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Special Collections: Guide to the C.A. Donnell Company Records

Arranged and described by Hansie Grignon; edited by Brenda Howitson Steeves

August 2010

Introduction and Summary Information

Collection title: C.A. Donnell Company Records
Collection number: MS 1634
Dates of collection: 1846-1896 (inclusive)
Size of collection: 3 record cartons
Provenance: Purchased from Charles Apfelbaum Rare Manuscripts & Archives in 1999
Restrictions on access and use: Kept at Fogler Library's offsite storage facility. One week's notice required for retrieval.


The C.A. Donnell Company of Portland, Maine, founded circa 1837, was a brass manufacturer catering to the shipping trade. An entry in the Portland directory for 1875 indicates that it made “ships’ composition castings of every description, ships’ main, bilge and head pumps, house pumps, lead pipe and sheet lead, sheet brass and brass wire air ports, water closets, ships’ binnacles, force pumps and bells, copper weather vanes, ale and beer pumps, house, ship and steamboat plumbing.” The company first set up shop at 112 Fore Street but soon moved to 118 Fore Street. The foundry was destroyed by fire in 1863 and was rebuilt on the same site. In 1882 the C.A. Donnell Company moved to 320 Fore Street. Little is known of Charles A. Donnell himself. He lived at 209 Cumberland Street in the 1850s, then at 14 Elm Street and moved to 12 Charles Street in 1882. The brass foundry business brought in $30,000 in 1869 and seems to have been a flourishing concern.

In November, 1886, the company became Knight Bros., brass founders, plumbers and coppersmiths, owned by Algernon and William H. Knight, both of Falmouth, Maine.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains both incoming and outgoing correspondence and receipts for company purchases from the years 1846 to 1896. The receipts reflect business with metal workers, foundries, metal dealers, provisioners, veterinarians, hardware manufacturers, government agencies, charitable institutions and local lodges. Most correspondents are from Maine or nearby areas in New England. Also included is a document concerning an equity case between Charles R. Thomas and Virgil D. Kimball, brought before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 1882-1883. A pamphlet describing the “Pure Water Loomis Improved Filter” rounds out the collection.

Box List

Box 1


1-32 Incoming correspondence, 1861, 1863, 1865-1879, 1881-1882, 1885, 1887-1896

33-35 Outgoing correspondence, April 1878-October 1879

36-46 Receipts (items purchased by C.A. Donnell), 1846, 1853-1861

Box 2


1-15 Receipts (items purchased by C.A. Donnell), 1862-1876

Box 3


1-21 Receipts (items purchased by C.A. Donnell and by Knight Bros.), 1877-1896

22-23 Papers concerning the Supreme Judicial Court Equity case, Charles R. Thomas vs. Virgil D. Kimball, March 1882-July 1883

24 Pamphlet, “Pure Water Loomis Improved Filter”

Finding Aids for selected manuscript collections in the Special Collections Department at Fogler Library are accessible online in URSUS, in a browsable Guide to Manuscript Collections. Please contact Special Collections at or (207) 581-1686 for further information.

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Special Collections Staff: | Revised: 03/17/2015
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