Small Repositories Subject Guide: Family and Personal Papers

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is uncovering the hundreds of hidden archival collections held by the many small historical repositories in the five county Philadelphia area. Some of the collections cataloged in the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide, which is designed to facilitate and encourage research at small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and reveal the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.

Finding aids to all small repository archival collections surveyed in the HCI-PSAR project are available at our finding aid website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently.

19th century
20th century

19th century

Awbury Arboretum Association Cope family collection, 1791-1995 (AA.03)
Awbury Arboretum Association
4.3 linear feet
Henry Cope purchased 40 acres of land in East Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1852 where he built a home for his growing family. Over the next 70 years, his descendants build 24 houses representing a variety of architectural styles. A portion of this land, now known as the Awbury Arboretum, was left to the City Parks Association in 1916 to protect it from development. The Awbury Arboretum Association Cope family collection, 1791-2011, encompasses several small collections donated by various descendants of the Cope family. It includes correspondence, deeds, financial records, journals, and photographs.

Potts-Rutter family papers, 1714-1936 (POTT.08)
Pottstown Historical Society
1.5 linear feet
John Potts (1710-1768), the founder of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, was a prominent business man and ironmaster. Potts's descendants intermarried frequently with the Rutter family, and the Potts and Rutter names remained prominent in southeastern Pennsylvania. They founded several important iron furnaces and were active in politics and community life. The Potts-Rutter family papers, 1714-1936, consist of scattered original papers of Potts and Rutter family members, as well as some genealogical research. The original papers include indentures and deeds (1714-1882), correspondence, marriage certificates, and other miscellaneous documents; there is a small amount of financial records from Warwick Furnace.

Sheaff family papers, 1797-1904 (HHS.02)
Highlands Historical Society
2 linear feet
George Sheaff (1779-1851), a wine merchant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, purchased the Highlands Mansion in 1813. Sheaff was interested in "progressive" agriculture and scientific farming, and the grounds blossomed under his hand. His family was the first to reside at The Highlands year-round, and members of the Sheaff family occupied the mansion for 102 years. The Sheaff family papers, 1797-1904, consist primarily of daily journals of the Sheaff family, which were kept from 1838 to 1904. The collection also contains property plans, wills and estate records, and newspaper advertisements for the property.

20th century

David K. Eichler Collection, 1898-1994 [bulk 1925-1994] (CHHS.2003.82)
Chestnut Hill Historical Society
10.1 linear feet
David Kemble Eichler (1913-2003) was a real estate agent and "popular local personality" in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served in the military during World War II and briefly worked for the state department. He was friends with actress Katharine Hepburn. The David K. Eichler collection, 1898-1994, includes correspondence, working files, publications, books, floor plans and photographs. Subjects cover a range of interest and experience such as art, drama, travel, World War II service and subsequent diplomatic service, graduate school, employment, current events, business enterprises, community work, politics, and personal relationships.