[Various locations in Iowa and Illinois]: 1858-1862. Sixty-eight pieces (33 letters and documents, 33 receipts and manifests, and 2 pieces of related ephemera). Minor soiling and wear, old fold lines. Highly legible. Very good. Item #1916
Small archive of material relating to the business activities of Charles H. Liscom of Clinton, Iowa, as per his business card: "wholesale and retail dealer in coal of every variety." Covering a period of about four years, the archive documents Liscom's activities selling coal and working with several regional railroads to produce and lay railroad ties. It includes waybills recording freight transactions, business correspondence recording rates and labor, and other related information. It also includes Liscom's business card and a printed broadside from the Camanche, Albany and Medota Railroad Company titled "Specifications for Cross-Ties" which details the dimensions and requirements for the railroad ties ordered.
Most of the correspondence here concerns prices and labor, either for coal and mining or for labor and delivery of railroad ties. Writing to A. Kennedy, the chief engineer of the Muscatine and Tipton Railroad, in November 1858 he offers his services in detail: " Dear Sir, Permit us to offer you a proposal for getting ties upon your road; having seen a hand bill very late; however you may give us attention, and give us a contract for getting ties for the 14 miles at 50 cents a piece delivered on the bank of the river at Muscatine. We will get them of hard wood 8 feet long 6 inches face and 6 inches through and one in every 10 to be of 10 inches face and deliver them all before the first of September 1859. Providing you will advance us 1/4 in cash on signing the contract. For our ability to fulfil the contract we refer you to Milo Smith, chief engineer of the C.P. & I. R.R., Mr. Baker atty. for said road and Sherman & Bagly & Co. of Lyons."
In addition to being a purveyor of railroad ties, it seems Liscom also did some survey work. Writing to his mother in December 1858, Liscom relates his current activities: "Today I have been surveying for a Rail Road Bridge and Ferry. Tomorrow shall do the same if the fog clears away so to see. I expect when you come to this country you will cross on this same bridge, now don't be scared!" He likewise dealt in coal, and correspondence and receipts here document that business. A letter from the Northern Illinois Coal and Iron Company addressed to Liscom discusses rates and the recent increase in costs:
"It is impossible for us to furnish coal at our old figures. Our standard price for coal now is $2.25 per ton on the Cars. But all of our customers to whom we have heretofore sold at $1.50 because of the competition which they are battling with, we are now selling at $2.00. This is 25c per ton less than our standard selling rates. We should chg. you the same, if you were still in the business. We are having orders for more coal than we can raise at $2.25 & if we were to put coal to that class of customers of which you & Mr. Davis form a part, at less figure than $2, our margins at present prices of labor would be too [short?] to make the business lucrative. On the 1st Sept. miners raised 25c per ton for mining & other labor in & about the mines has raised in proportion, so that our margin is no more at $2 than it was before at $1.50. We do not think the river men can mine their coal cheaper than we. It may be that their freights are less. Perhaps you can get your frts. reduced. We should be glad to furnish you with coal, & would be glad to furnish you at lower rates if we could, but the prices of labor will not permit it."
Most of the receipts record rates for freighting coal. Altogether, this is an interesting archive which documents the both the coal and railroad industries -- and the intersection thereof -- in the Midwest just before the Civil War. Worthy of further research.