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Joshua Gilpin and James Riddle miscellany

Creation: 1789-1874
Accession: 0463


Joshua Gilpin (1765-1841) was a merchant and paper manufacturer. Thomas Gilpin (1776-1853) went into business with his brother, Joshua, establishing Delaware's first paper mill on the Brandywine Creek. James Riddle (1802-1873) owned James Riddle Son & Co., a cotton mill along the Brandywine. This collection contains miscellaneous papers from the three men, including deeds, property agreements, and a copy of Riddle's will.


  • Creation: 1789-1874



10 item(s)

Biographical Note

Joshua Gilpin (1765-1841) was a merchant and paper manufacturer. He was born in Philadelphia on November 8, 1765, the son of Thomas Gilpin (1728-1778), a merchant and flour miller. Gilpin inherited his father's business and in 1787 established Delaware's first paper mill on the Brandywine Creek near Wilmington with his brother, Thomas (1776-1853), and his uncle, Miers Fisher (1748-1819).

Gilpin made two extensive tours of England and Europe in 1795 to 1801 and 1811 to 1815, during which he examined many of the latest advances in technology and machinery. During his travels from 1795 to 1801, he spent most of his time in England with a distant relative, the Reverend William Gilpin (1724-1804). He, Joshua, made an excursion to Ireland in 1796 and, after the French Revolution abated, toured the Low Countries, France, and Switzerland. Gilpin followed the standard itinerary of the Grand Tour but also investigated agriculture, canals, roads, and manufacturing industries. Gilpin was a careful observer who recorded both conventional travel narratives and site descriptions and collected data on political and social conditions, wages, and the standard of living. His perspective was that of a Quaker with reforming impulses, exemplified by his interest in prisons and education. His extensive travels gave him a more cosmopolitan outlook than most Philadelphia Quakers, and he absorbed many tastes and attitudes of the English gentry with whom he lived. Gilpin's English connections permitted him to visit all the classic sites of the Industrial Revolution.

Gilpin made a second trip to England in 1811 to 1815, being stranded there during the War of 1812. On this second visit he collected information on the newly developed continuous papermaking machines of John Dickinson (1782-1869). His brother, Thomas, "invented" and patented a similar machine, the first of its kind in the U.S., in 1817. It was set up in the brothers' Brandywine Mill.

The Gilpins gave up their mercantile business in 1817 to concentrate on papermaking. Although successful, they suffered from a shortage of capital compounded by losses on other investments. They sold the paper mill in 1837.

Joshua Gilpin married Mary Dilworth (1777-1864) on August 5, 1800 in Yealand Conyers, Lancashire, England. They had eight children: Henry Dilworth (1801-1860), Sarah Lydia (1802-1894), Elizabeth (1805-1892), Jane (1806-1806), Thomas William (1806-1848), Mary Sophia (1810-1890), Richard Arthington (1812-1887), and William (1815-1894). In his later years, Joshua Gilpin lived in the style of an English country gentleman at his home, "Kentmere," near Wilmington. He died on August 22, 1841 and was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

James Riddle operated several cotton mills in Delaware and just into Pennsylvania under James Riddle, Son & Co., most notably the Brandywine Mills.

Riddle was born April 1803 in Parkmount, Ireland to Leander Riddle (1766-1851) and Mary Ann Brooks (1767-1856). His older brother, Samuel, came to the United States in 1823 and became manager of a cotton mill in Pleasant Mills, New Jersey. Most likely at Samuel’s encouragement, James and the rest of their family immigrated in 1827. A short time later, Samuel and James formed a partnership and rented a mill in Springfield, Pennsylvania. The brothers enjoyed so much success, they were able to build a mill they named Parkmount, after their home in Ireland, on Chester Creek. After eight years, they dissolved their partnership.

In the 1830s, Riddle formed partnerships with Henry Lawrence and Lawrence Maxwell. In these partnerships, they had cotton and woolen mills in Avondale, Chester, and Roseville. Unfortunately, none of the mills Riddle had a partnership succeeded except those in which he had the direct management.

In 1844, Riddle purchased the Gilpin estate on the Brandywine. With this purchase, he maintained a partnership with Lawrence until 1859, when he was able to purchase Lawrence’s interest and become sole proprietor. In 1865, Riddle’s only surviving son, Leander (1843-1880), became a partner in the mill and the business was renamed James Riddle & Son. Two years later, Riddle’s son-in-law, William Field (1836-1908), was made third partner. The mill specialized in the manufacture of cheviot and fancy ticking. At the time of Riddle’s death in 1873, the property had grown to 130 to 140 acres with about one hundred tenant houses. The mills ran eleven thousand spindles, three hundred looms, employed about 250 people, and manufactured about two thousand bales of cotton annually. The mill was passed on to Leander and upon his death in 1880, to his sister Jeannie M. Field, who eventually rented the mills to C.J. Milne and Company. The Riddle Mills were purchased by the Bancroft Mills in 1895.

Riddle married Hannah Midhawk (1816-1896). The couple had six children: Hannah, Leander, Mary, Jeannie, John, and Elizabeth. He died August 21, 1873 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Scope and Contents

Miscellaneous papers from James Riddle (1803-1873), Joshua Gilpin (1765-1841), and Thomas Gilpin (1776-1853), all from New Castle County, Delaware. Items include deeds, property agreements, and a copy of Riddle's will. The land papers relate chiefly to Christiana Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Materials

Joshua Gilpin journal (accession 0563), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Joshua Gilpin letters (0592), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Joshua Gilpin letterbook (0789), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Joshua Gilpin notes on bleaching process of paper (0790), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Joshua Gilpin journals (accession 1214), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Joshua and Thomas Gilpin Collection, 1771-1854 (Manuscript Group 58), Pennsylvania State Archives.

Gilpin Family Papers (Collection 0238), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Fisher Family Papers, 1761-1889 (Collection 2094), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Language of Materials


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Joshua Gilpin and James Riddle miscellany
John Beverley Riggs
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA