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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:49 1815-1990 D411

Dennison Manufacturing Company records

Records of the Dennison Manufacturing Company, 1815-1990, a Framingham, Mass. based paper products manufacturer include materials that document the financial, administrative and corporate arms of the company.


  • 1815-1990

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


258 linear feet (62 volumes, 425 boxes)

The Dennison Manufacturing Company records document the company's history as a prominent paper goods manufacturer during the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection documents the numerous company departments and includes records such as corporate subject files, manufacturing and works, marketing and sales, financial, research and development, human resources and foreign offices from 1815 to 1990, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1900 to 1950. Also included are records pertaining to Henry Sturgis Dennison, president of the company from 1917 to his death in 1952. Records pertaining to Dennison include his work for the firm and his outside activities and relationships with the National Industrial Conference, United States Coal Commission, Prohibition Committee, and the Manufacturers Research Association. Dennison was very interested in industrial labor relations and scientific management theories and instituted numerous changes that benefitted his employees including an unemployment fund and profit sharing programs. These programs and their creation and implementation are well documented in the collection.

The collection is organized in to seven series: Corporate records, Manufacturing and Works records, Marketing records, Financial records, Research records, Office Service Department records and Foreign Office records. The organization of the collection roughly follows the structural organization of the company. While the inclusive dates of the collection range rom 1815 to 1990, the bulk of the materials date from circa 1900 to 1970.

Historical Note:

The Dennison Manufacturing Company was a manufacturer of consumer paper products such as tags, labels, wrapping paper, crepe paper and greeting cards. The company was founded by Aaron L. Dennison and his father Andrew Dennison in Brunswick, Maine in 1844. Aaron Dennison, who was working in the Boston in the jewelry business, believed he could produce a better paper box than the imported boxes then on the market. The Dennison's first produced boxes made to house jewelry and watches. Aaron Dennison sold the boxes at his store in Boston, beginning in 1850 and in New York starting in 1854. After early business success, Aaron Dennison retired and yielded control of the company to his brother E.W. Dennison.

The mid to late 19th century saw numerous products introduced by E. W. Dennison, who improved the product so that it became the best and most sought after on the market and under the Dennison name. In order to grow the business, Dennison needed to mechanize the box making process. Dennison introduced the box machine to meet the growing demand of jewelers and watch makers, who began ordering large numbers of boxes. Until the introduction of the box machine, the boxes were still being made one at a time, by hand. The machine mechanized and sped up the box-making process. The company continued to expand, and a larger, centrally located factory was needed. Dennison chose Boston, Mass., as the site of the new factory in order to be close to the city's retail store.

In 1854, Dennison introduced card stock to hold jewelry and jewelry tags. Dennison's tags became wildy popular and the business began to expand rapidly, from the jewelry industry to textile manufacturers and retail merchants. E.W. Dennison noticed a deficiency in the quality of shipping tags and patented a paper washer that reinforced the hole in the tag. Sales of tags hit ten million in the first year. Stationery gummed labels were introduced just after the end of the Civil War. These labels had an adhesive on the back side and were manufactured to stick on boxes, crates or bags. The tag business alone required E.W. Dennison to move his factory in order to fulfill demand. The boxes, shipping tags, merchandise tags, labels and jeweler's cards were moved to the new factory in Roxbury in 1878. That same year the company was officially incorporated as the Dennison Manufacturing Company.

In just over thirty years, the company grew from a small jewelry box maker to a large manufacturer of paper products under the direction of E.W. Dennison and his partner and treasurer Albert Metcalf. Dennison died in 1886 and his son, Henry B. Dennison succeeded him as president of the company. Henry B. Dennison had worked for the company for many years, having opened the Chicago store in 1868 and served as superintendent of the factories since 1869. Henry B. Dennison served as president of the company for only six years and resigned due to poor health in 1892. Henry K. Dyer was then elected president, and under his direction the company consolidated its many factories and operations. In 1897, the Dennison Manufacturing Company purchased the Para Rubber Company plant located on the railroad line in Framingham, Mass. The box division was transferred from Brunswick, Maine; the wax and crepe paper operations from the Brooklyn, NY factory; and the labels and tags from the Roxbury plant. The move was complete in 1898 and the factory was up and running. The factory was divided into five manufacturing divisions: first, the jewelry line, which included boxes, cases, display trays; second, the consumers' line of shipping tags, gummed labels, baggage check and specialty paper items; third, the dealers' line which included all stock products sold to dealers and some consumers; fourth, the crepe paper line; and fifth, the holiday line. Also located at the Framingham plant were financial offices, advertising and marketing departments, sales division and director's offices. Although the company was divided into divisions, all aspects of the company worked together in unison to plan and execute the production, marketing, and sale of a product. The Dennison Mfg. Co. planned well in advance of any sale by conducting market research, reviewing past statistics and gauging future interest in products.

