Interview with J. Edgar Rhoads, 1969 January 31 [audio](part 1)

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  • Rhoads family background; Rhoad's first American leather making operation; Moving the leather operation to Wilmington, Del.; Family's involvement in the Civil War
    Partial Transcript: "Our ancestor John Rhoads... had been a leather worker... became Quakers around 1680..." "As far as we know our leather business is the oldest continually operating manufacturing business in the control of one family, in the same name."
    Synopsis: Rhoads describes his family's background and says that they were English Quakers who came to Pennsylvania at around the same time as William Penn. He traces his family's time in America from around 1680. He describes his family's first operation in Pennsylvania and says that they made grindstones as well. He describes the reason behind moving the tannery to Wilmington. He outlines their early history in Delaware. He talks about the Quaker community in Wilmington. He says that his family refused military contracts during the Civil War due to their status as Quakers.
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Civil War (1861-1865); Grindstones; Immigration; J.E. Rhoads and Sons; Leather; Quakers; Rhoads Leather Company; Wilmington, Del.
  • Producing leather belting; family and business connections; Uses of finished leather; Buying hides for processing; Diagramming parts of hides for their finished uses.
    Partial Transcript: "the use of leather belting, at that time, was growing rapidly... its use was growing by the application of more and more steam engines..."
    Synopsis: Rhoads talks about how his family started to produce leather belts for steam engines. He talks about family and business connections in the Wilmington leather industry. Rhoads talks about the leather making process and how to finish making leather. He defines the term "butt" in the context of manufacturing leather. He talks about buying hides for processing. He talks about which parts of a cow's hide got used for what finished products.
    Keywords: Hides; Industrial belting; Leather; Leather belts; Leather goods; McComb family; Rhoads family; Steam Engines; Tanning; Wilmington, Del.; Winchester Family
  • Raw material origins; Rhoads family tree
    Partial Transcript: "The trouble with the small packers... is that they did not have men skilled in removing the hides..."
    Synopsis: Rhoads talks about buying raw hides for leather. He says that many of the smaller butchers in places like Wilmington, Del. and West Chester, Pa lacked the skill to properly remove animal's skins. He preferred to buy hides from larger meat packers who usually had people whose main job was skin removal. Rhoads traces his family tree. He talks about his father's enrollment and involvement in Quaker schools. He says he's not certain why his father left the academic world. He talks about his father's work in the business world. He returns to discussing genealogy.
    Keywords: Biology; Butchers; Genealogy; Haverford, College; Hides; Quakers; Raw Materials; Rhoads family; West Chester, Pa.; Westtown School; Wilmington, Del.
  • Rhoads family tree 2; Explanation of Quakerism
    Partial Transcript: "Thomas did quite well... these two men were very active in the Philadelphia volunteer fire companies..."
    Synopsis: Rhoads continues to discuss his family tree. He talks about a family member who was a volunteer firefighter in Philadelphia. He talks about his relations to the Garrett and Biddle family. He talks about his own grandfather Rhoads, who ran the leather business at the end of the nineteenth century. He talks about how his grandfather traveled the world. He talks about Quakers and religious faith He says that after his grandfather returned from his travels he gave management of the company to his sons.
    Keywords: Biddle family; Firefighting; Garrett family; Genealogy; Philadelphia, Pa.; Preaching; Quakers; Travel
  • Running the Rhoads Leather business; Wilmington, Del. location
    Partial Transcript: "John is in charge of sales, he started the Philadelphia store, about, 1894..."
    Synopsis: Rhoads describes how his family ran the leather business after his grandfather stepped down from running the business. He talks about Rhoads's relationship with other tanners in the city of Wilmington. He says that Wilmington was a good location because of its proximity to kid leather suppliers.
    Keywords: Banks; J.E. Rhoads and Sons, inc.; Kid leather; Management; Money; Rhoads Leather Company
  • Discussion about the first interview Rhoads recorded
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    Synopsis:
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  • Return to the commercial tanning business; Salesmen; Comparison of leather belt strengths; Staffing at Rhoads
    Partial Transcript: "I think it was well after 1895, probably more like 1897 or 1898..."
    Synopsis: Rhoads explains that his family returned to tanning leather because they wanted to make better quality leather belting. He describes how they developed a process to make these belts. He talks about vegetable tanning, and the plant they used. He describes Rhoads's sales force and their salesmen. He talks about how they sold their goods and compensated their sales force. He talks about how his well his company's belt performed compared to others. Rhoads talk about how they hired their workers.
    Keywords: Gambier plant; Leather belts; Quakers; Sales; Staffing; Tanning; Vegetable tanning
  • Advertising and catalogs; Membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Professionalization and changing standards in business
    Partial Transcript: Catalogs were given to customers or potential customers and some dealers.
    Synopsis: Rhoads talks about advertising belts in catalogs. He says they gave out catalogs to customers and dealers. He describes a book about leather belts called the Belt User's Book. He talks about the professionalization of business over the course of his career. He talks about staffing at his company, and how they ran their main office located in Philadelphia. He talks more about sales and advertising.
    Keywords: Belt User's Book; Advertising; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Catalogs; Offices; Philadelphia, Pa.; Wilmington, Del.