Richardson, George A.
Hagley Museum and Library
PO Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
Mss 2.4 linear ft. Photographs 1,573 items.
George Atwell Richardson was born in Milwaukee, Wisc., on May 30, 1886. He graduated in mechanical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912 and the following year he entered the sales department of Midvale Steel in Philadelphia. Throughout his career, he was primarily involved in technical publicity and sales. Midvale Steel was absorbed by the Midvale Steel & Ordnance Company in 1915, and Richardson became advertising manager. He also became involved in the plants of another absorbed company, the Cambria Steel Company of Johnstown. Midvale Steel & Ordnance was sold to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1923, and Richardson was made manager of the technical publicity department. Like many of Bethlehem's junior executives, he was furloughed during the Depression in 1933. After 1933, Richardson acted as an independent consultant developing and promoting metallurgical inventions. From 1938 until his retirement he was sales manager for METLAB (Metallurgical Laboratories, Inc.) in Philadelphia. He taught metallurgy at Temple University between 1939 and 1949. Richardson was the author of numerous technical articles and manuals. He was also an early amateur photographer. He was able to develop his talent to professional levels doing documentary photography to illustrate his lectures and publications on the steel industry. He was also interested in the history of the steel industry and of the Lehigh Valley, where he settled. He died in Bethlehem, Pa., in 1976. The manuscript records consist primarily of materials collected by Richardson during the performance of his official duties with the steel companies, in preparing technical lectures and papers and in teaching courses in metallurgy. The materials connected with Richardson's work for Bethlehem Steel include notes and articles on the manufacture of tin plate, cast iron, and high pressure drums. There are also notes on Bethlehem's plants at Sparrows Point, Md., and Lebanon, Pa., its subsidiary iron mines in Michigan and Minnesota, and the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation's new Atlantic Works in East Boston, Mass. This series also includes Richardson's Temple University lecture notes (1943-48). The METLAB records (1939-59) include sales promotion and advertising material, sales records, and printed articles by the firm's president, Horace C. Knerr. Richardson's work for Midvale Steel is documented by correspondence, notes and evaluations on iron and steel, analytical computations, notebooks, note cards and advertisements (1914-15). There is also extensive correspondence between Midvale and the Haynes Stellite Company of Kokomo, Ind., regarding products, including sales figures and promotional materials (1914-16). The photographic portion of Richardson's collection forms a major source on the iron and steel industry in general and on Bethlehem Steel and its predecessors in particular. The largest section of the collection consists of 1,067 snapshot photographs taken by Richardson between 1913 and 1929, illustrating many aspects of the business of the Midvale and (subsequently) Bethlehem Steel companies. Included are views of the Nicetown and Coatesville plants of Midvale Steel; the Cambria Steel Company works at Johnstown (especially the manufacture of railroad wheels); plants at Steelton and Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Lackawanna, New York, and Sparrow's Point, Maryland; and two shipbuilding plants: the Hog Island, Pennsylvania plant and the Harlan Plant in Wilmington, Delaware. There are many pictures of coal and iron mining operations, including the Jamison Coal and Coke Company, Crabtree, Pennsylvania; the Penn Iron Mining Company, Vulcan, Michigan; the Rosedale and Ellsworth mines in Pennsylvania; the Preston Mine Division of Bethlehem in West Virginia; the Hanna Company of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania; and the mining community of Slickville, Pennsylvania. Finally, the collection also includes views of Bethlehem iron and steel in use-especially in the manufacture of automobile parts-and views of the construction of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia in 1924. Displays of products of the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company and of the Bethlehem Steel Company at various trade fairs and expositions are documented in two photograph albums containing 168 photographs compiled by Richardson between 1919 and 1925. Annual exhibitions shown include the American Railway Association and the American Electric Railway Association, Atlantic City; the National Tractor Show, various locations; the American Mining Congress, various locations; and several other smaller and miscellaneous shows. There are also six views of the Metlab Company of Philadelphia, showing its plant and a trade exhibit, circa 1955. Richardson also collected miscellaneous photographs to illustrate his articles and the history of the Cambria Steel Company's plant in Johnstown. Included in this group are photographs showing production of steel wire and nails at Sparrow's Point, Maryland, 1926; manufacture of tin plate, also at Sparrow's Point, 1925; the construction of the West Side Highway, New York City, 1932; high-tension towers and gasholders, 1932; the Baltimore Dry Docks Company, circa 1925; manufacture of railroad wheels, mostly at Cambria Steel Company, Johnstown, coke by-product plants; a mine at Minersville, Pennysylvania, 1928; Bessemer converters at Cambria Steel Company, n.d.; and copy photographs of early views of the Cambria Iron Company and of the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company. There are also two motion picture films of steel-making at Midvale, but because of their unusual format (28mm), they cannot currently be shown.