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Thornton Family Research Papers (copies)

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-150

Scope and Contents

This group of papers relating to the Thornton family, copies and transcripts, were made available by William Thornton of England to Quaker writer, Harriet Frorer Durham, who was working on a biography Dr. William Thornton (1759-1828) of Tortola and the United States. William Thornton was a descendent of the Doctor. Durham was a graduate of Swarthmore College, Class 1945, active in social concerns, and wrote the book Caribbean Quakers (Dukane Press, 1972)..


  • 1673-1963


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Collection is open for research

Copyright and Rights Information

Some of the items in this collection may be protected by copyright. The user is solely responsible for making a final determination of copyright status. If copyright protection applies, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns to reuse, publish, or reproduce relevant items beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to the law. See

Biographical / Historical

William Thornton (1759-1828), physician, architect, and government official, was born in Tortola and practiced medicine there briefly before moving to the United States. He was a birthright Quaker and strongly antislavery, concerned primarily with colonizing efforts for formerly enslaved people. He was disowned after his 1790 marriage in Philadelphia. His best known buildings are the United States Capitol and Woodlawn Plantation in Mount Vernon, Virginia.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)




This group of papers relating to the Thornton family, all copies, were made available to Harriet Frorer Durham, a Quaker writer who was working on a biography of Dr. William Thornton (1759-1828) of Philadelphia. William Thornton of England, Dr. Thorton's descendent, provided the papers. The collection contains genealogical material compiled for Dr. William Thornton and photocopies of business and legal papers (1673-1802).


The collection is divided into four series:
  1. Genealogical material
  2. Genealogical correspondence
  3. Business and financial papers
  4. Legal papers

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession information

Donor: Harriet Durham, 1971, 1974 (microfilm)

The collection was given by Harriet Durham who was researching Dr. William Thornton of Philadelphia and Tortola for a biography. His descendent, William Thornton of England, made available the material for her to photocopy.

Related Materials

See also:
  1. PG 7 reference file on William Thornton. Includes an article by Harriet Durham.
  2. Film MS-T: William Thornton Papers in the Library of Congress (7 reels)
  3. Film MS-T: William Thornton. Letters and related papers in Historical Society of Pennsylvania (1 reel)

Separated Materials

The following materials, originally part of the collection, were recatalogued:
  1. Film MS-T: William Thornton Papers in the Library of Congress (7 reels)
  2. Film MS-T: William Thornton. Letters and related papers in Historical Society of Pennsylvania (1 reel)
  3. Thornton family genealogical chart (Filed with Genealogical Charts)

Processing Information

When processed at FHL, the copies were stored in oversized drawers. In 1999 the collection was moved to conventional RG 5 storage. Microfilm of William Thornton Papers deposited in the Library of Congress and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, given by the same donor, are stored with microfilm.


William Thornton Research Papers, 1673-1963
FHL staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Updated outdated, harmful terminology related to enslavement, except where it appears in a title, quotation, or subject heading.

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

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Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA