Skip to main content

Sarah Wistar Rhoads family papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1211

Scope and Contents note

The Sarah Wistar Rhoads family papers include correspondence; financial records; diaries and journals; memorabilia; class work and notes; copied poems, prayers, sermons and verses; memorials; genealogical research; Quaker material; and photographs.

The largest component of this collection is family correspondence and it is arranged alphabetically by recipient and chronologically within each group. The collection includes extensive correspondence of Sarah Wistar Rhoads; her husband William G. Rhoads; his mother and father, Anne and Samuel Rhoads; his brother Edward Rhoads; his aunt Jane Gibbons; and his grandmother Hannah Gibbons. The correspondence also includes correspondence to the Wistar family, especially to Caspar Wistar, Lydia Jones Wistar, and Thomas Wistar. Sarah Wistar and William G. Rhoads corresponded regularly with their children, most extensively with Edward G. Rhoads, Ethel Rhoads (later Potts), Lydia Wistar Rhoads, Sophia Rhoads (later Wing), and Jane Gibbons Rhoads. The "Correspondence" series also includes the correspondence of Sarah and William G. Rhoads' children to each other and their friends. This series indicates the depth of extended family relationships in the Rhoads family.

The "Financial Records" included in this collection consist mainly of account books and estate information which is arranged chronologically. Interestingly, this series includes Sarah Wistar Rhoads' account books as guardian of her minor children after her husband William G. Rhoads died on April 28, 1880. The account books include information on education, allowances, doctors' bills and general expenses. Also included in this series is information regarding deeds for Rhoads family land and homes.

Included in the "Diaries and Journals" series are an autobiographical account of experiences by Samuel Rhoads as well as his travel diaries from a trip to England in 1834. Other authors of diaries in the collection are Jane Gibbons Rhoads, Anne Rhoads, and Sarah Wistar Rhoads. Dr. Edward Rhoads kept a diary of his trip to Europe in 1865 to 1866. This series is arranged chronologically.

Family "Memorabilia" includes hair clippings from the Rhoads family and pressed flower mementos.

William G. Rhoads, his brother Edward G. Rhoads and his son Edward G. Rhoads attended Haverford College. Included in the "Class Work and Notes" series are class books, papers and addresses and notes. It is unclear if these are all related to Haverford College.

This collection contains a large number of "Copied Poems, Prayers, Sermons and Verses" that were important to the family members. Jane Gibbons Rhoads and Sophia Rhoads Wing copied and collected these passages. In addition, there are four folders whose collectors are unknown.

Written "Memorials" for many members of the Rhoads, Gibbon and Wistar family are available in this collection. In most cases, newspaper clippings and obituaries are available. In some cases, there are memorials or poems written about the deceased. There are also copious notes on the illnesses of several family members, especially Hannah Gibbons, Dr. Edward Rhoads and William G. Rhoads. The memorials are arranged chronologically.

The Rhoads family appeared to have great interest in their genealogy and included in this collection is extensive research resulting from correspondence to and from extended family. The most commonly found names in the "Genealogical Research Conducted by Rhoads Family" series are: Garat, Gibbons, Jones, Pusey, Preston, Rhoads, Sellars and Wistar.

The Rhoads family was a Quaker family and their faith is evident in nearly every series in this collection. However, there is some material that is focused entirely on their involvement with the Society of Friends. These materials, found in the "Quaker Material" series, include Samuel Rhoads editing the Friends' Review and participating in yearly meetings, documentation from a Quaker Theological Discussion Group, an essay entitled "Considerations, Etc." regarding abolition, and newspaper clippings regarding Quakerism.

The final series in this collection consists of family "Photographs." Nearly every member of the family is represented in this series.

This collection is an outstanding resource for those researching Quaker family dynamics, social life, and customs. These materials provide an intimate glimpse into 19th century Philadelphia through the eyes of an active and socially involved family. Because a large percentage of the correspondence is written by women, this collection also provides insight into Quaker women and their role in society throughout much of the 19th century.


  • Creation: Bulk, 1824-1930 1824-1963
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1824 - 1930


Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is available for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

Standard Federal Copyright Law applies (U.S. Title 17)

Biographical Note

The Sarah Wistar Rhoads family papers indicate strong relationships and family ties that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries. Sarah Wistar (1839-1920) married William Gibbons Rhoads (1838-1880) on November 28, 1866. It was that event that joined three Quaker families, the Rhoads, Gibbons and Wistars, beginning a long correspondence between them all, and resulting in an outstanding collection illustrating family support, friendship and love for more than three generations.

The Rhoads family included in this collection begins with Samuel Rhoads, Jr. (1806-1868) who was born on September 19, 1806, the son of Samuel and Sarah (Garrett) Rhoads. Samuel Rhoads, Jr. was a manager of Haverford College and the publisher and editor of the Friends Review from 1853 to 1867. On March 15, 1837, he married Anne Gibbons (1809-1890). Gibbons was born on September 28, 1809, and as evidenced in the collection, maintained a very close relationship with her mother Hannah and her Aunt Jane Gibbons throughout her life. Anne Gibbons died on February 16, 1890 at the age of 81, and Samuel Rhoads Jr. died on July 14, 1868. They had at least four children: Jane, Edward, Sophia and William Rhoads.

Jane Gibbons Rhoads died on February 25, 1860 at age 20.

Edward was born on September 29, 1841 and obtained his education at Haverford College from 1855 to 1859, graduating at the head of his class in 1859. He continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania, studying medicine and graduating with the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1863. He began his work as Resident Physician in the Philadelphia Hospital located in West Philadelphia and in 1864, became Resident Physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital. At this point, he suffered from a relapse of articular rheumatism which first affected him in 1859 and 1860. After recovering from his illness in 1865, Edward traveled to Europe for an eight month period of time. Upon his return, Edward became Visiting Physician to the Philadelphia Hospital in 1866 and also taught courses at the University of Pennsylvania where, in 1870, he was appointed lecturer on Physical Diagnosis. His memberships included the Philosophical Society; the Philadelphia College of Physicians, serving as Recording Secretary; the Academy of Natural Sciences; and the Pathological Society. He died on January 15, 1871 at the age of 29. According to an obituary notice written and read before the American Philosophical Society by Henry Hartshorne, M.D., Dr. Edward Rhoads' "intellectual endowments, though great, were always perceived to be subordinated to moral qualities more rare and admirable," (Hartshorne, Box 15).

Sophia Rhoads was born in 1850 and married Asa Shove Wing, President of the Provident Life and Trust Company of Philadelphia, on April 30, 1873. Sophia died on March 16, 1901.

William Gibbons Rhoads was born on March 26, 1838 and obtained his education at Haverford where he "gained the respect and esteem of his instructors and fellow students," ( Friends' Review, page 681). Because Haverford did not have a Scientific Department until 1858, he never received his degree. William G. Rhoads worked with a shipbuilding firm until he discovered that the company was involved in war work at which point he resigned his post. He then became involved in the plumbing business, in which his "knowledge and successful application of the laws of hydraulics gave him a high standing, both with the trade and those who had occasion to employ him," ( The Haverfordian, pages 8-9). He died on April 28, 1880 from inflammatory rheumatism at the age of 42.

William G. Rhoads and Sarah Wistar Rhoads had six children: Lydia Wistar Rhoads, born June 29, 1868; Jane Gibbons Rhoads, born May 1, 1870; Ethel Rhoads, born June 18, 1871; Edward Rhoads, born October 8, 1873; William Rhoads, born July 10, 1876; and Samuel, born on February 16, 1878. Jane Gibbons Rhoads married Marriott C. Morris on June 8, 1897 and died on March 24, 1950. Edward Rhoads graduated from Haverford College in 1893 with second honors in physics as a Bachelor of Science. He attended John Hopkins University from 1896-1898 where he earned his Ph.D. He then became an instructor in physics at the Worcester Polyclinic Institute from 1898 to 1901. In 1901, he became an instructor of physics at Haverford College. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He died on July 4, 1903 following an attempt to run the Susquehanna rapids near Columbia, Pennsylvania at the age of 30.


Friends Review. Vox. XXXIII, No. 43 (Box 15).

Hartshorne, Henry, M.D. "Obituary Notice of Eward Rhoads, M.D.," Read before the American Philosophical Society (Box 15).

The Haverfordian. Vol. 1, No. 9, 1880 (Box 15).


4.75 linear ft. (19 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Sarah Wistar Rhoads family papers indicate strong relationships and family ties that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries. Sarah Wistar Rhoads (1839-1920) married William Gibbons Rhoads (1838-1880) on November 28, 1866. At that time, the Rhoads, Gibbons and Wistar families began corresponding, the result being an outstanding collection illustrating family support, friendship and love. These papers include correspondence, financial records, diaries and journals, memorabilia, classwork and notes, copied poems, prayers, sermons and verses, memorials, genealogical research, Quaker material and photographs. Researchers interested in family papers and Quaker family dynamics, social life, and customs may find this collection extremely useful.

Custodial History note

Gift of Lydia Wistar Rhoads.

Custodial History note

Contents of a box forming part of this collection came from the desk of Sarah Wistar and passed to her daughter Lydia W. Rhoads and then to the latter's daughter Sarah Rhoads Potts Benson.

Related Archival Materials note

Haverford College: Rhoads family papers, 1033, and Esther B. Rhoads family, 1153.

Processing Information note

The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.

Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.

Sarah Wistar Rhoads family papers, 1824-1962, bulk 1824-1930
Finding aid prepared by Holly Mengel
October, 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

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 Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US