|Title:||F. S. Royster Mercantile Company, Inc., Records|
|Creator:||F.S. Royster Mercantile Company|
|Repository:||ECU Manuscript Collection|
|Abstract:||Records (1888-1968) including correspondence, legal records, reports, photographs.|
|Extent:||13.57 Cubic feet, 14,656 items , consisting of correspondence, legal records, financial records, reports, and photographs.|
March 17, 1986, 24 cubic feet; Records (1900-1967) of a Tarboro, N.C., company including correspondence, reports, and financial records reflecting business interests in fertilizer, cotton, tobacco, and other agricultural areas. Gift of F. S. Royster Mercantile Company and the Town of Tarboro, Tarboro, N.C.
June 7, 2010, (unprocessed addition 1), 1 items, 0.01 cubic feet; Royster, F. S., President, F. S. Royster Guano Company, Norfolk, Virginia (7 March 1913) Letter to Mr. Pettie Shaffer, Sandy Ridge, N.C., discussing the history of the company and his philosophy for success in the fertilizer business, 1885-1913; also attaching a booklet (missing) of letters from satisfied customers. TLS. Laminated. See preliminary inventory. Donor: Kenneth N. Carter.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
F. S. Royster Mercantile Company, Inc., Records (#507), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Processed by M. Boccaccio, January 1988
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Established in 1885 in Tarboro, N.C., by F. S. Royster, the Royster Mercantile Company began as a general store, buying and selling produce, seed, farm implements, machinery and other items as well as fertilizer. In 1897 Royster moved his headquarters to Norfolk, Va., and expanded to become the Royster Guano Company with subsidiary and affiliated companies like the mercantile company. Clarence A. Johnson succeeded Royster as manager of the Tarboro company and was also president of the Tarboro Ginning Company, a separate but affiliated operation. Johnson and the mercantile company also had close working relationships with other Royster affiliates in the state: the Consumers Cotton Oil Company, the Cotton Belt Land Company, the Farmers Supply and Gin Company, and the Royster Ginning Company. By the early 1920s the mercantile company was withdrawing from the general store operations and specializing in fertilizer and associated crop requirements from seed to sale. W. Rand Martin became manager in 1945 after Johnson's death and sat on the boards of several of the small North Carolina Royster subsidiary companies.
The collection is arranged in three series:
Series 1 - Administrative Correspondence
Chronological correspondence between the mercantile company and the Norfolk office (1914-1968). The bulk of this correspondence is pre-1940 and includes some correspondence with major suppliers and mercantile company distributors.
Series 2 - Mercantile Company
Subseries 1 - Alphabetical subject file (1892-1957). The bulk of this material is post-1940 and concerns specific interests and activities of the Tarboro office.
Subseries 2 - Related N.C. Royster companies (1919-1965). The mercantile company dealt closely with these companies either in a supervisory fashion or in a mutual supplier relationship. Alsoincluded are personal files for L. D. Hargrove, secretary of the mercantile company; C. A. Johnson; and the records of the Tarboro Merchant's Association.
Subseries 3 - Customer records arranged alphabetically (1895-1961). This subseries includes records of individual farmers, suppliers, and distributors. This subseries is more specific to the mercantile company's daily activities even though to some extent distributors and suppliers also appear in Series 1.
Series 3 - Financial Records
Subseries 1 - Financial correspondence (1893-1968).
Subseries 2 - Financial topics, alphabetical.
Subseries 3 - Ledgers
Economic topics are the major points of discussion in the collection. Correspondence with dealers throughout indicates both price of goods according to availability and also market ups and downs for specific goods handled. Economic conditions were monitored steadily by the Norfolk office which repeatedly urged the mercantile company to collect on their accounts, watch their customers' ability to pay off their notes, and not become overextended themselves. In lean years the mercantile company was encouraged to cut expenses on futures (Nov. 12, 1920). In 1932, E. O. Burroughs was sent from the main office to Bethel, N.C., to help coordinate collections. There was a constant interchange of correspondence between Johnson and C. F. Burroughs in Norfolk, assuring that company policy be maintained and that the main office understood the local situation. They discussed economic philosophy (February 1921) and the possibility of using co-ops as distributors of fertilizers (February 19, 21, 1923). Fertilizer-related bills in the Legislature were closely watched (1921, 1923, 1937) as were bills concerning the Federal Intermediate Credit Banks (1931) and the 1934 $.12 government loans on cotton (1936) in the depression years. Johnson had been president of the Farmer's Banking and Trust Company and was able to provide local economic information to the Norfolk office.
All aspects of the business relationships between the main office, the mercantile company, and local subsidiary companies are reflected in Series 1 and Series 3. The mercantile company capital stock was increased in 1920 and dividends were regularly declared except during the early depression years. Monthly funds for the Tarboro office expenses were sent from Norfolk and procedures for ordering, shipping, accounting, and contracting were worked out and refined. Bookkeeping for several of the subsidiary companies was done by the mercantile company and was then reported to the Norfolk office. Accounting practices were decided in Norfolk and then kept by the associated companies.
World War I is reflected mainly in the war tax that was applied to goods shipped (1917, 1918). A broadside from the National War Savings Committee (1918) concerns pledges to purchase war stamps and correspondence discusses Victory Bonds (1920). World War II is reflected as an agricultural war effort in mimeographed regulations fromthe Office of Price Administration (1941-1942), the War Production Board (1942-1943), and the War Food Administration (1943-1945).
Adverse weather conditions including hail, rain, drought, and flooding are reported in correspondence to the Norfolk office (1919, 1920, 1924), as is money paid by insurance companies for crop damage (1942-1946). Insurance is noted in the crop lien books of individual accounts for each farmer (1932-1944, 1948-1960).
Concern for scientific agriculture appears with the use of special formula fertilizers (1920), the employment of a former N.C.D.A. specialist in pesticides to speak at farmers' meetings (1923), and the employment of a chemist (1926). Napthalene was used in 1933, corn test plots were encouraged in 1939, anhydrous ammonia (NH3) was begun in 1955, and in 1961 a nitrogen tank was close to operation. From the mid-1930s the mercantile company joined various agricultural organizations such as the National Cottonseed Products Association, the N.C. Ginners Association, the National Fertilizer Association, and the National Cotton Council to keep current.
A personal file for L. D. Hargrove concerns his family's landholdings in Kinston, N.C. Also included are two of his father's medical ledgers (1919-1925) related to his practice in Kinston. A personal file for C. A. Johnson reflects his activity as president of the Farmer's Banking and Trust Company in Tarboro, N.C. As president of the bank, Johnson was involved in school board arbitration, funding bonds for Edgecombe County, and the town of Tarboro Sinking Fund (1927).
Information on the Tarboro Merchant's Association (1930-37, 1943-51) includes notices and a Weekly Bulletin which lists deeds, liens, chattels, and notes for Edgecombe County.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Reading Room's card catalog. This system is no longer maintained, but it is left in place to help on-site researchers locate particular topics in the collection.
Images below are listed alphabetically by subject. This list reflects only those portions of the collection for which negatives have been prepared.AGRICULTURE--Fertilizer
Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.