Papers, 1779 - 1955, 1977 - 1979
UPT 50 F848
26 Cubic ft.
Prepared by Steven A. Bank and J.M. Duffin
Access to collections is granted in accordance with the Protocols for the University Archives and Records Center.
Gift of Isabel Frazer and John Frazer, Jr. (A.B. 1947), surviving children of John Frazer, Sr. (B.S. 1903, A.M. 1904, Ph.D. 1907), March 6, 1991.
The Frazer Family Papers a collection documenting three generations of pedagogy in the field of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania are arranged in five series. They include: the Persifor Frazer (1736-1792) papers, the Robert Frazer (1771-1821) papers, the John Fries Frazer (1812-1872) papers, the Persifor Frazer (1844-1909) papers, and the John Frazer (1882-1964) papers. The John Fries Frazer papers contain three small subseries which include student papers, professional papers, and miscellaneous papers. The Persifor Frazer (1844-1909) papers are arranged in three subseries which include correspondence, 1866, 1870-1909, general files, -1869, 1880-1908, books and pamphlets, 1870-1909. The correspondence is chronological by year and alphabetical there under. John Frazer's papers are arranged in five small subseries which include student papers, 1903-1907, professional papers, 1923-1935, personal papers, 1909-1955, scrapbooks, and printed materials, 1905-1935.
Persifor Frazer, 1736-1792
Persifor Frazer, the son of John and Mary Smith Frazer, was born on August 9, 1736 in Newtown Township, Pennsylvania Frazer served as Captain of Company A, Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion and as Lieutenant Colonel of the Fifth Pennsylvania Line under Anthony Wayne. He was later appointed Brigadier General in the Pennsylvania State Militia. Frazer was an iron manufacturer and merchant. He married Mary Taylor on October 2, 1766. They had ten children: Sarah (1769-1841); Robert (1771-1821); Mary Anne (1774-1845), who married Jonathan Smith; Persifor (1776-1798); Martha (1778) ; Mary (1780-1862), who married Joseph Smith; John (1781-1783); Martha (1783-1867), who married William Morris; Elizabeth (1786-1788); Elizabeth (1788-1857), who married Henry Myers. Persifor died on April 24, 1792.
Robert Frazer, 1771-1821
Robert Frazer, son of Persifor and Mary Taylor Frazer, was born on August 30, 1771 in Middletown, Pennsylvania He entered the University of the State of Pennsylvania in 1786, receiving his A.B. in 1789 and semi-honorary A.M. in 1792. Upon receiving his A.B. from the University, Frazer studied law with Jared Ingersoll and later was admitted to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 1792. He served as a member of the House of Representatives in 1795 and as the District Attorney for Delaware County, Pennsylvania He married first in 1798 to Mary Ball (1778-1798); second, in 1803 to Elizabeth Fries (1778-1815); and third, in 1818 to Alice Pennel Yarnell (1778-1830). Robert had six children by his second wife: John (1804-1805); Jacob Taylor (1806); Anne Fries (1807-1837), who married Dr. John Rhea Barton; Persifor (1809-1880), also known as Persifor, Sr.; John Fries (1812-1872); Mary Worrall (1814). He also had one child by his third wife: Joseph Pennell (1818-1878). Robert died January 20, 1821
John Fries Frazer, 1812-1872
John Fries Frazer, the son of Robert and Elizabeth Fries Frazer, was born on July 8, 1812 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania He received his early education at Parrott's Military and Classical Institute. As a result, Frazer retained a love for the military throughout his life, and later served in the Philadelphia riots of 1844 with the First City Troop. He entered the University of Pennsylvania's Junior Class in 1828 and received his A.B. in 1830 and semi-honorary A.M. in 1833. Frazer studied under Alexander Dallas Bache, and after graduating, acted as lab assistant to Bache and Robert Hare, M.D. He was appointed Assistant in the Geological Survey of Pennsylvania under Henry D. Rogers in 1836. In 1837 Frazer resigned from survey work to study law under William M. Meredith, although in later years he never practiced law. From 1836 to 1844, Frazer held the position of Professor in the High School of Philadelphia (now Central High School). When Alexander D. Bache resigned from the University of Pennsylvania in 1844, it was Frazer who was chosen to fill his seat. Frazer was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry at the University and was the first person specifically appointed to teach chemistry. He received an honorary Ph.D. in 1854 from the University of Lewisburg, now Bucknell, and in 1857 was awarded an LL.D. from Harvard University. From 1855 until 1868, Frazer served as the Vice-Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and from 1859 to 1860 as acting Provost.
In addition to his long service with the University of Pennsylvania, Frazer was very active in the American Philosophical Society, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the National Academy of Science, and the Franklin Institute, editing the Journal of the Franklin Institute from 1850 to 1866. Ill health in 1856 forced a restorative sabbatical in Europe for four months and again in 1866 for eighteen months. Frazer married Charlotte Jeffers Cave (1815-1881), the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Hollingsworth Cave in 1838. They had three children: Anne (b. 1839), who married Rev. Thomas Kittera Conrad; Sarah (b. 1841), who married Richard Lewis Ashhurst; Persifor (1844-1909), who was also known as Persifor, Jr. John Fries died suddenly on October 12, 1872 while giving a tour of the physical laboratory of the University on the day the new buildings in West Philadelphia were first opened to public inspection.
Persifor Frazer, 1844-1909
Persifor Frazer, the son of John Fries and Charlotte Jeffers Cave Frazer, was born on July 24, 1844 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Frazer attended the school of St. Luke's Episcopal Church and then the classical school of Samuel Arthur. In 1858, he entered the University of Pennsylvania; he graduated in 1862 with an A.B. He was commissioned in the United States Coast Survey and assigned to a South Atlantic squadron under Dupont. At the beginning of the Civil War, he requested a leave of absence to serve in the First City Troop and fought in Gettysburg Campaign. In 1864, he served as acting ensign in the Mississippi squadron. Frazer received special commendation for the survey he took of the Charleston, S.C. harbor for preparation of the attack on Fort Wagner while under fire from Confederate boats. He was honorably discharged in 1865. That same year Frazer received his semi-honorary A.M. degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
At close of Civil War, Frazer studied six months in the laboratory of Booth and Garret in the study of practical chemistry. In May of 1866 until 1869, he attended the Royal Saxon School of Mines in Freiberg, Germany. Frazer passed with distinction in the examination on Mineralogy. He returned to the United States in 1869 and was appointed Assistant Geologist of Pennsylvania. As Assistant Geologist, he wrote the report on Mining and Mineralogy of Colorado and Wyoming. In 1870, Frazer was appointed Instructor in Natural History and Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. He was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1871 and to Professor of Chemistry in 1872, serving until 1874.
In addition to his tenure at the University, Frazer served as Assistant on the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, 1874-1882. In 1889, he was appointed Professor of Chemistry of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He filled the Chair of Chemistry at Franklin Institute from 1891 to 1893. He was a founding member of Society of American Geologists and of the Franklin Institute Journal. Frazer was the first foreigner to receive the Docteur és Science Naturelles from the University of France, which was awarded to him in 1882. He was also awarded the decoration of the Golden Palms of the Academy from the French Government in July 1890, for public instruction.
Very active professionally, Frazer's publications include: Tables for the Determination of Minerals by the Physical Properties Ascertainable with the aid of a Few Field Instruments, Based on the System of Prof. Dr. Albin Weisbach, 1891; Biographical Catalogue of the Matriculates of the University of Pennsylvania, 1749-1893, 1893; Bibliotics, or Study of Documents, 1894; Cross Reference Catalogue of the Works of the Late E.D. Cope; Search for the Causes of Injuries to Vegetation in an Urban Villa Near a Large Industrial Establishment Together with a Bibliography on the Subject, 1907. He was editor of the Franklin Institute Journal, 1881-1892. Some of the organizations and associations of which Frazer was a member include the American Philosophical Society, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Society of American Geologists, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, the General and Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution, the Society of the War of 1812, the Society of Colonial Wars of Pennsylvania, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the New York Academy of Science, and the Reichsanstalt of Vienna. He served as the Secretary of the American Committee to the Congrès Géologique International in Berlin (1885), and as Vice President, representing the United States to the Congrès in London (1888) and in St. Petersburg (1897).
