1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Outlet Company Records

 Media and retail conglomerate, based in Providence, R.I.

 Records, 1904-1978. Bulk, 1936-1977.

 Size: 5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 903

 Processed by: Harold E. Kemble, November 1984

 Finding aid and additions by Rick Stattler, August 2002

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Joseph and Leon Samuels opened a discount menswear shop called the Manufacturers Outlet Company on Weybosset Street in Providence in 1894. It grew quickly, and expanded into a full department store with the construction of a new addition in 1903. The company launched its own radio station WJAR in 1922, and television station WJAR-TV in 1949. The company acquired a series of other broadcast media companies across the country from 1963 onwards. It also opened other Outlet Company department stores beginning with a branch in Cranston in 1962.

            In 1976, long-time employee Bruce Sundlun (later governor of Rhode Island) assumed the presidency of the Outlet Company. Joseph Samuels Sinclair, grandson of a founder, remained chairman of the board. Under Sundlun, Outlet began acquiring other small retail chains across the country, and continued to acquire broadcast companies as well. The Broadcast House in Providence was constructed in 1979 to house operations of the company's flagship WJAr radio and television stations. A national recession that same year crippled the company's retail operations, and the company decided to redirect its energies exclusively toward broadcast media in 1980. The Department Stores division (by now 91 stores) was sold to United Department Stores in November of 1980, and the purchaser closed the downtown flagship store in 1982. The Outlet Company merged with the Rockefeller Group in 1984, ending its independent existence and the Samuels-Sinclair family involvement. It continued as a division of the Rockefeller Group called Outlet Communications, which continued to operate WJAR/TV until selling it to NBC in 1996.


Smart, Samuel Chipman. The Outlet Story, 1894-1984. Providence, R.I.: Outlet Communications, 1984

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Scope and content:

            This collection offers a fragmentary glimpse of many of the Outlet Company's diverse business interests, including: a box of early 1970s files from Department Store Division president Levon Charlson; annual statements from 1936 to 1950; WJAR policy manuals; construction files from the 1970s; and files relating to the acquisition of firms such as the Cherry Broadcasting Company, WRG Baker Radio & Television, and Delivery Services Inc. The only documentation from the first forty years of business is a detailed appraisal of the Samuels Land Company's assets from 1904, and a single letter re phonograph sales from 1922.

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            These records were donated by City Place Associates in 1984, via Ernest DiSaia of International Construction Management in Providence. The 1966 scrapbook was a 1988 gift from Dorothy Gould as part of the Warren Walden Papers. A single 1922 letter was purchased from Veronica Owen in 1996.

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Processing note:

            The bulk of these records remain unprocessed, but a rough box inventory has been compiled.

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Box 1

Levon F. Charlson files as president of the Department Store Division:

            Management Committee meeting minutes, 1974-1975

            Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce 1971-1976

            Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce 1974

            Mr. Logowitz, 1971-1975

            Mr. Steinhardt 1974-1976

            Mr. Taylor 1971-1976

            Mr. Van Pelt 1971-1976

            Mr. Lafler 1976, 1977

            Mr. Levy 1972-1976

            Bob Lewis 1972-1976

            Press releases 1972-1976

            Mr. Wang 1972-1976

            Mr. Yas 1973-1977

            American Retail Federation 1972-1974

            Miscellaneous Outlet Company Christmas catalogs

Box 2

Evaluation and development of a corporate name, 1967

Telephone directory, undated

Manuals for supervisors

Procedure manual, Coventry store

Trading of Outlet Company shares, 1958-1959

Annual statements, etc., 1936-1950

Samuels Land Co. appraisals, 1904, 1907 (Providence)

Tax returns, 1940-1949; 1950-1959

Letter re phonograph sales, 1922 (#1996.118.8)

Box 3

Cherry Broadcasting Company (operated WDBO in Orlando, FL; had some R.I. officers)

            Business Music Division data, 1960-1961

            Capital expenditures, 1960

            FCC annual financial reports, 1960-1963

            Balance sheet, 1959-1963

            Delaware annual franchise tax reports, 1960-1963

            Transfer of license, 1961

            License renewal, 1960

            Income tax returns, 1954-1955

            Income and expense settlements, 1962-1963

            Ownership reports, 1959-1962

Policy manual, WJAR-FM/TV

IBEW, 1937-1945

ASCAP/NAB file, 1949-1954

Antenna, 1953-1954

Lincoln Mall specifications, undated

General building correspondence and memoranda, 1952-1978

Merchandising analysis, 1965 and 1968

Broadcast House specifications, 1977

Free Masons' Hall proposal, 1977

Newport Airport sewer specifications, 1978

Conveyor belt specifications, 1963

White House in Miniature exhibit, 1976-1977

Union benefits payments, 1975-1977

Box 4

WRG Baker Radio & Television Corporation, Syracuse, NY

            Documents re acquisition of Onondaga Broadcasting and Six Nations Television by Baker

Certificates, transfer ledgers, documents re acquisition of WRG Baker, 1970-1972

Box 5

Records of WNYS-TV Channel 9 of Syracuse, NY, 1966

Records re acquisition of Salt City Broadcasting Corp. of Syracuse, NY

Delivery Service, Inc. (shipping firm of Providence, RI)

            Monthly financial reports, 1951-1961

            Correspondence and merger documents, 1959-1961

Loose volume:

Scrapbook, 1966 (#1988.67.2)

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Charlson, Levon F., 1920-1996

Cherry Broadcasting Company (Orlando, Fla.)

Delivery Service, Inc. (Providence, R.I.)

Department stores - Rhode Island

Florida - Commerce

Lincoln Mall (Lincoln, R.I.)

Masonic Temple (Providence, R.I.)

New York - Commerce

Providence, R.I. - Commerce

Radio stations

Samuels Land Co. (Providence, R.I.)

Television stations

WJAR/TV (Providence, R.I.)

WRG Baker Radio & Television Corp. (Syracuse, N.Y.)

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