Thursday, February 16, 2017

Marian's class processing Charles S. Bliss records

Charles S. Bliss was a Michigan lumber baron and we have his papers.

Bliss (1859-1944) grew up in Wis., worked as a blacksmith in Ohio until 1877, joined L. W. Bliss and Co., worked as lead shipper on docks, took charge of planing mill yards, and then established his own retail lumber yard at Hicksville, Ohio. Bliss moved to Saginaw, Mich., in 1881, working first for A. T. Bliss and Bros. In 1887 Charles established C. S. Bliss and Company with A. T. Bliss. The company sold lath, lumber, and shingles, had a mill capacity of 6-8,000,000 feet a year, a large retail trade in hardwood, hemlock and pine in Midland, Gladwin, and Isabella counties, Mich., and previously owned pine and hardwood in Isabella and Midland counties. In 1895 the company bought 25,000,000 acres in the Saginaw Valley. In 1905 Bliss and his wife moved to West Branch, Mich., and he invested heavily in real estate. In 1890, Bliss was married to Lanor, with son, Ralph, and daughter, Jean. When Bliss died in 1944 he was survived by his then wife, Gertrude A. Lenininger, son, Ralph, daughters, Mrs. Walter Hopson and Mrs. Robert L. Hughes, Jr., and four grandchildren. Bliss was a Republican, Mason, and member of a number of business and lumber associations.

Besides his main mill in Saginaw, and his farm in Saginaw, he had lumber camps in Vanderbilt, the Butman Lumber Camp in Gladwin, and other camps.  Like other lumber barons he bought property that the owners lost due to non-payment of taxes that had trees on it. He built railroad tracks to the property, took down the trees, sold the land for farming and pulled up his tracks behind him as he left towards the next piece of property he stripped of trees. 

Besides C.S. Bliss and Company, a number of businesses his extended family owned or supported are also documented including:  Bliss Deaconess Hospital and Home (Saginaw, Mich.), A.T. Bliss Company (Carrollton, Mich.), Bliss and Powlus Shingle Company (Sanford, MI) and Bliss and VanAuken Company (Saginaw, Mich.).


Bliss family members mentioned in the correspondence include A.T. Bliss; Mrs. L.W. Bliss; Charles Bliss' father; and E. Stanton Bliss. Other family members documented in the collection include Edward Bliss, Joseph Bliss, Eli S. Bliss, C.N. Bliss, Mrs. Tyler, Mrs. Irish, and Mrs. E.S. Bliss, all in conjunction with Edward's will of December 1893. There are also a few letters to Mrs. Bliss as well as letters from daughter, Jeanie, to her Papa in 1893. Aaron T. Bliss (1837-1906) was a colonel, Civil War veteran, senator, member of Congress, Michigan governor, lumberman, and Charles Bliss' uncle.

 So far my classes and I have processed 115 boxes and 14 legal-size folders of his business records, including some personal correspondence. Like other lumber barons, he mixed his personal with his professional papers.

This term I have 21 students in my archives administration class. They are processing a large cartload of Bliss.My class has been processing Bliss for the last three years. Before that we processed another lumberman's papers, Mr. Boughey. His collection was much smaller than the Bliss colleciton.

Here are all the boxes my students are assigned to process.
Each box is partially processed, not refoldered or reboxed yet. Here is what an example box looks like at this stage.
Here is what a student may have to processed in 1 folder. The majority of this box remains to be processed. They better get cracking!


Here is what this student has tentatively decided to withdraw or WD. It is mostly miscellaneous notes, receipts, blanks, and peripheral materials which are not necessary to document the creator (C.S. Bliss). This year, like last year, we are WD'g receipts. We have enough to provide more than a sample in what other classes have processed, and the receipts provide minimal information. At the end of the class we will discuss all the WDs.There will be at least a cubic foot of WDs. Everyone will be much happier about their WDs by that time. They will have gone through all their boxes and realized that the WDs really do not need to be retained, but right now it is still a challenging idea to eliminate some of the collection. That gets easier with experience.

Here is the contents of this student's WD folder so far. Well done.



To date my last three years of classes have processed a total of 115 boxes (these are .5 cubic foot boxes or 57.5 cubic feet total) and 15 legal-size folders of Bliss. Including the boxes my current class is processing there remains 70 cubic feet boxes of Bliss and 265 volumes, about half of which are oversized, yet to process. You can see why we are WDg general receipts.

To learn more about CS Bliss, you can see the catalog record here http://catalog.lib.cmich.edu/search/a?SEARCH=bliss%2C+charles+s&SORT=D
While the finding aids my students have completed are available in paper, hard copy, form in the Clarke reading room, I'm waiting until it is all processed to encode the finding aids.



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