Plumsted family papers

Collection 1787

1702-1890, undated
(0.8 Linear feet ; 2 boxes)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Plumsted family
Plumsted family papers
1702-1890, undated
0.8 Linear feet ; 2 boxes
Finding aid prepared by Randi M. Kamine.
The Plumsted family was a distinguished and prolific Quaker family with connections to several prominent persons in early Philadelphia. The documents in this collection relate to Clement Plumsted, a wealthy Pennsylvania merchant and land owner, and his son William. Both father and son served as mayor of colonial Philadelphia. Last will and testaments, obituaries and financial papers give an outline of various family members and their offspring’s personal affairs and accomplishments. Deeds and land transfer documents describe land holdings on South Front Street, Philadelphia, Warren County, Pennsylvania, and Harrison County, Virginia. Correspondence with the Gore, Elliot and Cathcart families discuss financial, health and personal matters. The family name is spelled both as “Plumsted” and “Plumstead,” in these papers. Correspondence and documents use both spellings and no clear date can be drawn as to when one spelling is used henceforth. It is apparent, however, that the earlier form of the name is “Plumsted.”

Preferred citation

[Indicate cited item or series here], Plumsted family papers (Collection 1787), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

The Philadelphia Plumsted family lineage can be traced back to England as early as the twelfth century. Many members of the Plumsted family joined the Society of Friends soon after its formation in the mid-1650s. As a result of severe persecution due to their being practicing Quakers, many members of the family immigrated to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Among them was Clement Plumsted who was imprisoned in 1685. He immigrated after his release and he, along with William Penn, became one of the original twelve men named as proprietors of East New Jersey. Plumsted became a merchant and was one of the wealthiest men in colonial Pennsylvania. A progenitor of the Philadelphia Plumsteds, he died in London on May 16, 1752.

Another Clement Plumsted was born in England in 1680 and died May 26, 1745, in Philadelphia. It is unclear who the parents of this Clement Plumsted were, but the London Clement Plumsted may have been an antecedent. In 1717 Plumsted was commissioned as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He was Mayor of Philadelphia in 1723, 1736, and 1741. He also served as a Philadelphia councilman, alderman, and justice, as well as on the Pennsylvania provincial council. He was the father of William Plumsted, who also served as mayor of Philadelphia (1750, 1754, 1775).

The Plumsteds bought large holdings of valuable property in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. As a result, they became one of the wealthiest families in the Province of Pennsylvania. The Plumsteds were members of the Society of Friends in good standing and remained so at least until the death of Clement in 1745.

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Scope and content note

The collection contains personal letters, wills, obituaries, and financial documents that include rental agreements, deeds, invoices and loan agreements. Wills include those of Clement Plumsted and William Plumsted. The dates of the collection are from 1726-1886.

There is a cookbook with the inscription “Mary Plumsted Cookery Book 1776.” (Mrs. William, nee McCall.) Its paper cover had been repaired with cloth stitches. Recipes illustrate the cuisine of the period. These include flank of beef, pig, pigeons, venison, goose, and artificial sturgeon. Desserts include cheesecake, lemon pudding and currant jam.

Copies of the By-laws, muster roll, and other papers from the archives of the First Troop, Philadelphia cavalry, dated November 17, 1774 to September 7, 1815 give a brief history of the cavalry, active during the Revolutionary War. There is a transcription of a letter from George Washington dated January 23, 1773 discharging the troop from service as well as several letters discussing troop movements.

The collection includes several letters written by William Plumsted, U.S. Navy Surgeon, to his sister Clementina Ross Plumsted, dated 1825-1838. William traveled extensively due to his position. In a letter dated October 21, 1825 written from the United States Frigate Brandywine off Isle of Wight, William wrote his sister that he traveled with an interesting fellow passenger: the Marquis de Lafayette. The marquis disembarked on October 7, 1825 at Le Havre, France. William tells of his meeting with the marquis and his family. Familiar connections with some of the most distinguished Philadelphia families include the marriage of Clement Plumsted (1680-1774) to Sara Righton Biddle on October 1707. Gores and Elliots married into the Plumsted lineage. In with the collection are legal documents that refer to other prominent Philadelphia families as well. The Biddle and Cathcart families are mentioned in personal letters and wills. One interesting item is the title giving ownership of fifteen square feet of ground owned by the First Presbyterian Church on Market Street, Philadelphia to the Ross family. The land was used as a family burial ground. The title is dated 1788 and was paid for with eighty Spanish milled dollars. Other land transfer documents indicate the transfer of land originating with William Penn passing down to the Plumsted family.

It is apparent that Mary Plumsted owned at least one slave. A note written by a fiscal agent for Mary said, “In December 1772, I sold for Mary Plumsted a Negro girl and took for payment…”

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2015.

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107


Gift of Frances Bradford, 1958.

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Related Materials

Related collections

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

Plumsted family letters (Collection 3393). This collection contains a list of letters in chronological order. Letters are primarily written by the Gore and Elliot families, dated October 27,1768 to August 14, 1795.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Cooking--18th Century.
  • Family life--18th century.
  • Family life--19th Century.
  • Military History--Cavalries--18th century.
  • Military History--Cavalries--19th century.
  • Real property--Pennsylvania.
  • Real property--Virginia.

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Devereux, Eugene. "Chronicles of the Plumsted Family With Some Family Letters, Complied and arranged with notes" (Philadelphia, 1887).

Jordon, John W., Editor. Colonial and Revolutionary families of Pennsylvania: Genealogical and Personal memories (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1911). Reprinted 1978.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Miscellaneous 1702-1863 

1 1

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Wills 1726-1885 

1 2

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Miscellanous; Poem 1730-1856 

1 3

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Loan documents; Wills 1745-1885 

1 4

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Inventories; Funeral bills 1753-1884 

1 5

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Deeds 1762-1796, undated 

1 6-7

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Letters 1770-1809 

1 8

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Mary Plumsted cookery book 1776 

2 1

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Letters; Inventories; Will of William Plumsted 1793-1890, undated 

2 2

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Legal papers; Deeds 1807-1866, undated 

2 3

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By-laws, etc. of the First Troop Cavalry 1815 

2 4

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Letters from William Plumsted to his sister 1825-1838 

2 5

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