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Thornton Family Research Papers (copies)


Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 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

William Thornton (1759-1828), physician, architect, and government official, was born in Tortola and practiced medicine there briefly before moving to the United States. He was a birthright Quaker and strongly antislavery, concerned primarily with colonizing efforts for formerly enslaved people. He was disowned after his 1790 marriage in Philadelphia. His best known buildings are the United States Capitol and Woodlawn Plantation in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

This group of papers relating to the Thornton family, copies and transcripts, were made available by William Thornton of England to Quaker writer, Harriet Frorer Durham, who was working on a biography Dr. William Thornton (1759-1828) of Tortola and the United States. William Thornton was a descendent of the Doctor. Durham was a graduate of Swarthmore College, Class 1945, active in social concerns, and wrote the book Caribbean Quakers (Dukane Press, 1972)..

The collection is divided into four series:

  1. Genealogical material
  2. Genealogical correspondence
  3. Business and financial papers
  4. Legal papers

Accession information

Donor: Harriet Durham, 1971, 1974 (microfilm)

The collection was given by Harriet Durham who was researching Dr. William Thornton of Philadelphia and Tortola for a biography. His descendent, William Thornton of England, made available the material for her to photocopy.

When processed at FHL, the copies were stored in oversized drawers. In 1999 the collection was moved to conventional RG 5 storage. Microfilm of William Thornton Papers deposited in the Library of Congress and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, given by the same donor, are stored with microfilm.

The following materials, originally part of the collection, were recatalogued:

  1. Film MS-T: William Thornton Papers in the Library of Congress (7 reels)
  2. Film MS-T: William Thornton. Letters and related papers in Historical Society of Pennsylvania (1 reel)
  3. Thornton family genealogical chart (Filed with Genealogical Charts)

Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Finding Aid Author
FHL staff
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research

Use Restrictions

Some of the items in this collection may be protected by copyright. The user is solely responsible for making a final determination of copyright status. If copyright protection applies, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns to reuse, publish, or reproduce relevant items beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to the law. See

Collection Inventory

Thornton family.

Correspondence, 1961-1963, n.d.

Box 1
Box 1
Box 1
Box 1
Proposal for Auction.
Box 1
Valuations, and estimate.
Box 1

Abstract of mortgage.
Box 1
Appointment and release.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Reverse of document, shows signer of John Quincy Adams.

Deeds, list of deeds.
Box 1
Instrument of guardianship.
Box 1
Box 1
Opinion concerning trusteeship.
Box 1
Box 1
Wills (see separate folder labeled "Wills").
Box 1

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