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Richard Peters papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 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

Richard Peters was born to English attorney Ralph Peters and Esther Preeson in 1704. He studied law at London's Inner Temple but came to Philadelphia sometime in the 1730s for religious work. He served on and off with Christ Church between the late 1730s and early 1750s. He became a rector at the same church later in life and worked there until just before his death in 1776.

In the 1740s, Peters was appointed by the Penn family to two official positions: secretary of the land office and secretary and clerk of the Provincial Council. As secretary, Peters was privy to information concerning Pennsylvania's economic and political dealings, as well as its social and religious growth. He made connections with the proprietors of Pennsylvania – Thomas, John, and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn – and conversed with them often. In Philadelphia, he worked with James Logan, Benjamin Franklin, William Allen, and others in the local government. In addition to being named a Council member in 1749, he also served, with approval from the Penns, as a state commissioner to the 1754 Albany Congress.

In addition to his political and religious ventures, Peters held a number of civic positions with organizations such as the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, and the Pennsylvania Hospital. He is also noted as one of the one of the founders of what is now the University of Pennsylvania.

Reverend Richard Peters, who never married, had a brother, William, who had at least one son named Richard (1743/4-1828). This Richard went on to have a distinguished career in law and politics that included stints with the Continental Congress (1782-1783) and State Assembly (1787-1790). He also served as a judge for the U.S. District Court of Philadelphia (1792-1828). Richard Peters (1743/4-1828) married Sarah Robinson, and the couple had three children, one of whom, Richard Peters (1780-1848), was an attorney and was appointed reporter of decisions of the United States Supreme Court.

This collection is comprised of letters and documents from Reverend Richard Peters (1704-1776), with a few folders of papers from Peters's nephew, Judge Richard Peters (1743/4-1828), and his grand-nephew, attorney Richard Peters Jr. (1780-1848). The Richard Peters papers are housed in forty-nine volumes and two boxes and primarily relate to Peters's public work rather than his private life. The same is true of the papers from the other two Richard Peters. As a whole, this collection is of special interest because most of it relates directly to the colonial history of Pennsylvania, and because of Peters's official connection with the proprietary government.

At some point, the majority of Peters's papers were bound into volumes (Volumes 1-13), and full photocopies of those volumes were made (Volumes 14-39). In these volumes researchers will find numerous documents pertaining to Peters's political and religious work, including accounts of negotiations and treaties with Pennsylvania Indians tribes and some notes of General Timothy Pickering on the battle at Brandywine. Among the additional volumes in the collection are minutes of council, 1756-1757 (Volume 46); letters of Thomas Penn to Richard Peters, 1752-1772 (Volume 40); Henry Brooke's commonplace book, 1725 (Volume 49); Richard Peters's drafts of Pennsylvania lands, 1795-1813 (Volume 47); and letters of the Rev. Richard Peters to the proprietors of Pennsylvania, 1755-1757 (Volumes 41-42). There are also three of Peters's own diaries from 1750, 1758, and 1762 (Volumes 43-45), in which he discussed daily events and discussions, many of which are political in nature. Richard Peters's original Episcopal minister's license from 1725 is also in the collection (Box 2).

Gift of the Peters family.

The papers in Box 1 of this collection were formerly part of the Society autograph collection (#22).

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto.
Finding Aid Date
; 2015
Processing made possible by generous donations from Marcia Falconer, Wayne Strasbaugh, and the Young Friends of HSP.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

In order to reduce wear on the collection's original documents, researchers wishing to use Richard Peter's papers in Volumes 1-13 are asked to first consult the photocopies of these volumes (Volumes 14-39).

Collection Inventory

Letters and documents, 1697-1743.
Volume 1
Letters and documents, 1744-1749.
Volume 2
Letters and documents, 1750-1754.
Volume 3
Letters and documents, 1755-November 1757.
Volume 4
Letters and documents, December 1757-1762.
Volume 5
Letters and documents, 1763-June 1770.
Volume 6
Letters and documents, July 1770-August 1772.
Volume 7
Letters and documents, September 1772-July 1777.
Volume 8
Letters and documents, August 1777-1791.
Volume 9
Letters and documents, 1792-1807.
Volume 10
Letters and documents, 1808-1820.
Volume 11
Miscellaneous, 1821-1845.
Volume 12
Letterbook, 1737-1750.
Volume 13
Letters and documents, Volume 1, part 1, pages 1-66 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 14
Letters and documents, Volume 1, part 2, pages 67-128 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 15
Letters and documents, Volume 2, part 1, pages 1-78 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 16
Letters and documents, Volume 2, part 2, pages 79-129 (photocopies).
Volume 17
Letters and documents, Volume 3, part 1, pages 2-62 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 18
Letters and documents, Volume 3, part 2, pages 63-121 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 19
Letters and documents, Volume 4, part 1, pages 1-79 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 20
Letters and documents, Volume 4, part 2, pages 80-126 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 21
Letters and documents, Volume 5, part 1, Pages 2-64 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 22
Letters and documents, Volume 5, part 2, pages 65-121 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 23
Letters and documents, Volume 6, part 1, pages 1-63 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 24
Letters and documents, Volume 6, part 2, pages 64-123 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 25
Letters and documents, Volume 7, part 1, pages 1-69 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 26
Letters and documents, Volume 7, part 2, pages 70-126 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 27
Letters and documents, Volume 8, part 1, pages 1-74 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 28
Letters and documents, Volume 8, part 1, pages 75-126 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 29
Letters and documents, Volume 9, part 1, pages 2-60 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 30
Letters and documents, Volume 9, part 2, pages 61-125 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 31
Letters and documents, Volume 10, part 1, pages 1-79 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 32
Letters and documents, Volume 10, part 2, 80-125 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 33
Letters and documents, Volume 11, part 1, pages 1-65 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 34
Letters and documents, Volume 11, part 2, pages 66-123 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 35
Miscellaneous, Volume 12, parts 1, pages 2-55 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 36
Miscellaneous, Volume 12, part 2, pages 56-120 (photocopies), undated.
Volume 37
Letterbook [part 1] (photocopies), 1737-1741, 1743-1745, 1747-1750.
Volume 38
Letterbook [part 2] (photocopies), 1739-1741, 1741-1743.
Volume 39
Copy of Richard Peters letterbook (created circa 1871), 1752-1771.
Volume 40
Rev. Richard Peters letters to the Proprietors of the Province of Pennsylvania, 1755-1757.
Volume 41
"Rev. Richard Peters letters to the Proprietors of the Province of Penna. 1755-1757" (photostatic copy), undated.
Volume 42
Richard Peters diary, 1755.
Volume 43
Richard Peters diary (No. 15), September-November 1758 .
Volume 44
Richard Peters diary (No. 27), May-November 1762 .
Volume 45
Minutes of Council, 27 March-23 July 1756, 29 December 1756-15 July 1757.
Volume 46
Drafts of Pennsylvania Lands [Drawn by Charles De Krafft), 1793-1813.
Volume 47
The Rudiments or Principles of the German Flute, by Jacques Hotteterre [translated], circa 1729.
Volume 48
Henry Brooke's commonplace book, undated.
Volume 49
Richard Peters (1704-1776) papers, 1740-1776, undated .
Box 1 Folder 1-2
Richard Peters (1744-1828) papers, 1766-1828.
Box 1 Folder 3-15
Richard Peters (1780-1848) papers, including material on Mantua Farm, 1804-1853.
Box 1 Folder 16-20
Deed of partition, Ralph Peters and Richard Peters, 1837.
Box 1 Folder 21
Richard Peters Episcopal license, 1730.
Box 2

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