Rev. Robert Blackwell account book

Collection 4002

(0.1 Linear feet ; 1 volume)

Summary Information

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Blackwell, Rev. Robert
Rev. Robert Blackwell account book
Date [inclusive]
0.1 Linear feet ; 1 volume
Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly.
Mixed materials [Volume]

Preferred citation

[Indicate cited item or series here], Rev. Robert Blackwell account book (Collection 4002), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Scope and contents note

This single volume of household expenditures and realty collections captures various small details of the life of the Reverend Robert Blackwell of New Jersey from 1790 to 1813. During this time, excepting the years 1812 and 1813, he served as the senior assistant minister of the United Churches of Christ Church and St. Peter’s, serving there for some 30 years. He took up this occupation after serving as missionary to Gloucester County, New Jersey from 1772 to 1777. The area had become embattled from the activities of the Revolutionary War taking place there. Blackwell, closing the mission, enters the army serving as chaplin and surgeon for the militia at Valley Forge in the First Pennsylvania Brigade.

The volume opens with a series of payments made to a Mr. James Bingham. Featured quite prominently in the first eight pages, Bingham appears to be Blackwell’s landlord, and a the owner of a Sundry. An entry dated May 17, 1793 clues in on a rent paid to Bingham for a “mansion house,” until he finally inscribes June 11, 1794, “Paid Mr. J. Bingham 1 year for the house in which I live clear of taxes and repairs . . ..” Other sources seems to suggest that Blackwell lived in a residence “south side of Pine Street, between Second and Third, five old mansion (former No. 50, now No. 224).” In addition to the mansion, he also paid rents to a Robert Roberts “a Poor Tax for the house I live in . . . for a house in the alley.” Other expenditures paid to Bingham include household items and food; as well as, money he paid to a washerwoman.

Between 1789 and 1790 several payments are made to various persons for what appears to be a construction project on “houses down 2nd Street,” and taxes on a plantation in Gloucester Township, New Jersey (settled with a Joseph P. Rogers in May 1802), an additional county tax, and a tax for “New Market Ward.” Perhaps these are signs that Blackwell himself was becoming more and more interested in real estate. This, owing to his pedigree, resembles much of his family’s early ventures in the “New World,” most especially his great-grandfather who acquired lots of property on Long Island and East River. The island in East River owned by him was once called Blackwell’s Island. It is now known as Roosevelt Island, after several other name changes prior. Blackwell’s father, Col. Jacob Blackwell, would also acquire lots of property before losing it during early skirmishes on Long Island between the Colonists and Great Britain.

By 1799 the relationship between Blackwell and Bingham is made clearer; Hannah Blackwell, formerly Hannah Bingham, the daughter of William Bingham, is Blackwell’s second wife, James’s sister. Detailing payments for a doctor bill, a coffin, and funeral expences, Blackwell also revealed that he was the sole executor to James Bingham’s estate. Noting there, as well, “Mr. James Bingham previous to his marriage had made a deed of gift to his sister Hannah Blackwell; yet in the settlement Mrs. J. Bingham was allowed the value of the Plate which would have fallen to his share; which was on fourth part.” It is through his wife’s inheritance that he would also receive interest payments on stock and other properties.

The first rent payment received by him wasn’t until May 27, 1800; this, coming from a Samuel Anderson, for a property on Elbow Lane. Arguably the volume can be view in two halves: the first part features, primarily, expenditures for the acquisition, construction and repairs to property; and the second half, monies received for rental properties. Interspersed throughout each section are the payments made for his own household (for various items), and payments made on behalf of members of this family, including Becky’s tuition for tutelage in music from Rayner Taylor; expenses paid on behalf of his son-in-law George Willing; subscriptions to his alma mater, Princeton University; and other sums given to the Library Company and the American Philosophical Society.

Other than the Bingham’s inheritance and Blackwell's involvement in real-estate, there is also one entry suggesting that Blackwell was also involved in the trade of enslaved people. “Received of my Brother Joseph Blackwell the money for which the time of a negro had named Peter was sold” (February 4, 1800); and, “Received of John Scidel for the time of a negro girl named Peggy” (February 13, 1800). Then, in March of the same year he pays just over 7 shillings toward the support of a Negro School. These sorts of contradictions, to be clear, are not usual or surprising findings throughout American history among prominent persons as such. One of Blackwell’s biographer’s noted that he was a man of “large fortune, fine appearance, and singularly pleasant temper and manner . . . [and of his intellect and fortune] . . . was extensively deferred to by an opulent and worldly class, who would probably have deferred to no one else less blessed with adventitious influence.” Of his day, he wielded considerable power in the church, in society of a particular class, and real estate.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 Historical Society of Pennsylvania , July 2016.

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107


This collection is available for research.


Purchase, 2003.

Accession number 2003.005.

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Related Materials

Related materials

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

Robert Blackwell Baptism and Marriage Register (Am .733)

Robert Blackwell Estate Papers (Collection 1731)

Robert Blackwell Receipt Book (Am .965)

Private Parish Register of the Rev. Robert Blackwell, Baptisms 1782-1822, Marriages 1782-1819 (MFilmXR 679)

John William Wallace Collection (Collection 0686)

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Account books.

Personal Name(s)

  • Bingham, James.


  • Real estate, transactions--Philadelphia--19th century.
  • Real estate--19th century.
  • Real estate--Pennsylvania--19th century.
  • Real estate--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Real estate--Rentals--Philadelphia--19th century.
  • Real estate--Transactions.

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Hildeburn, Charles Swift Riché. Robert Blackwell, D.D. [S.l.: s.n.].

United Churches of Christ-Church and St. Peter's (Philadelphia, Pa.), and Pa.) Christ Church (Philadelphia. Sacred to the Memory of the Reverend Robert Blackwell, D.D. . [Philadelphia, Pa.?: s.n..

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