There is a memo book about his experiments in gardening, which includes plant types, prices of those plants, environmental conditions, and progress. Gretton also kept records on the movements of the Pittsburgh stock market. These records include clippings from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and a clipping from the  Pittsburgh Securities on the "Private Telegraphic Code." There is a sketchbook which appears contain plans to build a farm and the progress of its construction. The Gretton papers also contain a copy of the magazine,  The Munsey, which contains the article, "The Billion Dollar Steel Trust and the Men Who Made It." This article deals extensively with steel men like William Kelly and Captain Jones and also provides pictures of many leading steel magnates. There is a very small amount of material on Thomas J. Gretton and a more substantial amount from Florence Galbraith, the daughter of Frederick T. Gretton. Mrs. Galbraith made various notes on her father's life and Pittsburgh in the days of her childhood. It is also important to note that the typed diary notes, photograph captions, and some of the photograph records may have been typed by Mrs. Galbraith.

The scrapbook has been dismantled due to its physical condition, but the contents are still in original order. The folders are arranged by the page numbers of the scrapbook and there is a detailed table of contents located before of the scrapbook material. The scrapbook contains correspondence, diary notes, laboratory notes and analysis results, some photographs, chemical/steel journals, personal notes, as well as a variety of other items. There is a great deal of correspondence between Gretton and John Carll of the Second Geological Survey of PA, which contains geological analysis of areas around Pittsburgh. Clippings are from publications such as the Pittsburg Dispatch, "The Ironmonger", and  Scientific American. The correspondence also includes letters from heads of steel corporations, the Carnegie Museum, Frederick T. Gretton's testimonials, and letters to his father who became head of Columbia Iron and Steel. The typed diary notes are duplicates of those in the archival box. The scrapbook contains a great deal of material on the chemical analysis of steel and pig iron. This includes Gretton's results and the results from other chemical consultants from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg. There are a few pamphlets on the process of steel making and blast furnaces. There is also some material from Ebbw Vale and evidence from a court case that Gretton testified in for Jones and Laughlin. The scrapbook contains nine photographs of locomotives from Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. There is also a certificate of acknowledgment from the Smithsonian Institute for Gretton's photographs of Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill. Gretton also kept notes about records set by the employees at Jones and Laughlin. These notes include output, time, and a list of the crewmembers. Other material in the scrapbook includes chemical supply orders, chemical measurement charts, and company ID cards.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System  Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Winter 2002

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

These materials came in one accession in 1987.

Acc# 1987.65 Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Wilbur F. Galbraith, (Papers and Photographs. Daughter of Frederick T. Gretton).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kathleen McDermott on March 6, 2001.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Doug MacGregor on February 25, 2002.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Jones and Laughlin Steel Company (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Carnegie Steel Company -- Edgar Thomson Works

Personal Name(s)

  • Gretton, Frederick Thomas (1864-c1933)
  • Galbraith, Florence

Subject(s)

  • Steel industry and trade -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Steel industry and trade -- chemistry

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Collection Inventory

  boxfolder
Galbraith, Florence  1953 11

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Gretton, Frederick T. 
  folder
Biographical Outline  1864-1891 2
  folder
Correspondence   3
  folder
Diary Notes  1890-1891 4
Ebbw Vale 
  folder
Diary  1880-1883 5
  folder
Lesson book  1880 6
  folder
Greenhouse record book  1887-1889 7
  folder
 1906 8
  folder
Notepad  1887-1888 9
Photograph 
  folder
Captions  1882-1908 10
  folder
Lists and development records  1881-1924 11
  folder
Sketchbook  1903-1904 12
  folder
Sketches  n.d. 13
  folder
Stock market records  1905-1906 14
  folder
Miscellaneous  1891 15

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  folder
Gretton, Thomas J.  1889 16

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Scrapbook 
  boxfolder
List of Contents  21
  folder
Material from pages 1-12  2
  folder
Material from pages 13-34 1884-1889 3
  folder
Material from pages 35-47  1885-1887 4
  folder
Material from pages 48-62  1885-1887 5
  folder
Material from pages 63-72  1857-1888 6
  folder
Material from pages 73-88  1885-1889 7
  folder
Material from pages 89-104  1886-1890 8
  folder
Material from pages 105-122  1888-1891 9
  folder
Material from pages 123-140  1891-1896 10

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