Religious Society of Free Quakers records, 1781-1975


Date: 1781-1975 | Size: 3 Linear feet


This collection contains minutes of the Society, 1781-1975; minutes of the directors of the Corporation, 1929-1947; membership book (with signatures of early members), 1785; and names of later members. There are also deeds to the meeting house and burying ground; treasurers' accounts; reports of officers and committees; bills and receipts for constructing, maintaining, and repairing the meeting house; cancelled checks; and letters to the Society and its officers, especially Samuel Wetherill, 1883-1884.

Background note

Founded in Philadelphia in 1781, the Society of Free Quakers counted Moses Bartram, Clement Biddle, Elizabeth Claypoole (Betsy Ross), Lydia Darragh, Christopher Marshall, Timothy Matlack, Benjamin Say, and Samuel Wethergill, Jr. among its first members.

Collection Information

Physical description

Circa 3 linear feet. (12 boxes & 2 unboxed vols.)


Presented by the Religious Society of Free Quakers, 1957-1981.


See Film #1551 (4 reels) for microfilm copy. 1. Schroeder family. 2. Wetherill family. I. Assoc.: Society of Free Quakers. II. Assoc.: Kennedy, (Mrs.) Alexander.

Early American History Note

This large collection contains a wealth of information on the Free Quakers, founded in 1781 in Philadelphia. The collection contains records up to the 1970s. The early American materials include minutes, legal documents, receipts, information on burial plots, and membership rolls. There are many documents that date to the Society's founding, including minutes, but there are many more for the early nineteenth century. Many of the most prominent members of the Society are mentioned, such as Owen Biddle, Bartram Moses, Samuel Wetherhill, Benjamin Say, and John and Elizabeth Claypoole (Betsy Ross). The earliest minutes contain information on the Free Quakers expulsion from the main Quaker meeting (they record being asked to "walk out") and their formation, which began at the house of Samuel Wetherhill. A letter authored by the women of the Free Society of Friends that contains Elizabeth Calypoole's name is included in the earliest minutes and what appears to be her signature is part of the Membership Book for 1785. John Calypoole is listed as a regular recipient of Society funds. The financial records contain various donations made by members and the expenditures of the meeting, particularly on the upkeep of their meetinghouse. In addition to the records directly relating to the Society, the collection also has a large collection of currency from the revolutionary era.

Indexing Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • Apprentices' Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Society of Free Quakers.


  • Business Records and Accounts
  • Deeds.
  • Journals (notebooks).
  • Minutes.
  • Miscellaneous
  • Photoprints.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Religious life and customs.

Personal Name(s)

  • Bartram, Moses, d. 1791
  • Biddle, Clement, 1740-1814
  • Darragh, Lydia Barrington, 1728-1789
  • Marshall, Christopher, 1709-1797
  • Matlack, Timothy, 1736-1829
  • Ross, Betsy, 1752-1836
  • Say, Benjamin, 1755-1813
  • Wetherill, Samuel, 1736-1816


  • American Revolution
  • Cemeteries -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Philadelphia History
  • Quaker church buildings -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Quakers -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Religion
  • Religious institutions -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Sepulchral monuments -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Society of Friends -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Women's History