Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Langstroth Family Papers, 1778-1955

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Langstroth family papers
Creator: Langstroth family
Inclusive dates: 1778-1955
Bulk dates: 1831-1911
Extent: 780 items (1.5 linear feet)
The Langstroth Family papers document the activities and relationships of several generations of the Langstroth family, originally of Philadelphia, including the founding of several schools for women and African Americans, the experiences of a patient the Friends Asylum, and service in the Civil War.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1980, 1998. M-1898, M-3491.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Langstroth Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Langstroth family papers are arranged in four series:

  • Correspondence
  • Legal and Financial Papers
  • Diaries
  • Miscellaneous

Within each series, the items are arranged chronologically.


First Generation

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.

Second Generation

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.

Later Generations

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.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The correspondence series comprises 600 items covering 1831-1955, and sheds light on the personal lives, careers, and activities of several generations of the Langstroth family. The bulk of the earliest letters, dating from the 1830s, are from Catharine Langstroth to her father and siblings. These letters concern the death of her sister Sarah, financial issues, and the health of several family members, including Margaretta, and refer to temperance (July 20, 1835 “It affords me much pleasure to know that you gathered in your hay on temperance principles”) and religious study. One letter of particular interest is dated January 3, 1839, and was written by Margaretta during a stay at the Friends Asylum in Philadelphia. It describes a harrowing series of treatments for unspecified mental problems: “My head has been cut open to the bone for 3 inches; and large [peas?] inserted; a lead placed over the slit and on the top of this a bread & milk poultice has been applied for two months… My hair has been shaved at least 6 times; and three times since the head was opened.” Margaretta also described the Asylum’s lectures, food, and other patients (“only deranged at intervals”).

Letters from the 1840s and 1850s were written by a variety of family members and document the founding of Mount Holly Institute for Young Ladies; the courtship of Thomas Langstroth, III, and Mary Hauss; and a range of religious attitudes, from Margaretta’s intense piety to Thomas’ doubt (December 12, 1853: “most all the young men in our church just before they got married have made a profession of religion, and how have they turned out! Look at them one half are as bad as they were before: but I have no right to judge.”). In early 1855, Margaretta wrote a series of letters from near Pine Bluff, Arkansas, describing her efforts at religious and educational outreach to slaves, for whom she felt sympathy (February 7, 1855: “Slaves! poor slaves! how my heart bleeds for them, they toil from night to morn, from morn to night--live and die here without knowledge enough to save the soul.”).

Little documentation of the family exists from the Civil War period, despite Edward and Thomas’ service on opposite sides, but Edward’s letter to Margaretta of July 14, 1865, indicates a rift between himself and his sisters, perhaps arising from his joining the Confederacy. Letters of the 1860s and 1870s are mainly incoming to Margaretta and concern teaching, finances, and advice. A number of letters to Thomas from the 1880s contain information about his brother Edward’s health. Approximately 25 folders of letters date from the 20th-century and were written between Hugh Tener Langstroth, his sister, Sara Paxson, and other relatives. These concern travel, social visits, health, and business matters.

The financial and legal documents series consists of 124 items relating to the Langstroth family, covering 1778-1913. It includes wills, records relating to milling, land indentures, an account book of 1814-1817 kept by Thomas Langstroth, Jr., paperwork related to loans, and other materials. Some materials relate to the bank failure which forced Langstroth to sell his mill in 1836. Only 15 items date from 1851-1913.

The diaries and journals series represents six volumes and a few fragments, covering the 1830s to the 1860s, all written by Margaretta Langstroth. The volumes dating from the 1830s contain biographies of historical figures and may have been used in school. Subsequent diaries recorded daily entries of varying length, covering parts of 1864-1868. The 1864 volume includes Margaretta’s memorials of deceased family members and is thus a good source of genealogical information. More commonly, her entries describe daily activities, religious meditations, and frequently seem to reflect a fragile mental state, as in this exceprt of April 15, 1865: “Abraham Lincoln shot in the Washington Theatre Secretary Sewar [sic] had this throat cut I hope Edwar [sic] has no hand in this what makes me fear that he had” or an entry of June 19, 1866, describing the death of a robin: “I felt very badly cannot describe my suffering poor bird…read hymns as it was dying wondering if it would live elsewhere[.] In bed all day so distressed so wretched…” In a number of passages, Margaretta noted the Sunday School classes that she taught, and commented on the number of students and the subjects of her lessons.

