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Chase Collection

Identifier: MS 014

Scope and Content

The Chase Collection contains correspondence, industry statistics, maps, photographs, and business records such as corporate minutes and audits. The collection also contains genealogical information related to the Chase ancestry.

Some of the earliest materials showed evidence of research done by two historians hired by the Chases to write a history. Photocopies of documents and transcriptions of holographic materials were found in the files along with notes from the historians' research. These were removed from the collection whenever found, but more may exist.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1884-1984
  • Creation: 1871-1984



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

The story of the Chases in Florida began in 1878 when Sydney Octavius Chase (1860-1941), having read about orange groves in Scribner's Magazine, came to Florida from Philadelphia. His brother, Joshua Coffin Chase (1858-1948), joined him in 1884 and together they formed Chase and Company that year. The Chase brothers came to Florida at the right time for Florida citrus and at the right time for them as investment entrepreneurs. Strong family ties in the North provided them with financial backing for their ventures. Joshua left Florida in 1895 to work in the California citrus industry. He returned to Florida in 1904 and rejoined his brother. Another brother, Randall, remained in Philadelphia and augmented his brothers' finances when convenient. Sydney and Joshua were also important civic leaders who took part in community development, most notably in the City of Sanford. Both were elected to the Sanford city commission. They also supported the development of Rollins College, worked with the Florida Historical Society, and were the benefactors of numerous charities.

Chase and Company began as an insurance company and branched out to storage facilities and fertilizer sales. The latter was the beginning of the company's lucrative agricultural supply division which remained in operation throughout the existence of the company. Although citrus was the primary interest, the company also invested in other agricultural pursuits including celery in central Florida, tung oil production in Jefferson County, and winter vegetables and sugar cane in the Lake Okeechobee muck lands. The company was also involved in the peach business in Georgia and North Carolina. The company was incorporated in 1914, with the Chase brothers owning 75 percent of the stock, and reincorporated in 1948. A second generation of Chases began its involvement in the family operations when Sydney O. Chase, Jr. ( b. 1900) became a citrus buyer in 1922. He was later joined by his brother Randall who served as president of Chase and Company from 1948-1965. Outside the Chase Family, Alfred Foster, W. R. Harney, and William "Billy" Leffler figured prominently as company executives and investors. The company dissolved in 1979 when its principal assets were sold to Sunniland for $5.5 million.

The Chases' interest in citrus began when Sydney came to Florida and became associated with General Henry S. Sanford. The Chases would eventually own General Sanford's experimental farm, Belair, and the Chase family home in Sanford was located there. Over the years, the Chases invested in a number of citrus groves and owned others outright. In 1912, they organized the Chase Investment Company as a holding company for their farms. Initially, the company operated the Isleworth, Nocatee, Belair, and Kelly citrus groves as well as celery farms in Sanford. The company was renamed Chase Groves, Inc. in 1951. From time to time, Chase Investment was involved in real estate in Florida and North Carolina. The latter included Fort Caswell, a former military property that was held for a time and then sold. Unquestionably, the jewel in the Chase crown was the Isleworth grove at Windermere. Isleworth's four hundred lake-tempered acres carried the Chases through many difficult times. It proved to be the principal asset at the company's demise when it was sold to golf legend Arnold Palmer in 1984. Chase Groves dissolved that same year, 100 years after the founding of Chase and Company.


100 Linear feet (235 boxes and 24 volumes)

Language of Materials



Business records of Chase and Company and affiliates, as well as the personal correspondence of members of the Chase Family and family genealogical records.


The collection consists of four record groups and 12 records series. Record Group I documents the history of Chase and Company, the Chase Investment Company, and other affiliated companies as well as the general business interests of both generations of Chases. Record Group II consists of the personal papers of Sydney Octavius Chase, Joshua Chase and Sydney O. Chase, Jr. Record Group III contains photographs from the collection depicting both business and family life. Record Group IV is a collection of family historical materials and contains letters and other records dating back to the 18th century as well as genealogical material. However, the bulk of collection covers the one hundred year period, 1884-1984, of the Chase industries in Florida.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in the Chase collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Related Material

Several related collections augment the materials found in the Chase Collection. These include holdings at the University of Florida's Lake Alfred Experimental Station and the General Henry S. Sanford collection at the Sanford Museum. A small but related collection is the James E. Ingraham Papers, a Chase family friend and employee of Henry Flagler.

Processing Notes

The Chase Collection was received in four accessions. The first records were acquired in 1978 when thirty file drawers were delivered to the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History. The records from the first accession constitute series 1-2, 8-9, and 11-12 in this finding-aid. An inventory of the file folders was made at the time and the contents of the cabinets were removed and boxed in the early 1990s. A finding-aid for the first accession, written by Dena Snodgrass, was published and disseminated by the George A. Smathers Libraries in 1990. However, the records were never placed in series order and no attempt was made to remove extraneous materials. The Snodgrass guide identified possible series and located their contents in the collection. This guide was supplemented by another created by Tim Petit in 1998 which attempted to locate materials in the first accession and associate them with records found in the second accession.

The second accession began in 1990 and consisted of files found in a mobile home at the Belair estate. After initial weeding, those records were transported to the University of Florida in 1991. A finding-aid for the second accession was created by Robert N. Lauriault in 1992. As with the first accession, no attempt was made to identify and discard insignificant records. Additions to the collection were made by Cecilia (Cela) Lasbury Johnson, granddaughter of Joshua Coffin Chase, in 1999. These supplemented series 3 and 4 primarily, but also included records for series 6 and 12. A simplified finding guide for the collection was created by Chris Baker in 2007 but it retained the folder order of the first accession and continued to describe the records of the second accession as a separate entity. In 2008, records from the home of Randall Chase were added to the collection by his children.

In 2009, a decision was made to amalgamate the collection and create one unified collection guide. In the process, appraisal of the collection resulted in the removal of substantial portions of the collection, primarily from the second accession. It was also decided to physically place the materials from the first accession in their proper series order. Text from the previous guides was used in the final finding-aid. Subsequently, it was discovered that the 1999 accession had not been included. These records appear in the finding-aid in their proper places in the finding-aid, but are stored separately in boxes 229-235. In 2021, additional reports and ledgers were added in Box 236. These integrated into series 4 and 6.

A Guide to the Chase Collection
Finding aid created by Carl Van Ness
April 2009 (Updated October 2021)
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America