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Christian C. Sanderson collection


Held at: Christian C. Sanderson Museum [Contact Us]Box 153, Chadds Ford, PA, 19317

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Christian C. Sanderson Museum. 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

Christian Carmack Sanderson (1882-1966) was an historian, collector, teacher, musician, lecturer, and radio broadcaster, who spent most of his life in the area of Chadds Ford, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Christian "Chris" Carmack Sanderson was born in 1882 in Port Providence, along the Schuylkill River in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1901 from West Chester Normal School (renamed West Chester University in 1982). Over the next 28 years, he taught at 10 different schools, mostly one-room schoolhouses in Chester and Delaware counties in Pennsylvania. His formal teaching career ended in 1929 after he left a position as Principal of the Oak Grove School in Elsmere, Delaware, but he continued to teach in other capacities. Sanderson taught square dancing classes up until his death in 1966. He was also a popular local lecturer on topics including Historic Chester County, Historic Delaware County, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, The Story of Kennett, The Joy of Living, Seeing Things Near Home, and The Battle of the Brandywine

Sanderson developed a deep and abiding love in history, particularly local history, encouraged by his mother Hanna. He collected numerous artifacts including family treasures, music, militariana, sports, American history, art, books, glass, china, photographs, autographs, signs, posters, newspapers, letters, curios, arrowheads, rocks and minerals, and more. He also frequently travelled to New York City and Washington, D.C. to witness landmark events, attending every Presidential inauguration from Teddy Roosevelt's (1905) to Lyndon Johnson's (1965). From the early 1900s, when he lived in the building formerly used as Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War Battle of the Brandywine, Sanderson made his collections available for the public to view.

Sanderson was a well-known radio personality in the greater Philadelphia area, broadcasting over the course of 43 years on four different radio stations in the area. In March of 1923, Sanderson's voice was broadcast for the first time on station WFI in Philadelphia for the Boy Scouts of America. His last broadcast, less than a month before he passed away in 1966, was heard via WCOJ in Coatesville. Sanderson broadcast a weekly program, 'Old Folks at Home' on WDEL in Wilmington, from 1930 to 1940.

Sanderson was an accomplished musician who particularly favored country music as well as country dancing. He organized a country band, The Pocopson Valley Boys, which recorded an album of square dance music in 1950. Sanderson was also central in organizing The Old Fiddlers' Picnic, held annually in Chester County since 1928 to preserve and promote old time fiddling and related musical arts.

Chris Sanderson was much beloved in his local community, counting among his close friends the Wyeth family of acclaimed American artists. After Sanderson's death in 1966, his friends and neighbors--including Andrew Wyeth--turned his home into a public museum featuring his extensive collection of artifacts with historic, artistic, and nostalgic value.


Christian Sanderson Museum. "The Man." 2014. Accessed on June 25, 2014.

This collection consists of Christian C. Sanderson's personal papers and papers of his family members, as well as materials collected by him. It includes diaries, ephemera, notes, postcards, scrapbooks, slides and scripts from lectures given by Sanderson, artworks created by members of the Wyeth family and others, photographs, financial records, and more. There is a General Index to the archival collection, in alphabetical order by topic, available on-site. Some of the individual binders have a subject or name index. Transcripts exist for some diaries and notes of Christian C. Sanderson and Hanna Carmack Sanderson (his mother). Many items in the collection are captioned or annotated by Christian C. Sanderson.

Personal writings by Sanderson include poems, lecture notes and writings on local history topics (articles and speeches), drawings, "sentiments" books (1932-1943), both pocket and full sized diaries (1900-1966), appointment books, and loose notes. The loose notes are in several binders, arranged in chronological order. Many of Sanderson's "sentiments," notes, and diaries are records of news events, personal events, activities, important dates, appointments, lists, and observations. Many of the appointment books only have a few pages filled in. There are also some transcripts available of notes written by Sanderson that no longer exist. (Most of these documents date from 1918-1966, but there are a few documents from before 1918 such as a baby jingle written by his mother, Hanna.)

