This collection consists of rolls of microfilm copies of Pennsylvania records and manuscripts primarily held by other institutions. Over the last fifty years the State Archives created this collection by making special arrangements with individual donors to microfilm letters, diaries, business records, etc. Because of its diverse sources and themes, this collection complements many of the State Archives’ own manuscripts and records. The majority of this material was gathered by the Division of Research and Publications, now called the Division of History, as source materials for conducting research and writing books and articles on Pennsylvania history. Through such special arrangements, letters, diaries, and business records relating to Pennsylvania were microfilmed from materials deposited at other institutions in the Commonwealth and throughout the nation. In April 1977, the administration and preservation of microfilm holdings were transferred from the Division of History to the Division of Archives and Manuscripts within the Bureau of Archives and History. [For a more detailed description of this collection a copy of the Guide to the Microfilm Collections in the Pennsylvania State Archives by Roland M. Baumann and Diane S. Wallace may be consulted. Though this volume is no longer in print, a copy is available at the Archives and at the State Library.]


The State Archives has a small collection of microfilmed newspapers that includes commemorative editions and daily and weekly editions from eight counties, German language editions, and other ethnic newspapers. Newspaper editions that include articles on African Americans are:

Bedford County

Bedford Gazette. The June 10, 1864 edition of the Bedford Gazette cites names of new Civil War draftees from Snake Spring and Cumberland Valley Townships (Bedford County). Those who served in the United States Colored Troops were: Andrew Dean, James Leach, Benjamin Plowden, John Plowden, Jacob Plowden, George Ramsey, Lewis Reed, Jacob Ritchey, R. M. Skillington, Nimrod Warren.

Juniata County

Juniata Journal. The September 1, 1835 issue of the Juniata Journal contains the following articles: "The Abolitionists," "Religion versus Abolition," "The Burnt Papers," "Another Slave Atrocity," and an untitled article that states, "we understand that a gentleman of this city, received yesterday from New York, a large box containing . . . pictures of slaves being whipped." The article, "The Burnt Papers," was reprinted from the Emancipator, an Abolitionist’s newspaper.

Cumberland County

Americana Volunteer. The October 22, 1902 issue of the Americana Volunteer printed an article on the death of J. N. Choate, one of Carlisle’s successful photographers. The funeral announcement gave the names of the active and honorary pallbearers. Among the active pallbearers were African Americans Charles Whiting, Amos Johnson, William Chapman, and Diston Barnes.

Abstracts of Obituaries in the Carlisle Evening Sentinel, 1906-1915 compiled by John C. Fralish). By 1906, the Carlisle Evening Sentinel appears to have instituted a policy of collecting obituary information relating to the inhabitants of Cumberland County. Some examples of African Americans for which such obituaries are available are: Agy, William, "Colonel," a Dickinson College janitor, February 2, 1911, aged about fifty, local preacher. Funeral, February 3, 1911; Arter, Fannie, Mrs., in Shippensburg, March 17, 1908, widow of J. Hugh Arter, was born a slave in Jefferson County, Virginia; Bell, Daniel, Underground Railroad figure, was born in Carlisle, February 14, 1832, moved at age thirty-nine to Harrisburg, date of death there not given, widower about two and a half years, daughters named; Brown, Jucetta, Mechanicsburg, March 11, 1907, age not given but lived there all her life, interment in Garret Cemetery; Butler, Mrs., of Newville, December 26, 1910, interment in Newville Cemetery; McCard, Maria Randolph, Mrs., Carlisle, January 11, 1913, aged ninety-five, formerly Mrs. Randolph, mother of Rev. John Philip McCard, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church Rev. McCard, other children named; Taylor, Elizabeth Beals, Mrs., in Chicago, formerly of Carlisle, September 14, 1909, aged thirty-four, daughter of Isaac Beals, no mention of children, burial in Union Cemetery.


Cornwall Furnace and Hopewell Forge Journals and Ledgers, 1752-1766. The volumes give reference to African American employees, namely: "Negro Jack," "Negro John," "Negro Tom," and "Negro Will." The accounts give status of purchases made as well as wages and work performed.

Hopewell Village National Historic Site Deposit, 1802-1876. Ledger pages from Hopewell Furnace reference known African American employees. Cited are members of the Cole family who worked at the furnace and, in 1856, helped to establish Mount Frisby African Methodist Episcopal Church that was located on the northern boundary of Hopewell Furnace.


Cumberland County

First Presbyterian Church of Carlisle, Pa. Records, 1761-1920. A minute book (1816-1834), pew records (1828-1841), and miscellaneous papers consisting of building plans and warrants, membership lists, financial records, church registers, copies of the act of incorporation and the charter, minutes of deacons and trustees, and other items. Included in the marriage records are the following:

• October 9, 1798-Adam Simonton (Black ) to [illegible] Orr, a mulatto woman.

• December 6, 1806-"Francis Lewis to Peggy Standsburry, black persons-the man belonging to Mrs. M. Laird-the woman to Mrs. Campbell."

• December 23, 1806-"John Brown to Betsy Finley-these were black people."

Dauphin County

Harrisburg Monthly Meeting of Religious Society of Friends Records, 1909-1965. The records contain minute books for 1928-1965 (five volumes) and a treasurer’s book, 1909-1960 (one volume). The organization was very supportive of activities and causes that improved the needs and conditions of the African American community in Harrisburg. The minutes refer to a conference featuring Maude Coleman of the Department of Welfare. Discussion centered on the housing condition of an African American community in Harrisburg where sixty persons were without housing due to a fire and the construction of the Capitol Park extension. The Religious Society of Friends was generous in financial support of several organizations including the Phyllis Wheatley Young Women’s Christian Association (the African American YWCA). The Religious Society of Friends had a Friends Race Relations Committee that became involved with racial problems in the city.


Simon Cameron Papers, 1824-ca. 1919. A prominent Harrisburg financier, Simon Cameron also served as a United States senator and subsequently as the first secretary of war under Abraham Lincoln. The collection consists of correspondence and business papers in the possession of the Dauphin County Historical Society that include thirteen letters or drafts written by Mr. Cameron. Among these is a letter dated April 23, 1862 to Mr. Cameron from Thomas Morris Chester, an African American native of Harrisburg who served as a Civil War correspondent and became friends with Simon Cameron. T. Morris Chester writes "that the thought of sending slaves in the District of Columbia back to Liberia is not a good idea." He states, "it would be unwise and inhumane in the government at Washington to send them to Liberia. I desire them to be immigrants to our adopted country. . . ."

Sol Feinstone Collection of the American Revolution, 1739-1859. Originally assembled by Sol Feinstone, a businessman and collector, this collection includes 1,742 letters and documents relating to the American Revolution. Among these items are the following documents relating to the institution of slavery:

• A document dated August 5, 1776 signed by Cornell Stevenson of Burlington County, New Jersey, setting his Negro slave Pompey free.

• Receipt dated January 10, 1737 to John Fisher from Ebenezer Stearns for the purchase of a Negro named Jack for eighty pounds.

• Receipt dated January 7, 1716 to John Fisher from John Howe, for the purchase of a Negro boy in Boston named Prince for forty-two pounds.

• A document dated September 21, 1791 at Accomack County, Virginia and signed by John Custer and Tully Wise stating that Tomthy, a Negro man, had forged a document claiming that he was free.

Albert Gallatin Papers, 1761-1849. Albert Gallatin served as a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature and the United States Congress, as a foreign diplomat, and as United States secretary of the treasury. The papers include genealogical and biographical items, political papers, correspondence, pamphlets, and miscellaneous family papers. Included is a copy of Albert Gallatin’s membership certificate in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

Graeme Park Collection, 1743-1918. Graeme Park, the only surviving residence of a colonial Pennsylvania governor, is a historic site operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The buildings of Graeme Park were constructed by William Keith, who served as deputy governor 1721-1722, and were originally intended as a distillery before the property was sold to Dr. Thomas Graeme in 1739, who renovated the mansion to serve as his country estate. Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson, Graeme’s only surviving child, inherited the estate and subsequently divided the property into lots. In 1920, Mr. and Mrs. Welsh Strawbridge acquired the land upon which the main house stands and restored the mansion to its original condition. In 1958, the Strawbridges gave the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The collection contains two issues of the Pennsylvania Packet or, the General Advertiser containing advertisements for the sale and return of runaway slaves. The issue dated August 29, 1787 has an advertisement for the sale of a "negro man," and the December 7, 1782 issue has an advertisement placed by Benjamin Rittenhouse seeking the return of a runaway "Mulatto Wench named Chloe."

Hershey Family Papers. Papers of a prominent Lancaster County family and their descendants including correspondence (1832-1853) relating to economic events, political conditions and religious trends in both Erie and Lancaster Counties, account books, a family history, pamphlets, and an incomplete newspaper file (1851-1863) of the Conneautville Courier of Crawford County. Included are the following materials related to slavery, abolition, and the Civil War.

• The text of a February 5, 1851 lecture on slavery delivered by a Professor Williams of the Methodist Church.

• Several articles on the Fugitive Slave Law dated February 19, 1851 are present including "The Great Compromise Measure," that presents the story of a "colored" woman known by the name of Tamar Williams who resided at the corner of Fifth Street and Germantown Road. It was alleged that her real name was Mahala and that she was a fugitive slave belonging to William T. Parnell of Worcester County, Maryland. The story relates that she had escaped from a southern plantation in the year 1820 and subsequently married and bore five children. Mahala’s husband also had been arrested as a fugitive slave and there is also an article on an Indiana fugitive slave case.

• A February 26, 1851 issue of the Courier contains an article on the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and an article on a fugitive slave named Frederick Williams that states, "A mob of 300 negroes stormed the Court Room (in Boston), and in despite of the officers, carried off the fugitive in triumph. The fugitive’s whereabouts is not yet known, but it is supposed he is on his way to Canada via Burlington."

• An April 2, 1851 article entitled "Selling Slaves in Pennsylvania" addresses the issue of the Fugitive Slave Law and the possible development of a new market in slaves captured by slave agents in Pennsylvania for return to the South.

• The May 7, 1851 article "Virginny Neber Tires" refers to man who was a member of one of the first families in Virginia who entered "Douglas’s" shop for a shave. "As the gentlemen was being lathered, a Bostonian, a warm free-soiler, asked Douglas, what would you do if your old master attempted to carry you back into slavery? Shoot him down, was Douglas’s reply. The Virginian jumped into the middle of the floor with lather, towel and all, . . ."

• A January 4, 1854 article entitled "Verdict Against Mrs. Stowe" recounts the case of Harriet Beecher Stowe vs. F.W. Thomas, a German book publisher in Philadelphia. Stowe charged F. W. Thomas with "an infringement of the plaintiff’s copyright of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by publishing a German translation.

Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society Papers, 1775-1916. This collection, owned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, includes minutes and manuscripts of The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Kept in Bondage. Organized one year before the War of Independence, the society was lead by Quakers, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Jews. Temporarily suspended during the war, it was vigorously reactivated in 1787 and adopted the title of "The Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully held in Bondage." This was the first formal abolitionist society founded in the United States of America.

Pennsylvania History, General, Papers Relating to Pennsylvania, 1681-1913. Papers include accounts, correspondence, deeds, legal papers, military records, minutes, printed items and other materials relating to business matters, military affairs, politics, and many other subjects. Items relevant to African Americans are: the case of "Negro Cato," the slave of Matthias Slough of the Borough of Lancaster, who was no longer in good health; an indictment for larceny of "Negro Isaac," a slave owned by Matthias Slough, who was taken to the public whipping post to receive twenty-one lashes on his bare back and paid a fine of twenty pounds; a lading bill for a negro boy valued at thirty pounds; an act addressing the trials of "negroes" who committed murder, manslaughter, rape, burglary and any other illegal acts as specified by William Penn’s Laws of the Province of Pennsylvania published by the Order of the General Assembly, which includes "an Act for the better regulating of Negroes in this Province."

Thaddeus Stevens Papers, 1814-1868. These papers consist of the private and public correspondence, speeches, legal and business papers, and congressional records of United States Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, an outspoken advocate for the abolition of slavery. The originals are scattered across the United States and this microfilm edition is composed of the following four series:

General Correspondence and Miscellaneous Documents. Includes information on the following persons or subjects: Abolition Society of Pennsylvania, American Anti-Slavery Society, Frederick Douglass, Ku Klux Klan, Lucretia Mott, New York Tribune, Pennsylvania Equal Rights League, John Peck, Thaddeus Stevens, Thaddeus Stevens Jr., Lucy Stone; Charles Sumner.

Speeches and Resolutions. The following subject are included in this segment: copies of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, materials on various abolition societies, Black cavalry units and Black military history, African Americans in Pennsylvania, Black railroad passengers, Black refugee aid, Black soldiers, Black suffrage in Pennsylvania, Black apprenticeships, court testimony by African Americans, African American migration to Pennsylvania, the legacy of John Brown, the Brownsville Female Academy, the Christiana Riot trial, civil rights and trial by jury, civil service, Civil War veterans, emancipation, equal rights legislation, freed slaves, Freedman’s Bureau, fugitive slave arrests, Pennsylvania’s fugitive slave laws, the federal Fugitive Slave Law, African Americans and higher education in Pennsylvania, Indian slaveholding, military hospitals, "Negro" soldiers, readmission of states, the rights of seceded states, secret societies, and the questions of abolition, extension of slavery, protection of slavery, and restrictions on slavery in Washington, D.C., in the territories, and in Utah.

Legal Arguments and Legal and Business Papers. Included on this reel are summaries from a few cases argued by Stevens dealing with slavery and slave ownership. They are: Butler and others vs. Delaplaine; Scott vs. Waugh; and Kauffman vs. Oliver. Also included is the summation of John M. Read of the 1851 Christiana trial (United States vs. Hanway), in which Stevens and three other lawyers successfully defended Caster Hanway, two other whites, and thirty-eight African Americans from charges of treason for helping fugitive slaves escape.

Congressional Committee Minutes. In Benjamin J. Kendrick’s The Journal of the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, 39th Congress, 1865-1867, (New York, 1914), is the full text of resolutions and bills that the committee considered.


The Negro in the Military Service of the United States, 1639-1886. Microfilm copy of eight bound volumes of records compiled for publication by the Colored Troops Division of the Adjutant General’s Office (AGO). This compilation was created under the leadership of Elon A. Woodard, chief of the Colored Troops Division along with several clerks during 1885-1888. Included are documents copied from published and unpublished primary sources. Also, there are copies from a few original documents and extracts of material from secondary sources that were intended to cover periods of history for which primary sources were not readily available, such as correspondence, telegrams, endorsement books, and general and special orders. The volumes are part of Record Group 94, the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917. Some of the items included are letters from and to Simon Cameron, who was the first secretary of war during the Civil War, as well as many letters from military and governmental officers with reference to African Americans becoming part of the army. Included are various statistical and census reports on African Americans. Microfilm Publication M858, National Archives.

Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1789. Revolutionary War records for Pennsylvania, 1775-1789, consisting of correspondence, lists of officers, muster and pay rolls, returns, etc., that include names of African American soldiers. Information includes names of officers and enlisted men, commission or enlistment dates and military units. Also included are payroll books "A" and "B," ca. 1781-1789 and pay rolls (Pierce’s certificates) of officers and enlisted men from Pennsylvania who served during the Revolutionary War. The two volumes are certified copies made by the auditor general of Pennsylvania in 1818, and include approximately 10,300 names. Microfilm produced by National Archives.


Prison Society Journals, 1845-1920.

Pennsylvania Journal of Prison Discipline, July 1845, contains information on African Americans under the following article headings: "Mortality Among the Colored Population of Philadelphia," "Table of Diseases and Deaths in the County Prison of Philadelphia," and "The Sixteenth Annual Report of the Inspectors of the Eastern State Penitentiary of Pennsylvania."

Pennsylvania Journal of Prison Discipline, October 1845, contains information with reference to African Americans in Article VII, "Report of the Inspectors of the Western Penitentiary of Pennsylvania, for the year 1844." Information is cited according to date, inmate number, color, age, and disease. Other statistical information is listed according to sex and color.

Pennsylvania Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy, April 1846, specifies race with reference to the specific trades, i.e., white and colored weavers, white and colored shoemakers, colored bobbin-winders, etc. Also included is a "Tabular View of the Fatal Cases in the Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania, from the opening of the Institution (October 25, 1829) to December 31, 1845." This chart gives the following information: year, prisoner number, color, sex, age, nativity, occupation (before conviction, in prison), when admitted, state of health on admission, offenses, sentence, time of death, nature of fatal disease, time in prison, number of convictions, personal habits, social state, and time spent in county prison.

The Pennsylvania Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy, January 1849, under "Alleviation of Miseries of Public Opinion," is an article entitled "Philadelphia House of Refuge for Colored Juvenile Delinquents." The facility was built to accommodate 300 inmates, 206 males and 94 females.

The Pennsylvania Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy, January 1850, discusses the "separate system" of racial segregation in Pennsylvania’s prison system, and the health of African American inmates.


The Evolution of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1683-1838, with Special Emphasis Upon the Constitution of 1838, by Russell Henry Kistler (Lehigh University, 1943). This thesis discusses Pennsylvania politics, the state constitution that defined the status of the "negro" and the philosophy of abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens. According to Kistler, the African American population of Bucks County had increased to a point that "elections in that county were generally closely contested and the blacks had enough votes to 'swing’ the election, therefore, the legitimate voters were . . . defeated by NEGRO SLAVES."

The Triumph of Militant Republicanism: A Study of Pennsylvania and Presidential Politics, 1860-1872, by Erwin S. Bradley. Discusses the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Missouri Compromise, Dred Scott Decision, Lancaster and the Christiana Riot, Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Negro suffrage/Negro voting, and many of the Pennsylvania politicians during this time period: Henry D. Foster, John C. Fremont, Thomas L. Kane, Thaddeus Stevens, Simon Cameron, David Wilmot, Andrew Curtain.

Return to Index | PHMC Home | State Archives |