Main content

Johnson House Historic Site collection on the Johnson family


Held at: Johnson House Historic Site [Contact Us]6306 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19144

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Johnson House Historic Site. 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 Johnson, son of Dutch immigrant Dirk Jansen, built [a house in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pa. in 1768] as a wedding present for his son John, Jr. and his bride Rachel Livezey. John Johnson, Jr. was a tanner and farmer and operated the tannery business from his home.

"As Quakers, the Johnsons believed in non-violence. Consequently, while the Battle of Germantown raged outside the front door in October 1777, the family took refuge in the cellar. Their religious beliefs also kept them from defending their property when soldiers entered their home to steal food from their kitchen. Scars from the Battle of Germantown are still visible inside the house.

"The Johnson family owned a substantial amount of land in Germantown and was one of the town's wealthiest families. They were active supporters of the Concord School, Germantown's first English-speaking school. The school, located across the street from the Johnson House, is still standing and open to the public for tours. John Johnson's son Samuel was a member of both the first school board and the first town council in Germantown.

"When Samuel married in 1805, he moved into the Johnson House with his bride Jennet Rowland Johnson. As did many Quakers, Samuel and Jennet promoted their anti-slavery beliefs by offering their home as a station on the Underground Railroad. They provided sanctuary, food, clothing, and transportation to untold numbers of African freedom seekers. Tradition holds that prominent abolitionists William Still and Harriet Tubman visited the Johnson House.

"Members of the Johnson family owned the house until 1908. [It may have been slated for demolition, but in] 1917 the Woman's Club of Germantown purchased the house...The Woman's Club owned the house until 1980, when it disbanded and gave the house with all its contents to the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust to operate as a house museum."


Quoted text from: Johnson House Historic Site. "Telling Our Story." Accessed May 31, 2013.

The collection includes several original manuscript volumes and photographs from the Johnson family, as well as secondary-source materials such as photocopies and genealogical information about the family.

There are four manuscript volumes in this collection: two ciphering books from Joshua Rowland, 1794 and 1798; an autograph book from Owen Johnson, 1852; and an account ledger (Goodyear & Son?), 1878-1883. There is also a photocopy of the memoirs of Edward Thomas Johnson (1847-1919). A Bible on display in the Johnson House features entries of two Johnson family births.

This collection also includes a number of original photographs dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries of Johnson family members, notably a framed group portrait of Samuel and Jennet Rowland Johnson with their adult children (circa 1874). Other photographs, photocopied and original, are contained in two scrapbooks that also include photocopies of primary and secondary source documents and genealogical research materials.

Most materials donated by Elizabeth Johnson Hood and other Johnson-Hood family members.

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 Johnson House Historic Site directly for more information.

Johnson House Historic Site
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton 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.
Access Restrictions

Contact Johnson House Historic Site for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest