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Guide to the Towne and Bacon Printers Records, 1854-1875 JL010
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  • Primary Sources
  • Unpublished Manuscripts
  • General note
  • Scope and Content
  • Preferred Citation:
  • Provenance
  • Publication Rights
  • Access Restrictions

  • Title: Towne and Bacon Printers Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: JL010
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 43.0 Volumes
    Date (inclusive): 1854-1875
    creator: Towne and Bacon Printers

    Primary Sources

    Two major archival repositories, plus ten unpublished manuscripts were used in researching this dissertation. Very often the publications produced by James Towne were themselves sources of historical information. These are included in the following section devoted to Secondary Sources. Mr. Arthur W. Towne, through personal interviews, was also of great importance in providing recollections of his grandfather, James Weld Towne, and the Excelsior Printing Office.
    Business Records of Towne & Bacon. 43 Vols. Jackson Business Library, Stanford University.
    Although the finding aid for this archival collection was useful during initial research, it soon became apparent that some confusion existed in the numbering system. The confusion was created not by James Towne or his bookkeepers, however, but rather by the person responsible for processing the collection at the Library. Since the finding aid must still be used by anyone using the archive, the assigned volume numbers have been preserved below, but with appropriate annotations and explanations.
    The Towne business records at Stanford University are designated Collection JL 10. Volumes 1 through 12 are “Journals” and will be cited as such in this dissertation. The Journals cover the period from 1 January 1856 through 30 April 1868. Volume 12 also includes information about transactions between James Towne and Bacon & Company after the dissolution of Towne & Bacon. The following table shows the periods covered by the twelve volumes:
    1 Jan 1856 - 31 Apr 1857 Journal Volume 1
    1 May 1857 - 15 Jun 1858 Journal Volume 2
    16 Jun 1858 - 31 Aug 1859 Journal Volume 3
    1 Sep 1859 - 30 Sep 1860 Journal Volume 4
    1 Oct 1860 - 29 Jun 1861 Journal Volume 5
    1 Jul 1861 - 31 Mar 1862 Journal Volume 6
    1 Apr 1862 - 31 Mar 1863 Journal Volume 7
    1 Apr 1863 - 31 Mar 1864 Journal Volume 8
    1 Apr 1864 - 17 Jul 1865 Journal Volume 9
    18 Jul 1865 - 27 Mar 1866 Journal Volume 10
    The entries in Journal Volume 10 from 1 January 1866 through 27 March 1866 duplicate those entries also found in Journal Volume 11. Journal Volume 10 is continued by Daybook Volume 15 (see below), which contains entries for the remainder of 1866.
    1 Jan 1866 - 26 Apr 1867 Journal Volume 11
    The entries in Journal Volume 11 from 28 March 1866 through 31 December 1866 duplicate those entries found in Daybook Volume 15, cited below. It seems that Journal Volume 11 is a later transcription of entries based upon Journal Volume 10 (1 Jan 1866 - 27 Mar 1866) and Daybook Volume 15 (28 Mar 1866 - 31 Dec 1866). Journal Volume 11 was then continued through 26 April 1867.
    27 Apr 1867 - 30 Apr 1868 Journal Volume 12
    The final entries in Journal Volume 12 were made after 1868, when Bacon & Company had replaced Towne & Bacon. Typical entries include transactions between Jacob Bacon and James Towne and between Bacon and James E. Ager, former bookkeeper for Towne & Bacon, who became a partner in Bacon & Company in 1872, in the settlement of accounts that originated before 1868.
    Volumes 13 through 15 are designated “Daybooks”; Volumes 13 and 14 contain the earliest records available for Whitton, Towne & Company and cover the following periods:
    15 Mar 1854 - 30 Dec 1854 Daybook Volume 13
    1 Jan 1855 - 31 Dec 1855 Daybook Volume 14
    Daybook Volume 14 is continued by Journal Volume 1, cited above. A daybook or “wastebook” usually has an integral relationship with a journal. A daybook is the book of original entry, an account of business transactions in the order in which they occur. They are, therefore, maintained in strict chronological order. A journal is a business record in which daybook transactions are condensed and arranged in a form convenient for transferring (or “posting”) to the company ledger with accuracy. Daybook Volume 15, however, is the only Towne daybook that seems to serve this function of original entry:
    Daybook Volume 15 28 Mar 1866 - 31 Dec 1866 Daybook Volume 15 continues Journal Volume 10 and duplicates a large part of Journal Volume 11, which apparently was based upon both Journal Volume 10 and Daybook Volume 15.
    Thus, for most of the period under study, beginning in May 1856, it seems that Towne used journals rather than daybooks as the record of original entry. Although the amounts of information given in journal entries vary, depending upon the nature of the work being done, the press of other business being done in the shop, and the maker of the entry, the journals usually provide the kinds of detailed information typical of a daybook.
    A ledger is a business record arranged by name of account. Facing pages record debits and credits from the point-of-view of the person or firm named in the account. A “credit” of $25 entered for Britton & Rey, for example, means that Britton & Rey had furnished $25 worth of goods or services to James Towne and, therefore, had a $25 credit with the firm. Towne maintained both ledgers and petty ledgers. Ledgers contain major accounts, but not necessarily in alphabetical order or on consecutive pages; an index, however, was usually provided to the contents of each ledger volume. Petty accounts or petty ledgers were kept for less important accounts as determined by the volume of business; they were arranged roughly in alphabetical order by the customer's last name.
    Volumes 29, 31, 32, and 37 through 39 constitute the petty accounts. The general chronological period covered in each volume is indicated below:
    1855 - 1857 Petty Account Volume 29
    1857 - 1859 Petty Account Volume 37
    1860 - 1861 Petty Account Volume 38
    1862 Petty Account Volume 39
    1863 - 1864 Petty Account Volume 31
    1865 - 1868 Petty Account Volume 32
    Volumes 30, 33 through 36, and 40 through 42 constitute the ledgers, which cover the general (and approximate) chronological periods indicated below. Page references found next to ledger entries are cross references from journal entries from which the information was transferred:
