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
William Logan Fisher (1781-1862) purchased "Belfield," a large house in Germantown, Pennsylvania, from painter Charles Wilson Peale in 1826. He gave the house to his oldest daughter, Sarah Logan Fisher (1806-1891) and her husband, William Wister (1803-1891). Belfield remained home to their descendants until 1984 when it was sold to La Salle University.
William Logan Fisher, son of Thomas (1741-1810) and Sarah Logan Fisher (1751-1796), was born in 1781. His great-grandparents were James Logan and Sarah Read Logan. He was raised at "Wakefield" in Germantown, Pennsylvania, not far from Belfield. When he was fourteen he travelled to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he was placed in the counting house of William Rotch, Jr. It was in New Bedford and through the Rotch family that William met his first wife, Mary Rodman (1781-1813). William and Mary married in 1802 and had two children, Thomas (1803-1861) and Sarah Logan (1806-1891), before returning to Wakefield in 1807. In 1810, they had their third child, Elizabeth (1810-1891), and in 1813, Mary died. Years later, William Logan Fisher married Sarah Lindley (1785-1865). They had three children together: Lindley (1818-1852), Charles William (1820-1857), and Mary Rodman (1822-1903).
William Logan Fisher was an industrialist and entrepreneur. In New Bedford, he owned several whaling vessels and, upon his return to Germantown, he established Wakefield Mills Manufacturing Company. At its peak, Wakefield Mills produced nearly all the hosiery and fine knit goods in the United States. It was just the first in a series of mills owned and operated by Fisher and his descendants. Together with William Wister, his daughter Sarah's husband, he also operated a calico print mill. In 1834, he established the Duncannon Iron Mill in Clark's Ferry, Pennsylvania with Charles Morgan.
Sarah Logan Fisher (1806-1891), William Logan Fisher's oldest daughter, and William Wister (1803-1881) were married in 1826. William Logan Fisher gave them the Belfield house as a wedding gift. Sarah and William Wister had six sons who lived to adulthood: William Rotch (1827-1911), John (1829-1900), Langhorne (1834-1891), Jones (1839-1917), Francis (1841-1905) and Rodman (1844-1913). The six brothers were raised at Belfield, receiving their earliest education at Germantown Academy. Though they all pursued different professional paths, all of the brothers were in some way affiliated with the various businesses established by their grandfather at Wakefield, Duncannon and other locations.
John Wister, Sarah and William Wister's second eldest son, was apprenticed at the Iron Works of Fisher & Morgan at Duncannon and worked for the company his entire adult life. Jones and Rodman Wister were both iron merchants in Philadelphia. Additionally, William Rotch, who was a lawyer by trade, John, Langhorne and Jones Wister established an iron furnace in Harrisburg, calling their joint business venture J & J Wister Company. Jones, Langhorne and Francis Wister also fought in the Civil War. Though business and war took some of the brothers away from Philadelphia and Germantown, all of them retained close ties to their childhood home. They were all members of the Germantown Cricket Club (Jones Wister was a charter member, in fact) and the Belfield Country Club, among others.
In 1890, John Wister and his family returned to Belfield from Harrisburg, where they were living, to take care of his mother, who died in 1891. Upon her death, John inherited the estate, and he and his family lived at Belfield until his death in 1900. In 1922 John's wife, Sarah Tyler Boas (born about 1833), a member of the prominent Harrisburg Boas family, died. She left the Belfield house to Sarah Logan Wister Starr (1873-1956), John and Sarah's second oldest daughter.
Sarah Logan Wister Starr was raised in Harrisburg and, later, at Belfield. Throughout her life, she was involved in a wide variety of organizations in Philadelphia and Germantown. Most notably, she served as president of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania from 1921 to 1941. One of her many contributions to Women's Medical College was the establishment of the Wister Fund in 1953, which provided money to erect new buildings on the school's East Falls campus. Starr was the state vice chairman of the World War I era National League for Woman's Services, as well as the Germantown branch. In that capacity, she raised two million dollars for children in Belgium. She was also chairman of the Women's Committee of the Liberty Loan program for the Federal Reserve District, and in 1917 she led the first parade for the Liberty Loan campaign in which several hundred women marched from the Women's Club of Germantown to Germantown Academy. Starr also served as president of the Colonial Dames and of the Women's Permanent Emergency Association of Germantown. She was associate trustee of the Board of Libraries at the University of Pennsylvania and served as Chairman of the Germantown Branch of the Civic Club. Starr was a member of the Acorn Club, Print Club, Sedgley Club, Germantown Historical Society, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Society for the Preservation of Landmarks. She was heavily involved in preparations for the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1926. She founded the Zoe Valley Library in Nova Scotia, where she summered as a child. Starr also wrote histories on her ancestral homes of Belfield and neighboring Stenton. With her cousins Frances and Anne, she published the magazine "The Sparrow." She was awarded honorary degrees from Ursinus College in 1933 and the University of Pennsylvania in 1941. She died in 1956.
In 1901, Sarah Logan Wister Starr married James Starr (1870-1937), a mining official. James graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1891 and Towne Scientific School in 1892. He served in the Spanish American War. James was a collector of Chinese stamps and a specialist in Chinese Treaty Ports. Organizations which James was affiliated include: China Stamp Society, Chinese Philatelic Society in Shanghai, Board of Libraries of the University of Pennsylvania, Council of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Germantown Cricket Club, Zoological Society, and United Spanish American War Veterans.
While they lived at Belfield, the Starrs made significant changes and improvements to the house and grounds. They added electricity and telephone service via underground wires, water and rock gardens, and a rose garden. Aspects of the new garden decor were inspired by a trip to China the Starrs enjoyed in 1933. The Starrs were frequent travelers, embarking on several "Round the World Cruises" during the 1930s. In 1937, they accompanied Pennsylvania Governor George H. Earle to Sweden on the 300th anniversary of Swedish colonists coming to America.
Sarah and James' daughter, S. Logan Wister Starr (1903-1979), married Dr. Daniel Blain (1898-1981) in 1936. Blain, the son of Presbyterian foreign missionaries, was born in Kashing, China. He was a psychiatrist who received his M.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1929. During World War II he served in the U.S. Public Health Service, War Shipping Administration, and Veteran's Administration. He held high-ranking positions at many hospitals and mental health institutions, including the now-defunct Tratelja Farms, from the 1930s until his retirement in the 1963. Logan and Daniel Blain's son, Daniel Blain Jr., sold the Belfield property to La Salle University in 1984.
Butler, James A. "Three Centuries on the South Campus." La Salle Local History web page (accessed online December 8, 2010: http://www.lasalle.edu/commun/history/articles/southcampus.htm).
Butler, James A. "Home Where 'The Mansion' Was." La Salle Local History web page (accessed online December 8, 2010: http://www.lasalle.edu/commun/history/articles/themansionweb.htm).
Butler, James A. "The Remarkable Wisters at Belfield." La Salle Local History web page (accessed online December 8, 2010: http://www.lasalle.edu/commun/history/articles/remarkablewisters.htm).
Dillan, Michelle. "William Logan Fisher." La Salle Local History web page (accessed online on December 8, 2010: http://www.lasalle.edu/commun/history/articles/wlf.htm).
DiLissio, Raymond. "John Wister: Active Iron Industrialist." La Salle Local History web page (accessed online on December 10, 2010: http://www.lasalle.edu/commun/history/articles/johnwister.htm).
Fisher, William Logan, and Nicholas B. Wainwright. "Memoir of William Logan Fisher (1781-1962) for His Grandchildren." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 9, no. 1 (Jan. 1975), 92-103 (accessed online on September 8, 2010: http://jstor.org/stable/20090923).
Jordan, John W., ed. Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Philadelphia: Genealogical and Personal Memoirs. Baltimore: Clearfield Company, Inc., 1994, 2004 (accessed online via Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=arAfWBsvO1gC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false).
Stanoch, Dave. "The Life of William Rotch Wister (1827-1911)." La Salle Local History web page (accessed online on December 10, 2010: http://www.lasalle.edu/commun/history/articles/wrwister.htm).
Thompson, Jeff. “Sarah Logan Wister Starr.” La Salle Local History web page (accessed online on December 10, 2010: http://www.lasalle.edu/commun/history/articles/starr.htm).
Wister, Jones. Jones Wister's Reminiscences. Philadelphia: Printed for private circulation by L.B. Lippincott Company, 1920 (accessed online via Google Books on December 20, 2010: http://books.google.com/books?id=LTtHAAAAIAAJ&dq=Jones%20Wister&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false).
