Albert Cook Myers (1874-1960) was born in York Springs, Adams County, PA on December 12, 1874, the first child of John T. and Sarah Cook Myers. He received his early education in the public schools of Adams County and was prepared for college at Martin Academy in Kennett Square, PA, graduating in 1894. That fall, Myers enrolled in Swarthmore College, where he received a Bachelor of Letters in 1898 and a Master of Letters in 1901. He later received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Franklin and Marshall College in 1932.
After his graduation in 1898, Myers became affiliated with THE LITERARY ERA, where he served as editor in the history department. (1898-1900). He served as registrar and a member of the faculty at Swarthmore from 1900-1902.
Myers spent his post graduate years of historical study at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Harvard, sharpening his skills as a historian. During much of this time, he attended lectures taught by Frederick Jackson Turner.
In 1907, he was recommended by Governor Pennypacker to be one of the directors of the Pennsylvania Historical Exhibit for the Jamestown Exposition. He was later tapped to become the Director of the Historical Exhibits of the Thirteen Original States. The following year, using many of the same skills, Myers became a member of the Mayor’s Historical Committee, celebrating the founding of Philadelphia. From this position, he became director of the Historic Industries Loan Exhibit, part of the Founders Celebration.
In 1910, Myers undertook his life’s work--the assembling of material on the life and writings of William Penn. He proposed to recreate the life and works of Penn, accounting for each day. To this end, he undertook a massive campaign to raise money (amounts needed to complete the project were vastly underestimated). He spent most of the years, which coincided with World War I, in England, doing research, attempting to get access to many private collections to copy letters of Penn.
During WWI, Myers became a member of the War Service Committee and worked without compensation to provide for the servicemen coming to Philadelphia. He organized historical walks through Philadelphia, ending with meals and receptions at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He wrote pamphlets for the serviceman, pointing out the history of Philadelphia. According to published reports, about 32,000 servicemen were reached with his activities.
Though the editing of the works of Penn took up all of his life, Myers participated in other fields of endeavor. From 1924 to 1936, he served on the board of the Valley Forge Commissioners, a time when the greatest expansion of the park took place. From 1924-27 and again from 1933-36, Myers was part of the Pennsylvania State Historical Commission. During his early tenure, he was the driving force behind erecting 27 large historical markers. During his second tenure on this board, he was active in the research and restoration of Pennsbury, Penn’s home in Pennsylvania. In 1918, he helped chair a commemoration of the bicentennial of Penn’s death. In 1924-25, he spearheaded a campaign to raise money to buy the original charter of Penn to Pennsylvania, and was in charge of the celebration in 1925 when the charter was formally presented to the State. In 1928, he directed the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the French alliance with America, with a pageant and French officials recalling the Valley Forge Encampment. In 1932, Myers directed the grand celebration of the 250th anniversary of the First Arrival of Penn in America.
A lifelong Hicksite Quaker, Myers was active in the affairs of the Society of Friends and served on several boards.
Myers died on April 1, 1960.
Source: Chester County Historical Society finding aid for the Albert Cook Myers Collection
William Penn (1644-1718), born in London, was the eldest son of Sir William Penn, an English
Admiral, and Margaret Jasper. He was educated at The Free School, Chigwell and Christ Church,
Oxford. Judged for his nonconformity, in 1661, his father sent him to Europe, from which he returned in
1664 a “modish person.” He entered Lincoln's Inn to study law in 1665, but soon after went to Ireland
where he was convinced by Thomas Loe to Quakerism, and was shortly arrested at a Quaker Meeting in
Cork. By 1668, he published The Sandy Foundation Shaken for which he was again arrested. He
continued to publish works on Quaker doctrinal issues. In 1671, he travelled to Holland and Germany
encouraging Quaker communities, preaching and writing against religious persecution. He used his
family influence to help Quaker friends, including George Fox and Isaac Pennington. Penn married
Gulielma Springett in 1672 and Hannah Callowhill in 1696.
In 1676, Penn became a trustee of the Quaker colony of West New Jersey and in 1681, in exchange for a
large debt owed by Charles II to his father, he was granted the province of Pennsylvania. William Penn's
aim was to create a colony with the greatest possible civil and religious liberty for all Christians. In
1682, Penn sailed to America, but returned to England in 1684. He spent most of the 1690s writing,
preaching and trying to resolve the politicial, military, imperial and constitutional problems of his
colony. Almost all his political writings adressed issues of liberty and conscience. The exception was his
utopian idea for securing permanent peace in Europe (Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of
Europe). In 1699, he returned to America and then again to England in 1701. In 1707, he spent nine
months in debtors' prison, and on his release, he mortgaged his American properties and tried to sell
them back to the Crown. He suffered a paralytic stroke in 1712 from which he never recoveredPenn's philosophy was a combination of religious idealism and political practicalites. His arguments for
toleration are grounded in a secular and expansive version of interest theory. He believed that oppressed
subjects were a threat to peace, stability and prosperity and that true religion was a matter for individual
conscience, not legislation. There was never a question of tolerating non-Christians or atheists. He never
advocated a separation of Church and State, nor for the secularization of civil affairs.
Biographical information from article by Martyn P. Thompson in Dictionary of Seventeenth Century
British Philosophers. Sterling, Virginia: Thoemmes Press, 2000