Medical Hall (proposed) on Ninth Street University of Pennsylvania campus, exterior elevation, watercolor and ink by Stephen Bourne 1804 April 22


Table of Contents


Archives General, Communications of Individuals

Personal Papers

Constitution and Charter Collection

Rules and Laws


Faculty of Arts

Students of Arts

Faculty of Medicine

Students of Medicine

Financial Records

Matriculation and Class Records

Matriculation and Lecture Tickets

Curriculum Collection

Commencement Collection

Diploma and Certificate Collection

Non-University Organizations

Printed Pieces

Typescripts of Other Documents

Photocopies of Other Documents



Architectural Drawings and Plans


Other University Collections


Archives General Collection
of the University of Pennsylvania, 1740-1820



Introduction to the Guide to the Archives:


Note: This introduction, written by University of Pennsylvania Archivist James Dallett, appeared in the Guide to the Archives of the University of Pennsylvania from 1750 to 1820 published in 1978)

The University of Pennsylvania Archives was established in 1945 and has since had custody of the historical collections of the University, the noncurrent records of the administrative, academic and social divisions of the institution and the papers of individual members of the alumni, faculty and trustees. With present holdings amounting to some 9,000 cubic feet of records, the collection is one of the six largest academic archives in the country.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, official records of the University, usually minute books and correspondence, were held variously by the Secretary of the corporation, the Provost and the Dean of the Medical department. Awareness of the historical significance of the growing accumulation of University manuscripts came during the terms of office of Secretaries Edward W. Mumford (1919-1941) and Phelps Soule (1941-1946). Their colleague, George E. Nitzsche, Recorder of the University from 1901 to 1944 and its sometime "Publicity Agent", went out of his way to seek, collect and preserve manuscripts, photographs, prints and memorabilia relating to Pennsylvania’s history. Both Nitzsche, best remembered for his guide to the University which was published in five editions, and his contemporary, Dr. Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost from 1910 to 1920 and a collector of scientific manuscripts, maintained archival collections in their respective offices in College Hall.

The University Library, which acquired the more permanent University publications for its own shelves, and which housed early medical dissertations and a miscellany of Penn memorabilia in those pre-Archives days, also held a large segment of the personal papers of Benjamin Franklin. The Franklin Papers were among the manuscripts placed in the Rare Book Department at its creation in 1945. At that time, biographical files of deceased alumni and other members of the academic community which would later come to the Archives were inseparable from those of living persons kept in the Alumni Records office in Blanchard Hall.

Soon after the end of World War II, Professors of History Roy F. Nichols, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Charles W. David, Director of University Libraries, were able to secure the appointment by the trustees of Leonidas Dodson, then Assistant Professor of History, as the first, but part-time, University Archivist. He would hold the office until the appointment of the present full-time incumbent in 1971.

Dr. Dodson set up shop in his office in Bennett Hall. The Archives took charge of the historical files in the office of the Secretary and of the Nitzsche collection and received from the University Library and from the Alumni Records office the transfer of material germane to its purposes. As the role of the new department came to be understood, non-current records were placed in the custody of the Archives by offices throughout the University. Two rooms in Bennett Hall were augmented by basement storage facilities inefficiently dispersed round the campus and when these arrangements proved inadequate, the operation moved, in 1955, to the north arcade of Franklin Field. The new quarters, providing sufficient stack area but lacking standard environmental controls, conservation and exhibition facilities and without even proper processing space and a search room, remain today the home of the Archives.

The University Archives collection, drawn from a diverse provenance, has many facets. In addition to accumulated and deposited internal records - some of them a permanent part of the collection, others assigned to the "records center" for temporary retention - the department maintains information files on every conceivable topic of University activity, There are some 100,000 biographical folders on deceased alumni, faculty members, administrators and trustees including the deposited papers of many among them, a substantial collection of photographs, drawings and prints of individuals, activities and buildings, and copies of virtually all University-originated regular publications and of countless ephemeral printed pieces, together with scientific and mechanical instruments, a number of paintings and sculptures, furniture and architectural elements and such memorabilia as jewelry, trophies and academic dress. All relate to the history of Pennsylvania.

