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Frederick Barnes Tolles Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-218

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of Frederick B. Tolles, primarily relating to his books and articles on Quaker history and biography along with other writings, including research notes on a proposed history of Swarthmore College.

  1. Biographical material
  2. Books, published
  3. Book manuscript, drafts, unpublished
  4. Other publications: Articles, book reviews, etc.
  5. Unpublished manuscripts: Articles, miscellaneous mss.
  6. Reference material relating to conferences and committees attended by Frederick B. Tolles, gathered by F. B. Tolles.
  7. Reference material gathered by F. B. Tolles for a history of Swarthmore College.
  8. Teaching notes


  • Creation: 1871-1970


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See

Biographical / Historical

Frederick Barnes Tolles was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1915, son of James and Josie (Barnes) Tolles. He graduated from Harvard in 1936, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and took Honors in English with his thesis on Emerson and Quakerism. He received his Masters degree from Harvard in 1937 and taught in the English Department at Harvard University until 1941. He came to Swarthmore College as Librarian of Friends Historical Library in 1941 and was named Director of the Library in 1951. He also was a member of the Department of History. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1947, with his dissertation submitted in the History of American Civilization. This manuscript was published as Meeting House and Counting House in 1948.

As a conscientious objector, Tolles served in Civilian Public Service camps from 1943-1946. In 1950-1954 he was a Fellow and member of the research staff of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and also taught history at the California Institute of Technology. On his return to Swarthmore College in 1954, he was appointed to the Howard M. and Charles F. Jenkins Chair of Quaker History and Research. Professor Tolles received an Honorary Doctor of Literature from Haverford College in 1959.

He served as president of Friends Historical Association, 1969-1970, and editor of its Bulletin (called Quaker History after 1955) from 1949-1967 Tolles published seven books and nearly 50 articles and prefaces to books and also wrote many book reviews. Ill health forced him into early retirement in 1970, and he died on his 60th birthday, Apr. 18, 1975. Dean Emeritus Everett L. Hunt said of Fred Tolles, “His life has been a symbol of Quaker activity and scholarship that has won national recognition.”


7 linear ft.

Language of Materials



Frederick Barnes Tolles (1915-1975), Quaker librarian, teacher, and historian, was Director of Friends Historical Library from 1951-1970, and a member of the Department of History at Swarthmore College. This collection contains the papers of primarily relating to his books and articles on Quaker history and biography, along with other writings, including research notes on a proposed history of Swarthmore College.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: Frederick B. Tolles

Dates: 3/1970

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Frederick B. Tolles at the time of his retirement. Additional material added 6/1983.

Related Materials

SC/016 Henry J. Cadbury correspondence

FHL and AFSC Correspondence files

Processing Information

The collection was originally placed in Record Group 4/029 as part of the records of Friends Historical Library. It was transferred to Personal Papers, RG 5 in 2005. In 2012, the inventory was reviewed and corrected. A photocopy of Elizabeth Webb "A short memorial. . . " added to the collection in 1979 was transferred to FHL Journals, MSS003; this is a copy of a journal that belongs to Haverford College and is not related to the transcript of Webb's 1697-1699 religious visit which was the subject of Tolles introduction.

An Inventory of the Frederick Barnes Tolles Papers, 1871-1970
FHL staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Find It at the Library

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