The William Young papers center on the lives of William Young and his son-in-law John McAllister, Jr., and through these lives document a wide scope of business, cultural, family and religious history both in America and Scotland. The strengths of the collection are its documentation of William Young's careers as printer, publisher, bookseller and paper maker; the Associate Presbyterian Church; John McAllister's antiquarian interests; and the personal lives of the Young and McAllister families.
The earliest papers in the collection date from William Young's days as a Scottish seminarian, and include valuable information on the Associate Presbytery of Scotland. A group of letters written after the Youngs' removal to America, 1784, documents European interest in the new nation: the immigrants received many letters from Scottish friends (and potential emigrants) inquiring into the details of America life. Young kept certain business concerns in Scotland; his brother Stephen and Agnes Young's brothers, William and John McLaws, were all active in the book trade, and their correspondence provides some insight into the burgeoning international book business.
The backbone of the collection is the correspondence relating to William Young's diverse business enterprises from the 1780s through 1820s. Among the later material, the correspondence between William Young McAllister and his thirty-year-old son, William Mitchell McAllister (7:54 and 56), stands out as illustration of a father's displeasure over his son's mismanagement of affairs during the disastrous panic of 1873. Also interesting is a plaintive letter written by the 52 year-old Thomas H. Young (7:59) in 1876, asking his aging father to bail out his business with a handout of $5,000.00. Box 8 contains a large quantity of receipts, accounts, and other business papers of Young's, along with information on the tangled settlement of Young's estate (8:30) and information on the settlement of other estates. Additional information on Young's estate is located with the oversized material (see Separation Record).
The Young Papers also contains rich resources for study of the history of the Associate Presbyterian Church in America. One of the smallest Presbyterian denominations, the Associate Presbyterians preserved few primary resources and little survives from their presence on the American scene; the Young Papers contain some of the earliest records known for that church (folder 8-37). Among other Associate Presbyterian ministers represented in the collection is Rev. Thomas Hamilton (1776-1818), William Young's son-in-law. Much of the work compiled by John McAllister Jr. in compiling the Associate Presbyterian volume of Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, is preserved in folder 8:10.
Yellow fever in Philadelphia (1793) and the nation's first major cholera epidemic (1832) are both well documented through letters containing medical information, largely confined to home remedies and professional advice on medicines. There is some discussion of Frances Stevenson's illness which cost her the use of a leg, resulting in her use of a prosthesis (6:88). In addition, there is a detailed report on the body of Dr. William R. Grant in 1852 (folder 7:6).
The photographs associated with the collection include valuable insights into family relations within both the Young and McAllister families (1:1 to 1:8), particularly when seen in conjunction with the large number of personal letters between family members. William Young's instructions to his housekeeper (3:54), John McAllister's consultations with his wife on business matters, race relations in Philadelphia (5:9, 6:11), relations with a mother-in-law (4:58), and the execution of Robert Morris's seldom-mentioned and ne'er-do-well son Charles (4:21) are among the topics discussed. Perhaps the wittiest correspondent is Mary Ann Hunter, a friend of Eliza Young McAllister, whose observations on Philadelphia society in the first decades of the 19th century are trenchant and insightful and read almost like a novel.