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Recording Secretary


Corresponding Secretary

















Librarian Emeritus




Assistant in Charge of Reading Room


Assistant in Charge of Manuscripts Division


Assistant in Charge of Repair Division







W I-IEN some of the leading citizens of Philadelphia—Roberts Vaux, Stephen Duncan, William Rawle, Jr., Dr. Benja- min H. Coates, Dr. Caspar Wistar, George W. Smith, and

Thomas I. Wharton—met at Wharton's home on December 2, 1824, a constitution for a learned society was drawn up in which the preamble set forth the purposes. It is as follows:

To collect and preserve the evidences of its own history, from the earliest date, is both the duty and interest of every political society, whether its prog- ress has been prosperous or disastrous; and to ascertain and develop the natural resources of a state, to investigate its climate, soil, progress of popu- lation, and other statistical points, are objects equally worthy of attention, and which demand and deserve the ugited efforts of all who are desirous to honor the character and advance the prosperity of their Commonwealth. Impressed with these considerations, desirous of repairing as far as possible the injuries which the early history of Pennsylvania has sustained by reason of the inattention of our predecessors, and believing that there is much to interest and something to instruct in the transactions of those days, when an honest, virtuous, and pious people, relinquishing their early possessions and enjoyments, laid, in a wild and uncultivated country, the foundations of a State now eminently great, successful, and happy, we whose names are here- unto subjoined have united ourselves into a society for the purpose of elucidat- ing the civil, literary, and natural history of Pennsylvania.

In pursuing the objects here set forth, the Society for more than a century has preserved books and manuscripts pertaining to Pennsylvania history with the same singleness of purpose that moved the founders. Changes with respect to materials sought have come from time to time, as changing concepts of the scope of "history" came into being. Perhaps the most important change in the aims of the Society within recent dec- ades has been the emphasis upon the preservation of historical documents and books for use by scholars and the public, for it has been recognized that mere preservation does not enable the Society to achieve its larger purpose, which is to promote the culture of the community by enlarging our knowledge of the great part that Pennsylvania has played in building the nation. Today scholars from all parts of the United States and from many countries in Europe make demands upon the resources of the So- ciety, and their quests are willingly served by the officers and staff because their continuing inquiries are evidence of the Society's continuing useful- ness. A well-known English scholar cables for a transcript of one of


Charles Lamb's letters; a student of mathematics in a mid-western univer- sity studies the Society's early manuscript and printed arithmetics; a staff of experts at the University of Pennsylvania studies old merchants' account books and ledgers and produces a notable study on prices of commodities in Pennsylvania from the earliest days down to 1860; a member of the faculty of Columbia University pores over the letter-books of Pennsyl- vania's leading publisher, Mathew Carey, during the period when Phila- delphia was the center of the publishing and book-distributing business in America and the literary capital of the new world; a well-known his- torian examines the marginal notations on the books from Franklin's library owned by the Society and makes new discoveries as to Franklin's authorship of certain important 18th-century pamphlets; and scores of persons daily resort to the library in search of that ever-interesting sub- ject, family lineage. These typical examples, which might be multiplied by the thousands of persons who annually make use of the Society's pos- sessions, evidence the growing usefulness of the Society and the con- tinuing achievement of its purposes.

Its collections: The library activity of the Society constitutes its

preeminent function. In this respect the Society is

and Newspapers similar to others founded in the early part of the 19th century, and different from some younger institutions that emphasize the museum function, or such features as meetings, historical pilgrimages, erection of monuments, preservation of historic buildings, etc. While the Society has a large and impor- tant museum and portrait gallery, these are subordinated to its pur- pose of maintaining one of the outstanding historical libraries in Amer- ica. Approximately half a million books, pamphlets, newspapers, and broadsides are housed in its building. Many of these are items of the

greatest rarity and historical importance. Some of them exist in unique copies. A room on the first floor, in which the Gilpin Library is kept, houses the rarest items of Americana: the books and pamphlets from the library of Benjamin Franklin, the issues of the presses of the fa- mous Pennsylvania printers of the 18th century, the Bradfords, Frank- lin, Keimer, Saur (Sower), Robert Bell, Aitken, Cist, Carey and others; the Cassel collection of Pennsylvania German imprints; the Baker collection of Wash ingtoniana; thirteen volumes of Pennsyl- vania broadsides; the original of the first Map of Pennsylvania, pre- pared before Philadelphia was laid out, with Penn's Brief Account of the Province attached; the original Holme's Map of Pennsylvania;

