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Westtown School Archives small manuscripts collection


Held at: Westtown School Archives [Contact Us]975 Westtown Road, West Chester, PA, 19382

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Westtown School Archives. 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

Westtown School is the oldest continuously operating coeducational boarding school in the United States. Located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, it serves students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade with day and boarding programs.

Founded by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the school opened in 1799 with the goal of educating Quaker children in an environment that fostered moral development consistent with their religious ideals. Initially, only students with both parents in the Religious Society of Friends were admitted to Westtown; in 1920, the school began admitting students with only one Quaker parent; beginning in 1933, non-Quakers were allowed to attend. The first African American boarding student arrived in 1945.

Early curricula at Westtown included reading, penmanship, grammar, and mathematics; geography, science, astronomy, surveying, and bookkeeping were also offered. Boys and girls received similar educations, but were initially taught in separate classes. The first classes became co-educational in the 1870s. In the early 1900s, Westtown added visual and dramatic arts programs.


Westtown School. "History." Accessed October 4, 2013.

This collection primarily consists of correspondence to and from various students, teachers, school officials, and other individuals and families affiliated with Westtown School. There is only one or a few documents associated with most of the individuals. These include mostly handwritten letters with some typescript and email print-outs. Also included are other materials, such as ephemera, account books, addresses and writings, school documents such as student lists and report cards, and receipts and other financial papers. Most documents are original manuscripts, though there are some photocopies of original documents, newspaper clippings, and articles. Items are organized chronologically; some materials are grouped together by creator.

Prominent individuals with items in the collection include: early American painter Benjamin West; poet John Greenleaf Whittier; and children's authors Marguerite deAngeli and Elizabeth Gray Vining. The best-documented families in the collection include: Sharpless, Copes, Evans, and Allen.

An inventory of the manuscripts in this collection is available on-site.

Materials collected from multiple sources at various times by the Westtown School Archives.

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 Westtown School Archives directly for more information.

Westtown School Archives
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 Westtown School Archives for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

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