Records of Wilcox, Crittenden & Co.

Manuscripts Collection 231

Overview of the Records

Repository: G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport
Creator: Wilcox, Crittenden & Co.
Title: Records of Wilcox, Crittenden & Co.
Dates: 1869-1915
Extent: 58 items
Abstract: Ledgers, journals, cashbooks, daybooks, payroll records, check stub books, and other materials.
Identification: Coll. 231

History of Wilcox, Crittenden & Co.

In 1847, Middletown was New England’s largest inland port, and it was in that year the company that would become Wilcox, Crittenden & Co., Inc. was established. According to the centennial history of the company, it was in Ben Butler’s sail loft in Middletown that Eldridge Penfield first conceived of developing a metal grommet (later to be called the sail eyelet grommet) to replace the rope grommets that were currently being used by sailmakers.

In partnership with his uncle, Ira Penfield, Eldridge Penfield formed the firm of E. H. & I. K. Penfield. The business was opened in a small building at the rear of the property located at Main and William Street in Middletown, and was the first company in America to produce metal grommets. The first grommets were stamped out using hand presses which were operated by the partners and by William Walter Wilcox, whom they had hired.

For the next two years, Penfield tried to market the new grommets by utilizing traveling salesmen who brought and sold on consignment and kept most of the profits. After this unsuccessful period, Eldridge Penfield sold out his interest to Ira Penfield, and Wilcox invested his savings and became a partner in the new firm called Penfield & Wilcox.

By using more direct marketing techniques, Wilcox was able to overcome the opposition that developed on the part of journeymen sailmakers who feared that the use of the new grommet would reduce the need for their services. The company prospered and added other items to their inventory based on the needs of sailmakers. In 1857, Wilcox invented and patented a new and improved grommet made in three parts which was even more successful than the original device. He also invented a round-edged sail thimble which replaced the iron, sharp-edged thimble previously in use.

The partnership of Penfield & Wilcox was dissolved circa 1859, when Ira Penfield retired. Wilcox moved the business and took into partnership Joseph Hall, Jr. of Portland, CT and formed the firm of Wilcox & Hall, which continued until 1867 when Hall retired and sold his interest to Wilcox.

In 1869, Wilcox formed a partnership with three of the younger men of his organization, Albert R. Crittenden, E. Bound Chaffee, and Homer Churchill. Crittenden purchased a tenth interest in the business for $5,000, and name of the firm was changed to Wilcox, Crittenden & Company.

In the maritime world, steam was gradually replacing sail, and the company’s 1870 catalog offered such varying products as shackles, thimbles, ring bolts, “Ereful whistles,” engine-room signals, boat nails “of good Swede’s steel heavily galvanized,” and cotton hooks “New Orleans pattern.” A new outlet for sailmakers was in manufacturing awnings and the company began stocking awning hardware as well. In 1883, Wilcox developed an improved brass grommet (which became known as the spur grommet), secured its approval as standard equipment by the British Admiralty, and eventually it was adopted by all the leading navies of the world. By the late 1880’s, Wilcox, Crittenden & Company had become the largest manufacturers of marine hardware with the most diversified line in the United States.

The company survived a fire in 1907 which destroyed a large portion of the plant. They maintained during the World Wars and the Depression and by 1961, Wilcox, Crittenden & Co., Inc. was a division of North & Judd Manufacturing Co. By 1971 it was a Gulf + Western Precision Engineering Company, and by 1975, a division of Gulf + Western Manufacturing Company.

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Restrictions on Access

Available for use in the Manuscripts Division.

Restrictions on Use

Various copying restriction apply. Guidelines are available from the Manuscripts Division.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the G. W. Blunt White Library. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.


Crittenden, Albert R.
Wilcox, William W.–(William Walter)


Awnings industry–Connecticut–Middletown
Hardware industry–Connecticut–Middletown
Masts and rigging
Ships–Equipment and supplies

Document Types:


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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Coll. 231, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

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Detailed Description of the Records

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.


Ledgers; 1869-1903
1 Ledger A; 1869-1874
2 Ledger B; 1874-1879
3 Ledger C; 1879-1884
4 Ledger D; 1884-1887
5 Ledger E; 1888-1890
6 Ledger F; 1891-1893
7 Purchase Ledger 1; 1893-1896
8 Purchase Ledger 2; 1897-1903
9 Sales Ledger 1; 1893-1895
10 Sales Ledger 2; 1895-1897
11 Sales Ledger 3; 1897-1899
12 Sales Ledger 4; 1899-1901
13 Sales Ledger 5; 1901-1903
Journals; 1872-1910
14 Journal B; 1872 Jul-1875 Apr
15 Journal D; 1878 Apr-1881 Mar
16 Journal E; 1881 Apr-1883 Aug
17 Journal F; 1883 Sep-1885 Dec
18 Journal G; 1886 Jan-1888 Mar
19 Journal H; 1888 Apr-1890 Apr
20 Journal I; 1890 May-1892 Mar
21 Journal J; 1892 Apr-1893 Aug
22 Journal 1; 1893 Jul-1901 May
23 Journal 3; 1906 Jan-1910 Sep
Cash Books; 1869-1910
24 Cash Book A; 1869 Jan-1874 Sep
25 Cash Book B; 1874 Oct-1879 Jun
26 Cash Book C; 1879 Jun-1884 Oct
27 Cash Book D; 1884 Nov-1889 Aug
28 Cash Book E; 1889 Aug-1893 Jun
29 Cash Book 1; 1893 Jul-1899 Apr
30 Cash Book 2; 1899 May-1903 Oct
31 Cash Book 3; 1903 No-1908 May
32 Cash Book 4; 1908 Jun-1910 Apr
Day Books; 1869-1911
33 Day Book A; 1869 Jan-1872 Aug
34 Day Book B; 1872 Sep-1875 Jul
35 Day Book C; 1875 Jul-1878 Oct
36 Day Book D; 1878 Oct-1882 Feb
37 Day Book E; 1882 Mar-1884 Jun
38 Day Book F; 1884 Jun-1887 Aug
39 Day Book G; 1887 Sep-1890 Jul
40 Day Book H; 1890 Jul-1892 Oct
41 Day Book I; 1892 Oct-1904 Dec
42 Day Book J; 1905 Jan-1900 Nov
Payroll; 1880-1900
43 Payroll 1; 1880 Jul-1884 Jan
44 Payroll 2; 1884 Feb-1887 Aug
45 Payroll 3; 1899 Feb-1900 Nov
Trial Balance; ca. 1882-1890
46 Trial Balance; 1882 Sep-1888 Dec
47 Trial Balance; ca. 1890s
Check Stub Books; 1908-1915
48 Check number 33, 999-24,998; 1908 Jun-1909 Jan
49 Check number 42,999-43,998; 1912 Apr-Sep
50 Check number 43,999-44,998; 1912 Sep-1913 Feb
51 Check number 44,999-45,998; 1913 Feb-Jun
52 Check number 45,999-47,998; 1913 Jun-Oct
53 Check number 47,999-48,998; 1913 Oct-1914 Mar
54 Check number 48,999-49,998; 1914 Mar-Jul
55 “Drafts” nos. 5530-6529; 1911 Dec-1915 Feb
Indexes (unidentified)
56 Index to unidentified W. C. & Co. volume, “Burr’s Combination Index”
57 Index to unidentified W. C. & Co. volume, “Burr’s Combination Index-6”
58 Index to unidentified W. C. & Co. volume, “Burr’s Combination Index 7-8”

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