The Belfield papers include materials from families who lived in the Belfield mansion in Germantown, Pennsylvania from 1826 until 1984; however, the papers span the years 1679 to 1977. Featured individuals include William and Sarah Logan Fisher Wister, their son, John Wister and his wife, Sarah Tyler Boas Wister, their granddaughter, Sarah Logan Wister Starr and her husband, James Starr, and their great-granddaughter, S. Logan Starr Blain and her husband, Dr. Daniel Blain. The collection also houses papers from related individuals in the Emlen, Fisher, Hall, Lindley, Logan, Meigs, Wister, and other families.
Collectively, the Belfield papers tell the story of several generations of a prominent family, offering glimpses into life in and around Philadelphia from the 1820s to the 1970s. As a result of the various family members' diverse professional and personal engagements, the collection contains materials on a wide range topics including Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Colonial Dames of America, the Sesquicentennial Exposition, stamp collecting, world travel during the 1930s, twentieth-century psychiatry, nineteenth-century industry and legal practice, and genealogy of the Logan, Fisher and Wister families.
Particularly well documented are the lives of Sarah Logan Wister Starr (1873-1956) and Dr. Daniel Blain (1898-1981). Starr's papers reflect her involvement in several organizations, especially as the president of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania and the Colonial Dames of America. Blain was a practicing psychiatrist from the 1930s to the 1970s. Records available for research here offer general information about the practice of psychiatry during the mid-twentieth century.
This collection includes correspondence, financial records, ephemera, photographs, scrapbooks, pamphlets, periodicals, and other items. It is arranged into seven series, the first four representing the four couples who were the primary residents of Belfield from 1826 to the 1970s: "Series I. William and Sarah Logan Fisher Wister, 1790-1895"; "Series II. John and Sarah Tyler Boas Wister, 1807-1934"; "Series III. James and Sarah Logan Wister Starr, 1767-1980"; and "Series IV. Dr. Daniel and S. Logan Starr Blain, 1903-1975." The remaining series are: "Series V. Other family members and associates, 1862-1977"; "Series VI. Photographs, 1884-1977"; and "Series VII. Publications and ephemera, 1697-1972."
"Series I. William and Sarah Logan Fisher Wister, 1790-1895" contains correspondence, diaries, and financial records. It is divided into three subseries: "William Wister, 1803-1891"; "Sarah Logan Fisher Wister, 1790-1893"; and "William and Sarah L. F. Wister, 1860-1895." The majority of the material is personal, but there is some documentation of William Wister's business ventures.
"Series II. John and Sarah Tyler Boas Wister, 1807-1934" contains business records, correspondence, financial records, and subject files. It is divided into three subseries: "John Wister, 1837-1927"; "Sarah Tyler Boas Wister, 1852-1934"; and "John and Sarah T. B. Wister, 1807-1927." The Wister family's company, Duncannon Iron, is represented somewhat in this series, but additional materials relating to family businesses may be found associated with the other Wister brothers in the "Other family members and associates" series.
"Series III. James and Sarah Logan Wister Starr, 1767-1980" contains correspondence, diaries, financial records, and subject files. It is divided into three subseries: "James Starr, 1767-1956"; "Sarah Logan Wister Starr, 1846-1980"; and "James and Sarah L. W. Starr, 1871-1940." In James Starr's papers, materials of special interest include correspondence about his stamp collecting, and documentation of his administration of family interests in multiple properties including the Fort Hunter mansion in Harrisburg (a family home of his mother-in-law, Sarah Tyler Boas Wister). Sarah Logan Wister Starr's subseries is the largest in this collection. Well-documented topics include Colonial Dames of America, World War I Liberty Loan drives, the Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926, and the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. There is a plethora of other subjects not as extensively covered, such as the 300th anniversary of Swedish colonies in America, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Germantown Hospital, Belfield mansion, Stenton mansion, and the Magna Charta Dames. James and Sarah Starr's joint papers include comprehensive documentation and ephemera from world cruises the couple enjoyed with their daughter Logan (S. Logan Starr Blain) in the 1930s.
"Series IV. Dr. Daniel and S. Logan Starr Blain, 1903-1975" contains business records, correspondence, both personal and business-related, financial records both business and personal, and psychiatry-related subject files. It is divided into two subseries: "Subseries a. Dr. Daniel Blain, 1929-1972" and "Subseries b. S. Logan Starr Blain, 1903-1975." Most of Blain's records relate to his professional interests and membership in professional organizations; he also researched and published articles on Dr. Benjamin Rush. There is also a large collection of reprints of academic psychiatry articles. Patient files from Dr. Blain's practice and from Tratelja Farms Sanitarium, a mental health institution where Dr. Blain worked, are restricted. Much of the material in S. Logan Starr Blain's papers relate to her 1936 wedding and to her travels.
"Series V. Other family members and associates, 1862-1977" contains correspondence, business records, and financial records of the various extended family members. For a family tree showing relationships between some of the individuals in this collection, see [http://22.214.171.124/sites/126.96.36.199/files/docs/manuscripts/belfield_family_tree.pdf].The most heavily represented individuals are: George Emlen Jr. (b. 1843), brother-in-law and partner in the legal practice of James Starr Sr. (b. circa 1842); William Logan Fisher (1781-1862), father of Sarah Logan Fisher Wister; William Coleman Hall, whose relation to the family is unknown; Maria Dickinson Logan (1857-1939), great-great-granddaughter of William Logan; and Francis Wister (son of William and Sarah Logan Fisher Wister; brother of John Wister). Maria Dickinson Logan (1857-1939) was a dedicated genealogist and family historian who collected papers of her ancestors; much of the Logan family material bears a stamp with her name. Due to her efforts, the Belfield papers includes a small amount of material from two of her great-grandfathers, Dr. George Logan (1753-1821) and John Dickinson (1732-1808), both of whom were significant early American statesman. There are also lightly annotated almanacs from Dr. George Logan's wife, the Quaker diarist Deborah Norris Logan; and a small amount of papers from Quaker minister Ruth Anna (Rutter) Lindley, mother-in-law of William Logan Fisher. Sarah Logan Wister Starr's sisters, Elizabeth Wister Wurtz (born about 1855) and Margaret Wister Meigs (born 1882), are represented in this series; additional correspondence between them and their sister may be found in her correspondence section.
The bulk of "Series VI. Photographs, 1884-1977" comes from Dr. Daniel Blain's papers, and includes portraits of psychiatric colleagues and photographs from conferences he attended. There are some identified photographs depicting family members and events; however, most of the remaining photographs are of unidentified individuals, groups, and scenery.
"Series VII. Publications and ephemera, 1697-1972" contains published and printed materials ranging from advertisements and pamphlets to magazines and paper dolls, international travel ephemera, and newspapers from Sweden, China, and other countries.
Series I. William and Sarah Logan Fisher Wister
Subseries a. William Wister
Subseries b. Sarah Logan Fisher Wister
Subseries c. William and Sarah Logan Fisher Wister
Series II. John and Sarah Tyler Boas Wister
Subseries a. John Wister
Subseries b. Sarah Tyler Boas Wister
Subseries c. John and Sarah T. B. Wister
Series III. James and Sarah Logan Wister Starr
Subseries a. James Starr
Subseries b. Sarah Logan Wister Starr
Subseries c. James and Sarah L.W. Starr
Series IV. Dr. Daniel and S. Logan Starr Blain
Subseries a. Dr. Daniel Blain
Subseries b. S. Logan Starr Blain
Series V. Other family members and associates
Series VI. Photographs
Series VII. Publications and ephemera
Gift of Daniel Blain Jr., 1984.
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.
- Blain, Daniel.
- Blain, S. Logan Starr, 1903-1979
- Fisher, W.L., (William Logan), 1781-1862
- Starr, James, 1870-1937
- Starr, Sarah Logan Wister, 1873-1956
- Wister, Sarah Logan Fisher, 1806-1891.
- Wister, Sarah Tyler Boas, b. circa 1833
- Wister, William, 1803-1881.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza
- Finding Aid Date
- 2011 May 10
- 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. Patient files in "Series IV. Dr. Daniel and S. Logan Starr Blain" which are closed to researchers until 2030.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
This letterbook contains a list of Fisher family births, marriages and deaths, 1741-1875.
This ledger has been repurposed as a child's scrapbook.
This ledger has been repurposed as a child's scrapbook.
This subseries contains subject files arranged in alphabetical order.
These files may contain confidential patient records and are restricted.
Restricted files from the War Shipping Administration materials have been relocated to Patient records.
This box contains artifacts found within the collection. Objects include, commemorative coins, stamps, linens, a bloodletting device associated with a Dr. Logan, a handmade scale, epaulets associated with Dr. Daniel Blain, medals/pins associated with Sarah Logan Wister Starr, and a decorative photograph frame containing an image of Madonna with Child.