We learned the happy news last week that we have been awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Services for the preservation and digitization of the papers of the Friendly Association. The papers are among our most heavily used collections, having been used by several published scholars, as well as Ph.D. candidates, Master’s degree thesis writers and undergraduate history majors from Haverford in recent years.
The “Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures” was established in 1756 by a group of eminent Quakers in Philadelphia following months of horrific violence between settlers and Native Americans on the Pennsylvania frontier. Self-consciously contrasting themselves with the British army, the militia, and the more militant representatives of the proprietary government, the leaders of the Friendly Association sought to establish peaceful relations with the Delaware Indians and other nearby tribes, and thereby prove the effectiveness of Quaker pacifism.
The Friendly Association was a private initiative, without the official sanction of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, but it quickly assumed a prominent role in many of the most important controversies of the day. Israel Pemberton and the other leaders of the Association sought to represent the interests of the Delaware in their ongoing dispute with the Pennsylvania government over the so-called “walking purchase.” They monitored and participated in a series of treaty negotiations in the late 1750s and early 1760s, and eventually their disputes with the proprietary government became one element in a broad Quaker campaign to establish royal government and rescind the colonial charter.
The Friendly Association papers contain hundreds of unique and detailed accounts of behind-the-scenes treaty negotiations; historical documents dating back to the early years of Pennsylvania related to Indian affairs; the correspondence of Pemberton and others relating to fund-raising and the exigencies of Pennsylvania politics; and missives from Indian leaders, transcribed or otherwise transmitted by an intricate network of Indian “go-betweens” who maintained almost constant contact with the Association.
Dating from 1745–1792, the papers were bound into five folio-sized, half-leather scrapbooks in the late 19th century. The documents suffer from embrittlement of their housing and support, iron gall ink corrosion and degradation of the documents themselves, and heavy use, greatly exacerbating the threat of continued damage from the preceding problems. Treatment will take place in our in-house conservation lab and will allow for removal of the documents from their embrittled scrapbook leaves and stabilization of the document inks and paper supports. Each document will also be scanned and the resulting digital images will be loaded into Triptych, our digital library system. The project will take two years to complete and will involve several staff members, preservation interns, and student assistants.