Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James Mease Journal, 1835, 1841

Duane Norman Diedrich Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, July 1996

Summary Information
Title: James Mease journal
Creator: Mease, James, 1771-1846
Inclusive dates: 1835; 1841
Extent: 75 pages
The James Mease journal documents two trips taken by Mr. Mease of Philadelphia: the first to eastern Pennsylvania in 1835 and New York State and the second to Washington, D.C. in 1841.
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:

1987. M-2382.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

James Mease Journal, Duane Norman Diedrich Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.


James Mease was born on August 11, 1771, the son of Philadelphians John and Esther (Miller) Mease. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1787, he continued in medical school there, receiving his M.D. in 1792. Early in his medical career, Mease published several articles, and he served as a surgeon for nine months during the War of 1812. His published contributions to medical knowledge, however, were less significant than his contributions to several other fields. In addition to several medical works, Mease edited the well-received Domestic Encyclopedia (1803-04) and the two volume Archives of useful knowledge (1811-12), but he remains best known for his Picture of Philadelphia (1807) and his Geological Account of the United States (1807), which was among the earliest geological treatises by an American. A numismatist, Mease published "Description of Some of the Medals Struck in Relation to Important Events in North America" in the Collections of the New York Historical Society (vol. 3, 1821). Many of his papers were read before the American Philosophical Society, to which he was elected in 1802 and of which he was an officer, 1824-1836. He was a founder and first vice-president of the Philadelphia Athenaeum.

On July 3, 1800, Mease married Sarah Butler, the daughter of South Carolina Senator, Pierce Butler. They had two sons, both of whom changed their surnames as adults to Butler in order to secure an inheritance. One of the sons, Pierce Butler, married the renowned stage actress, Frances Anne Kemble. James Mease died in Philadelphia on May 14, 1846, and was buried in the cemetery of Third Presbyterian Church.

Collection Scope and Content Note

James Mease kept his journal during two separate periods: during a trip through eastern Pennsylvania and New York state, August-September 1835 (pp. 1-62), and during a journey to Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1841 (pp. 63-75). Laid into the volume is a half-sheet containing a partial letter by Mease to one of his sons and some travel notes.

Although the journal is not signed, it has been attributed to Mease because of direct references it makes (pp. 16, 71) to his essay "Description of Some of the Medals Struck..." The handwriting was subsequently shown to match other Mease manuscripts in the Clements Library. Mease's On Utility of Public Loan Offices and Savings Funds by City Authorities (1836) is of interest in that the journeys recorded in the first part of the Clements Library's journal appear to have been taken to gather information for that work.

Two themes run throughout Mease's journal. The first is his strong sense of history. Mease was careful to note historical events which had occurred on sites he was visiting -- making reference both to events which he had witnessed and about which he had read. The second theme is his interest in people, particularly the "common man." Mease enjoyed the friendship and society of some of the most noted persons of his day, yet he was fascinated by a visit with an ordinary citizen, exploring that person's life story, which he would record in his journal.

Subject Terms

    • African Americans.
    • Allentown (Pa.)--Description and travel.
    • Banks and banking--Pennsylvania.
    • Bloomsburg (Pa.)--Description and travel.
    • Botany.
    • Cemeteries--Pennsylvania.
    • Education--Finance.
    • Germans--Pennsylvania.
    • Hall, James (b. 1773)
    • Hotels--Pennsylvania.
    • Hotels--New York (State)
    • New York (City)--Description and travel.
    • New York (State)--Description and travel.
    • Pennsylvania--Description and travel.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1 Pages   1-62
    Trip through Pennsylvania and New York,  August 1835-September 1835 [series]
    Leaves Philadelphia for Bristol.
    Recalls how mineral water cured his yellow fever, 1793. Visits cemetery to see graves of Revolutionary War figures and actor John Henry (1746-1794).
    To Newtown; description of hotel.
    Taylorsville school levy fails: opposers were illiterates with several children.
    His 63rd birthday. Reads memoir of Simon Bolivar.
    View from seat beside stagecoach driver.
    Description of road from Point Pleasant to White's Hotel at Easton; description of hotel.
    Easton's vote on recent tax levy: who supported and who did not. Germans in particular were opposed to tax.
    Founding of South Easton, Easton's countersettlement. Corrects a county map based on Scull's pre-war map.
    Tavern at Allentown.
    Discussion with coin collector; biographical sketch of this man, James Hall (b. 1773); description of his collection. Mease promises Hall a book on American coins, colonial and national.
    Description of Allentown.
    Coal mine at Beaver Dam. Climate of area.
    Meets C. Brobst, age 72, who managed to get state of Pennsylvania to splurge $5,000 on a bridge over the Susquehanna River near Danville.
    Description of Bloomsburg.
    Discovery of a cemetery where eighty-one patriot soldiers were buried in a mass grave after Tory-Indian raid on Wyoming Valley, 1778. Zebulon Butler (1731-1795) led American troops.
    Meets Joseph Lewis, son of William Lewis (1759-1819)?--good commentary about young man's life.
    Biographical sketch of John Read, once "banker of the King of Wurtemburg." Discusses America as a haven for the have-nots of other countries.
    Silver Lake: description of Dr. Robert H. Rose's house, family, library, and sheep business (Rose established an experimental community for Free Blacks at Silver in 1833).
    Carbondale: bank defrauded its depositors in 1827-28.
    Scotch settlers better than the "vagabond English." Long description of ride on railroad's inclined plane.
    Lock House on Delaware & Hudson Canal, operated by 13-year-old girl.
    Walenpaupack (?) Falls.
    He crosses into New York.
    Description of a scow, with sketch, on Delaware River at Port Jervis.
    Milford: disgusting courthouse and jail.
    Stony soil of Sullivan County.
    Silver and lead mine at Ellanville.
    Discussion with hotel keeper about flowers, esp. clematis.
    Is served cheese and brandy for breakfast.
    Eddyville: hears sermon in Presbyterian Church.
    Kingston Landing, N.Y.
    Sails in boat to New York City. Trinity Church. Description of privet hedges at Trinity Church; discussion of privets.
    New York City paving street by City Hall with wooden blocks.
    Description of "Mr. Astor's immense granite hotel."
    "Mud machine" excavates for dock. Visit to Rapalje book and paper press.
    Visits Peale's Museum; sees orangutan, anaconda, and a magician.
    Falls ill and is tended by a "free negro."
    Volume   1 Pages   63-75
    Trip to Washington, D.C., summer  1841 [series]
    Reference to career as a physician, 1794-98. Site of Battle of Red Bank, N.J. (1777). Travel companions: Nathaniel Silsbee (1773-1850) and daughter.
    African-American porter refuses tip because coin is worn. Dinner at Whitman's Hotel: food bad, African-American waiters "shuffle"
    Another porter deceives him.
    Bankruptcy of private person who invested in Bank of the U.S. Brown's Hotel.  1840 election spoils: political appointments. Comment on insincerity of Henry Clay (1777-1852).
    St. Clair Clark, Clerk of House of Representatives. Views John Trumbull's (1756-1843) painting, "Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown" and critiques the scene: "So difficult is it to come to the precise knowledge of an actual fact."
    In Capitol, recalls what building looked like after British left Washington in 1814.
    John Sergeant (1779-1852) gives him a seat in Ladies' Gallery of House of Representatives. Hears Robert Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876) speak against tariff. Sees John Pope (1770-1845). Meets with John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), an old friend.
    Adams promises to introduce him to John Tyler (1790-1862). Visits with Adams in the evening. Wishes to see Tyler on topic of Maine/New Brunswick boundary. Carriage ride with Adams
    Adams introduces Mease onto floor of House. Plans for publishing work on American commemorative medals if Congress will back the project; Library committee to discuss it.
    Visit to patent office. His own plan for processing patent applications is in use. Reference to the Domestic Encyclopedia.
    Thomas Cooper (1759-1839) writings critiqued. He meets Tyler in company with Adams. White House tourists. Thler says he has appointed his son to see to refurbishing mansion within limits of $6,000 set by Congress.
    Talks with Census office re its errors in counting slaves in Pennsylvania. Attends Unitarian Church. Senate discusses Bank bill.
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The following is a list of Mease's publications held at the William L. Clements Library:

