Skip to main content
Archives & Manuscripts

Biddle family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-RG5-177
The collection contains correspondence, journal, letterbooks, and account books, together with other manuscript material reflecting the social and cultural life and religious activities of a prominent Quaker family of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Owen Biddle (1737-1799) was assistant forage master for the army of the American Revolution and some of the papers relate to that work. Papers of Lucy Biddle Lewis (1861-1941) are important for association with the women's suffrage movement and for early activities of the American Friends Service Committee. Other names represented in the collection are Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Clement Biddle, Clement Miller Biddle, William C. Biddle, Dorothy Biddle James, Henry Hollingsworth, Thomas Mifflin, Thomas Parke, Thomas Richardson, Lydia Lewis Rickman, and Ann Biddle Stirling.

Item level checklist available in repository.

Dates

  • 1793-1951

Creator

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Use restricted to microfilm when available (Series 1). 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 items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.

Extent

4 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Overview

This collection contains the papers of Philadelphia Quaker Owen Biddle (1737-1799), his son, Clement Biddle (1778-1856), and numerous descendants. Owen Biddle, a scientist and merchant, was a member of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and helped in the establishment of Westtown School (1799). Owen Biddle's papers, 1772-1793, (Series 1) include correspondence, and journals, some of which relate to his Revolutionary War activities. Three of his letterbooks, 1778-1779, have been microfilmed. The collection contains correspondence, journals, letterbooks, and account books, together with other manuscript material reflecting the social and cultural life and religious activities of a prominent Quaker family of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Papers of Lucy Biddle Lewis (1861-1941) are important for association with the women's suffrage movement and for early activities of the American Friends Service Committee. Other names represented in the collection are Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Clement Biddle, Clement Miller Biddle, William C. Biddle, Dorothy Biddle James, Henry Hollingsworth, Thomas Mifflin, Thomas Parke, Thomas Richardson, Lydia Lewis Rickman, and Ann Biddle Stirling.

Biographical / Historical

This collection contains the papers of Philadelphia Quaker Owen Biddle (1737-1799), his son, Clement Biddle (1778-1856), and numerous descendants in six generations. The Biddles, who aligned themselves with the Hicksites following the separation of Philadelphia Quakers in 1827, were active in various causes, including Quaker education, public health, and the peace movement. Clement M. Biddle (1838-1902), Clement Miller Biddle (1878-1959), and Lucy Biddle served on the Board of Managers at Swarthmore College. Additionally, Lucy Biddle was responsible for the gift that was the basis of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Lydia Lewis Rickman's notes on the family genealogy are included in the collection.

For more detailed information, see the collection summary (below).

Arrangement

The collection is divided into five series.

Series 1. Owen Biddle, 1711-1887: Owen Biddle, a scientist and merchant, served as Deputy Forage Master General during the American Revolution. He became a member of the Free Quakers during the Revolutionary War, but in 1783 he was reinstated in Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and helped in the establishment of Westtown School (1799). Owen Biddle's papers, 1772-1793, (Series 1) include correspondence, and journals, some of which relate to his Revolutionary War activities. Three of his letterbooks, 1778-1779, have been microfilmed.

Series 2. Clement Biddle (1778-1856), his wife Mary Canby Biddle, their children, relatives and friends , 1792-1860: Clement Biddle (1778-1856), a sugar refiner in Philadelphia who was active in Quaker philanthropic work such as helping to establish Friends Asylum in Frankford in 1813 (now Friends Hospital), aligned with the Hicksites following the separation of Philadelphia Quakers in 1827. His papers (Series 2) contain mostly family correspondence, 1792-1860, of Clement Biddle, his wife, Mary Canby Biddle (1780-1849), their children, Martha C. Biddle (1811-1833), Robert Biddle (1814-1902), William Canby Biddle (1816-1887), Clement Biddle (1819-1895), Anne Biddle (1822-1901), relatives, and friends

Series 3. Clement Biddle (1838-1902), and his son, William C. Biddle, 1747-1929: Clement M. Biddle (1838-1902), grandson of Clement Biddle (1778-1856), was the son of William Canby Biddle, who founded with his brother Robert the R. and W. C. Biddle Company, a hardware firm in Philadelphia. Clement was involved in the hardware firm until 1873, when he became involved with the Centennial Exposition of 1876, serving on the Centennial Board of Finance. He had a special interest in Quaker education, serving on the Swarthmore College Board of Managers from 1874-1894 (his father also served on the Board), supporting Friends' Central School, participating in the Committee on Education of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Hicksite). His correspondence is in Series 3 along with papers relating to the Centennial Board of Finance. Also included in this series are papers of William C. Biddle (1864-1942), oldest son of Clement M. Biddle (1838-1902). William Biddle's papers pertain to war relief work in France with the American Friends Service Committee, 1918-1920, and to Quaker adult education at the Woolman School, 1928-1929.

Series 4. Clement Miller Biddle (1876-1959), 1787-1921: Clement Miller Biddle (1876-1959) was the youngest son of Clement M. Biddle (1838-1902). Active in civic and philanthropic affairs in New York where he lived, Biddle was president of Biddle Manufacturing Company and served on the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College from 1927-1950. His papers (Series 4) include material on the Friends' Relief Mission in Vienna, 1920-1921, operated jointly by American and British Quakers. Biddle was involved in the child feeding program and other war relief efforts in Austria and Poland which were based at the Mission in Vienna. Also in the collection are an account book, 1835-1856, of Clement Biddle (1778-1856), and an account book, 1855-1871, of William Canby Biddle (1816-1887), other Biddle family papers, and papers of his wife, Grace Anna Brosius Biddle (b. 1877), which relate to her family and to her Swarthmore College Class (1897).

Series 5. Lucy Biddle Lewis and her daughter, Lydia Lewis Rickman, 1593-1951: Lucy Biddle Lewis (1861-1941) was the oldest child of Clement Biddle (1838-1902). A resident of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, she was active in Quaker postwar reliefwork and the peace movement, serving on the American Friends Service Committee, as National Chairman of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and for over thirty years, 1908-1941, on the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College. Her papers in Series 5 are letters, mostly to her family, about the International Congresses of Women held in the Hague in 1915 and in Zurich in 1919 and war relief work. While a member of the Swarthmore College Board of Managers, Lewis in 1930 persuaded Jane Addams of Hull House to donate her papers relating to peace and social justice to Swarthmore College. With this gift the Swarthmore College Peace Collection was established. Other papers of Lucy Biddle Lewis can be found in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection (see Guide to Sources on Women in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection). Also in this series are papers of Lydia Lewis Rickman, daughter of Lucy Biddle Lewis, pertaining to her trip to Russia, 1917-1918, with the American Friends Service Committee for war relief work there and papers she collected about the Biddle family's English ancestry, 1593-1711.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession information:

Donor: Anne Biddle Stirling (Series 2), 1928

Donors: Clement Biddle and Lydia Lewis Rickman (Series 4 and 5), 1947

Donor: Dorothy Biddle James (Series 1), 1949

Donor: Estate of William C. Biddle (Series 3), ca. 1959

The Biddle Manuscripts are arranged in five series according to provenance, distinguishing the five different donors. The papers of Owen Biddle [Series 1, formerly Biddle Manuscripts (J)] were donated by Dorothy Biddle James; those of Clement Biddle (1778-1856) and his family [Series 2, formerly Biddle Manuscripts (S)] were donated by Anne Biddle Stirling, his granddaughter; those of Clement M. Biddle (1838-1902) [Series 3, formerly Biddle Manuscripts (W)] came from the estate of his son, William C. Biddle; Clement Miller Biddle (1876-1959) gave his papers and those of other in the Biddle family [Series 4, formerly Biddle Manuscripts (C)]; and Lydia Lewis Rickman donated her papers, those of her mother, Lucy Biddle Lewis, and other Biddle family papers [Series 5, formerly Biddle Manuscripts (C).]

Related Materials

See also:
  1. Other papers of Lucy Biddle Lewis can be found in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Separated Materials

The following materials, originally part of the collection, have been removed to the Swarthmore College Archives (RG6):
  1. Grace Anna Brosius Biddle, papers concerning Swarthmore College, Class of 1897

Processing Information

Biddle manuscripts (C) were catalogued fully in the FHL manuscript card catalogue before 1950, and there is a detailed checklist of the correspondence available in the Library. Biddle Manuscripts (J) were arranged chronologically. They include correspondence and diary of Owen Biddle, 1737-1799, and also were fully catalogued. (S) and (W) were catalogued briefly. Owen Biddle Letterbook, 1778-1 month 1779 were microfilmed in 1978 by the Presbyterian Historical Society.

Biddle Manuscripts were reviewed, reorganized, refoldered, and a revised checklist was prepared in 1988, and the collection was transferred to Record Group 5. Papers of Owen Biddle [formerly designated as Biddle Manuscripts (C)] became Series 1, Boxes 1-3. Papers of Clement Biddle (1778-1856) and his wife Mary Canby Biddle, their children, relatives and friends [formerly Biddle Manuscripts (S)] became Series 2 (Boxes 4-5). Papers of Clement Biddle (1838-1902) and his son, William C. Biddle [formerly Biddle Manuscripts (W)] became Series 3 (Box 6). Papers of Clement Miller Biddle (1876-1959), Lucy Biddle Lewis, and Lydia Lewis Rickman [formerly Biddle Manuscripts (C)] became: Series 4 Clement Miller Biddle (Box 7) and Series 5 Lucy Biddle Lewis and Lydia Lewis Rickman (Box 8).

Formerly cited at Biddle Manuscripts.

Creator

Title
Biddle Family Papers, 1793-1951
Author
FHL staff
Date
1988
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