Guide to the Thompson Bell Papers 1830s-1906

Senator John Heinz History Center

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Thompson Bell Papers
Creator
Bell, Thompson
Collection Number
MSS 721
Date [inclusive]
1830s-1906
Extent
30 linear feet ( 47 boxes, 54 boxes)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
Thompson Bell was a Pittsburgh, Pa., banker and financial broker in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the 1860s he chartered Thompson Bell and Company, a banking and exchange institution. The Thompson Bell Papers contain correspondence, ledger books, cashiers notes and receipts, and legal documents documenting Thompson Bells business ventures throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. These materials are housed in 47 boxes and 54 wrapped ledgers.
Sponsor Note
This collection has been made accessible as part of an NHPRC-funded Basic Processing grant.

Preferred Citation

Thompson Bell Papers, 1830s-1906, MSS 721, Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center

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History

Thompson Bell (T.B.) was a Pittsburgh, Pa., banker and financial broker in the second half of the nineteenth century. He worked as cashier at the Savings Fund Bank, Merchants Bank, Famers Deposit Bank, and Western Bank between the 1830s and 1850s. In 1856, Western Bank reorganized as the Commercial Bank, with T.B. as its president. Commercial Bank gradually became a private banking house, known as Thompson Bell and Company, in the 1850s. Thompson Bell and Company is listed in the city directory to have been at the corner of Third and Market Streets in downtown Pittsburgh. James M. Bell, T.B.’s nephew and associate, managed T.B.’s estate, including financial and property holdings, following his death in 1886. James M. Bell also served on the Board of Trustees of the Allegheny Preparatory School, which was located on the city’s North Side, beginning with its charter year in 1898.

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Scope and Content Notes

The Thompson Bell Papers (1830s-1915) contain 47 boxes and 54 wrapped ledgers documenting Thompson Bells business ventures throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. It appears the estate of T.B. acquired stock in numerous companies, and that T.B. himself maintained a variety of landholdings. The papers primarily focus on business activities and have been divided into four series: I. Business Materials; II. Thompson Bell Estate Materials; III. Account and Ledger Books; and IV. Financial Records.

Series I. Business Materials, 1830s-1915s, (Boxes 16, 25-29, 30-33, 41-43)

These materials include correspondence, stock certificates, letter books, and business related documents. It appears T.B. and his estate owned stock in, or were associated with, a variety of business ventures including: the Bridgewater Gas Company, C.P. Markel and Sons Paper Manufacturers, Marshall-Kennedy Milling Co., Warren and Venango Oil Co. (which Thompson Bell served as treasurer for), Centennial Sewing Machine, the Danville, Hazelton, and the Wilkes-Barre R.R. Boxes 41 and 42 contain correspondence with T.B.’s attorneys and business associates. Box 43 contains the 1898 charter proposal for the Allegheny Preparatory School, as well as administrative correspondence, board of trustees’ documents, and teacher lists and salaries.

Series II. Thompson Bell Estate Materials, 1830s-1915 (Boxes 13-14, 18, 20, 23, 40, 44-48)

Estate materials include correspondence, deeds of mortgage, insurance records, bills, and records and concerning various stock interests and properties T.B. owned in western Pennsylvania and throughout the country. Box 48 contains some personal papers of James H. Bell.

Series III. Account and Ledger Books, 1850-1905, (Boxes 1-2, 5, 10, 15, 17, 19-20, 22, 38-39)

A variety of bound record books housed in boxes document financial transactions at T. B. and Company, Western Savings Bank, and other businesses. These ledger, letter, and daily transactions books contain account information such as bills receivable, cash and expenses, and related correspondence.

There are an additional 54 bound volumes wrapped and divided into seven groups: Account Ledgers, Balance Books, Cash Books, Deposit Books, General Ledgers, Stock and Business Records, and Published Materials.

Series IV. Financial Records, 1856-1915 (Boxes 8-9, 11, 34, 35, 37)

Financial records include checks, bank receipts, and banknotes from Thompson Bell and Company, Commercial bank, and Citizens National Bank. These checks and cashier notes are primarily bundled together by year.

Additionally, there is one oversized box containing 9 folders. Nearly all of the O/S materials contain bond indentures, either hand written or printed, for properties that T. B. owned. One large oversized folder contains large business contracts and a Pennsylvania state issued letter of Patent, as well as land diagrams showing property distinctions, oil wells, and T. B.'s property of Benvilla on Pittsburgh’s North side.

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Arrangement

The Thompson Bell Papers have been arranged in four series:

  • I. Business Materials (Boxes 16, 25-29, 30-33, 41-43)
  • II. Thompson Bell Estate Materials (Boxes 13-14, 18, 20, 23, 40, 44-48)
  • III. Account and Ledger Books (Boxes 1-2, 5, 10, 15, 17, 19-20, 22, 38-39 and 54 wrapped books)
  • IV. Financial Records (Boxes 8-9, 11, 34, 35, 37)

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Senator John Heinz History Center Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania , July 2012

Senator John Heinz History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-454-6364
library@heinzhistorycenter.org
http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/libraryArchives.aspx

Restrictions on Access

None

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Senator John Heinz History Center. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Acquisition Information

Gift from Richard Hommel in 1980.

Archives accession # 1980.0252

Processing Information

Preliminary processing by Alex J. Toner on 02/06/11. Ronald Florian, a student intern, created an inventory list of the wrapped ledger books in this collection in 2006.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Thompson Bell and Company.
  • Western Savings Bank.
  • Commerical Bank.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Pittsburgh (Pa.)

Subject(s)

  • Banks and banking--Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh.

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