Lord & Burnham Co. Records (RA)


Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
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Collectors: Lord & Burnham Co.
Title: Lord & Burnham Co. Records (RA)
Dates: 1881-1998
Quantity: 66.4 linear feet boxes and bound volumes; 5183 folios in flat file storage
Call Phrase: Lord & Burnham (RA)

Historical Note: Lord & Burnham Company

The Lord & Burnham Company originated when Frederick Lord began building greenhouses as a sideline to his carpentry business in Buffalo, New York in 1849. He moved to Syracuse in 1854 and in 1856 he established Lord's Horticultural Manufacturing Company. In 1870 Lord moved his operation to Irvington on Hudson in order to be closer to his major clients, the estate owners in the lower Hudson Valley. Two years later, his son-in-law William Addison Burnham, became a business partner by providing capital and the company adopted the name Lord and Burnham.

The greenhouse industry needed to provide dependable, adjustable and evenly distributed heat to large areas. The company experimented with several boiler types and in 1873 they put their first boiler on the market. One of the most successful, a cast iron sectional model proved to be more efficient than any other available although it did have some faults and repairs were difficult and costly. The second design, almost square in shape and fitted with brass tubes, was introduced in 1878. Later, a sectional boiler was introduced with great success, opening up a new avenue of marketing for the firm--the residential heating market.

After the Civil War the development of greenhouses for commercial purposes became more evident throughout the United States. Plants and flowers became increasingly popular for social occasions such as funerals, weddings and parties and Victorian interiors called for houseplants such as palms and ferns. Private greenhouses became a common accessory to many estates, providing readily available fresh fruits and flowers as well as a place for entertaining for the social, financial and political elite. Soon, municipalities added to the demand for greenhouse and conservatory structures. Public parks and gardens sought to build greenhouses for public and educational use.

The company successfully re-invented themselves with new ideas and innovations. The industrial revolution brought on advances in the production of materials such as iron, glass and heating methods. Jay Gould had purchased the Lyndhurst estate, in Tarrytown from the Merritt family in 1870's. When the large greenhouse, built of wood burned down, Gould commissioned L&B to rebuild. The company was the first to introduce small sash bars with supporting iron frames rather than wooden rafters in the rebuilding. Lord and Burnham also pioneered the use of ground glass in the windows. Panes of glass could be made larger to fit a larger surface. These fundamental changes in material allowed more light to reach the growing plants.

The Hitchings Company, established in 1844, specialized in the manufacture of greenhouse components such as ventilating apparatus and heating systems, and began manufacturing greenhouse structures in 1888. In 1905, Lord and Burnham merged with Hitchings & Co. and the Pierson-Sefton Co. to form the Burnham-Pierson-Sefton Corporation. By 1906, realizing that the public preferred to do business with the original companies, they reverted back to the old names of Lord & Burnham, Hitchings and Co. and the Pierson U-Bar Co., but remained incorporated. The company continued to acquire other greenhouse companies, including the William Lutton Co. of Jersey City.

In 1911, the company constructed a greenhouse manufacturing plant in Des Plaines, Illinois and by 1914, in order to produce greenhouses for the Canadian market, Lord and Burnham Limited in St. Catherine's Ontario, was established. In 1917 the company bought the Geneva boiler Works and soon produced and sold boilers at both the Irvington and Elizabeth, N.J. (Hitchings) plants. By 1919 the Burnham Boiler Co. was established to take over the boiler business from Lord & Burnham Co. and Hitchings.

The firm maintained a program of continuous research and development of product for their heating and greenhouse products for both home and industry. They experimented with the use of aluminum as a suitable material for greenhouse construction and were one of the first to employ composite construction of aluminum and steel. During both world wars, the firm converted most of its facilities to the production of critical military equipment. Production included pontoon bridges, hand grenades and assault boats. By 1946 the corporate structure was re-organized and all major Burnham subsidiaries were consolidated to form the Burnham Corporation. In 1987 the corporation dissolved. Shortly thereafter the collection was transferred to The New York Botanical Garden.


Scope and Content

The collection contains a comprehensive archive of business and architectural records of the country's most prominent greenhouse builders and manufacturers. The bulk of this collection is comprised of architectural drawings for greenhouses and conservatories erected in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Lord & Burnham Co. Variations on the glass house theme include plans for the related structures such as solariums, aviaries and studios for artists. Textual records, primarily business records include correspondence, telegraphs, letterpress books, postcards, index cards, ledgers, account books and advertising material. The firms of Pierson-Sefton, William H. Lutton and Hitchings and Co. are also represented. The collection contains over 140,000 architectural plans, drawings and renderings that include data on structural and site elements for more than 10,000 glass structures.

The media and physical formats represented in the collection are pencil or pen and ink on paper, pen and ink on drafting linen, and a variety of photographic reproductions such as blueprints, diazotypes, negative photostats, electrostatic prints, aniline prints and vandyke prints.

Due to one of several fires and water damage at the L&B factory and business offices, many of the earliest records have been destroyed, therefore, there are gaps in the sequence.


Arrangement

The collection is organized into sixteen series and various subseries as noted:
Series 1: General Correspondence. ca. 1881-1915.
Series 2: Accounting Records.
Series 3: Business Records.
Series 4: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Irvington Office
Series 5: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Midwestern office and manufacturing plant, Des Plaines, Illinois
Series 6: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- William H. Lutton Company, Jersey City, New Jersey
Series 7: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Pierson-Sefton, Pierson U-bar
Series 8: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Hitchings & Company, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Series 9: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Orlyt Plans
Series 10: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Continental Greenhouse Mfg. Co., Cleveland Ohio
Series 11: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- St. Catherines, Ontario
Series 12: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Rough Brothers
Series 13: Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- General
Series 14: Advertising and Display Records
Series 15: Indices.
Series 16: Photographs.


Restrictions

Access restrictions

This collection is open for research with permission from Mertz Library staff.

Copyright

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be submitted in writing to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden.


Related Material

The Lord & Burnham architectural plan database available at http://www.nybg.org/library

The Lord & Burnham general correspondence index

A LibGuide on Lord & Burnham available at http://www.nybg.org/library

NYBG Archives. The Billie Britz personal paper collection contains items from L&B, including several three-dimensional models of moldings. Research contained in this collection was compiled for a work on the history of glass houses.

Additional publications by and about the Lord & Burnham Co. are available through the Mertz Library online catalog.

Lord & Burnham vertical file

O'Malley, Therese. Glasshouses: the architecture of light and air. Bronx: NYBG, 2005.

Kissel, Eleonore. Architectural photoreproductions: a manual for identification and care. New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2009.


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Lord & Burnham Co. Records (RA), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was originally on long term loan from Lord & Burnham Co., Tarrytown, NY.

Processing Information

Processed by Susan Fraser, Director, LuEsther T. Mertz Library, 2004; and revised by Theodore Roth, Project Archivist, 2015.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department.


Container List

 

Series 1. General Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

General correspondence files include both incoming and outgoing correspondence to and from clients.

Sub series 1.1 consists of incoming correpsondence; bulk dates 1881-1893, 1905-1915; 23 linear feet (54 boxes); arranged chronologically by date.
Incoming correspondence files include letters, postcards, telegrams, and invoices. Among the prominent correspondents are John Jacob Astor, Liberty Hyde Baily, W. Bayard Cutting, Peter Henderson, Henry Pfister, and William Rockefeller. Most of the correspondences pre-date the fire at the Lord and Burnham headquarters that caused considerable damage to the architectural plans of the same period. There is relatively little correspondence after 1895. Typed lists of correspondents for each year are inserted in each box. An inventory of the correspondence has been entered into a database and is searchable by correspondent and location.

Sub series 1.2 consists of outgoing correspondence; 1881-1905; 25 manuscript and letterpress volumes (+microfilms); 5 linear feet; arranged chronologically by date.
Outgoing correspondence, (1881-1905) in the form of letterpress books include the letters from the firm to their clients and business associates. Many volumes are missing and have never been transferred to the Garden. 25 volumes are present in the collection. There is an index of correspondents in the beginning of each volume. The volumes have been microfilmed for preservation purposes.


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Series 2. Accounting Records.

Scope and Content:

Accounting records consist of the following:

Daybooks, 1881-1905 (18 volumes)
General ledgers, 1883-1890, 1910-1912, 1923-1924 (10 volumes)
Journals, 1912-1923 (12 volumes)
Labor ledgers, 1881-1889, 1899-1900 (4 volumes)
Order book, 1881-1889 (1 volume)
Payroll ledgers, 1902-1905, 1920-1925 (2 volumes)
Purchase ledgers, 1910-1930 (16 volumes)
Purchase and payroll voucher, 1911-1918 (5 volumes)
Returns and Allowances on sales, 1911-1916, 1918-1923 (10 volumes)
Sales ledgers, 1911-1919 (14 volumes)
Time books, 1881-1885, 1899-1905 (3 volumes)
Time books, inside labor, 1911-1930 (10 volumes)
Time books, outside labor, 1911-1930 (14 volumes)


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Series 3. Business Records.

Scope and Content:

The business records include copies of sales letters, promotional material and instructional material for the sales staff. These records relate primarily to the boiler and radiator division of the firm. Records also include contracts and drafting room job lists. 11.1 linear feet.

Sub series 3.1 consists of sales letters, promotional material. (Boiler and radiator business); 193?- 1938.

Sub series 3.2 consists of drafting room job lists- Contracts #1300-1449.


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Series 4. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Irvington Office.

Scope and Content:

About 3500 folios. Numbered folio series (E), 1881- ca. 1941. Arranged by folio number. The architectural plans consist of a numbered folio series representing the plans for specific structures designed and built by Lord and Burnham. A set of drawings typically includes elevations, sections, detail drawings, heating plans and shop drawings (working drawings). Some sets include formal presentations drawings that show structures in perspective in relation to the proposed site. Some plans only represent a portion of the job such as the ventilating or heating systems for structures not represented in the collection. A searchable database of all architectural drawings is available on the LuEsther T. Mertz Library website.


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Series 5. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Midwestern office and manufacturing plant, Des Plaines, Illinois.

Scope and Content:

About 700 folios. Numbered folio series (M), ca. 1910-1941. The Midwestern office was established in 1911 to better serve Lord and Burnham's diverse clientele across the country. These folios represent structures built, designed or serviced by L&B in the mid western states.


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Series 6. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- William H. Lutton Company, Jersey City, New Jersey.

Scope and Content:

275 folios. Arranged alphabetically by client. See Series 15 for indices.

Sub series 6.1 -- Steel frame series, ca 1907-1939. 100 folios.
Sub series 6.2 -- Wood frame series, ca 1901-1939. 68 folios.
Sub series 6.3 -- Client names - (L301-L326). 52 folios.
Sub series 6.4 -- Heating system plans, ca 1923-1929 (L1-26). 27 folios.
Sub series 6.5 -- Shop drawings. Generic plans for masonry, bench details, ridge details, and standard details. 14 folios.
Sub series 6.6 -- Presentation drawings of proposed greenhouses. 1925-1927. 13 folios.
Sub series 6.7 -- Oversize material. 1 folio.


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Series 7. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Pierson-Sefton, Pierson U-bar.

Scope and Content:

5 folios. In 1905 Lord & Burnham merged with the Pierson-Sefton Company and the company carried on using the name Pierson U-Bar Company. Plans from this series include the Missouri Botanical Garden.


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Series 8. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Hitchings & Company, Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Scope and Content:

309 folios. In 1905 Lord & Burnham combined with Hitchings. Hitchings continued to operate under the name Hitchings & Company after the merger. The series is divided into three subseries.

Sub series 8.1 -- Conservatory plans, ca. 1905-1936. 33 folios.
Arranged by name of job, usually name of client, including Franklin Park, Longwood Estates/Ohio State University, the city of Ithaca, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Bronx Park, and other miscellaneous clients. Includes some plans for structures designed or manufactured by Pierson-Sefton/Pierson U-Bar Corporation.
Sub series 8.2 -- Heating system plans, 1924-1926.
5 folios.Arranged alphabetically by client name within year.
Sub series 8.3 -- Standard designs and details, ca. 1905-1926.
271 folios and 2 linear feet. Arranged by component or style of structure.


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Series 9. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Orlyt, 1954-1958.

Scope and Content:

7 folios. The Orlyt greenhouse, originally developed in 1939, was redesigned in 1954 to be made in aluminum to appeal to a wider range of gardeners. Plans in this series are arranged by client name, structure type, and standard designs and details.


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Series 10. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Continental Greenhouse Mfg. Co., Cleveland Ohio.

Scope and Content:

5 folios. Plans from the Continental Greenhouse Manufacturing Company, include original catalog and miscellaneous drawings and plans.


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Series 11. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- St. Catherines, Ontario.

Scope and Content:

14 folios. The Lord & Burnham Company Limited was established in St. Catherines, Ontario in 1914 in order to produce greenhouses for the Canadian market. Folios include preliminary sketches of plans and maps, heating plans, masonry plans, steel drawings, and plans from the Montreal Botanical Garden.


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Series 12. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- Rough Brothers.

Scope and Content:

27 folios.

Sub series 12.1 -- Standard plans and calculations arranged by structure or detail or by client. 16 folios.
Sub series 12.2 -- Old vent drawings and plans. Arranged by client and structure type. 10 folios.


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Series 13. Architectural drawings, plans, and details -- General.

Scope and Content:

331 folios. This series includes a variety of drawings and plans from the Lord & Burnham Company, dating from the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century up through the 1980s. It includes standard plans, patterns, and details for different types of structures or parts of structures; general heating system plans, proposed drawings with renderings for various clients and projects; and L&B factory plans.

The variety of drawings include elevations, sections, gables, rafters, sashes, sills, benches, sludge beds, roofs, gutters, masonry, framing, domes, arms, rods, levers, trenches, eaves, trusses, sides, fans, screens, and shades. Drawings of ventilation plans, heating plans, detail drawings, pattern drawings, shop drawings, and working drawings are also found in this series. Specific structures detailed in drawings include lean-tos, Blue Ribbon greenhouses, Sunlyt greenhouses, aluminum greenhouses, steel greenhouses, Nu bar greenhouses, V bar greenhouses, wood bar greenhouses, semi-iron frames, rigid frames, pipe frames, palm houses, swimming pools, and sheds. Some are formal presentation drawings that show structures in perspective in relation to the proposed site.

The general heating system plans (approximately 50 folios) are arranged by date (ca. 1901-1980s) then alphabetically by client name. Other folios are arranged by the type of plan, client, or both. Dates are included when available.


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Series 14. Advertising and Display Records.

Scope and Content:

Greenhouse and conservatory advertising illustrations from the Lord and Burnham Irvington Office and Hitchings and Co. ca. 1913-1954. Approximately 100 items in 40 folios. 4.1 linear feet.


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Series 15. Indicies.

Scope and Content:

7.2 linear feet.
Client Index, Folio Index, Geographic Index.
Client index to folios. A-Z (includes Lutton, Steel Frame, Wood Frame, Heating).
Geographic Index.
Blue Ribbon houses. States A-Z and foreign countries.
Century houses. States A-Z and foreign countries.


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Series 16. Photographs.

Scope and Content:

8 linear inches.
Sash Operating Division photographic negatives on 19 glass plates
Brooklyn Rapid Transit, Alabama Avenue Shops.
60th Street Baths, NYC.
NYC and W Reg. Round House, Middletown, N.Y.
Union Square Savings Bank, NYC.
138th Street Power House, NYC
138th Street Power House, NYC
Brooklyn Rapid Transit Shops
NY Ontario & Western Paint Shop
NY Ontario & Western Paint Shop
United Bank Building, 15th St and 4th Ave, NYC
NY Ontario & Western Paint Shop
NY Ontario & Western Boiler Shop
Kingsbridge Sub Station, NYC & NRR
Kingsbridge Sub Station NYC & HRR self oiling gears
Stuyvesant High School
Port Morris Power House
Port Morris Power House
Kingsbridge Sub Station NYC & HRR Electric Zone self oiling gears
NY Ontario & Western Round House


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