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F.W. Clark papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Clark FW

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, both business and personal, account books, and trusteeship documents of Frederick W. Clark, 1857-1916.

The entire collection consists of bound volumes, including letterpress copybooks with handwritten indexes. Almost all of the correspondence is handwritten.

Handwritten cash books and journals containing credit and debit accounts give a good indication of contemporary prices for building supplies and labor. Together with the correspondence, they depict the myriad types of transactions needed in order to manage a construction company with solicitations and bids for incoming work as well as a continual supply of materials needed to complete a project. There is also a bound volume of handwritten account information pertaining to the Trusteeship noted in the Biography section, above. At the front and back of this volume are typewritten documents pertaining to the matter.

Two of the volumes (for 1899-1904 and 1908-1910) have much human interest—from comments on the court case against Caroline Patterson and its effect on the family; to letters concerning Mr. Clark’s travels—especially to the Panama Canal Zone; purchases of what were then luxury foods—oranges, grapefruits, and premium quality coffees, and a “Victoria talking machine”; and letters to Vassar College administrators concerning his daughter’s unhappiness with her rambunctious roommate.


  • Creation: 1875-1916
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1903-1916



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The F.W. Clark papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The F.W. Clark papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of F.W. Clark

Chicago builder and construction company president

Frederick William Clark was born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 12, 1857. He was educated in Chicago Public Schools and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from which he received an engineering degree. He practiced as a mining engineer for ten years and then, for six years, was an assistant professor of mining engineering and metallurgy at MIT.

In 1889 he returned to Chicago and was associated with his father, Jonathan, in the Jonathan Clark Construction Company until the latter’s death in 1902. Jonathan’s will named his personal secretary, Caroline Patterson (a young woman he met while staying at her mother’s boarding house in Geneva, Illinois, where the construction company was building some mansions on the lake) as one of the trustees of his estate. The Clark family rallied against Ms. Patterson and expended huge sums investigating her past, but did not succeed. Her trusteeship was sanctioned by the court.

In the years following the father’s death, the construction company continued its work under the name, Clark Construction Company. The company was well regarded for its work in the construction and contracting of work on buildings in cities such as Albany, Boston, Buffalo, Charleston, Columbus, Gary, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Among the buildings that had the Clark imprint are the United States Navy Yard in Charleston, the Art Institute of Chicago, the old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Station, and the Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store (later known as the Carson Pirie Scott Building).

Between 1907 and 1909 the company began to liquidate its assets and complete contractual obligations prior to ceasing business. Subsequently, Mr. Clark, with family and friends, enjoyed a life of travel, social events, golf, and bridge. He was a member of several clubs such as the Union League Club and the Kenwood Country Club. Clark died in Chicago on February 2, 1916.

The Clark papers evidence a man who was a careful businessman and a knowledgeable engineer. He paid close attention to specifications and quality of materials and workmanship. On his visits to the Panama Canal, for example, he noted and complimented the work done by Gen. Goethals on the construction work being performed amidst difficult conditions. His knowledge of mining engineering certainly must have spurred his interest in mining stocks. He used his technical knowledge wisely.


1.3 Linear Feet (3 boxes)


Correspondence and papers of Frederick W. Clark, Chicago building contractor and construction company president. Includes business and some personal correspondence, plus account books and trusteeship papers.


A general description of each of the nine bound volumes is given with the folder titles. Each of the volumes has numbered pages. Four of the volumes consisting of correspondence have indexes, which are listed separately. The deteriorating covers have been removed from all but the Trusteeship volume.

Collection Stack Location

1 12 5, 1 55 4 (unprocessed additions)



Processed by

Lenore Glanz, 2010.

Inventory of the F.W. Clark papers, 1875-1916, bulk 1903-1916
Lenore Glanz
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States