Griest: William Walton Griest Collection, Series 18 Trade and Commerce, 1908-1929

Call Number:  MG-65, Series 18 Trade and Commerce

4 boxes     42 folders     1.5 cubic ft.

Repository: (Lancaster, Pa.)

Shelving Location:  Archives South, Side 2

Description:  Series 18 contains documents on patents and trademarks, fair trade, tariffs, cigar export, fisheries, the Bethlehem Steel Workers, and labor laws.

This collection contains business and personal correspondence relating to politics, education, immigration, roads and waterways, railroads, economic issues, agriculture, trade and commerce, taxes, the Postal Service, the Susquehanna Iron Company, the Susquehanna Bridge, and many other topics. There are also Congressional bills and speeches, financial information for the businesses William Walton Griest was involved with, and papers reflecting his efforts to improve Lancaster County’s road system and to survey the county’s waterways for expanded uses.

Creator:  Griest, William Walton, 1858-1929.

Conditions for Access:  No restrictions.

System of Arrangement:  Griest’s original folder titles and contents have been retained. The collection has been organized by subject into 26 series.

Conditions Governing Reproductions:  Collection may not be photocopied. Please contact Research Staff or Archives Staff with questions.

Language:  English

Source of Acquisition:  Gift of W. W. Griest’s daughter, Rebecca W. Griest.

Administrative/Biographical History: 

In 2003, the Lancaster County Historical Society received a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission grant to rehouse and inventory the William Walton Griest papers. Many of these papers date from the 1880s to the 1930s and focus on Griest’s business and political interests. The grant has allowed the historical society to open this previously inaccessible collection to researchers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and United States history.

William Walton Griest was a prominent member of Congress from 1909 until 1929.  His papers reflect his influence not only in matters of national concern, but also those of Lancaster County.  His term in office spans a tumultuous era of United States history, dealing with such topics as Women’s Suffrage, Prohibition, and the First World War.  The collection sheds light on what members of Congress felt about these issues, and also what Lancasterians felt about them.  Numerous letters and petitions were written to Representative Griest on issues which divided the nation and Lancaster County.

William Griest did not begin his career as a politician, but rather started as a public school teacher. After graduating from Millersville State Normal School in 1876,  he taught at schools in East Donegal and Mount Joy townships for three years before taking another career path.  His education led him to become a writer and later editor of the Lancaster Inquirer, a weekly newspaper published by his father Ellwood Griest.

Griest was an unostentatious man; nevertheless, he was a well-respected man in the community.  He lived on South Queen Street with his wife Elizabeth Paxson Smith, son George W. Griest, and daughter Rebecca Walton Griest. The family was extremely close. Files containing personal correspondence between the family give insight into the quiet life of such a public man.

His first election to public office, as a member of the Lancaster City School Board in 1884, probably derived from his background as a teacher. With this success, his political career had been born and Griest continued to run for increasingly more prestigious offices. He was Chief Clerk for the County Commissioners, leader of the Republican party in Lancaster County, delegate to Republican National Convention from 1896-1920, and finally a representative to Congress from 1908 to 1929.  His political career of more than forty years extended over an era of great change in both the county and the country.

Griest was heavily involved in the economy of Lancaster County.  Not only was he a noteworthy Congressman, he was an equally shrewd businessman.  He became an investor in many of the local public utility companies, the most prominently featured in his papers being the Lancaster County Railway and Light Company. Documents in the collection shed light on Griest’s involvement in the company as well as the company’s financial information and its interactions with other utility companies. Under his leadership, the company turned around from a dying operation on the brink of bankruptcy to an operation netting a profit of more than $100,000 a year. 

Griest invested in another failing company, the Susquehanna Iron and Steel Company, at Columbia.  He purchased the company in an attempt to save the mills from closing and losing the industry in the area.  His papers contain many of the financial ledgers and employment records of the company.  The documents give further insight into not only Griest’s business dealings, but also the lives of local men that worked for the company.

