Skip to main content
Archives & Manuscripts

Ferris Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-RG5-040
The collection contains correspondence, journals and other writings, business and legal papers, and miscellaneous items of the Ferris family of Wilmington, Delaware. Of particular note are the correspondence and writings of Benjamin Ferris concerning the Separation in the Society of Friends and Elias Hicks, as well as the journals and diaries of Anna M. Ferris, David Ferris, Matilda Ferris, Benjamin Ferris, William C. Ferris, Rebecca Masters Kite, and Henry Ferris. Correspondents include William Lloyd Garrison, William Gibbons, Isaac T. Hopper, Joseph Bringhurst, Mary Gibbons, William Poole, Mary Biddle, Joseph Rakestraw, Halliday Jackson, and John Jackson. This collection includes a great variety of family correspondence that reveals much about the life of a Quaker family in Wilmington and of the reform activities of members of the Society of Friends.

Dates

  • 1737-1940

Creator

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Access is through microfilm when available. Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Rights Information

Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical ps and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.

Extent

15 Linear Feet (36 boxes)

Overview

The collection contains correspondence, journals and other writings, business and legal papers, and miscellaneous items of the Ferris family of Wilmington, Delaware, a prominent Quaker family. Of particular note are the correspondence and writings of Benjamin Ferris concerning the Separation in the Society of Friends, as well as the journals and diaries of Anna M. Ferris, David Ferris, Matilda Ferris, Benjamin Ferris, and Henry Ferris. Correspondents include William Lloyd Garrison, William Gibbons, Isaac T. Hopper, Joseph Bringhurst, Mary Gibbons, William Poole, Mary Biddle, Joseph Rakestraw, Halliday Jackson, and John Jackson. This collection includes a great variety of family correspondence that reveals much about the life of a Quaker family in Wilmington and of the reform activities of members of the Society of Friends.

Biographical / Historical

The Ferris family was a prominent Quaker family of Wilmington, Delaware. The family of Zachariah and Sarah Ferris had its roots in Connecticut. Five of their eight children became members of the Society of Friends, and three of their sons, David Ferris (1707/08-1779), John Ferris (1710-1751), and Zachariah Ferris (1717-1803) removed to Wilmington before 1740. David Ferris became a Quaker minister, and his Memoirs were published in 1825. His son, Benjamin Ferris (1740-1771) also was a Quaker minister. David's younger brother, John, moved to Delaware from Connecticut in 1748 and died of small pox three years later.

John Ferris's second son, Ziba Ferris, was born in 1743 and died in 1794. After his father's early death, he was raised in the household of his uncle, David Ferris, and was apprenticed as a cabinet maker in Wilmington. He married Edith Sharples of Chester Co., Pa., in 1769. Ziba and Edith had seven children, among whom were Deborah (1773-1844), who married Joseph Bringhurst; John (1775-1802), who married Sarah Harlan; and Benjamin (1780-1867), who married Frances Canby. John Ferris was a cabinetmaker who died of yellow fever in 1802. Benjamin Ferris apprenticed as a watch and clock maker in Philadelphia and later worked as a surveyor and successful conveyancer. He was a prominent member of the Society of Friends and the first Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Hicksite). Benjamin and Frances ("Fanny") had ten children, and after the death of his wife in 1833, he married her cousin, Hannah Gibbons.

Benjamin Ferris's eldest surviving son, David Ferris (1821-1908), became a farmer. In 1849 he married Sarah Ann Underwood, daughter of Quaker minister Sarah Hunt. An Elder of Wilmington Monthly Meeting, David Ferris was active in Quaker and social reform issues. David and Sarah Ann Ferris had six children: Francis ("Frank"), William C., Matilda, Henry, Alfred, and Walter. Frank, Henry, and Alfred Ferris were involved in the printing business.

Henry Ferris (1855-1941) married Elizabeth E. Masters of Muncy Monthly Meeting in 1885. Henry was active in the Society of Friends and served as editor of the Hicksite journal Friends Intelligencer during WWI. His daughter, Frances Canby Ferris, was the long-time principal of the Friends School in Haverford, Pa.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into four series, with sub-series:
  1. Family Genealogical Research: Compiled by Benjamin Ferris, Henry Ferris, and Frances Canby Ferris
  2. Benjamin Ferris Family
  3. David Ferris Family
  4. Henry Ferris Family

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased 1940 from Henry C. Ferris, grandson of Benjamin Ferris

Correspondence of Anna M. (Canby) Smyth, gift of Frances C. Ferris, 1943

Additional family letters and papers, gift Frances C. Ferris, 1947-1972, and other family members including Mary Ferris Blackburn and Edith S. Blackburn, 1965

Existence and Location of Copies

Journal of Benjamin Ferris "of Oblong" (1708-1775) and Journal of Benjamin Ferris (1740-1771): Film Org. MS-F13

Related Materials

Additional Ferris material may be found in the Ferris-Wetherald Papers, RG 5/041, and in Small Collections, SC/039, Ferris Family Correspondence.

Separated Materials

Marriage certificates were removed from the collection and stored in the Chart Case (as indicated)
  1. Marriage certificate of Benjamin Ferris to Hannah Gibbons, 1835
  2. Marriage certificate of Benjamin Ferris and Fanny Canby.
  3. Painting: Portrait of Benjamin Ferris (Reading Room)
  4. Photographs removed to Picture Collections, PA 155. Small engraving of Elias Hicks removed to Individual Portraits: PA 100: Hicks, Elias.
  5. "Map of the Meetings within the limits of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends," drawn by Benjamin Ferris, lithograph by T.S. Duval, removed to Maps.
  6. Records of Wilmington Monthly Meeting and Concord Monthly Meeting transferred to RG2/Ph/W58 and RG2/Ph/C69

Processing Information

The collection was received unsorted in cartons and processed by FHL staff prior to 1965. The original inventory included a chronological list of persons mentioned in Benjamin Ferris's correspondence, 1794-1819, compiled by Jean McClure in 1956, but did not detail correspondents. The bulk of the correspondence to 1940 was sorted chronologically in large units. Continuing until about 1969, Frances Ferris added papers and sometimes temporarily withdrew family material. The Anna M. Ferris Diaries were donated by Frances C. Ferris in 1969, and she gave additional family papers, including most of the genealogical papers, in 1974. In 2011, staff determined to simplify the organization to better describe the contents and to make the post-Separation material more accessible. Biographical and genealogical research, begun by Benjamin Ferris and continued by his grandson and great-granddaughter were consolidated into the first series. Papers collected by Benjamin Ferris and representing his generation and his involvement in the Separation in the Society of Friends were united in Series 2. Series 3 contains the papers of the generation of his son, David Ferris, along with his wife's family and their children, except for Henry. The papers of Henry Ferris, who sold the bulk of the collection to Friends Historical Library in 1940, compose Series 4. Also in that series are the diaries of Rebecca Masters Kite, a Quaker minister who was Henry's sister-in-law.

Creator

Title
Ferris Family Papers, 1737-1940
Author
FHL staff
Date
2011
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English

Revision Statements

  • 2016: This electronic finding aid was updated in Summer 2016 by Abdulrezak Kemal in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace, to conform to current markup standards and the ArchivesSpace data model.

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

Contact:
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA