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Joshua Gilpin letterbook on microfilm

Creation: 1770-1848
Accession: 0789


Joshua Gilpin (1765-1841) was a merchant and paper manufacturer in Delaware. This collection is a microfilm of letters in a scrapbook, including correspondence from Gilpin, Thomas Gilpin (1776-1853), and others.


  • Creation: 1770-1848



1 item(s)

Physical Description

1 microfilm reel.

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.

Scope and Contents

Microfilm of letters in a scrapbook which includes correspondence of others than Joshua Gilpin (1765-1841), with some of his brother, Thomas Gilpin (1776-1853).

Location of Originals

Originals in the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.

Access Restrictions

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

Use Restrictions

Not to be reproduced.

Related Materials

Joshua Gilpin and James Riddle miscellany (0463), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

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 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.

Language of Materials


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Joshua Gilpin letterbook on microfilm
John Beverly 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