Books, Pamphlets

an almost complete set of the Poor Richard Almanack, including the first issue of 1733; the Bradford Book of Common Prayer, 1710; Eliot's Indian Bible, 1685; the Christopher Sower Bible of 1743, the first Bible in a European tongue to be printed in America; the Aitken Bible of 1782, the first in English printed in this country; and many other books and pamphlets of great rarity. The Society also has many notable collections, such as the Charlemagne Tower collection of colonial laws, representing nearly all of the British colonies in America from Nova Scotia to Bermuda; the Kennedy collection consisting of over 600 water- colors of many buildings in Philadelphia no longer standing, painted between 1 836 and 1896; a large collection of books and pamphlets relat- ing to the French Revolution and to the American Civil War; and the unusually important collections of the Genealogical Society of Pennsyl- vania, embracing copies and photostats of official records containing gene- alogical information, and registers of births, marriages, and deaths kept by religious bodies, societies, and individuals. The importance of photo- graphs as historical documents is also recognized in the Boies Penrose collection of photographs of Philadelphia buildings no longer standing. The Society's collection of newspapers is perhaps the best in existence for the middle States. Numbering some 7,000 volumes, it embraces at least one Philadelphia newspaper for each year from 1720 to the present time. Among the 18th-century newspapers are Bradford's Mercury, Franklin's Gazette, Bradford's Journal, Goddard's Chronicle, Towne's Pennsylvania Evening Post, the firsts evening newspaper in Pennsyl- vania, published in Philadelphia during the British occupation of the city; Dunlap's Packet, and Sower's Geschicht Schreiber. Many impor- tant New York newspapers are represented: Zenger's Journal, Brad- ford's Gazette, Parker's Gazette, Holt's Journal, Rivington's Royal Gazette, and Robertson's Royal American Gazette. Among the period- ical publications published during the 18th century, the Society has im- portant files, such as Franklin's General Magazine and Historical Chron- ical, and Bradford's The American Magazine, both of which appeared in 1741.

Housed in two large rooms are some of the most im-

Collections portant collections of early documents to be found in America, numbering several million pieces. It is im- possible to describe this mass of source material in a brief space; two large volumes were required to catalogue only one of the collections,

the Ferdinand J. Dreer autographs. The Penn manuscripts, includ-

Its Manuscript


ing some 233 volumes, embrace journals and letters of Admiral Sir William Penn, letters, writings, and diaries of William Penn the Founder, and the unusually important letter books of the later pro- prietors. The great Simon Gratz collection of historical manuscripts, endowed so as to insure its perpetual growth, now numbers approxi- mately 100,000 pieces. It includes manuscripts of famous personages in all walks of life, both in America and in Europe. In it are important manuscripts of such notable figures in world history as Voltaire, Rous- seau, Milton, Queen Elizabeth, Tasso, Tycho Brahe, Leibnitz, Kant, Cervantes, and thousands of persons whose contributions to civilization are no less significant because they are obscure. The Society is notably rich in collections of manuscripts of many of the families that have helped to make Pennsylvania the great commonwealth that it is today. The Logan papers are gathered in 80 volumes, the Norris in 80, the Shippen in 50, and the PembertQn in 77. The personal papers of some of Pennsylvania's outstanding individuals are housed here also: the manuscripts of General Anthony Wayne, a collection of the first impor- tance for the Revolutionary period, number 73 volumes; Pennsylvania's only President, James Buchanan, is represented in 73 volumes of docu- ments; and the famous Civil War financier, Jay Cooke, left a collec- tion of 86 volumes. The preservation of the records of business and com- merce is today recognized as a fundamental obligation upon historical societies, and the course of early American business is reflected in such groups of documents as the Morris-Hollingsworth collection, number- ing 533 volumes, the Lea and Febiger (publishing) collection of 161 letter-books, and the 190 volumes of records of forges and furnaces. Diplomatic history is embodied in the 23 volumes of Poinsett papers, and early American botany may be studied in the 10 volumes of Bartram manuscripts. Eighty-eight orderly books of the Revolution and 152 muster rolls of the wars from 1757 to 1865, as well as the 18,000 docu- ments of the Rawle family which are of the utmost importance for under- standing the military operations of the War of 1812, reveal the part that Pennsylvanians played in American wars. There are in the Society's possession nearly 400 letters and documents written by Washington, in- cluding his first survey and his last letter.

The thousands of boxes and volumes of manuscripts neatly arranged in cases in the Manuscripts Department

Its Care of Manuscripts

do not reflect the conditions in which many of these col- lections came to the Society. An accompanying illustration shows a typi-


A typical collection of several thousand manuscripts as received at the Society, in disorder and suffering from lack of care.


