Skip to main content

Thomas Wistar and Family Papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1188

Scope and Contents

The collection has its roots in the Revolutionary War, but is concentrated in the period of Indian Commissioner Thomas Wistar (1798-1876) and his work among Native Americans, especially the Comanche, Kiowa and Osage Nations, of the mid-19th century, offering detailed views on Indigenous relations with the US government, and with many references to Enoch Hoag and other commissioners. It ranges widely due to the many activities of the Waln and Wistar families, including Edward M. Wistar's work in Turkey and Armenia and while visiting Quaker missions among Native Americans and travel in Switzerland. There are graphics including a photograph of the Northwestern Indian Commissioners, including Thomas Wistar (1798-1876) and an engraving by Samuel Sartain of Caspar Wistar (1761-1818). Journals include numerous school materials, particularly from Westtown School. People represented in the collection include: Cyrus Beede, John Cox, John Garrett, James Pemberton, Jonathan Richards, Richard Waln, Edward M. Wistar, Mary Waln Wistar, Thomas Wistar (1765-1851), Thomas Wistar (1798-1876), Thomas Wistar (1826-1862) and Thomas Wistar (1877-1960) and Asher Wright. There is also a copy of President Andrew Johnson's letters appointment of Thomas Wistar as Indian Commissioner in 1865 on official stationery and other related documents from the Dept. of the Interior.


  • Creation: 1691-1936


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use

Use Restrictions

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

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Wistar (1765-1851), son of Richard and Sarah Wyatt Wistar married Mary Waln in 1786 with whom he had 13 children. A Quaker, he was an Elder in his Meeting, Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the Western District. He was also a clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Indian Committee.

Thomas Wistar (1798-1876), son of Thomas and Mary Waln Wistar, married (1) Elizabeth Buckley Morris (d. 1863) in 1822 with whom he had 2 children, and (2) Mary Richardson (d. 1894). Wistar lived at Stanley Farm in Abington near Philadelphia, Pa., which is today known as Fox Chase Farm, a working farm administered by Fairmount Park Commission and the School District of Philadelphia that provides educational opportunities for school children. In 1868, three Friends, Clarkson Sheppard, Thomas Scattergood and Thomas Wistar carried a memorial regarding Native Americans to President-Elect Grant out of which grew President Grant's Peace Policy by which Friends took charge of the Central Superintendency, including the Indigenous Nations in Kansas, together with the Kiowas, Comanches and other tribes in "Indian Territory," as well as the Northern Superintendency, including the various Nations of Nebraska. Thomas Wistar was appointed Indian Commissioner. Prior to that, government policy related to Indigenous Peoples had been the provence of the War Department. Also, with the aid of James Rhoads, later president of Bryn Mawr College, Thomas Wistar formed the Indian Aid Society. Wistar never received any remuneration for his services as Indian Commissioner. He was a member of the Free Produce Association Board in the Civil War period.

Caspar Morris Wistar, M.D. (1801-1867), son of Thomas and Mary Waln Wistar, married Lydia Jones in 1826 and had 10 children. A Quaker, he was a member of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the Western District. He donated the ground for Tulpehocken Reformed Church in Myerstown.

Caspar Wistar, M.D. (1761-1818), son of Richard and Sarah Wyatt Wistar, married (1) Isabella Marshall in 1788 and (2) Elizabeth Mifflin in 1798. He received a Bachelor of Medicine from the College of Philadelphia in 1782. In 1792, he conceived of the idea of exploration of the American northwest, and as he was friend of Thomas Jefferson, his idea resulted in the Lewis and Clark expedition. From 1792-1818, he was Prof. of Anatomy at the Philadelphia Medical College and the University of Pennsylvania. He was president of the American Philosophical Society from 1815-1818 and president of the Abolition Society. He established the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1812, and published A System of Anatomy for the Use of Students of Medicine in 1811 and 1814. He held what became the Wistar Association, but were originally called “Wistar parties” at his house, inviting members of American Philosophical Society.

Edward Morris Wistar (1852-1941) was the son of Thomas Wistar (III) and Priscilla Foulke and married Margaret Cooper Collins in 1876. He graduated from Haverford College in 1871 and was in banking, life insurance and the real estate and cotton yarn businesses. The "Thomas Wistar and family papers" were originally collected by Thomas Wistar, Jr. (1798-1876) and later by his grandson, Edward Morris Wistar (1852-1941).

(Information from internal evidence, the Dictionary of Quaker Biography, Rayner Kelsey's Friends and the Indians, obituary notices and other newspaper clippings)


2 Linear Feet (4 boxes, 2 volumes)




Papers of the Wistar family, especially concentrating on the work among Native Americans in the Central and Northern Superintendency of Indian Commissioner Thomas Wistar (1798-1876) in the mid-19th century.


Biographical, Genealogical, Legal and Miscellaneous Papers Correspondence Financial Journals Graphics Miscellaneous

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Caroline Wistar and Elizabeth Wistar Little through Charles W. Ufford Jr., September 2003.

Accession # 6854

There are two donations of materials present in this collection.

Related Materials

Thomas Wistar, Jr. letters in MC 962; Enoch Hoag papers, 1865-1883 (MC 1034) Jonathan Richards papers (MC 964) Associated Executive Committee of Friends on Indian Affairs (MC 1003) Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Indian Committee records (QM-Phy-838) Papers of Edward Morris Wistar (MC 1137)

Separated Materials

MATERIALS REMOVED • Crawford, Charles, Essay on the propagation of the Gospel. Phila.: Humphreys, 1801 - to Q. Rare; • Prospectus for North American Indian … written, ill. and pub. / Edward S. Curtis, 1907 - to Magill; • 5 books - to Q. stacks; • 1 book - to Q. duplicates; • 6 marriage certificates of Thomas Wistar and Mary Waln, 1786; Thomas Wistar and Elizabeth Morris, 1822; Edward M. Wistar and Margaret Collins, 1876; Thomas Wistar and Priscilla Foulke, 1849; Anne M. Wistar and Henry Haines, 1888; facsimile of certificate for Caspar Wistar and Katherine Johnson, 1726 - to 990B; • 3 certificates for 25th anniversary, 1903 and 50th anniversary, 1926 of Edward M. and Margaret Wistar; membership for E.M. Wistar - to 990B; • 1 descendant chart of Coope/Cope family - to 990B • 6 items, including the Boreal Budget, 1898 - to Haverfordiana; • 1 book of clippings re cricket - to C.C. Morris Cricket Library • 1 item of ephemera – to PG


All dates are standardized rather than transcribed, viz: yr mo/day. Though not all letters are listed individually, those that are highlighted are done so on the basis of content of the letter or historical importance of the letter writer.

Processing Information

Originally processed in 2004.

Thomas Wistar and Family Papers, 1691-1936
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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 Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US