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Anna M. Potts diary


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

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Anna McCollin Potts was born on May 2, 1830, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Thomas McCollin and Sarah Garrett. She married Charles Potts, a farmer and businessman, on May 10, 1853. The Pottses were Quakers and belonged to several Quaker meetings throughout their lives, including Monthly Meetings in Solebury, Goshen, and Chester, Pennsylvania. Anna Potts gave birth to a son, Franklin M. Potts, on April 12, 1855.

At the time she recorded her diary, Potts lived in Willistown, Chester County, Pennsylvania, to the west of Philadelphia. The 1860 census described her husband as a farmer but accorded her no occupation. In addition to the couple and their five-year-old son, “Franky,” the household consisted of 30-year-old housekeeper Eliza A. Back and 60-year-old servant Elizabeth Simmons at the time the census was conducted. Simmons was likely the “elderly” servant Potts hired on June 26, 1860, and who left in late July “having concluded to give up, not being able to go through with all her duties.” Potts’s parents and her husband’s parents continued to reside in Philadelphia, and she described visiting both families in 13th Street and Cherry Street.

Potts appears to have resided in Chester County for the rest of her life. She died on January 3, 1892, in Media, Pennsylvania, and was buried at the Friends South Western Burial Ground in Upper Darby.

1860 Federal Census (accessed via on October 26, 2016)1880 Federal Census (accessed via on October 26, 2016)United States Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 (accessed via on October 26, 2016)University of Delaware. Library. Self works : diaries, scrapbooks, and other autobiographical efforts : catalog of an exhibition, August 19, 1997-December 18, 1997 : guide to selected sources. Newark, Del. : Special Collections, Hugh M. Morris Library, University of Delaware Library, 1997.Information derived from the collection.

This diary was kept by Anna M. Potts of Chester County, Pennsylvania, between January 1, 1860, and February 20, 1861. Potts recorded information related to the weather, illness and death, social visits, her servants, daily work and domestic details, and her Quaker faith.

Potts began each entry with an observation on the weather, often noting if it was unseasonably cold or hot. She constantly monitored her fragile health, recording almost daily “spells” and occasional bouts of “hystericks.” Potts tried several remedies to ease her suffering, including magnesia and Hartshorne. By early summer, her doctor was treating her with doses of chloroform. She carefully observed the health of members of her household, family, and friends. Over the course of her diary, she and her husband and her servants each experienced several bouts of long illness. Death was a common occurrence within her community. Her father-in-law died after a long illness in the fall of 1860 and Potts herself often wondered if she would live to see another year.

Despite her poor health, Potts made and received many social visits. Family members and friends were frequent guests in her household, although Potts observed that she would like people to visit more often and stay for longer periods of time. She and her husband, Charles, regularly visited their families in Philadelphia, using their time in the city to do business, shop, and hunt for better servants. When she was well enough, Potts frequently attended Quaker Meetings. At the time her diary was kept, Potts and her husband belonged to the Monthly Meeting in nearby Goshen, Pennsylvania. She also meditated on her own sinfulness and longed “for a happier, more peaceful, innocent condition, through his kindness & mercy of my holy Redeemer.”

Potts was responsible for managing her household, overseeing her servants and participating in sewing, baking, washing, ironing, and making butter. Because of her ill health, she relied heavily on her housekeeper, Eliza, who often had to relieve her of her “household duties.” When Eliza made extended visits to Lancaster, various female relatives took turns helping Potts manage her household. Apart from Eliza, Potts had little luck with her servants. Most did not stay long and they often engaged in behavior she disliked. Ann ran “about entirely too much” and left the family in May 1860. Her replacement, Isabella, was discharged after about a month because she was disrespectful to Eliza. An elderly woman lasted about a month before deciding she was not up to the challenge. Isabella came again at the end of July, but left at the end of October “without any apparent excuse, giving us no reason.” At the end of the diary, Potts was again searching for reliable help.

In addition to her diary entries, Potts made several notations regarding her cash accounts, recording how much money she received from her husband and how much money she had in her purse at the beginning and end of the month. She noted items she paid for, most of which were textiles and sewing supplies, but also included a border for wallpaper, omnibus fare, and charitable donations.

This small volume is bound with brown marbled paper over boards and a leather spine. A paper commercial label on the front cover reads “DIARY/FOR/1860. PUBLISHED YEARLY BY/MOSS, BROTHER, & CO./BOOKSELLERS AND STATIONERS/PHILADELPHIA.” The volume consists of printed text as well as handwritten diary entries in both black ink and pencil. On the first page is the inscription “Anna M. Potts/From her loving/Father” in pencil. The title page reads

Stewart’s Diary for 1860, For the Use of Private Families and Persons of Business in printed text. The volume starts with a printed calendar for the year 1860. There are printed entries for each day in 1860s, which Potts filled in with handwritten notes. After completing the daily calendar for 1860, Potts used the memoranda, some of the cash accounts pages, and the bills payable section of the diary to record daily entries up to February 20, 1861. On the final page of the volume, there are several geometrical problems and poems in pencil. A small paper fragment with printed text accompanies the volume. It reads “Chas Potts/PAOLI/ Chester co PENN.”

Item 0105: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Gift of Barry and Sue Moyerman, 1972

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, January 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 January 9
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Anna M. Potts diary, 1860-1861.
Item 0105
Physical Description

1 volume

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