Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Greening Family Papers, 1833-1963

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, May 2012

Summary Information
Title: Greening family papers
Creator: Greening family
Inclusive dates: 1833-1963
Bulk dates: 1858-1919
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
This collection is made up of 16 letters, 17 documents and printed items, 58 photographs, and 4 photographic postcards related to the family of William J. Greening of Middletown, New York. A portion of the collection relates to a self-oiling axle he patented in 1907, including his copy of the official patent award. Most of the photographs depict his children; four show a meat market owned by the Greening family.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2006. M-4513.3.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Greening family papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents, Financial Records, and Printed Items
  • Series III: Photographs

The first two series are arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


William J. Greening was born in Michigan around 1862, the son of English immigrants. He grew up in Liberty Falls, New York (now Ferndale), with at least three siblings: James Gibbons, Llewellyn, and Grace Ella. In 1907, Greening successfully applied for a patent on a self-lubricating axle, which he then manufactured at the Greening Axle Company in Middletown, New York. He and his wife, Huldah A. Stanton, had at least six children: Arthur, Ethel, Mabel, Flora, Harry, and Hazel. Mabel Greening married Theodore Graham Staples on September 11, 1913, and Flora Greening married Frank House on October 14, 1919. William J. Greening died on February 20, 1941. His brother James owned the Maple Park Farm resort in Ferndale, New York.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection is made up of 16 letters, 17 documents and printed items, 58 photographs, and 4 photographic postcards related to the family of William J. Greening of Middletown, New York. A portion of the collection relates to a self-oiling axle he patented in 1907. Most of the photographs depict his children; four show a meat market owned by the Greening family

The Correspondence series contains 13 letters, 2 wedding invitations, and one Christmas card. E. Treadwell of New York City wrote the first three letters to Hermann Brockaway of Poughkeepsie, New York, in June and September 1858, inquiring whether or not Brockaway would be able to make some repairs to Treadwell's ovens. Other early letters include one from Mary E. Gross of Nanuet, New York, to her cousin, Smith Nance of Newburgh, New York (April 4, 1872), and a letter from William J. Greening to his future wife, Huldah A. Stanton of Thompsonville, New York (May 11, 1885). Both letters provide family news.

The remaining 11 items relate to William J. Greening or the Greening Axle Company, which produced carriage axles in Middletown, New York. Three, including one from the United States Quartermaster General's Office (March 17, 1908), offer praise for Greening's self-oiling axle. Albert H. F. Seeger, a lawyer from Newburgh, New York, wrote Greening two letters in December 1916 and one in August 1917, regarding a broken Greening axle. Greening also received information from Henry C. McLear of the Carriage Builders' National Association about the group's upcoming exhibition (April 23, 1914). The correspondence series also contains a letter, written by an unidentified man named Aaron to his brother, that mentions the cost of installing parts on a three-seated wagon (March 30, 1915); wedding invitations for Greening's daughters Mabel (September 11, 1913) and Flora (October 14, 1919); and an undated Christmas card addressed to "Mrs. Greening."

The Documents, Financial Records, and Printed items series contains 17 items, of which 4 relate to William J. Greening and his children, including his daughter Flora's baptism certificate (June 11, 1905) and high school diploma (June 1913), and 2 of his daughter Hazel's report cards (undated). Nine items pertain to Greening's interest and involvement in the manufacture of wagon axles, such as 2 printed advertisements, 1 original advertisement illustration, 1 printed page of user testimonies, 2 printed items related to an exhibition held by the Carriage Builders' National Association in October 1913, 1 typed list of wagon factories in several states (3 pages, undated), and Greening's copy of United States patent number 851,201, issued for his "Lubrication Means for Axles or the Like," later manufactured and sold as the "Greening Axle" (April 23, 1907). The 4 remaining items include a notarized financial document reflecting the cost of quills, paper, and ink in Baltimore, Maryland (May 19, 1835); a typed copy of the last will and testament of William J. Greening's sister, Grace Ella Greening (August 30, 1927); a certificate for Ethel Mae Bird's (née Greening) lifetime membership in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (May 10, 1963); and an undated printed advertisement for Maple Park Farm in Ferndale, New York, owned by Mrs. James Gibbons Greening.

The Photographs series consists of 64 items, including 44 loose snapshots, 14 card photographs and portraits mounted in cardboard frames, 4 photographic postcards, and 2 negatives, taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The bulk of the photographs and postcards depict Hazel Greening and other members of the Greening family, including her parents, siblings, and a pet dog. One snapshot is of a "Greening Axle," invented by Hazel’s father. Many snapshots were taken in front of the family's home in Middletown, New York, and others by an unidentified lake. One postcard from "Frank H." to Hazel Greening shows a United States soldier; 2 of the remaining postcards are addressed to William J. Greening from his sons.

The framed photographs and card photographs are formal portraits of Greening family members, including 2 images of Flora in a wedding dress. One photograph shows a butcher standing in front of W.J. Greening's Market, New York. The negatives, including 1 glass plate negative, are of people standing inside and outside of Greening's meat market. The final item in the series is a box for "The Stanley" 6 ½" x 8 ½" dry plates, made by the Eastman Kodak Company.

Subject Terms

    • Advertising--United States.
    • Axles--Patents.
    • Carriage and wagon making.
    • Carriage industry.
    • Ferndale (N.Y.)
    • Middletown (N.Y.)
    • Patents--United States.
    • Stoves.
    • Women--Education--United States.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Axles.
    • Bird, Ethel Mae Greening.
    • Butcher shops.
    • Dogs.
    • Greening, Arthur.
    • Greening, Harry.
    • Greening, Hazel.
    • Greening, William J., d. 1941.
    • House, Flora Greening.
    • Meat industry and trade--United States.
    • Middletown (N.Y.)
    • Soldiers--United States.
    • Staples, Mable Evelyn Greening.
    • Stores & shops--New York (State)--New York--1920-1930.
    • Treadwell, E.
    • Wedding costume.
    • Greening, Grace Ella.
    • Greening, William J., d. 1941.
    • Gross, Mary E.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Advertisements.
    • Baptismal certificates.
    • Boxes (containers)
    • Card photographs.
    • Christmas cards.
    • Diplomas.
    • Invitations.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Negatives (photographic)
    • Patents.
    • Photographic postcards.
    • Photographs.
    • Report cards.
    • Snapshots.
    • Wills.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   1-4
      June 29, 1858-October 14, 1919, and  undated
    Documents, Financial Records, and Printed Items [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   5-7
      March 18, 1833-May 10, 1963, and  undated
    Photographs [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   8-24
     Undated and negatives
    Box   2  
    "The Stanley" Dry Plate box,  undated