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Thomas Pole papers


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

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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Thomas Pole was a Quaker minister, celebrated physician, and proponent of adult education for the poor. Pole was born on October 13, 1753 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest son of John Pole (1705-1755) and Rachel Smith Pole (1715-1760). His father was born in Somerset, England, and immigrated to New Jersey where he married Rachel Smith of Burlington. Thomas Pole was raised as a member of the Society of Friends. In 1775, he visited relatives in England, traveled extensively to Quaker Meetings, and pursued his medical education. Between 1775 and 1777, Pole traveled over 6500 miles, primarily on horseback, through England and southern Wales.

Pole settled in London in 1781. In 1789, he was made a member of the American Philosophical Society, of which Benjamin Franklin was then president. Pole was admitted as a member of the College of Surgeons in London and received the degree of M.D. from St. Andrews University in 1801. His practice focused primarily on obstetrics and the diseases of women and children. He lectured on midwifery, and, being a skillful draughtsman, recorded instructive cases in sketches, which were later engraved. In 1790, he published

The Anatomical Instructor: Or, An Illustration of the Modern and Most Approved Methods of Preparing and Preserving the Different Parts of the Human Body, which included copperplate engravings of his drawings. Pole also produced watercolors, sketches, and silhouettes.

Thomas Pole moved to Bristol, England, in 1802, where he set up an extensive medical practice. He also took part in many philanthropic endeavors. He helped William Smith establish the first schools in England for poor adults in 1812, and in 1814 he issued an account of their origin and progress.

Pole married Elizabeth Barrett (1756-1823) of Cheltenham, England, in 1784. The couple had five children who survived infancy: John Pole (1785-1803), Mary Ann Pole Fowler (1786-?), Thomas Pole, Jr. (1789-1836), Rachel Pole Duck (1791-1851), and Elizabeth Pole Temlett (1792-1875).

Thomas Pole's eldest sister, Anna Pole (1737-1777), married James Bringhurst (1730-1810) of Philadelphia in 1761. Their son, Joseph (1767-1834), was educated at Robert Proud's Latin Friends School in Philadelphia, where he befriended fellow student Charles Brockden Brown, one of the early Republic's most influential literary figures.

After completing his education, Bringhurst began to practice medicine in Philadelphia. In 1793, Bringhurst fled Philadelphia for Wilmington, Delaware, to avoid a yellow fever outbreak afflicting the city. He married Deborah Ferris in Wilmington on July 11, 1799. Ferris was the granddaughter of Benjamin Sharpless, of the prominent Chester, Pennsylvania, Quaker Sharpless family. The Bringhursts resided in Wilmington for the remainder of their lives.

Deborah Ferris Bringhurst (1773-1844) maintained a correspondence with her husband's uncle, Thomas Pole, from the 1800s to the 1820s, sending Pole news about family members and friends. In the 1820s, Bringhurst assisted Pole in gathering genealogical information about his family in the United States, particularly the descendants of William Coate.

MSS0684, Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves family papers, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware. University of Delaware Library, Special Collections webpage, "Thomas Jefferson letter discovered in the Rockwood Archives" (accessed November 17, 2017), Thomas Tolson. "Thomas Pole." In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 46, edited by Sidney Lee, 48. New York: MacMillan and Company, 1896.Information derived from the collection.

The Thomas Pole papers consist of three bound manuscripts, a letter case with silhouettes, an annotated map, and a collection of papers related to American-born Quaker physician, Thomas Pole (1753-1829).

The first volume in this collection is a spiritual and medical biography by Thomas Pole about his sister, entitled

Short Memoirs of the Life of Ann Pole, with a full account of her last illness, she died 4mo. 9th 1798. Ann Pole was born in Philadelphia in 1751 and was educated by Philadelphia abolitionist Anthony Benezet. Pole notes that his sister "always spoke of her worthy tutor in terms which evinced a sincere affection & friendship" (p. 2). Despite an obvious affection for his sister, Pole criticized her fondness for "dress & amusements & what is improperly called 'enjoying life.'" (p. 3) Ann Pole traveled extensively in America before coming to England in 1792. Pole noted that his sister also traveled in England, but was constrained by a "deficiency in Remittances from America, where she had the principal part of her property, and which had been previously reduced by the events of the late American War." (p. 15).

Taken ill at her brother's house, Ann Pole received visits from various members of the Society of Friends, including Philadelphia Quaker William Savery (1750-1804), an abolitionist and defender of Native American rights. The biography also includes testimony from Jenny Fry on Ann Pole's spiritual state during her final illness and Fry's description of her funeral. The memoirs are bound in green morocco leather over card.

The second volume is a spiritual and medical biography of Thomas Pole's son, entitled

Memoirs of the life and last illness of John Pole student in medicine who died the fifteenth of the Eleventh Month 1803 In the nineteenth year of his Age Written by his Father Thomas Pole. M.D. With several Poems occasioned by his Death; also Letters and Abstracts from some of his Correspondents, and from various Persons to his near Relatives upon his Removal. Pole stated that the memoir was for "the information and satisfaction of those only, who were his intimate connections" to whom " every little circumstance which respects his history, will beā€¦interesting and desirable." (pp. 1-3). Despite his medical expertise, Thomas Pole sought advice from other doctors when it became clear he could not save his son himself. Following John Pole's death, his father described the depths of his despair: "His books, his botanical Specimens, the sketches of his pencil, his Minerals, and every thing which he called his, I viewed with a painful consciousness of the loss I had sustained; and even shed my Tears of Grief over the scraps of paper upon which he had written his name." (p. 56)

Following the biography, Pole copied poems and letters received from friends and family members reflecting on the death of his son. These included poems from poet Elizabeth Bath, writer Charlotte Rees, and leading Manchester surgeon John Atkinson Ransome. The last letters copied in the volume were from Pole's nephew and his wife, Joseph and Deborah Bringhurst of Wilmington, Delaware. The volume is bound in diced brown leather with a spine of black morocco leather. The covers are ruled in gilt and the volume features marbled pastedowns and endpapers and a title page in grey wash with facet lettering.

The third volume is entitled

Memorials of valued friends deceased, by Thomas Pole M.D.. Pole created brief memorial entries for various friends and family members, beginning with his sister Anna Bringhurst (d. 1777) and ending with his daughter Mary Ann's mother-in-law, Mary Fowler (d. 1824). The volume also includes memorials to Ann Leaver, William Cookworthy, Mary Lockey, Sarah Fox, Rebecca Wright, Edmund Hatcher, Charlotte Rees Lloyd, and Hester Bowly.

The longest entry (pp. 69-87) was for his grandchildren, Elizabeth and Amelia Duck, who both died of measles during the winter of 1821. Pole included a medical appendix on the measles and a poem by an anonymous author entitled "The Dying Infant." This volume is bound in red morocco leather with gilt borders on the cover and spine. It features a title page in grey wash with facet lettering.

This collection also includes a letter case containing twelve silhouettes by Thomas Pole. The letter case is bound in red morocco leather with joints made from red silk and lined with blue wax paper. The date "1816" and name "T. Pole" are blind stamped on the inside of fold and sheer side of the case, respectively. Most of the silhouettes were executed in pencil on paper and exhibit varying degrees of detail. While a silhouette of Joseph Bringhurst consists only of the sitter's profile, Sarah Romaine's silhouette features a more detailed rendering of her kerchief, hair, and comb. The only finished drawing is done on card and is overworked with gouache and gilt. This silhouette is inscribed on the verso to Charles Tremayne. Some of the silhouettes are dated or include the sitter's age. The dated silhouettes were executed between 1804 and 1811.

The Thomas Pole papers also include an engraved, hand-colored map of the British Isles with Pole's inscriptions and markings. The map details Pole's travels to various Quaker Meetings between 1775 and 1777. On this map, Pole drew a manicule at Lizard Point in Cornwall with a note, "the first land we made," followed by a zigzag course of a ship labeled "Course of ye Brigg Two Friends." A further manicule points to Dover with a note reading "where we landed ye 15 of ye 6 mo. 1775." Pole marked the roads he traveled ink, showing a network of routes that took him all over England, into southern Wales, and over the English Channel into Calais, France, and perhaps beyond. By the map's imprint information, Pole wrote "The Pen Marks are my Travels."

The map is entitled

Kitchin's most accurate map of the roads of England and Wales: with the distances by the mile stones and other most exact admensurations between town and town and was published in London by Robert Sayer. The map was cut into six equal-sized pieces and laid on silk for folding. An inscription in the top right corner reads "Thomas Pole, Lancaster P 0/6." It is unclear if this map was purchased in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, prior to his departure or in Lancaster, England, a stop on his journey.

The rest of the collection consists of approximately one hundred items, mostly letters and other documents pertaining to Thomas Pole and his extended family. During the 1810s and 1820s, Pole conducted extensive genealogical research on Pole family ancestors and descendants. He was aided in his research by several family members in both the United States and England, particularly his nephew's wife, Deborah Bringhurst of Wilmington, Delaware. Bringhurst created genealogical charts of the Pole and Bringhurst families and gathered information from residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey on the family of William Coate, a distant relation of Thomas Pole. There are also a several letters to Pole from Bringhurst and other relations that mingle genealogical information with family news and gossip. It appears that some of the genealogical materials were produced after Thomas Pole's death, especially documents pertaining to the family of his daughter, Rachel Pole Duck (1791-1851).

Materials in this collection related to the Duck family of Bristol, England, include letters, indentures, birth certificates, and estate assessments dating from 1709 to 1881. Most of the letters were sent to Rachel Pole Duck's daughter, Rachel Pole Duck Wedmore (1818-1886), by school friends in England and female relatives in the United States during the 1830s and 1840s. The indentures pertain to apprenticeships in the Duck and Wedmore families. A document from 1738 declared that John Duck had completed his apprenticeship and received his freedom papers from the City of London. The birth certificates relate to at least four generations of the Duck family, dating from 1709 to 1831. There are two photocopied sketches and one photocopied silhouette of members of the Duck family. It is possible that the originals were executed by Thomas Pole. Other materials from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries suggest that these papers descended through the Wedmore family.

Many of the legal documents among the Duck and Wedmore family materials highlight changes in record-keeping practices during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. All of the Duck family birth certificates feature a scalloped edge, also seen in period indentures, which matched a counterpart held by local church officials. The documents related to the administration of Rachel Pole Duck's estate from 1851 include tax stamps and seals from the Exchequer of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Researchers can find other letters and silhouettes by Thomas Pole in MSS0684, Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves family papers.

Box 1-2: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (upright manuscript boxes)

Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases

Purchase, 2017

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

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 November 22
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 Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

T. Pole, Short Memoirs of the Life of Ann Pole, undated.
Box 1 Folder F1
T. Pole, Memoirs of the Life and Last Illness of John Pole, undated.
Box 1 Folder F2
T. Pole, Memorials of Valued Friends Deceased, undated.
Box 1 Folder F3
T. Pole letter case and silhouettes, 1804-1811 and undated.
Box 1 Folder F4
Thomas Pole map of British Isles, circa 1775-1777.
Box 1 Folder F5
Duck family sketches and silhouettes, undated.
Box 1 Folder F6
Letters to Thomas Pole, 1815-1819.
Box 1 Folder F7
Measurements of Pole family, 1805-1812.
Box 1 Folder F8
Genealogy- Pole family, 1906 and undated.
Box 1 Folder F9
Genealogy- Pole and Bringhurst families, 1824 and undated.
Box 1 Folder F10
Genealogy- Smith family, 1774.
Box 1 Folder F11
Genealogy- Duck, Fowler, and Wedmore families, 1915, 1954, and undated.
Box 1 Folder F12
Genealogy- Coate family, circa 1823.
Box 1 Folder F13
Genealogy- Letters to Deborah Bringhurst regarding Coate family, 1823.
Box 2 Folder F14
Genealogy- Humphris and Barrett families, ca. 1810s-1820s.
Box 2 Folder F15
Genealogy- Young family, 1822 and undated.
Box 2 Folder F16
Indentures, 1799-1822.
Box 2 Folder F17
Duck-Wedmore family correspondence, 1835-1881 and undated.
Box 2 Folder F18
Duck family birth certificates, 1709-1831.
Box 2 Folder F19
John Duck freedom papers, 1738.
Box 2 Folder F20
Rachel Pole Duck Wedmore poetry, 1831.
Box 2 Folder F21
List of female students at Newington School, 1833.
Box 2 Folder F22
Administration of Estate of Rachel Pole Duck, 1851.
Box 2 Folder F23
Unknown author, "To My Dear Wife", 1882.
Box 2 Folder F24
Edmond Basil Wedmore Masonic certificate, 1906.
Box 2 Folder F25
Manuscript, probably Edmond Basil Wedmore, 1915.
Box 2 Folder F26
Miscellaneous Wedmore family materials, 1896-1964.
Box 2 Folder F27

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