Collection Title: Amos Bonsall Family Papers
Collection Number: 132
Dates of Collection: 1846-1874
Box Numbers: 1
Repositiory: Chester County Historical Society
Project Archivist: Nicholas Lock
The collection is a series of letters and other materials relating to the family of Amos Bonsall and his wife Anna W. Bonsall. Included is the correspondence between Amos and Anna, their children, grandchildren, and other family members and colleagues. The letters reveal much about of Amos Bonsall’s life as a soldier and Arctic explorer.
AMOS BONSALL FAMILY PAPERS, 1846-1874
Manuscript Collection 132
Arranged and described by: Nicholas Lock Project Archivist
This project made possible by a grant from IMLS Museums for America, 2004 – 2006
Chester County Historical Society West Chester, PA, 2005
TABLE OF CONTENTS
General Description and Anangement
Items Transferred to Curatorial
Folder 1: Letters from Amos Bonsall, [1861 –
Thirteen Letters to wife Anna W. Bonsall One Letter to Bessie Bonsall
One Letter to W. C. Cattell of Lafayette College
Folder 2: Letters from Anna W. Bonsall, [1862- 1868]
Two Letters to Children (one letter includes a word from Amos) Two Letters to Amos Bonsall
One Letter to Mother
Folder 3: Letters to Anna W. Bonsall from Mother, [1866- 1873]
Includes cloth bookmark bought from the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, London, England
Folder 4: Wagner Letters, B – W, [1846- 1867]
One Letter from Laura E. Bonsall to Mary
Three Letters from Daniel B. Wagner to Amos, Anna, and Sarah Seven Letters from Samh Wagner and Esther Wagner to Children and
One Letter from Sister M. R. Wagner to Sarah One Letter from R. Wagner to Nephew
One Letter from “Pop” Wagner to “Friends” One Letter from Adrien Young to Children
Folder 5: Letters to Amos Bonsall from Isaac I. Hayes, 1855 – 1860 7
Eight Letters, including Pamphlet On the Passage to the North Pole and a Newspaper Clipping “Hans, the Greenlander and the Late Dr. Kane”
Folder 6: Letters to Amos Bonsall from Elisha K. Kane, [1853 – 1863]
Folder 7: Miscellaneous Letters, B -T, [1856 – 1934] 8
Two Letters from Martin W. Barr to Miss Bonsall
One Letter from War Department to Amos Bonsall, including Copy of Photographs of the “Roosevelt”
One Letter from Jane Campbell to Miss Bonsall
One Poem about “Pretty B-ns-11 [sic.]” to Miss Bonsall Three Letters from A. L. Elwyn to Bonsall Family
One Letter from William B. Evans to Sarah Bonsall, including “Comparative Genealogy”
One Letter from [Harriet W. Fell] to Amos Bonsall One Letter from John W. Frazir to Miss M. W. Bonsall Two Letters from R. C. Hale to Amos Bonsall
One Letter from Mary H. Harrison to Miss Bonsall, including written piece on Mouldridge Grange
Two Letters from Uncle Joseph D. Heacock to Amos Bonsall One Letter from Isabella James to Amos Bonsall
One Letter from Robert P. Kane to Amos Bonsall One Letter from [Ella G. McIntire] to Sarah
One Letter from Edward Preston to Amos Bonsall One Letter from [Mary Shee] to Miss Bonsall
One Letter from [Aubrey A. Smith] to Amos Bonsall One Letter from John G. Trautwine to Amos Bonsall
Collection Title: Donor:
The Misses Bonsall
General Description and Arrangement:
The following is a collection of letters and other materials relating to the family of Amos Bonsall (1830- 1915) and his wife Anna W. Bonsall. Included in the collection is c01Tespondence between Amos and Anna, as well as with their children, grandchildren, and various members of their family; and with various friends and colleagues. The letters reveal much of the life of Amos Bonsall as a soldier in the American Civil War, as an Arctic Explorer, and as a husband and father.
In organizing this collection, letters from selected single authors have been given their own folder. These include letters, 1861- 1874, from Amos Bonsall, from Anna W. Bonsall, 1862-1868, and from Anna to her Mother, 1866-1873. Letters, 1853-1863, of two imp01iant colleagues of Amos Bonsall, Isaac I. Hayes and Elisha K. Kane, have also been arranged in this manner. The letters within these folders are arranged chronologically as best as possible.
Two folders contain letters from other authors and to other recipients. The first has been titled “Wagner Letters,” and includes correspondence, 1846 – 1867, between family members of Anna W. Bonsall. The second folder is titled “Miscellaneous Letters” and includes a variety of letters, 1856 – 1934, which could not be appropriately placed elsewhere. Both sets of letters within these folders have been arranged alphabetically by author.
“Amos Bonsall Dead, was Arctic Explorer.” The Philadelphia Record, February 2, 1915.
Courtesy of the Chester Country Historical Society clippings file.
“[Amos] Bonsall was born in Delaware County . He attended the Fels boarding school near West Chester and later prepared for college in Bolmer Academy. In 1847 he entered the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania for a two-year course and 13 years later he was graduated from Lafayette College.
“It was at the earnest solicitation of his friend Dr. Kane that Mr. Bonsall joined Kane’s famous Second Grinnell Expedition to the frozen North in search of the lost Franklin party. They set sail from Philadelphia in May, 1853. Mr. Bonsall was master’s mate on the little brig Advance… which was to lead the expedition up Smith’s Sound.”
“On the expedition the great Humboldt glacier, the largest then known, was discovered….. The Advance finally became frozen in an ice field. There the members of the expedition acquired much knowledge concerning the Esquimaux [sic.] and discovered some new lands.”
“In May, 1855, it was found impossible to remain aboard the brig any longer and she was abandoned. Through 1200 miles of :frozen ice fields the members of the expedition, weak and emaciated, made their way on foot, dragging their sledges with them, until they reached the Danish settlement ofUpemavik, South Greenland, in August, 1855. Three members of the expedition died from the exposure and lack of proper nourishment and were buried in the land of ice and snow.”
“At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mr. Bonsall organized a company of infantry and enlisted, but never got into action. Following the war he became a farmer on the old Bonsall homestead of Delaware County, and remained there until 1872 when he went abroad for two years. On his return he took up residence in this city [Philadelphia].”
“For more than 40 years he was a member of the board of managers of the Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children [Elwyn Institute] and for more than 30 years a member of the board of managers of the Philadelphia House of Refuge, Glen Mills.”
“Amos Bonsall Dies; Arctic Explorer: Last Survivor of Famous Expedition led by Dr. Elisha Kent Kane Succumbs at Home Here.” The Philadelphia Public Ledger, February 1, 1915. Courtesy of the Chester Country Historical Society clippings file.
Amos Bonsall died January 31, 1915 after being ill for two weeks. “Mrs. Bonsall, who died some years ago, was Miss Anna W. Wagner. Four daughters survive Mr.
Bonsall-the Misses Ethel, Sarah, Elizabeth F., and Maty E. Bonsall.”
Item Transferred to Curatorial:
[The following item was removed from Amos Bonsall Family Papers and transferred to curatorial-NCL, May 25, 2005]
Cloth bookmark bought from the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, London, England
– given to Anna W. Bonsall as a gift on Thursday, September 18, 1873
16 Letters Chronological
This folder is comprised mostly of letters from Amos Bonsall to wife Anna W. Bonsall. These letters date from Amos’s time in the American Civil War where he informs his wife of the trouble in the Nation, and of the call for “defenders” against the invaders (Letter 1, Tuesday Afternoon). Also speaks of various wartime movements and lodgings. After the end of the War, Amos writes letters to Anna from his farm, informing her of daily activities and happenings. Also talks of a trip to visit his mother with daughter Sarah (Letter 5, Tuesday Evening). In letter six (Sunday Evening), Anna has apparently taken a trip in order to recover from either illness or anxiety.
Letter addressed to Bessie Bonsall from Amos checking on her well-being and asking her to behave for her mother (Letter 11, My Dear Little Daughter). Also, Amos writes a thank you letter to W. C. Cattell (President of Lafayette College) for being awarded an honorary degree (Letter 13, August 8, 1866).
5 Letters Chronologically
This folder is comprised of two letters from Anna W. Bonsall to her husband, two letters to her children, and one letter to her mother. The first letter is addressed “Dear Child,” and includes information on the family’s wellbeing, as well as a word from Amos (Sunday Morning). The second letter appears to be incomplete, and talks mainly of a new baby (Bridget went in… ).
Two letters are addressed to Amos, informing him of her improving mental/physical health. She talks of being careful not to overexert herself (Letter 3, July 1). In her letters to Amos, Anna also asks about the children. In her letter to her mother, she asks about and talks of the family.
15 Letters Chronologically
This folder is comprised ofletters to Anna W. Bonsall from her mother. They are mostly undated, and include information and requests for information regarding the family. (A cloth boolanark bought from the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, London, England that was given to Anna as a gift on Thursday, September 18, 1873 removed to museum).
Alphabetically, Last Name
This folder is comprised of a variety of letters written/received by the Wagners.
Writers include Laura E. Bonsall, Daniel Wagner, Sarah and Esther Wagner, Adrien Young, Annie Wagner, Sister M. R. Wagner, R. Wagner, and “Pop” Wagner. Letters include information and requests for information regarding the family and are listed alphabetically. Letter one contains some dated family hist01y (My Dear Miss Mary from Laura E. Bonsall). Letters sent from various places including the United States and Europe.
9 Letters, 1 Pamphlet, 1 newspaper clipping Chronologically
This folder contains the correspondence between Amos Bonsall and Isaac I. Hayes (1832- 1881). The letters include general conversation, requests for information, and :financial matters. Letter one talks of the development of a bill for “double pay” (I enclose… ). Also included in this folder is a pamphlet entitled On the Passage to the North Pole by I. I. Hayes, which appeared in The American Journal of Science, vol. xxv, May, 1858. Also a newspaper clipping on “Hans, the Greenlander and the Late Dr. Kane” (Letter 8, June 3, 1858).
5 Letters Chronologically
This folder is comprised of correspondence between Amos Bonsall and E. K. Kane. The letters contain general conversation on travel, visiting, and :financial matters.
Miscellaneous Letters, 1856 – 1934, B – ‘f 23 Letters
Alphabetically, Last Name
This folder is comprised of various letters from many different authors. Content includes personal matters, thank you letters, sympathy letters, business matters, reflections on the American Civil War, and financial matters. Also included is an excerpt from a poem about “Pretty B-ns-ll,” which talks of the street scene and ladies at the Chestnut Street Theatre. A notation is included mentioning that the author is still unknown.
Authors include Martin W. Barr (2 letters), Jane Campbell (l letter), A. L. Elwyn (3 letters), William B. Evans (1 letter), Harriet W. Fell (1 letter), John W. Frazir (1 letter),