Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Girard Papers, 1780-1870

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, April 2012

Summary Information
Title: Girard papers
Creator: Reichert, John P.
Inclusive dates: 1780-1870
Bulk dates: 1793-1870
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
Abstract:
This collection holds 18 business letters written by Philadelphia merchant Stephen Girard, as well as approximately 25 legal and financial documents concerning his professional affairs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Also included are 17 partially printed bank checks drawn on Girard and approximately 170 bills and receipts related to the expenses of Girard College, a school founded by a bequest in Stephen Girard's will.
Language: The material is in English and French
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: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2004. M-4375.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Provenance:

John P. Reichert Collection of Girardiana.

Preferred Citation:

Girard papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents and Financial Records
    • Subseries I: Stephen Girard and Girard College
    • Subseries II: Israel Kinsman and Kinsman & Wright bank checks

The correspondence series is arranged chronologically. The Documents and Financial Records are organized in two chronological subseries.


Biography

Stephen Girard was born near Bordeaux, France, on May 20, 1750, the son of Pierre Girard, an officer in the French navy, and his wife, Odette Lafargue. From his teenage years into his early twenties, he worked as a cabin boy on merchant ships engaged in West Indian trade. In 1774, he became an officer on a ship bound for Saint-Domingue, which then sailed to New York City with a consignment of goods. He stayed in New York until 1776, when he moved to Philadelphia. He remained there for the rest of his life. Girard built a successful international shipping business and owned several trading vessels, including the Good Friends and the North America .

Stephen Girard amassed a fortune from his later work in banking and finance. When Congress failed to re-charter the First Bank of the United States in 1810, Girard purchased the Bank's headquarters and ran the re-named, unchartered Bank of Stephen Girard until his death. He supported the founding of the Second Bank of the United States, and became a notable philanthropist. In his will, Girard established Girard College, a boarding school for boys who were from single-parent families or who had been orphaned. Today, Girard College in Philadelphia is a co-ed boarding school for qualified students whose families have limited financial resources. Stephen Girard married Mary Lum in 1777, but had no children. He died on December 26, 1831.


Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains 18 business letters written by Philadelphia merchant Stephen Girard, as well as approximately 25 legal and financial documents concerning his professional affairs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Also included are 17 partially printed bank checks drawn on Girard and about 170 bills and receipts related to the expenses of Girard College, a school founded by a bequest in Stephen Girard's will. The collection is arranged in two series: Correspondence, and Documents and Financial Records. The Documents and Financial Records are divided in two subseries: Stephen Girard and Girard College, and Israel Kinsman and Kinsman & Wright bank checks.

The Correspondence series consists of 18 letters from Stephen Girard to business acquaintances concerning his shipping interests between 1787 and 1829. The first 2 letters, dated March and April 1787, were written in French and addressed to Garnier of Spring Hill, New Jersey. Girard wrote one letter to F. D. Petit du Villers of Savannah, Georgia, about the shipment of Georgia pine wood (February 21, 1810); one to Allen M. Lane, an official in Wilmington, Delaware (April 22, 1812); and six to William Adgate, supercargo of Girard's ship Good Friends (August 5, 1811-May 20, 1812). In his letters to Adgate, Girard discussed the Non-Importation Act's effects on foreign trade and provided him with instructions as the Good Friends sailed between Newcastle, England, and Amelia Island, Georgia.

Girard sent 8 letters to eight different recipients between June 19, 1814, and June 27, 1829 - all related to his shipping interests. In a letter to David Parish of Washington, D.C., dated June 19, 1814, he expressed his thoughts on peace and on his recent meetings with John Jacob Astor. On December 3, 1827, he wrote to Secretary of State Henry Clay respecting French spoliation claims originally filed on June 4, 1795. Girard's final letter advised Captain Levi Bardin of the North America that the ship was to sail from Alexandria, Virginia, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, with a load of tobacco (June 27, 1829).

The Documents and Financial Records series is divided into two subseries: Stephen Girard and Girard College , and Israel Kinsman and Kinsman & Wright bank checks . The Stephen Girard and Girard College subseries contains materials related to Stephen Girard's shipping and financial interests ([February] 1781-March 20, 1827) and to the operations of Girard College (March 13, 1857-January 12, 1870). Approximately 25 receipts, bills of sale, accounts, inventories, contracts, and other documents relate to Stephen Girard's business affairs. Many of these items are partially printed documents, signed by Stephen Girard. Several early documents were written in French. Four documents include values of specific ships' cargoes and relevant duties. At least one item, a subscription form, pertains to the Second Bank of the United States (January 14, 1817), and another reflects shipping insurance purchased from Samuel Coates (November 23, 1793).

This subseries also contains approximately 170 bills and receipts issued to Girard College for a variety of supplies, including foodstuffs, cleaning supplies, and clothing. The largest portion concerns vegetables and meats, and everyday items, such as brooms and pails, cloth, and shoes. Others reflect the costs of keeping up the building, such as painting the college, repairing one of its boilers, purchasing coal, and paying wages.

The Israel Kinsman and Kinsman & Wright bank checks subseries consists of 17 partially printed checks, drawn on "Stephen Girard, Banker" by Philadelphia merchants Israel Kinsman and Kinsman & Wright (January 21, 1818-December 22, 1824).

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Banks and banking.
    • Europe--Commerce--United States.
    • French spoliation claims.
    • Girard College.
    • Good Friends (Ship)
    • Merchants--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
    • North America (Ship)
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Commerce.
    • Shipping.
    • United States--Commerce--Europe.
    Contributors:
    • Girard, Stephen, 1750-1831.
    Genre Terms:
    • Contracts.
    • Documents.
    • Financial records.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Receipts (financial records)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
     
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   1-2
      March 12, 1787-June 27, 1829
     
    Documents and Financial Records [series]:
     
    Stephen Girard and Girard College [subseries]:
    Box   1 Folder   3-16
      January 20, 1780-January 12, 1870, and   July 10, 1940    [Note: 3 items are located in Oversize Manuscripts]
     
    Israel Kinsman and Kinsman & Wright bank checks [subseries]:
    Box   1 Folder   17-18
      January 21, 1818-December 22, 1824
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Printed materials from the John P. Reichert Collection of Girardiana are located at Girard College.

    Ephemeral items and visual materials from the John P. Reichert Collection of Girardiana are located in the Clements Library Graphics Division, including one 19th century Portrait of Stephen Girard with Vignettes.

    Related Materials

    The American Travel collection contains a letter from Azelia G. Woodhull to Mrs. Alexander Grant, describing Girard College (May 17, 1847).

    The Graphics Division holds two portraits and one satirical depiction of Stephen Girard.

    Bibliography

    Perkins, Edwin J. "Girard, Stephen." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000. DOI: 10-00635.