A large portion of the collection deals with Griest’s Congressional career.  He held many influential positions while in Congress, including chairman of the Personnel of the House Service Committee and the Post Office and Post Road Committee, one of the largest committees in the Congress. He also sat on the Committee of Committees.  The documents in this part of the collection contain bills that were proposed to Congress, speeches given by members of Congress, and reports given by many of the committees.  Griest kept records on topics ranging from agriculture, veterans affairs, income tax, and child labor, to commerce and trade.  On many of these issues, the collection has letters and petitions from voters from Lancaster County urging Griest to remember Lancaster County in congressional deliberations. 

Griest’s major accomplishments in Congress included creating the Lincoln Memorial, improving mail service, and assisting returning World War I veterans to cope with entrance back into their local community.  Locally, he assisted Lancaster County in pushing bills that would benefit the county with its economy based in agriculture and by creating a local farm bureau.  He also sought to improve the road systems in the county and to survey waterways throughout the county for expanded uses. 

William Griest was very close with many of the leading political figures of Pennsylvania during the early 1900s. The collection contains correspondence between Griest and men such as Gifford Pinchot, Boise Penrose, William Vare, and William Cameron Sproul.

The William Walton Griest collection is a wonderful source of information on one of Lancaster County’s leading 20thcentury citizens. Thanks to the generous support of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission this collection will be available to both professional researchers and students of history.  Those interested in the period and in local history will find these papers extremely valuable as a primary source.

Processed by:  KC, 2002-2003.

Note:  This project was funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Archives and Records Management Grant, ME 230340, 2002-2003.


Box 32

Folder 1  AFL Mus., 1912-1915. Contains opium and narcotics laws; a notice of adoption of anti-narcotic bill; a flier on the Tamrig W. Harrison bill (drugs); a bill on the sale of mislabeled provisions; a proposed bill to import watchcases; a resolution of the drug bill; a proposed bill on importation of viruses; a statement of stock deprecation of Lititz Power Box & Printing Co.; and a flier, report, and proposed bill on workmen’s compensation.

Folder 2  Compensation, 1924

Folder 3  J. E. Hershey Letters, 1929

Folder 4  F. H. Hertzler Letters, 1913

Folder 5  Overtime Compensation, 1910-1913

Folder 6  Merchant’s Marine, 1909-1914

Folder 7  Pension Petitions, 1911-1916. Contains proposed bills on appeal for classification as civil service, to provide workers compensation, and for retirement pension system.

Folder 8  Commerce Department, 1914-1915. Contains steamboat inspection.

Folder 9  Bethlehem Steel Workers, 1920-1927. Contains an act to provide compensation for Bethlehem Steel Workers; a list of Steel workers; court record for Machinists and Electricians vs. Bethlehem Steel.; and a proposed bill on award in favor of employees of Bethlehem Steel.


Box 33

Folder 10  Seaman’s Act, 1915-1928. Contains a leaflet on the truth of Seaman’s bill; a proposed bill to amend the Interstate Commerce Act; and a proposed bill on goods produced by convicts.

Folder 11  Ship Subsidy, 1922. Contains a speech of Richard Wayne Parker and a letter from Sam Gompers.

Folder 12  Patents and Trademarks, 1914-1916. Contains 2 booklets on patents and how to obtain them; a pocket diagram from A. Snow Co.; and a business card of Jerry A. Mathews.

Folder 13  Fair Trade Bill, 1909-1928

Folder 14  Retirement, 1924-1929. Contains a proposed bill on retirement of civil service employees.

Folder 15  Philippines Cigar Export Stamps, 1908-1910. Contains regulations for exporters; regulations of meat inspection; and a resolution of the Progesista Party.

Folder 16  Tobacco Tariff of Philippine Free Entry, 1909-1910. Contains tobacco tariff rates; notes on tariff information; a speech on Philippine tobacco; information on imports of merchandise; farmers’ opposition to free importation from the Philippines; and protest against free entry.

Folder 17  Legion Quality, 1908-1911. Contains information on U.S. vs. A. Graf Distilling Co.

Folder 18  Fisheries, 1914-1916

Folder 19  Fisheries, 1915-1918. Contains an application for fish request from Joseph Genser, Pequea Fishing Club, Guy Eby, John Coldren, David Brider.


Box 34

Folder 20  Eight Hour Law-Labor, 1910-1912. Contains a brochure on the Eight Hour Law.

Folder 21  Department of Justice, 1914-1915

Folder 22  Labor Problems, 1911-1914. Contains a report on regulating judiciary and  a proposed bill to codify laws of the judiciary.

Folder 23  Free Trade, 1908-1911. Contains a speech on the free trade bill; a flier on the tariff bill; an appeal to The American Shoe and Leather Industry; a plea from American National Livestock Association; views of N. J. Bacheder on reciprocity bill; and a proposed bill on free list agriculture.

Folder 24  Tobacco Regulations, 1910. Contains proposed bills on encouraged industries and for a revised tobacco bill.

Folder 25  Customs, etc., 1909-1915

Folder 26  Anti-Trust Legislation, 1914. Contains a report on anti-trust legislation.

Folder 27  Restricted Access

Folder 28  Tobacco in Bonded Warehouse, 1913. Contains a bill of sale of imported tobaccos.

Folder 29  “Free Smoker” Bill, 1912-1913. Contains a report on cigars furnished to employees by manufacturers; an act to amend revised statutes of cigar boxes; a proposed bill on cigar exemption; hearings on cigar supplies for employees by manufacturers; an act for tax on cigars; and a proposed bill for exemption of cigar tax.

Folder 30  Bill HR 5601-Iron Molders Union, 1911-1914. Contains a report on interstate commerce and a proposed bill on goods manufactured by convict labor.

Folder 31  Manufacturers Association, 1914

Folder 32  American Federation of Labor, 1916

Folder 33  Convict Labor, 1928

Folder 34  Workmen’s Compensation and Employers Liability, 1914

Folder 35  Tobacco Statistics, 1911-1915. Contains a Department of Commerce preliminary tobacco report; labor statistics; reports on tobacco; an act on report of tobacco; an act to publish tobacco statistics; statistics on types of tobacco; an act on qualifications of the Director of Census; and proposed bills to regulate the sale of unstemmed tobacco, to record unmanufactured tobacco, and for relief of tobacco growers.

Folder 36  Tariff 1913  (1911-1913). Contains a flier on argument of payment of Tariff Commission; a petition on the Underwood Tariff bill; and a proposed bill to place goods on the free list.

Folder 37  Tariff 1913  (1911-1915). Contains a booklet on the Tariff Commission and fliers on the Tariff Commission League.


Box 35

Folder 38  Tariff-Lancaster County, 1924-1929

Folder 39  Tariff–Lancaster County, 1929. Contains business cards of H. C. Kaufman and J. E. Pflueger.

Folder 40  Miscellaneous, 1913-1929. Contains a speech of P. L. James and a proposed bill to extend the use of metric weights.

Folder 41  Miscellaneous, 1911-1921. Contains a proposed bill to prevent the use of coupons; a proposed bill to amend section of revised statutes; a petition against bill by Industrial Traffic League; a proposed bill on safety of travelers on railways; a proposed bill on appropriation for enlarged customhouse in Philadelphia; a proposed bill on the purchase of site for government offices in Philadelphia; a description of property owned by Western National Bank of Philadelphia; a proposed bill to amend act to equalize industries; and an act to establish children’s bureau in Commerce and Labor Department.

Folder 42  Miscellaneous, 1911-1913. Contains an act to amend the Commerce Act; a summary of the Federal Accident Compensation Act of 1912; a pamphlet on letters dealing with Committee on Naval Affairs; a proposed bill that requires manufacturers to put their name on articles manufactured; a resolution of Southern Shoe Retailers Association; a resolution of Railway Business Association; a National Conservation Association petition; a summary of facts on relief of hydroelectric company; a resolution of Association of Physicians; proposed bills on complete record of non-manufactured tobacco, on relief for farmers and tobacco growers, on relief for merchants and other tobacco dealers, and on regulation of the sale of unstemmed leaf tobacco; and a pamphlet on warship construction.