Collection Spotlight: D. L. Clark Company Records

D. L. Clark Company Records, 1923-1992, MSS 640

Extent: 0.75 linear ft. (2 boxes)

History of the D. L. Clark Company

The D. L. Clark Company traces its roots to Pittsburgh’s North Side in 1886 when David L. Clark, an Irish immigrant, first began selling candies out of a horse-drawn wagon.  In 1911, the Clark Company considerably expanded their business by acquiring a candy and cracker company in the North Side.  During these years of development, the Clark Company quickly became renowned for their innovations in candy production.  In particular, the company is known for its addition of mint, peanut butter and coconut to chocolate candies.

Looking into the Candy Business, ca1940s

Looking into the Candy Business, ca1940s

By 1920, the Clark Company was producing close to 150 different kinds of candy.  The Clark Company also ventured into the market of chewing gum production at this time.  The most enduring evidence of this venture is the company’s production of Teaberry gum.  Over the next ten years, D. L. Clark recognized the growing market for candy bars and subsequently decided to concentrate production on five-cent chocolate bars.  Consequently, the company became internationally renowned for its production and sale of chocolate bars, including the Clark Bar and the Zagnut Bar.

All throughout these years of production, the Clark Company remained at the North Side location it acquired in 1911.  As a result, the oversized Clark sign atop the factory became a longstanding Pittsburgh landmark.  In 1983, the confectioner company, Leaf, Inc. acquired the D.L. Clark Company.  Although Leaf, Inc. closed the North Side factory in the spring of 1986, it chose to sustain Clark candy manufacturing in the Pittsburgh area by relocating production to a plant in O’Hara Township.  Leaf, Inc. then sold the rights to the Clark Bar to Pittsburgh Food and Beverage Company.  After years of financial instability, this company reconstituted itself under the name of Clark Bar America in June of 1995.  In May of 1999, this company was purchased by the New England Confectionary Company (NECCO).  Clark Company candy continues to be manufactured by NECCO today.

Annual Report of D. L. Clark Company, 1953

Annual Report of D. L. Clark Company, 1953

Collection Summary

The D. L. Clark Company Records consist of photographs, postcards, newspaper clippings, advertisements, correspondence, annual reports, stock exchange documents, and newsletters related to the D. L. Clark Company.  Photographs, advertisements, and promotional literature document the various candy products manufactured by the Clark Company, such as Zagnut Bars, Peanut Butter Logs, Yogurt Delights and Clark Bars.  A VHS tape contains recordings of Clark candy commercials. Numerous photographs capture Clark candy window and aisle displays, including a 1959 Clark Bar Halloween window display at Pittsburgh’s Dollar Savings Bank.  Other photographs record Clark candy cameos in films such as Poltergeist, Wiz Kid, and Open All Night.

Clark and Zagnut display, ca1960s.

Grocery Store Display of Clark and Zagnut bars, ca1960s.

Annual reports, correspondence, by-laws, stock exchange documents, and a spring 1977 issue of Sweet Talk, the Clark Company’s employee newsletter, shed light on Clark Company business practices.  Annual reports from 1929 to 1953 document the major financial transactions of the company. The correspondence in this collection dates to 1926 and revolves around the sampling stage of Teaberry gum production development.  Another material worthy of note is a 1967 procedure manual that contains detailed information regarding the composition and production of various Clark candies.  Clippings taken from Pittsburgh newspapers document both the debates surrounding the closing of the North Side Clark Company Factory and the plans surrounding the factory relocation to O’Hara Township.

Largest Clark Bar at Kennywood Park, 1981

Largest Clark Bar at Kennywood Park, 1981

This collection has been made accessible as part of an NHPRC-funded Basic Processing Grant. For more information on the D. L. Clark Company Records, please see the collection’s finding aid.

Largest Clark Candy Bar being distributed to guests at Kennywood Park, 1981.

Largest Clark Candy Bar being distributed to guests at Kennywood Park, 1981.

Posted in Business and Industry, Hidden collections | Leave a comment

A.M. Brown’s Union Executive Committee letter book.

(This blog post appeared originally as the “Library and Archives Treasures” column of the Fall 2013 issue of Western Pennsylvania History)

Though it seems unimaginable today, Abraham Lincoln faced considerable challenges on his path to winning a second term in the White House.  In the months preceding the 1864 election, the Union Army suffered major defeats at the Battle of the Crater and Battle of Cold Harbor, bolstering calls from the Copperhead wing of the Democratic Party for a peace settlement with the South.  From within his own party, Lincoln received criticism from radical Republicans who believed he had not done enough to end slavery.   Lincoln was also trying to buck the trend of single-term presidencies that had followed in the wake of Andrew Jackson.  In August of 1864, preparing for the possibility of defeat, Lincoln wrote a pledge, signed by the members of his cabinet, which stated “This morning, as for some days past, it  seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect as to save the Union between the election and inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.”[1]


Portrait of A.M. Brown from History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (1889).

Undaunted by these odds, Lincoln’s supporters swung into action on behalf of their candidate. The urgency of the 1864 election can be sensed from looking through the pages of a letter book from Union Executive Committee of Allegheny County, the local branch of nationwide organization that worked to re-elect Lincoln and pro-Union legislators to Congress. Recently cataloged as part of the History Center’s NHPRC Basic Processing grant, the book belonged to A.M. Brown, a Pittsburgh lawyer who served as chairman of the committee. Contained within its pages is a circular which reveals what the organization believed was at stake in the elections to be held later that year. “Pennsylvania and the Union must be saved from the vortex into which northern traitors and copperheads (acting in concert with Southern rebels) are endeavoring to precipitate them,” the circular reads. “Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson can and must be elected!”


Letter from Thaddeus Stevens, declining an invitation to an event due to poor health.

Just like campaign strategists today, Lincoln’s supporters realized that their cause would be advanced through grassroots mobilization. Within the letter book’s pages is a circular written by Simon Cameron, formerly Lincoln’s Secretary of War and governor of Pennsylvania, who was serving as chairman of the Pennsylvania Union State Central Committee. Addressing the county-level Union Executive Committee chairmen throughout the state, Cameron writes that “instead of the campaign being conducted as others of a like character have been, by the assembling of the people in mass meetings, by the appeals of enthusiastic and eloquent orators, it must be fought hand-to-hand, by those who have charge of our organization meeting the people individually face to face, and urging on each man the performance of such loyal duty as is essential to the maintenance of the Government and the preservation of the union.”

Lincoln’s Democratic opponent that year was Major General George B. McClellan, a Pennsylvania native who had served as general-in-chief of the Union Army.  Union military victories in Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley in September seemed to bring the end of the war within sight, but Lincoln still anticipated a close race with McClellan, fearing he might lose both Pennsylvania and New York to his challenger.[2]


Letter to A.M. Brown requesting that taxes be paid for five Allegheny County soldiers recuperating in the Alexandria hospital.

Lincoln knew that winning the soldier vote would be the key to carrying the closely contested state.[3] The election of 1864 marked the first time that many states allowed soldiers to vote without returning to their home district. In Pennsylvania, those in military service could vote by proxy providing that their taxes had been assessed and paid within the last two years.  The correspondence in the letter book reveals that Brown, in the weeks preceding the election, worked to ensure that Allegheny County soldiers had their taxes paid and ballots to record their vote.   The efforts of Brown and the Union Executive Committee of Allegheny County, along with those of similar organizations throughout the state, helped Lincoln carry Pennsylvania on Election Day, on the way to a resounding defeat of McClellan.

[1] Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 648.

[2] Ibid., 662.

[3] Alexander Kelly McClure, Old Time Notes of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1905),p.153-154

Posted in Civil War, Government, Hidden collections | Leave a comment

Your Brother in Arms; Civil War Book Lecture and Signing

As the Civil War Sesquicentennial enters its fourth year, the anniversary continues to afford us opportunities to reflect on one of our nation’s most storied wars.

Next Thursday evening, May 15, 2014 from 6pm-8pm, the Detre Library & Archives will host a Lecture, Q&A, and Book Signing with Robert C. Plumb, author of Your Brother in Arms: A Union Soldier’s Odyssey.


Your Brother in Arms Cover

Cover of Your Brother in Arms: A Union Soldier’s Odyssey

Your Brother in Arms chronicles the wartime experiences of Pittsburgh native George P. McClelland during the course of his service with the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry. Mr. Plumb invites his readers to follow McClelland’s journey from the soldier’s enlistment in Pittsburgh to his place on the battlefield of Five Forks, Va. The core of Mr. Plumb’s sources for Your Brother in Arms is a collection of letters handwritten by McClelland and sent home to family throughout the Civil War. These letters organically reflect McClelland’s tour of service with the 155th Pennsylvania, including the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Court House, and Petersburg.

Never before published, McClelland’s letters contain fascinating and insightful glimpses into camp life, battlefield conditions, and other wartime reflections. With this book, Plumb explores the daily experiences of one soldier within the larger account of the Civil War. In so doing, Mr. Plumb has crafted a nuanced perspective on one of our nation’s most brutal conflicts.

Robert C. Plumb has spoken throughout the Washington, D.C. area about his book and has participated in related interviews and events in Maryland, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Prior to his work on Your Brother in Arms, Mr. Plumb was an executive with Fannie Mae and General Electric.

Admission to this program is free. Refreshments will be provided. Copies of Your Brother in Arms will be available for purchase at the event for $25.

Those interested in attending this program are asked to RSVP to or 412-454-6364.


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Bettis Airfield

Decades before Pittsburgh International Airport began serving commercial air traffic, the first major airstrip in Pittsburgh was conceived of and built in West Mifflin. Clifford Ball, D. Barr Peat, and Harry Neel began developing Neel’s farm property into an airport in 1924. The Pittsburgh-McKeesport Airport officially opened to the public on June 19, 1925.



Program from airport dedication, 1926

The airport was formally dedicated to 1st Lt. Cyrus K. Bettis on November 14, 1926.  Bettis was a decorated Army pilot who was leading a formation of three planes from Philadelphia to Selfridge Field when he encountered fog and crashed into a mountain near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He was taken by air to Walter Reed Hospital, where he died on September 1, 1926.

Bettis Field, as it was thereafter called, was the site of the first U.S. air mail route to Pittsburgh. The route was established and contracted by Clifford Ball and D. Barr Peat in 1927, and it connected Cleveland and Pittsburgh.  In describing the efficiency of the new system for the city of Pittsburgh, one reporter stated, “The time already gained is so astounding that one may dream of a 24-hour service across the country. Why not?”


Postcard illustrating the first air mail flight between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Ohio


Charles Lindbergh at Bettis Field (Kenny Scholter of the Pittsburgh Butler Airport is at his right), 1928

Notably, Charles Lindbergh landed The Spirit of St. Louis at Bettis Field on August 3, 1927.  Lindbergh’s visit to Pittsburgh was marked by a dinner hosted by the Mayor and City Council at the William Penn Hotel.  The Sun-Telegraph estimated that around 100,000 people awaited Lindbergh’s arrival at the airport, while another large crowd gathered at Pitt Stadium to hear him speak on “the country’s air needs.”

The Pittsburgh-McKeesport Airport also played host to the National Elimination Balloon Races. Held on May 31, 1928, the races drew enormous crowds—approximately 175,000 people—despite the storm that made the contest “one of the most hazardous in the history of free ballooning.” Numerous newspaper accounts describe the aftermath of the race, in which two individuals died and many others were injured.

Spectators gather to witness the beginning of the National Elimination Balloon Race, 1928

Spectators gather to witness the beginning of the National Elimination Balloon Race, 1928

By 1929, Harry Neel and the other investors sold their interests in the airport.  Bettis Field continued to accommodate private air traffic in the 1930s after the Allegheny County Airport opened in 1932.  After World War II, the field was sold to Westinghouse and became home to Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory.

For more images and information on the history and development of the Pittsburgh-McKeesport Airport, consult the personal and administrative records that comprise the Harry Neel Papers at the Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives.

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Collections Spotlight: the Civic Light Opera Records

Civic Light Opera Records, 1946-1996, MSS 955

Extent: 18 linear ft. [18 boxes]

History of the Civic Light Opera

The Civic Light Opera Association of Greater Pittsburgh (later the Civic Light Opera) was founded in 1946 by Edgar J. Kaufmann (owner of Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh, Pa.) and City Councilman Abraham L. Wolk. At the close of World War II, Wolk advocated for the creation of a civic light opera in Pittsburgh in order to help foster the city’s post-war renaissance. Wolk partnered with Kaufmann, who donated $50,000 to fund the CLO’s first season. As early as 1939, Councilman Wolk had been able to attain $5,000 from the Pittsburgh City Council in order to coordinate summer concerts in Schenley Park in the spirit of the St. Louis Municipal Opera.  In September 1945, Wolk enlisted Max Koenigsberg of the St. Louis Municipal Opera to help launch the CLO in Pittsburgh.  Koenigsberg served as the CLO’s first managing director.


CLO performance of The Wizard of Oz at Pitt Stadium, 1949

CLO performance of The Wizard of Oz at Pitt Stadium, 1949

Gathering business and civic leaders in the region, Wolk spearheaded a board that negotiated the usage of the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Stadium rent-free for CLO performances.  At the time of its founding, H. Edgar Lewis, president of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, stated that the “light opera will open a new era in the cultural life of the entire Tri-State area.”


