Lehigh Valley Rail Road Collection: Part 1

Part I: The History

The Lehigh University Libraries Special Collections department, located in Linderman Library, houses a collection of Lehigh Valley Railroad Land Documents. This collection contains approximately 384 documents (deeds, titles, indentures, correspondence and leases) for anthracite coal lands, 40 envelopes, 20 maps, two pamphlets, one photogravure, and one large colored “painting.” Many of these items are dusty, stained, crumpled, and some are very fragile, requiring care in handling. Most of the documents, envelopes, and maps in this collection belonged to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, which was created by Lehigh University’s founder, Asa Packer, in order to transport the large amount of coal being mined in Pennsylvania. Packer owned such coal mines around Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania and had relied on the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company to ship his coal on canal-boats to the industrial metropolises of the East. However, Packer came to believe that the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company was charging him too much money to ship his coal along its canals. When the company refused to lower the prices for shipping, Packer decided to buy up railroad lines and create a transportation system that would allow him to ship his coal faster and cheaper. Asa Packer’s control of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company allowed him employ a measure of vertical integration in the coal industry, though Packer would later sell of his coal interests to focus on the railroad.  Thus, the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company served as a critical organization in the industrial history of Pennsylvania, and the United States at large. This collection of documents from the company gives us insight into the operations and transactions of a company that helped America become a world industrial power.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad Land Documents collection was recently digitized and is now available in its entirety through Lehigh’s digital collection site.

For more detailed information about the items in the Lehigh Valley Railroad Land Documents, please see the finding aid.

The records of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation company mentioned in this post have also been digitized and made available online, and check the finding aid for more information.

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