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Holmes-Webb Family Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-065

Scope and Contents

Holmes-Webb Family Papers includes the correspondence and writings of Jesse Herman Holmes, a prominent Quaker and professor of philosophy and religion at Swarthmore College. It also contains family materials and genealogical data from his wife's [Rebecca Webb] family.

The Holmes-Webb Family Papers also contain correspondence between Rebecca Turner and William B. Webb before their marriage in 1852 and between members of the Webb family, mostly between Rebecca T. Webb and her sisters. It also includes correspondence between Rebecca W. Holmes and Jesse during his trips overseas (Oxford, the Middle East, Eastern Europe) and letters from Rebecca to her sisters. Several letters from a correspondent in India tell of the early Indian self-determination movement (1930 and 1934) and give a first hand opinion of Mahatma Gandhi's work there.

Three travel journals in the collection include anecdotes about Heidelburg (1898), Scotland (1913), and travel by ocean to Oxford (1899). The rough notes of several talks, poetry, and writings of Holmes speak of the lands he traveled to, but often his longing to be at Swarthmore and the Crum Creek.

Holmes-Webb Family Papers includes personal memorabilia and financial materials as well.


  • Creation: 1839-1972


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 B. Webb was a druggist and member of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Friends (Hicksite). He married Rebecca Turner in 1853. Their youngest daughter, Rebecca St. Claire Webb, married Jessie Herman Holmes in 1892.

Jesse Herman Holmes was born 1864 1mo 5 in Iowa, the son of Jesse and Sara Morgan Paxson Holmes. He attended Nebraska State University and John Hopkins University, where he received a Ph.D. in chemistry. He married Rebecca S. Webb, daughter of William B. and Rebecca [Turner] Webb in 1892. Holmes taught at Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C. and then George School in Bucks County, PA until 1899, when he set sail for Oxford to prepare to teach philosophy at Swarthmore College. He continued to teach at the College until 1937. He was an active participant in AFSC relief after World War I, travelling to oversee work in reconstruction throughout Europe. Correspondence from Europe in 1920, included in this collection, detail the organizational hurdles that he encountered. Holmes was the president of the National Federation of Religious Liberals and an active member of the Socialist party.

Jesse and Rebecca had three children, Elizabeth Webb, Robert Sinclair, and Jesse Herman Holmes Jr. [III]. Elizabeth died at 16 of complications from diabetes. The family lived in Swarthmore and were members of Swarthmore Monthly Meeting.


1.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes)




William B. Webb was a druggist and member of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Friends (Hicksite). He married Rebecca Turner in 1853. Their youngest daughter, Rebecca St. Claire Webb, married Jessie Herman Holmes in 1892. Holmes was a prominent Quaker, taught philosophy and religion at Swarthmore College, and was active in AFSC relief in Europe after World War I. He also served as President of the National Federation of Religious Liberals and was an active member of the Socialist Party. The collection includes correspondence of the Webb and Holmes families, journals of Jesse Herman and Rebecca W. Holmes, and other miscellaneous materials. Of particular interest is the correspondence between the Holmes during his trip overseas and several letters from S. R. Sharma concerning the early Indian self-determination movement and the work of Mahatma Gandhi from 1930 to 1934.


The collection is divided into seven series:

  1. Biographical and genealogical
  2. Correspondence
  3. Family memorabilia
  4. Journals and writings
  5. Financial and legal
  6. Pictures
  7. Miscellaneous

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: Gift of Kenneth and Anne Rawson, 1989

Biographical and genealogical materials in Series 1 were compiled by Rebecca T. Webb and trace the St. Clair and Turner lines of the family. The collection was compiled by Margaret Byrd Rawson, Swarthmore College, '23, a student of Jesse H. Holmes and Kenneth Rawson's mother.

Related Materials

See also:

  1. RG 5/064, Jesse Herman Holmes Papers. Documents relating almost exclusively to academic concerns and projects.
  2. Wahl, Albert. Jesse Herman Holmes, A Quaker's Affirmation for Man. BX7796 +.H765 W2. Typed in manuscript form.

Processing Information

Received unprocessed. Sorted into series by FHL staff and placed Record Group 5.

An Inventory of the Holmes-Webb Family Papers, 1839-1972
FHL staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Encoding made possible by a grant by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation to the Philadelphia Consortium of Special Collections Libraries

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 or requesting reproductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

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Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA