F. S. Royster Mercantile Company, Inc., Records

1888-1968
Manuscript Collection #507
Creator(s)
F.S. Royster Mercantile Company
Physical description
13.57 Cubic Feet, 14,656 items , consisting of correspondence, legal records, financial records, reports, and photographs.
Preferred Citation
F. S. Royster Mercantile Company, Inc., Records (#507), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Repository
ECU Manuscript Collection
Access
No restrictions

Records (1888-1968) including correspondence, legal records, reports, photographs.


Biographical/historical information

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.


Scope and arrangement

The administrative correspondence between the mercantile company and the Norfolk office (1914–1968) is arranged chronologically. The bulk of this correspondence is pre-1940 and includes some correspondence with major suppliers and mercantile company distributors.

The mercantile company's alphabetical subject file (1892–1957) is primarily post-1940 and concerns specific interests and activities of the Tarboro office.

The papers related to N.C. Royster companies (1919–1965) includes companies that the mercantile company dealt closely with either in a supervisory fashion or in a mutual supplier relationship. Also included are personal files for L. D. Hargrove, secretary of the mercantile company; C. A. Johnson; and the records of the Tarboro Merchant's Association.

The mercantile company's customer records are arranged alphabetically (1895–1961). This includes records of individual farmers, suppliers, and distributors. These papers are more specific to the mercantile company's daily activities even though to some extent distributors and suppliers also appear in the administrative correspondence.

The financial records include correspondence (1893–1968); financial topics arranged alphabetically; and 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 (12 November 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 (19, 21 February 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. 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 (1930–1937, 1943–1951) includes notices and a Weekly Bulletin which lists deeds, liens, chattels, and notes for Edgecombe County.


Administrative information
Custodial History

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.

Source of acquisition

Gift of F. S. Royster Mercantile Company and the Town of Tarboro

Gift of Mr. Kenneth N. Carter

Processing information

Processed by M. Boccaccio, January 1988

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.


Key terms
Corporate Names
F.S. Royster Mercantile Company
Royster Guano Company
Topical
Agriculture--Economic aspects--North Carolina--Tarboro
Places
Edgecombe County (N.C.)--Commerce
Edgecombe County (N.C.)--Economic conditions--20th century
Fertilizer industry--North Carolina--Tarboro

Container list
Box 1 Administrative Correspondence, 1914-1924
Box 2 Administrative Correspondence, 1925-1929
Box 3 Administrative Correspondence, 1930-1933
Box 4 Administrative Correspondence, 1933-1936
Box 5 Administrative Correspondence, 1936-1940
Box 6 Administrative Correspondence, 1941-1945
Box 7 Administrative Correspondence, 1946-1968
Box 8 Administrative Correspondence, 1961-1968; Correspondence, F. S. Royster, Jr., 1928-1941; Correspondence, W. S. Royster, 1928-1941. Mercantile Company, Alphabetical Subject File: Cotton Account, 1920-1923; Cotton, 1956-1958; Cotton Classification Sheets, 1950; Cotton Statistics, 1928-1963; Diary, 1965; Fertilizer Correspondence, 1955-1965; First National Bank of Richmond, 1920-1922
Box 9 Mercantile Company, Alphabetical Subject File: History; Insecticides, Cotton; Legal Documents, 1892-1953; Market Quotations, 1920-1924; A. H. McNair, 1950; Miscellaneous; Miscellaneous Agriculture Catalogs
Box 10 Mercantile Company, Alphabetical Subject File: NH3 Operators, 1955-1962; National Fertilizer Association, 1942-1946; Nitrogen Tank, 1961-1962
Box 11 Mercantile Company, Alphabetical Subject File: Office of Price Administration, 1942-1944; N.C. Unemployment Compensation, 1940-1945; Price Lists, 1927; Register of Deeds, 1925-1951; Sales Department, 1954-1960; S. F. Thornton--Soil Tests, 1956-1957; Tobacco; U.S./N.C. Dept. of Agriculture, 1920-1957; U.S./N.C. Dept. of Agriculture, Printed Matter
Box 12 Mercantile Company, Alphabetical Subject File: U.S.D.A., Printed Matter; War Production Board, 1942-1943; War Food Administration, 1943-1945; Warehouse, 1965. Mercantile Company, Related N.C. Royster Companies: Atlantic Chemical Company, 1922; Consumers Cotton Oil Company, 1919-1939
Box 13 Mercantile Company, Related N.C. Royster Companies: Cotton Belt Land Co., 1933-1943; Farmers Supply and Gin Co., 1937-1950; Royster Ginning Co., 1920-1946; Tarboro Ginning Co., 1927-1965
Box 14 Mercantile Company, Related N.C. Royster Companies: Tarboro Ginning Co., 1927-1965; L. D. Hargrove, 1925-1932; C. A. Johnson, 1926-1928; Tarboro Merchant's Association, 1930-1948
Box 15 Mercantile Company, Related N.C. Royster Companies: Tarboro Merchant's Association, Weekly Bulletin, 1936-1937, 1943, 1945-1946, 1949-1951; Photographs
Box 16 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: A–B
Box 17 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: B–C
Box 18 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: C–D
Box 19 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: Dixie Jute Bagging Co., 1923-1957–Theodore G. Empie, 1920-1922
Box 20 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: F–Franklin Sugar Refining Co., 1920-1928
Box 21 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: G–George A. Holderness, 1920-1938
Box 22 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: I–Lyon and Greenleaf Co., 1942-1945
Box 23 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: M–National Cotton Council, 1938-1941
Box 24 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: National Fertilizer Association, 1940-1941
Box 25 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: P–A. M. Pullen Co., 1922-1926
Box 26 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: A. M. Pullen Co., 1927-1936 -Smith Douglas Co., 1923-1932
Box 27 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: Charles M. Struvent Co., 1920-1932 -Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corp., 1924-1943
Box 28 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: W–Z. Financial Records, Financial Correspondence, 1893-1931
Box 29 Financial Records, Financial Correspondence, 1932-1968
Box 30 Financial Records, Financial Topics: Audits, 1920-1966; Collections, 1923-1964
Box 31 Financial Records, Financial Topics: Collections, 1950; Credit Department, 1956-1964; Crop Liens, 1948-1958
Box 32 Financial Records, Financial Topics: Crop Liens, 1959-1960; Federal Crop Insurance Corp., 1957; Insurance, 1920-1965; Journal Entries, 1931-1934; Miscellaneous Financial Information, 1888-1920
Box 33 Financial Records, Financial Topics: North Carolina Bank and Trust, 1931-1934; Taxes, 1919-1965; Trial Balance, 1936-1967
Box 34 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co., 1921-1924, 1958-1967; Tarboro Ginning Co. Trial Balance, 1936-1937; Cotton Book, 1932; Cotton Storage Book, 1931 (1930-1933); Mill Offices, 1908-1909; Consumers Cotton Oil Company—Architectural Survey, 1919
Box 35 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co., 1925
Box 36 Financial Records, Ledgers: Consumers Cotton Oil Co. Architectural Program, 1919
Box 37 Financial Records, Ledgers: Consumers Cotton Oil Co. Cash Book, 1916-1929
Box 38 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Daybook, 1919-1922
Box 39 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co., 1929-1932
Box 40 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Cash Book, 1922-1923
Box 41 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Cash Book, 1926-1929
Box 42 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Cash Book, 1934-1938
Box 43 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Cash Book, 1943-1949
Box 44 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Trial Balance, 1941-1947
Box 45 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Journal, 1919-1921
Box 46 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Journal, 1922-1933
Box 47 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Journal, 1933-1946
Box 48 Financial Records, Ledgers: Tarboro Ginning Co. Journal, 1925-1928
Box 49 Financial Records, Ledgers: Index to Materials Arrival, 1909-1917
Box 50 Financial Records, Ledgers: Materials Arrival, 1909-1917
Box 51 Financial Records, Ledgers: Index to Ledger, 1900-1906
Box 52 Financial Records, Ledgers: Ledger, 1900-1906
Box 53 Financial Records, Ledgers: Index to Ledger, 1912-1919
Box 54 Financial Records, Ledgers: Ledger, 1912-1919
Box 55 Financial Records, Ledgers: Ledger, 1902-1917
Box 56 Financial Records, Ledgers: Ledger, 1940
Box 57 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal, 1900-1921
Box 58 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal, 1922-1931
Box 59 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal, 1939-1942
Box 60 Financial Records, Ledgers: Guano Account, 1936
Box 61 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal- Guano Account, 1944-1946
Box 62 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal- Guano Account, 1946-1947
Box 63 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal- Guano Account, 1950
Box 64 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal- Guano Account, 1951
Box 65 Financial Records, Ledgers: Journal, 1962-1963
Box 66 Financial Records, Ledgers: Trial Balance, 1915-1921
Box 67 Financial Records, Ledgers: Trial Balance, 1922-1929
Box 68 Financial Records, Ledgers: Trial Balance, 1934-1935
Box 69 Financial Records, Ledgers: Trial Balance, 1936-1937
Box 70 Financial Records, Ledgers: Trial Balance, 1938-1939
Box 71 Financial Records, Ledgers: Trial Balance, 1940-1941
Box 72 Financial Records, Ledgers: Trial Balance, 1963-1968
Box 73 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1913-1915
Box 74 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1917-1919
Box 75 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1923-1925
Box 76 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1915-1921
Box 77 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1919-1921
Box 78 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1931-1932
Box 79 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1932-1934
Box 79a Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1934-1935
Box 80 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1935-1936
Box 81 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1937-1939
Box 82 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1940-1941
Box 83 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1941-1942
Box 84 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1942-1944
Box 85 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1947-1948
Box 86 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1948-1949
Box 87 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1949-1950
Box 88 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book, 1956-1959
Box 89 Financial Records, Ledgers: Cash Book--Guano Sales, 1960-1962
Box 90 Financial Records, Ledgers: Insurance Register, 1909-1911
Box 91 Financial Records, Ledgers: Crop Liens, 1934
Box 92 Financial Records, Ledgers: Crop Liens, 1938
Box 93 Financial Records, Ledgers: Physicians Ledger, 1919-1922
Box 94 Financial Records, Ledgers: Peanut Book, 1931-1933; Crop Liens, 1932-1936
Box 95 Financial Records, Ledgers: Crop Liens, 1937-1944. Journal, 1922-1925; Miscellaneous Correspondence List; Physicians Ledger, 1924-1925
Box 96 Administrative Correspondence, 1934-1962. Mercantile Company, Alphabetical Subject File: U.S./N.C. Department of Agriculture, printed matter; Tarboro Merchants' Association, weekly bulletin, 1944. Mercantile Company, Related N.C. Royster Companies: Cotton Belt Land Co., 1937-1941. Mercantile Company, Customer Records: Bone Dry Fertilizer Co., 1936-1947
Box 97 Mercantile Company, Customer Records: Chas. W. Priddy and Co., 1921-1936. Financial Records, Financial Topics: Insurance, 1937-1941; Crop Liens, 1947, 1949