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Guide to the Records of B. Altman & Co.
1876-1955 (Bulk 1881-1933)
  MS 31

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Melissa Haley

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on October 19, 2011
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

 
Title: B. Altman & Co. Records
Dates: 1876-1955 (Bulk 1881-1933)
Abstract: Employee records, financial records, legal papers, estate material, correspondence, and miscellaneous items of B. Altman & Co. The collection also includes material relating to B. Altman & Co. president Michael Friedsam (president 1931-1931).
Quantity: 3.5 Linear feet (2 boxes, 18 volumes)
Location note: Manuscript cage
Call Phrase: MS 31

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Historical Note

1865 B. Altman & Co. founded by Benjamin Altman as a small dry-goods store at 39 Third Ave., New York City.
c1873 Michael Friedsam, future president, joins B. Altman & Co.
1876 Store moves to 627 Sixth Ave. (at 19th St.); new store known as the "Palace of Trade."
1909 Friedsam becomes Vice President.
1913 Benjamin Altman dies; Friedsam takes over as President of B. Altman & Co. and the Altman Foundation.
1914 Store moves to a twelve-story building on Fifth Ave., between 34th & 35th Streets.
1931 Friedsam dies; John S. Burke succeeds Friedsam as B. Altman & Co. president.
1989 Owner L.J. Hooker Corp. declares bankruptcy; company ceases operations.

(Sources: Encyclopedia of New York;  B. Altman & Co.'s Enlarged Store(1914); Joseph Devorkin,  Great Merchants of Early New York; Robert Hendrickson,  The Grand Emporiums;  New York Times.)

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Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of two boxes and 18 bound volumes, and is organized into ten series. Items are arranged chronologically within each series. The bulk of the material is located in Series I. President Michael Friedsam and Series II. Employee Records, 1876-1917. The Friedsam series contains mostly correspondence, 1915-1918; also news clippings and stock and bond receipts. Other significant series include financial records (bills, receipts, checks, bonds), legal records such as copyright and trademark registrations, and material relating to the estate of Benjamin Altman. The smaller series in this collection contain correspondence, a study of shopping habits, electrical equipment inspection certificates, and medals. The B. Altman & Co. Papers do not include any trade catalogs or company advertisements.

The B. Altman & Co. Papers support research in the fields of New York City business and department store administrative history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The twelve volumes of employee records may also reveal details useful to genealogists, labor historians, and women's historians, as many include summaries of workers' lives. In addition, the Michael Friedsam material contains correspondence pertaining to philanthropy, art collecting, New York City mayoral politics, and domestic efforts during the first World War.

Arrangement

Arranged chronologically within each series.

Organized into the following ten series:

  1. Series I. President Michael Friedsam, 1915-1933, undated
  2. Series II. Employee Records, 1876-1918
  3. Series III. Financial Records, 1887-1955
  4. Series IV. Legal Records, 1913-1953
  5. Series V. Benjamin Altman Estate Material, 1913-1919
  6. Series VI. Correspondence, 1915-1939, undated
  7. Series VII. Study of Shopping Habits, 1936
  8. Series VIII. Electrical Equipment Inspection Certificates, 1906
  9. Series IX. Publications, 1917, undated
  10. Series X. Medals, 1917

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Altman, Benjamin, 1840-1913
  • Friedsam, Michael, 1860?-1931

Document Type

  • Certificates
  • Checks
  • Clippings
  • Correspondence
  • Estate records
  • Invitations
  • Invoices
  • Legal documents
  • Medals
  • Receipts

Subject Topics

  • Associations, institutions, etc
  • Bonds
  • Charities
  • Corporations--Charitable contributions
  • Department stores--Employees
  • Department stores--New York (State)--New York
  • Malicious prosecution--New York (State)--New York
  • Shopping
  • Stocks

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Administrative Information

Provenance

Purchased at auction, 1990.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to

Library Director
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as B. Altman & Co. Records, The New-York Historical Society.

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Container List

Series I. President Michael Friedsam, 1915-1933, undated

Scope and Contents note

Contains material relating to B. Altman & Co. President Michael Friedsam (President, 1913-1931), divided into four subseries.

Subseries 1. Correspondence, 1915-1918, undated

Scope and Contents note

Includes material relating to B. Altman & Co., the Altman Foundation, the Fifth Avenue Association, the Fusion Committee of 1917, charitable organizations, and Friedsam's art collection. Also included are letters from jobseekers and letters of introduction, congratulatory and thank you letters, and wedding and funeral invitations.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Letters received
1915-1916
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Letters received
1917 Jan.-June
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Letters received
1917 July-Dec.
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Letters received
1918 Jan.-June
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Letters received
1918 July-Dec.
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Letters received
Undated
Subseries 2. Associations, clubs, and charity material, 1917-1918, undated

Scope and Contents note

Includes donation lists, meeting minutes, circulars re: luncheon and dinner meetings, and report. Organizations include the Uptown Club (minutes), the Friars club, Merchant's Association, Harmonie Club, and unidentified organizations.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Associations, clubs, charity material
1917-1918, undated
Subseries 3. Stock and bond records, 1921-1933

Scope and Contents note

Includes records for Friedsam and the Delion Corp.: industrial, bank, mining, oil, public utilities, and railroad stocks and bonds; city and state bonds.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Volume: Vol Folder : Stock and bond records, M. Friedsam/ Delion Corp.
1921-1933
Subseries 4. News clippings, 1929-1931

Scope and Contents note

Clippings from New York City newspapers regarding Friedsam, including social events, charity work, the Fifth Avenue Association, and B. Altman & Co.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Volume: Vol Folder : News clippings re: Michael Friedsam
1929-1931

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Series II. Employee Records, 1876-1918

Scope and Contents note

These volumes contain names of B. Altman & Co. employees; most include dates of employment and residence. Also included in some volumes are remarks on employees by supervisors and references. A number of volumes contain amendments added after the employee left B. Altman & Co. The three index volumes do not correspond to other volumes in this series. These volumes have been numbered for retrieval purposes.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Volume: [1] Folder : Employee Records: name, residence, references
1876-1894
Volume: [2] Folder : Employee Records: name, department, residence, dates of employment, references, notes
1877-1882
Volume: [3] Folder : Employee Records: name, dates of employment, wages
1881-1891
Volume: [4] Folder : Employee Records: name, residence, dates of employment, references, notes
1885-1896
Volume: [5] Folder : Employee Records: name, residence, department, dates of employment, references, notes ( all employees in this volume hired 1887-1893; some records later amended)
1887-1914
Volume: [6] Folder : Employee Records: name, position, residence, dates of employment, references, notes
1894-1899
Volume: [7] Folder : Employee Records: name, residence, position, dates of employment, references, notes (all employees in this volume hired 1899; some records later amended)
1899-1914
Volume: [8] Folder : Employee Records: name, department, dates of employment, remarks. Vol. 1: A-K
1899-1918
Volume: [9] Folder : Employee Records: name, department, dates of employment, remarks. Vol. 2: L-Z
1899-1918
Volume: [10] Folder : Employee Records: Index
1900-1913
Volume: [11] Folder : Employee Records: Index
1903-1917
Volume: [12] Folder : Employee Records: Index: "Workroom Employees"
1903-1914

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Series III. Financial Records, 1887-1955

Scope and Contents note

Includes receipts for items sold at auction, real estate and charity receipts, municipal bills, checks (most signed by Benjamin Altman), bonds, and contribution records.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Volume: Vol Folder : Contribution records. Includes names of contributors and organizations, items donated, donation amount.
1932-1933
Volume: Vol Folder : Receipts for fur items sold at auction June 15, 1954; receipts 1955.
1942-1955
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Bills, receipts, accounts
1909-1916
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Bills, receipts, accounts
1917-1931
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Bonds
1887, 1914-1924
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Checks
1905-1914

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Series IV. Legal Records, 1913-1953

Scope and Contents note

Includes copyright and trademark certificates of registration and a trial transcript, Weitsman v. B. Altman & Co., case of "malicious prosecution," involving stolen goods.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Volume: Vol Folder : Trial transcript
1916
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Copyright and trademark Certificates of Registration
1913-1950
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Copyright and trademark Certificates of Registration
1951-1953

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Series V. Benjamin Altman Estate Material, 1913 --1919

Scope and Contents note

Includes B. Altman & Co. stock and bond material; property assessments of the Fifth Ave. store, stables, and other real estate holdings; correspondence regarding execution of Altman's will; surrogate court records; summary of Altman's donation of art to the Metropolitan Museum; material regarding employee life insurance, employee legacies, and the Altman Foundation.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Estate material
1913-1914
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Estate material
1915-1919

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Series VI. Correspondence, 1915 -- 1939, undated

Scope and Contents note

Letters to John S. Burke re: charitable donations, bonds, social engagements, Arts & Decoration magazine, and other topics. Many concern Michael Friedsam. Other letters received in this series include letters to B. Altman & Co. employees (especially Milton M. Klein), unsigned copies of letters to  Washington Times owner Arthur Brisbane, and requests to B. Altman & Co. for charitable contributions.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 7 John S. Burke, letters received
1916-1918
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Letters received by others
1915-1939, undated

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Series VII. Study of Shopping Habits, 1936

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Volume: Vol Folder : "A Study of Shopping Habits and Attitudes Toward Department Stores" prepared for B. Altman & Co.
1936

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Series VIII. Electrical Equipment Inspection Certificates, 1906

Scope and Contents note

From the New York City Dept. of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity's Electrical Bureau and the New York Board of Fire Underwriters.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Electrical equipment inspection certificates
1906

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Series IX. Publications, 1917, undated

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Arts and Decoration magazine (June 1917); "The D.M. Read Co."
1917; undated

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Series X. Medals, 1917

Scope and Contents note

Possibly belonging to Michael Friedsam. Commemorating the French and British War Commission, the Imperial Japanese Commission, and the Catskill Aqueduct Celebration.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Medals
1917

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