Held at: Chester County Historical Society [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Chester County Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Albert Cook Myers (1874-1960) was a Pennsylvania historian, who dedicated his life’s work to the identification, study and organization of William Penn’s published writings and personal papers. Beginning in 1910, after securing an endorsement from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, he set out to publish: “The Complete Works of William Penn.” All told, Myers devoted fifty years of his life to this project. Though his publication goals were never realized, he assembled a massive and notable body of information about William Penn, which included transcriptions of original documents found in the United States and England, research notes, first and other early original editions of Penn’s published works, and some original manuscript material as well. To complete his studies, Myers travelled abroad and throughout the United States. As a result of his efforts, he came to be regarded as an expert on the topic and often spoke publicly on the life and times of William Penn.
Myers was born in 1874 in York Springs, Pennsylvania. He was a devoted Quaker. He attended Martin Academy and Swarthmore College, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Swarthmore in 1898 and 1901, respectively. He obtained further graduate education from the Universities of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Harvard. Later, in 1932, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Franklin and Marshal College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Though he was best known for his work on the Penn papers project, throughout his life, Myers was involved in many other historical pursuits of significance. Early in his career, he served as history editor for the publication, The Literary Era, and he also authored and/or edited several books on early American and Pennsylvania history. They include, Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1902; Sally Wister’s Journal, 1902; Quaker Arrivals at Philadelphia, 1902; Memoir of Gilbert Cope, 1929; William Penn’s Early Life in Brief, 1944-1974, 1937; and several others.
Myers was also involved in various capacities with the Jamestown Exposition in 1907, the Pennsylvania State Historical Commission, Pennsylvania Commission on School History Text Books, Philadelphia Mayor’s Historical Commission, and the Sesquicentennial Celebration. He was a member and chairman of the Historical Commission of Valley Forge Park from 1923 to 1935, and in 1932, directed the William Penn Commemoration. He was president of Friends Historical Society of England and a member of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies. During World War I, he served as officer of the War Camp Community Service in Philadelphia, organizing historical walks through Philadelphia and receptions at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for servicemen.
Albert Cook Myers died on April 1, 1960. He never married.
The Albert Cook Myers research collection of William Penn materials contains the information gathered by Myers in his pursuit to thoroughly research and publish a volume documenting the complete writings of William Penn. Researchers will find Myers' notes, transcriptions, photocopies of documents, newspaper clippings, various articles, first editions and other early editions of Penn's works, picture postcards of places related to Penn, and photos and original manuscript material. The bulk of the collection is "The Manuscript" series, which focuses on Myer's work on Penn's own writings. Researchers should be aware that the bulk of the collection is Myers' notes and only a small portion is original manuscript material related to Penn. The collection spans the dates of 1645 to 1960, however, the bulk of the material was collected and created by Myers from 1910 to 1960.
The Albert Cook Myers research collection of William Penn consists of research conducted by Albert Cook Myers for an intended definitive edition of the works of William Penn. Myers proposed to include all of Penn's published works and all the surviving letters in order to supplant other "meagre and antiquated" published editions. Over time, he added the task of writing a biography to his already ambitious plan. For nearly fifty years, Myers researched and collected information, copies of original manuscripts and works, and organized his research for the eventual writing of the edition. The writing of the volume never occurred.
This collection is arranged into the following series: "The Manuscript," "The Biographical notes," "Catalogues and bibliographies," "Printed works by William Penn," "Tracts attributed to William Penn," "Albert Cook Myers and the Complete Works," "Collections of materials related to William Penn," "The Irish Diary," "Research regarding Indians," Research regarding ships on the Delaware, ship captains, and passengers," "Research regarding English Quakers," and "Research regarding non-Quakers." For more details on each series please see the series scope notes.
At the time of donation to the Chester County Historical Society, Albert Cook Myers had organized the collection into 196 volumes of transcripts, photostats, printed material and notes pertaining to the life and time of William Penn. Because the organization of the collection was developed and used by Myers himself, the volume number scheme and folder titles set forth by Myers have been maintained. Spelling, date expressions, capitalization, abbreviations, and title format were all adhered to as closely as possible to retain the structure set forth by Myers. In further respect to Myers' organization, an existing index (located in box 72) was used extensively in the processing of this collection.
In order for this collection to be used most effectively, researchers should be aware of several factors. First, researchers should be aware that the bulk of this collection consists of copies or transcriptions of original documents which are housed in England, Ireland, Europe and the United States in both repositories of primary sources or private collections. Throughout the collection, dates have been maintained as written on documents due to the Quaker calendar differing from the standard calendar until 1753. Myers' note taking methodology was unique and as a result there is extensive duplication in this collection. Researchers will probably need to look at many series in order to gain the most complete picture. According to project archivist, Carol Grigson, in 1998 who worked on other Myers' collections, "when Myers took notes, he never made a single copy. In fact, he always had carbon paper and note tablets enabling him to take notes in triplicate or quadruplicate. What this means for the user of this collection is that his notes show up in different forms and in different places. Sometimes there are just folders of stray notes, with no discernible organization. From this disorganized state, many stages exist in between. His ultimate form of organization, short of a finished manuscript is labeled 'notes pasted to sheets.' To reach this state, Myers sorted out all his information, reread everything according to his outline and put them together in a form he would use to produce a manuscript. He then went one step further and pasted these notes to sheets of paper which were then usually placed in binder notebooks. In the mind of Myers, this research was complete and ready for the final writing."
This collection will be of use to William Penn scholars; Quaker scholars; religious scholars; genealogists; those interested in the early history of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey and areas within each state; and those interested in nautical history.
Gift of Albert Cook Myers.
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.
- Emigration and immigration
- Freedom of religion
- Indians of North America
- Land grants
- Native Americans
- United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
- Chester County Historical Society
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Jennifer Duli
- Finding Aid Date
- 2010 September 22
- 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.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Chester County Historical Society with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
The core of the collection is contained in a group of 58 volumes (I-XLVIII A) of Myers' notes entitled "The Manuscript." These volumes make up 34 boxes of the collection. The material in these volumes is arranged in chronological order, 1660 to 1712, and consists of material written by Penn, including transcripts, photocopies, letters, tracts, petitions, commissions, wills, etc. Included are some early editions of Penn's published works.
The majority of the transcripts are typed, however, some are handwritten. The transcripts may, but do not always, include the source and location of the original document. Researchers will find that the works of William Penn have been heavily annotated by Myers
Also included is the Addenda to the Manuscript which includes transcripts, photographs and notes, dating from 1671 to 1732.
This series will provide an excellent starting point for researchers because folder titles are fairly descriptive. After searching this series, it is recommended that researchers also examine the "Biographical notes" and "Catalogues and bibliographies," series.
Additional information on folder label - "Written in a contemporary hand by Samuel Carhenter" Volume XXI, 1681-1682,
"The Manuscript, 120-125" is the only information listed on folder tab
The "Addenda" series contains materials that possibly would have been included in a planned addenda for Myers' unfinished "Complete Works of William Penn." Materials include transcriptions and typescripts of William Penn manuscripts as well as photos of the documents.
"Biographical notes" includes research conducted by Myers in his efforts to write a biography of William Penn. The series is organized into six subseries, "Penn Ancestry and Kindred;" "Jasper family;" "William Penn, his travels, his contemporaries, and his descendents;" "Itinerary and chronology of William Penn;" "Others," and "Index to the biographical notes of William Penn (en masses)." In addition to information about family and events in Penn's life, Myers collected whatever data he could about places connected with William Penn, including photographs, wherever possible, and whatever biographical and genealogical information he could discover about people connected with William Penn.
"Penn Ancestry and Kindred" follows a chronological order, beginning with the Penn genealogy, Penn's maternal and paternal grandparents, and his parents. Included is information regarding Penn Lodge in Minety, Minety Church, and Bristol. Also included is information on families, such as the Crispin family and the Blackfan family, as well as information on specific individuals such as James Bradshaw, the Lady Martha Dupant Joice, and Richard Harman, to name only a few.
William Penn's mother was Margaret Jasper before her marriage to Sir William Penn. The "Jasper family" series includes notes and records regarding the Jaspar family as a whole, the estate of John Jasper, and information regarding several churches, including the Dutch Church of Austin Friars and the Church of St. Olave, both in London.
"William Penn, his travels, his contemporaries, and his descendents" includes extensive research on William Penn, his wives, his children, and his homes. This series is arranged chronologically. Of particular interest may be the files concerning Penn's voyage on the Welcome, Pennsbury, and Pennsylvania Castle and the disposition of its contents in 1916. Included is information regarding known portraits of Penn family members.
The "Itinerary and chronology of William Penn" appears to be a daily chronological listing of William Penn's known itinerary from 1644 to 1718. Information in these folders is often scant, with weeks left completely blank.
"Others" includes biographical research on contemporaries of William Penn as well as those who may have influenced his thinking, particularly in regards to Quakerism. There are biographical notes regarding Penn's lawyers and agents, as well as his secretaries and stewards. William Penn lawyers and agents is composed of one folder that contains Myers' notes and correspondence on the various lawyers and agents of William Penn. Robert West appears to be the main focus of these notes. A William and Mary College Quarterly historical magazine from January, 1924 is also included. Information regarding Penn's secretaries and stewards included genealogical tables and notes, transcripts of meetings, and letters. There is a significant amount of biographical material, however, the main focus of the notes appear to be in regards to the secretaries and stewards involvement and work with William Penn. These files may also contain newspaper clippings and images. Some individuals researched include Robert Barclay, governor of the East Jersey colony in North America during the 1680s; Major John Fenwick, proprietor of West New Jersey; Philip Ford, agent; Benjamin Furly, agent; Thomas Gilpin, Quaker; John Jeffries; George Keith, Surveyor-General; Tobias Ludwig Kolhasius, German Quaker; William Lickford; Patrick Logan, father of James Logan; James Neville; Thomas Rudyard, deputy-governor of East New Jersey; John South; Richard Stevens; and Robert Webb, Marshall of the Court of Vice Admiralty for Pennsylvania, the lower counties and West Jersey. Significant research was conducted regarding James Logan. Files on James Logan include photographs of portraits, biographical material, information regarding Stenton, newspaper clippings, and copies of some of Logan's letters. Researchers should be aware that a bulk of the material regarding Logan is notes, as well as some correspondence to Myers relating to his research. Information regarding Mark Swanner (Markus Schwaner), a German Quaker and member of the staff of George Fox, includes largely biographical and genealogical notes, but also photocopies of books covers, and information about Zattau. Researchers should note that some of the Swanner material is in German. In addition, there is biographical information regarding William Penn's physicians, Dr. Mathews and Dr. Waldern.
This series is most valuable because it contains the results of Myers' search for biographical information about Penn and the Penn family, which he almost invariably posted in these volumes with references to the sources, which included both standard and obscure printed works and manuscripts of Penn's contemporaries.