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Patrick Coad family papers


Held at: Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center [Contact Us]100 E. Wynnewood Rd., Wynnewood, PA

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center. 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

On April 29, 1820, Patrick Coad (1783-1872) married Anna Maria O’Conway (1799-1882), the youngest daughter of Matthias O’Conway (1766-1842), a prominent Philadelphia linguist and lexicographer who was especially well-known within the Catholic community. Patrick and Anna Coad had several children, including Cecilia Coad (b. 1826), Joseph R. Coad (1829-1868), Anna Coad (b. 1831), Elizabeth Coad (b. 1832), Eleanor Coad (b. 1834), John B. Coad, and Theophilus Mathias Coad (1843-1847)

The family was active within the medical, scientific, and Catholic communities of the city. Other than the Southwark section of Philadelphia, the Coad family, long time parishioners of Old St. Joseph and Old St. Mary, also lived for a time in western Pennsylvania (Myerstown). Patrick owned land in several states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Kentucky.

Patrick Coad was a noted teacher and lecturer of medicine and the natural sciences, but gained wider notoriety after he patented his graduated galvanic battery in March 1842. The patent Coad received was for the “improvement in the mode of constructing the galvanic battery so as to vary the intensity of its effect, and in the construction of insulated conductors applied to the same for adapting it to medical purposes.” The instrument garnered a good deal of attention within the medical community, which at the time was very interested in the use of electricity and magnetism for medical treatment.

Patrick’s son Joseph R. Coad became a well-known doctor within the city, serving as president of the Board of Health in 1858. Joseph was also involved with various civic and Catholic institutions in the city, including the Catholic Philopatrian Institute, the Native American Institute, and the Franklin Fire Company. Joseph married Elizabeth (Lydia) B. Hall, a non-Catholic who later converted. They had four children before Joseph’s early death at the age of thirty-nine: Joseph Aloysius Coad (b. 1861), Mary Isabel Coad (1863-1955), Wilfred Coad (b. 1865), and Theophilus John B. Coad (b. 1867).

The majority of materials relating to Patrick Coad, including incoming letters, his lecture notes, legal papers, and ephemera, concern his galvanic battery with patent insulated poles and also document his career as a lecturer of the sciences. Many of the items are testimonials, authored by numerous prominent medical professors, physicians, and government officials, such as Thomas D. Mutter, J. K. Mitchell, and Governor John Fairfield of Maine. Most of these, which Coad publicized through pamphlets, exist as copies in Coad’s hand.

Ephemeral materials include newspaper clippings, pamphlets and broadsides publicizing his invention, lectures, as well as the school that Coad opened for boys and girls. Other items include medical notes and remedies and school-related papers. One item among these materials is a small notebook entitled, “Minutes of Cholera Cases”, which documents some of Coad’s work with patients during the 1849 cholera epidemic.

Materials in the collection relating to Joseph R. Coad, a prominent Philadelphia physician who for a time served as president of the city’s Board of Health, include incoming and outgoing correspondence, cards of admission to medical lectures, and his obituary clippings from the Catholic Standard and Times. A few items relating to Joseph R. Coad are also contained in the family scrapbook discussed below. Correspondence, estate items, and ephemera relating to Anna Maria O’Conway Coad, John B. Coad, and Elizabeth Coad are also included.

One folder contains ephemera relating to the Coad family as well as miscellaneous correspondence. Included in this folder are letters and notes from Philadelphia clergymen Hugh Lane (1821-1902), the founding pastor of St. Teresa of Avila (1853), and Father Charles A. McFadden (1836-1910). Other papers and correspondence appear to be related to Anna Maria O’Conway Coad’s sister, Isabel Editha O’Conway McFadden (b. 1796), who was the wife of Patrick McFadden (d. 1826).

Also included is a folder with items relating to Matthias O’Conway. These appear to be receipts of payments for pew rentals at Old St. Mary Church as well as receipts relating to contributions made to the parish and its societies.

The collection also contains various miscellaneous items. One is a document listing the number of those in the city who died during the Yellow Fever epidemic in possibly August and September 1798. Another document includes a list of food items that were requested for those military personnel and civilians stationed at St. Paul’s Church during the first phase of the Nativist riots in May 1844.

Lastly, there is a scrapbook relating to the Coad family. The scrapbook itself is a ledger circa 1810 presumably used by a liquor dealer in Ireland whose clientele consisted mostly of doctors. Items contained therein are mostly miscellaneous engravings, including a lithograph of the ruins of St. Augustine after it was destroyed during the 1844 Nativist riots, paintings, drawings, and sketches, some of which appear to have been removed from published works. A few of these items are marked “O’Madden”. Also included is a photograph of Joseph R. Coad as well as a broadside from the Franklin Fire Company, of which he was a member, marking his death. There are also First Communion and Confirmation certificates from Old St. Mary and Old St. Joseph relating to Joseph R. Coad and his family.

Flick, Lawrence F. “Mathias James O’Conway: Philologist, Lexicographer and Interpreter of Languages, 1766-1842.” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society 10-11. (September 1899- June 1900). Griffin, Martin I.J., ed. The American Catholic Historical Researches 21 (1904): 182. Griffin, Martin I.J., ed. The American Catholic Historical Researches 10 (1904): 19. Historic United States Patents. March 1842. Accessed November 20, 2010. Smith, Sarah Trainer. “Philadelphia’s First Nun.” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society 5, no. 4 (December 1894): 417-522.

Accession number 1990.038

Digital reproductions of the Patrick Coad family papers are available at

This is a revised finding aid. An older finding aid is avilable in hard copy at PAHRC.

Scrapbook is in poor condition; needs proper conservation.

Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Faith Charlton
Finding Aid Date
; January 2011
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Patrick Coad- Incoming correspondence, 1836-1858, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Patrick Coad- Lecture and research notes, medical remedies, and school-related materials, 1849, undated.
Box 1 Folder 2
Patrick Coad- Lecture and research notes, medical remedies, and school-related materials, undated.
Box 1 Folder 3
Patrick Coad- Testimonials regarding galvanic battery and scientific lectures, 1833-1859, undated.
Box 1 Folder 4
Patrick Coad- Legal papers, newspaper clippings, and publicity ephemera, 1842-1851, undated.
Box 1 Folder 5
Joseph R. Coad- Correspondence, ephemera, and obituary clippings, 1853-1855, undated.
Box 1 Folder 6
Anna Maria O'Conway Coad- Correspondence, estate items, and ephemera, 1854-1880.
Box 1 Folder 7
John B. Coad and Elizabeth Coad- Correspondence, 1841-1888.
Box 1 Folder 8
Coad family- Miscellaneous correspondence and ephemera, 1814-1874, undated.
Box 1 Folder 9
Matthias O'Conway- Receipts, 1800-1813.
Box 1 Folder 10
Miscellaneous- Yellow fever deaths and item list for militia, 1798, 1844, undated.
Box 1 Folder 11
Coad family scrapbook, circa 1850-1890.
Box 2

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