The Rush family papers preserves material related to the Revolution-era Philadelphia physician, Benjamin Rush, and his descendants. The Rush family came to be not only one of the most celebrated families of Philadelphia, but also became distinguished throughout the United States and Europe. The Philadelphia family were descendants of John Rush (1620–1699), a former Calvary commander in Oliver Cromwell’s army, who came to Pennsylvania in 1683.
Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745–1813) was the great-great-grandson of John Rush. Born on December 24, 1745, Benjamin Rush was the son of John Rush and Susanna Harvey. He studied at College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, where he graduated in 1760 at the age of fourteen. He went on to study law and then medicine at the College of Philadelphia under the celebrated doctors William Shippen and John Morgan. Completing his medical education at the University of Edinburgh, then the foremost medical center in the world, he graduated in 1768. After spending a brief period in London where he knew Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush returned to Philadelphia where he served as the first American professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia.
Active in medicine and politics, Rush was an early opponent of slavery and, in regard to rising tensions with the British, an avid patriot. He served as a member of the Continental Congress where he knew among others, John Adams, John Jay, Robert Treat Paine, and Patrick Henry. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. During the War of Independence he saw active service at the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and later briefly served as Surgeon General to the American Army. Resigning after six months, due to a bitter dispute with his former teacher William Shippen, who was then Director-General of the Medical Department, Rush became disillusioned with the war effort. He became sympathetic to the Conway cabal’s criticism of General Washington, which he expressed to Patrick Henry in an anonymous letter that was later shown to Washington, who recognized its author. This letter, which effectively ended Rush’s military career, he greatly regretted later in later life.
By 1778, Benjamin Rush had become a lecturer at the new University of the State of Pennsylvania, and a member of the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital. He was instrumental in the founding of the Philadelphia College of Physicians in 1787, and was active in the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic. In 1797, he was appointed by President Adams to be treasurer of the United States Mint, a post which he held until his death in 1813. At his death he was buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia.
Dr. Benjamin Rush had married Julia Stockton on the eve of the American revolution in 1776. Julia Stockton (1759–1848) was the daughter of Richard Stockton, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Annis Boudinot Stockton, who was the sister of Elias Boudinot, a president of the Continental Congress. Julia Stockton and Dr. Benjamin Rush had thirteen children.
Richard Rush (1780–1859), the third child of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton, had a long and distinguished career as a public servant. Educated at Princeton, he was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in 1800, and in 1811 was appointed Attorney–General of Pennsylvania. Having attracted the attention of President Madison, he was named comptroller of the U.S. Treasury in 1812. From 1814–1817 he served as Attorney-General of the United States, and in 1817 was appointed acting Secretary of State under President James Monroe. He was then appointed by President Monroe as Minister to the Court of St. James, a post which he held from 1817–1825. As a result of his efforts, he is now widely credited by historians for restoring diplomatic ties with Great Britain after the War of 1812. From 1825–1829 Richard Rush served under John Quincy Adams as Secretary of the United States Treasury. In 1836, he was again sent to Great Britain, this time to secure the estate of John Smithson on behalf of the United States. This bequest was later used to found the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 1847 Richard Rush was again asked to return to Europe, this time as Minister to France under President Polk, a post which he held until 1851. Richard Rush died on July 13, 1859 and was buried in his family vault in North Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Richard Rush had married Catherine E. Murray in 1809, and had ten children. The first of these was Benjamin Rush (1811–1877), who married Elizabeth M. Simpson and had four children. Benjamin Rush was appointed to the Philadelphia Bar in 1833. In 1867, he authored a pamphlet from London entitled William B. Reed of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia: Expert in the art of Exhumation of the dead, which defended the reputation of his grandfather Benjamin Rush. He died in London in 1877. Richard Rush’s second child was James Murray Rush (1813–1862), who was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar a year later than his brother in 1834. Madison Rush (1821–1856) was the seventh child and Richard H. Rush (1825–1893) was the ninth child of Richard Rush and Elizabeth M. Simpson.
James Rush (1786–1869) was the seventh child of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton. Following in the footsteps of his father, he studied at both Princeton University and at Edinburgh. After returning to Philadelphia, he obtained his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1809. In 1813, James Rush was appointed Treasurer of the United States Mint, a post which he held until 1830. He retired from public life after only a short time to peruse his literary and scientific interests. He published several books, the most well known of which was The Philosophy of the Human voice: embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, which was published in six revised editions during his lifetime.
In 1819, James Rush married Phoebe Anne Ridgway (1799–1857), daughter of the wealthy Philadelphia merchant Jacob Ridgway (1768–1843). James Rush and his wife resided on Chestnut street, west of 19th street in Philadelphia, in a home that James Rush had designed and built. It was at this house, which was large enough to accommodate approximately eight-hundred guests, that they threw some of the most lavish parties in Philadelphia. After the death of her father, Phoebe inherited an estate worth over a million dollars, which after her death in 1857, was passed to her husband James Rush. After his death, James Rush left his estate to found the Ridgway Branch of the Library Company of Philadelphia. His estate was administered by his brother-in-law, Henry J. Williams.
Julia Rush (1792–1860) was the eleventh child of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton. She married Henry J. Williams in 1820. Henry J. Williams was the son of General Jonathan Williams, who was the first superintendent of West Point and was the grand-nephew of Benjamin Franklin. Although Julia Rush and Henry J. Williams had no children, they were partially responsible for raising Julia Rush’s niece, Julia Williams Rush (1832–1898), daughter of Samuel Rush and Anne Wilmer.
Benjamin Rush (1791–1824) was the tenth child of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton. Benjamin was a merchant by trade, and in 1818 sailed to Canton, China, aboard Edward Thompson’s ship Clothier, which was commanded by captain John Philips. In 1824 he moved to New Orleans, where he founded the firm Rush and Ralston and was engaged in the East India trade. In the same year of his arrival, however, he died of Typhoid fever.
Samuel Rush (1795–1859) was the twelfth child of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1812 and became a member of the Philadelphia bar in 1817. He served as clerk of the Common Council of Philadelphia from 1819–1820. After 1826, he served as Deputy Attorney-General of Philadelphia County. From 1838 to 1841 he served as recorder of the city of Philadelphia.
By 1844, Samuel Rush had moved Washington, D.C., where he served as part of the Choctaw Commission. This Commission was set up to review claims relative to the removal of the Choctaw Indians from the state of Mississippi. As Choctaws were the first group of native Americans to be moved west by the United States government, this commission set legal precedents that legally governed subsequent removals of native Americans.
Samuel Rush was married in 1828 by the Reverend Simon Wilmer to Anne Wilmer, daughter of James and Anne Wilmer. Samuel Rush and Anne Wilmer had four children. Samuel Rush died at the home of his son-in-law Alexander Biddle on November 24, 1859. He was buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia but was later removed to the vault of his brother-in-law Henry J. Williams in North Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.
William Rush (1837–1860) was the third child of Samuel Rush and Anne Wilmer. He received his early education from the West Chester Academy, and beginning in 1853 served in the Philadelphia firm of Waln, Leaming, and Company. He is buried in the vault of Henry J. Williams, in North Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
The Alexander Biddle papers. 3 vols. New York: Parke-Bernet Galleries, 1943.
Bernstein, M. ed. The Collected works of James Rush. 4 vols. Weston, Mass.: M & S, 1974.
Biddle, L.A. A Memorial containing travels through life or sundry incidents in the life of Dr. Benjamin Rush . . . as well as a short history of the Rush family in Pennsylvania. Lanoraie, Penn.: Published privately, 1905.
Brescia, A.M. Guide and index to the Scholarly Resources Edition of the letters and papers of Richard Rush. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources, 1980.
Butterfield, L.H. ed. Letters of Benjamin Rush. 2 vols. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press for the American Philosophical Society, 1951.
Corner, G.W. ed. The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1970.
Corner, G.W. ed. The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1970.
Croskey, John Welsh comp. History of Blockley: A History of the Philadelphia General Hospital from its inception, 1731–1928. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis, 1929.
Cushman, H.B. History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians. A. Debo Ed. New York: Russell and Russell, 1962.
DeRosier, A.H., Jr. The Removal of the Choctaw Indians. Knoxville, Tennessee: The University of Tennessee Press, 1970.
Howe, M.A. The Life and letters of George Bancroft. 2 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908.
Mackenzie, G.N. ed. Colonial families of the United States of America. Vol. 4. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1966.
Old family letters copied from the originals for Alexander Biddle, series A. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1892.
Old family letters related to the yellow fever, series B. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1892.
Powell, J.H. Richard Rush: Republican diplomat 1780–1859. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1942.
Reed, W.B. President Reed of Pennsylvania. A Reply to Mr. George Bancroft and others. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Howard Challen and John Campbell, 1867.
Report of the Secretary of War communicating information in relation to the contracts made for the removal and subsistence of the Choctaw Indians. 28th Congress, 2nd session, Senate document 86. February 7, 1845.
Rush, B. My dearest Julia: The Love letters of Dr. Benjamin Rush to Julia Stockton. New York: Neale Watson Academic Publications, with the Philip H. & A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation, 1979.
Thorp, W. ed. The Lives of eighteen from Princeton. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1946.
Williams, H.J. A brief account of the ancestors and descendants of Benjamin Rush, M.D. of the city of Philadelphia, 1869. Reprinted in L.A. Biddle, A Memorial containing travels through life or sundry incidents in the life of Dr. Benjamin Rush . . . as well as a short history of the Rush family in Pennsylvania. Lanoraie, Penn.: Published privately, 1905.
*numbers refer to birth order
*bold names denote individuals whose papers are held in the collection
*numbers refer to birth order
*bold names denote individuals whose papers are held in the collection
The Rush family papers consist of almost one linear foot of material related to this prominent Philadelphia family. Materials in the collection span more than a century ranging in date from 1789 to approximately 1898, however, the bulk of the material falls between the years 1820 and 1860. The collection includes correspondence, typescripts, receipts, bank books, wills, and deeds.
The Rush family papers has been organized in two series: the first series contains material authored by, or related to, individual members of the family, while the second series contains material about the family, mostly authored by Alexander Biddle.
The first series of papers preserves material from many members of the Rush family. Several members of the family are represented by only a few items, while other members are more substantially represented. Limited materials are preserved from the patriarch of the family, Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745–1813). Five receipts are preserved spanning the years 1782–1813, and one letter. This letter is from Thomas Fitzsimons, a former member of the Continental Congress, to Dr. Benjamin Rush, dated June 19, 1790. This letter appears to have been the only item in this collection that was part of the 1943 sale of the Alexander Biddle papers at the Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York. This letter was one of two letters in lot 135, sold on October 12.
Another item that may or may not relate to Dr. Benjamin Rush, is a 1790 invitation to meet the friends of Henry Hobart at the King’s Head Tavern in Philadelphia. Henry Hobart (1775–1830) was a known acquaintance of Dr. Benjamin Rush, who later became bishop of New York City. This invitation, however, appears to be addressed to Benjamin Rush’s son Richard Rush, who in 1790 would have been only ten years of age. Despite its inscription, this document makes more sense in the context of the papers of Benjamin Rush than in the context of the papers of Richard Rush. Since this document cannot fully be ascribed to either member it has been placed with the unidentified material in folder 21.
A similar quantity of material is preserved related to Dr. Benjamin Rush’s wife, Julia Stockton Rush (1759–1848). In addition to one receipt from 1816, this collection preserves four letters, one of which is an 1848 letter of introduction for maestro Antonio Baroli from Edward P. Fry. The other three letters are from the children of Julia Stockton: one from Anne Emily Rush Cuthbert, (1799–1850) her first child, who at the time was living in Quebec; and two from Samuel Rush (1795–1859), her twelfth child.
