Dempster Archives

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C. B. Dempster, founder of the Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company, posing for a photo at his desk.

C. B. Dempster, founder of the Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company.

This week I focused on organizing the records for the Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company project. My task for the Dempster archives is to sort through boxes of the company’s photos, categorize them, and label them. Once they are organized, I will be able to create finding aids so that anyone researching into the company can find what they need. Organizing the photographs is my favorite part of the process because that is where I learn all about the subject of the records I am looking at. I’m learning about all of the Dempster products that they sold to homesteaders, about the management and ownership history of the company, and its employees.
A photo of cars driving down the street for the Dempster parade in celebration of their 50th anniversary in 1928.

Dempster parade in celebration of their 50th anniversary.

My favorite set of photos from the collection are the ones from their 50th anniversary. Because Dempster was founded in 1878, they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1928! I love old photographs, especially photos from before the 1930’s. It’s interesting to see the men in their spiffy outfits and hats, the women in pretty dresses and fancy up-dos, and all of the old cars. The photos, stored in three small photo books, demonstrate how the employees and their families celebrated the anniversary with an array of different activities. The photos show participation in a town parade, a park picnic, and what appear to be relay games. The photos of the men running around in the games are genuinely amusing to me!
Dempster salesmen posing for a photo in 1928.

Dempster Salesmen

Women (likely employees, wives, or relatives of Dempster workers) posing for a photo in 1928.

Women (likely employees, wives, or relatives of Dempster workers) posing for a photo at the celebration.

Dempster employees and families at a picnic in the park.

Dempster employees and families at a picnic in the park.

A relay game at the park.

A relay game at the park.

An amusing relay game of what appears to be men diving through barrels.

An amusing relay game of what appears to be men diving through barrels.

It’s a shame that the photos were not captioned — for most of them we don’t have names or descriptions. However, the photos are still exciting to look at. Dempster was known for having family picnics and being very much like a family during the early years. I love seeing the way the world looked like in the early 20th century, and this is particularly special to be working on a collection for a company with such interesting history. I think it’s even more meaningful to me to have photos like these in the collection. Although photos of their products over the years are important to preserve, the photos of the employees are also just as valuable. I am happy to know that the people that made this company function are going to be remembered in the Dempster collection here at Homestead.


Source: Dempster Archives Collection, [Photographs] Homestead National Monument of America.

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