The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation
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S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company Records, 1791-1970 (bulk 1870-1965).

INVENTOR NAME: White, Samuel Stockton

Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630

148 linear ft.
Samuel Stockton White (1822-1879) was a Philadelphia dentist who in the mid 1840s began manufacturing porcelain teeth using feldspar. White gradually abandoned his practice for the manufacture of teeth, dental instruments and supplies. His porcelain teeth won the highest award at the Crystal Palace Exposition in London in 1851 and again at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876.

By the mid nineteenth century the S.S. White Company had become the largest manufacturer of dental instruments in the world. Branch offices for the sale of the firm's products were opened in New York (1846), Boston (1850), Brooklyn (1852), Chicago (1858), Atlanta (1891), Rochester (1897), New Orleans, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Peoria, and Omaha. Branches were established abroad in Berlin (1897), St. Petersburg (1899), Toronto, London, Paris, Japan, and Australia.

In 1881 the firm was incorporated, changing its name from the S.S. White Co. to the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Co. The extensive plant of Johnston Bros., on Staten Island, New York, was acquired; it produced a large portion of the products marketed by the firm. The manufacture of teeth was discontinued in 1937. This company was the first to produce the all-metal dental chair, a flexible shaft engine, certain filling products, and precision steel instruments. It published the pioneering periodical, THE DENTAL COSMOS, from 1859 to 1936. The company was merged into the Pennwalt Corporation in 1970.

The records of the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company are relatively complete. The greater part of the collection is concerned with patents, since the company maintained its competitive edge by constant improvement and innovation and was thus dependent upon patent protection. Administrative records include acts of incorporation, bylaws and amendments, minutes of stockholder meetings and biographies of James W. White (president 1881-1891) and S.S. White, Jr. (president 1912-1915). There are also papers relating to the subsidiary F.W. Stewart Corp. and to the estate of J. Clarence White.

Accounts include general ledgers, ledgers from foreign branch offices, records of patent royalties, balance sheets, sales records, and sales statistics. There are six boxes of employee records and personnel cards, ca. 1910-1955. Correspondence and patent records include letters from dentists seeking to interest S.S. White in their inventions and reports on inventions and improvements in dental instruments and equipment. Also included is correspondence relating to marketing and sales, patent assignments, agreements, infringements, and trademarks. Patent application and invention files document the development of dental equipment (instruments, chairs, appliances), cements, fillings, amalgams, and alloys; dental machinery (engines, vulcanizers, sterilizers); impression trays, mouth mirrors, gas administering apparatus; cleansers, absorbents; articulators; dentimeters, inhalers; tooth powders; dental plates; work benches; tool charts and dental card record forms; mouth illuminators; jaw props; removable bridges; teeth separators; matrix retainers; and other equipment. This apparatus and equipment is depicted in photographs and trade catalogs.

Patent notebooks include records from the Patents & Projects Department, containing records of changes in products, new products, discontinuance of manufacture, disposition of patents, trademarks and designs. There are also price lists and an article on the use of electricity in dentistry. The legal papers are primarily concerned with patent infringement suits. The printed items include product information and patent and trademark descriptions of dental equipment made by the company and its competitors.

S. S. White's personal papers include some record of an 1872 partnership between White and Elisha Gray to develop a system of electro-harmonic telegraphy, including agreements between White, Gray, Thomas Edison and printed patents concerning the telephone and telegraph inventions of Gray, Alexander Graham Bell and others.

The miscellany includes catalogues and imprints as well as scattered issues of THE DENTAL COSMOS.

SUBJECTS:  Medicine, health, & life sciencesToys
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