Subject Terms

    • African Americans--Education.
    • Akers, Benjamin Paul, 1825-1861.
    • Atlantic City (N.J.)
    • Collecting of accounts.
    • Conduct of life.
    • Courtship.
    • Death.
    • Debt.
    • Education.
    • Faith.
    • Family life.
    • Friends' Asylum for the Insane.
    • Langstroth, Margaretta.
    • Little Rock (Ark.)
    • Marianna (Fla.)
    • Mental illness.
    • Mentally ill--Treatment.
    • Milton, John, 1807-1865.
    • Mount-Holly Female Seminary.
    • Mount Holly (N.J.)
    • Music--Instruction and study.
    • New Orleans (La.)
    • Paper mills.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)
    • Pine Bluff (Ark.) .
    • Plum Bayou (Ark.)
    • Poetry.
    • Religious education.
    • Teachers.
    • Temperance.
    • Trenton (N.J.)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Social aspects.
    • West Philadelphia Female Seminary.
    • Women teachers.
    • Women--Education--United States.
    • Banister, Zilpah P. Grant (Zilpah Polly Grant), 1794-1874 .
    • Boureau, Henry.
    • Chisman, Catherine Langstroth.
    • Chisman, Timothy .
    • Haines, Eugene.
    • Langstroth, Caroline.
    • Langstroth, Catharine Clara.
    • Langstroth, Edward F.B., 1837-1881.
    • Langstroth, Margaretta, 1816-1896.
    • Langstroth, James.
    • Langstroth, Margaretta, 1816-1896.
    • Langstroth, Thomas, 1775-1861.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    • Diaries.
    • Legal documents.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     13 December 1831-6 September 1838    [Note: letter from P.T.D. to Thomas Langstroth of March 20, 1838 is located in Oversize]
    Box   1 Folder   2
     10 November 1838-13 March 1839
    Box   1 Folder   3
     15 April 1839-10 September 1841
    Box   1 Folder   4
     21 October 1841-3 September 1845    [Note: letter to Margaretta Langstroth, February 1845 is located in Oversize]
    Box   1 Folder   5
     13 February 1846-21 June 1851
    Box   1 Folder   6
     1 November 1853-7 February 1855
    Box   1 Folder   7
     10 February 1855-10 September 1855
    Box   1 Folder   8
     19 September 1855-1 September 1857
    Box   1 Folder   9
     12 October 1857-3 July 1858
    Box   1 Folder   10
     15 July 1858-21 September 1858
    Box   1 Folder   11
    22 September 1858-Undated  1858
    Box   1 Folder   12
    Undated 1858-6 April 1859
    Box   1 Folder   13
     21 April 1859-28 February 1860
    Box   1 Folder   14
     8 March 1860-17 September 1860
    Box   1 Folder   15
     22 September 1860-11 December 1860
    Box   1 Folder   16
     19 December 1860-21 March 1861
    Box   1 Folder   17
     26 September 1861-22 July 1862
    Box   1 Folder   18
     26 October 1863-2 September 1864
    Box   1 Folder   19
     18 November 1864-30 October 1865
    Box   1 Folder   20
     3 November 1865-12 February 1866
    Box   1 Folder   21
     15 February 1866-25 October 1866
    Box   1 Folder   22
    Undated  October 1866-7 March 1867
    Box   1 Folder   23
     26 August 1867-3 June 1868
    Box   1 Folder   24
     27 January 1868-30 January 1900
    Box   1 Folder   25
    30 January 1901
    Box   1 Folder   26
     6 May 1906-6 July 1906
    Box   2 Folder   1
     8 July 1906-22 May 1907
    Box   2 Folder   2
     13 January 1908-3 December 1909
    Box   2 Folder   3
     3 December 1909-12 December 1909
    Box   2 Folder   4
     19 December 1909-29 December 1909
    Box   2 Folder   5
     31 December 1910-19 May 1910
    Box   2 Folder   6
     16 October 1910-26 December 1910
    Box   2 Folder   7
     26 December 1910-5 January 1911
    Box   2 Folder   8
     4 January 1911-14 January 1911
    Box   2 Folder   9
     15 January 1911-19 January 1911
    Box   2 Folder   10
    20 January 1911-[22 January 1911]
    Box   2 Folder   11
    22 January 1911-[25 January 1911]
    Box   2 Folder   12
     25 January 1911-29 January 1911
    Box   2 Folder   13
     30 January 1911-2 February 1911
    Box   2 Folder   14
     3 February 1911-7 February 1911
    Box   2 Folder   15
    19 March-28 March 1911
    Box   2 Folder   16
     28 March 1911-3 April 1911
    Box   2 Folder   17
     3 April 1911-5 April 1911
    Box   3 Folder   1
     11 April 1911-19 April 1911
    Box   3 Folder   2
     20 April 1911-25 April 1911
    Box   3 Folder   3
     25 April 1911-12 June 1911
    Box   3 Folder   4
     6 September 1912-28 March 1955
    Box   3 Folder   5
    Box   3 Folder   6
    Box   3 Folder   7
    Financial and legal papers [series]
    Box   3 Folder   8
     1 January 1778-16 April 1810
    Box   3 Folder   9
     23 April 1810-2 May 1821
    Box   3 Folder   10
     27 March 1824-19 May 1827
    Box   3 Folder   11
     23 June 1827-22 September 1830
    Box   3 Folder   12
     11 May 1831-28 February 1833
    Box   3 Folder   13
     12 April 1833-4 August 1837
    Box   3 Folder   14
     6 October 1837-5 April 1839
    Box   3 Folder   15
     17 June 1839-20 April 1841    [Note: land indenture of the sale of land in Montgomery County between Spencer Shoemaker and Thomas Langstroth, January 28, 1841 located in Oversize]
    Box   3 Folder   16
     25 May 1841-12 February 1849
    Box   3 Folder   17
     29 July 1851-13 September 1913, and  undated
    Diaries and Journals [series]
    Box   3 Folder   18
    Notebook,  1830s (Margaretta Langstroth)
    Notebook,  1830s (Margaretta Langstroth)
    Diary,  1864-1865 (Margaretta Langstroth)
    Box   3 Folder   19
    Diary,   February-September 1866 (Margaretta Langstroth)
    Box   3 Folder   20
    Diary,   December 1866-March 1867 (Margaretta Langstroth)
    Box   3 Folder   21
    Diary,   July 1867-May 1868 (Margaretta Langstroth)
    Box   3 Folder   22
    Diary fragments,  1864-1867
    Miscellaneous [series]
    Box   3 Folder   23
    Genealogy and unidentified photograph, ca.  1865
    Box   3 Folder   24
    Printed items,  1886-1911
    Box   3 Folder   25
    Printed items,  1911 and  undated
    Box   3 Folder   26
    Empty envelopes
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Several letters and documents are housed in Oversize Manuscripts.

    Related Materials

    Catalogue and Prospectus of the Mount Holly Female Seminary, Mount Holly, Burlington County, N.J.. Philadelphia : Stavely & McCalla, printers, 1854. Miss Langstroth and her husband Mr. Chisholm are mentioned in the catalog.