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Potts Family papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1260

Scope and Contents

This collection includes materials from Joseph Kirkbride Potts (1789-1960), Mary Potts (1824-1896), Anna Potts (1827-1905), and Elizabeth Potts (1841-1928), and contains materials in five series: “Journals and Diaries,” “Commonplace Books,” “Scrapbook and Photographs,” “Estate of Joseph Potts,” and “Miscellaneous Materials.”

The first series, “Journals and Diaries,” contains four diaries by Mary Potts, respectively dated ca. 1842, 1845-1848, 1868-1869, and 1878-1880. While the diary dated from 1845-1848 is unsigned, internal evidence, such as the writer’s family members and birthday, suggest the writer is Mary Potts. This series also contains three unsigned journals with the following titles and dates: “Diary” (1838), “New England to Canada with Sarah B. Satterthwait” (1877), and one untitled scientific (geological/biological/botany) journal (1879-1881), the last of which appears to have been kept during various trips in and around Philadelphia as well as several places in New York State. The writer appears to be observing or collecting specimens, fossils, etc.

The second series, “Commonplace Books,” contains Anna Potts’s “Book of verse and literary extracts” (undated), Elizabeth Potts’s “Song Book” (undated), Mary Potts’s “Commonplace Book of Prose and Poetry, Notes, and Extracts” (1849), and an unsigned memorandum book (circa 1840s), the last of which contains descriptions of those who were at an 1837 Quaker meeting, as well as some pages of verse, songs, general writing, etc.

The third series, “Scrapbook and Photographs,” contains a scrapbook, an undated photograph album, as well as other various daguerreotypes and carte-de-visites. The scrapbook, dated from 1829 to 1864, contains letters, sermons, photographs, illustrations, and verse; the creator is unknown. The contents include an 1846 sermon by John Pease; three sermons and a photograph of John Hodgkin; several memorandum writings of Joseph Potts and Mary Potts, and their daughter Anna Potts; miscellaneous pages, with photographs of Josiah Foster; 11 pages of writing and a photograph of Benjamin Seebohm; photographs of Edward Pease, Mary Allinson, and blind Elizabeth Allinson; other writings and letters by Juliet B., Moses Beede, E.H. Bonsall, Richard Cunningham, John Evans, T. Evans, Sarah Grable, E.P. Gurney, Anna Potts, Annabella E. Winn, and other members of the Society of Friends. The photograph album contains 43 carte-de-visite portraits, with an index containing the following names: Mrs. Eliz P. Gurney, Mr. Jesse Cheyney, and Mrs. Ellen. Photographs are otherwise not identified.

The fourth series, “Estate of Joseph Potts,” contains the two items concerning the estate of Joseph Potts (1742-1804). The first item, “Estate Ledger for Joseph Potts,” dates from 1804 to 1854. The ledger includes accounts for Joseph and Mary Potts’ children, as well as his interest in the Yellow Creek Salt Works. The second item, “Letter Book, Estate of Joseph Potts,” dates from 1828 to 1853. The contained letters are written by Joseph Kirkbride Potts, Joseph Pott’s son, and one of the executors of his estate. Joseph Kirkbride Potts writes to his cousin Edward G. Potts, his father-in-law Isaac Bonsall, Joseph Bonsall, Edward Bonsall, E.D. Bradford, Jno. Evans, Henry Boyles, and others. Many of the copied letters concern the Yellow Creek Salt Works, located in Bush Creek Township, Jefferson County, Ohio, and at one time owned jointly by Joseph Potts, Horton Howard and Nathan Harper.

The fifth series, “Miscellaneous Materials,” includes a small address book, undated, and a small birth/death date book, ca. 1908. Also in this series is a published, illustrated copy of Steven McGroarty’s "The Endless Miracle of California."


