Spreckels Sugar Refining Company Records
Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
The Spreckels Sugar Refining Company was the Philadelphia branch of the Spreckels family sugar refining combine. Claus Spreckels was born in Lamstedt, Hanover, in Germany on July 9, 1828. He came to America in 1846 and operated groceries in Charleston, S.C., and New York City until 1856, when he moved to San Francisco. In 1863 he established the Bay Sugar Refining Company with his brother, Bernard, obtaining raw sugar from the Hawaiian Islands. After studying refining methods in Europe, he organized the California Sugar Refining Company in 1867. Spreckels maintained a technological lead over his rivals by his own invention of new processes. After the duty on Hawaiian sugar was lifted in 1876, Spreckels assembled the largest plantation in the islands and established his own fleet with regular monthly sailings between Honolulu and San Francisco. By 1883 Spreckels had completed the largest refinery on the West Coast, and a few years later he bought a one-third interest in the American Sugar Refining Company, his only West Coast rival. In 1885 he broke with American, which became part of the Sugar Trust created by the Havemeyer interests, and the two firms engaged in a period of fierce competition. To attack the Sugar Trust in its home territory, Spreckels built a modern, highly-efficient refinery in Philadelphia in 1888-1889 at a cost of $5 million, placing it under his son, Claus A. Spreckels. After heavy losses, Spreckels and the American Sugar Refining Company reached a secret agreement by which they pooled their West Coast operations and the Havemeyers were allowed to purchase a 45% interest in the Spreckels Sugar Refining Company. However, Claus, Jr., resented the agreement and resigned. The feud split the family in two, with Rudolph Spreckels (1872-1958) siding with his brother and John D. and Adolph Spreckels with their father. Claus, Jr., and Rudolph gained control of the Hawaiian properties in 1894 but lost them to H. D. Baldwin four years later. A reconciliation was effected in 1905, and Rudolph became the manager of the family sugar business. The American Sugar Refining Company acquired the Spreckels Sugar Refining Company in 1895. The records of the Spreckels Sugar Refining Company are primarily accounts for the construction and operation of the Philadelphia refinery under Claus Spreckels, Jr. between 1888 and 1895. There are loose accounts, trial balances, bills, bank deposit books, petty cash books, receipt books, and a memorandum book of construction contracts and expenses. A register of raw sugar received daily in December 1889 and January 1890 gives the name of the vessel and the quantity and grade of sugar. There are also an agreement and specifications for the construction of the Franklin Building in Philadelphia and a certificate of membership in the Trades League of Philadelphia.