Henry Sturgis Dennison, grandson of the founder, began working for the family business after graduating from Harvard in 1899. He held various jobs at the company including foreman of the wax department and in the factory office. He was promoted to works-manager in 1906, director in 1909 and treasurer in 1912. In 1917, H.S. Dennison was elected president of the company. While serving as president of the company, H.S. Dennison oversaw the international expansion of the firm, consolidation and streamlining of certain processes and procedures, reduction in working hours, implementation of employee profit sharing plans, an unemployment fund and the creation of company wellness facilities. H.S. Dennison was heavily focused on getting the highest quality work out of each of his employees and eagerly sought their advice and suggestions for improving working conditions and manufacturing processes. He employed market analysis and research when venturing into a new sales territory or rolling out a new product. His focus on industrial management led him to be a prolific writer, speaker, and expert advisor on the topic. Outside of his management of the company, he served as an advisor to the administrations of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and lectured at Harvard Business School. Henry Sturgis Dennison served as president of the Dennison Manufacturing Company until his death in 1952.

Dennison's long time director of research and vice president, John S. Keir, was elected to succeed him in 1952. Keir only served for a short time, and continued running the company the way Dennison would have. After World War II, an emphasis was placed on manufacturing products that appealed to women, especially housewives. New products included photo corners, picture hangers, stationery, scotch tape, diaper liners and school supply materials for children. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Dennison Manufacturing Company began actively researching new products and proposed acquiring small, competing office product companies with new technologies. This effort was undertaken by president Nelson S. Gifford in order to diversify Dennison's product line, maximize profits for shareholders, and keep the company fresh. In 1975, Dennison acquired the Carter's Ink Company, a Boston, Mass. based manufacturer of ink and writing utensils. This acquisition and others broadened Dennison's product line as the company moved away from paper manufacture to a manufacturer of all office products.

Dennison Manufacturing Company merged with Avery Products in 1990 to become, Avery-Dennison, a global manufacturer of pressure sensitive adhesive labels and packaging materials solutions.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:
  1. Series I. Corporate records, 1815-1990
  2. ___Subseries IA. Central subject files, 1878-1988
  3. ___Subseries IB. Board of Directors records, 1878-1990
  4. ___Subseries IC. Henry S. Dennison records, 1896-1958
  5. ___Subseries ID. Nelson S. Gifford records, 1928-1978
  6. ___Subseries IE. Phillip B. Hamilton records, 1970-1974
  7. ___Subseries IF. Correspondence, 1815-1953
  8. ___Subseries IG. Carter's Ink records, 1958-1974
  9. Series II. Manufacturing and Works records, 1901-1980
  10. ___Subseries IIA. Works Committee records, 1901-1962
  11. ___Subseries IIB. Merchandise Committee reports, 1906-1973
  12. ___Subseries IIC. Order Handling, 1905-1980
  13. ___Subseries IID. Factory and Warehousing, 1907-1965
  14. Series III. Marketing records, 1875-1969
  15. ___Subseries IIIA. Sales records, 1875-1931
  16. ___Subseries IIIB. Advertising and Sales Promotion records, 1900-1969
  17. ___Subseries IIIC. Records of Retail Stores, 1875-1953
  18. ___Subseries IIID. Records of Sales Territories, 1907-1939
  19. ___Subseries IIIE. Market Research, Planning and Pricing records, 1903-1967
  20. ___Subseries IIIF. Correspondence, 1908-1932
  21. Series IV. Financial records, 1879-1982
  22. ___Subseries IVA. Treasurer's records and Budget office, 1879-1982
  23. ___Subseries IVB. Central Accounting and Controller's records, 1928-1978
  24. ___Subseries IVC. Statistical records, 1899-1962
  25. ___Subseries IVD. Purchasing Department records, 1908-1965
  26. Series V. Research records, 1909-1972
  27. ___Subseries VA. John S. Keir records, 1924-1959
  28. ___Subseries VB. Research and Development records and reports, 1909-1972
  29. Series VI. Office Service Department records, 1901-1967
  30. Series VII. Foreign Office records, 1896-1987
  31. ___Subseries VIIA. London Office records, 1896-1968
  32. ___Subseries VIIB. Berlin Office records, 1913-1929
  33. ___Subseries VIIC. International Office records, 1915-1987


Gift of Avery-Dennison Corporation, 2013.

Related Materials:

See also the Henry Sturgis Dennison papers, which contain personal correspondence, speeches, and writings of the Dennison Manufacturing Company president on various topics relating to industrial management.

See also the Manufacturers Research Association records.

Processing Information

Processed: July 2014

By: Benjamin Johnson
Processing Information: The collection was assessed on site at the former Dennison Manufacturing Company complex in Framingham, Mass. Distinct record groups such as the Central Subject files, Board of Directors, specific company employees, and the foreign office material were kept in original order. Other records in the collection were reunited to make the material more intellectually accessible and discoverable to researchers. The Committee and Misc. Division reports are one example. Original folder titles were transcribed when materials were rehoused in new acid-free folders.
Link to catalog
Dennison Manufacturing Company. Dennison Manufacturing Company Records, 1815-1990: A Finding Aid
Baker Library

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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