History of the CB&Q Records at the Newberry

As part of his program to collect primary sources relating to the history and culture of the Midwest, Stanley Pargellis, a Yale historian appointed Newberry Librarian in 1942, initiated the systematic acquisition of business records at the library.  Believing that making the records of modern business accessible to historians would allow a more accurate assessment of the role of corporations in American history, Pargellis proposed that the Newberry Library seek the archives of representative Midwestern firms that also contained materials for social and intellectual history of the region.

Pargellis began acquiring corporate records almost immediately.  In 1943, he engineered the deposit of the 19th century archives of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, and soon thereafter the records of the Illinois Central Railroad Company.  Three years later, the Burlington recalled its massive land records from the Baker Library at Harvard and added them to the Newberry deposit.  In 1948, Pargellis convinced the Pullman Company to donate its voluminous scrapbook collection dating from the company’s founding in 1867 and documenting the 1894 strike and the Town of Pullman in great detail.  These acquisitions paved the way for further deposits from the IC and CB&Q, and for the acquisition of the records of the Pullman Company when it closed its doors in 1969.

In 1975, the Burlington Northern executed an agreement with the Newberry Library, transferring ownership of the records of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad from the corporation to the library.  Although ownership meant the library could invest in improving the condition of the collection, the Newberry did not at that time have the resources or knowledge to carry out the arrangement and description work the collection required.  Since 1990, the library has employed a professionally-trained archival staff which over time has gained the expertise necessary to manage such a complex and demanding processing project.