Pennsylvania Abolition Society papers

The records of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society (PAS) span over two hundred years of the society's history. They comprehensively document the society's many activities, particularly those that occured throughout the late 1700s and the 1800s, though there are records that cover the 20th century as... Full description

Record Source: Archival Materials
Collection Information: 0490
Corporate Author: Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery
Format: Manuscript
Language: English
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Item Description: Processing Information: In preparation for the collections' microfiliming in the 1960s, the collection was processed into its current state of five series. Each series contained varying sets of loose papers and volumes. The volumes were given call numbers based on the cataloging methods that were then used by HSP's librarians. When the collection was revisted for further processing, the choice was made to retain the current arrangement of documents and volumes, including the volume's numbering scheme, and clarify that arrangement in a new finding aid. This finding aid is based off of the printed guide to the microfilm (avaible in HSP's library), and it contains a small number of addition to the collection that were donated to HSP from PAS after the original guide was published.
Physical Description: 40.0 Linear feet ; 81 boxes, 60 volumes, 6 flat files
Access: The collection is open for research.
Summary: The records of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society (PAS) span over two hundred years of the society's history. They comprehensively document the society's many activities, particularly those that occured throughout the late 1700s and the 1800s, though there are records that cover the 20th century as well. The collections consists of administrative records that the society produced and collected during its regular work. Much of the collection is locally or regionally focused in scope, but the records move well beyond the PAS's work in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, especially when they concern PAS's larger ventures, such as its work with the American Convention and the Liang School in South Carolina. The collection also documents the activities and beliefs of the society as a whole rather than those of its individual members, though some information in that regard can be gleaned from various items in the collection, particularly the correpondence. Additionally, the collection also strongly hightlights abolition and anti-slavery practices of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The manumissions and indentures alone demonstrate well the laws that were then in place concerning former slave oweners and manumitted slaves. The PAS records have been processed into five series: Minutes and reports (Series 1), Correspondence (Series 2), Financial records (series 3), Manumissions, indentures, and other legal papers (Series 4), and Miscellaneous papers (Series 5). The first series contains a mix of bound minute books of the PAS and its various standing and sub committees along with loose minutes and and some loose papers that were removed from the minute books. Primarily, these material cover from the PAS's founding through the mid 1800s, but there is a handful of items dating from the early to mid 20th century. The second series is comprised of the society's incoming correspondence along with a small amount of outgoing correspondence and third-party letters. The matters covered in these letters vary widely, from political and business issues to personal dealings. Along with formal letters, also in this series are postcards, circulars and form letters, memos, telegrams, and notes. Most of the papers are loose in folders and boxes, but there are two letterbooks dating together from 1789 to 1809. Ranging from the late 1700s to the 1930s, these materials often differ in content and amount. The bulk of the letters date from the nineteenth century, with some gaps. The loose correspondence is arrangened chronologically into incoming and outgoing groups, with undated papers being placed at the ends of those groups. The third series represents a collection of financial documents produced and collected by the PAS generally and by its committees between the 1790s and the 1930s, with most of the items dating from the ninteenth century. There are bound volumes such as receipt books, ledgers, and subscription books, as well as loose bills, checks, receipts, reports, subscription lists, expense sheets, and letters. The fourth series consists of volumes, legal documents, and papers pertaining to the society's efforts to assist enslaved and free black people in a myriad of ways from the 1780s to the 1860s. Manumissions and indentures make up the bulk of this series, however there are also court documents; lists of slave ships; birth, marriage and identification certificates; employment permission slips; copies of laws and statutes; legal opinions; materials on unregistered slaves in Pennsylvania; and other documents. The fifth and final series is made up of a wide array of papers spanning from the 1760s to the 1970s that relate to the PAS and other anti-slavery and humanitarian organizations. Here reserachers will find general member lists, addresses, memorials, and printed matter from the PAS, along with materials pertaining to the various schools and educational institutions initiated and supported by the PAS, such as the Lombard Street Infant School, the Clarkson Institute, and the Laing School. This series also contains census data and records, educational and employment records and statistics, and papers from various organizations such as the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and Improving the Conditon of the African Race, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and the Young Men's Anti-Slavery Society, among many others.
Growing out of egalitarian concerns of members of the Society of Friends, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, as it is now known, was founded in 1775 as the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, but the Revolution caused its early Quaker members to suspend operations until 1784, when it reorganized with a broader base. From the beginning, the Abolition Society's programs were devoted not only to the abolition of slavery, but to the social and economic improvement of Black Americans as well. This collection of records documents the Pennsylvania Abolition Society's history and its work from mid 1700s to the 1990s, and particularly during the 1800s, through minutes and reports, manumissions and indentures, correspondence, financial papers, and a significant assortment of miscellaneous papers from other anti-slavery and humanitarian organzations.