  • Creation: 1804-1908
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1840 - 1880


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

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

Biographical Note

Joseph Potts was born at “Popodickon” Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 12, 1742, and died on February 4, 1804, at his residence near Frankford. He was the son of John Potts, founder of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Joseph was an active member and minister of the Society of Friends, while also operating an extensive business as a Philadelphia merchant. In 1769, Joseph Potts bought the Mount Joy Forge and saw-mill of his brother John. Also in 1769, his father-in-law, John Morris, conveyed to him the Spring Mills, and three tracts of land in Whitemarsh, near Frankford. He was also a short time owner of Chalkley Hall, a mansion house in Frankford. Joseph Potts married four times: first, in 1764, to Mary Morris, daughter of John Morris. Mary Morris Potts died in 1765 at age 28, leaving one young child. He married for the second time in 1768, to Sarah Powell, daughter of Samuel and Mary Powell. Sarah died in 1773, also leaving one young child. Joseph’s third wife (m. 1774) was Ann Mitchell, daughter of Abraham and Sarah Mitchell; Ann died in 1778, and her two children died young. Joseph’s fourth wife, Mary Kirkbride, daughter of Stacey Kirkbride, survived him until 1817. Of their six children, only one, Joseph Kirkbride Potts, had heirs to carry on the Potts name.

Joseph Kirkbride Potts was born in 1789 and died in 1860. He is not to be confused with Joseph Kirkbride, his maternal uncle, and also one of the executors of his father’s estate. Joseph Kirkbride Potts had a textile enterprise in Germantown, Pennsyvania, but economic hardships following the War of 1812 seems to have displaced him to various addresses. The 1830 Census finds the Potts family living in Philadelphia’s North Mulberry Ward, the 1840 Census finds the family in Mercer County, New Jersey, and the 1850 Census finds the family in Springfield, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Joseph Kirkbride Potts married Sidney Bonsall (c. 1799-1886) at Frankford meeting on January 1, 1822. Sidney Bonsall was the daughter of Isaac Bonsall, a Quaker minister, and Mercy Milhous. Together, they had eight children: Mary Potts (1824-1896); Charles Potts (1825-1910); Anna Potts (1827-1905); Edward Potts (1829-1912); Frances Potts (1832-?); Joseph Potts (1824-1910); William Potts (1838-1908); and Elizabeth Potts (1841-1928).

Mary Potts was born on January 24, 1824 and died in 1896 at the family home at 1023 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, which had been her place of residence since 1860. She was the first of eight children of Joseph Kirkbride Potts and Sidney Bonsall. Apparently, she never married or held an occupation. Her will contains donations to the Women’s Christian Association (forerunner of the YWCA), the Union Benevolent Association, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, the last for which she served as assistant treasurer from 1884 to 1885, and as a manager in 1877. The diaries reveal that she attended an 1862 contributors meeting to the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia (est. 1961), and paid for subscriptions to Philadelphia’s House of Industry.

Anna Potts was born in 1827 and died in 1905. She was the third of eight children of Joseph Kirkbride Potts and Sidney Bonsall. Apparently, she never married or held an occupation.

Elizabeth Potts was born in 1841 and died in 1928. She was the eighth and last child, of Joseph Kirkbride Potts and Sidney Bonsall. Apparently, she never married or held an occupation.

Source: Dealer description.


1.5 linear ft. (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection includes materials from Joseph Kirkbride Potts, Mary Potts, Anna Potts, and Elizabeth Potts. and contains materials in five series: “Journalsand Diaries,” “Commonplace Books,” “Scrapbook and Photographs,” “Estate of Joseph Potts,” and “Miscellaneous Materials.”


Materials are arranged in five series: “Journals and Diaries,” “Commonplace Books,” “Scrapbook and Photographs,” “Estate of Joseph Potts,” and “Miscellaneous Materials.” Within each series, materials are arranged alphabetically by writer and then chronologically by date.


The Potts Family papers were purchased by Special Collections, Haverford College, in 2013 from Michael Brown Rare Books, LLC.

Processing Information

Processed by Lauren Lummus; completed in August, 2015.

Potts Family papers, 1804-1908
Lauren Lummus
August, 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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