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William Penn Charter School archives

Identifier: HC.MC-1115

Scope and Contents

The William Penn Charter School archives contain the financial, corporate, historical and social records of the school, dating from 1611-1992. The collection illuminates the history and traditions of the William Penn Charter School. The collection is broken into ten series: corporation records books, legal papers, corporation papers, Overseers’ correspondence, faculty correspondence, school history, pictures, published books, school publications, and objects.

The corporation records books series contains twelve volumes of minutes from Overseers’ meetings dating from 1712-1969. The minutes contain information on the day to day governance of the school and document the school’s vision and mission for over two and a half centuries.

The legal papers series contains deeds and leases for plots of land that the William Penn Charter School acquired or sold from the late 1600s until the 1900s, a highlight being deeds from William Penn. The series also contains legal documents related to benefactors’ legacies.

The corporation papers series contains lists of Overseers, treasurers’ reports, school inspector reports, and a sub-series of nearly one hundred teachers’ accounts- a good source of genealogical material marked with the teacher’s name, dates of employment, pay rate and notes.

The Overseers’ correspondence series dates from 1725-1912 and documents the moving of the school from 12th and Market streets in center city Philadelphia to Germantown amongst other school governance matters.

The faculty correspondence series includes the correspondence of headmasters Richard M. Jones and Richard M. Gummere to faculty and staff.

The school history series holds a variety of documents, including instructions to teachers, surveys of school scholars, lists of school library books, autographs of David Webster and John Quincy Adams, and school histories published by William Penn Charter School, amongst many other ephemeral documents.

The pictures series contains photographs and illustrations of a variety of school matters including class photos, overseer photos, athletic events, and school life.

The published book series contains early books from the William Penn Charter School’s library, most published in the 1700s and 1800s. The books are a mix of religious and secular children’s books, along with instruction books for grammar, geography, natural history, mathematics, and latin.

The school publications series includes copies of several school newspapers and magazines. The yearly school catalogs from 1900-1946 document the evolution of the academics offered at Penn Charter through the first half of the 20th century.

The objects series contains a sundial and commemorative medals and coins from William Penn’s arrival in America.


  • Creation: 1611-1992


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical / Historical

The William Penn Charter School was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1689. The school was chartered by William Penn, the founder of the province of Pennsylvania, on Lenape land, to be the “Friends Public School”. The school was charterd in 1701 to be run by a board of Overseers chosen by the Philadelphia Friends Meeting, the second charter of 1708 separated the school from the Philadelphia Friends Meeting and entrusted it entirely to the board of Overseers and the third charter in 1711 expanded membership of the board to non- Quakers. The charter in its name does not mean it is a modern charter school, but refers to the historic document William Penn signed to establish this first Quaker school in America. Penn Charter School is the oldest continuously run Quaker school in the world and the oldest elementary school in Pennsylvania- throughout its five century history it has remained rooted in its initial vision for education and its Quaker values have remained constant. In 1711 a group of schools created by Penn’s charter consolidated to form the all-boys Latin and Math preparatory school. The school opened next to the Friends Meetinghouse between 12th and Market streets in Philadelphia. As the school expanded over the next two centuries it relocated in 1903 to its campus on Pinehurst property in East Falls, Philadelphia


17 linear ft. (24 boxes, 1 oversized drawer, 150+ books, 24 microfilm reels, 1 box of 3-dimensional objects, 1 box of stereopticon photographs)

Language of Materials



The William Penn Charter School archives contain the financial, historical, business, and social records of the school, dating back as far as 1611. Documents signed by William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, and former Philadelphia mayors William Hudson and Edward Shippen, are included as well as a variety of school texts and memorabilia, which illuminate the traditions and history of the William Penn Charter School.

Related Materials

More current information pertaining to the William Penn Charter School can be found in the Haverford College Special Collections Pamphlet Group (PG 2 William Penn Charter School).

Processing Information

Processed by Janeen Lamontagne, June 2022.

William Penn Charter School archives, undated
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • April 2022: Revised by Janeen Lamontagne
  • June 2022: by Nathaniel Rehm-Daly, Harmful Language Revision 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