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Biddle Family Letters

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS252

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Biddle Family letters comprise the third part of the Biddle Family papers and is organised into three series:

1. Francis Biddle and Katherine Biddle correspondence exchanged between 1912 and 1968. Of particular interest are the very early "courtship" letters from Katherine Biddle before her marriage to Francis Biddle; and the correspondence (primarily from her) sent in late 1945 to 1946 when Francis Biddle served on the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

2. George Biddle correspondence primarily to his brother Francis Biddle written between 1899 and 1972, with the bulk dating between 1940 and 1970. The letters provide biographical details on his work and rich connections in the art world. (cf. also George Biddle's autobiography, "An American Artist's Story" (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1939).

3. Miscellaneous family correspondence and material relating to other members of the Biddle clan including the families of Coxe, Chapin (note especially the letters of sculptor and artist Cornelia Chapin), McMurtrie, Randolph, and Robinson. Letters by the earlier members of the family provide much historical interest, offering insight into the lives of American nineteenth century men, women and their families.

Husbands and sons often wrote from abroad as necessities of work and education dictated. In particular, letters from William McMurtrie to his wife Elizabeth Coxe McMurtrie offer colorful descriptions of his experiences while serving in the U.S. Navy off the coasts of Italy, Turkey, and in Gibralter. Women's correspondence is typically replete with domestic news of births, deaths, and the general health of various family members. Mothers and aunts advised daughters and nieces on the social graces and especially matters of religion. Well-educated and literate, the women wrote to each other at length, often reporting on books they were reading, as well as the running of their own schools, as did Emily Coxe and her sister Ann Coxe, both married to ministers, the Reverend Charles Pettit McIlvaine and the Reverend Chauncey Colton, respectively. (cf. also the Franklin Sanborne Papers, for nineteenth century American women's correspondence.)

Other substantial correspondence of historical interest includes that of Clement Cornell Biddle (1784-1855), George Biddle (1843-1886), George Washington Biddle (1818-1897), his wife Maria Coxe McMurtrie Biddle, and her sister Elizabeth McMurtrie McColl. The collection is completed by several valuable files of information on the Biddle family genealogy tracing roots back to William Biddle (1630-1712) and wife Sarah Kemp, who arrived in America in 1681, as well as to William Randolph (1650-1711), whose grandson married a granddaughter of Pocahontas.


  • 1777 - 1973
  • Majority of material found within 1860 - 1960

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Permission of the Biddle Family is required before accessing this collection. The Booth Family Center for Special Collections can provide information on the permission process.

Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.


2.25 Linear Feet (3 Hollinger Document Cases, 1 Record Storage.)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Edmund Randolph Biddle, 1999.

Biddle Family Letters
Lisette Matano, Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057