Thomas Langstroth, Jr., was born on February 21, 1775, in Germantown (now Philadelphia), Pennsylvania. He was the fourth of thirteen children born to Thomas Langstroth, Sr., (1745-1800), an immigrant from Yorkshire, England, and his German immigrant wife, Catherine Youck (1751-1831). By 1794, the family was living in Moreland Township, and Thomas, Sr., had purchased Israel Hallowell Mill, a paper mill on Pennypack Creek. Thomas, Jr., and his brother John worked as apprentices in the mill, and inherited the operation upon their father’s death in 1800. When the mill was destroyed by fire in 1809, John Langstroth stepped down, and Thomas raised the money for its reconstruction through popular subscription.
Around 1809, Langstroth married Mary Lupp. The two had at least six children before Mary’s death at age 47 in 1827: Catharine Clara (b. 1810), Caroline Frances (1812-1829), Amanda Louisa (1814-1842), Margaretta (1816-1896), Mary M. (b. 1820), and Sarah Josephine (d. 1835). After the death of his wife, Thomas married Hannah E. Boureau (b. 1798-) and had five more children: Alonzo (January 4 - October 31, 1829), Thomas Henry (1830-1916), Caroline Frances (1832-1855), Cyrus C. (b. 1834), Edward F.B. (1837-1881), and William H. (1841-1864).
Thomas suffered a financial setback in 1835, when the State Bank at Trenton declared itself bankrupt. That December, Thomas and other creditors sued for their unpaid funds; Thomas stood to lose $1500. The State Legislature voted to extend their charter long enough for the bank to pay all its creditors, but Langstroth was forced to sell the Hallowell Mill during the interim, in order to remain solvent. Langstroth died December 25, 1861, at the age of 76.
Catharine Clara Langstroth’s first husband was James E. Moore. They had three children together, but all died in infancy, and Moore himself died in 1830. Catharine remarried several years later, to a schoolteacher named Timothy Chisman, and the Chismans began teaching female students in their home around 1840. They opened Mount Holly Institute for Young Ladies on May 2, 1843, offering an education combining “accurate scientific instruction, with discreet and maternal supervision over the morals and manners of…pupils” (25 April 1843 letter, written on the back of a Mount Holly advertisement). Catharine’s sisters, Mary and Margaretta, were both employed as teachers at the school during the 1840s. Timothy Chisman died on January 17, 1855, and Catharine and Mary removed to Philadelphia, where they ran the West Philadelphia Female Seminary. Letters in the collection imply that Catharine ("Sister Chisman") died in 1867 (January 27, 1867; November 29, 1867).
Margaretta (also known as Marguerite and Margaret) Langstroth’s life was bookended by stays in mental hospitals, first in the Friend’s Asylum 1838-39 and finally in the State Lunatic Asylum in Ewing, New Jersey, sometime before 1880. However, between these confinements, she had a productive career as a teacher, first at Mount Holly, and then in several positions in Arkansas and Florida. In 1855, she was teaching religious lessons to young slaves near Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and during the Civil War, she taught Sunday School to African Americans in Pennsylvania. She died in 1896.
Thomas Henry Langstroth worked in his youth as a clerk and farmer and in 1854, married Mary Elizabeth Hauss. In 1857, they moved to Maryland, where Thomas conducted a livery stable and a mail route. Langstroth served with the Quartermaster’s Department of the Union Army and the 5th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War. Thomas and Mary had 10 children. Thomas died February 14, 1916.
Thomas’ younger brother, Edward F.B. Langstroth, sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, enlisting with the Army of Northern Virginia, but gallstones prevented him from seeing much action. He recuperated in General Hospital No. 11, and then served as a druggist and hospital steward in Confederate Hospitals until the end of the war. He later worked as teacher, law clerk, and physician, primarily residing in Vinton, Iowa, where he died in 1881.
Most of the 20th century correspondence revolves around Kate Souder Langstroth (1853-1939), the widow of Theodore Ashmead Langstroth (1882-1968). Theodore Ashmead Langstroth was the great nephew of Thomas Langstroth, Jr., and the grandson of Thomas' brother, Piscator.