Benjamin Rush commonplace book, 1792-1813


Date: 1792-1813 | Size: 1 volume(s), 1 volume, 373 p.


This item contains entries about prominent people (primarily accounts of their deaths); Philadelphia events and gossip; the Pennsylvania Hospital; questions for Meriwether Lewis on Indian physical history, medicine, morals, and religion; and his views on marriage, religion, physicians, etc. Also includes meeting with Captain Wells and Little Turtle; speculations on Indian skin color at the equator.

Background note

Benjamin Rush was a physician, patriot, and humanitarian. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1760, and from the University of Edinburgh, 1768. He was a member of the staff at the Pennsylvania Hospital and was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Digital objects note

This collection contains digital materials that are available in the APS Digital Library. Links to these materials are provided with context in the inventory of this finding aid. A general listing of digital objects may also be found here.

Collection Information


Purchased from Biddle (pt. 3, no. 200; $2050.00) and accessioned, 1943 (1943 84467).

Alternate formats available

Parts of this item are also available on microfilm (Film 813), and there is a photographic copy of this microfilm available in the repository.

Early American History Note

The commonplace book is better described as Benjamin Rush's diary of events from 1792. Rush recounts in great detail the spectacular failure of William Duer and other investors in Philadelphia and New York, noting the panic and uncertainty that swept elite society in those months. The second portion of the volume contains a range of Rush's thoughts and observations on society, making this portion more like a traditional commonplace book.

General note

This item was printed in George W. Corner, ed., "The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush: His Travels through Life, together with his Commonplace Book for 1789-1813," American Philosophical Society Memoirs 25 (1948).

Indexing Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • Pennsylvania Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.)


  • Commonplace Book
  • Diaries

Geographic Name(s)

  • Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.


  • Physicians.

Personal Name(s)

  • Drinker, Henry, 1734-1809
  • Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804
  • Hay, John
  • Lewis, Meriwether, 1774-1809
  • Priestley, Joseph, 1733-1804
  • Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813
  • Woodhouse, James, 1770-1809


  • Business and Skilled Trades
  • Early National Politics
  • Hospitals -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia.
  • Indians of North America
  • Land and Speculation
  • Marriage.
  • Medicine
  • Medicine.
  • Philadelphia History
  • Religion.
  • Science and technology

Detailed Inventory

 Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813.
[Commonplace book]
March, 1792 - February, 1813 

A.D. pp.7-373. Collation: pp.17-18 - bottom torn off pp.19-20 - top cut off pp.31-38,43-44,53-54,63-76,99-104,107-114, 121-126,129-146,151-154,157-158,209-214,

Page 92 A great curiosity. There is a man at present at Mr. Leech's Tavern, the sign of the black horse, in Market-Street, who was born entirely black, and remained so for thirty-eight years, after which his natural colour began to rub off.... He may be seen at any time from eight in the morning till eight in the evening.... July 23, 1796
179615 cm x 23.5 cm

This copy was found pasted into Benjamin Rush's commonplace book and describes a man afflicted with vitiligo (leukemia), a relatively common familial disease in which areas of depigmentation appear on the skin. In its advanced stages, the depigmentation may spread over the entire body.

Other Descriptive Information: Goodman 342

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