PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records




Manuscript Group 252
1786-1856 (bulk 1828-42)
.25 cu. ft.

Items collected by William J. Duane, Girard's lawyer. The bulk of the material covers the last years of Girard's life during which he was actively engaged in acquiring extensive coal lands in Schuylkill County. Duane was a key figure in arranging for these purchases and in resolving complex title questions. This active role is reflected by materials in the collection. Light is also shed by some of this material on Girard's relationship with the legislature and on the pressures he brought to bear on behalf of his projects. Correspondence provides considerable detail on the drawing up of Girard's famous will and the provision for Girard College, Girard's last illness and death, and the bitter wrangling which erupted immediately following his death as attempts were made to overset the will.

Included are some 32 letters, 17 memoranda, and 12 documents. There is a lengthy, signed, legal opinion, from William Wirt, dealing with Girard's title to the Schuylkill County lands. There are a number of miscellaneous items, perhaps the most interesting the receipt, which Duane purchased at auction in 1857, from Captain J. P. Beresford, for the $180,000 ransom which Girard paid in 1813 to retrieve his ship, the Montesquieu, which had been captured by the British, in Delaware Bay. Along with the receipt is the auctioneer's attestation of Duane's purchase. Other items include a plan of Peel Hall (the property purchased by Girard for his college), and Dr. Edmund Physick's "recipe" for Girard's last illness.

A featured item is a copy of an unusual printing of Girard's "Deed of Trust and Will." The volume, presumably one of a very few copies printed for the executors and possibly the principal heirs, belonged to Duane, signed, and dated by him, February, 1832 (Girard died, December 28, 1831). The copy has marginal notes by Duane and his handwritten copy of an article which appeared in the North American Review, January, 1865, which describes very vividly the fury of the disappointed relatives at the reading of the will.

The collection also embraces a scrapbook, which contains a picture of the model of the statue of Girard by N. Gevelot; a petition to the "Select & Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia" testifying that this statue is "an exact & striking likeness" of Stephen Girard; and the signatures of over 700 prominent Philadelphians who signed the petition.

PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records