Kistler family tannery records

Collection 3631

(0.5 Linear feet ; 1 box, 4 volumes)

Summary Information

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Kistler family tannery records
Date [inclusive]
0.5 Linear feet ; 1 box, 4 volumes
Finding aid prepared by Weckea Dejura Lilly.
The Kistler family had a long history in the tannery business in Lehigh and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania. They were quite knowledgable in business, the leather markets worldwide, and the tanning process itself. While all of the family who engaged in the business were successful, the most notable were Stephen Kistler and his son, Charles. The collection consists of the account records recorded primarily during Charles Kistler's reign over the family practice from the late 1860s to the early 1890s.

Preferred citation

[Indicate cited item or series here], Kistler family tannery records (Collection 3631), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

In Pennsylvania, the tanning industry was a very profitable business for much of the ninteenth century, particularly in areas such as Monroe and Lehigh counties in the eastern part of the state. Among the families that benefited from it were the Kistlers. George Kistler arrived in Lehigh County and worked in a tanning mill in Fennersville (later Sciota), Pennsylvania, which he later acquired from owner Henry Fenner. The highly succesful mill would then be handed down through the family in subsequent generations. Thanks to the Kistlers' success, the region became known as "Kistler Valley." In Leigh County, the Kistler homestead still stands today and the name remains active.

The Kistlers' tanning success led them to establish other tanning mills in other parts of the state and country, including Lock Haven and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; Boston, Massachusetts; Mexico City, Mexico; Chicago, Illinois; and Buenos Aires, Brazil. As well, members of the family ventured into other trades and affairs: cigar manufacturing, shoe manufacturing, taverns, dry goods, real estate, banking, and politics. Despite the failing tanning industry at about the turn of the twentieth century, the Kistlers were still able to remain active in business, but several of their mills went under. However, they managed to continue operating the mill at Sciota into the 1930s. Of their profits, it was reported in 1870 and 1880 that the family's production brought in more than $1,000,000 in trade reaching markets as far away as Europe, where it was most requested. Of the shoes industry, Kistler, Lesh & Company (which was then led by Stephen’s grandson, Andrew Milton Kistler) reported about $10,000,000 in profits in 1920.

The family's most active member, Stephen Kistler, managed the family business in the tanning and was central in helping to organize the Monroe County's first bank at Stroudsburg. Incorporated by an act in the state legislature on January 9, 1857, it was named the Stroudsburg National Bank in 1863. It later became Eastern National Bank.

Stephen and his wife settled on a plot of land in the Pocono Mountains region, where they establishing a tannery. He then opened the tanneries in Monroe County at Bartonsville, Tannersville, and East Stroudsburg, and also Great Bend in Susquehanna County. His success inspired other businessmen in the area to also establish tanneries as well; the competition in the region became quite high. In Appel's History of Monroe County it states that “The Poconos were well supplied with taverns, inns, and hotels to accommodate residents, itinerant workers, and early tourists” (p. 97-98). At the height of its business the Kistlers had more than 160 men in their employ, and they established headquarters in New York City. Stephen retired from the business in 1867.

His wife, Esther, died on April 8, 1877. In total they had eleven surviving children: Charles, Rufus, Angeline, Amira, Alfred, Wilson, Mary, Milo, and Michael.

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Scope and content note

This small collection consists of four volumes that record the Kistler family's tannery business Scioto, Pennsylvania, along with one folder of loose items removed from the volumes. The records date from 1867 to 1891. All the volumes are company daybooks, with the first two containing general transactions kept by Charles Kistler (Volume 1) and Stephen Kisler (Volume 2). Volume three contains, in addition to Sciota records, business and financial metrics from the mill located at Fennersville. Volume four contains transcriptions of the agreements and contracts between Charles Kistler and various banking, business, and shipping partners from both the Fennersville and Sciota mills. Information includes banking and stock deposits, cash received, expenses and labor paid for business and employees, and the bark bought and sold.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2016.

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Access restrictions

This collection is open for research.


Purchase, 2010.

Accession number 2010.049.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Financial records.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Lehigh County (Pa.)
  • Monroe County (Pa.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Kistler, Charles.
  • Kistler, Stephen.


  • Leather tanning--Pennsylvania--19th century.
  • Pennsylvania--Economic conditions--19th century.
  • Tanners and Tanning--19th century.

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Appel, John Conrad. History of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, 1725-1976. East Stroudsburg, Pa.: Pocono Hospital Auxiliary, 1976.

"Death notice," Philadelphia Inquirer, January 20, 1907.

"Kistler Lore," Kistler Family History Page,

Leiby, Amandus S., Raymond E. Hollenbach, and Trudy Slaven. Church Records of Hamilton Township Union Church, Hamilton Township, Northampton County (now Monroe County), Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, 1995.

"Sciota's only industry stops," Philadelphia Inquirer, 1890.

Shoe and Leather Facts: Published Monthly, Philadelphia, vol. 34., n.d., Print.

"The Tanning Industry: Old Tanneries Closed in Pennsylvania for Lack of Bark," The New York Times, November 1, 1890.

Wilson, Leonard. Makers of America; Biographies of Leading Men of Thought and Action. Washington, 1815.

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Collection Inventory


Charles Kistler day book, Sciota 1867-1873 


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Stephen Kistler daybook, Fennersville 1867-1882 


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Hamilton tannery day book 1878-1885 


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Hamilton tannery day book 1885-1891 


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Items removed from Kistler volumes 1871-1891 


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