Cook Borden and Co. Account Books, 1863-1914
Call no.: MS 288 bd
Cook Borden (a great uncle of Lizzie Borden) and his sons were prosperous lumber dealers from Fall River, Massachusetts who supplied large mills and transportation companies in the region. Three volumes include lists of customers and building contractors, company and personal profits and losses, accounts for expenses, horses, harnesses, lumber, and the planing mill, as well as accounts indicating the cost of rent, labor (with the “teamers”), insurance, interest, and other items.
Cook Borden (b. 1810) was a lumber merchant in Fall River,
Massachusetts. From the prominent family of textile
manufacturers (he was a great uncle of Lizzie Borden), Cook
Borden supplied most of the large textile and manufacturing
firms in Fall River with boards, molding, shingles, and, in
the 1860s and 1870s, with crates for textile products. By the
1860s, the time of the first ledger in this collection, Cook
Borden had brought two of his sons, Philip H. and Theodore
W., into the firm. Theodore was paid $1000 per year, Philip
$800; sums above the average annual wage in Fall River. By
the 1890s (the time of the second ledger), the youngest of
Cook’s surviving three sons, Jerome, was running the company,
Philip having started his own lumber business.
The three volumes also provide some insight into the
changes taking place in the company over a considerable time
span. At the time of the first volume (520 pp.), the company
was involved in making calico cases for the local textile
firms. Indeed, the principal customers were the American
Print Works, the Fall River Print Works, the Bay State Print
Works, and Wamsutta Woolen Mills, all of Fall River, the Troy
Manufacturing Company of Troy, NY, and the Metacomet Mill of
Providence, RI. At the same time, the company dealt with many
smaller firms, including building and transportation
companies to whom they supplied lumber.
The second volume reflects the Cook Borden & Co.’s
more concentrated involvement in “wood planing and all types
of millwork” as it advertised in the 1895 Fall River
directory. Volume 2, marked “Ledger D” on the spine, is a
ledger of 1000 pages. A larger portion of the entries is
taken up by building contractors. For instance, the
construction firm of Callahan, Daley & Co. (the largest
in Fall River) takes up sixty pages alone. At the same time,
the supply of lumber to the textile mills continued, although
the firm no longer made or sold crates.
Volume 3 (603 pages), marked “Day Book B,” on the spine,
is a daily accounting of purchases, principally by
contractors, but often specifying the companies or projects
for whom the contractors worked. For example, M.I. Mellor, a
builder, had a number of entries in 1913-14 for work he was
doing on “Homestead Park”; J.C. Terry purchased lumber for
the “steamboat wharf”; and William Dacey had his purchases
charged to St. Mary’s Rectory.
Cook Borden and Co. did a substantial business. From April
1863 to April 1867, it sold $445,000 worth of lumber. In
1894, its sales totaled between $10,000 and $18,000 per
month. In 1896, Jerome Borden’s share of the profits totaled
$17,700. Volumes 1 and 2 also provide some information about
labor in the company. At the end of the Civil War, Allen
Dwelley earned from $39 to $45 a month; labor accounts with
the “teamers” ran from $65 per month in 1863, to $78 per
month in 1864. Also, the firm’s accounting for expenses,
horses, harnesses, lumber, the planing mill, etc., is
covered. The front pages in Volume 2 on expenses and profit
and losses document the costs of rent, labor ($400 to
$800/per week), insurance, interest, and other items,
although both volumes provide more aggregate than individual
One of the intriguing aspects of the volumes is the light
they shed on the tremendous use of lumber by the large mills.
Among the customers in Volume 2 are Tecumseh Mills, Granite
Mills, Massasoit Manufacturing Co., the Swansea Dye Works,
and the Algonquin Printing Co. In all 3 volumes,
transportation companies are major customers. Notable ones
are the Old Colony and Newport Railroad, the Cape Cod
Railroad, the Globe Street Railway, the New England Steamboat
Co., and the Fall River and Providence Steamboat Co. Other
customers of note include the Edison Electric Illuminating
Co., the City of Fall River, Fall River Iron Works, and the
Fall River Electric Light Co.
The collection is open for research.
Cite as: Cook Borden and Company Account Books (MS 288). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Acquired from: Charles Apfelbaum, 1987.
Processed by Ken Fones-Wolf, 1989.
- Callahan, Daley & Co
- Construction industry--Massachusetts--History
- Lumber trade--Massachusetts--Fall River--Accounting--History
- Textile factories--Massachusetts--History
- Textile industry--Massachusetts
- Wages--Manufacturing industries--Massachusetts
- Borden, Cook, 1810-
- Borden, Jerome
- Borden, Philip H
- Borden, Theodore W
- Cook Borden & Co
Types of material
- Account books