1887-1908 Archive of Business Ephemera and Letter of a Successful Scranton, Pennsylvania Builder and Contractor12034
On offer is a group of Pennsylvania business letters and ephemera of Scranton, Pennsylvania contractor, William E Cahoon (1866-1956). This archive of ephemera and letters span 1905-1910, when Calhoon was working as an independent contractor.
The archive includes five (5) itemized invoices addressed to William Cahoon from subcontractors, including W.H. Derby Tinning Sheet Iron and Copper Work, Paragon Plaster & Supply, and Bricklayer William Perry.
The archive also includes a detailed invoice from Mr. Cahoon to a client, Mr. Robinson S. Benson of Archibald, Pennsylvania (it totals $194.36 and includes a laundry list of supplies plus 8 hours of carpentry labor!).
There are two (2) letters in the archive that confirm William E. Cahoon’s membership in the Sons of Veterans USA, one of several veterans organizations that sprang up in the aftermath of the American Civil War. In Cahoon’s case, the documents confirm that he was the Installing Officer for Camp #212 in the Pennsylvania Division. This is the descendent organization of the Grand Army of the Republic, established for veterans who served in the Union army in the Civil War.
There is a letter sent to Mr. Cahoon from client E.K Rodney, which accompanied his payment of $5.00 for work completed on his cellar. Rodney justifies his payment by itemizing the hours of labor and cost of materials.
There is a 1908 Bell Telephone bill on a remittance envelope. The September bill totals 10 cents.
The final component of this fascinating archive is a letter written to William by his cousin, Mollie. This letter is a fun and unexpected addition to the collection as Mollie wrote to William in 1887, when he was only 21 years old. Mollie writes with familiarity and exuberance. She is responding to William’s letter and advising him on how he should behave if he chooses to attend college. She peppers the letter with questions about what he intends to study and where. She also chastises him for taking so long to write, informing him that the girl he likes has moved on. An excerpt from Mollie’s letter follows:
“Your girl has got another fellow because you waited too long. You did not write and let me know whether you wanted her or not. ‘Aint you sorry…with the very sincerest good wishes for your success in studying. I am ever faithfully your Coz” [March 14 ,1887].
Taken together, this archive paints an excellent picture of the building business in Pennsylvania at the outset of the 20th century. It provides insight into the cost of materials and labor, and into which businesses were utilized for residential and commercial projects. The letter from cousin Mollie allows us to know the subject of this archive, William E. Cahoon, on a more personal and endearing level.
William E. Cahoon Cahoon worked as a carpenter, builder and contractor in and around Scranton, Pennsylvania. His work supported his wife, Sadie, and later their son, daughter and grandson. Interestingly, although Cahoon’s son, Donald, and daughter, Ruth, both established successful careers as a lawyer and teacher, respectively, they remained in the family home. Tragically, Donald Cahoon’s wife, Mildred Luella (Smith) Cahoon, died of a postpartum hemorrhage shortly after giving birth to their son, Donald Jr. The need to help raise Donald Jr. may explain the multi-generational family home.
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