    1854 Ledger Volume 33
    1855 Ledger Volumes 34 and 30
    1856 - 1859 Ledger Volume 35
    1860 - 1861 Ledger Volume 36
    1861 - 1863 Ledger Volume 40
    1864 - 1865 Ledger Volume 41
    1866 - 1868 Ledger Volume 42
    Cashbooks are the chronological record of money received and paid out. The arrangement is in debit (Dr.) and credit (Cr.) columns. The debit columns are a daily account of amounts paid to James Towne (that is, another party setting debts with the firm) usually for services rendered and thus recorded to balance an account upon the earlier completion of a printing contract. The credit columns are a daily account of amounts paid by Towne (a credit in favor of the firm) usually for printing supplies, but also for rent, oil, gas, coal, stamps, plus the total amounts paid to workmen. Itemized accounts for workmen are found in the receipt and payroll books, cited below. Cashbook entries that indicate payment for services rendered or printing contracts completed were typically made at a date several days after completion of a job as recorded in the journals. The cross reference and notation “paid” was made next to the appropriate journal entry, often also including the date of the payment.
    The cashbooks were balanced daily, the difference between the debit and credit columns indicating the amount of “cash on hand.” At the close of each business day this amount was placed in a cash drawer for use on the following day; it was entered as the first item in the debit column, which meant that at the end of the day there would invariably be some cash on hand. On Saturdays, however, rather than leaving any cash on the premises over Sunday, thereby risking possible loss through fire or burglary, Towne or one of his partners would either take the cash on hand home, or the money would be deposited in a bank with the notation “on hand and in bank.”
    Volumes 16 through 25 of Collection JL 10 constitute the cashbooks, which cover the approximate chronological periods indicated below:
    2 Jun 1855 - 19 Apr 1856 Cashbook Volume 16
    1 Jan 1855 - 31 Dec 1855 Cashbook Volume 17
    The period covered in Cashbook Volume 17 is duplicated in Cashbook Volume 16. Cashbook Volume 16 is actually continued in Cashbook Volume 18:
    1 May 1856 - 31 Oct 1859 Cashbook Volume 18
    3 May 1856 - 22 Apr 1858 Cashbook Volume 19
    Cashbook Volume 19 is duplicated and continued by Cashbook Volume 18. It seems that Cashbook Volume 18 is the “corrected” version, as items in Volume 19 that are crossed out are not found in Volume 18. Cashbook Volume 18 is in a uniform hand, whereas Volume 19 appears to have been written by several different people.
    1 Nov 1859 - 30 Apr 1861 Cashbook Volume 20
    1 May 1861 - 31 Jul 1862 Cashbook Volume 21
    1 Aug 1862 - 29 Feb 1864 Cashbook Volume 22
    1 Mar 1864 - 19 Apr 1866 Cashbook Volume 23
    20 Apr 1866 - 18 Jan 1868 Cashbook Volume 24
    20 Jan 1868 - 1875 Cashbook Volume 25
    The final cashbook includes entries that conclude transactions begun before 1868 and the dissolution of Towne & Bacon.
    Volumes 26 through 28 (designated “Receipts”) and Volume 43 (designated “Payroll”) record money paid to the compositors, pressmen, and other people working for James Towne. Other money paid out was also noted in these volumes over the signature of the person receiving the payment, although the cashbooks are the complete record of money disbursed. The periods covered in the four volumes are as follows:
    Receipt Volume 26 6 Jan 1855 - 20 Nov 1858 Each page of Volume 26 is headed “Received of Whitton, Towne & Company the several sums set opposite our names in full for services to date.”
    27 Nov 1858 - 10 May 1861 Receipt Volume 27
    18 May 1861 - 30 Sep 1865 Receipt Volume 28
    At several places within Volume 28, brief titles for books being printed by the firm are recorded at the top of a page (for example, “Supreme Court Reports,” “Labatt's Digest,” “Bancroft's Almanac,” etc.); the receipts recorded beneath the brief titles represent wages paid to workmen for specific jobs rather than for the usual unspecified “job printing” and “book printing.”
    Payroll Volume 43 7 Oct 1865 - 29 Mar 1873 Volume 43 contains more complete information than the Receipt volumes for the employees of James Towne, including the number of hours worked during regular time, the rate per day, the number of hours of overtime and the rate paid, the amount paid on account (advance pay), and the total amount due. Each entry is followed by the signature of the employee receiving the payment. Each page of Volume 43 is headed: “Payroll of men employed by Towne & Bacon, for the week ending, _____ 186_____,” with the appropriate date filled in. The highest rate par day was $6.00 paid to Charles G. Towne, the brother of James W. Towne.
    The daybooks, journals, ledgers and petty account books, cashbooks, receipt and payroll books of James Towne form one documentary basis for this dissertation. It is through the journals in particular that a tabulation can be made of the large volume and kinds of printing produced by the Excelsior Printing Office.
    Towne Archives. 3 Vols., plus assorted miscellaneous and scrapbook materials. The Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing, California Historical Society Library.
    The Towne & Bacon letterbooks cover the years as indicated:
    1 Jan 1856 - 3 Jun 1865 Letterbook Volume 1
    4 Jun 1865 - 14 Nov 1866 Letterbook Volume 2
    15 Nov 1866 - 30 Apr 1868+ Letterbook Volume 3
    The final letterbook contains much information about the paper merchandizing firm of Blake, Robbins & Company, including correspondence between Blake and Towne during Blake's business trip to Europe to secure supplies for the firm. For the present study transcriptions were made of letters contained in the first three volumes, covering 1 January 1856 through 30 April 1868, the date when Towne & Bacon was dissolved. The transcriptions are on deposit at the Kemble Collections.
    In addition to the letterbooks, the Towne Archives contain photographs of James Towne, Jacob Bacon, and the Excelsior Printing Office (151 Clay Street); issues of The Oriental, San Francisco Daily Times, and other assorted publications of the firm; examples of miscellaneous job printing; and two scrapbooks containing clippings, most of which relate to Towne's life after his departure from California.

    Unpublished Manuscripts

    Carter, John Denton. “The San Francisco Bulletin, 1855-1865; a Study in the Beginnings of Pacific Coast Journalism.” Ph.D. Thesis, University of california, 1941.
    Doxsee, Ruth. “Book Publishing in San Francisco, 1848 to 1906.” Special Stucy, School of Librarianship, University of California, 1931.
    Elder, Mary L. “Agapius Honcharenko and Cyrillic Printing in San Francisco from 1867 to 1872.” Paper prepared for Librarianship 226C, School of Librarianship, University of California, 1966.

    General note

    JL 10
    James Weld Towne:
    Pioneer Printer, Publisher, and Paper Merchant
    Annotations to
    finding aid
    Bruce Leon Johnson
    A.B. (University of Minnesota) 1967
    M.A. (University of Minnesota) 1969
    M.L.S. (University of California) 1972
    Submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of
    Library and Information Studies
    in the
    OF THE
    Approved: Mosher 16 april 1984
    16 April 1984

    Scope and Content

    These 43 volumes of the Towne and Bacon Printers, cover the years 1854 to 1875, and include journals (1856-1870); daybooks (1854-1866); cash books (1855-1875); receipt books (1855-1865); petty accounts and ledgers (1855-1868); ledgers (1854-1868); and a payroll book (1865-1873).
    Additional printed matter was included with the gift, and has been distributed to the appropriate divisions in the Business School.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] Towne and Bacon Printers Records, JL010, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    Gift of James W. Towne and Arthur W. Towne of Blake, Moffitt and Towne, San Francisco to the Jackson Library of Business, 1940. Transferred to the Department of Special Collections, 1979.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.

    Access Restrictions