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Samuel W. Pennypacker family papers


Held at: Pennypacker Mills [Contact Us]5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, PA, 19473

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Pennypacker Mills. 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

Samuel W. Pennypacker was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania in 1843. He descended from Hendrick Pannebecker, a Dutchman who worked as a surveyor for William Penn. His grandfather, Matthias Pennypacker, was a member of the General Assembly who helped write the state constitution in 1837; he was also president of the group of shareholders that led to the incorporation of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Samuel's mother, Anna Maria Whitaker, came from a family that owned a local ironworks. His father, Isaac Pennypacker, was the first burgess of Phoenixville and held a professorship at the Philadelphia Medical College.

Isaac Pennypacker died while Samuel was still a boy, and the family moved in with his maternal grandfather, Joseph Whitaker. Samuel prepared for Yale University, but Whitaker refused to pay tuition until the boy had proven himself in the workforce. In 1863 Samuel enlisted in Company F of Pottstown, 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Regiment, which was the first force to meet the rebels at Gettysburg. Afterward, Whitaker was satisfied, and arranged for Samuel to study law at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his bachelor of laws degree in 1866 and established his own law practice. By the end of the decade he received a doctor of laws from Franklin and Marshall College.

Pennypacker served on the Philadelphia Board of Education and was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. He became president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1900 and wrote extensively on early local and state history, English common law, the Supreme Court, genealogical topics, and several historical figures. In 1902 Pennypacker was elected governor of Pennsylvania with the support of veterans, agricultural interests, former governor and Civil War hero James Beaver, and President Theodore Roosevelt.

As governor of Pennsylvania from 1903 to 1907, Pennypacker signed legislation creating the Pennsylvania State Archives and the State Museum of Pennsylvania; he established Departments of Health, Highways, Mines, and Fisheries; he created the first statewide police force in 1905, whose integrity and efficiency earned acclaim from President Roosevelt and made it a model for other states. Pennypacker supported the Child Labor Act of 1905, which set a minimum age for factory and mine work and outlawed most night work. In 1906, Governor Pennypacker dedicated Pennsylvania's new Capitol building.

Pennypacker Mills, originally built around 1720, was purchased in 1747 by Peter Pennebacker. During the American Revolutionary War, George Washington used the Mills in 1777 as a headquarters prior to the Battle of Germantown, and also as a field hospital for injured soldiers after the battle. Samuel Pennypacker made the Mills his summer home in the early 1900s, and died there in 1916. The house continued to be occupied by his wife, Virginia Earle Broomall Pennypacker (1845-1922), and their children, Josephine Whitaker Pennypacker (1872-1962), Eliza Broomall Pennypacker (1874-1962), Anna Maria Whitaker Pennypacker (1876-1952), and Bevan Aubrey Pennypacker (1881-1954). The last Pennypacker to live in the Mills before it became public property was Bevan Pennypacker's son, Samuel W. Pennypacker II. Samuel W. Pennypacker II was interested in archaeology and anthropology and studied with Franz Boas.


Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee. "Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker (1843-1916)." Accessed October 5, 2011.

A large segment of the Pennypacker family papers is comprised of letters received by Samuel W. Pennypacker and his wife, children, grandson, and parents, and date from 1821-1980. The majority of this correspondence is to Samuel Pennypacker between 1860-1916 and includes: letters dating from his time as a soldier in 1863, personal letters from family and friends, business letters to his law practice, letters tracing his genealogy, correspondence with various associations of which he was a member, correspondence from his term as governor of Pennsylvania (1903-1907), and correspondence about his remodeling and landscaping of Pennypacker Mills. There are also 13 copy books of letters written by Samuel W. Pennypacker (1872-1916).

The Pennypacker family papers also contain financial and estate records of various Pennypacker family members; certificates, diplomas, and associaton memberships; and manuscripts of speeches by Samuel Pennypacker for campaign stops and dedications. Samuel Pennypacker was an enthusiastic scrapbooker, and created many over the course of his lifetime. Most of the scrapbooks in this collection are newspaper clippings scrapbooks, usually articles about Samuel Pennypacker's political career, but there are also some Victorian-style memorabilia scrapbooks.

Samuel Pennypacker was a historian, and he was interested in his own genealogy as well as American history. He collected journals, diaries, and letters from his ancestors, and kept voluminous notes about his genealogical research. Pennypacker also collected miscellaneous papers such as deeds, 17th to 19th century, signed by historical figures.

The Pennypacker family papers contains approximately 2000 photographs, circa 1850-1960. Most are individual portraits of family members and friends, images of the property, and travel photographs. Many photographic techiniques are represented in this collection, from daguerreotypes and ambrotypes to silver gelatin and albumen prints. There are several photograph albums and many stereoscopic prints. Of special interest is an album depicting the dedication of the Pennsylvania Capitol, and featuring Theodore Roosevelt. Another interesting album documents an archeological dig in which Samuel W. Pennypacker II participated.

The remainder of the collection is comprised of newspapers, including the Public Ledger, Daily Pottstown Ledger, Philadelphia Gazette, and Evening Times, 1847-1975; posters; campaign ephemera; and printed pamphlets, 1869-1952.

Most archival materials were left in the house when it was acquired by Montgomery County.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2011-2012 as part of an 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) received 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 the repository directly for more information.

Pennypacker Mills
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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