Papers : 1714 - 1832.

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LFR .P4T4P3
Category: Family
Creator: Penn, Thomas, 1702-1775.
Description: 10 microfilm textual records () ; 35 mm
            Thomas Penn was the son of William Penn (1644-1718), the Quaker statesman and founder of Pennsylvania, and his second wife Hannah Callowhill (d.1727). He was born in Bristol, England, but spent his early years in Ruscombe, Berkshire. In 1715 or 1716, he was sent to a mercer in London to begin a business career and following that he became a partner in a commercial establishment. The experience he gained would prove valuable in later life. When his father died in 1718, and later his mother and youngest brother, Dennis, the proprietorship was divided with John (1700-1746) the oldest brother inheriting one half interest, while Thomas and Richard (1706-1771) each received one quarter share.

In 1732, Thomas Penn came to Philadelphia to oversee the implementation of the boundary agreement of that year which established the line between the overlapping land grants of Lord Baltimore, the proprietor of Maryland, and the Penn family, the proprietors of Pennsylvania. However, Lord Baltimore changed his mind about the agreement and it was not until Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the 233 mile line between 1765 and 1768 that the boundary was finally established, becoming known as the Mason-Dixon line. Thomas Penn stayed in Philadelphia for nine years and managed proprietary affairs before returning to England in 1741. From that time until his death he carried on all his dealings with the province through correspondence with his officials.

When his brother, John, died in 1746, Thomas Penn inherited his one half interest in the estate, thus becoming the principal proprietor and the most powerful and influential member of the family, except for his late father, in the public life of Pennsylvania. In 1751, Thomas Penn married Lady Juliana Fermor (1729-1801) a daughter of Thomas, the first Earl of Pomfret, and in 1760 he purchased the estate of Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, England. In Pennsylvania, hostility between the people, who were represented by the Assembly, and the proprietors represented by the Council, increased over the issue of quit rents demanded by the proprietors and the claim of the Assembly to have the right to tax proprietary land. In 1764, the Assembly petitioned the King to transfer the colony to the Crown but before this could come about, the Stamp Act and other events that led to the American Revolution diverted the Assembly's hostility to the Crown.

The end of proprietary government in Pennsylvania came on 26 September 1776 when the Assembly adjourned for the last time. The Penn family, including John Penn (1729-1795) the son of Thomas' brother Richard who was Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania when the war began, seems to have come to terms with events as they unfolded during the early years of the revolution, and in the Divestment Act of 1779 the descendants of Thomas and Richard Penn retained all their private estates and proprietary manors.

Thomas Penn died in London on 21 March 1775, and although he did not return to Pennsylvania and conducted proprietary affairs from a distance, he was a powerful force in the development of the colony his father had founded.

            In 1870 the Historical Society of Pennsylvania was able to purchase several thousand documents that had survived destruction. Since that time through gift and purchase, the Society has been able to almost double the size of the original collection. The Thomas Penn correspondence consists of communications with his appointed representatives in the colony, who were deputy governors with the approval of the Crown. Aside from the governors, numerous officials were appointed to such positions as surveyor-general, chief justice, provincial secretary, receiver-general and many other offices. Material can be found in the Papers on every aspect of colonial life such as: political events; Indian Affairs, including the French and Indian Wars; land and boundary problems with Virginia and Maryland in particular; government administration; and cultural, educational and religious interests. 

The microfilm edition of the Papers contains documents from other collections held by the Society in addition to the core collection of Penn Papers. The first three reels contain the letter books of official outgoing correspondence as well as some incoming letters. The contents are arranged in chronological order, and volumes 2 through 10 are indexed. Reels 4 through 10 contain Penn's incoming correspondence drawn from several of the Society's Collections. The letters are arranged in chronological order with letters having only month and year coming after the fully dated letters for a given month. Those with only a year date have been placed at the end of the year. Undated material is located at the end of the last reel. Reel 10 also contains an alphabetical index for reels 4 - 10.

Originals: The original records are held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
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Finding Aids:
            A guide to the microfilm edition of the Thomas Penn Papers by Nicholas B. Wainwright, Director of the Society, accompanies the Papers. Background information on the collection, biographical material on the Penn family, and a reel list, can be found at the beginning of each microfilm reel.            
Electronic Finding Aid Record: Penn, Thomas Papers Shelf List.pdf
Notes: The background material provided by the author of the Introduction has been a source of much useful information in the preparation of this Inventory description.
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