Brinton family papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

Brinton family

The Brinton family papers document several generations of the Brinton, Steinmetz, and Ward families, three important families who flourished between 1760-1930 in Pennsylvania and New York. Several members of the family played prominent roles in their communities and included landholders, real estate developers, merchants, Civil War surgeons, medical doctors and professors, missionaries, a minister, an art critic, an anthropologist, lawyers, a judge, an engineer, and several authors.

John Steinmetz (fl. 1760-1831) was a prosperous Philadelphia merchant and the father-in-law of John Hill Brinton. He participated in various commercial transactions and managed numerous land holdings in Maurice Rivers in Cumberland County, New Jersey; Manheim Township and Hallam Township in York and Lancaster counties, respectively, in Pennsylvania; and other areas.

John Hill Brinton (1772-1827) married Sarah (also called Sally) Steinmetz of Philadelphia. They had eight children: Catherine Ann, John L., Elizabeth, Ann, George, Reppele, Sarah, and Mary. John Hill Brinton was a lawyer who also speculated in tracts of land in the Maurice River Township in New Jersey and Manheim Township in York County, Pennsylvania.

George Brinton (1804-1858) was the son of John Hill and Sarah Steinmetz Brinton. George married Mary Margaret Smith of Philadelphia and they had five children: John Hill, Mary Yeates, Margaret Yeates, Sarah Frederica, and Margaret Yeates. He managed various farms and tracts of land in Geneseo, New York, and Maurice River Township in Cumberland County, New Jersey.

Dr. John Hill Brinton (1832-1907), the son of George and Mary Brinton, married Sarah Ward, daughter of the Reverend Ferdinand de Wilton Ward of Geneseo, New York. Dr. Brinton and his wife had four children: George, John Hill, Jr., Ferdinand Ward, and Jasper Yeates. John Hill Brinton was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., 1850 and M.A., 1853) and he received a medical degree from the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1852; he spent the following year abroad, studying medicine in Vienna and Paris. Upon his return, he began a general practice, taught medical classes, and became the chair of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, Brinton served as a brigade surgeon, a hospital administrator, and later helped establish the United States Army Medical Museum. His memoirs of the war included observations on his first cousin, General George Brinton McClellan. Following the war, he returned to Philadelphia and was chosen to be a surgeon at the Philadelphia Hospital, was invited to teach classes at the Jefferson Medical College, and was later appointed Professor of the Practice of Surgery and Clinical Surgery. In 1896, the Surgeon General of the United States asked him to give the valedictory address at the Army Medical School in Washington, D.C.

Rev. Ferdinand de Wilton Ward (1812-1891), father of Sarah Ward Brinton, was a member of the Presbyterian clergy in both Geneseo and Rochester, New York. He graduated from the Theological Seminary at Princeton. He married Jane Shaw and in 1836 they arrived in India to spend the next two decades as Christian missionaries in Madura and Madras in service of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) society. While there, he learned Tamil, one of the Indian languages, and worked on several translations of religious works. Upon returning, he became a pastor in Geneseo and worked extensively with the local Bible Society.

Dr. Ward Brinton (b. 1873) was the son of Dr. John Hill and Sarah Ward Brinton. He received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia in 1894 and specialized in the treatment of tuberculosis. He served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and gave speeches on how to prevent its spread among the working classes.

Dr. Christian Brinton (1870-1942), the son of Joseph Hill and Mary Brinton, was an author, art critic, and lecturer. From Haverford College, he received his B.A. in 1892, his M.A. in 1906, and his Ph.D. in 1914. He also studied at the universities of Heidelberg, Paris, and École du Louvre. Christian Brinton wrote catalogs for a number of international art exhibitions and served as director of foreign art at the Sesquicentennial International Exposition in Philadelphia in 1926.

Joseph J. Steinmetz, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Steinmetz of Germantown, near Philadelphia, was an engineer. In 1929-1930, he traveled around the world and attended a 1929 World Engineering Conference in Tokyo. Throughout his world tour, he maintained regular correspondence with his mother and sister Margaret, sending letters and postcards from Japan, China, the Philippines, Indo-China, India, Ceylon, Egypt, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Athens.


American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: documents administered by the Houghton Library of Harvard University. Woodbridge, Conn: Research Publications International, 1994. Microfilm. See reels 466-498.

Brinton, John H. Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton: Civil War Surgeon, 1861-1865. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996.

Gould, George M., ed. The Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, Benefactors, Alumni, Hospital, etc., Its Founders, Officers, Instructors, 1826-1904: A History. Volume II. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1904.

Gravell, Thomas, George Miller, and Elizabeth Walsh. American Watermarks, 1690-1835. New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2002.

Marquis, Albert Nelson, ed. Who's Who in Delaware: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men and Women of the States of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and West Virginia. Volume I. Chicago: The A. N. Marquis Company, 1939.

Genealogical Summary (Chart 1)

Other relatives included Jasper Yeates Brinton, Dr. Christian Brinton, Joseph J. Steinmetz, Daniel Garrison Brinton, Dr. J. B. Brinton, and Jos. H. Brinton.

Genealogical Summary (Chart 2)

Scope and Contents

The Brinton family papers relates to members of the prominent Philadelphia-area family and several of their related family lines over five generations from 1715-1930, with the bulk of the documents falling between 1840-1890. The collection consists of 6.3 linear feet of material and includes a wide variety of sources including mortgages, deeds, leases, account books, surveys, correspondence, land use agreements, legal documents, travel diaries, medical notes, newspaper clippings, Civil War reports and orders, genealogical research, sermons, essays, and photographs; and receipts for bonds, rent, food, transportation, medical and dental services, labor, stocks, tax, clothing, house repair, and education. These receipts are mundane, yet richly thorough, documentation of the domestic and business affairs of two early nineteenth-century Philadelphians, John Hill Brinton and his son George Brinton.

The collection further represents the varied careers of several interesting family members: the Rev. Ferdinand de Wilton Ward, a Christian missionary to India, 1836-1856, who studied and translated Tamil; Dr. John Hill Brinton, a distinguished Civil War surgeon; Dr. Chirstian Brinton, a scholar and critic who served as director of foreign art at the 1926 Philadelphia Sesquicentennial; and Joseph Steinmentz, an engineer whose 1929 world tour is documented in letters to his family. Other notable documents in the collection include early family deeds signed by Richard, John, and William Penn, descendants of William Penn; and three 1805 deeds executed by Katherine Inglis, a female attorney practicing in Philadelphia.

The collection contains nine separate series organized around different family members: I. John Steinmetz, 1760-1831; II. John H. Brinton, 1790- 1837; III. George Brinton, 1827-1858; IV. Dr. John Hill Brinton, 1834-1908; V. Reverend Ferdinand de Wilton Ward, 1793-1890; VI. Dr. Ward Brinton, 1901-1928; VII. Dr. Christian Brinton, 1929; VIII. Joseph J. Steinmetz, 1929-1930; and Series IX. Other Family Members. The tenth series comprises 119 deeds, several of which cross generations of the Brinton family.

Series I. John Steinmetz, 1760-1831, includes documents such as land use agreements, bonds, rent receipts, court documents, surveys, and maps related to his real estate dealings in Maurice River in Cumberland County, New Jersey; Manheim Township in York County, Pennsylvania; and Hallam Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The correspondence includes both business and family interests in real estate and shipping goods. It also contains three very early land receipts, 1715-1733 (F1).

Series II. John H. Brinton, 1790-1837, includes rent and account receipts, legal documents, land use agreements, deeds, indentures, surveys, maps, and numerous mortgages related to his real estate affairs in Maurice River, New Jersey; Manheim Township in York County, Pennsylvania; and other areas of Pennsylvania. Among the real estate correspondence is an 1812 letter to John H. Brinton, written on paper bearing the watermark of Coulter, Bever, and Bowman, who established Ohio's first paper mill in 1807 (see Gravell, American Watermarks). Regular correspondents include Andrews and Elliot, Isaac Bonsall, and John R. Coates. This series may be most useful for reconstructing the economic networks revealed by the numerous mortgages and receipts it contains. The mortgages often reveal the names of the people and the ways in which they used the land in several regions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Additional deeds and indentures related to John H. Brinton are found in Series X. The extensive domestic receipts may be used to reconstruct the material world in which Brinton and his family lived in the early national period in Philadelphia. Receipts for building materials, clothing, coal, wood, education, food, furnishing and repairing the home, labor, medical and dental services, stocks, taxes, and transportation provide a variety of ways to examine their family life.