On February 20, 1946, the CLO’s first season of operettas was announced for the summer of 1946.  Ticket prices for CLO performances ranged from 60 cents to $3 and were sold at Kaufmann’s Department Store. As a professional theater company, the CLO staged productions of musical theater classics during its annual summer seasons. The CLO’s premiere performance in the summer of 1946 was Victor Herbert’s Naughty Marietta. Under Koenigsberg’s direction, performers Mimi Benzell, Morton Bowe, Rosemarie Brancato, Mack Harrell, Lansing Hatfield, Ralph Herbert, Bill Johnson, Lucille Manners, Richard Manning, Ruby Mercer, Muriel O’Malley, Wilma Spence, and Margaret Spencer were among the CLO’s inaugural cast. In its first season, the CLO attracted 270,000 people to watch its performances in Pitt Stadium.


CLO audience members enduring rain at Pitt Stadium

CLO audience members enduring rain at Pitt Stadium

Beginning in 1947, William Wymetal became the managing director of the CLO and would serve for the next 22 seasons until 1968. Wymetal is credited with bringing names such as Allan Jones, Jackie Gleason, Irene Manning, and Harry Stockwell to perform with the CLO. Karl Kritz served as conductor of the CLO from 1948 until 1968.


While the CLO endured inclement weather conditions at Pitt Stadium, the Edgar J. Kaufmann Charitable Trust proposed to make funds available for an arena to be owned and maintained by the city. The proposal called for a venue that would be outfitted with a retractable roof that could open or close depending on the weather.  City planners broke ground on the Civic Arena on March 12, 1958.


While construction continued on the Civic Arena, the CLO ascertained permission to build a tent in which to perform its 1959 season.  This second home for the CLO was a tangerine and green “Melody Tent” that was constructed in the lower Hill District, a neighborhood east of downtown Pittsburgh and adjacent to the future location of the Civic Arena. The CLO performed in this venue for three years until construction of the retractable, domed Civic Arena was complete. The CLO performed in the Civic Arena from 1961 until 1969.


Henry John Heinz II and his family funded the renovation of the old Penn Theatre on 6th Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. The new Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, the fourth home for the CLO, would also house the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  The Civic Light Opera moved to its current home at the Benedum Center in 1988.


Collection Summary

The Civic Light Opera Records pertain to the history and function of the CLO from its founding in 1947 until 1996. Worthy of note is the photograph series that documents CLO auditions, rehearsals, fundraising events, performance venues, and most productions. The bulk of the material in the CLO Records is scrapbooks, press books, and photo albums. These press books and scrapbooks document the CLO’s publicity efforts while also highlighting the reception of CLO productions over time. In addition, the CLO Records also include administrative records such as meeting minutes, budgets, and newsletters that document the activities and functions of the CLO Guild. The Civic Light Opera Records consist of administrative records, photographs, contact sheets, negatives, drawings, news clippings, scrapbooks, press books, and promotional posters.

Series I: Administrative Records, (1959-1981)

This series is comprised of the Civic Light Opera administrative records that primarily pertain to the CLO Guild.

Series II: Performance Programs (1947-1996)

This series primarily consists of CLO performance programs and copies of the Civic Light Opera Review from 1947 to 1996.

Series III: Scrapbooks, Press Books, and Photo Albums (1947-1991)

This series contains CLO scrapbooks, press books, and photo albums that chiefly document CLO performances.

Series IV: Photographs and Film Reel

This series consists of photographs, contact sheets, color slides, and negatives that document CLO functions and activities. In particular, the images in this series document various CLO performances. Also included are photographs pertaining to the various venues in which the CLO has performed, including Pitt Stadium, the Melody Tent, the Civic Arena, Heinz Hall and the Benedum Center. This series also includes a 16mm film reel that contains footage of CLO award ceremonies, a fashion show fundraiser, Pink Frolics, and CLO performances.

Series V: Oversized Material (1946-c1980s)

This series consists of oversized material relating to the Civic Light Opera. Included in this series are two drawings of Downtown Pittsburgh from the Point that project the location of Civic Arena.

CLO performance of the Wizard of Oz, 1994

CLO performance of the The Wizard of Oz, 1994

This collection has been made accessible as part of an NHPRC-funded Basic Processing grant.  For more information on the Civic Light Opera Records, please see the collection’s finding aid.

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, Hidden collections | Leave a comment

The Spencer Family Valentine Hunt

In the early 1900s on the corner of Amberson and Dahlia Avenues in Shadyside, an eclectic Valentine’s Day tradition thrived in the household of a local middle class family. Rather than simply exchange sentiments of love and other holiday pleasantries, the elder members of Shadyside’s Spencer family crafted an annual Valentine Hunt to enthrall and excite their children.

