Held at: Library Company of Philadelphia [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Library Company of Philadelphia. 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
Pierre Eugène Du Simitière, collector, artist, and historian, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on September 18, 1737 to Jean-Henri and Judith-Ulrique Cunegonde Delorme Ducimitiere. “Du Simitière was a restless man, forever traveling, forever collecting, forever projecting grand schemes in solitude,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, Introduction).
In 1757, Du Simitière sailed from the port of Amsterdam and arrived on St. Eustasius, a Dutch island. It was during this trip that his collecting began. According to the Library Company of Philadelphia, Du Simitière’s collecting, the main purpose of his travels, “cast a very wide net: books, newspapers, manuscripts, broadsides, prints, fossils, coins, medals, Indian artifacts, rocks, plants, and some animals—mostly dried insects and reptiles preserved in alcohol.” Paul Sifton’s research indicates that Du Simitière may have served in the military and that he probably had some training in art prior to his travels. He sketched specimens and scenery during his travels. He became a naturalized citizen of New York in 1769 and settled in Philadelphia in 1774.
Early in his collecting career, Du Simitière gathered materials regarding the natural and civil history of the West Indies and North America, however, after approximately 1770, he appears to have narrowed his focus to North America’s political history. Indeed, his collection particularly focuses on “relations with the Indians in the settlement of the West; and popular, democratic uprisings, including the Leisler Rebellion in New York in 1688, the Zenger freedom of the press trial, the Paxton Rebellion, the Stamp Act crisis, and finally the American Revolution,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, introduction). His attention to collecting ephemeral documents during the American Revolution was extraordinary and he “gathered every pamphlet, broadside, and newspaper he could get his hand on which related to the conflict,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, introduction).
Du Simitière attempted to publish “Memoirs and Observations on the Origin and Present State of North America,” which was based upon his gathered material, however, the United States Congress did not provide either approval or financial support. According to the Library Company of Philadelphia, this “rejection was … a psychological and financial blow from which Du Simitière never recovered.” Painting, instead of serving as a hobby, became his means for supporting himself and he submitted designs for seals for the United States, New Jersey, Delaware, and two other states; painted miniatures; taught drawing; painted portraits; and served as a translator for Congress as he spoke fluent English and several other languages.
Opening the first public museum in Philadelphia, Du Simitière presented his collected gatherings in the form of the American Museum in May 1782 at his home near Arch and Forth Streets. Unfortunately, the cost of upkeep exceeded the proceeds from tickets costing fifty cents. Du Simitiere died in October 1784 at the age of 47. Following his death, the contents of the American Museum were auctioned and the Library Company of Philadelphia purchased the bulk of the manuscript materials in 1785 for 104 pounds.
Du Simitière was “respected and occasionally even honored (Member and Curator of the American Philosophical Society, an honorary Master of Arts from Princeton), but he was never really embraced by his adopted country,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, introduction).
Library Company of Philadelphia. Pierre Eugène Du Simitière: His American Museum 200 Years After, 1985.
Sifton, Paul Ginsburg. Pierre Eugène Du Simitière (1737-1784): Collector in Revolutionary America. University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D., 1960.
The Library Company of Philadelphia purchased this collection of Pierre Eugene Du Simitière’s manuscripts at the auction of Du Simitière’s American Museum after his death on March 10, 1785. The books and pamphlets bought at the same auction have been dispersed through the Library Company's collections. Du Simitière gathered or copied these manuscripts during his travels in the West Indies, Boston, New York, and while he lived in Philadelphia, where he was a member of and one of the curators of the American Philosophical Society. After the Library Company of Philadelphia purchased the manuscripts, they were bound together. The Historical Records Survey of the Works Progress Administration described the manuscripts in "Descriptive Catalogue of the Du Simitière Papers in the Library Company of Philadelphia" (1940), from which many of the following series and records descriptions have been abstracted. Since the Historical Records survey, many of the bound volumes have been unbound and foldered by the Library Company of Philadelphia. The unbound volumes in the series descriptions contain folder level description; however, the bound volumes are described only as an overall work. For more detail on the bound volumes, see the "Descriptive Catalogue of the Du Simitière Papers in the Library Company of Philadelphia" (1940). Researchers should be aware that the series titles are drawn from the title of the bound volume. It is important to read the entire scope note for each series, because the volumes often contained additional topics than are listed in the title.
The collection includes information on places such as the West Indies, Pennsylvania, New England, New York, and the Carolinas. It includes information, documents, and research on many Native American groups and Creoles. The collection also contains information, documents, and research on historical events in the United States such as the Jacob Leisler case, politics in New York, the American Revolution, the colonization of America, and the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny. With the exception of a few miscellaneous items, the collections focus is on the years 1720 to 1780.
This collection is divided into thirteen series that were established when the manuscripts were in bound volumes. The titles of the series are also developed from the original titles of the bound volumes. The series are titled: “Papers Relating to Natural History,” “Papers Relating to New York,” “Papers relating to Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, etc.,” “Indian Treaties, 1721-1756,” “Original Letters, 1560-1781,” “Papers Relating to the West Indies,” “Original Journals and Extracts,” “Papers Relating to New England and New York,” “Papers Relating to Pennsylvania, New England, Etc.,” “Miscellaneous Papers from Du Simitière (Scraps),” “Papers Relating to New York politics, 1768-1771,” "Prints and artwork, 1758-1790," and "Volume boards, undated." The series are arranged and described in this order.
Purchased by the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1785.
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.
The last series in this collection, "Prints and artwork," is stored in the Print Department of the Library Company of Philadelphia.
- Indians of North America
- Native Americans
- Natural history
- New England--History
- New York (State)--History
- Poets, American
- United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
- United States--History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763
- United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
- West Indies--History
- Library Company of Philadelphia
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Megan Atkinson.
- Finding Aid Date
- 2011 September 8
- 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, on deposit at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. For access, please contact the Historical Society at 215-732-6200 or visit http://www.hsp.org.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Library Company with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
The series “Papers relating to Natural History” consists of a bound volume that is composed of thirty-four hand copied manuscripts pertaining to the natural history of North and South America, with a concentration on the West Indies and Santo Domingo, probably dating from 1763 to 1773. Many of the thirty-four manuscripts in the volume are word for word copies of information Du Simitière extracted from books and articles. Du Simitière cites these original works in his manuscripts. The other manuscripts are Du Simitière’s own observations from his travels. The manuscripts include descriptions of various plants and animals, instructions, lists of various forms of life, bibliographies, catalogues, and some papers on archaeological specimens in North and South America. Some topics of the manuscripts include taxidermy, instructions for making cement for the preservation of plants and animals, instructions on making pictures of birds with their feathers, and how to catch and preserve insects and animals.
The language of the records is mostly French and English, but the volume also contains a small amount of Latin and Creole.General Physical Description note
The series “Papers relating to New York” documents colonial New York, Dutch colonists in New York, and New York’s position as a British crown territory. Forty-eight of the documents pertain to the case of Jacob Leisler, a militia leader who led an uprising in the lower part of colonial New York in the years 1689 to 1691 against the policies of King James. Other documents include the original petition from the Foot Company, a vow of allegiance to King William and Queen Mary from Captain Charles Lodick and Isaac Lee in 1669, a list of coach owners in New York in 1770, documents relating to New Netherlands’s history from 1644 to 1664, and New York-related watercolors and illustrations done by Du Simitière.
The material is either hand copies of original documents or documents written by Du Simitière. The date of the copies is unknown, however the original documents were created from 1644 to 1770. The current order of the documents is presumably the order in which the documents were previously bound. Documents appear to be arranged by topic. This series includes correspondence, affidavits, petitions, and depositions. The language of this series is mostly English and Dutch.General Physical Description note
The series “Papers relating to Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, etc.,” contains thirty-eight manuscripts relating to a miscellany of topics including research and information on Native Americans, natural history, and descriptions and journals of travels. Despite the title, derived from the original volume title, the documents in this series contain information on Pennsylvania and the Carolinas, but they also contain information about Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and other provinces. Travel accounts include a copy of Lewis Evans’ letter to Richard Peters about Pennsylvania and a copy from George Croghan’s original journal documenting his travels to Ohio in 1748. The documents relating to the Native Americans include list of treaties and conferences between colonists and Native American tribes or the Six Nations; descriptions of Native American culture; and information on Native American languages. This series also includes Du Simitière’s and others’ meteorological journals, numerous extracts and accounts of the discovery of fossils, and drawings of buildings in Rhode Island and Philadelphia.
