Ryerss family papers
Held at: Ryerss Museum and Library [Contact Us]7370 Central Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19111
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Ryerss Museum and 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
"A descendant of Nicholas Waln, one of the original Pennsylvania settlers who came to Philadelphia with William Penn on the Welcome in 1682, Joseph Waln Ryerss built his opulent summer retreat, Burholme, on 85 acres in 1859. Like his Waln ancestors, Joseph continued the family penchant for acquiring exotic objects from the orient, with the newly constructed Burholme serving as a worthy setting. When Joseph died in 1868 he willed Burholme to his son Robert Waln Ryerss [1831-1896], a lawyer. Robert also loved to travel and collected more treasures to be displayed at Burholme. Eight months before he died at the age of 65, Robert shocked Philadelphia society by marrying his housekeeper of many years, Mary Ann Reed.
"Childless, Robert left Mary Ann a comfortable annuity and Burholme for her lifetime. Mary Ann traveled around the world and continued to collect objects for the museum. The will stipulated that upon Mary Ann's death the estate was to be turned over to the city of Philadelphia to be used as a park, library and museum "free to the public." Robert Ryerss also provided for the purchase of new books and maintenance of the house and grounds."
Mary Ann turned the property over to the administration of the City of Philadelphia Fairmount Park Commission in 1905, and the Ryerss Museum and Library opened to the public in 1910. Mary Ann remarried to Episcopal Reverend John G. Bawn, and the couple remained involved in preparing and developing the museum. They traveled extensively to collect new items for its displays, and it was on such a collecting mission in China that Mary Ann died in 1916.
Ryerss Museum and Library. "History." Accessed January 27, 2012. http://ryerssmuseum.org/history1.html
The Ryerss family papers, 1758-1931, contain documents, photographs, and volumes. Most of the collection relates to Robert W. Ryerss, his Waln antecedents, or his wife Mary Ann Reed (later Bawn).
The documents, which consist of letters, marriage certificates, and other miscellaneous papers, date from 1758 to 1931 and feature a significant amount of 18th-century items. The photographs mostly date from around the turn of the 20th century, and depict the cities to which Mary Ann traveled after Robert Ryerss' death. There is also a large collection of glass-plate negatives of Burholme. Additional photographs can be found in volumes of this collection. There are four photograph albums, mostly containing cartes-des-visite portraits of Ryerss/Waln family members. Other volumes in the collection include scrapbooks by Robert Ryerss' mother, Anne Waln; a book of recipes collected by Anne's mother, Phoebe Waln; and early catalogs of the Ryerss' Museum and Library collections compiled by Rev. Bawn.
The rough inventory compiled by Ryerrs staff and given below includes boxed items in the Ryerss family papers. There are about 40 additional framed photographs not described in this inventory, mostly documenting the travels abroad of Mary Ann and Rev. Brawn after Robert's death.
Gift of Robert Ryerss.
- Ryerss Museum and 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.
- Access Restrictions
Contact Ryerss Museum and Library for information about accessing this collection.