    Mease, James. A geological account of the United States : comprehending a short description of their animal, vegetable, and mineral productions, antiquities, and curiosities (Philadelphia : Birch & Small, 1807)

    Mease, James. A reply to the criticisms by J.N. Barker, on the historical facts in the Picture of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Clark & Fraser, printers, 1828)

    Mease, James. Address on the subject of establishing a pattern farm in the vicinity of Philadelphia: delivered at the annual meeting of the "Philadelphia society for promoting agriculture." (Philadelphia: Printed by order of the Society, 1818)

    Mease, James. An inaugural dissertation on the disease produced by the bite of a mad dog, or other rabid animal: submitted to the examination of the Rev. John Ewing, S.T.P., provost; the trustees and medical faculty of the University of Pennsylvania; on the eleventh day of May, 1792, for the degree of doctor of medicine (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas Dobson, at the Stone-house, Second street, [1792])

    Mease, James. The picture of Philadelphia, giving an account of its origin, increase and improvements in arts, sciences, manufactures, commerce and revenue (Philadelphia: Published by B. & T. Kite, no. 20, N. Third-Street. For sale by them and Joseph Delaplaine. 1811)

    Mease, James. Picture of Philadelphia, giving an account of its origin, increase and improvements in arts, sciences, manufactures, commerce, and revenue... continued by Tomas Porter ( Philadelphia, R. Desilver, 1831)

    Wilson, Thomas. Picture of Philadelphia, for 1824, containing the "Picture of Philadelphia, for 1811, by James Mease, M.D." with all its improvements since that period (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas Town, no. 38, Chesnut-Street. 1823)

    Partial Subject Index
    Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
    • 69-73
    African Americans
    • 61, 64-65
    Allentown (Pa.)--Description and travel
    • 14-17
    Banks and banking--Pennsylvania
    • 36, 74
    Bloomsburg (Pa.)--Description and travel
    • 25-26
    • 51, 55
    Brobst, C.
    • 24
    Butler, Zebulon, 1731-1795
    • 28
    • 42
    • 2, 28
    • 74
    Clay, Henry, 1777-1852
    • 66
    Coal mines and mining--Pennsylvania
    • 19
    Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839
    • 73
    • 4, 11
    • 11, 24, passim.
    Hall, James (b. 1773)
    • 15-16
    Henry, John, 1746-1794
    • 2
    Hotels, taverns, etc.--Pennsylvania
    • 3, 9, 14
    Hotels, taverns, etc.--New York (State)
    • 51, 64, 66
    Lewis, William, 1759-1819
    • 30
    • 13
    Mines and mineral resources--New York (State)
    • 50
    Mines and mineral resources--Pennsylvania
    • 19
    Museums--New York (N.Y.)
    • 60
    New York (City)--Description and travel
    • 55-61
    New York (State)--Description and travel
    • 44-62
    Numismatics--Collectors and collecting
    • 15, 71
    • 72-73
    Peale's Museum
    • 60
    Pennsylvania--Description and travel
    • 1-44
    Pope, John, 1770-1845
    • 69
    Presidents--United States--Election--1840
    • 66
    • 37
    Read, John
    • 32-33
    Red Bank, N.J., Battle of, 1777
    • 63
    Rhett, Robert Barnwell, 1800-1876
    • 69
    Rose, Robert Hutchinson, 1775-1843
    • 33-35
    Sergeant, John, 1779-1852
    • 69
    • 34
    Silsbee, Nathaniel, 1773-1850
    • 63
    Silverlake (Pa.)--Description and travel
    • 33-35
    Trumbull, John, 1756-1843
    • 67
    Tyler, John, 1790-1862
    • 70, 73
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
    • 28, 63, 67
    United States. Congress. House
    • 71
    Washington (D.C.)--History--Capture by the British, 1814
    • 68
    Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842)
    • 70
    White House (Washington, D.C.)
    • 73-74
    Yellow fever
    • 2
    Young men--Conduct of life
    • 30-31