Many documents, spanning the years 1738 to 1770, were hand copied by Du Simitière from approximately 1753 to 1778. The current order of the documents is presumably the order in which the documents were previously bound. Documents appear to be arranged by topic. The language of the material is mostly French, Dutch, and English, although there are also some documents in Latin.General Physical Description note
The series “Indian Treaties, 1721-1756” contains sixty documents that relate to colonists' affairs with Native Americans prior to the Revolution. Heavily documented in the series are the minutes of councils; correspondence; and treatise between the English in Philadelphia and New York and the Five Nations, and later the Six Nations. Included in the series are treaties and their relevant correspondence from Conrad Weiser, William Shirley, James DeLancey, Robert Hunter Morris, and others. These documents reveal remarkable agreements between the Native Americans and the colonists, including numerous agreements involving the trade of goods and land, and agreements on the hunting of game. Also included are the testimonies of two traders describing French mistreatment of Native American traders, correspondence and other documents relating to the French and Indian Wars, and documents about Native American and colonist conflicts. An interesting document about an English and Native American conflict is the Petition to Lieutenant Governor Robert Morris of Pennsylvania from October 20, 1755, in which settlers petitioned the governor for aid and ammunition as a result of Native Americans attacks. The petition also contains testimonies from settlers who had been involved in the attacks.
The documents in this series are originals and copies. While the dates that the copies were made is unknown, the dates of the original documents from which copies were made span the years 1721 to 1756. This series is arranged in chronological order.General Physical Description note
The series “Original Letters, 1560-1781” contains eighty letters relating to a miscellany of topics and persons, including Scottish poet Tobias Smollett, natural history, the Colonial Committee of Correspondence, the Revolutionary War, and the Pennsylvania Line Revolt of 1781. The most heavily documented topic in this series is the Pennsylvania Line Revolt, a Revolutionary War rebellion in which the Continental Army soldiers rebelled against the Continental Army because of grievances pertaining to poor conditions and supplies. The Pennsylvania Line revolt began on January 1, 1781 and ended on January 29, 1781. The documents include correspondence relating to the mutiny, propositions from the Continental Army for redressing the soldiers’ grievances, proposals from the British Army asking for allegiance from the Pennsylvania Line, trial accounts, and other documents about potential and realized spies for the British.
The documents are arranged by topic. Many documents were hand copied by Du Simitière from originals. While the date that all of the copies were made is unknown, the dates of the original documents from which copies were made span the years 1560 to 1781. The language of the Du Simitière materials in this series are in English and French.
It is essential for researchers to know that the first seven letters in the volume were mistakenly bound in this volume and do not belong in the Du Simitière collection. Instead, these letters belong to the Henry Cox collection, which no longer resides at the Library Company. These letters are in Italian.General Physical Description note
The series “Papers relating to the West Indies” contains thirty-nine items about the history of the West Indies, particularly Jamaica and Santo Domingo. The documents within this series contain information on African slave uprisings, rebellions, conspiracies, and the slave trade. There are watercolors and sketches done by Du Simitière in Kingston, Jamaica that include musicians, scenic views, and a street view of two black slaves on the gallows. Other documents of interest include information on the Jamaican-Creole vocabulary, including translations of vocabulary; proverbs in Creole, English, and French; and descriptions, in French, of Java, Batavia, Jamaica, St. Eustatius, Cuba, and Santo Domingo. There are also extracts of many works and letters, lists, maps, sketches, and notes.
Presumably, this material was collected for a history of the West Indies, and this material is potentially an extension of the series “Papers relating to Natural History.” Many original documents were hand copied by Du Simitière. While the date that the copies were made is unknown, the dates of the original documents from which the copies were made span the years 1748 to 1773. Also included are some of Du Simitière’s original works regarding his personal travels to the West Indies.
The current order of the documents is presumably the order in which the documents were previously bound. Documents appear to be arranged by topic, including, in this order, descriptions of various islands and voyages, information and history on Jamaica, information and history on Santo Domingo, and general histories of the West Indies. The documents are mostly in French, but some documents are in Jamaican-Creole and English.General Physical Description note
The series “Original Journals and Extracts” contains twenty items relating to a miscellany of topics including journals of expeditions and travels to the Susquehanna and Ottawa, notes and accounts of General John Sullivan’s Western expedition, extracts from travel accounts of Captain Cook in the Pacific and Thurberg's account of Japan, documents about a variety of expeditions, and extracts from newspapers, poems, and documents relating to or by the poet John Maylem. The journals of the John Sullivan expedition document the expedition, but they also include several wash drawings of Indian dwellings and writings. Other poets included in this series are Nicholas Skull, a Pennsylvania surveyor, and Reverend Thomas Hopkinson. Some curiosities in this series include two extracts from the Mercure de France, one about a woman with a horn on her hand and another about a woman who apparently spontaneously combusted.
Many documents are extracted copies or full copies of original documents done by Du Simitière. While the date that the copies were made is unknown, the dates of the original documents from which the copies were made span the years 1629 to 1782. The current order of the documents is presumably the order in which the documents were previously bound. Documents appear to be arranged by topic.General Physical Description note
The series “Papers relating to New England, New York, etc.,” contains materials Du Simitière gathered and copied for a history of New York. The materials are mostly written and drawn by Du Simitière and they are gathered in a bound volume with an index on the first few pages. The material includes tombstone engravings, burial records, chronologies, death and marriage records, and Du Simitière’s sketches, including a sketch of the New York state house. There are also various newspaper clippings throughout the volume. The volume contains some notes on Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England. The materials are recorded in Italian and English and were probably compiled around 1774.General Physical Description note
The series “Papers relating to Pennsylvania and New England” contains information gathered by Du Simitière about the history and current state of affairs in Pennsylvania and New England. The volume includes a table of contents and an index. Of special interest are the several bibliographies of the books available to Du Simitière about the colonies, Native Americans, Pennsylvania, the West Indies, and New England. Other documents include chronologies, catalogs, copies of historical documents, newspaper clippings, and lists of families with chariots and coaches in Pennsylvania in 1782. The material in this series was probably compiled during the 1780s, Documents are in English.General Physical Description note
The series “Miscellaneous papers from Du Simitière (Scraps)” consists of three boxes containing a variety of materials that pertain to numerous topics, some of which are covered in other series. Many of the documents are copies of original documents done by Du Simitière. The collection includes drawings, journals, poems, newspaper clippings, vocabularies, and notes on North American Indians. The order created by the first survey was maintained, and the series appears to be arranged by topic. The series dates from 1740 to 1783 with the exception of ten medieval Latin manuscripts. The collection is written in Latin, French, Chinese, and English. This series contains some material relating specifically to Philadelphia.
Researchers who have not located a document or topic they are seeking elsewhere in the collection should browse this series.
The series ”Papers relating to New York politics, 1768-1771” predominately deals with the suspension of the New York House of Assembly by Governor Moore, the elections of the next New York House of Assembly, and the political factions involved in these elections. This series primarily contains newspaper clippings from New York newspapers such as Parker’s New-York Gazette, the Weekly Post-Boy, the Weekly Mercury, the New-York Gazette, and the Weekly Post, but there are occasionally newspaper clippings from other colonial newspapers, particularly from Boston and New Jersey. These newspaper clippings are mostly letters addressed to the printers or to the “Freeholders and Freemen of New York.” Individuals discussed in the letters include the leaders of opposing parties of the New York House of Assembly, Philip Livingston and James Delancey; and Sons of Liberty leaders, Isaac Sears and Alexander McDougall. Additional topics of the newspaper clippings and other documents include the abolishment of the Committee of Safety, the Quartering Act, and the Townshend Acts; and the Battle of Golden Hill. Documents of interest in this series are the minutes of the Common Council of New York on November 19, 1768, a document containing a song “The American Whig’s Address to the Dissenters;” speeches from meetings of the Sons of Liberty; correspondence regarding the Committee of Safety; and the votes tally for the election of the New York House of Assembly in which Philip Livingston won on February 10, 1768. There is also a signed petition regarding the non-importation agreement and a copy of a letter that was hung in a coffee house and addressed to three merchants. The writers of the letter inquired whether certain merchants planned on importing goods, and is signed by “The Mohocks,” a name derived from an eighteenth century London Gang.
This series dates from February 8, 1768 to October 1, 1770. The documents are mostly arranged in chronological order. Their quantity and arrangement make them an excellent starting point for anyone studying this period of New York politics. All the materials are in English.General Physical Description note
This series documents du Simitière as both collector and artist. The material consists of collected drawings and sketches as well as du Simitière's own art work, and covers several broad topics. Included are alphabets of several languages, landscapes (largely West Indian), portraits, drawings of architecture and architectural elements, natural history sketches, and drafts of seals. The sketches and drawings are printed, pen and ink drawings, watercolors and pastels.
This material is located within the Print Department at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The Print Department also houses cartoons, created by and collected by du Simitière, which are not catalogued in this finding aid.
The volume boards housed in this series are from disbound volumes housed elsewhere in the collection.
The inventory lists the contents of Du Simitière's American Museum, compiled after his death. The list includes books, works of art, as well as the contents of various cabinets of curiosity. 14 folio pages in manuscript, separated at most folds.
*This item was added to the collection in 2017 and was not in the collection when first processed*