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Guide to the W.A. Roosevelt Company Records, 1801-1984 (bulk 1888-1948) MSS 007

Guide to the W.A. Roosevelt Company Records, 1801-1984 (bulk 1888-1948)

MSS 007

Summary Information

Records, mainly 1888-1948, of the W. A. Roosevelt Company, wholesalers of plumbing, electrical, heating, and refrigeration supplies and appliances. The company began as a steam fitting shop in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1868 and was incorporated in 1888. It continues to operate today in La Crosse. The founder was La Crosse resident one one-time mayor, William Albert Roosevelt (1833-1894).

Series that document the history of the company are historical materials, financial records, and salesmen's catalogs. Among the records are the historical materials (1801-1979) which include articles and correspondence of W. A. Roosevelt, articles and history booklets of the company, articles of incorporation and amendments, miscellaneous correspondence, legal documents, minute books, and stockholders' documents. Most of these materials have been photocopied; the originals remain at the W. A. Roosevelt Company. Financial records (1900-1948) consist of ledgers, journals and cashbooks. The final series, salesmen's catalogs (1902-1984), contain pictorial catalogs of radio, plumbing, electrical, and refrigeration supplies and appliances.
Collection Title
W. A. Roosevelt Company Records
Date of Materials [bulk]
Bulk, 1888-1948
Date of Materials [inclusive]
W. A. Roosevelt Company.
Call Number
MSS 007
11.8 cubic feet
Physical Description
10 archives boxes, 19 volumes
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], W. A. Roosevelt Company Records, MSS 007, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

William Albert Roosevelt, better known as W. A. Roosevelt, was born September 17, 1833, in Oakland County, Michigan, the son of Nelson D. and Sarah Roosevelt. The family moved in 1837 to Detroit and again in 1840 to Sandusky, Ohio. While living in Ohio, W. A. Roosevelt learned the machinists' trade. In 1855, at the age of 21, he settled in La Crosse, Wisconsin, although some biographical sources say 1853. His parents followed in 1856 and lived with their son until 1878, according to the H. J. Hirshheimer file.

Upon his arrival to the "Gateway City," Roosevelt began to successfully charter the steam ferry Honeye for the first part of the season. Later, he purchased a third interest in the Delia, a steamer, running it as a packet between Dubuque and St. Paul on the Mississippi River. Roosevelt sold this interest in the fall of 1857, and was until 1868-1869 employed as a steamboat engineer, thus earning the title "captain." In late 1868, Roosevelt opened his establishment of steam-fitter and plumber, serving the steamboats that needed repairs while docked at La Crosse. Roosevelt was a one-time mayor of La Crosse in 1884, and served as supervisor of the first ward at least once.

In 1856, Roosevelt married Phoebe Ann Gillett. Together they had one daughter, Agnes, born June 17, 1857. Phoebe died August 18, 1858. Roosevelt later married Alice M. Curtis in 1870, with whom he had no children. He died in La Crosse on October 12, 1894.

W. A. Roosevelt's daughter, Agnes, married James McCord in 1879. She died June 28, 1920, in La Crosse. They had one surviving daughter, Agnes McCord, who married Thaddeus H. Brindley, the son of Judge and Assemblyman John Brindley in 1909. She died in 1937. Thaddeus and Agnes Brindley had one daughter, Elizabeth (married Frederick Reiman), and two sons Col. John Brindley, and James McCord Brindley.

According to the Industries of La Crosse (1888), the W. A. Roosevelt Company was, at that time, a wholesaler of "wrought iron pipe and fittings, brass goods and engine trimmings, pumps and mill supplies. [The company is a] contractor for steam and hot water heating apparatus." Roosevelt incorporated his company in 1888 with a capital of $50,000, and he served as president and treasurer of the company until his death in 1894. James McCord served as vice president and Andrew Rice as secretary, while C.A. Krebaum was chosen as superintendent.

Between the death of W. A. Roosevelt in 1894, and 1910 when Thaddeus Brindley took control of the company, four family members served as president: James McCord (W. A. Roosevelt's son-in-law), Alice Roosevelt (widow of W. A. Roosevelt), Agnes Roosevelt McCord (W. A. Roosevelt's daughter), and Agnes McCord Brindley (W. A. Roosevelt's granddaughter). T. H. Brindley served as president from 1910-1950. His son, James McCord Brindley, held the office from 1951-1988. In 1888, Steven Reiman became president and Thomas Brindley vice president of the company. James Brindley became chairman and Fred Reiman vice president of the board of directors in 1988.

In the early days, the Roosevelt Company catered to "plumbers, engine builders and millers, throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas" ( Industries, 1888). At this time the company employed from ten to fifteen men, and had apparently one agent who served as the company's lone traveling salesman. By 1900, as evidenced by the salesmen's ledgers, this number had increased to at least four, covering western Wisconsin, Minnesota, and northern Iowa. In 1910 a branch office was opened in Mankato, Minnesota, under the direction of F. X. Flock, to better serve western Minnesota and the Dakotas. However, it proved too difficult for the company to successfully manage a branch, so the office was closed in 1925.

T. H. Brindley is credited with the modernization of the W. A. Roosevelt Company. Under his direction, an electrical department was started in 1916. A radio department was added in 1922, selling tubes and other parts. The refrigeration department, serving both home and commercial needs, was formed in 1938.

By 1968, according to an article in the Supply House Times, a trade magazine, Roosevelt employed 45 persons, divided evenly between the two major departments: plumbing and heating, and electrical (includes refrigeration). The plumbing and heating office employed four territory salesmen as did the electrical department, while the refrigeration department counted one territory salesman. In 1977, gross sales totaled more than $7 million.

The original W. A. Roosevelt steam fitting shop was located in a one room basement at 116 South Front Street in La Crosse. These quarters were quickly outgrown and one year later Roosevelt moved his business to 206 South Front Street, careful to never move too far from the steamboat levy. A disastrous fire in 1906 forced the company to move into space at 118-120 Pearl Street. For the company's fiftieth anniversary in 1918, Roosevelt had a new building constructed at 230 North Front Street. In 1957, a new warehouse was added to house the refrigeration department. There was no more construction at the Roosevelt Company until a new site was chosen at the Coulee Region Industrial Sites Park. Under the leadership of James Brindley, Roosevelt moved out of downtown La Crosse in 1978 and built a large modern warehouse on Commerce Avenue. The new facility holds 1.3 million cubic feet and encompasses 60,000 square feet.

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Scope and Contents

The W. A. Roosevelt Company records have been broken down into three main series: Historical Materials (1801-1979), Financial Records (1900-1948), and Salesman's Catalogs (1902-1984).

The Historical Materials are divided into two parts: materials concerning the W. A. Roosevelt and allied families, and those materials created by the Roosevelt Company. The family documents (1801-1919) include photocopied articles and correspondence of family members. Also in this group are two calendar diaries of W. A. Roosevelt noting social events and sometimes weather of the day (1878-1883 and 1888). Lastly in the family group are personal ephemera, such as steamboat passes and receipts.

Company records that are grouped under Historical Materials (1874-1979) include photocopied articles about the company and history booklets (1968 and 1978), photocopied articles of incorporation and amendments (1888-1979), miscellaneous photocopied correspondence (1888-1936), photocopied legal documents including wills and deeds (1874-1942), photocopied minute books (1888-1936), radio manufacturers' correspondence (1924-1933), photocopied stockholders' documents (1920-1933), and company ephemera. ** Materials in the collection that are photocopied remain in the possession of the W. A. Roosevelt Company.

