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Dunn - Osborn - Battey family papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1163


Correspondence, account books, receipts, bills and other financial papers, notebook, 2 ledgers of financial accounts, printed items, and other miscellaneous papers.

Primarily correspondence of Dunn, Osborn and Battey families. Also related families of Barns, Birdsall, Brownell, Coffin, Coutant, Heaton, Lamb, Pancoast, Steere and others.

Letters of Nathan Dunn (1782-1844) discuss trade with China and his experiences there (letter, 4/13/1824, describes elaborate dinner at which he was a guest), his Chinese Collection, a forgery court case “Thomas v. Dunn” (letter, 2/3/1844 and 6/21/1844 describes case in detail); also a copy of his printed will with annotations, legal and land papers (some related to Laurel Hill Cemetery of which he was a manager), notebook regarding his Chinese Collection. There are also two ledgers of his financial accounts, 1826-1830, which reflect his China trade business. The first ledger was also used in the 1890s by Ella Birdsall Wright.

Household and farming bills and receipts of Restore Shinn Lamb, Rhoda (Osborn) Lamb and Phebe Osborn (Dunn's half-sisters, Rhoda and Phebe, took care of Dunn's “cottage” in Mt. Holly, N.J., they also managed the farm on Osborn's Island, inherited by Thomas Osborn from his father).

Letters, 1833-1856, of David Battey discuss farm life in Indiana, ill health and loneliness, implication that he is with the Hicksite branch of Friends.

Letters of Nancy S. Battey, 1864-1865, some while teaching free black children in Yorktown.

Ruth M. Battey letters and estate papers, 1858-1887.

Smith Battey letters, 1840-1857, discuss travel to Michigan to visit sister Phebe and husband Elijah Brownell in 1840, also family news and advice.

Letters, 1830-1882, of brothers Elijah Brownell and Sands Brownell discuss family business difficulties in Michigan.

Letters, 1856-1858, of George W. Taylor (1803-1891) to Smith Battey and Isaac Steere, discuss his free produce business in Philadelphia (includes some invoices on letterhead of the company).

Other topics discussed in correspondence are Society of Friends matters, (Separation of 1827 - implication in several letters (David Battey, Job Battey, Nicholas Battey) that choices made as result of Separation have led to some estrangement from other relatives), health concerns and illness (several cases of consumption within the families), slavery and education.

Noteworthy individual items are: Letter, 1868, of Leah Blackman to Rhoda Lamb asking about family history for her book on Little Egg Harbor; Letter, 12/1/1884, of William Otis Crosby (1850-1925), to [Thomas J. Battey] re: mineral specimens; Letter, 11/7/1889, of Sallie Coutant Jones (1st wife of Rufus M. Jones) telling of their first year experience in running Oak Grove School; postcard, 2/2/1879, from John G. Whittier.

Other persons represented in the collection include: Thomas J. Battey, Phebe (Battey) Barns, Hannah M. Boadle, Samuel Heaton, Amos Hoag, and others.


  • Creation: 1744-1927


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

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

Dunn and Osborn families

Nathan Dunn (1782-1844) was the son of Nathan Dunn (d. 1782, age 39) and his second wife, Rhoda Silver (m. 11/4/1773). After the death of Nathan Sr., Rhoda (Silver) Dunn m. 1788 Thomas Osborn (d. ca. 1827) of Burlington Co., N.J. Thomas Osborn was the son of Richard Osborn (Osborn's Island, Burlington Co., N.J.). Nathan Jr.'s siblings from his mother's first marriage included Deborah Dunn (who m. Caleb Pancoast), William Dunn and Josiah Dunn. Nathan's half-siblings from his mother's second marriage were Phoebe Osborn (d. 1848), Palmyra Osborn (who m. 1818 Gideon M. Birdsall of N.Y.) and Rhoda Osborn (ca. 1794-1881, m. Restore S. Lamb (d. ca. 1867?)). Rhoda and Restore S. Lamb were noted Friends ministers (Hicksite).

Nathan Dunn (1782-1844) was disowned by Philadelphia Monthly Meeting in 1816 for bankruptcy. In 1818 he went to China and traded under the firm of Nathan Dunn & Company. He returned to Philadelphia in 1832 and paid off all of his creditors. While in China, Dunn collected Chinese objects, which were exhibited here and in Europe. He built a “cottage” in Mt. Holly, N.J., which was run by his half-sisters Phoebe and Rhoda for many years. Dunn gave Haverford College a gift of over $20,000 in 1840 and was a financial supporter of other charitable endeavors.

(Sources for above: DQB; Arthur W. Hummel, “Nathan Dunn,” Quaker History 59 (1970), p. 34-39; will of Nathan Dunn in Dunn-Osborn-Battey papers; History of Little Egg Harbor Township, Burlington County, N.J., from its first settlement to the present time,... by Leah Blackman, F144 L49 B62 1963)

Battey family

Smith Battey (d. 1858) m. Ruth Muzzey Aldrich (ca. 1801-1884). Their children were Avis Battey (ca. 1830-1906, m. Isaac Steere), Phebe Battey (ca. 1834-1919, m. Dr. John Barns (ca. 1818-1895)), Nancy S. Battey (ca. 1837-1865) and Thomas Jesse Battey (1842-1931) who m. 1865 Mary Augusta Heaton (1838-1923), “Gussie,” daughter of Samuel and Lydia Heaton. Thomas and Gussie's children included Charles Heaton Battey (1868-1941, m. 1895 Sarah Edith Thompson), Edward Heaton Battey (b. 1873, died young) and William Aldrich Battey (b. 1876, m. 1901 Rhoda Amelia Birdsall).

(Sources for above: DQB; Haverford College matriculate catalog; Quaker Necrology files; Dunn-Osborn-Battey papers)


5 linear ft. (27 boxes)

Language of Materials



Papers include those of Nathan Dunn (1782-1844) who became financially successful in the China trade; letters (1833-1856) of David Battey discussing farm life in Indiana; letters (1864-1865) of Nancy Battey, some while teaching African American children; letters of George W. Taylor (1803-1891) discussing his free produce business in Philadelphia.


There are three main groups of papers within this collection: the Battey family papers, the papers of Nathan Dunn and the Osborn family papers.

Within the Battey family section, letters written by Batteys come first (boxes 1 and 2), followed by letters written by others to the Battey family (boxes 3, 4 and 5). Letters are arranged alphabetically by author within each group and chronologically within an individual author. Box 5 also includes some miscellaneous Battey family papers.

Box 6 contains the papers of Nathan Dunn (1782-1844), as well as some miscellaneous Dunn family papers.

Boxes 7 and 8 contain correspondence of the Osborn and Lamb families, these are primarily letters to Rhoda and Restore Lamb and Phebe Osborn. Box 8 also includes some miscellaneous Osborn family papers. Box 9 contains financial papers (chiefly household and farming bills and receipts) of Rhoda and Restore S. Lamb and Phebe Osborn.

Housed next to the boxes are two volumes or ledgers of the financial records, 1826-1830, of Nathan Dunn which record transactions within China and with England and Philadelphia business associates for Dunn's trade in cloth.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift, 1990, 2001.

General note

Dunn - Osborn - Battey

Ms. Coll. 1163

Processing Information

Processing history is unknown.


Dunn-Osborn-Battey Family Papers, 1744-1927
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 6/22/22: CPeraria- (MLIS Intern) project to remove harmful/biased language from finding aids

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