Fisher family letters

Collection 4454

1763-1781, 1839-1846, 1848
(0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box)

Summary Information

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Fisher, Eliza Middleton, 1815-1890.
Fisher, Thomas, 1741-1810.
Fisher family letters
1763-1781, 1839-1846, 1848
0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box
Finding aid prepared by Randi M. Kamine.

Preferred citation

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Fisher family letters (Collection 4454), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Scope and content note

This collection consists primarily of letters from Eliza Middleton Fisher (1815-1890) to her mother Mary Hering Middleton. They were written from Charleston, South Carolina; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Newport, Rhode Island between 1839 and 1848 (there are no letters from 1847). There is one folder of letters from Thomas Fisher (1741-1810), grandfather of Joshua Francis Fisher (1807-1873), Eliza's husband, to his father and brother dating from 1763 to 1781. Together there are 171 letters in the collection.

Eliza’s father, Henry Middleton, was elected to Congress in 1815 and 1817. In Washington he boarded with Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun from South Carolina. The Middletons were plantation southerners. Eliza’s mother was the daughter-in-law of Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence for South Carolina. The Fisher family was Quaker. They came to Philadelphia in 1680s and became prosperous merchants. Joshua Francis Fisher and Eliza Middleton were married in 1839.

The Middletons and Fishers were well-known and well-connected families, and the documents in this collection are reflective of but a small part of the impact both families had in America. The letters show an extremely close relationship between mother Mary and daughter Eliza. Eliza appears to miss her mother and her home in South Carolina to a great extent. Eliza is constantly beseeching her mother to write more often and complaining about the short length of her letters. The correspondence gives insight into mid-nineteenth century life for the wealthy both in South Carolina and Philadelphia. Summers were spent in Newport, Rhode Island, where both extended families would gather. Consequently, there are fewer letters written in the summer months.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2022.

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Access restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Gift of Eliza Cope Harrison and Robert DeNormadie Cope, 2001.

Accession number 011119.5.

Alternative formats

Transcriptions of Eliza Middleton Fisher's letters in this collection are in the book Best companions: Letters of Eliza Middleton Fisher and her mother, Mary Hering Middleton, from Charleston, Philadelphia, and Newport, 1839-1846 (call number Biog. CT 275 .F5598 A4 2001).

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Related Materials

Related materials

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

Cadwalader family papers, 1623-1962 (Collection 1454) - Series 9. J. Francis Fisher papers

Dr. and Mrs. Henry Drinker collection of miscellaneous family papers, 1682-1971 (Collection 3125)

Joshua Frances Fisher diary, 1848 (Am .065)

Joshua Francis Fisher papers, 1681-1865 (Collection 1858)

Recollections of Joshua Francis Fisher, 1864 (Gf .158 F534)

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Cope, Robert DeNormandie
  • Harrison, Eliza Cope
  • Middleton, Mary Hering.


  • Mothers and daughters--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--Correspondence.
  • Mothers and daughters--South Carolina--Charleston Region--Correspondence.
  • Women's history--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Women's history--Social life and customs--19th Century.
  • Women's History--Upper Class.
  • Women--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--Correspondence.
  • Women--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--Social conditions.
  • Women--Social Life and customs--19th century.
  • Women--South Carolina--Charleston Region--Correspondence.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Letters from Thomas Fisher to his father, Joshua Fisher, and his brother 1763-1781 

Scope and content note

A letter tells of Thomas Fisher being detained by the British during the Revolutionary War; Quaker prisoners exiled from Philadelphia; news of surrender of Cornwallis.

1 1

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1839 

Scope and content note

Eliza describes travels to the south; news of acquaintances Eliza stopped to see; description of gift from India. Several letters recall social visits; mental illness in the family.

1 2

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1840 

Scope and content note

Letters describes Eliza’s interests: lectures, music (she was proficient on the harp); social engagements; gossip about an engagement of a friend; Eliza has trouble with her eyes; concert given by Eliza.

1 3

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1841 

Scope and content note

Eliza writes of her baby teething; sending Blackwood periodical to her mother to read; interesting description of Eliza trying to go to a concert at a Catholic church and meeting up with a mob from “Patlander.”

1 4

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1842 

Scope and content note

Mentions of many friends and family members; debates about medicine, e.g. homeopathic medicine, phrenology and animal magnetism.

1 5

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1843 

Scope and content note

Eliza writes her mother about an impending trip to South Carolina, the first in the four years she has been married. This trip was finally made in 1843.

1 6

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1844 

Scope and content note

Eliza has two daughters and a child on the way. Her interest in music is expanded and she is active as a amateur performer and a supporter professional musicians in Philadelphia. Winter months were hard with family members becoming ill.

1 7

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1845 

Scope and content note

A dear uncle of Fisher’s (George Harrison) died. Eliza’s letters discuss the annexation of Texas and control of Oregon, and the fear of war with England or Mexico.

1 8

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Eliza M. Fisher to M. H. Middleton 1846, 1848 

Scope and content note

Eliza to her mother and Lily Fisher (Eliza's daughter) to her grandmother. Lily wrote her grandmother when Eliza was ill in bed.

1 9

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