Our Story

In 1982, five Harvard-trained historians in Cambridge, Massachusetts founded The Winthrop Group on what their professional colleagues thought was a rather shaky premise. The founders referred to their work as “applied history.” Their mission: To help organizations “capture experience and put it to work.”

Winthrop’s early intellectual contributions included monographs that George Smith and Neil Wasserman produced while consulting on antitrust issues at AT&T in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These were followed by an important book Davis Dyer coauthored with Paul Lawrence, Renewing American Industry (Harvard Business School Press) and a study of RCA’s failed videodisc venture by Graham RCA and the Videodisc: The Business of Research (Cambridge University Press). The 1981 article, “The Present Value of Corporate History,” by Smith and Lawrence Steadman (published in Harvard Business Review), became a manifesto of Winthrop’s new mission. It was widely reprinted in business and academic circles and still is cited frequently.

Nine months after its incorporation and following small projects for an electrical contractor and the Department of the Army, Alcoa engaged Winthrop to undertake a study of the company’s corporate strategy, technology and culture. From these beginnings, Winthrop historians attracted an impressive list of clients whom we served with a wide range of products: institutional histories published by scholarly and trade presses, consulting studies of corporate strategy, culture, and organization; educational and training tools for leveraging corporate experience; oral history and video documentary; and litigation support.

In the meantime, Linda Edgerly, formerly an archivist for the Rockefeller Family, had established archives at Weyerhaeuser Company and Chase Bank. Her work for businesses, organizations, and families focused on identifying, organizing, managing, and using historically significant information and documentation. By the mid-1980s, Edgerly’s work in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors had become well known and in 1987, Deborah Shea joined her for a project at United Parcel Service. The two businesses merged in 1989 and Winthrop opened a small office in Manhattan.

Winthrop grew steadily during the 1990s and early 2000s, building on its strengths in published institutional histories and historical films and traditional archival consulting. In the mid-2000s, with the emerging shift from print to digital formats, Winthrop began to embrace the digital technologies our clients needed. Our archivists designed state of the art digital asset management systems to preserve and present digitized and born-digital records. Our historians produced more historical content in digital form: e-books, interactive timelines and websites, tablet and smartphone apps, and social media tools. Returning to our roots as a consulting firm, we also began to do more consulting work in areas such as strategy, organizational development, branding, executive succession, and most recently, family history.

Today, Winthrop is busier than ever, with a reach far beyond our Massachusetts roots. Besides an office in the Boston area, we have our main business operations in New York and Seattle. We also have representatives or affiliates in Detroit, Washington DC, Miami, Providence, Montreal, London and Munich. Four members of Winthrop’s founding generation—Dave Dyer, Linda Edgerly, Meg Graham, George Smith—remain associated with the firm, as does Deborah Shea.  David Kay joined Winthrop early in 2014 as manager of the Information & Archival Services division and digital asset specialist.  Stephen Chambers joind Winthrop in early 2016 as deputy manager of the Histories Services division.

Working with professionalism, intellectual rigor, integrity, and dedication to our clients, Winthrop has earned and continues to expand its reputation as the world leader in what now is a well-established market for business and institutional history and archives.