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John Bartram Association collection on the Bartram family


Held at: John Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library [Contact Us]54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA, 19143

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the John Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library. 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

"John Bartram (1699-1777) was the self-taught "Father of American Botany." Bartram's career as a botanist began with the creation of his garden in Kingsessing, Pennsylvania. While Bartram's botanical garden was probably not the first in America, it soon became the largest and most impressive. He traveled extensively throughout the eastern United States collecting plant specimens. His first expedition was through Maryland and Virginia, where he traveled up the James River and into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Other trips led Bartram through the Catskill Mountains and Oswego, New York, to Lake Ontario, and later to the Carolinas. Bartram's final trip, in 1765, took him to Florida, where he served as King George's royal botanist.

"Of John Bartram's nine children, William (1739-1823) is the best known. He attended the Philadelphia Academy for four years, beginning in 1752. Despite his father's desire that he learn a trade, William was fascinated by botany and pursued his love of nature throughout his life. He accompanied his father on the 1765 expedition in Florida and, in 1773, returned to further explore the state. William spent nearly four years in the southern United States and later published an account of his travels. Two of John Bartram's other children, Moses and Isaac Bartram, were Philadelphia merchants."


Quoted text from: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Finding aid for "Bartram Family Papers, 1684-1841." Accessed July 3, 2012.

This collection includes various materials created by or on the subject of John Bartram (1699-1777) and his descendants. It includes some original and many copies of Bartram family documents, photographs, book research, genealogical research, and plant information. Some sections of the collection have been inventoried, and inventories may be available to on-site researchers.

The highlights of this collection are original documents created by Bartram family members dating as early as the 18th century. A daybook kept by Moses Bartram, Jr. (grandson of John Bartram the botanist) relates to his pharmaceutical business, 1778-1788. From Moses and Isaac Bartram are original pages of their hay accounts, 1791-1800. There is a journal written by James Howell Bartram while employed as a ship's surgeon traveling to Batavia, Madras, Calcutta, and other destinations, 1804-1805. The journal also features some sketches by William Bartram of medical instruments. In addition, this collection includes scattered original Bartram family wills, marriage certificates, letters, and deeds, 1768-1870.

Researchers at the Library may also avail themselves of photocopies and transcriptions of various Bartram family documents held at other manuscripts repositories or in private hands. There are photocopies of John Bartram's journal, 1765-1766; Moses Bartram's receipt book, 1786-1801; William Bartram's diary, 1802-1822; James Moncrieff's plan of Fort Picalata on St. John's River; Bartram's Garden advertisements dating back to 1810; and numerous other documents. Especially useful is a set of high-quality scans of William Bartram's commonplace book, as the original is owned by a Bartram family member.

This collection contains a large number of images and photographs, both originals and reproductions. Formats include cut-paper silhouettes, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and paper prints. There are portraits of Bartram family members; photographs of the Bartram house interior, exterior, and gardens; and prints of botanical drawings by John and William Bartram. Of special interest is a scrapbook by Henry Dreer Bartram on Bartram's Garden, 1898-1950.

This collection contains a large amount materials relating to the publication of books and dissertations on the Bartrams, including manuscript drafts, correspondence, book research, illustrations and illustration research, offprints, bibliographies/card files. Titles include: William Bartram, The Search for Nature's Design: Selected Art, Letters, and Unpublished Writings ed. by Thomas Hallock and Nancy E. Hoffman (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010); Puc Puggy Flower Hunter: A Life of William Bartram by Ralph S. Palmer; "The Construction of William Bartram's Narrative Natural History: A Genetic Text of the Draft Manuscript for Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida" by Nancy Eberle Hoffman (diss. in American Civilization, University of Pennsylvania, 1996); "William Bartram and the American Revolution on the Southern Colonial Frontier: The Context for Bartram's Travels by Edward J. Cashin (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000).

The collection includes narrative genealogies and research on the Bartram family compiled by various individuals. Large family trees are stored in the flat file. There are also newspaper clippings on Bartram family reunions.

This collection contains some plant research, including plant lists, native plant studies, and information on specific plants.

Materials collected by the John Bartram Association or donated by Bartram family members over time.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2011-2012 as part of a pilot project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact John Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library directly for more information.

John Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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