Martin I. J. Griffin papers, 1842-1950 (MC 8)


A prominent Catholic historian and Philadelphia native, Martin Ignatius Joseph Griffin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 23, 1842. His parents, Terence J. and Elizabeth (Doyle) Griffin, were immigrants from Ireland. He was educated in parochial and public schools and began his journalistic career as a contributor to Catholic newspapers. Widely known as a church historian, Griffin authored many works dealing with Catholic history and was a frequent contributor to and editor of several magazines and periodicals, including The Irish Catholic Benevolent Union Journal, American Catholic Historical Researches and Griffin’s Journal. He edited a Sunday School journal from 1867 to 1870 before serving as assistant editor to the newly established Catholic Standard and Times, the official Philadelphia diocesan newspaper, from 1870 to 1873.

Griffin founded the American Catholic Historical Society in 1884 and served as its secretary. He also belonged to several other historical associations, including the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Society of Philadelphia and served as secretary for the Irish Catholic Benevolent Union. An energetic promoter, he organized Philadelphia’s first youth’s Catholic Total Abstinence Society and in 1872 was one of the founders of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America.

The Martin I. J. Griffin papers document the life, work, and research of Martin I. J. Griffin (1842-1911). This collection dates from 1842 to 1950, with the bulk of materials dating from 1870 to 1911, and contains mostly correspondence, research files, notes, clippings, ephemera, and assorted personal records. The clippings are organized by subject and deal principally with Griffin’s research on the Catholic Church in America. Researchers should bear in mind that this collection contains materials which predate Griffin and also some materials which were created decades after Griffin’s death. Additionally, it should be noted that the majority of the dates are approximations due to the fact that many of the materials contain handwritten dates that reflect the date of the subject and not of the document itself. There is also a significant amount of undated materials.

26 linear ft.; 61 boxes

Researchers may find it helpful to consult the more recent finding aid (HTML) in conjunction with the legacy finding aid (PDF).

View finding aid (HTML)

Legacy finding aid (PDF)

Mary Brackett Willcox papers, 1807-1864 (MC 10)

This collection contains mostly incoming correspondence to Mary Brackett Willcox (1796-1866), wife of James M. Willcox (1791-1854) whose family owned one of the most significant paper mills in the country in Ivy Mills, now Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania. Along with their status in industry, the Willcox family was also one of the most prominent families within the Catholic community in the Philadelphia area. The family’s mansion became the center of Catholicity in Delaware County, and served as the beginnings of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, the oldest parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

During the 1840s and 1850s, students and the Vincentian administrators of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary spent their summers at the Willcox estate. The letters in the collection are from Vincentians, seminarians, and other priests serving the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who formed close ties with Mary and the Willcox family during this period. A majority of the letters address the topics of religion and spirituality, and more specifically, the teachings of the Catholic Church. These topics were of special interest to Mary. From an old established Puritan family from Massachusetts, she converted to Catholicism after marrying into the Willcox family. The correspondence also documents the Vincentians’ work in the Philadelphia diocese and in other parts of the country; and relates to the Willcox family. Besides correspondence, the collection also includes miscellaneous drafts, notes, and other writings that Mary likely authored.

0.4 linear feet; 1 box

Researchers may find it helpful to use the more recent finding aid (HTML) in conjunction with the legacy finding aid (PDF), which includes more detailed information.

View finding aid (HTML)

Legacy finding aid (PDF)