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James Leffel and Company Records

Identifier: MS-150

Scope and Content

The James Leffel and Company Records document the activities of a company established in 1862 by James Leffel, inventor of the double turbine water wheel. The double turbine water wheel had a solid reputation and was marketed throughout the United States and overseas. By the 1930s and 1940s, the company had expanded into producing hydraulic turbines, along with scotch boilers and stokers. The records are divided into nine series based on the type of documents the series contains. However, since the collection was minimally processed, researchers may find mixed material in some boxes of the series, i.e. Correspondence in a Photograph box, etc.

Series I, Correspondence, contains correspondence from 1890 to 1941, with the bulk of the correspondence from 1890 to 1909. The files are alphabetical, but not necessarily in chronological order or alphabetical order in the boxes. The file folders are labeled according to which part of the alphabet the file contains. Researchers should be aware that the correspondence was removed from very acidic correspondence boxes and is very dirty. Also, parts of the alphabet may be missing from certain years. The series generally contains correspondence between the company and people and/or companies purchasing one of the Leffel products. Intermixed in the correspondence boxes is Trump Manufacturing Company correspondence, primarily from 1890 to 1900.

Series II, Photographs, contains photographs of Leffel boilers in the Leffel Springfield plant just prior to shipping. The photographs range in date from 1903 to 1966, however, the bulk of the photographs were taken between 1941 and 1965. Many of the folders containing photographs provide specific information as to the type of boiler, the order number, and where the boiler was shipped, e.g. the company or organization who purchased the boiler. There are also a number of photographs from the early 1900s found in Series I, Box 9. Many of the folders contain multiple copies of the photograph. Few of the photographs show the boiler after it has been installed.

Series III, Production and Design, primarily contains information on South American dam and turbine projects to produce electrical power in the 1950s and 1960s. The files contain correspondence, drawings, and photographs of the projects. There is one box (Box 22) of War Production material from 1942 to 1945 which document the company's activities during World War II. There is also one box (Box 23) of turbine information that contains material on the Springfield United Appeal Campaign and Ohio Public Expenditure Council Correspondence. Finally, there is one box (Box 25) of time books that was mislabeled when the records were initially accessioned in 1980.

Series IV, Turbine Literature and Advertising, contains a variety of information about Leffel boilers and stokers, along with hydraulic turbines and governors. The material range in date from 1877 to 1971. For historians, the 1877 booklet, "James Leffel's Double Turbine Water Wheel" provides information on the marketing of the water wheel. The majority of the information in the series is primarily from 1940 to 1970.

Series V, Financial Records, documents the financial activities of the company and is divided into seven subseries. Series VA, Ledgers, documents the payments made by people and organizations that purchased Leffel products. Early on, the company extended credit to people/organizations to purchase Leffel water turbines. The ledgers document efforts to receive payment, and even some follow-on legal action. The ledgers begin in 1861 and end in 1952. However, from 1910 to 1944, there are significant gaps. Subseries VB, Journals, include incoming and out-going receipts. The journals range from 1867 to 1929. Subseries VC, Inventory, contain information on the parts and equipment the company had on hand from 1876-1926. Subseries VD, Cash Books & Day Books, documents small cash purchases/payments made by the company from 1882 to 1932. Subseries VE, Time and Payroll Books, contain information on work hours and payments made to employees of the company from 1869 to 1930. There are also some time and payroll books in Box 25. Subseries VF, Trial Balances, is a small subseries that includes information on trial balances from 1909 to 1925. Finally, Subseries VG, Cash Journals, documents cash payments made by the company to a variety of vendors from 1900 to 1931. Researchers should note that there are no boxes associated with the ledgers in Series V. Each ledger has its own inventory number for requesting the item from the Southwest Repository.

Series VI, Order Books, is probably the most interested part of the collection. The Order Books document all orders received by the company for specific products from 1867 to 1934. The order books provide information on the product ordered, along with efforts by the company to determine if the purchaser was financially responsible. Specifically, the company checked to see if the person/organization was able to pay for the Leffel product. In some cases, the Order Books indicate that orders were denied because of these investigations. As in Series V, researchers should note that there are no box numbers associated with the series. Each ledger has its own inventory number for requesting the item from the Southwest Repository.

Series VII, General Turbine Reference Books, includes scrapbooks that contain newspaper and magazine clippings of Leffel advertizing and testimonials. The scrapbooks span a period from 1931 to 1971 with no breaks. As in Series V and VI, each reference book is individually inventoried and has its own inventory number for requesting the item from the Southwest Repository.

Series VIII, Springfield Engine and Thresher Company, is a small series containing minutes, ledgers, a journal, a commission ledger, and a collection register. The company originally produced threshers under the name of Champion Harvester Works or Rinehart, Ballard and Company. The company was acquired in by Oliver Smith Kelly who eventually formed the OS Kelly Company in approximately 1900. The items in this series span a very small period from 1882 to 1900.

Series IX, Other Material, contains a variety of materials including an index to ledgers and journals, information on the engine department at Foos and Bookwalter, a scrapbook, shipping records, and a scattering of other items. Most of the information is from the late 19th or early 20th century.


  • Creation: 1867 - 1971


Language of Materials

The records are in English, Spanish, and Portuguese

Restrictions on Access

This collection is stored off site. Please provide us three to seven days advance notice if you would like to research this collection. Call 937-775-2092 or e-mail us at

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

History of James Leffel & Company

James Leffel was born in Botetourt County, Virginia. His family settled outside of Springfield, Ohio, on Donnel's Creek when he was one year old. His father built a sawmill and gristmill on the creek. In the 1820s, James Leffel built a sawmill on the Mad River and installed a water wheel of his own design. Leffel decided to diversify and built his first foundry and machine shops in 1838 in Springfield. In 1849, he patented, Patent No. 6,775, an improved "double oven" stove and in 1850 he patented, Patent No. 7,820, a lever jack. The oven sold well regionally. As the foundry and machine shop continued to prosper, Leffel turned to waterpower experiments. On the basis of the experiments, Leffel, in 1862, applied for his second water wheel patent, the "American Double Turbine." It is this design that Leffel's fame is largely based on. The wheel was sold in the west, as far as Canada, and regionally. The James Leffel and Company continues today to manufacture water turbines in Springfield, Ohio. James Leffel was one of Ohio's great pioneer inventors and manufacturers.


164.3 linear feet


The James Leffel and Company Records consist of ledgers, journals, order books, inventories, cash and day books, payroll files, correspondence, photographs, publications, and scrapbooks of a late 19th and early 20th century Springfield, Ohio manufacturer of turbines, water wheels and engines.

Statement of Arrangement

The James Leffel and Company Records are divided into nine series and seven subseries:

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Photographs
  3. Series III: Production and Design
  4. Series IV: Turbine Literature and Advertising
  5. Series V: Financial Records
  6. Subseries VA: Ledgers
  7. Subseries VB: Journals
  8. Subseries VC: Inventories
  9. Subseries VD: Cash Books & Day Books
  10. Subseries VE: Time and Payroll Books
  11. Subseries VF: Trial Balances
  12. Subseries VG: Cash Journals
  13. Series VI: Order Books
  14. Series VII: General Turbine Reference Books
  15. Series VIII: Springfield Engine and Thresher Company
  16. Series IX: Other Material

Acquisition Information

The James Leffel and Company Records were donated to Special Collections and Archives by J. Robert Groff, President and General Manager, of The James Leffel and Company in August 1980.

Related Material

James Leffel and Company Records, 1867-1957, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. James Leffel and Company Records, 1845-1890, Archives, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio.

Separated Material

The James Leffel and Company Records are stored at the Southwest Ohio Repository (SWORD) in Miamisburg, Ohio. See "Restrictions on Access" for details on how to request material.

Processing Information

The James Leffel and Company Records were minimally processed by John Armstrong, April - June 2010. The Collection Inventory provides information as to what is in each box, but no effort was made to remove items from their current housing, with the exception of Correspondence. Because of the poor, very acidic condition of boxes holding correspondence, the correspondence was moved to archival file folders, but no effort was made to clean or flatten the correspondence.

Guide to the James Leffel and Company Records (MS-150)
Finding aid prepared by John Armstrong, June 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA