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Foerderer and Tonner family papers


Held at: Glen Foerd on the Delaware [Contact Us]5001 Grant Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19114

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Glen Foerd on the Delaware. 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

The Glen Foerd estate was built circa 1850 by Charles Macalester, founder of Torresdale and Financial Adviser to eight United States Presidents. The estate, which Macalester called "Glengarry," was renamed by Robert H. Foerderer (1860-1903) when he purchased it in 1893.

Robert H. Foerderer, son of Edward and Augusta Julia (Oehme) Foerderer, was well known in Philadelphia for his self-titled leather manufacturing and tanning business, Robert H. Foerderer, Inc. Robert built a large plant in the Frankford section of Philadelphia in 1892 to produce his trademark "Vici Kid" leather, which was soft and supple enough for use in gloves and shoes. Foerderer also participated in several local clubs, served as the president and director of the Keystone Telephone Company, and was elected to the United States Congress in 1900.

Robert married Caroline Fischer (1861-1934) in 1881, and the couple had two children: Florence and Percival. Robert Foerderer died in 1903 at the young age of 43. His wife Caroline remarried to Enos Artman, and devoted the rest of her life to philanthropic work for the Artman Lutheran Home and the Philadelphia Orchestra. She died in 1934.

Percival Edward Foerderer was born in Philadelphia on October 25, 1884. Percival began working at his father's company in an entry-level position, but became president within five years. Two years later, he married Ethel Tillyer Brown (1885-1981). They had three daughters together, and lived in a palatial estate named "La Ronda" which they built in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Percival and Ethel were heavily involved with Thomas Jefferson Hospital, and the "Foerderer Pavilion" on its campus is named in honor of them. After Percival's death in 1969, a portion of the estate was sold to nearby Villanova University.

Florence Foerderer married William Tonner, and they had two daughters together: Marjorie and Carol. William Tonner, the proprietor of a hosiery mill in Lansdowne, was also a "gentleman farmer" who bred cattle and kept a large herd of prize-winning Ayrshires. Florence was an avid collector of art and assembled one of the most extensive private collections of prints in the country. She donated a world-class collection of William Blake works to the Philadelphia Museum of Art upon her death. She also amassed a valuable collection of Bibles, including Martin Luther's own Latin Bible from which he translated, and the first Bible ever printed in America.

When Florence Tonner died in 1972, ownership of the Glen Foerd estate passed to the Lutheran Church of America. In 1988, it reverted to the City of Philadelphia. The Glen Foerd Conservation Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Glen Foerd, now administers the property in cooperation with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.


"Glen Foerd History." Accessed September 28, 2011.

Majewicz, Cary. Finding aid for Foerderer family papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, collection 3102. Processing complete April 2008. Accessed September 28, 2011.

Roughly a third of the Foerderer family papers is comprised of financial records, primarily cancelled checks, 1922-1948, and check register books, 1896-1946. A large portion of the remaining Foerderer family papers is organized into subject files, 1903-1971. The subject files are primarily correspondence and receipts pertaining to the maintenance of the estate, grounds, and building, as well as files relating to an Internal Revenue Service case against the estate after the death of Robert Foerderer's wife Caroline in the 1930s.

Florence Tonner was an avid art collector, and materials in the Foerderer family papers relating to her collecting activities are of special interest. There is a small amount of correspondence with art dealers and the Philadelphia Museum of Art regarding her William Blake collection, circa 1951-1967. There is additional correspondence and newspaper clippings regarding her various art acquisitions, 1927-1936, as well as correspondence with individual artists (including James M. Whistler, Violet Oakley, and Edith Emerson), and receipts for furniture and objets d'artes. Other documents by Florence Tonner include: a bible study notebook, 1935; gardening notes, 1937; recipes, circa 1959-1965; financial records, 1962-1968; notes on Rembrandt; and biographical binders indexed by artist and subject. Several lists and inventories of the house's collections were created during Florence's lifetime and soon after her death.

General family history documents include: a printed copy of Charles Macalester's will; original deeds and legal papers, 1880-1930, and copies of deeds and property records dating from 1820; a volume documenting renovations at Glen Foerd, 1902; and printed advertisements for Vici Kid and photographs (reproductions) of the Foerderer leather factory interior. Of special interest are nearly fifty pocket diaries, 1898-1948, created by William Tonner.

The Foerderer family papers include a large number of photographs. Most are cartes de visite of unidentified individuals, probably family members, circa 1870-1950. Of special interest is a photograph album, circa 1910-1920, documenting the travels of Percival, Ethel, Florence, and Caroline Foerderer in Salt Lake City, Yellowstone, and Santa Catalina.

Glen Foerd on the Delaware
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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