Series III. George Brinton, 1827-1858, includes accounts, receipts, land agreements, court documents, and correspondence related to business and real estate in Maurice River in Cumberland County, New Jersey, and Geneseo, New York. Important correspondents include Allan Ayrnault and William Spencer. As in the preceding series, George Brinton's varied receipts for building materials, clothing, coal, wood, fuel, society memberships, education, food, furnishing and repairing the home, labor, medical and dental services, mortgages, stocks, taxes, and transportation provide extensive details to study the world in which his family lived.

Series IV. Dr. John Hill Brinton, 1834-1908, includes rich materials on his medical career as a student, as a surgeon during the Civil War, and later as a practicing physician and professor at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Official correspondence from the Civil War, including orders, replies, receipts, inventories, and reports helps provide a useful perspective of the Civil War. Dr. John H. Brinton served as brigade surgeon under generals Fremont and Grant, 1861-1863, and as supertindent of hospitals at Nashville, 1864-1865. His correspondence before and after the Civil War includes both personal and professional letters to him, as well as copies of outgoing correspondence. A final group of correspondence was addressed directly to Mrs. John H. Brinton (Sarah Ward Brinton), and includes letters from her husband, her family, and father, Ferdinand de Wilton Ward, whose papers are arranged in Series V. Several notebook and account books include lists of patients and notes on treatments and visits. He authored various medical articles and gave several public speeches. His papers also include notes, lectures, and journals from when he was a student and a professor of medicine. Of special interest in these medical notes are a case study of spinabifida and a notebook on "Eye Surgery and Operative Surgery" from an 1852 trip to Vienna. Dr. Brinton's papers reflect the changing practice of medicine during the second half of the nineteenth century from a variety of perspectives.

Series V. Reverend Ferdinand de Wilton Ward, 1793-1890, includes a number of journals, account books, sermons, and study notes related to his religious work as a pastor and as a missionary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in India. He translated some of his lectures and sermons into Tamil to aid in teaching the Gospel in India. His account books and membership lists also shed light on the structure and management of the church in Maduras, India; Geneseo, New York; and Rochester, New York. He compiled several notebooks on genealogy and corresponded with various members of his family concerning this topic. Ward's extensive notes, sermons, and discussions of religious topics and experiences provides an extremely useful source for examining various religious, intellectual, and philosophical beliefs and attitudes from the 1850s through the 1890s. Additional correspondence and diary entries of the Wards may be found in a related microfilm collection, Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which is owned by the University of Delaware Library.

The limited amount of correspondence in Series VI. Dr. Ward Brinton, 1901-1928, primarily concerns Dr. Brinton's appointments in the Medical Out-Patient Department at Jefferson Hospital and his service in the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis. The Society's efforts to prevent tuberculosis in Philadelphia particularly targeted labor unions and members of the working class during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Series VII. Dr. Christian Brinton, 1929, contains a limited sample of his work as an art critic and lecturer. Included are five essays, one script for a presentation of lantern slides, and three drafts of a radio speech on Native American arts. Among his correspondence is a 1929 letter to Theodore Dreiser, which conveys his impressions of Russian Ballet.

Series VIII. Joseph J. Steinmetz, 1929-1930, contains letters, photographs, and postcards documenting a world tour through Japan, China, the Philippines, Indo-China, India, Ceylon, Egypt, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Athens. Steinmetz addressed the correspondence to his mother and sister Margaret, who both lived in Germantown, Pennsylvania, but were also abroad, for a period in 1929, in Paris. He filled his letters with observations of the places he visited and the people he met, allowing the researcher to share Steinmetz's view of the world in 1929-1930.

Series IX. Other Family Members encompasses miscellaneous documents and Series X. Deeds includes documents that span several generations of Steinmetz and Brinton family land holdings. A genealogical summary of the Brinton family is appended to this finding aid.