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Edward Wanton Smith papers

Identifier: HC.MC-955

Scope and Contents

This collection includes letters, biographical accounts of Friends, genealogical material, legal and financial papers, business accounts, minutes, accounts of dreams and visions of Friends, essays, notebooks, epistles of Friends' Meetings, marriage certificates, maps, pictures, deeds, and other material of the Smith and Atwater families.

Noteworthy are a holograph manuscript by George Fox, 1673; the papers of George and Sarah (Hill) Dillwyn, 1752-1828; papers pertaining to the Emlen Institution, endowed by Samuel Emlen for educating African Americans and Indigenous students, ca.1837-1848; papers pertaining to the estate of Reuben Haines, 1831-1843; Hill family papers, 1750-1798; letters of Margaret (Hill) Morris and Benjamin Smith, concerning the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, 1793; letters and diary, 1784-1813, of Deborah (Morris) Smith Collins; papers concerning the settlement of John Morton's estate, 1750-1845; papers of Daniel B. Smith, 1770-1870; material on Friends in France, ca.1785-1889, Jean de Marsillac, 1788-1797, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and Rhode Island Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, 1708-1805; extracts from Minutes of Friends' Meetings around Philadelphia, concerning the Separation of 1827-1828; queries by Alexis de Tocqueville, concerning African Americans and Friends' practices in regard to them; material on the subject of marriages between near relations, including a copy of a letter by Thomas Ellwood on the subject, 1706; five items from the late 18th century concerning treaties and other matters between white settler colonists and the Cherokee and Lenape (Delaware) peoples.

Topics covered by the collection include: social and political history; business concerns, including Richard M. Atwater's connections with the Solvay Process Co. and Johnson Harvester Co.; the Quakerism of Richard M. Atwater and Esther M. Smith (1797-1865); the composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams; the artist, Ogden Wood; Sarah Anne Greene Smith's views on Japan, 1933-35, while a teacher at Friends Girls' School, and letters written to her by her Japanese students and colleagues as well as some photographs from Japan.


  • Creation: 1681-1971


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical note

Richard Mead Atwater (1844-1922) was raised in Providence, Rhode Island, as a Quaker and graduated from Brown University. He intended to study medicine, but instead joined a glass works company. He married Abby Sophia Greene (ca. 1845-1935). They lived in Millville, New Jersey and spent the summer months at Sea Isle City, New Jersey. Atwater devised and patented methods for making accurate graduated measures for the chemical trade as well as a portable finishing furnace for making glassware and other inventions. In 1889, the family moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania, and then, in order to study European methods of glass manufacture, to Germany, where Atwater's ties to the glass works firm of Whitall, Tatum were severed. In 1892, Atwater joined the Semet Solvay Company, where he remained for eight years. In 1893, the family rented a house in Syracuse, New York. Then, in 1900, Atwater became Director of European Business for Johnson Harvester Company, based in Paris. Here they made the acquaintance of artist Ogden Wood. Atwater remained with the company for six years and the family then settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in a home previously occupied by artist Howard Pyle. In his letters, Atwater ponders philosophic questions and discusses the art world, people within their social milieu, business, travel, and news of their children. It is evident that the Atwaters belong to the upper echelon of society. The letters of Abby Atwater are often written on the verso of his letters.

Abby Sophia Greene Atwater (1844-1935) grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. Her letters show her having been comfortable within and in control of her world. The family was well-to-do and had servants, child care, and the means to travel. Culture was important; Abby Atwater attended theaters and concerts, and often mentions art and photography in her letters. She was well-educated, linguistically capable, and picked up German and French with ease. Her correspondence indicates strong mother-daughter and sibling relationships, especially clear in the correspondence with her sister, Eliza Greene Chace. There are references to children's schooling, costs, careers, and the family's health; as her children moved out of the family house, there is mention of their careers and interests.

On a number of Eliza Greene Chace's letters are sketches, primarily of women.

Sarah Anna Chace Greene (d. 1904), mother of Abby Sophia Greene Atwater, appears devoted to her children and attached to her son-in-law, Richard Mead Atwater. The social network of her time depended on visits and conversations, which can be gleaned from her correspondence.

Esther Morton Smith (1797-1865), through her writing, also seems to be very well-educated. She writes long, tender letters to her brother, Robert Morton.

Sarah Anne Greene Smith (May 29, 1906 - November 04, 2002) was the daughter of Edward Wanton and Dorothea Atwater Smith. Smith graduated from the Germantown Friends School and Wellesley College. She worked with the American Friends Service Committee in Geneva Switzerland and taught for two years at the Friends School Tokyo, Japan. Upon her retun to the United States, she worked at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Margaret Hill Morris(1737-1816) was born in 1737, at South River, near Annapolis, Maryland. Her parents, Richard and Deborah (Moore) Hill moved to the island of Madeira when she was young, and Morris was raised by her aunt and uncle in Philadelphia. Margaret Hill Morris married William Morris, a Quaker merchant and early contributor to the Pennsylvania Hospital, in 1758. The couple had four children; three were born before William’s death in 1766, and one was born after. In 1770, the family moved to the vicinity of Burlington, New Jersey, and established a home called “Green Bank.” Morris was recognized as a skillful doctor and she regularly treated the ill and injured during the American Revolutionary War. Morris died on October 10, 1816, of a stroke at the age of 79.

George Dillwyn (1738-1820) was born April 26, 1738 in Philadelphia, Pa. He married Sarah Hill in 1759. Dillwyn was unsuccessful in business, but was recognized as a minister in 1766. In 1784, he and his wife traveled to England and the continent of Europe on a religious visit, along with Sarah Grubb, Mary Dudley, Sarah Dillwyn, and Robert Grubb. In 1793, Dillwyn and his wife again visited England, where they stayed for nine years. George Dillwyn died June 23, 1820 in Burlington, N.J.


12.5 linear ft. (26 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection includes letters, biographical accounts of Friends, genealogical material, legal and financial papers, business accounts, minutes, accounts of dreams and visions of Friends, essays, notebooks, epistles of Friends' Meetings, marriage certificates, maps, pictures, deeds, and other material of the Smith and Atwater families.

Related Materials

Gulielma M. Howland Collection (MC 1000); Morris Family papers (MC 1008); Margaret Hill Morris diary (MC-975-01-049); Benjamin Smith letterbook (MC-975-02-036);

Processing Information

Original processing information unknown. Reboxed and finding aid updated by Lily Sweeney, April 2021.

Edward Wanton Smith paper
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • April 2021: Reboxed and finding aid updated
  • June 2022: by Nathaniel Rehm-Daly, Harmful Language Revision Project

Find It at the Library

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