Joseph B. Smith & Sons Funeral Home records

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Collection Title: Joseph B. Smith & Sons Funeral Home records

Collection Number: 191

Dates of Collection: 1872-1946

Box Numbers: 1-5

Repositiory: Chester County Historical Society

Project Archivist: Jennifer Duli

Abstract:

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Abstract: 

The Joseph B. Smith and Sons Funeral Home in West Chester, Pennsylvania was established in 1870, when Joseph B. Smith purchased the existing Hoffman Undertaking and Furniture Business. Smith’s firm, which was in business until 1994, was owned and operated by four successive generations of Smith men: Joseph B. Smith; his son, William B. Smith; his grandson, Ashton B.T. Smith; and his great-grandson, Ashton B.T. Smith, Jr. It ranked as one of the oldest funeral home businesses in Chester County. The Joseph B. Smith and Son Funeral Directors records houses the records produced by that funeral home from 1876 to 1946. In addition, there is a small cache of Smith family papers dating from 1883 to 1975. The bulk of the collection is made up of funeral home records. Included in the funeral home records are account books, funeral registries, bills, funeral home ephemera, and undertaker and coroner licenses. The Smith family papers section of the collection has very little to do with the business of the funeral home. The Smith family papers contains booklets and a map relating to Chester County; materials and newspaper clippings on the Church of the Holy Trinity; undated photocopied photos; memorabilia from the 1901 Inaugural Ball for President McKinley; personal correspondence; and newspaper clippings, souvenirs and memorabilia from various West Chester anniversary celebrations; and framed photos.


Biography:

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Biography: 

The Joseph B. Smith and Sons Funeral Home in West Chester, Pennsylvania was established in 1870, when Joseph B. Smith purchased the existing Hoffman Undertaking and Furniture Business. Smith’s firm, which was in business until 1994, was owned and operated by four successive generations of Smith men: Joseph B. Smith; his son, William B. Smith; his grandson, Ashton B.T. Smith; and his great-grandson, Ashton B.T. Smith, Jr. It ranked as one of the oldest funeral home businesses in Chester County.

Joseph B. Smith built a modern undertaking business that boasted the use of “mechanized equipment,” and an onsite chapel. Numerous newspaper articles report on improvements and expansions to the firm and the building in which it was housed. Joseph Smith’s business also included furniture and cabinet making, which in the late nineteenth century was a common combination of trades. William B. Smith joined his father in business and took it over in 1927 when Joseph died. William discontinued the furniture making part of the business, focusing his efforts entirely on funerals. Ashton B.T. Smith, William’s son, took over directorship of the business in 1944 when William died. Ashton’s son, Ashton B.T. Smith, Jr., in turn, assumed directorship in 1961. Ashton Smith, Jr. managed the funeral business for thirty-seven years, retiring in 1998. In 1994, prior to his retirement, Joseph B. Smith and Sons merged with other funeral homes to form a new company, Della-Vecchia Reilly and Smith Funeral Home, Inc. All four generations of Smith men were also active in the greater West Chester community. Joseph B. Smith served briefly as Chester County Coroner in the 1870s. William B. Smith was a member of the West Chester Lions Club, and Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and he served on the vestry for the Church of the Holy Trinity. In addition, he was, at one time, president of the Chester County Funeral Directors’ Association. Like his grandfather, Ashton B.T. Smith was active in the civic life of West Chester. He also served as County Coroner. Perhaps of greater importance, he was elected burgess of the borough of West Chester from 1942 to 1950.

Bibliography:
This entire historical note was written using information found in the Newspaper Clippings File at Chester County Historical Society.
[“West Chester. Business Houses. J.B. Smith & Sons,” various dates]. Newspaper Clippings File. Chester County Historical Society.
[“Smith, A,” various dates]. Newspaper Clippings File. Chester County Historical Society.
[“Smith, J,” various dates]. Newspaper Clippings File. Chester County Historical Society.

Collection Scope:

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Collection Scope: 

The Joseph B. Smith and Son Funeral Directors records contains the records created by that business from 1876 to 1946. In addition, there is a small cache of Smith family papers which date from 1883 to 1975. The Smith family papers section of the collection has very little to do with the business of the funeral home. The bulk of the collection is made up of funeral home records.

Collection Arrangement:

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Collection Arrangement: 

The collection is arranged into two series, "Funeral Home records" and "Smith family papers." "Funeral Home records" are arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically within the subject. Included records are account books, funeral registries, bills, funeral home ephemera, and undertaker and coroner licenses. The volumes of account books and funeral registries all have an index with the exception of Account Book volume 1 and Funeral Registers volumes 6 to 7. Of particular interest in the "Funeral Home records" are the funeral registers, which contain sections for information on the deceased's date of birth and death, cause and place of death, date of the funeral, location of interment, name of the parents, where the deceased was born, and their known occupation. It should be noted that inclusion of this information is sporadic and that the vast majority of listings are not filled out completely. The "Funeral Home records" contains one small gap in the series: a funeral register for 1908 to 1912 is not included in this collection.

The "Smith family papers" are arranged by subject. Included records are booklets and a map relating to Chester County; materials and newspaper clippings on the Church of the Holy Trinity; undated photocopied photos; memorabilia from the 1901 Inaugural Ball for President McKinley; personal correspondence; newspaper clippings, souvenirs, and memorabilia from various West Chester anniversary celebrations; and framed photos. Of interest in the "Smith Family papers" is a signed letter from then President Richard Nixon, congratulating West Chester on its 175th anniversary.

Collection Contents:

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Collection Contents: 

Series I. Funeral Home records, 1876-1946.

 Box

Account book, volume 1, 1887 September-1895 March.

1

Account book, volume 2, 1895 May-1902 December.

1

Account book, volume 3, 1902 December-1912 December.

1

Bills, 1876-1925.

51

Funeral home ephemera, undated.

52

Funeral register, volume 1, 1905 January-1907 December.

2

Funeral register, volume 2, 1913 January-1915 December.

2

Funeral register, volume 3, 1915 December-1918 October.

2

Funeral register, volume 4, 1918 October-1921 January.

2
 Volume

Funeral register, volume 5, 1921 January-1925 May. [Oversize].

5
 Box

Funeral register, volume 6, 1925 May-1931 October.

3

Funeral register, volume 7, 1931 October-1939 January.

4

Funeral register, volume 8, 1939 February-1944 April.

4

Funeral register, volume 9, 1944 April-1946 July.

3

Undertaker and coroner licenses, 1872-1925.

13

Series II. Smith family papers, 1883-1975.

 BoxFolder

Chester County booklets and map, 1930-1952.

54

Church of the Holy Trinity materials and newspaper clippings, 1890-1942.

55

Inaugural ball memorabilia for President McKinley, 1901.

56

Personal correspondence, 1883-1913.

57
Photocopied photos, undated.
Images

This folder contains photocopies of images from CCHS Library Photo Archives, with two exceptions. There is an oversized framed photograph titled 1799-1899 Executive Committee of West Chester Centennial and another framed photograph that bears no description or date. Please see photo archivist for more information.

58

West Chester Centennial, souvenir programs, 1899.

59

West Chester Sesquicentennial anniversary, booklets and poster, 1949.

510

West Chester Sesquicentennial anniversary, correspondence, 1949 October 3.

511

West Chester Sesquicentennial anniversary, ephemera, 1949.

512

West Chester Sesquicentennial, newspaper clippings, 1949 September 20-1949 October 7.

513

West Chester Sesquicentennial anniversary, "West Chester Passes in Review" pageant script and program, circa 1949.

514

West Chester 175th anniversary, booklet and supplement, 1974.

515

West Chester 175th anniversary, congratulatory papers from national and local government officials, 1974-1975.

516

West Chester 175th anniversary, ephemera, circa 1974.

51

Made Possible By: 
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.