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Hopkinson and Dale family collection


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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 Hopkinson and Dale families are tied to the colonial and early American history of the Mid-Atlantic, to the medical field, and to the University of Pennsylvania for at least four generations. The families joined when Edward Hopkinson (1850-1935) and Abigail Dale (1859-1887) married, probably in the early 1880s.

Edward Hopkinson was the son of Oliver Hopkinson (1812-1905) a Penn graduate, a lawyer, and civil engineer; who was the son of Joseph Hopkinson (1770-1842), a Penn graduate, a lawyer, legislator, and judge; who was the son of Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791), a member of Penn's first graduating class, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a politician.

Abigail Dale was the daughter of Richard Colgate Dale (1810-1876), a silk importer; who was the son of Richard Colgate Dale (1771-1818), a physician and captain during the War of 1812.

Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) was "a signer of the Declaration of Independence; a jurist; an inventor; an artist; an essayist; a scholar; a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's first class (1757); an organist; a psalmodist; and a harpsichordist." (Library of Congress). He married Ann Borden and they were the parents of five children: Joseph (1770-1842), Elizabeth (1772-1840), Maria (1773-1868), Ann (1779-1823, and Francis (1779-1823). Hopkinson is credited with designing the American flag of 1777, designing currency, and having composed the earliest surviving American secular composition, "My Days have been so Wondrous Free."

His son Joseph, (1770-1842), was born in Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1786, and thereafter, worked as a lawyer. He was elected to Congress, serving from 1815 to 1819; was elected to the New Jersey Assembly, serving from circa 1820 to 1822; served as judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 1828 to 1842; served as chairman of the Constitutional Convention in 1837; served as secretary of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in 1790 and 1791; and served as trustee from 1806 to 1819 and from 1822 to 1842. He wrote the anthem ``Hail Columbia!'' in 1798. He married Emily Mifflin (1774-1850), daughter of Governor Thomas and Sarah Morris Mifflin, and they were the parents of nine children who lived to adulthood: Thomas (1794-1871), Francis (1796-1870), Elizabeth (1800-1891), John Pennington (1801-1836), Alexander Hamilton (1804-1827), James (1810-1875), Oliver (1812-1905), Edward (1814-1831), and Joseph (1816-1865).

Of these children, Alexander Hamilton (A.H) and Edward both died during their service in the Navy, and John Pennington, a doctor and demonstrator of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania died at age 35. Thomas and James appear to have been farmers (James enslaved people at the Cassina Point Plantation on Edisto Island in South Carolina); and both Oliver and Joseph served the Union in the Civil War. Oliver was an officer and Joseph was chief surgeon of the Mower Hospital in Chestnut Hill. Joseph died of yellow fever in 1865.

Oliver graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1832, studied law, worked as an engineer for a short period of time, and then worked as a lawyer in Philadelphia. He was a member of local militia companies which provided him with the experience to be elected Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Delaware Infantry in October 1861. He was wounded at Antietem and was discharged due to his wounds. After he recovered, he served as Colonel of the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry. He married Elisa Swain and they were the parents of eight children, including son, Edward (1850-1935). Oliver died at age 93.

Edward married Abigail Woodruff Dale. She was the daughter of Richard Colgate Jr. (1810-1876) and Elizabeth Woodruff Dale. Richard imported silk and was involved in stock for the Pennsylvania Railroad. His brother, John (1814-1891) was a civil engineer living in Delaware.

Their father, Richard Colgate Dale (1771-1818), was a physician who according to Delaware estate inventories enslaved between three and six people. It appears that he served in the military during the Quasi-War with France and during the War of 1812. During his military service, he served as a surgeon under the controversial General James Wilkinson. He married Margaret Fitzgerald (1783-1865) daughter of Thomas Fitzgerald (1749-1822) who may have been a cabinet maker.

Dale's sister, Ann (born 1774), married Isaac Gibbs.

Works consulted:

"Francis Hopkinson, 1737-1791," (, accessed 2023 January 25.

"Francis Hopkinson, 1737-1791," (, accessed 2023 January 25.

"Hopkinson, Joseph, 1770-1842"

"The Judge's Lawyer," Pennsylvania Gazette, 2018 February 20

Cassina Point Plantation, SC Picture Project (

This collection provides small glimpses into the lives of four generations of prominent Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey families. Each individual is represented by only a few documents; and therefore, researchers will need to consult additional collections in order to gain a fuller picture of any person documented in this collection. However, this scant group of documents addresses important issues in early American politics, including George Clinton and Aaron Burr as vice presidential candidates and the Burr conspiracy; the Siege of Paris in 1870; life as a sailor in the United States Navy in the 1820s, and the importance of family.

This collection is arranged chronologically and documents, to a small degree, the members of the family described in the biographical/historical note. Beyond the Hopkinson and Dale immediate families, there are documents related to influential early Americans including Robert Morris (1734-1836), Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824), and General James Wilkinson (1757-1825).

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Holly Mengel
Finding Aid Date
2023 February 6
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

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Hopkinson, Francis (1737-1791), check made payable to Mrs. Ann Clay for thirty-six dollars, 1779 October 19.
Box 1 Folder 1
Hopkinson, Francis (1737-1791), song lyrics to a song found in the family Bible (typed), before 1791.
Box 1 Folder 1
Morris, Robert (1734-1806), check made payable to John Taylor, Esq. for five hundred pounds, 1784 April 22.
Box 1 Folder 2
Rodney, Caesar Augustus (1772-1824), letter to Thomas Fitzgerald (1749-1822) regarding George Clinton and Aaron Burr as vice president and lands in Virginia, 1804 February 7.
Box 1 Folder 3
Wilkinson, General James (1757-1825), letters to Richard Colgate Dale (1771-1818), probably relating to his reputation following the Burr conspiracy, 1810 April 28-May 20.
Box 1 Folder 4
Hopkinson, Alexander Hamilton (1804-1827), letters to his father Joseph (1770-1842), his brother Francis (1796-1870), and his sister Elizabeth (1800-1891) largely relating to his life in the Navy and on board ships, 1822-1823, 1827.
Box 1 Folder 5
Gibbs, Ann Dale (1773-1856) letter to her sister-in-law Margaret Fitzgerald Dale (1783-1865) relating to land and estate issues (possibly her grandfather's), 1823 October 2, undated.
Box 1 Folder 6
Hopkinson, John Pennington (1801-1838), passport for travel to Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, 1828.
Drawer OS FF 02
Hopkinson, Edward (1814-1831) letters to his mother Emily Mifflin Hopkinson (1774-1850) and his brother Joseph (1816-1865) regarding his life as a sailor, 1829-1830.
Box 1 Folder 7
Dale, Richard Colgate (1810-1876) letter to his mother Margaret Fitzgerald Dale (1783-1865) regarding a business trip and his love of family, 1837 April 23.
Box 1 Folder 8
Reardon, J., letters to John Dale (1814-1891) regarding property, 1844, 1848.
Box 1 Folder 9
Currency and coupons from Virginia, Confederate States of America, United States of America, and Italy, 1861-1863, 1874-1875.
Box 1 Folder 10
Hopkinson, Oliver (1812-1905), letter to his wife, Elisa Swaim, while in Paris during the Siege of Paris (includes two copies of Lettre-Journal de Paris), 1870 September 24-October 29.
Box 1 Folder 11

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