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Public Friends manuscripts collection

Identifier: SFHL-MSS-045


While the Society of Friends is a "ministry of all believers," historically certain members have been recognized for their spiritual gifts. Those who undertake to travel and preach with the approbation of their home meeting are known as Public Friends. Especially in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century, traveling ministers served a key role in forming Quaker social and theological networks, fostering unity within the Society of Friends, and providing spiritual enrichment to Quakers across the world. Ministers who felt a spiritual opening directing them to travel would tell their Monthly Meeting, and if approved, the meeting would write a minute for the minister to carry on their journey and present to the Meeting(s) they visited. Quaker Meetings would often keep records of the Public Friends who visited them. This collection consists of lists of Public Friends, as well as minutes from Quaker meetings approving ministers to travel. Items were written by various Quaker meetings or individuals, and accumulated by the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College over time. Most of the lists features Public Friends who visited New England or Pennsylvania, but there are also lists of Public Friends visiting parts of the United Kingdom.


  • Creation: 1656 - 1899

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Friends Historical Library believes all of the items in this collection to be in the Public Domain in the United States, and is not aware of any restrictions on their use. However, the user is responsible for making a final determination of copyright status before reproducing. See


.3 linear ft. (1 document box)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

See also: JOURNALS(MS.), Foulke, Samuel et al. and MEETING PAPERS(MS.)(MISC): Visiting minutes.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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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 Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

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Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA