Overview of the Collection
Scope and Content
Overview of the Collection
Title: Matt E. Mason Papers
Dates (inclusive): 1874-1919
Collection Number: mssMason papers
Mason, Matt E.
Extent: 78 items in 2 boxes plus one rolled
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Abstract: This collection contains the papers of Matt E. Mason (born 1849)
chronicling his activity in manufacturing between 1874 and 1919
in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Includes diaries and account books
kept between 1874-1882
with entries describing his day-to-day activities and include an account of his search for
better employment opportunities, the type of weather conditions he encountered,
shopping, news of friends, and his expenditures.
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services
Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to
quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such
activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is
one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
[Identification of item]. Matt E. Mason Papers, The Huntington Library, San
Purchased from Michael Brown Rare Books, December 17, 2008.
Matt E. Mason (born 1849) was the son of Norwegian immigrants, Edward and Catherine Mason who moved
to the United States in 1849. According to U.S. census records, Matt was born in April of 1849
in Chicago, Illinois. He was the eldest of five children. He had three brothers and one sister:
Oscar, Simon, Henry, and Mary. Soon after Matt’s birth, the family moved to Leroy, Wisconsin.
In 1874, Matt moved out of the family home in order to improve his job prospects and overcome
some personal restlessness. He took a job as a blacksmith in Waupun, Fond Lac County,
Wisconsin at the Fox Lake Manufacturing Company. Matt left the town in 1875 and traveled
throughout Minnesota working along the way. He made his way back to Wisconsin where he got
a job in Whitewater as a manufacturer of agricultural reapers at Gregory Esterly & Sons. Matt
stayed in the area for three months until he ventured to Iowa. Matt remained in Iowa about two
months working at Hail & Adams before heading back to Minnesota and then finally to the
family home in Wisconsin. In his diaries Matt describes such things as the harsh weather
conditions he faced while traveling, the Norwegian churches he visited in the various towns,
socializing with other young men, and the working conditions he experienced in the various
Matt remained in Whitewater, Wisconsin until 1877 when he received a letter informing him of
employment as a carriage manufacturer in Rushford, Minnesota, a town with a high Norwegian
immigrant population. Matt met and married Carrie, a Norwegian immigrant, in March of 1879.
Shortly after their marriage the two set out for Valley City, Dakota Territory which they reached
on March 25, 1879. The second day after the couple arrived, Matt bought a town lot with the
help of his close friend and land agent B.W. Benson. Soon after, Matt built his store on the land.
By April 1, 1879, his brothers, Simon and Oscar, joined him in Valley City. The Masons and
Bensons had formed a partnership and sold such goods as wagons, plows, harvesters, buggies,
guns, ammunition, clothing, and assorted general goods until Matt was able to buy Benson out of
his share and bring his brothers into the business. The store’s name was then changed to Mason
Mason and his wife had at least four children by 1900, three of which survived past infancy:
Edwin, Clarence, and Milton. By 1910, the U.S. census lists Matt as being retired. He died
sometime between 1920 and 1930.
Scope and Content
The papers in the collection chronicle Matt E. Mason's rise in the business world in the upper Midwest and
span about forty years.
The Diaries series is arranged chronologically and consists of holographic account books and
diaries kept by Mason between the years 1874-1882. The entries are written during
Mason’s time in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. The entries describe his day-to-day
activities and include an account of his search for better employment opportunities, the type of
weather conditions he encountered, shopping, news of friends, and his expenditures.
The Legal Documents series is arranged alphabetically and includes such items as financial
records, checks written and received by Mason, indentures relating to the purchasing and selling
of land, and receipts/agreements made by Mason and the Gregory, Jennison & Company.
The Photographs series (ca. 1900s) is arranged alphabetically and includes images of what
appears to be the Mason Bros. store, both inside and outside, a picture of men working in a field
presumably plowing for wheat, the Sumner & Morse Carriage factory, the Valley City Cornet
Band, and two photographs of unidentified men.
The Oversize series contains one rolled item, the military commission issued to Edwin K. Mason
(Matt’s son) for First Lieutenant of the North Dakota National Guard. The document is dated
January 14, 1915 and is signed by North Dakota’s Governor, L.B. Hanna.
The papers are arranged in the following series: 1. Diaries (Box 1); 2. Legal
Documents (Box 1); 3. Photographs (Box 2); 4. Oversize.
Mason, Matt E. --
Agriculture -- Middle West -- History --
Blacksmiths -- Middle West -- History
General stores -- Middle West --
History -- Sources.
Iowa -- Description and
Minnesota -- Description and
Wisconsin -- Description and
Valley City (N.D.)
Deeds -- Middle West.
Diaries -- Middle West.
Financial Records -- Middle West.
Indentures -- Middle West.
Personal Papers -- Middle West.
Photographs -- Middle West.
Fox Lake Manufactoring Company.
Gregory Esterly & Sons.
Gregory, Jennison & Company.
Mason Bros. Store.