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Vanuxem family papers


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 Vanuxem family was a prominent Pennsylvania family of French origin. The family was largely involved in the shipping industry and agriculture; but one descendent was a well-known geologist in the United States.

James Vanuxem (born Jacques Jean Van Uxem) was born in 1746 In France. According to family histories, Van Uxem was to be a priest, but ran away to the United States in order to avoid the profession. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Van Uxem (who changed his name to James Vanuxem) began working as a merchant. He was a friend of Stephen Girard, another French-born American businessman. With Girard and others, he organized the first fire and marine insurance company in America. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Vanuxem joined the "Silk Hat Company," but there is no evidence that he took part in any active service. In 1779, Vanuxem married Rebecca Clark and they were the parents of fifteen children, only eight of whom survived childhood. Vanuxem died in 1824 at the age of 79.

Of James and Rebecca Clark's children, only three appear with regularity within the collection: Lewis Clark Vanuxem, Lardner Vanuxem, and James Vanuxem, Jr. Lewis Clark Vanuxem (1788-1831) and his wife Esther Shoemaker Clark moved to Cuba in circa 1822 where they owned a plantation. During a business trip in 1831, Lewis Clark Vanuxem was presumably lost at sea. His wife remained in Cuba until her death, but four of her six children returned to the United States.

Lardner Vanuxem (1792-1848) was perhaps the best known Vanuxem family member. He took courses in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania before going to France to study at the School of Mines in Paris. After his return to the United States, he worked at South Carolina College as an instructor in geology and mineralogy and participated in geological and mineralogical surveys for the states of South Carolina and New York. He married Mary Ann Newbold and they were the parents of four daughters. Their daughter Mary married Charles William Peirce.

James Vanuxem, Jr. (1790-1877) married Susan Laembert and had five children. After her death, he married Elizabeth Newbold (sister to his brother Lardner's wife Mary Ann) and they had one son. James, Jr. was a business man, but appeared to struggle with many of his ventures. He worked with anthracite coal in Sugar Loaf, Pennsylvania; but when that company's success waned, he moved the family west to Ohio, to Kentucky, and to Indiana. In Indiana, the family settled in Dublin where the dry goods store, Van Uxem & Son, was successful. His son, Francis (1845-1940) worked with several companies before entering into a partnership with Noah Leeds to manufacture metal accessories. He married Emma Blanchard and was the father of two daughters. He appears to have been greatly interested in his heritage and recorded many memories and family histories (contained within series I of this collection).

This collection documents the history of the Vanuxem and Peirce families and their business operations in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The collection consists of two series: Vanuxem and Peirce family history and Account books, ledgers, and letterbooks.

The first series, Vanuxem and Peirce family history discuss the history of the Vanuxem family and the manner in which the ledgers (in the second series) were found. This portion of the collection includes two memoirs by Francis Van Uxem (1845-1940), the last living male descendant of James Vanuxem; obituaries and biographical material for Francis, Lardner and Louis Clark Vanuxem; and histories and genealogies of the Peirce family by Ruth Peirce De Cou, F. A. Emmerton, and others, as well as a newspaper obituary for Charles W. Peirce.

The second series includes material largely relating to the Vanuxem's businesses and finances. Each volume is described in the container list. An addition to the collection received in 1995 (Folders 8-13) includes typed copies of letters from James Vanuxem to his son Lardner dated 1817-1824 (52 items); 1 item from James Vanuxem to an unidentified recipient dated 1793; and 6 items from James Vanuxem [Jr.] to his brother Lardner regarding their father's estate dated 1824 and 1825. Copies appear to have been made circa 1898 (watermark). These letters frequently mention Vanuxem's friends Mathew Carey and his son-in-law Isaac Lea.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Holly Mengel
Finding Aid Date
2015 June 24
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

