The E. F. Craven Company Records document the development of a North Carolina road machinery dealership from a small family business into a multi-million dollar corporation. The material spans the years from 1793 to 1991; the bulk of the collection is dated 1907-1965.
Much of the material in the early years of the Correspondence Series consists of communication to and from equipment dealers and customers concerning the sale and repair of road machinery. The Cravens usually included information on the health and activities of family members in their business letters to each other. E. A. Craven frequently offered financial and spiritual advice to his son, writing his responses on the back of his son's letters to him, so that the letter and the reply appear on opposite sides of the same page. Between December 1912 and January 1916 there is a considerable amount of correspondence between family members regarding the execution of Eli A. Craven's will. Many letters written between 1907 and 1930 are written on stationery illustrated with detailed renderings of various types of early road-building equipment.
From the late 1920's until the 1940's, Franklin Duval Craven ran the Asheville office of E. F. Craven Company, frequently travelling on sales trips. E. F. Craven often wrote encouraging his son in his work and giving him advice on sales strategy. Letters from E. A. Craven and E. F. Craven reflect the deep religious beliefs of the two men and the importance they placed in conducting their lives and their business in a moral fashion.
During World War II, several of the company's employees served in the armed forces. Duval Craven corresponded frequently with them, and copies of his letters and their replies can be found among the correspondence from the war years.
As the organizational structure of the company increased in complexity, the amount of family correspondence in the collection decreased. Interoffice communications comprise a large amount of the correspondence after the 1960's.
The files in the Legal Papers, Financial Records, and Directors' Minutes Series combine to form a profile of the E. F. Craven Company: its sales, expansions, customer base, and its staff and leaders. Of particular interest is its relationship with the NC Highway Commission and state officials. Early materials in the Legal Papers Series relate to the business and land-holding activities of the Craven family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Among the items in the Printed Materials Series is a nearly complete run of The Road Machinery News, a serial published by E. F. Craven Company from 1925 until 1978. This newsletter contained news about road construction, information and advertisements regarding road building machinery, and a column "A Line or Two," written by E. F. Craven. In these editorials, Craven expressed his moral and spiritual philosophies. The articles were compiled in 1975 and published as a volume entitled A Line or Two. Educational material on general sales techniques published in 1928 and 1929 is also included in the Printed Materials Series. These books and pamphlets were used in the hiring and training of E. F. Craven Company sales staff.
The Visual Materials Series includes photographs, silent motion picture films, and illustrated trade catalogs demonstrating the attributes of road construction machinery and road-building techniques of the early twentieth century. Use copies must be made of moving images before content can be accessed. Please contact the Research Services staff before coming to use this series.
Both Eli F. Craven and Eli A. Craven became members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in the 1890's. Occasional references to the Craven family's support of the Society of Friends are found in documents throughout the collection. Items specifically concerned with the Religious Society of Friends are grouped in the Subject Files under the same name.