Penn family papers
The British colony of Pennsylvania was given to William Penn (1644-1718) in 1681 by Charles II of England in repayment of a debt owed his father, Sir Admiral William Penn (1621-1670). Under Penn's directive, Pennsylvania was settled by Quakers escaping religious torment in England and other Eur...
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Processing Information: The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
56.0 Linear feet 51 boxes; 222 volumes
This collection is open for research use.
The British colony of Pennsylvania was given to William Penn (1644-1718) in 1681 by Charles II of England in repayment of a debt owed his father, Sir Admiral William Penn (1621-1670). Under Penn's directive, Pennsylvania was settled by Quakers escaping religious torment in England and other European nations. Three generations of Penn descendents held proprietorship of the colony until the American Revolution, when the family was stripped of all but its privately held shares of land.
The Penn family papers house the personal and governmental records of William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, and his family. This collection, which dates from 1592 to 1960 (bulk of materials dating 1629 to 1834), consists primarily of correspondence, legal records, governmental records, surveys, deeds, grants, receipts, and account books; there are also 19th and 20th century auction catalogs and other secondary materials. This collection documents the creation of the Pennsylvania colony through records created by William Penn and his associates. The records continue beyond this and document the development of the colony through the records of Penn's descendants. These records reveal valuable insights into Penn's relations with American Indians, the Pennsylvania/Maryland border dispute, Pennsylvania's government framework, as well private correspondence between family members and close associates.
The Penn family papers house the personal and governmental records of William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, and his family. This collection, which dates from 1592 to 1960 (bulk of materials 1629 to 1834), consists primarily of correspondence, legal records, governmental records, surveys, deeds, grants, receipts, and account books; there are also 19th and 20th century auction catalogs and secondary materials. The collection documents the creation of the Pennsylvania colony through records created by William Penn, as well as the continued development of the colony through records produced by Penn's associates and descendants. These records also provide valuable insights into Penn's relations with American Indians, the Pennsylvania/Maryland border dispute, government framework, as well private correspondence between family members and close associates. The Penn family papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania comprise the most extensive and comprehensive collection of materials related to the Penn family and the creation of the Pennsylvania colony. It is an invaluable resource for studying the founding and development of the Pennsylvania colony, early American colonial history and the Penn family. The Penn family papers have a tumultuous history, and were donated or purchased in small accessions over a long period of time (for more information, see Nicholas B. Wainwright, "The Penn Collection," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 87, no. 4 (October, 1963): 393-419). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, documents were bound together in large volumes based on the source of materials (i.e. donor) and the genre (e.g. "Correspondence"). The series and the titles in this finding aid reflect as closely as possible these groupings. This collection is arranged into ten series: "I. Correspondence, 1667-1855," "II. William Penn, 1667-1944," "III. Penn family members, 1654-1866," "IV. Government records, 1687-1790," "V. Land grants, surveys and deeds, 1639-1896," "VI. Penn-Physick manuscripts, 1676-1811," "VII. Penn v. Baltimore, 1606-1834," "VIII. Other legal cases, 1672-1869," "IX. Penn manuscripts, 1592-1910," and "X. Auction catalogs and secondary materials, 1812-1960." The first series, "I. Correspondence, 1667-1855" includes official and private correspondence associated with William Penn, his family members or associates. The second series, "II. William Penn, 1667-1944" includes Penn's financial records, diaries, correspondence, last will and testament, marriage certificate from his second marriage to Hannah Callowhill, and secondary materials such as memorials. The third series, "III. Penn family members, 1654-1866" includes correspondence and financial records associated with specific family members, aside from William Penn (1644-1718). The most represented family members include Sir Admiral William Penn (1621-1671), John Penn (1699/1700-1746), and Thomas Penn (1701/2-1775). The fourth series, "IV. Government records, 1687-1790" includes materials related to the creation and governance of the Pennsylvania colony. This includes treaties and conferences with American Indians (see also series "IX. Penn manuscripts"), Acts of Assembly and financial records. There are a number of "Pennsylvania journals," 1701-1779, which are accounts of lands and quitrents. The fifth series, "V. Land grants, surveys and deeds, 1639-1896" includes records related to the lands owned or administered by the Penn family. The sixth series, "VI. Penn-Physick manuscripts, 1676-1811" includes the collection of manuscripts previously held by Edmund Physick, "Keeper of the Great Seal" for the Penn family. Physick managed the Penn properties and interests in the colonies for half a century. These records include correspondence, financial records, lecture notes, and legal records. The seventh series, "VII. Penn v. Baltimore, 1606-1834" includes the extensive records produced over the border dispute between William Penn and Lord Baltimore (Cecilius "Cecil" Calvert). These records include court documents and correspondence. The eighth series, "VIII. Other legal cases, 1672-1869" includes court documents, the bulk of which refer to the Penn v. Ford case. A dispute arose between William Penn and the family of Philip Ford, to whom Penn had temporarily signed over the deed to Pennsylvania while fighting charges of treason. During this time the treason charges were dropped and Ford passed away, leaving in his will the interests of Pennsylvania to his family, unless Penn paid the exorbitant sum of £11,000. This case was eventually resolved with Penn paying £7,600 to the Ford family. This series also includes a letter-book of attorney John F. Mifflin, as well as records related to various other cases. The ninth series, "IX. Penn manuscripts, 1592-1910" includes miscellaneous items and collections from various sources. The Penn-Forbes papers, collected by Stewart Forbes, were purchased by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1882, and contain an extraordinary group of letters from Admiral Penn and the Founder, as well as copies of items from within this collection and related materials at other repositories. The Penn-Justice papers, collected by George M. Justice, relate to land warrants, surveys, financial accounts with the Penns, and political and domestic affairs, 1769-1804. The Tempsford Hall papers are a miscellaneous group of Penn and related family papers gathered or retained by the Stuart family, descendants of William Penn through Thomas Penn's youngest daughter, Sophia Margaretta Juliana Penn, who married William Stuart, archbishop of Armagh, Anglican primate of Ireland. For a number of years the collection was kept at Tempsford Hall, Bedfordshire, one of the Stuart family houses. The collection was purchased from a Stuart family descendant in 1968 with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Gratz Fund. The final series, "X. Auction catalogs and secondary materials, 1812-1960" includes records related to the sale of Penn materials at auction and Penn family history. Bibliography: Wainwright, Nicholas B. "The Penn Collection." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 87, no. 4 (Oct., 1963): 393-419.