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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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Description of ledgers by Edith F. Hunter, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Hunter, Edith Fisher, letters, etc. regarding the Vanuxem ledgers and the history of the Vanuxem family, undated.
Box 1 Folder 2
Van Uxem, Francis, "notes concerning the Van uxem family in France and the United States", 1923.
Box 1 Folder 3
Van Uxem, Francis, "Grandfather's Three Adventures", undated.
Box 1 Folder 4
Van Uxem, Francis, obituary, circa 1940.
Box 1 Folder 5
Vanuxem, Lardner, biographical information, 1889, undated.
Box 1 Folder 6
Vanuxem, Louis Clark, notice regarding lecture series to be established at Princeton University by a bequest from Louis Clark Vanuxem, undated.
Box 1 Folder 7
De cou, Ruth Peirce, "Ancestors of Charles Pierce", undated.
Box 1 Folder 14
Emmerton, F.A., "Ancestors of Ruth Sargent Peirce", undated.
Box 1 Folder 15
Peirce family history regarding Cyrus Peirce and Ruth S. Peirce, undated.
Box 1 Folder 16
Peirce family records, copies of probate records and deeds from the 18th century, undated.
Box 1 Folder 17
Peirce, Charles W., obituary from the Bucks County Gazette, 1890 March 6.
Box 1 Folder 18

"Grand livre pour la carquaison du navire l'Apoline de Dunkerque," Captain Louis Bachelier from 1776 (in French) and accounts ledger from 1778 to 1779 which includes Robert Morris debit entries for November and December of 1778 (in English), 1776-1779.
Volume 1
Ledger of the purchase and sale of ships cargoes for fourteen ships: commodities include imports of brown and white sugars, salt, rum, brandy, claret wine, French cheese, coffee, almonds, spices, cocoa, paper, cordage, corks, soap, steel, grind stones, window glass, medicines, fabrics, sail cloth, iron pots, pewter dishes, etc.; exports include tobacco, beaver-raccoon-bear skins, beef, etc. (in English), 1783-1784.
Volume 2
Account book, "Compt courant," including accounts for Haym Salomon and Jacob Mordicai (1784-1786), in French; letterbook of Lardner Vanuxem (1829-1832); and farming diary from Lorain, Pennsylvania (1825), all in one volume, 1784-1832.
Volume 3
"Copie de lettres, etc., letterbook (1784-1786) with letter laid in (1793), copies of outgoing letters with recipients including Francois de Barbe Marbois, Consul General of France in the United States regarding investments; Daniel Bourdeaux regarding a cargo of enslaved people; D.A. Oliver regarding trade between French colonies in the West Indies and New Orleans; Albert Gallatin regarding 26,000 acres of land in Kentucky; and others (mostly in French), 1784-1793.
Volume 4
"Livre des Debiteurs," account ledger, includes thirty-five accounts listed in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston, Williamsburg, New York, Providence, Elizabethtown, and Woodbury (in French), 1786-1791.
Volume 5
Account book of the Agence de la Marine of the Consul General of France to the United States, Philadelphia (1793-1795) and letterbook of James Vanuxem with outgoing letters to Barbe Marbois, Andre Michaux, Judge Lucas, and John Armstrong (1805-1811), both in one volume, 1793-1811.
Volume 6
Vanuxem, James, ledger containing copies of promissory notes, 1798-1805.
Volume 7
Vanuxem and Clark, letterbook, copies of outgoing letters with recipients including Francois de Barbe Marbois, P.F. Barbe Marbois, William Duane, J.B.C. Lucas, Robert Morris; topics include real estate and bank stock investment, American politics, etc., 1800-1805.
Volume 8
Materials Viewable Online
  1. Vanuxem and Clark letterbook, 1800-1805.
James Vanuxem financial documents relating to Bustleton and Smithfield Turnpike Company (shares and debt), 1804, 1809.
L.C. and J.V., Jr., letterbook with outgoing letters regarding trade and real estate matters, and in particular, relating to Vanuxem's firm's activities as flour and grain merchants, 1810-1825.
Volume 9
Letters from James Vanuxem and James Vanuxem Jr. to Lardner Vanuxem, typewritten copies of the originals (which date from 1793-1825) , circa 1898.
Box 1 Folder 8-13

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