Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John G. Spencer Collection, 1827-1855

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: John G. Spencer collection
Creator: Spencer, John G., 1803-1897
Inclusive dates: 1827-1855
Extent: 6 items
The John G. Spencer collection contains diaries and incoming correspondence of Spencer, a storekeeper in Pennsylvania, on political and business topics.
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, 1997. M-1898, M-3355.1.

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:

John G. Spencer Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The John G. Spencer papers are arranged into two series: Correspondence and Diaries.


John G. Spencer was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on June 9, 1803, the son of Amos Spencer and Anna Brown. He taught school for several years and in 1833, entered the mercantile business in Springville, Pennsylvania. In 1834, he married Elizabeth Fetter; they had four children: Arnie Ann (b. ca. 1837), Amos (b. ca. 1842), Charles Watson (b. ca. 1845), and George Franklin (b. ca. 1848). In 1840, he opened a store in Oxford Valley, which he managed until his son, Charles Watson Spencer, succeeded him in 1873. Like many other members of the Spencer family, John was a Quaker; he strongly opposed slavery and had a deep interest in politics. He died March 31, 1897, at the age of 94.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John G. Spencer papers contain four letters and two diaries, spanning 1827-1855. The incoming letters date from 1844-1855 and are from friends and colleagues. They mainly concern Spencer's political activities and allegiance. The first letter invites Spencer and other members of the Oxford Clay Club to a pole-raising (September 24, 1844). Two other letters concern Spencer's involvement with political newspapers; one from "J. Brown" requests that Spencer enroll subscribers for the Intelligencer (August 6, 1850) and the other requests several issues of the Clay Banner, which the writer [Eqi] Justice believed Spencer owned. In the final letter in the collection, Robert Beans advocated a strong antislavery stance in answer to an apparent inquiry by Spencer (September 26, 1855).

The collection's two diaries cover October 30, 1827 to November 23, 1827 and February 27, 1834 to mid-February 1836. The first is a 16-page travel diary entitled "Memorandum of a Voyage to the Falls of Niagara in the Autumn of 1827." In it, Spencer documented his observations on the falls themselves, as well as the places he visited during the journey. On New York City, he noted, "It exceeds Phila. in commercial business, but falls short of it in respect to neatness and elegance" (October 31). He also described rides on several steamboats, and the types of settlements and wildlife he encountered at various stops. After arriving at Niagara Falls on November 9, he gave an account of standing 10 feet from the waterfall, of walking around Devil's Hole, and of an evening trip to a Tuscarora Indian village, where he noted the industriousness of the women. On his return to Pennsylvania, he described travels through Ithaca and Owego. When he arrived home, he observed that the people he met "appear to be ardently engaged in the pursuit of wealth" (November 23, 1827).

The second diary contains scattered entries over a period of approximately two years. It begins with Spencer's marriage to Elizabeth Fetter on February 27, 1834, and his comments upon "giv[ing] up the gay and giddy pleasures of youth for the more solid and mature joys of the married state." Other early entries describe social visits, work in a store, agricultural activities, and health concerns. In the later part of the diary, he described local elections (June 6, 1835) and business activities, including going into business for himself (March 7, 1835).

Subject Terms

    • Bucks County (Pa.)
    • New York (N.Y.)
    • New York (State)--Description and travel.
    • Niagara Falls (N.Y. and Ont.)
    • Pennsylvania--Politics and government--1775-1865.
    • Slavery.
    • Springville (Pa. : Township)
    • Beans, Robert.
    • Hales, Walter N.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   22, Small Collections  
    Correspondence,  September 24, 1844-September 26, 1855 [series]
    Box   22, Small Collections  
    Diaries [series]
    "Memorandum of a Voyage to the Falls of Niagara in the Autumn of 1827,"  October 30, 1827-November 23, 1827
    Diary,  February 27, 1834-February 18, 1836
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Battle, J. H. History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania: Including an Account of Its Original Exploration. Spartanburg, S.C: Reprint Co, 1985.