Document Collection

Finding Aid for the Chesterbrook Farm Records, 1907-50

Chesterbrook Farm occupied over 600 acres in the center of Tredyffrin Township. It was created in 1881 out of several separate parcels by Alexander Cassatt. Like many wealthy men of the day he desired a “gentleman’s farm” where he could pursue both equine and agricultural interests. At his death in December of 1906 the farm became the property of his son Edward Cassatt, who maintained it much as his father had, including raising prize bulls and dairy cows. Richard Colgan had been Alexander Cassatt’s farm manager and remained in that position until the early 1930s. Edward died in 1922 at the age of 53.

Upon Edward Cassatt’s death the farm was inheirited by his wife Eleanor. She remarried two years later, a marriage which would last just three years. As the widow of Dr. J. Packard Laird she ran the farm until her death in 1962. In 1931 Peter J. Boland became her farm manager, and throughout the 1930s and 40s the farm remained reasonably profitable. Changing economic conditions and other factors such as the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Route 202 across the property all contributed to its gradual decline. The land was sold to a developer in 1969 and eventually was transformed into a residential community of over 1000 townhomes. Almost all of the materials in this collection document Chesterbrook Farm in the twentieth century, and primarily its dairy and small animal business. Chesterbrook Farm has been the subject of numerous articles in the History Quarterly.

The contents of Box 1 come from unknown sources and have likely been in the collection for many years. Many of these items are damaged and suggest a source similar to the material in Box 2. The contents of Box 2 were collected from the floor of the abandoned Chesterbrook Farm manger’s building on Bradford Road, about 1978 by the donor, Neil Sardiñas. He found the floor of the building strewn with a thick layer of papers and there was considerable evidence of damage from animals as well as vandals. The papers had obviously been there for many years. He was on a bicycle ride and had only a backpack to carry away items he thought looked interesting. The quantity of papers he left behind would have more than filled the trunk of a car. He never went back to examine the papers again. The building was demolished in the late 1980s.

Box 1:

Correspondence and invoices, 1883-1903; cancelled checks, 1899; undated booklet advertising horse blankets, all dating to the ownership of Alexander Cassatt (10 items)

Correspondence between Edward Cassatt and R. A. Colgan, 1911-20 (published in the TEHS History Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1, January 1991, pp. 25-33)

Bills and Financial Papers, 1910-16

Personal Correspondence of Edward Cassatt, 1912-21

Correspondence, Invoices, and Miscellaneous Papers, 1923-37 (post-Edward Cassatt)

Chesterbrook Farm Thoroughbred Stable correspondence, 1909-21

Chesterbrook Farm Dairy accounts, 1947

Ephemera and Printed Matter: milk bottle caps; milk bottle account form; articles requested for use form; “Live Chicks” shipping labels; “Route to Chesterbrook Farm” maps; Christmas cards for attachment to milk bottles; WWII Ration Book; letterhead envelope; No Trespassing sign; advertisements for prize bulls or cows for sale.

Two items added to Box 1 in November of 2021 by Sharon Barkhymer:
* List of bills and personal expenses for the A. J. Cassatt household for November and early December of 1902, totaling $1616.62.
* List of “Races Run – Season of 1889,” listing races and gross winnings for 24 named horses. The grand total of winnings is given as $62,531.00.

Box 2:

Folders 1-2: Correspondence, 1910-41, addressed to Edward Cassatt (died 1922), or to farm manager R. A. Colgan (died 1932 or 1933), or to farm manager Peter Boland after 1932, or to Mrs. Eleanor Cassatt Laird after 1922, (about 100 items). The correspondence deals with sales and purchases of livestock (cattle, poultry, or pigs), or to supplies and equipment for the maintenance of the animals and property.

Folders 3-4: Bills and account statements, 1910-1950, addressed as above (about 125 items). Cancelled checks, drawn on the Berwyn National Bank, 1910-49 (9 items); cancelled checks drawn on Cassatt Co., 1907-15 (4 items), and 1 check drawn on Girard Trust Co., 1917.

Folder 5: Chesterbrook Farm printed matter and ephemera: Milk bottle caps (11); Christmas cards for attachment to milk bottles (3); Small map titled “Route to Chesterbrook Farm” (3); 1942 wall calendar advertising Chesterbrook Farm milk; Race-card (brochure) “Fourteenth Annual Spring Race Meeting … for the benefit of the British War Relief ….May 19, 1941.” Note: all material in this category (from the 2014 gift) was combined with similar materials in Box 1.

Folder 6: Miscellaneous printed matter: flyers or leaflets regarding agricultural or horse-racing subjects (about 15 items)

Folder 7: Printed booklets: The Northern Pacific Railroad, Its Route Resources Progress and Business- The New Northwest and Its Great Thoroughfare, issued by Jay Cooke & Co. [1871], 48 pages; The Formation of Pure Bred Flocks and Their Subsequent Management (1893); Commutation Ticket Book between Hot Springs and Oak Lawn [Arkansas], 1907; Official Programme of the Autumn Race Meeting of the Rose Tree Fox Hunting Club, October 13 and 15, 1910; Workers’ Manual - Campaign to Re-elect President Woodrow Wilson, 1916; Dibble’s Farm Seeds Catalogue, 1918; Deluxe Loose-Leaf Devices Catalogue, undated. The first three of these booklets, based on their publication dates, would likely have been acquired by Alexander Cassatt, Edward Cassatt’s father.

Folder 8: Miscellaneous items: large check register from Berwyn National Bank with check stubs used 1942-43; Tredyffrin Township Zoning Ordinance of 1939, 29 pages (typescript); Chesapeake and Ohio Railway wall calendar for 1960 with 7 color illustrations; 8 color negatives showing one or more small horses, and riders or grooms; 4-page spread from The Evening Bulletin, December 31, 1941, showing the stock market reports. There is also a file of correspondence and forms received by Mrs. E. L. Shute, of Mt. Airy Street in Germantown, from the Germantown Academy, re attendance at the school of Eugene, Harry, Joseph, and Charles Shute, 1927-32. It is not known why these items are in the collection.

Cheryl Leibold/HCS 1/17/2022