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Francis Hopkinson Collections

The Francis Hopkinson collections include personal and familial collections of music, along with manuscript music and transcriptions. Complementing these are other printed and manuscript materials by or relating to Hopkinson. These materials provide important sources for the study of early American music, the early history of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, and colonial and early federal American culture.

Engraving of Francis Hopkinson.

Collection Overview

Materials available for study include manuscript and printed music by or owned by Hopkinson; letters and other manuscript documents; and printed sources by Hopkinson. These are located in several collections, as described below.

About Francis Hopkinson

Born in Philadelphia in 1737, Hopkinson was enrolled at the newly formed Academy of Philadelphia in 1751 and was a graduate of the first class at the College of Philadelphia in 1757. Hopkinson was an active participant in the cultural life of Philadelphia during the 1750s, and some of the dramatic prologues and other pieces he wrote are recorded in the Pennsylvania Gazette. Hopkinson went on to study law and worked as an attorney and customs collector in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from New Jersey and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Hopkinson continued in active public life after the Revolution, writing essays and serving as treasurer of the American Philosophical Society and trustee of the new Episcopal Academy. Hopkinson died in 1791.

Hopkinson's literary productions include essays, satirical tales, and orations. His musical output is wide-ranging: from to ballads, songs, works for harpsichord, sacred songs, and an oratorio. And he also made extensive collections of contemporary music from England and from the European continent.

Accordion List

In December 1948, Edward Hopkinson Jr. (1885-1966), the great-great grandson of Francis Hopkinson, donated a series of bound music volumes from his family's collection to the Penn Libraries. These are now called "The Hopkinson Collection of Music" and consist of 15 bound volumes containing both printed and manuscript music collected by Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791), Joseph Hopkinson (1770-1842), and Oliver Hopkinson, (1812-1905). Included in this set are copies of printed music printed mainly in London. Within this collection are two manuscript music compositions by Francis Hopkinson (vols. 12 and 15). The Hopkinson Collection was acquired for the library by Otto Albrecht, whose papers are also in the Kislak Center. 

In 1950, Edward Hopkinson Jr. gave Penn an additional Francis Hopkinson music manuscript which seems not to have descended in the family, but rather was purchased in the prior decade. This harpsichord album is now UPenn Ms. Codex 14.

In her 1968 thesis on and catalog of Hopkinson's music, Caroline Richards identified and described a total of four manuscript volumes containing music composed by Hopkinson. Three of these are in the Hopkinson holdings in the Penn Libraries, and the fourth is at the Library of Congress. She designated these manuscripts as A, B, C, and D. 

  • Richards MS A: A volume with the cover title "His book" dated circa 1759 (now Library of Congress ML96 .H83 no. 1)
  • Richards MS B: A volume with the cover title "Lessons" (Folio M1 .A11 H6 vol. 12). Hopkinson Family Collection.
  • Richards MS C: A fragment of a song book (Folio M1 .A11 H6 vol. 15). Hopkinson Family Collection.
  • Richards MS D: A harpsichord album (Ms. Codex 14). Gift of Edward Hopkinson Jr. in 1950. Not part of the Hopkinson Family Collection. [Now thought to be in the hand of Michael Hillegas rather than Hopkinson]

An additional manuscript purportedly written by Hopkinson was given to the Library of Congress as part of the Marian Carson Collection in 1996 and is now LC ML96 .H83 no. 2

Scholarly consensus now seems to indicate that both Ms. Codex 14 and LC ML96 .H83 no. 2 were written by the same eighteenth century hand but that neither are likely penned by Francis Hopkinson himself, but rather by his associate and contemporary Michael Hillegas (1729-1804). These two manuscripts seem to have been purchased by the Philadelphia book dealers Michael and Paul Woehlcke along with others from Hillegas' descendants in the 1930s and are documented as having been offered for sale in the 1940s when Edward Hopkinson Jr. likely purchased what is now Ms. Codex 14.

The confusion around the authorship of the Hopkinson music manuscripts is compounded by the fact that in 1934 the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia purchased a collection of manuscripts purportedly written by Francis Hopkinson. Subsequent investigation showed these to be forgeries produced by Charles Bates "The Baron" Weisburg. The Musical Fund Society collection at Penn today does not include these forgeries as they were not kept by the Society. These same forgeries seem to have resurfaced at auction in 2002 before they were withdrawn. The saga is fully documented in Anderson et al., "Forgery in the Music Library" (2004, full citation below). It is worth noting that the Kislak Center holds key materials surrounding the forgeries, including the Edward Brooks Keffer collection concerning Hopkinson forgeries (Ms. Coll. 883) and digital scans of the alleged forgeries offered for sale in 2002.

Additional Hopkinson music items include General Washington's March and four scores by Hopkinson owned and perhaps performed by Marian Anderson.

The collection also includes printed writings and essays by the prolific Hopkinson.

Hopkinson published a number of essays and literary works in his own lifetime. One example is A Pretty Story written in the Year 2774 (Philadelphia 1774), an allegory of the relations between Great Britain and the Colonies; another is An Ode for the 4th of July 1788, a celebratory piece printed as a broadside (Penn's copy was owned by Benjamin Franklin). A recent addition to the Hopkinson holdings is a copy of Hopkinson's poem Science, printed in 1762 and dedicated to James Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and the trustees of the College and Academy of Philadelphia (gift of Rodger Krouse, 2012).

Several groups of manuscripts attributed to Hopkinson, but later revealed to be forgeries, have circulated in the 20th and 21st centuries. In 2002, materials attributed to Hopkinson were offered at auction but later withdrawn. The Kislak Center holds some of these materials on deposit along with related documentation on the forgeries. The forgeries have been described and documented: see Anderson et al., "Forgery in the Music Library" (2004), full citation below.


Francis Hopkinson, Harpsichord Manuscript.
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Francis Hopkinson, Harpsichord [manuscript] (Philadelphia, ca. 1760), Ms. Codex 14, p. 71

Engraving of Francis Hopkinson.
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Engraving of Francis Hopkinson, ca. 1862 (Misc Mss Box 9 Folder 38)