Frazer was internationally respected as an expert on handwriting. He devised a process for detecting forgeries through composite photography which led to closer study of handwriting. By powerful, microscopic viewing of handwriting, Frazer found that tremors or quivers appear uniformly throughout a person's handwriting. He linked these tremors or quivers to the nerve state of the penman. Therefore, by careful, microscopic examination, forgeries can be detected by matching these tremors from one example to another. He first published his findings in his work Bibliotechs, or the Study of Documents in 1894, which went many later revisions. His discovery resulted in a demand for his expert opinion on handwriting. He gave testimony at several big trials, in particular the Molineaux murder case in New York and the Miers-Tilton case in Camden. In the latter case, Frazer would not swear to his belief in the existence of God and was thrown out as a reliable witness. Frazer filed suit and subsequently published his reaction in his "Expert Testimony: Its Uses and Abuses," in which Frazer attacked the attitudes of the judges on the bench to expert witnesses.
Persifor Frazer married Isabella Nevins Whelen, daughter of Edward Siddons Whelen of Philadelphia; they had four children: Charlotte (b. 1872) who entered the Catholic Society of the Sisters of the Assumption; Persifor Frazer, Jr. (b. 1874); Laurence (1878-1881); Dr. John Frazer (1882-1964). He died on April 7, 1909. On the day after his death, a bill was passed by the Pennsylvania State Senate which allowed agnostics to testify as competent witnesses on affirmation.
John Frazer, 1882-1964
John Frazer, son of Persifor and Isabella Nevins Whelen Frazer, was born on February 5, 1882 in Paris. He received his early education at Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia and at St. Paul's School in Concord New Hampshire, graduating in 1899. In 1899, Frazer entered the University of Pennsylvania receiving his B.S. in 1903, his A.M. in 1904, and his Ph.D. in 1907. His thesis was entitled "The Application of the Rotating Anode to Certain Electrolytic Separations, and An Investigation of the Electro-Deposition of Indium by the Rotating Anode." As a student at the University he participated in several clubs and fraternities including: Mask and Wig, Delta Psi, Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa, St. Anthony, and Sphinx Senior Society.
In the Fall of 1904, Frazer joined teaching staff of the Chemical Department of the College of the University of Pennsylvania. He was appointed Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1910. He was promoted in 1921 to the rank of Professor; he served as the Dean of the Towne School from 1912 to 1928. From 1922 to 1923 Frazer was the Exchange Professor of Applied Science to the French Universities of Grenoble, Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Nancy, Paris, Sorbonne, Lille, Rennes, Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, and the École de Physique et Chemie, Paris.
During World War I, Frazer served as a Captain in the Chemical Warfare Service, American Expeditionary Force; he was attached as Assistant Gas Officer in the First Army Corps, 78th and 6th Division in Argonne.
Dr. Frazer belonged to several organizations and professional societies. Some of these included the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemist Society, the Franklin Institute, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Societé de Chemie Industrialle, the Society of the War of 1812, the Pennsylvania Prison Society, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, the Society of Colonial Wars of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution.
He married Mary Foxley Tilghman (1886-1976, daughter of Oswald Tilghman, on June 9, 1915. Their children include: Tench, 1927-1990, John Jr., and Isabel. He died on June 7, 1964.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The Frazer Family Papers span over 100 years of an American family. The collection provides insight into three generations of educators, all in the field of chemistry, at the University of Pennsylvania and contains the papers of Persifor Frazer, Robert Frazer, John Fries Frazer, Persifor Frazer, and John Frazer.
Persifor Frazer's papers, 1779-1780, are limited to a letter from John Jay enclosing an extract from the minutes of Congress indicating his nomination for the office of "Cloathier General;" a bond to Joseph Reed for thirty thousand pounds in order to execute his office as Commissary; a request for grain; and a memorial.
The papers for Robert Frazer, 1789-1814, consist of six diplomas and membership certificates. These include his A.B. degree, 1789 and his A.M. degree, 1792 both from the University of Pennsylvania; a certificate to admission to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, 1792; a certificate to admission to the United States District Court (Middle Circuit, Philadelphia), 1800; and membership certificates to the Pennsylvania Society for the Promoting of the Abolition of Slavery, 1795 and the Academy of Natural Science, 1814.
The papers for John Fries Frazer, 1829-1871, are of greater scope. Included in this series are student notes, records, and activities, 1829-1830. As the first professor appointed to teach chemistry in the College, his professional papers include lecture notes on chemistry, -1848, geology, 1839-1848, mechanics, 1869, and topography, 1836. His research notes on his scientific interests including chemistry, geology, light, metallurgy, natural science, and steam engines are present. There are notes for other interests such as Blackstone's Commentaries on Law, literary quotations, and poetry. General correspondence, 1869, 1871 and some correspondence with his mentor, Alexander Dallas Bache, 1862-1867, is also included. Membership certificates, pamphlets and catalogs, 1830-1850, a receipt book, 1833-1834, minutes of a meeting of the Young Men Opposed to the Interference of Office Holders on Elections, 1834, and an estate inventory, 1885, finish out the series.
The bulk of the collection contains the Persifor Frazer papers, -1909. Correspondence, 1866-1909, covers a variety of topics related to Frazer's professional interests including: chemistry, minerals, anthracite coal, the Geological Survey, scientific apparatus, the Centennial, administrative and professional duties at the University of Pennsylvania, alumni efforts, and professional organizations. Some of the correspondents are Richard Lewis Ashhurst, Rachel L. Bodley, John Cadwalader, Edward Drinker Cope, James Dewight Dana, John Fulton, Joseph Smith Harris, Charles Custis Harrison, Alexander H. Holley, Joseph P. Kimball, George Augustus Koenig, J. Peter Lesley, Thomas McKean, William Metcalf, Silas Weir Mitchell, William Pepper, Bernhart Preu, Frederick Prime, Rossiter Worthington Raymond, Alfred Richard Cecil Selwyn, Stevens Institute of Technology, Herbert Welsh, Edward Siddons Whelen, James Nevins Whelen, and Henry Whelen. There is some personal correspondence scattered throughout largely related to family concerns, such as Anne Frazer's broken engagement in 1875 and his mother's illness and death in 1881. In addition there is also a file of correspondence on William Byrd Page. Letterpress books, 1870-1886, detail Frazer's professional and some personal activities.
Persifor Frazer's general files, -1869, 1880-1908, cover a wide range of topics. The professional activities and interests reflected in these files includes his involvement with the Academy of Natural Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Philosophical Society, Scientific Societies Conference, Congrès Géologique International, the Mexican mine tunnel enterprise, and his efforts to introduce German manufacturing processes to America. Frazer's activity as an expert handwriting analyzer is also well documented. Some personal interests included involvement with the First City Troop, the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, Franklin Chess Club, and the Philadelphia Fencing and Sparing Club. His papers reflect his personal interest in poetry (primarily romantic), religion and ethics, music, and sports. There is also a diary documenting his courtship of Isabella N. Whelen. A final subseries of books and pamphlets by Frazer and others finish out the collection.
John Frazer's papers, 1903-1955, deal primarily with his student days and his professional career, both at the University of Pennsylvania. His student papers, 1903-1907, consist of scrapbooks, printed ephemera, and notes on analytical chemistry, electro chemistry, industrial chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. There are some laboratory notes and information on his Ph.D. and doctoral examination. His professional papers include his lecture notes on chemistry, 1923-1928, roll books, 1909-1928, laboratory notes, 1923-1934, and articles on his work with sulphur contents in plants. Correspondence and clippings offer insight into his work as well. His personal involvement with the Delta Alumni Association, 1942-1955 and the First City Troop, 1913-1915 can also be seen in the collection. Several annotated books and a large sampling of chemical instruments and apparatus (including some of Louis Pasteur's instruments) complete the series.
A small group of oversized material, principally, diplomas membership certificates, and photographs are present for Robert Frazer, John Fries Frazer, Persifor Frazer, John Frazer, Thomas Cave and Richard Lewis Ashhurst. Academic robes for Persifor Frazer, John Frazer, Isabel Frazer, and John Frazer, Jr. round out the collection.
Inventory and entire guide available as a PDF file (225 kb, 53 pages)