Spencer Family Home, 1890, G. M. Hopkins Company Map.

Spencer Family Home, 1890, G. M. Hopkins Company Map.

The Spencer family consisted of Charles and Mary Acheson Spencer and their seven children: Adeline, Kate, Ethel, Mark, Mary, Charles, and Elizabeth. The Spencer’s were among the increasing number of middle class families settling in the East End section of Pittsburgh in the late 19th Century.

Vintage Valentine, ca1870-1910, Spencer Family Papers

Vintage Valentine, ca1870-1910, Spencer Family Papers

In her memoir, The Spencers of Amberson Avenue, Ethel Spencer recalled with great fondness her family’s annual Valentine’s Day event. Together with the local McClintock, Macbeth, and Acheson children, Ethel and her siblings rifled around the family home in hot pursuit of hidden valentines. Reminiscing about their quest, Ethel remembered “Valentines hidden under cushions, behind shutters, and in other likely and unlikely places.” For the industrious child toting the most valentines, there awaited a special prize. In the spirit of friendly competition, all the children were ultimately awarded with celebratory ice cream and cake.

Vintage Valentine, ca1884-1915, Spencer Family Papers, MSS 44.

Vintage Valentine, ca1884-1915, Spencer Family Papers

Beyond the excitement of the hunt, Ethel also wrote of her fondness for these hidden Valentine’s Day cards. Varying in size, shape, and color, the valentines hidden around the Spencer family home provide a glimpse into the vintage greeting card industry.  These hallmark relics of Ethel’s youth the Detre Library & Archives’ collection of Spencer Family Papers, which include dozens of vintage valentines.

Vintage Valentine, undated, Spencer Family Papers

Vintage Valentine, undated, Spencer Family Papers

Throughout this Valentine’s Day weekend, History Center visitors are welcomed to the Detre Library & Archives to see a sampling of vintage Valentine’s Day cards. Unlike the Spencer Valentine Hunt of old, it is promised that these cards will be in plain sight.

For those interested in learning more about the Spencer Family Papers, the collection’s finding aid is available online.

Posted in Families, Holidays | Leave a comment

Sto-Rox Nationality Festival Records


The 1st Sto-Rox Nationality Festival Committee.

Western Pennsylvania is home to a wide variety of ethnic groups that have all worked together to build the mosaic of culture, industry, and religion that characterizes our region.  In the 1960s and 1970s, cultural groups from McKees Rocks and Stowe Township would come together to hold the Sto-Rox Nationality Festival to celebrate this diverse heritage.  The festival began in 1969 with the aim to “generate a spirit of cooperation and sharing of cultural backgrounds and ideas from the many nationality groups and peoples in this area.”  Participants included groups representing the African-American, Carpatho-Russian, Croatian, German, Greek, Irish, Israeli, Italian, Lebanese, Lithuanian, Native American, Polish, Scottish, Serbian, and Ukrainian communities.


Folk dancers perform at the 1977 festival.

The Sto-Rox Nationality Festival was the combined effort of multiple religious and civic organizations hoping to not only highlight their unique heritage but also learn about and appreciate the culture of their neighbors and friends.  The festival consisted of food stands and informational booths created for each of the participating groups as well as a parade and several musical and dance performances.  A sampling of these performers includes the Masterson School of Irish Dancing, Trinity A.M.E. Zion Vesper and Youth Choir, Israeli Rishona Dancers of Hashachar, American Indian dancers, and Folklore D’Italia.  The festival lasted for three days in September with multiple groups performing each night.


Volunteers help construct the Italian booth, sponsored by Mother of Sorrows Church, for the 1977 festival.


Mrs. Typek, Mrs. Marszalek, Leona Bobrowski, Mrs. Coperich, and Sophie Glinski prepare Polish Ponczki pastries for the 1978 festival.

The Sto-Rox Nationality Festival Records in the Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives consists of scrapbooks containing photographs of festival participants and events, programs listing brief histories of each nationality group and the daily schedule of performances, and newspaper clippings featuring stories about the preparation and events of the festival.   The collection’s finding aid can be found here.                                                                                                      

Each year the festival programs also contained recipes from the different cultural groups.  These recipes include desserts, entrees, appetizers, and side dishes that reflect the variety of culinary dishes found in each culture.  Below is a recipe from the Irish booth at the 1976 festival.  As the motto on the festival program states, the Sto-Rox Nationality Festival was indeed “Something to crow about!”

Irish Mocha Chiffon Cake from the 1976 festival program.

Irish Mocha Chiffon Cake recipe from the 1976 festival program.

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, Ethnic Communities | 1 Comment