This series also contains material related to the children of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton. It contains several items related to their third child, Richard Rush (1780–1859). This collection includes one vellum deed from 1808 concerning land at 6th and Prune streets in Philadelphia. Three letters are also preserved. One letter written in London in 1819 concerns the arrival of General Cadwalader, and a second letter is a dinner invitation from the English diplomat David Urquhart (1805–1877). The last letter of 1835 requests a midshipmens warrant for his son Madison Rush from Mahlon Dickerson (1770–1853), former United States Senator and Governor of New Jersey who had just been appointed Secretary of the Navy. As none of these items were included in the 1980 edition of the microfilm series entitled The Letters and papers of Richard Rush, edited by Anthony M. Brescia for Scholarly Resources Incorporated of Wilmington, Delaware, they represent a significant contribution to the previously known papers of Richard Rush.
Only a few items are preserved from the children of Richard Rush and Catherine Murray Rush. Three letters are preserved from their first son, Benjamin Rush (1811–1869), one of which is from captain Joseph S. Biddle. Only one item is preserved related to Madison Rush (1821–1856), a handwritten copy of his will. Similarly for Richard H. Rush (1825–1893), only one page of calculations related to the Germantown Railroad is preserved.
More substantial material is preserved related to Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton’s seventh child, James Rush (1786–1869). One volume of James Rush’s notes are preserved related to the revisions to the fifth edition of his book entitled Philosophy of the human voice, which was published in 1855.
Material is also preserved from the estate of James Rush. Included is one booklet that catalogs the items from his residence that were sold to family members. Among the items listed is a set of blue silk furniture from the breakfast room and a set of “Egyptian” china. While this volume includes descriptions of many pieces of furniture and household goods and their dollar value, it does not indicate which family member purchased each item. Two 1869 publications were also contained in this collection delineating James Rush’s gift of his estate to the Library Company of Philadelphia. These two items are listed in the following folder level description have but been removed from the collection and cataloged with the printed materials in Special Collections.
This collection also preserves material related to Benjamin Rush (1791–1824), the tenth child of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton. As is revealed from correspondence in this collection and account books cataloged separately, Benjamin Rush was involved in the China trade and even traveled to Canton, China between 1818 and 1819. Included is one letter from Benjamin Rush’s brother, Samuel Rush, that was sent aboard the ship Clothier to Benjamin Rush, who was then in Canton, China. It describes the state of mercantile affairs in Baltimore and Philadelphia, and describes how Samuel Chew (1826–1850) dueled both Pete Cabot and John Swift in one week and was hit both times.
This collection also illustrates how, after returning to the United States Benjamin Rush, made important mercantile alliances with the Ralston family of Philadelphia and relocated to New Orleans to establish the firm of Rush and Ralston. Three letters of introduction from 1824, when Benjamin Rush relocated to the city of New Orleans are preserved in this collection. One of these is to George Washington Campbell (1769–1848), former United States Senator and Secretary of the Treasury who was then living in Nashville. Another is from William Chandler, of the Philadelphia firm Chandler-Price, a pioneering business in the New Orleans trade.
The bulk of the first series of Rush family papers is related to the twelfth son of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Julia Stockton, Samuel Rush (1785–1824). A wide range of correspondence is preserved from the years 1837 to 1856. Correspondents include Samuel Rush’s nephew James Cuthbert (1800–1842), Joshua York of Pittsburgh, Samuel Rush’s friend E. Clapp, and fellow lawyers William Henry Dillingham (1789–1854) and Jonathan Williams Biddle (1821–1856). Preserved as well is a letter from Washington Townsend (1813–1895) requesting Samuel Rush to present an ode at the public dedication of the Oaklands cemetery in West Chester, and a letter from the Fame Fire Company of West Chester requesting Samuel Rush to present a lecture at their regular meeting.
This collections also contains a few materials related to Samuel Rush’s early legal career as Deputy Attorney-General of Philadelphia County, and material from his tenure as Recorder of the City of Philadelphia between 1836 and 1841.
In addition to this material documenting Samuel Rush’s early legal career is an important body of correspondence and documents related to his participation in the Choctaw Commission during the 1840s. Correspondence is preserved related to General George S. Gains (1784–1873), who negotiated the removal; T. Hartly Crawford (1786–1863), Commissioner of Indian Affairs; Thomas L. McKenny (1785–1859), Superintendent of Indian Affairs; William B. Lewis (1784–1866), Second Auditor to the Treasury and a close associate of President Andrew Jackson; J.J. McRae, enrolling and disbursing agent for the removal of the Choctaws; and Charles Fisher (1786–1849), former U.S. congressman from North Carolina and author of the 1844 book Choctaw claims.
Only limited material related to the children of Samuel Rush and Anne Wilmer is available in this collection. There is only one funerary document preserved related to James Rush (1829–1831), their first child who died at two years of age. The papers of their second child, Julia Williams Rush (1833–1898) who married Alexander Biddle (1819–1899), are contained in the Biddle family papers, also available in Special Collections. This includes material from her childhood, correspondence with her father, as well as material from her married life.
A limited, but more substantial amount of material is preserved in this collection relating to Samuel Rush and Anne Wilmer’s third and last child, William Rush. Two documents from the West Chester Academy are preserved as well as a series of diagrams from Euclid that Samuel Rush made for his son during 1851. Limited correspondence to William during the years 1845–1853 is preserved. Other correspondence from William is preserved in the papers of Samuel Rush, previously described and with the papers of Julia W. Rush in the Biddle family papers. A letter of November 2, 1854 in the Samuel Rush correspondence reveals that William Rush had been employed with the Philadelphia firm Wahn, Leaming, and Company.
The second series of this collection preserves material about the Rush family. Several manuscripts are preserved, both published and unpublished, as well as transcriptions of family letters.
Included is a series of Alexander Biddle’s drafts for a manuscript entitled Dr. Benjamin Rush in the opinion of his revolutionary contemporaries: A Reply to a recent writer. This manuscript appears never to have been published. It is clear, however, that it must have been written sometime after 1867 for it replies specifically to William B. Reed’s 1867 book President Reed of Pennsylvania. A Reply to Mr. George Bancroft and others. In subject, both this manuscript and the 1867 book to which it responds contribute to the controversy surrounding thepublication of George Bancroft’s ninth volume of his History of the United States, which was published in 1866. Bancroft reexamined the roles played by several prominent individuals in the American Revolution, and argued for the first time that General Reed of Pennsylvania had been a traitor, and that Dr. Benjamin Rush had been less than loyal to General George Washington. These conclusions brought vehement objections from the descendants of both Reed and Rush, in what historians since have termed the “war of the grandfathers.” William B. Reed of West Chester authored an 1867 pamphlet entitled President Reed of Philadelphia, a reply to George Bancroft and others, which defended the reputation of his grandfather General Reed. Benjamin Rush (1811–1877) published a pamphlet from London in 1867, entitled William B. Reed of Chestnut hill, Philadelphia: Expert in the art of exhumation of the dead, which defended the reputation of Dr. Benjamin Rush. The manuscript contained in this collection contributes another, more elaborate, defense of Dr. Benjamin Rush.
In addition to this manuscript, several other manuscripts for publishing projects are preserved. One anonymously authored ten-page typescript of a biography of Benjamin is preserved. It is not clear if this was ever published and/or whether it was intended to be part of a larger work.
Preserved as well are aproximately sixty pages of hand-written copies of letters. These reproduce letters from John Adams to Dr. Benjamin Rush during the period 1810–1813. As demonstrated by the 1943 Parke-Bernet auction catalogue, these letters were at one time in the collection of Alexander Biddle. It is not clear, however, by whom or at what time these copies were made. They may, be related to the copies of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s letters that Alexander Biddle had made for his 1898 book entitled Old Family Letters: copied from the originals for Alexander Biddle. Although these letters do not appear in any of the published volumes, they may have been made at the same time the other letters were copied.
As published, Alexander Biddle’s compilation of Rush letters filled two volumes. This collection preserves partial typescripts for both the first volume, Old Family Letters: copied from the originals for Alexander Biddle, series A, and the second volume, Old Family Letters relating to Yellow Fever, series B. Although these typescripts do not reveal who selected or copied the letters for Biddle’s edition, they do bear some annotations, mostly related to the pagination of final volumes.