Simon Gratz papers

Collection 1571

(9.0 Linear feet ; 19 boxes, 36 volumes)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Gratz, Simon, 1840-1925.
Simon Gratz papers
Date [inclusive]
9.0 Linear feet ; 19 boxes, 36 volumes
Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly.
Correspondence of Simon Gratz, Philadelphia lawyer, autograph collector, and member of the Philadelphia Board of Education, including letters from most of the politically prominent Philadelphians of the period. There is considerable material on the public schools of Philadelphia.

Preferred citation

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Simon Gratz papers (Collection 1571), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

Simon Gratz (1840-1925) gave much to the civic life of Philadelphia, serving in many leadership capacities for a variety of institutions and organizations. Perhaps his most significant contribution is his service to Philadelphia’s Board of Public Education, and what he is most remembered for. Nelson Bond commented that he was “one of the most respected men of the city, the one who has probably done the most to promote Philadelphia schooling in the last half century.” Appointed by the Court of Common Pleas, he first served as a representative for the 8th Section of the Board of Education in 1869. Gratz held the position until required by ill health in 1921 to step down. His impact on public education as Bond noted was “the tremendous growth of public education: the number of public schools raised from 210 to 356; the number of high schools from 2 to 12; the number of pupils from 81,283 to 230,403; and that of the teachers from 1500 to nearly four times that number.” In 1869 he was also appointed to the Committee of the Philadelphia Normal School. Then, in 1876, he served as the chairman of that committee, pouring much attention and energy of “a singular focus” to the development and expansion of the Girl’s Normal School. Under his leadership the school then offered an expanded course program and school of practice. In 1884 he served as president pro tem, and then president for the 1897-1898 academic year. Honoring his legacy to Philadelphia’s public schools, the Simon Gratz High School was built in 1925.

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Scope and content note

This collection contains Simon Gratz’s personal correspondence with relatives, business and legal associates, fellow Board of Education members, among others. A variety of other documents are also included: journals, auction and sale catalogues, engravings, prints, and photographs. The collection primarily concerns Simon Gratz’s professional life between 1847 and 1923, including his work as a legislator, attorney, member of the Philadelphia Board of Education, and in other local civic engagement. The collection is arranged chronologically within each series and subseries.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2015.

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

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Related Materials

Related materials

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

Simon Gratz autograph collection (Collection 0250A)

Simon Gratz autograph collection (Collection 0250B)

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Gratz, Simon, 1840-1925 -- Archives


  • Philadelphia Public Schools
  • Philadelphia. Girls' High School

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Bond, Nelson., and Frankfort. Life of Simon Gratz. Philadelphia, 1925.

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Collection Inventory

Series I: Correspondence 

Series Description

There are some 5,284 letters comprising this series, dated from 1847 to 1923 (Boxes 1-12). The letters address a number of topics and issues. Included are "acquisition" letters concerning what would become the Gratz Collections (250A, 250B, etc.) for autographs, books, and manuscripts from a number of persons who were aware of Gratz's interest in collecting and trading. As the letters make known, he traded and acquired materials from a wide range of people from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There are a few letters from scholars requesting the use of letters and papers from his collection. As Gratz was also influential in the legal profession, some of the letters concerned his consultations about a range of legal affairs including legal opinions and reviews, petitions, and related documents. From Gratz's lengthy tenure with the Philadelphia Board of Education there are letters addressing the school department, social events and activities, resignations, recommendation for positions, school buildings, curriculum, the history of the school system, and the Jefferson Medical College. There are also a few letters from relatives concerning deeds and estate management.

