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Jacob R. Elfreth Sr. diaries


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

The Elfreth family was a notable Philadelphia Quaker family during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Jacob R. Elfreth Sr. (1789-1870) was initially apprenticed to enter into the hardware trade. Elfreth Sr. left the trade to become a teacher, first in New Jersey, and later at the Westtown School. He later became a bookkeeper for the Leigh Navigation Company, which was his occupation until he retired. Elfreth Sr. married Abigail Pierce in 1821, and the couple had ten children.

This collection is composed of 45 handwritten, bound volumes of the diaries of Jacob R. Elfreth Sr. The majority of entries detail family news, Quaker meetings, Elfreth's work with the Leigh Navigation Company, and births, deaths, and marriages within the Quaker community.

Diaries from 1860 to 1866 include entries and newspaper clippings that discuss issues related to the American Civil War, including slavery, movements of the Union and Confederate troops, battles between the two, and issues of reconstruction towards the end of the period.


Processed by Kara Flynn; completed June, 2015.

Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Kara Flynn
Finding Aid Date
June, 2015
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

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

Collection Inventory

Vol. 1, 1814-1820.
Volume 1
Scope and Contents

Practical geometry, expenses at Westtown school, expenses at Haddonfield, NJ, & Philadelphia.

Vol. 2, 1838-1840.
Volume 2
Scope and Contents

Entries by topic/event; "Eclipse of the Sun," "Return from the Country," "Hospital for the Insane Poor," expenses, pages of pasted in clippings related to Historical Society and Public Education.

Vol. 3, July 1840-August 1840.
Volume 3
Vol. 4, Sept 1840-Dec 1840.
Volume 4
Vol. 5, January 1841-March 1841.
Volume 5
Vol. 6, April 1841-June 1841.
Volume 6
Vol. 7, July 1841-October 1841.
Volume 7
Vol. 8, October 1841- December 1841.
Volume 8
Vol. 9, January 1842- March 1842.
Volume 9
Vol. 10, April 1842-September 1842.
Volume 10
Vol. 11, September 1842- March 1843.
Volume 11
Vol. 12, April 1843-August 1843.
Volume 12
Vol. 13, September 1843- April 1844.
Volume 13
Vol. 14, May 1844-January 1845.
Volume 14
Vol. 15, January 1845- November 1845.
Volume 15
Vol. 16, December 1845- December 1846.
Volume 16
Vol. 17, January 1847-September 1847.
Volume 17
Scope and Contents

Signed check inside. This volume includes two lists compiled by Elfreth Sr: "List of Friends who went on Religious Visits from America to Europe, 1693-1835" and "List of some of the Friends who have visited America from Europe in the service of Truth in the following years" (1656-1837).

Vol. 18, October 1847- July 1848.
Volume 18
Vol. 19, August 1848-September 1849.
Volume 19
Vol. 20, July 1849-April 1850.
Volume 20
Scope and Contents

Cholera arrives in Philadelphia from Asia/Europe, Elfreth records reports of outbreak from Board of Health.

Vol. 21, April 1850- March 1851.
Volume 21
Vol. 22, March 1851- Feb 1852.
Volume 22
Vol. 23, February 1852-August 1852.
Volume 23
Scope and Contents

Includes clippings on topics including "Tobacco,""Uncle Tom's Cabin Sales," and "Fugitive Slaves."

Vol. 24, August 1852- December 1853.
Volume 24
Scope and Contents

Clipping topics include: "money Market" in Philadelphia, "Mormonism," and the "Magnetic telegraph."

Vol. 25, January 1854- December 1854.
Volume 25
Scope and Contents

Newspaper clippings about; "Arrest of a Runaway Girl in Male Attire," "Foreign news," -Japan, China, England & France declare war on Russia.

Vol. 26, December 1854- July 1855.
Volume 26
Vol. 27, July 1855- January 1856.
Volume 27
Vol. 28, February 1856- November 1856.
Volume 28
Scope and Contents

Discussions of Wilberism and its supporters, including blaming one woman's insanity on Wilberism.

Vol. 29, November 1856- June 1857.
Volume 29
Scope and Contents

Records Scarlet Fever outbreak, deaths in Philadelphia as a result of outbreak.

Vol. 30, July 1857- March 1858.
Volume 30
Vol. 31, March 1858- October 1858.
Volume 31
Vol. 32, October 1858-June 1859.
Volume 32
Vol. 33, June 1859- December 1859.
Volume 33
Scope and Contents

Wars in Europe.

Vol. 34, January 1860- August 1860.
Volume 34
Vol. 35, September 1860-March 1861.
Volume 35
Scope and Content note

Includes a list of secessions of southern states with the dates of secession on the inside cover. Newspaper clippings and diary entries relate to the secession of South Carolina, and the election of Abraham Lincoln as president.

Vol. 36, March 1861- September 1861.
Volume 36
Scope and Content note

This volume includes newspaper clippings and entries about the beginning of the Civil War and slavery. Elfreth describes the city of Philadelphia's reaction to the early days of the civial war, including crowds gathering in the streets, and notes "military companies being formed and marching about the streets." Additional materials in this volume include correspondence, and two prints; "Which is the Mother" engraved by A.H. Ritchie, and "Tower Rock on the Mississippi" by Smillie and Hinshelwood.

Vol. 37, October 1861- March 1862.
Volume 37
Scope and Content note

Newspaper clippings related to slavery.

Vol. 38, April 1862- December 1862.
Volume 38
Scope and Content note

Newspaper clippings and entries related to the Civil War in general, as well as specific battles, and slavery.

Vol. 39, January 1863-July 1863.
Volume 39
Scope and Content note

Newspaper clippings and entries related to the cost of war and its impact on cities in both the North and South. Entries in July discuss the invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Vol. 40, August 1863-August 1864.
Volume 40
Scope and Content note

Entries related to successes of the "U.S> military" against the "rebels" and concern about the state of freedmen and women after the war end.

Vol. 41, September 1864-April 1865.
Volume 41
Scope and Content note

Includes a list of "Governors of the Confedorate or Rebel States, 1865" on the inside cover.

Vol. 42, May 1865-April 1866.
Volume 42
Scope and Content note

Elfreth expresses anxiety about what will happen to his family when he can no longer provide for them.

Vol. 43, May 1866-October1866.
Volume 43
Scope and Content note

Newspaper clippings related to Cholera outbreaks in major U.S. cities.

Vol. 44, November 1866-June 1867.
Volume 44
Scope and Content note

Entries discuss Elfreth's failing health as he ages, including; diminished eyesight, chest pain, headaches, and forgetfulness.

Vol. 45, June 1867-March 1870.
Volume 45
Vol. 2, 1833-1838.
Scope and Content note

This volume includes entries about a measeles outbreak in May 1835, various pieces of family news, a description of the Seminole War (January 1836), and the Texas-Mexico War in 1836. Elfreth provides an account of the Pennsylvania Hall riots beginning on page 96, which covers about 11 pages and includes two sections of quotations from newspaper articles about the riots.

Print, Suggest