Collection Title: Thomas Lynch Montgomery Diary Collection

Collection Number: MS Coll 265

Dates of Collection: 1903-1929

Extent: 2.6 linear feet

RepositoryChester County History Center, West Chester, PA

Language: English

Project Archivist: MacLaren Remy


A descendent of Thomas Lynch, Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Lynch Montgomery (March 4, 1862- October 1, 1929) was born in Germantown, Philadelphia to Catherine Gertrude Lynch and Oswald Montgomery.  A librarian and historian, Montgomery graduated from the University of Philadelphia in 1884. After his graduation, he remained involved with his fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma, and many of his later professional relationships can be traced back to connections he maintained through the Alumni Association. 

Montgomery’s interest in libraries began in 1879, and he became a librarian at the Wagner Free Institute of Science in 1886. Under his leadership, the Wagner later became the first branch of the Philadelphia Free Library in 1892. As a result of this work, in 1903 he was appointed to the position of Pennsylvania State Librarian by Governor Samuel Pennypacker. During this period, Montgomery began dividing his time between residences in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and a leased farm in Green Hill, Chester County. After his retirement, he became the librarian and corresponding secretary of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and also served as a trustee of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

In addition to his professional responsibilities, Montgomery was a longstanding member of his church in Philadelphia, St. Mark’s Episcopal, and of numerous clubs and societies. These include the Philobiblon Club, the American Library Association, the Dauphin County Historical Society, the Wyoming Historical Society, the Swedish Colonial Society, the Harrisburg Club, the University Club in Philadelphia, and the Chester County Historical Society (now Chester County History Center).

Montgomery’s first marriage was to Brinca Gilpin in 1889. Their marriage lasted until Brinca’s death on October 16, 1921. Montgomery remarried in 1925 to Susan Keim Savage. On October 1, 1929, at age 67, Montgomery died of a heart attack while at the University Club in Philadelphia. He was survived by his wife, Susan, and buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.  


The diary collection of Thomas Lynch Montgomery measures 2.6 linear feet and dates from 1903 to 1929. There are 23 day-to-day or weekly diaries that record Montgomery’s personal and professional activities. Many of the diaries include inserted or pasted correspondence, programs, invitations, newspaper clippings, postcards, photographs, and other miscellaneous ephemera. 

Collection Scope:

The 23 diaries of Thomas Lynch Montgomery measure 2.6 linear feet and date from 1903 to 1929. With few exceptions, Thomas Lynch Montgomery was a regular diarist, and while the content of his writing focused on his professional life, references to his family, friendships, and social life are mentioned throughout. Montgomery focused on events from his tenure as State Librarian, and many subsequent entries follow a format of noting the time he spent at work, his list of daily correspondents, his social engagements, and other activities of note.  

Many of the diaries include material from events in Montgomery’s personal life, which he inserted or pasted into the diaries. These inserts include personal and professional correspondence, theater programs, invitations, newspaper clippings, postcards, photographs, and other miscellaneous ephemera.  Invitations were to events held by the various clubs and societies Montgomery was a member of and that he attended. He also collected postcards featuring landscapes and saved newspaper articles, most of which feature himself as the subject.

In letters from his close friends, many address him as Tom. Montgomery’s two main correspondents were Martin Brumbaugh, the twenty-sixth Governor of Pennsylvania, and Edward Nolan, a librarian at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Topics are primarily professional and regard inquiries or the library, though he also included frequent mentions of his social engagements and club speeches in particular. More personal letters are concentrated around the death of Brinca in 1921. 

In his entries, Brinca Gilpin is referred to as ‘B,’ and he also often references his cat when writing about his first wife. Susan Keim Savage is referred to as ‘S’ and occasionally Sue. A Catholic and Republican, in the later diaries, Montgomery notes the frequency of attending church and theater performances with Susan, and he also mentions eating meals with Brinca’s sister, Elizabeth Gilpin, with regularity. 

Montgomery used primarily Excelsior journals in both weekly and daily formats. In both forms, the volumes have predated calendars and space in the front/back for reference charts, notes, and record keeping, which he kept blank.

Information For Researchers:

  • Access: Collection is open for research. Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Chester County History Center Library.
  • Publication Rights/Terms of Use: The Chester County History Center makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational, and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions.  CCHC makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions, and it is the user’s responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce, and publish materials from the collections.
  • Preferred Citation: Thomas Lynch Montgomery diary collection, 1903 – 1929. MS Coll 265. Chester County History Center, West Chester, Pennsylvania. 
  • Acquisition Information: The diary collection was donated by Charles B. Montgomery with the stipulation that they would not be opened until 1952.
  • Processing History: The collection was processed and a finding aid was prepared by MacLaren Remy in 2023. At the time of processing, diaries that exhibited spine damage and deterioration due to age were rehoused in individual enclosures to protect the structural integrity of the bound volumes. In addition, loose diary inserts (i.e. correspondence, programs, invitations, etc.) were removed from the diaries in order to reduce stress on the bindings and are now filed behind the diaries; an index to these materials can be found in Box 1 of the collection.

Names and Subject Terms:

  • Subjects:
    • Harrisburg (Pa.)—Social life and customs
    • Librarians—Correspondence
    • Librarians—Diaries 
    • Men—Diaries 
    • Men—Societies and clubs
    • Pennsylvania State Library
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)—Social life and customs
    • Postcards
    • Theater programs
  • Names, Personal:
    • Brumbaugh, Martin Grove, 1862-1930
    • Nolan, Edward James, 1846-192

Collection Arrangement:

The collection is arranged as 1 series:

  • Series 1: Diaries, 1903 – 1929 (2.6 linear feet; Box 1-4)

Related Material:

The Chester County History Center Photo Archives holds photographs from these diaries that were transferred in 1991. The Library also holds the Acoccidologists Travel Diary Collection, a work Thomas Lynch Montgomery co-wrote under the pseudonym “The Dragon.”  

Collection Contents:

Series 1: Diaries, 1903 – 1929 (Box 1 – Box 4)

Box 1


1                           Diary, 1903

2                           Diary Inserts, 1903

3                           Diary, 1904- 1905

4                           Diary Inserts, 1905

5                           Diary, 1907 and 1911

6                           Diary Inserts, 1911

7                           Diary, 1912

8                           Diary Inserts, 1912

9                           Diary, 1913

10                         Diary Inserts, 1913

11                         Diary, 1914

12                         Diary Inserts, 1914

13                         Diary, 1915

14                         Diary Inserts, 1915

15                         Diary, 1916

16                         Diary Inserts, 1916


Box 2


1                           Diary, 1917

2                           Diary Inserts, 1917

3                           Diary, 1918

4                           Diary Inserts, 1918

5                           Diary, 1919

6                           Diary Inserts, 1919

7                           Diary, 1920

8                           Diary Inserts, 1920

9                           Diary, 1921

10                         Diary Inserts, 1921

11                         Diary, 1922

12                         Diary Inserts, 1922

13                         Diary, 1923

14                         Diary Inserts, 1923

15                         Diary, 1924

16                         Diary Inserts, 1924

17                         Diary, 1925

18                         Diary Inserts, 1925


Box 3


1                           Diary, 1926

2                           Diary Inserts, 1926

3                           Diary, 1927

4                           Diary Inserts, 1927

5                           Diary, 1928

6                           Diary Inserts, 1928


Box 4


1                           Diary, 1929

2                           Diary inserts, 1929