The next series, Financial Records (1900-1948), give a taste of the workings inside the Roosevelt Company. These materials begin with an index to the general ledgers and miscellaneous financial reports found loose in the ledgers. The grouping of ledgers was categorized into three types: general, customer, and salesmen's. The two general ledgers date from 1900-1948, and there is overlap in terms of dates for both volumes. Volume 1 (bulk dates 1907-1926) contains entry or account numbers 1-200 and is marked "Current Ledger C." The second volume (bulk dates 1938-1948) contains entry numbers 1-400 and is marked "City Ledger." The customer account ledgers were divided into city of La Crosse and non-city of La Crosse customers. Volumes 3 and 4 are city customers, 1900-1949, with a gap from 1918-1946. These were marked "City Ledgers," and are arranged alphabetically by business name. Non-city of La Crosse customer ledgers range from 1933-1949 (bulk dates 1946-1949), and are arranged alphabetically by town or city name. Cities beginning with A-F are located in volume 5 ("Country A"), while city names G-Z are in volume 6 ("Country B"). The final group in the ledger section is the salesmen's ledgers. As far as we could determine, each salesman had a specified territory and must have been responsible for their own ledger. Each ledger is marked "Current A,", "B," "C," and "D," referring to each salesman and his territory. Within each ledger, the customers are arranged alphabetically by city or town name. Volume 7 is an expense account and salary ledger for salesmen only (1910-1947). Volume 8 is salesman A's territory: Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Winona, 1906-1920. salesman B, responsible for Minnesota including Mankato, is represented in volume 9, 1900-1916. The territory for salesman C was mainly local areas in Wisconsin including Sparta and Tomah, and contains very few Minnesota contacts. This ledger, number 10, dates 1900-1918. The area covered by salesman D is quite vast, and touches upon eastern Minnesota, Iowa, and some local Wisconsin towns. There are two ledgers for this salesman; volumes 11 representing 1900-1918, and volume 12 dates 1912-1920 (bulk dates 1919-1920).

The final two sub-series under Financial Records are journals (1931-1944) and cashbooks (1941-1948). There are gaps in the journal run from 1933-1939, and gaps in the cashbooks set 1945-1947. The journals are set up like day books, describing the expenditure of cash by day. The cashbooks give a picture of the available cash the company had on hand each day.

The last series, Salesman's Catalogs (1902-1984), is probably the most interesting because of the artifactual and pictorial quality of these catalogs. As the company expanded, the catalogs became more specialized and soon radio catalogs were separated out from the general catalog, and the electrical and air conditioning products followed suit.

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Materials in the W. A. Roosevelt Company Records are arranged in three series: Historical Materials, Financial Records, and Saleman's Catalogs. Within each series, materials are arranged generally alphabetically by topic, and then chronologically within.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 1989 October

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

Presented by James M. Brindley and Frederick Reiman, officers of the W. A. Roosevelt Company, La Crosse, Wisconsin, August-September 1989. (Accession Nos. 1989.007, 1989.008, 1989.009, 1989.010)

1957 Plumbing, heating and well supply and 1965 Plumbing and heating supply catalogs presented by William T. Doering, Sept. 25, 2014 (Accession No. 2014.059)

Processing Information

Processed by Anita Taylor Doering, with the help of Bill Petersen and Mark Burke, October 1989.

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Related Materials

Related Materials

For more information and history of the W. A. Roosevelt Company, see the history booklets in the collection and:

(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Business--[W. A.] Roosevelt Co.
(Ephemera file)
 Businesses -- [W. A.] Roosevelt Co.
(725.4 Y48 1918)
 Yesterday and to-day, 1868-1918, (La Crosse, WI?): W.A. Roosevelt Company, 1918
(696.1 W102E 1916)
 Electrical supply catalog no. 10: electrical supplies, line materials, wires and cables, fixtures and fixture fittings, electrical house goods, and novelties, (La Crosse, WI?): W.A. Roosevelt Company, 1916
(696.1 W102C 1950)
 Catalog 50, (La Crosse, WI?): W.A. Roosevelt Company, 1950
(696.1 W102C 1957)
 Catalog 57, (La Crosse, WI?): W.A. Roosevelt Company, 1957
(696.1 W102C 1979)
 Electrical supplies and lighting equipment, catalog 79, (La Crosse, WI?): W.A. Roosevelt Company, 1979
(696.1 ST37W 1993)
 The W.A. Roosevelt Company: 125 years of progress and loyalty, (La Crosse, WI): Susan Stekel, 1993

For more personal and genealogical information on the Roosevelt and allied families, see the articles in the collection and:

(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Biography--Brindley, John
(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Biography--Brindley, Thaddeus H.
(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Biography--Roosevelt, W. A.
 Hirshheimer and other obituary index files

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • W. A. Roosevelt Company.

Family Name(s)

  • Roosevelt, W. A.

Personal Name(s)

  • Brindley, James McCord, 1924-2010
  • Reiman, Frederick A., 1909-2005, Jr.


  • Business records--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Heating--Equipment and supplies--Catalogs
  • Plumbing--Equipment and supplies--Catalogs
  • Wells--Equipment and supplies--Catalogs

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory

 (Series 1) Historical Materials, 1801-1979 

Scope and Contents

A majority of the items in this series are photocopies (not originals).

 (Subseries 1.1) W. A. Roosevelt Family 

Box Folder

Articles, undated 

1 1

Calendar diaries, 1878-1888 

1 2

Correspondence, 1801-1919 

1 3

Ephemera, undated 

1 4

 (Subseries 1.2) W. A. Roosevelt Company 

Box Folder

Articles and history booklets, undated 

1 5

Articles of incorporation, 1888-1979 

1 6

Correspondence, 1885-1887 

1 7

Legal documents, 1874-1942 

1 8

Minute books, 1888-1936 

1 9-10

Radio correspondence, 1924-1933 

1 11

Stockholders' documents, 1920-1933 

1 12

Work policies and rules, 1970 

1 13

Ephemera, undated 

1 14

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 (Series 2) Financial Records, 1900-1949 

Box Folder

Index to ledgers 

1 15

Miscellaneous financial materials, 1920-1949 

1 16


General Ledgers 


"Current C", 1907-1943  (Bulk, 1907-1926)


"City", 1900-1948  (Bulk, 1938-1948)


Customer Account Ledgers 

City of La Crosse Accounts 


"City", 1900-1918 


"City and Miscellaneous", 1946-1949 


Non-City of La Crosse Accounts 


Cities/Towns, A-F; "County A" 


Cities/Towns, G-Z; "County B" 


Salesmen's Ledgers 


Expense account and Salary Ledger, "Current A", 1910-1947 


Salesman A, "Current A", 1906-1920 


Salesman B, "Current B", 1900-1916 


Salesman C, "Current C", 1900-1918 


Salesman D 


"Current D", 1900-1918 


"Current D", 1912-1920 




 1931 December - 1933 July 


 1939 May - 1941 June 


 1941 July - 1944 April 




 1941 June - 1942 July 


 1942 July - 1944 April 


 1944 April - 1945 October 


 1947 October - 1948 August 


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 (Series 3) Salesman's Catalogs, 1902-1984 

Box Folder

Pocket Catalog, 1902 

1 17

General, 1911 

2 1

General, circa 1915 

2 2

Plumbing Supplies, 1917 

2 3

Pumps, Steam & Mill Supplies, 1917 

3 1

General, 1917 

3 2

Plumbing, Heating & Well Supplies, 1923 

4 1

General, 1923 

4 2

Radio, 1925 

4 3

Radio, 1927 

4 4

Electrical, 1927 

5 1

Radio, 1928 

5 2

Electrical, 1928 

5 3

Radio, 1930 

5 4

Plumbing, Heating & Well Supplies, 1930 

5 5

Radio, 1931 

5 6

Plumbing, Heating & Well Supplies, 1939 

6 1

Electrical, 1941 

6 2

Plumbing, Heating & Well Supplies, 1950 

6 3

Electrical, 1953 

6 4

Appliance, 1953 

6 5

Refrigeration, 1954 

6 6

Plumbing, Heating & Well Supplies, 1954 

6 7

Plumbing, Heating & Well Supplies, 1957 

10 1

Electrical, 1958 

7 1

Electrical, 1963 

7 2

Plumbing, Heating & Well Supplies, 1965 

10 2

Appliance, 1965 

7 3

Electrical, 1966 

7 4

Electrical, 1968 

7 5

Appliance, 1969 

8 1

Electrical, 1970 

8 2

Appliance, 1971 

8 3

Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, 1973 

8 4

Electrical, 1973 

8 5

Appliance, 1973 

8 6

Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, 1984 

9 1

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