Correspondence in the collection includes letters written to Sanderson by his mother (Hanna Carmack Sanderson) and his brother and sister-in-law (Robert and Laura Sanderson), historic letters Sanderson collected, letters from his students and the children at schools where he lectured, letters from various Wyeth family members, letters sent by Sanderson, and a section of alphabetically organized letters to Sanderson (many from Dorothy Runyon, a one-time love interest, dating from 1940 to 1959). Correspondence is in the form of letters, postcards, greeting cards, telegrams, and some stamps and empty envelopes.

Sanderson's materials on American wars include items from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and both World Wars. The Civil War collection has some muster rolls and uniform decorations (badges and epaulettes), but mostly contains Civil War memorializations in the form of ephemera, pamphlets, Grand Army of the Republic materials, programs for anniversary celebrations and remembrances, and correspondence with veterans recalling their time in the war. The Revolutionary War materials, relating to the Battle of the Brandywine/Washington's Headquarters, are secondary-source: research and articles about these topics, event planning, correspondence about information and events, and booklets. Of special interest are a series of letters received by Sanderson from friends serving in World War I, and records from a World War II civilian aircraft observation post (Concord Observation Post, Delaware County, Pa.).

School records from the various schools where Sanderson taught--including Oak Grove School (Elsmere, Delaware), Chadds Ford, Glen Mills, Garwood (Montgomery County), and others--include financial accounts, sports expenses and other sport-related materials (basketball team scrapbooks from the 1930s), exam scores, enrollment records, roll books, grade books, student writing samples, and photo albums/scrapbooks. There are also materials relating to schools that Sanderson attended, including notebooks and alumni materials from West Chester Normal School (renamed West Chester University in 1982) and items from when Sanderson was in elementary school.

Records from Sanderson's jobs other than teaching include scrapbooks with clippings and correspondence, and radio scripts from his time as a radio broadcaster on WDEL (Wilmington, DE) and WCOJ (Coatesville, PA); records from Sanderson's involvement with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) historical marker program such as workers' time cards, property maps, and marker/property descriptions; and records of Sanderson's band, Pocopson Valley Boys, 1932-1966, such as scrapbooks, photographs, Old Fiddlers' Picnic materials, memorials, and ledgers recording performances, earnings, musicians, and reunions.

Sanderson's financial and legal papers include receipts, notebooks with expenses and debts, bank records, tax returns, various versions of Sanderson's will, and estate records. There are also guest registers from 1906 to the 21st century noting visitors to Sanderson's collection.

There are some binders on various municipalities and locations with a personal meaning to Sanderson such as West Chester, Chadds Ford, Phoenixville, and other places, as well as several scrapbooks with research materials on various people, some organized by subject, with clippings, ephemera, and photographs.

Ephemera and printed material in the collection include pamphlets, blank postcards that Sanderson sent to himself or had others send to him to commemorate a place or date, event programs, invitations, newspaper clippings, and articles by or about Sanderson.

There are many autographs in the collection in the form of autograph books, photographs with signatures, and autographs clipped from letters. The signatures are from relatives, acquaintances, and famous Americans including presidents, politicians, musicians, actors, and other celebrities.

Hanna Sanderson's papers include her diaries, some of which have been transcribed, 1932-1943; writings; letters; and financial records. Other family members' papers mainly include military records, such as a muster roll from one of Christian Sanderson's grandfathers.

Also in the collection are ledgers from Joel Fink's fuel company, which sold coal and lumber in Port Providence (Phoenixville, PA), 1840s-1860s.

Audio/visual material includes reel-to-reel audio tapes from Sanderson's 80th birthday; video reels; audiocassette recordings of Sanderson's lectures, birthday celebration, speaking engagements, and radio broadcasts; and long playing records of the Pocopson Valley Boys. Some of the recordings are transcribed. There are photographs scattered throughout the collection, many of which are of Sanderson, but also some of family members, and other places and people of interest to Sanderson.

Also available on-site are about 40 artworks by various members of the Wyeth family, including N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Peter Hurd; and the institutional records of the Christian C. Sanderson Museum after Sanderson's death in 1966.

Materials collected or created by Christian C. Sanderson.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a 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 Christian C. Sanderson Museum directly for more information.

Christian C. Sanderson Museum
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu 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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