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Robert Proud collection


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

Robert Proud was born on May 10, 1728 in Yorkshire England to William and Ann Proud. After his primary schooling, he was sent to a Quaker boarding school where he became immersed in classical studies. By 1750, he ended his schooling and became a Latin tutor for prominent Quaker families in London.

He moved to Philadelphia in 1759, and changed residence twelve times, living with people such as Anthony Benezet, Israel Morris, and Benjamin Morgan. He attempted to start his own Latin school, but by 1761, it closed, and he began a teaching position in the Friends School. He left his teaching job in 1770, and attempted a business enterprise with his brother John in England, which failed. The resulting financial issues plagued him for the rest of his life. While Proud was a strong Loyalist, during his time living with the liberal-leaning and anti-slavery advocate Anthony Benezet he started to soften his views on “the American cause,” considered becoming involved in civic affairs, and wrote several documents regarding misuse of funds in the city. By 1774, and with the beginnings of uprisings of certain Patriot groups, Proud returned to his Loyalist roots.

From 1775 to 1780, Proud left his position at The Friends School and went into seclusion, where he began writing on various subjects that interested him. Most of his writings were never published. During this time, he was under the watchful eye of the Patriot committees in the city, but avoided being formally addressed. Also during these years, he worked extensively on what became his best-known work, The History of Pennsylvania in North America.

As published, the full title of the book is The history of Pennsylvania, in North America : from the original institution and settlement of that province, under the first proprietor and governor, William Penn, in 1681, till after the year 1742; with an introduction, respecting, the life of W. Penn, prior to the grant of the province, and the religious society of the people called Quakers: with the first rise of the neighbouring colonies, more particularly of West-New Jersey, and the settlement of the Dutch and Swedes on Delaware. To which is added, a brief description of the said province, and of the general state, in which it flourished, principally between the years 1760 and 1770. With an appendix written principally between the years 1776 and 1780, by Robert Proud.

The History of Pennsylvania in North America was actually Proud’s attempt to continue the work begun by Samuel Smith, who focused on the history of New Jersey. Proud was believed that he would be compensated by members of his Quaker meeting for this project. He decided to change the focus of the book to Pennsylvania, focusing on what he considered the most prestigious years in Pennsylvania history. Proud mostly focused on William Penn and Quakerism, during the years 1681-1725 and 1760-1770, and avoided discussing The Revolutionary War, save for one paragraph in his two-volume work. In 1793, after leaving another position as a teacher at the Friends School, he began to look for a publisher, and worked with Zachariah Poulson, Jr. in Philadelphia. Though he had found a publisher, Proud was responsible for selling his book, and he had few subscribers. In desperation, he shipped books to his brothers hoping they could sell them in England. Proud attempted to have his Quaker meeting support him in the sales of the remaining copies, but none was given. The book was highly unsuccessful, due to its Loyalist leanings, and some very strong inaccuracies. Robert Proud died in 1813 at the age of 85.

The Proud collection is currently housed in 7 boxes and 1 flat file, spanning 1681-1903, with the bulk dates of 1681 to 1811. Some materials are bound and contained in folders.

A large part of the collection is made up of various versions of Proud’s two-volume book that eventually was published as The History of Pennsylvania in North America. The other manuscripts in the collection are unpublished works, ranging from translated classical poetry to his autobiographical notes. However, there are no items in the collection outside of his autobiography that further document Proud’s life in Philadelphia or his contact with local citizens.

The collection is arranged into two series. In Boxes 1 to 4 are mostly handwritten copies and drafts of The History of Pennsylvania in North America, with addenda, observations, and notes that Proud took himself regarding businesses in Philadelphia and economic conditions of the region.

Box 4 chiefly contains primary materials ranging from 1681 to 1761 that Proud used in The History of Pennsylvania in North America. These include petitions to Governor William Penn with a response in Penn’s own hand (1684) and a copy of a statement to King William III (1699).

Boxes 5 to 8 contain memoranda, poetry (including translations of Boethius and Colvius), and other personal papers. There are also 61 letters to Robert Proud from his brother John in England, dating from 1774 to 1811. These letters had been bound into a volume (once numbered "7") and, at some point, were removed into folders. This set includes are some short documents in Proud’s handwriting that appear to be notes instead of letters.

Neuenschwander, John A. "Robert Proud: A Chronicle of Scholarly Failure." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 92, no. 4 (1968): 494-506. Proud, Robert. The history of Pennsylvania in North America. Philadelphia: Zachariah Poulson, 1797.

The bulk of this collection was purchased in 1903.

In Box 7, the letters from John Proud had been consecutively numbered "Volume 7, pages 1, 2, 3" and so on. As of July 22, 2010, page 62 was found missing.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Melissa K. R. Hozik
Finding Aid Date
, 2010
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Physical Description

1.6 Linear feet ; 4 boxes, 1 flat portfolio

"The History of Pennsylvania" manuscripts, 1776-1780, undated. 1.2 Linear feet.
Box 1-3
Arrangement note

Box 1, Folders 1-6: "The History of Pennsylvania" manuscript (1776-1780)

Box 2, Folders 1-8: "The History of Pennsylvania" - Draft - Folders 1-8 (undated)

Box 2, Folders 9-10: "The History of Pennsylvania" - Volumes 1, 4 [2 manuscripts] (undated)

Box 3, Folders 1-2: "The History of Pennsylvania" - Volumes 5, 6 [2 manuscripts] (undated)

Box 3: "The History of Pennsylvania" Part I bound volume in vellum (1762)

Physical Description

1.2 Linear feet ; 3 boxes

"The History of Pennsylvania" complementary manuscript materials, 1800, undated. 0.4 Linear feet.
Box 3-4
Arrangement note

Box 3, Folder 3: "The History of Philadelphia" Addenda (undated)

Box 3, Folder 4: "The History of Pennsylvania" Observations on the reception of the book (1800)

Box 4, Folder 1: "A View of the Province of Pennsylvania" (1760-1770)

Box 4, Folder 2: "The History of Pennsylvania" Memoranda on the Rise and Progress...of Philadelphia" and other topics (1791-1800)

Box 4, Folder 3: "The History of Pennsylvania" Subscription ledger (1799-1801)

Physical Description

0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box

"The History of Pennsylvania" primary source documents, 1684-1761, undated. 0.4 Linear feet.
Oversize Flat File 1 Box 4
Arrangement note

Box 4, Folder 4: Petition to William Penn with response from William Penn on back (1684)

Box 4, Folder 5: Document from President and Council of Pennsylvania and Counties Annexed (1690)

Box 4, Folder 6: Petition to President and Council of Pennsylvania and Counties Annexed to bear arms against war between England and France (1690)

Box 4, Folder 7: Petition of Lower County members of Council for a Committee of five against one man rule (1691)

Box 4, Folder 8: Proclamation by Council on the entry of a controversial bill (1693)

Box 4, Folder 9: Statements concerning Council (1695)

Box 4, Folder 10: Letters on the passage of bills (1692)

Box 4, Folder 11: Statement to King William III, signed by Council and Assembly (1699)

Box 4, Folder 12: Petition to Court of Quarter Sessions, by citizens of Frankfort (undated)

Box 4, Folder 13: Two documents regarding a new road in Philadelphia (1712)

Box 4, Folder 13: Letter from S. Clements to unknown (1718)

Box 4, Folder 14: Geographical statistics and record of vehicles in Philadelphia (1760-1761)

Box 4, Folder 15: Map of Pennsylvania, by Robert Proud, with proposal to Council (undated)

Box 4, Folder 16: Copies and extracts of letters by Robert Proud, including William Penn, Thomas Lloyd, and Robert Proud (1686-1691)

Flat File 1: Copies of patents, releases, indentures (1681-1706)

Physical Description

0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box and 1 flat file

Physical Description

1.2 Linear feet 3 boxes

Personal papers, 1750-1811, undated. 0.8 Linear feet.
Box 5-6
Arrangement note

Box 5, Folder 1: Memoranda, notes on experimental philosophy (1750-1751)

Box 5, Folder 2: "Miscellaneous" notebook [leather] (1761-1806)

Box 5, Folder 3: "On Theatrical Entertainments being Extracts from William Penn by Pennsylvaniensis" (1767)

Box 5, Folder 4: Memoranda and letter copies (1770-1811)

Box 5, Folder 5: Copy by Robert Proud of Thomas Makin's "In Laudes Pensilvaniae" and other poetical pieces (circa 1774)

Box 5, Folder 6: Proud's Petition to John Dickinson, Daniel Roberdreau, John Cadwallader, etc. (1775)

Box 5, Folder 7: Translations of Boethius and other translations by Proud (1747-1801)

Box 5, Folder 8: "Historical Memoranda of the Rise and Progress of the City of Philadelphia" (1791-1795)

Box 5, Folder 9: "Commentariolum" of Proud and notes (circa 1805)

Box 6, Folder 1: Translation of "Electra," other translations and extracts from memoranda (circa 1786)

Box 6, Folder 2: "Observations of the increase of the population of Pennsylvania" (1795)

Box 6, Folder 3: Extracts from laws and comments on government by Robert Proud (1801)

Box 6, Folder 4: "Manuscripts of R. Proud relating to the history of Pennsylvania, 1800-1807" (1800-1807)

Box 6, Folder 5: Translation of "A. Colvius on the End of Life" and other papers (1804)

Box 6, Folder 6: Notes on institutions in Philadelphia (undated)

Box 6, Folder 7: Notes and memoranda of Proud (undated)

Box 6, Folder 8: Photostat copies of notes, memoranda, manuscripts, etc. (undated)

Box 6, Folder 9: Poetry of Cato in Latin and English, translated by Proud (undated)

Physical Description

0.8 Linear feet ; 2 boxes

Letters and miscellaneous documents, 1746-1903, undated. 0.4 Linear feet.
Box 7
Arrangement note

Box 7, Folder 1: Letters to Robert Proud from brother John Proud [Volume 7, #1-10] (December 12, 1774 - July 21, 1785)

Box 7, Folder 2: Letters to Robert Proud from brother John Proud [Volume 7, #11-20] (February 25, 1786 - August 31, 1792)

Box 7, Folder 3: Letters to Robert Proud from brother John Proud [Volume 7, #21-30] (February 9, 1793 - June 28, 1797)

Box 7, Folder 4: Letters to Robert Proud from brother John Proud [Volume 7, #31-40] (August 18, 1797 - February 27, 1800)

Box 7, Folder 5: Letters to Robert Proud from brother John Proud [Volume 7, #41-50] (July 30, 1800 - August 18, 1804)

Box 7, Folder 6: Letters to Robert Proud from brother John Proud and Letter to Robert Proud from nephew Robert Bainbridge [Volume 7, #51-61] (December 11, 1804 - April 2, 1811)

Box 7, Folder 7: Miscellaneous Robert Proud documents [Volume 7, #63-80] (1746-1807)

Box 7, Folder 8: Auction catalog of Proud papers, no cover (1903)

Box 7, Folder 9: Auction catalog of Proud papers, cover and annotations (1903)

Physical Description

0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box

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