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Wistar Family Member Donates Important Abolitionist Letter

At the end of 2012, the Institute received a special gift: a copy of an enlightening letter from Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Written to Caspar Wistar, M.D., and addressed to his home on Arch Street, the letter concerns the admission of Texas to the Union as a slave state, an issue brought before Congress in November of 1845. Whittier is organizing a group of Quaker Friends to go to Washington, D.C. to speak with Congressmen about the slavery issue as related to Texas, “Who will go from Philadelphia?” he asks, and also asks that Wistar bring a delegation from Philadelphia.

The first Dr. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818), for whom the Institute is named and who was Chair of Anatomy at University of Pennsylvania, was also an abolitionist who served as President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promotion the Abolition of Slavery.

Our copy (full series of images below) of the letter was generously given to the Institute in early December by Wistar family members Dr. and Mrs. Donald V. Rhoads. Descended from Isaac Wistar’s sister, Sarah, and her husband William Rhoads, Dr. Rhoads is a former member of The Wistar Institute board of trustees, and father of current board member Sam Rhoads. The original of the letter was given by the Rhoads family to the Quaker Collection at Haverford College.

Abolitionist letter, address



Abolitionist letter, page 1



Abolitionist letter, page 2