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Archives & Manuscripts

Collection of Bringhurst Family Correspondence

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-MSS-046
Contains the collected correspondence of the Bringhurst family. The greater part was preserved by C. Marshall Taylor and contains correspondence, 1780-1806, of Philadelphia Quaker businessman, James Bringhurst. These include letters received by James Bringhurst (1730-1810) from John Murray (1758-1819) of New York City which reveal their concern for education, prison reform, preventing poverty, and improving the condition of Indians. The letter books of James Bringhurst are generally religious in tone. He corresponded with family as well as prominent friends including John Dickinson, Job Scott, Nathan Hunt, James Pemberton, Jesse Kersey, Lindley Murray and Moses Brown. Of particular interest are his descriptions of life in Philadelphia and the conditions of free blacks, as well as Quaker religious and social concerns and visits from traveling ministers. The Taylor gift includes typed transcripts and indexes created by the collector.

The second group primarily contains affectionate letters from Joseph Bringhurst, a brother of James, to his niece, Elizabeth Foulke while she was traveling in the ministry. The letters deal with family concerns and Philadelphia life and customs. Mention is made of many prominent Quakers, outbreaks of yellow fever, and concern for the stresses of his niece’s life in the ministry. This group also includes letters from Elizabeth Foulke to her friend, Ruth Rutter, and from James Bringhurst to his niece.

Dates

  • Majority of material found within 1780 - 1811
  • 1780 - 1941

Creator

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

The collection is open to 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 Curator. Permission for publication is given on behalf 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

6 Linear Feet

Overview

Contains the collected correspondence of the Bringhurst family, largely compiled by C. Marshall Taylor. It includes correspondence, 1780-1806, of Philadelphia Quaker businessman James Bringhurst and his letters received from John Murray of New York City. Bringhurst corresponded with family and prominent friends including John Dickinson, Job Scott, Nathan Hunt, James Pemberton, Jesse Kersey, Lindley Murray and Moses Brown. Of particular interest are descriptions of life in Philadelphia and the conditions of free blacks, as well as Quaker religious and social concerns and visits from traveling ministers. A second group of letters contains primarily letters from Joseph Bringhurst, the brother of James, to his niece, Elizabeth Foulke while she was traveling in the ministry.

Biographical / Historical

The Bringhursts of Philadelphia, Pa., were a prominent Quaker family, active in the civic life of the City and in the Society of Friends. Several were involved in the establishment of Pennsylvania Hospital and the American Philosophical Society.

Circa 1701, Rosina Bringhurst, widow of Quaker John Bringhurst of London, and her four children emigrated to Philadelphia. Her son, John Bringhurst (1691-1750) was apprenticed as a cooper and worked as a seaman and merchant. In 1718 he married Mary Claypoole, who died in 1761.

John and Mary Claypoole had eight children, five of whom survived to maturity. Mary (1720/21-1798) married Judah Foulke (1722-1776) of Gwynedd, Pa., in 1743/44 under the care of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. John (1722-1789) and Elizabeth (1723/24-1790) did not marry. The fourth child, James (1730-1810) married first Anne Pole; secondly, Hannah Peters; and third, Ruth Barker. He was a wealthy merchant in Philadelphia, active in the American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Carpenter’s Hall. He owned a country estate at Gray's Ferry, now part of Philadelphia, which his first wife, Anne Pole (1705-1755) inherited from her father, also a Philadelphia merchant. In 1779, he married Hannah Peters, who died in 1782 at the age of 31. In the last two years of his life, he moved to Tiverton, Rhode Island, which was the home his third wife, Ruth, and where they often spent summers. James and Anne (Pole) Bringhurst had seven children, five of whom survived to maturity. One of his sons, Joseph Bringhurst (1767-1834) , was a prominent Philadelphia and Delaware physician and close friend of John Dickinson. In 1799, he married Deborah Ferris (1733-1844), sister of Benjamin Ferris of Wilmington, Delaware.