The Society's method of arranging: flat boxes of manuscripts filed in rows of glass-protected cases.

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cal trunkful of manuscripts as it arrived at the accession room, its con- tents in disorder, many of its documents torn and mutilated. Such a col- lection is carefully sorted and put in chronological order and its frag- mentary pieces are mended and restored. Other illustrations show a typical document before it has been mended and after its restoration; this process is the work of an expert who carefully patches torn places and covers both sides of the document with fine silk gauze, after which

it is pressed flat. The members of the staff in the Manuscripts Depart-

ment are constantly engaged in cataloguing individual documents; the card index is now one of the most extensive catalogues of manuscripts in America, numbering several hundred thousand cards.

Its Publications Within a few months after its foundation in 1824 the Society began preparation of its first volumes of

Memoirs, including original documents and articles by historians, and between 1826 and 1895 fourteen volumes of Memoirs were published.

A quarterly magazine called the Bulletin was begun in 1 845 but lapsed

after three years. However, in 1 877 was founded The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, today the oldest general historical magazine in the country. The publishing function of the Society is re- garded as one of the most useful ways in which it can promote a knowl-

edge of Pennsylvania backgrounds, and this is now being emphasized.

A revival of monographic publications appears in the biography of

Oliver Evans, by Greville and Dorothy Bathe, a valuable contribu- tion to an understanding of this significant figure in the history of Amer- ican engineering and technology. The Society is also preparing for publication a two-volume history of its growth and of the people of Pennsylvania who have made the Society possible. This work was written by the late Hampton L. Carson, former President of the Society and for long one of the most useful supporters in its history. This publication will

give extended accounts of the Society's valuable collections and detailed biographical sketches of the men and women who have played a part in building them up. A new pamphlet series, called Narratives and Docu- ments, makes available in separate form some of the more impor- tant articles and documentary materials published in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Two numbers in this series have already appeared: Patrick M'Roberts' Tour Through Some of the North Provinces in America, 1775, edited by Carl Bridenbaugh, and the Jour- nal of Lewis Beebe, a Physician on the Campaign Against Canada, 1776, edited by Frederic R. Kirkland.




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A typical document before being repaired: torn, fragile, and worn at the folds.

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The same document after being protected on both sides with invisible silk gauze:

flattened, strengthened, and ready for use by students.



Here the bulky manuscript records of individuals, institutions, and business firms are filed in large steel bins.

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Its Paintings, ,Maps, Views, ,Museum ., etc.

The Society has a large and exceedingly rich collection of portraits in oil. The first important painting came to the Society in 1833 when Granville Penn presented

"an original portrait of William Penn," his grand- father. This is the famous "portrait in armor." A portrait of Johannes Kelpius (1704) and of Gustavus Hesselius and his wife, Lydia, are not- able examples of early American painting. John Meng, an artist born in Germantown in 1734, is represented by a portrait of himself, and an- other of his father, John Christopher Meng. Benjamin West's large canvas of William Hamilton of "Woodlands" and his niece, Mrs. Lyle, is conspicuously displayed in the Assembly Room and attracts much at- tention. Other portraits by West include those of George III and Queen Charlotte; some of his drawings and sketch books are also owned by the Society. Portraits of Washington by Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, and other artists, including Wertmuller, are owned by the Society. Martha Washingfon, by Rembrandt Peale; Frank- lin, by Charles Willson Peale; Chief Justice John Marshall, by Eich- holtz; Lafayette, by Sully; General Wayne, by Elouis; and other officers in the Revolution, governors of Pennsylvania, mayors of Philadelphia, and many other prominent persons in Pennsylvania or American history, appear in portraiture on the Society's walls. Conspicuous among the relics are the swords of John Paul Jones and Anthony Wayne of the Revolution, and Meade, Humphreys, and Birney of the Civil War; the telescope carried by John Paul Jones at the time of the capture of the Serapis; the British Grenadier, a life-size figure painted during the Revolution; the silver watches of Washington and James Logan; George Fox's burning glass; Washington's desk and dining-room chairs, used in Philadelphia during his presidency; the famous belt of wampum presented to William Penn by the Indians; and the Lincoln furniture, including his law books and the chair in which he was seated when he received the notification of his nomination for the presidency. The Society owns perhaps the most important collection of maps in Pennsylvania, both printed and manuscript. Its collections of views, en- graved, photographic, and drawn, number several thousands and furnish important illustrative material as well as corroborative data for his- torians working in American history. Political caricatures and cartoons of various sorts dating from the 1 8th century portray historic events in graphic form, and are frequently drawn upon by scholars. Many of these items are unique.