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Mary Sullivan Patterson Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-118

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, including that with Friends meetings in Great Britain (1957) concerning the location of their records, written in preparation for a trip to compile notes concerning Quaker immigrants to America. Also incuded is a diary (1924) kept during a visit to England with a young Friends group, articles on biographical and historical topics and Quaker affairs, genealogical notes on the Thomson, Sullivan, and other related families, reference materials on historic homes, particularly the homes of Caleb Pusey in Delaware County, Pa., and Benjamin West in Swarthmore, Pa., pictures, clippings, and memorabilia. Includes typewritten transcripts of diary (1809) of Sarah Thomson.


  • Creation: 1782-1982


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Mary Thomson Sullivan was born May 9, 1906, the daughter of Marshall Phillips Sullivan and Alice Thomson Sullivan, members of Abington Monthly Meeting and prominent residents of Elkins Park, Pa.. Her paternal grandparents were Joseph T. and Sarah Rogers Sullivan of Moorestown, NJ. Her maternal grandparents were Thomas and Mary Eyre Thomson. Both sides of the family came from a long line of Quakers.

Mary Sullivan attended Abington Friends School and graduated from the George School. She was a graduate of Swarthmore College, Class of 1928, and the first woman to edit the College newspaper. She was active in Quaker organizations and was a Young Friends delegate to the 1924 Friends Conference in London and attended the World Youth Peace Conference in 1928 in Holland.

In 1930, she married Henry Carter Patterson (1889-1972), and they had three children: Alice, Jane, and Robert. Henry had joined the Society of Friends in 1918. He was an insurance executive and active in race relations; in particular he was the Philadelphia director of the United Negro College Fund and aided the relocation of Japanese American to the Philadelphia area during WWII. The family settled in Swarthmore, Pa. Mary Sullivan Patterson served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Schofield Normal and Industrial School, 1936-1946. She was an avid genealogist and worked as a genealogist for Friends Historical Library 1952-1957. In 1957, she resigned from professional genealogy to concentrate on researching Quaker immigration from England, her own family research, and local historic preservation.

In 1957, she spent several months in England researching Quaker records. In her later years, she devoted much of her energy to historic preservation efforts in Delaware County, Pa. She was the driving force to save the Caleb Pusey House and served as chairman for fundraising for the restoration of the 1724 Chester County Courthouse and the Carter Cemetery in Chester Township. She served as a board member for the Delaware County Historical Society, was founder of Historic Delaware County Society which organized Open House Days in the 1960s, and she served on the Delaware County Heritage Committee.

She lived her final years in the Hickman, Friends Boarding Home, in West Chester, Pa., and died December 1987.


8 linear ft. (15 boxes (plus photographs))

Language of Materials



Mary Sullivan Patterson (1906-1987) was a Quaker historian and genealogist from Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The collection contains family papers and correspondence; genealogical notes on the Thomson, Sullivan, and other related families; writings on various topics, especially Delaware County history and the Caleb Pusey House; diaries, notes, correspondence, and a manuscript concerning Patterson's 1957 research trip to England to study Quaker emigration to America. Also a diary and letters from her trip to England and Germany in 1924 with a young Friends group.


The collection is divided into five series:

  1. Mary Sullivan Patterson Family Papers
  2. Family Correspondence
  3. Writings and Talks
  4. Family History and Genealogical Research
  5. Activities and Projects

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: Mary Sullivan Patterson

Date: 1964-1985.

Donor: Robert Patterson, Alice Truitt and Jane Bradbeer,

Date: 1990.

Accession number: 90.1.14

Separated Materials

The following materials, originally part of the collection, have been removed and recatalogued:

  1. PA 39 (5 albums of family pictures)

Separated Materials

Among Mary Sullivan Patterson's papers were a number of printed items having to do with Quaker concerns, which are catalogued and stored in the appropriate Pamphlet Group or Serial Group of FHL in order to make them more readily available for use by researchers. Each item has been noted as the gift of Mary Patterson. These materials include:

  1. Friends' Meetings and Meeting Houses in the U.S. and England and Ireland
  2. Friends' organizations and committees, such as the Meeting House Fund; Friends' schools
  3. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting activities
  4. Weighty individual Friends; Friends Historical Association, and Friends Historical Society (London)
  5. In addition maps and atlases (1939-1962) have been stored in the appropriate map folder.
  6. Reference material removed to FHL reference files.
  7. PA 158 (photographs)

Processing Information

The collection donated in parts by Mary S. Patterson between 1964 to 1979 was sorted into nine series, described and stored in five document boxes. Five family photo albums were given before 1971 and assigned PA 39. Eleven cartons of unsorted papers were received from the family of Mary Patterson in 1990. These were inventoried by Elizabeth L. Carson in 1996 but not arranged. Personal papers not relevant to the collection were returned to the family. In 2012, the collection was reprocessed. Pictures were removed to PA 158. Secondary reference material was transferred to FHL Reference by topic, and pertinent genealogical research from her professional career was added to PG 7, Biographical and Genealogical Files. The remaining papers were sorted into five series by topic.

An Inventory of the Mary Sullivan Patterson Papers, 1878-1987
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 repoductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA