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Wetherill Papers

The Wetherill Papers comprise business records, ca. 1762-1899, of the store and White Lead Works founded by Samuel Wetherill in the late eighteenth century and held by his successors through the nineteenth century. This sizable collection documents the long manufacturing history of a single family-held company in early America.

19th century lithograph image of a white lead factory

Collection Overview

After serving as an importer, Samuel Wetherill (1764-1829) founded a white lead factory in the early nineteenth century. He and his successors manufactured and sold white lead and other paints, as well as drugs, chemicals, and glass, until 1932. The company was founded as Samuel Wetherill & Sons and was known successively as Samuel Wetherill & Son, Samuel Wetherill & Sons, Samuel P. Wetherill & Company, Wetherill & Brothers, Wetherill & Brother, and also J. P. & Charles Wetherill, J. Price & William Wetherill, and Wetherill & Company.

The Wetherill Papers were given to the University of Pennsylvania in 1937. Sometime later, they were transferred from the Industrial Research Department of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, to the library, where they are now held in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 

The collection is substantial in scope and includes daybooks, journals, ledgers, order books, and other categories of business records. 

Information for Researchers

The most complete overview of the Wetherill Papers remains a 1942 guide prepared by Miriam Hussey for the Industrial Research Department of the Wharton School. 

Because of the massive and fragile nature of the many account books and financial records in the Wetherill Papers, they are currently stored offsite and require advance notice for consultation (except as noted below). Consult the Reader Services pages of the Kislak Center for further information. 

One frequently consulted item in the collection is the manuscript day book of Thomas Nevil [Thomas Nevell] (1721-1797), used by Nevil in Philadelphia between 1762-1785 and an important source of information about Mount Pleasant, a historic house in Fairmount Park (Philadelphia Museum of Art). This day book has been recataloged as Ms. Codex 1049 and has been digitized. 

A small group of manuscript materials relating to Samuel Wetherill's connections with commercial societies and partnerships in Philadelphia is catalogued with the Kislak Center's Miscellaneous Manuscripts: view catalog record for this material (12 items).

An account book pertaining to the partition of the real property portion of the estate of Samuel Wetherill, who died in 1829, prepared by his son, Samuel Price Wetherill, is cataloged separately (Ms. Coll. 809, 1 vol.)

Poster for the Wetherill shop, Philadelphia.
W. H. Rease, Wetherill's white lead, red lead, chemical glass, drug & dye stuff store, Lithograph, Philadelphia, [ca. 1845] (Kislak Center)


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