James Bringhurst corresponded regularly with John Murray (1758-1819), a prominent New York Quaker, with whom he shared common interests. Murray was the son of Robert Murray and Mary Lindley Murray and married Catherine Bowne. They had three children, including Lindley Murray born in 1790. John's brother was Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the Quaker author and grammarian. John Murray retired from a successful business life and served as governor of New York Hospital. In 1785 he was a founder of the “Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and for protecting such of them as have been or may be liberated.” He was also involved with prison reform, improving public education and the condition of Indians, founding the New-York Historical Society and the Society for the prevention of Pauperism, as well as being active in New York Monthly Meeting.

Joseph (1732/3-1811), the youngest surviving child of John and Mary (Claypoole) Bringhurst, did not marry. Like his father, he was trained as a cooper and then became a successful merchant. A contributor to Pennsylvania Hospital and a member of the American Philosophical Society, he took an interest in his extended family, and in particular, the children of his widowed older sister, Mary (Bringhurst) Foulke. In 1810, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware, which was the home of his nephew, Dr. Joseph Bringhurst.

Mary (Bringhurst) Foulke had five children and was widowed in 1776. Her daughter, Elizabeth Foulke (1758-1820) traveled in the ministry, and the family was active in the affairs of the City of Philadelphia and the Society of Friends.

Arrangement

Organized in three series:
  1. Ser.1 James Bringhurst letter books
  2. Ser.2 John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst
  3. Ser.3 Bringhurst-Foulke correspondence

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: C. Marshall Taylor, 1942, 1946

Taylor was a graduate of Swarthmore College and served as an Honorary Curator of Friends Historical Library.

In 1942, C. Marshall Taylor (1884-1957), a Quaker businessman and book collector, of Montclair, New Jersey, donated the John Murray correspondence and his transcription to Friends Historical Library. In 1946, he presented the James Bringhurst letter books and transcriptions. These gifts were combined with other Bringhurst correspondence already deposited in the Library, sources unknown. A Joseph Bringhurst letter purchased by the Library was added to the collection in 1971.

Purchase: 1976

Existence and Location of Copies

Transcripts of the correspondence of James Bringhurst are included in the collection and also available at Haverford College Special Collections.

Related Materials

Lindley Murray Papers, RG 5/198. Contains additional John Murray correspondence.

Ferris Family Paper, RG 5/040. Joseph Bringhurst (1767-1834), son of James Bringhurst, was a prominent physician and close friend of John Dickinson. In 1799, he married Deborah Ferris (1733-1844), sister of Benjamin Ferris of Wilmington, Delaware.

Nicholas Waln Family Papers, 1783-1895 (bulk 1783-1819). See Haverford College Special Collections.

Copies of the typed transcripts of letters of James Bringhurst (5 v., 1780-1807) also are in Haverford Special collections.

Additional Joseph Bringhurst letters addressed to his niece, Elizabeth Foulke, are deposited in the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections, Bowdoin College.

History of the Bringhurst family : with notes on the Clarkson, De Peyster, and Boude families / By Josiah Granville Leach. Philadelphia : Printed for private circulation by J.B. Lippincott company, 1901
Memoir of the late John Murray, jun., read before governors of the New-York hospital, ninth month, fourteenth, 1819 / by Thomas Eddy. Published by order of the governors . New York : Printed by E. Conrad, no. 4, Frankfort-street, 1819

Processing Information

The letter books and correspondence of James Bringhurst collected by C. Marshall Taylor and bound into six volumes were given to Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College in 1942 and 1946 along with Taylor’s typed transcripts and indexes. Theses letters were combined with loose correspondence from an unknown source into a manuscript collection. In 1971, a purchased letter from Joseph Bringhurst to E[lizabeth] Foulke was added to the collection. In 2004, a finding aid was created and the loose letters were refoldered. The inventory was revised in 2012, with additional details supplied. The John Murray letters were removed from an acidic 19th century cover and places in folders for better preservation and description.

Creator

Author
FHL staff
Date
2012
Description rules
dacs

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