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Cope and Mendenhall letterbooks


Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections. 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

Thomas Pim Cope was born on August 26, 1768 in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, the son of Caleb Cope and Mary (Mendenhall) Cope. Thomas Mendenhall (1759–1843) was Thomas P. Cope's uncle, a Delaware merchant who engaged in the West Indian shipping trade with the schooner Pratt. Mendenhall was a major landholder in Wilmington; by the beginning of the nineteenth century he owned several houses, two storehouses, and a half-dozen undeveloped parcels of city land. Mendenhall also owned a wharf in Wilmington from which he dispatched his packets with flour cargo to Philadelphia. After Thomas P. Cope completed several years of apprenticeship in his uncle's store, he began his career as a highly successful and well-respected merchant. In 1821 he established Philadelphia's first packet line, a small fleet of first-rate ships that offered regular freight and passenger service between Philadelphia and Liverpool. Cope's Line of Packets was passed on to subsequent generations of Copes until it ceased operations in the 1870s. Cope was very involved in local politics; in 1837 he was a member of the Convention to amend the Constitution of Pennsylvania, he was the President of the Board of Trade and of the Mercantile Library, as well as a member of the first board of Haverford College. Cope also helped create Fairmount Park by securing Lemon Hill. At the time of his death, Thomas P. Cope was one of the wealthiest and most prominent men in the city of Philadelphia. Thomas Pim Cope died November 22, 1854, at the age of 86.

The collection consists of four handwritten volumes of outgoing business correspondence produced between 1788 and 1853 by Thomas P. Cope and Thomas Mendenhall as a byproduct of their mercantile shipping businesses in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The letter books contain copies of all the outgoing letters used for later referral in the line of business correspondence. At the beginning of each volume is an alphabetical index where recipients of the letters are organized by last name with corresponding page numbers. The first volume has copies of outgoing business letters written by Thomas Mendenhall when his nephew Thomas P. Cope was training under him. Mendenhall's ships ran from Wilmington Delaware to the West Indies. Half way through the volume the business is taken over by Thomas P. Cope and the letters are all authored by him from that point forward through the successive volumes. Cope's packet ship line ran between Philadelphia Pennsylvania and Liverpool England.The letters are written to other merchants that Thomas P. Cope and Thomas Mendenhall did business with and include common business topics such as orders, sales, receipts, price lists, balance inquiries, debts, shipping delays and updates. Other weightier, but less frequent topics include local politics, embargos, taxes, canal construction, tariffs, and the founding of Haverford School. These letter books are a great example of the tone and content of business correspondence in The United States at the turn of the nineteenth century while offering deep insight into the daily operations of the mercantile shipping trade at the time.

The volumes are arranged chronologically.

Cope & Mendenhall letterbooks were donated to Special Collections, Haverford College in 2021 by Walter Evans.

Processed by Janeen Lamontagne; completed November 2021

Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Janeen Lamontagne
Finding Aid Date
November, 2021
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17)

Collection Inventory

Archival Resource Key. Mendenhall & Cope letterbook, 1788-1799.
Volume 1
Archival Resource Key. Thomas P. Cope letterbook, 1797-1811.
Volume 2
Archival Resource Key. Thomas P. Cope letterbook, 1811-1815.
Volume 3
Archival Resource Key. Thomas P. Cope letterbook, 1816-1853.
Volume 4

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