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John McDowell papers


John McDowell papers
McDowell, John
Collection number:
29 items
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

The collection consists of letters written to the lawyer and educator John McDowell (1751-1820) of Peters Township, Cumberland, now Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Among the correspondents is Charles Goldsborough, member of Congress and Maryland's last Federalist governor. Subjects include personal and family affairs, anti-war feelings, and the democratization of Maryland.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

John McDowell papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

John McDowell, (1751-1820), a lawyer and educator, was born on February 11, 1751 in Peters Township, Cumberland, now Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He was graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1771, where he served as a tutor until 1782. He moved to Cambridge, Maryland, and was admitted to the bar and practiced law. In 1789, McDowell turned his attention, once again, to teaching. He was professor of mathematics and principal of the newly-formed St. John's College at Annapolis for the next sixteen years. For a brief period, 1806-1810, he was professor of natural history and provost at the University of Pennsylvania, but resigned these positions due to frail health. He returned to Maryland in 1815 and was elected to board of visitors and governors at St. John's College. He spent the last two years of his life living with his sister in Peters Township, Pennsylvania, where he died on December 22, 1820, and was buried. John McDowell, although plagued by a frail constitution throughout his life, distinguished himself through outstanding scholarship and leadership in education.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection consists of letters written to John McDowell between January 31, 1790 and December 21, 1818, the majority of which are written between 1811 and 1818. Most of the letters are from Charles Goldsborough, the last Federalish governor of Maryland, and were written during his term in Congress and immediately after, but prior to being elected governor of Maryland. The remaining letters are from four correspondents - two relatives of Charles Goldsborough, a minister, and a nephew of John McDowell.

Charles Goldsborough, 1765-1834, a lawyer and politicians, was born near Cambridge, Maryland. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and was admitted to the bar in 1790. Goldsborough's political careers included serving as Maryland state senator (1791-1795 and 1799-1801), United States congressman from the 8th district of Maryland (1804-1817), and governor of Maryland (1818-1819). John McDowell was both his mentor and friend. The correspondence is largely a discussion of personal life and family affairs. Notable exceptions are the letters of 1812 in which Goldsborough discusses his anti-war feelings and letters from 1816 to 1818 in which he discusses the democratization of Maryland and his disinclination to run for governor. The content of the letters from other correspondents consists of discussions of family affairs and requests for advice about education and careers.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The papers of John McDowell were purchased from William J. B. Burger in November 1988.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Alice M. LaSota, February 1989.

Processing note:

The collection was arranged alphabetically by correspondent's last name with an internal chronological arrangement and placed in acid-free folders.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup created by Henry Allen.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is organized as 1 (one) series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence Received, 1790-1818 (29 items)

This series consists of 29 letters written to John McDowell between January 31, 1790 and December 21, 1818. Twenty-three were written by Charles Goldsborough, 1 by Howes Goldsborough, 2 by Robert Henry Goldsborough, 1 by James Kemp, and 2 by William M. McDowell. The letters are arranged alphabetically by correspondent's last name with an internal chronological arrangement.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
From Charles Goldsborough, February 13, 1792- November 1, 1818 series 1box 1folder 1
From Howes Goldsborough, January 31, 1790 series 1box 1folder 2
From Robert Henry Goldsborough, February 8, 1797-December 21, 1818 series 1box 1folder 3
From James Kemp, January 29, 1807 series 1box 1folder 4
From William M. McDowell, March 14, 1816-June 7, 1816 series 1box 1folder 5

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