Box Folder

Correspondence, 1854-1858; and "Case for the Opinion of St. Binney Esq.", 1847 1847-1858   (10 letters and 1 signed document)

1 1

Correspondence, 1859   (60 letters)

1 2

Correspondence, 1860-1861   (60 letters)

1 3

Correspondence, 1862-1863   (52 letters)

1 4

Correspondence, 1864   (50 letters)

1 5

Correspondence, 1865   (54 letters)

1 6

Correspondence, 1866-1867   (39 letters)

1 7

Correspondence, 1868   (38 letters)

2 1

Correspondence, 1869   (51 letters)

2 2

Correspondence, 1870   (64 letters)

2 3

Correspondence, 1871    (50 letters)

2 4

Correspondence, 1872   (50 letters)

2 5

Correspondence, 1873   (65 letters)

2 6

Correspondence, 1874   (68 letters)

2 7

Correspondence, 1875   (79 letters)

2 8

Correspondence, 1876   (84 letters)

3 1

Correspondence, 1877   (90 letters)

3 2

Correspondence, 1878   (84 letters)

3 3

Correspondence, 1879   (111 letters)

3 4

Correspondence, 1879 December 1879   (59 letters)

4 1

Correspondence, 1880   (89 letters)

4 2

Correspondence, 1881   (77 letters)

4 3

Correspondence, 1882   (87 letters)

4 4

Correspondence, 1883   (114 letters)

4 5

Correspondence, 1884   (132 letters)

4 6

Correspondence, January-April 1885   (73 letters)

5 1

Correspondence, May-December 1885   (129 letters)

5 2

Correspondence, January-June 1886   (85 letters)

5 3

Correspondence, July-December 1886   (62 letters)

5 4

Correspondence, 1887   (119 letters)

5 5

Correspondence, 1888   (123 letters)

6 1

Correspondence, 1889   (97 letters)

6 2

Correspondence, 1890   (89 letters)

6 3

Correspondence, 1891   (78 letters)

6 4

Correspondence, 1892   (87 letters)

6 5

Correspondence, 1893   (138 letters)

7 1

Correspondence, 1894   (101 letters)

7 2

Correspondence, 1895   (126 letters)

7 3

Correspondence, January-May 1896   (73 letters)

7 4

Correspondence, June-December 1896   (70 letters)

7 5

Correspondence, January-May 1897   (78 letters)

8 1

Corrspondence, June-May 1897   (70 letters)

8 2

Correspondence, 1898   (124 letters)

8 3

Correspondence, January-July 1899   (98 letters)

8 4

Correspondence, September-December 1899   (69 letters)

8 5

Correspondence, 1900   (145 letters)

9 1

Correspondence, 1901   (66 letters)

9 2

Correspondence, 1902   (83 letters)

9 3

Correspondence, 1903   (68 letters)

9 4

Correspondence, 1904-1905   (69 letters)

9 5

Correspondence, 1906-1907   (101 letter)

9 6

Correspondence, 1908-1909   (95 letters)

10 1

Correspondence, 1910-1911   (99 letters)

10 2

Correspondence, 1912   (75 letters)

10 3

Correspondence, 1913   (73 letters)

10 4

Correspondence, January-November 1914   (71 letters)

10 5

Correspondence, 1915   (75 letters)

10 6

Correspondence, 1916-1918   (108 letters)

10 7

Correspondence, 1919   (104 letters)

11 1

Correspondence, 1920   (103 letters)

11 2

Correspondence, January-April 1921   (56 letters)

11 3

Correspondence, May-December 1921   (69 letters)

11 4

Correspondence, 1922-1923   (26 letters)

11 5

Correspondence, undated   (50 letters)

12 1

Correspondence, undated   (43 letters)

12 2

Correspondence, undated   (50 letters)

12 3

Correspondence, undated   (49 letters)

12 4

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Series II: School Papers 

Series Description

The school papers contain a number of items including lectures delivered to Philadelphia public school students on a range of topics in grammar, rhetoric, history of language and narrative, and various incidents in history like the finding of the Rosetta Stone, the settlement of Plymouth, and Christopher Columbus' voyages. It is believed but uncertatin that Simon Gratz wrote and delivered the lectures. Other lecture in Folder Four are a compilation of lectures composed by a number of scholars in medicine and religion. The majority of the these lectures are undated; however, one was given in 1838 (Knight) and another in 1853 (Alembert/Freeman). Other items include reports and resolutions (1836-1846) from sections of the school board's committees, especially the High School Committee. The most prominent topics explored here are teachers, annual expenses, teacher salaries, curriculum developmetn and teaching, and the reorganization of various school divisions. The remaining items in this series are commencement programs from the Girls High School.

Box Folder

School Papers, Grammar 

13 1

School Papers, Rhetoric 

13 2

School Papers 

13 3

Miscellaneous Lectures: Professor Tully of Yale University; Professor Olmsted of Yale University; Jonathan Knight of Yale University 1838 – Professor of Surgery; Samuel Sewall, pastor of the Church of Burlington, MS; D. Alembert translated by Rev. Charles Freeman 1838 

13 4

Philadelphia Public Schools - Reports and Resolutions 

13 5

Girls' Normal School - Events Programs 1870-1893 

13 6

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Series III: Miscellaneous Documents and Volumes 

Series Description

Boxes 14-16 contain photographs, engravings, prints, and portraits with a variety of scenes and people, including portraits of Simon Gratz (Box 15, Folder 4). Other miscellaneous material removed from its original housing includes Johann Friedrich Cristoph Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (photocopied) typed and translated correspondence, a receipt signed by Frances Budden and one by David Rittenhouse. Some bindings were not complete or stable, thus box sixteen houses two (former) volumes of lectures: Folder 1 contains lectures to the Central High School faculty and students, on a number of topics at the opening of the school year between 1846 and 1858; folders 2-4 contain a series of ten lectures entitled the "History of the Public Schools," which tell the story of the public school system in Philadelphia from 1809 to 1846; and the remaining two folders includes "Items Removed From" volumes 1 and 3. The volumes in this series include a few personal sets of class notes and two volumes of Perrot's and Wilhem's musical instructional manuals, as well as sales catalogues divided between foreign (volumes 6-16, 1880-1942) and domestic (volumes 17-33, 1881-1943) sales. The sales catalogues reveal the other means by which Simon Gratz acquired items for his collections.

Box Folder

Photography - Capitol Prison & Print undated 

14 1

Engravings undated   (33 images)

14 2

Engravings undated   (35 images)

14 3

Portraits, miniture engravings undated   (30 images)

14 4

Portraits, miniture engravings undated   (31 images)

14 5

Items removed from Gratz Box (Engravings & Prints) undated   (14 images)

14 6

Engravings: Isaac Norris, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Edward Nung, St. Francis Bacon Knight, Dion Boucicault, Sir William Don, Charles 1st, Tronchet, Andre Moreliet, M. De Sismondi, Aaron Burr, Michael Faraday, Sir Isaac Newton, W. C. Bryant, Henry Rawle, William H. Prescott, Joseph Addison, William Bradford, William Shakspeare, George Ross, Philip II - King of Spain, Benjamin Rush, John Syng Dorsey, Robert Southey, Alexander von Humboldt, Independence Hall, Guys Hospital, George Washington, Central High School (1833-1898, n.d.)   [31 images]

15 1

Thomas F. Madigan (1918) 

15 2

Engravings: Carpenter's Hall, Dickenson College, Suspension Bridge at Fairmount, The Woodlands, Mansion House Hotel, Chew's House, Philadelphia, Penn's Treaty with the Indians, State House, Old State House - Philadelphia, Moravian Church, Penitentiary - Philadelphia   [15 images]

15 3

Simon Gratz, portraits   [71 images]

15 4


15 5

High School - Miscellaneous Addresses and Lectures 1846-1858, n.d.   (9 Lectures)

16 1

History of the Public Schools - Lectures (Part I)   (3 Lectures)

16 2

History of the Public Schools - Lectures (Part II)   (3 Lectures)

16 3

History of the Public Schools - Lectures (Part III)   (4 Lectures)

16 4

Items Removed From Volume 1   (Loose Notes)

16 5

Items Removed From Volume 3   (Loose Notes)

16 6

Notes taken during the sophomore year. 1852 

Volume 1

Notes taken during the sophomore year. 

Volume 2

Note Book - No. 3 n.d. 

Volume 3

Perrot's Wilhem's Musical Manual: A New Method for Vocal Classes; Designed Particularly for Colleges, Public and Private Schools, Private Classes. Translated from the French, with additions by Guillaume Louis Bocquillon Wilhem and Auguste Perrot 1853 

Volume 4

Key to Perrot's Wilhem's Musical Manual: Embracing a Full Description and Clear Demonstration of the Different Studies Contained in the Manual. by A. Perrot 1855 

Volume 5

Sub-Series: A 1880-1942 


A Catalogue of One Thousand Fine & Valuable Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Prints and Drawings (No. 750). Joseph Baer & Co. / Frankfurt O. M., Hochstrasse 6 - Gutenberg Frankfurtmain (Text) 

Volume 6

A Catalogue of One Thousand Fine & Valuable Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Prints and Drawings (No. 750). Joseph Baer & Co. / Frankfurt O. M., Hochstrasse 6 - Gutenberg Frankfurtmain (Plates) 

Volume 6A

Sammlung Des Verstorbenen Herrn, Heinrich Stiebel, Frankfurt A. M., Dritter Teil Autographen, Versteigerung, Joseph Baer & Co. Frankfurt A. M., Hochstrasse 6 Mittwoch, Den 27. November 1929 1929 

Volume 7

Fine and Good Books From the XVth-XXth Century Including Some Manuscripts. International Antiquariaat (Menno Hertzberger) Amsterdam C., 364 Singel. (Catalogue No. 49). 

Volume 8

A Catalogue of Old and Modern Books with sections under the headings American, Art, Bibliography, Biography, Botany, Chap Books, Libraries, Limited Editions, Music, Natural History, Old Novels and Tales, Topography, followed by Engraved Portraits together with a copy of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" in the Original Parts, and an Extensive and Interesting Collection of Bookplates (Ex-Libris). Offered for sale by B. F. Stevens & Brown Limited New Ruskin House, 28-30 Little Russell Street, London, W. C. 1 England (Winter 1942/3, No. 3) 

Volume 9

Catalogue of Autograph Letters and Historical Documents, On Sale by F. Naylor, 4, Millman Street, Bedord Row, London. (No. 66.-April, 1880). 1880 

Volume 10

Autograph Letters of Celebrated Authors and others. New Series, No. 4. Francis Edwards Limited, 83 High Street, Marylebone, London. 

Volume 11

The Painting of John Singleton Copley, A Special Exhibition. December 1936 

Volume 12

William Penn: A Bibliography, A Tentative List of Publications About Him and His Work. Pennsylvania Historical Commission (Bulletin No. 1), by Mary Kirk Spence 1932 

Volume 13

The Washington-Reed Autographs 

Volume 14

The Collector: A Magazine for Autograph and Historical Collectors. New York, Vol. XLIII, No. 3 (No. 465), January 1929 

Volume 15

English Literature of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Being a selection of First and Early Editions of the works of Esteemed authors and Book Illustrators together with Books on Sports and Pastimes. Maggs Bros. Booksellers by Appointment to His Majesty King George V, H. M. Alfonso XIII, King of Spain, and H. M. King Manuel of Portugal. 34 & 35, Conduit Street, New Bond Street, London, W. and 130, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris. (No. 531) 1930 

Volume 16

Sub-Series: B 


Catalogue of the Autograph Letters and Manuscripts of Morven M. Jones, Esq. of Utica, N. Y./Boston: W. F. Brown & Co., Printers 1881 

Volume 17

Catalogue of the Autograph Letters and Manuscripts of Morven M. Jones, Esq. of Utica, N. Y./Boston: W. F. Brown & Co., Printers 1881 

Volume 17A

The Notable Percy R. Pyne 2d Collection. American Art Galleries, New York. 1917 

Volume 18

Catalogue of Negatives in the Essex Institute Collections. Salem, Massachusetts. 1925 

Volume 19

Americana from the library of the late Edward Wheelock, Rochester, NY, sold by order of Mrs. Edward Wheelock with additions, together with American Autographs & the Emancipation Proclamation Pen Used by Abraham Lincoln, formerly the property of Louis Burgdorf White House messenger during the Lincoln administration, sold by order of his grandson W. B. Tucker . . . The Anderson Galleries, Philadelphia. 1929 

Volume 20

Autograph Letters and Documents from a known Philadelphia collector and other private sources. Stan V. Henkels, Catalogue No. 1425, Philadelphia. 1929 

Volume 21

First Editions of Modern Authors, Selection from the Library of Charles D. Miller, New York City, sold by his order with additions from other private libraries including the excessively rare "Pan in Vermont" by Kipling . . . The Anderson Galleries, New York. 1929 

Volume 22

The Library of the Late Raymond J. Schweizer. The Anderson Galleries, New York. 1929 

Volume 23

Part II: Of the rare & Desirable Americana Collection, from the library of George W. Paullin. New York: American Art Association, Inc. 1929 

Volume 24

Rare Americana: Lincolniana, Western Items, Railroad Reports, Quakeriana, Genealogy, Histories. Stan. V. Henkels, Catalogue No. 1433, Philadelphia. 1929 

Volume 25

Rare and Valuable Books Covering practically the Entire field of Collecting: First editions, Fine Bindings association and autograph copies with a selected list of autograph letters, documents and manuscripts, also fine examples from private presses. Cincinnati, Stewart Kidd, booksellers. 1929 

Volume 26

Selections from the Library of Edward Goldman, New York City, Document Signed by Thomas Lynch, Jr., consigned by the Historical Commission of South Carolina; Rare & Beautiful Manuscripts, Incunabula & Extra-Illustrated Books from the Library of the Late George E. Leighton, St. Louis, MO. The Anderson Galleries, New York. 1929 

Volume 27

Valuable Autographs of Presidents of the United States, Signers of the Declaration, American & Foreign Generals and Literary, to be sold . . . Stan V. Henkels, Auctioneer of Books, Autographs, Paintings and Engravings, Philadelphia. 1929 

Volume 28

Valuable Autographs of Presidents of the United States, Signers of the Declaration, American & Foreign Generals and Literary to be sold . . . Stan V. Henkels, Auctioneer of Books, Autographs, Paintings and Engravings, Philadelphia. 1929 

Volume 28A

Valuable Library of the late Henry Morris, M. D. of Philadelphia: Americana First Editions, Standard Sets, Marine Books, Genealogy, Early Printing. Stan V. Henkels, Catalogue 1441, Philadelphia. 1930 

Volume 29

Catalogue: The S. Weir Mitchell Collection of Books, Autographs, Prints, and Historical Relics . . . Wm. D. Morley, Inc., Philadelphia 1941 

Volume 30

This remarkable collection of Original Letters and Documents of Robert Livingston to William Penn, Relating to the Indians, with other Literary Property of Mrs. Augusta Smith of Hollidaysburg, PA, with additions of Autographs, Americana, First Editions and Children's Books . . . Wm. D. Morley, Inc., Philadelphia. 1942 

Volume 31

Catalogue 484, Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., Biddle Autographs, Part Two. 1943 

Volume 32

Catalogue of the Renowned Lincolniana Collection of the late Hon. William A. Carr. To be held at the galleries of Wm. D. Morley, Inc.: Philadelphia, PA. 1943 

Volume 33

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