The Guide to the Archives of the University of Pennsylvania from 1740 to 1820 is the first detailed description in print of any part of this huge collection. In the 1961 edition of Guide to Archives and Manuscripts in the United States, edited by Philip M. Hamer, three paragraphs were devoted to the vast holdings of the department. In an equal amount of space, Lisabeth M. Holloway listed Penn’s materials on the history of medicine in Philadelphia Resources in the History of the Health Sciences, published in 1975. A brief summary of the University Archives appeared in the leaflet describing the exhibition "Prelude to the Bicentennial," sponsored by the department in 1973-1974.

The resources of the Archives have not been listed in The National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections and the scope of a forthcoming publication of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission which will, in effect, update the 1961 Hamer guide, permits only one long descriptive paragraph on the collection. Of course, some passing attention has always been paid to individual items in the Archives. Such manuscripts as the Constitutions of 1749, the mandamus conferring the doctor of laws degree upon George Washington in 1783, the letter written in 1808 by Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush extolling the advantages of a Philadelphia education, to mention only items included in this Guide, have all been quoted in recent books. Copies of letters to, from or about distinguished Americans whose "papers" are in process of publication - Franklin, Morris, Peale, Latrobe, Henry - have been sent to their editors. This ad hoc dissemination fails, however, to indicate either the extent or the utility of the archives.

Although determined scholars sometimes find the sources they need without benefit of printed bibliographies and guides, manuscript depositories have an obligation to potential clients, and to themselves, to provide information about their holdings which goes beyond purely internal inventories and indices. Thus, the opportunity to list and publicize even a small part of the collection is important to an office whose tiny staff and even more diminutive budget make it difficult to keep up with the daily demands upon an operation which must be primarily an information service and a records depository for a large and pragmatic urban university.

The present Guide presents such an opportunity. It includes all the material relevant to the given time frame found in twenty-three departmental record groups. Manuscript, printed, typewritten, photocopied and filmed documents, iconography, "architectural" items and memorabilia are all listed. In addition, concise description is provided of seven archival or historical collections in other University offices which relate to the period 1740-1820.

A few comments on format are desirable. The Guide is in many ways more an inventory or register than a summary guide. Because of the concentration on a limited period, it has been possible to give individual manuscripts in the Archives General collection the full dress treatment of a catalogue; the papers of the trustees and of the two faculties, the matriculation and lecture ticket collection and the diploma and dissertation collections have all been recorded in detail. A charwoman’s bill for sweeping out a classroom thus has equal billing with a David Rittenhouse letter. Potential users of the collection will often be able to assess its usefulness for their subject merely by consulting this guide-cum-catalogue.

It should be kept in mind that, while the ensemble of archives covered here contains many "collector’s items," it does not constitute a body of American manuscripts in terms of individual documents which have shaped the course of the nation or that of human destiny. The essence of the collection is, rather, the progression of education in the United States and many items concern the development of American thought. The material listed in the Guide is important for its part in the documentation of the early years of an innovative teaching institution now in its third century. The very continuity and sequentiality of the overall collection give value and distinction to the archives at Pennsylvania.

The format varies according to the arrangement of the record group described. Individual entries have been numbered, however, in one continuous sequence from I through 2035. Some one hundred and eleven items within the compass of the Guide transferred lately from the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection have been inserted as addenda to the record group to which they belong. They are entered in their own alphabetical sequence at the end of the alphabetical sequence of the category in question. Each addenda entry is numbered to follow the item which it succeeds alphabetically in the main sequence with the addition of an "a" or "b" For example, in Section 1, addenda item 10a (Allen, Andrew) is numbered to follow record group item 10 (Alison, Francis and Hannah his wife) in the main sequence.

Such abbreviations as have been used - Pa., Phila., Univ. as well as manuscript terminology - ALS, LS, ADS, DS and so on - will be easily understood. Standard works of bibliography cited by author’s surname only are Robert B. Austin, Early American Medical Imprints, A guide to works printed in the United States 1668-1820, Charles Evans, American Bibliography, Joseph Sabin and Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, American Bibliography, a preliminary checklist for 1801 to 1819. The names of persons included in the Dictionary of American Biography have been italicized in the index.