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Abstract

Catherine Wistar Bache (1805-1886) was the point of connection between two of Philadelphia's most illustrious families of the late eighteenth century. Daughter of the physician Caspar Wistar, in November 1797 she married Dr. William Bache, who was the son of Richard Bache and the grandson of Benjamin Franklin.

Primarily letters to Mrs. Bache (wife of Dr. William Bache) of Philadelphia, from Mrs. David Hosack (nee Mary Eddy), Mrs. Elizabeth Trist, and Mary Jones. The letters are personal and concern family life, activities of husbands, etc., with many references to Caspar Wistar, There are comments on diseases, education (at William and Mary College), war, and politics. References are also made to the deaths of Richard Bache and Caspar Wistar, and to Benjamin Franklin's Stockado (a musical instrument).

Background note

Catherine Wistar Bache (1770-1820) was the point of connection between two of Philadelphia's most illustrious families of the late eighteenth century. She married Benjamin Franklin’s grandson Dr. William Bache (1773-1820) in November 1797.

Catherine Wistar Bache was born in Philadelphia in 1770, to Richard Wistar and Sarah Wyatt. Her brother was Caspar Wistar (1761-1818, APS 1787), a physician and professor of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania

In 1797 Catherine married the physician William Bache, son of Richard Bache and Benjamin Franklin’s daughter Sarah “Sally” Franklin. The following year yellow fever struck the city. In part because of fear of the epidemic, which killed William’s brother Benjamin, and also because of the urging of their friend Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826, APS 1780), the couple decided in early 1799 to move from Philadelphia to Albemarle County, Virginia. In 1800, after a stay of several months at Monticello, they moved into their new house in Franklin, Virginia.

When the farm proved inadequate to support the family, they began to experience financial difficulties. As a result, William Bache sought a government appointment from President Jefferson. In 1802 he was appointed to care for sick American seamen in New Orleans. Meanwhile Catherine Wistar Bache and their children moved back to Philadelphia. They were reunited in 1803 when William was appointed Surveyor of the Port of Philadelphia, a position he held until his death in 1820.

Catherine Wistar Bache died in Philadelphia only three months after her husband, in November 1820. The couple had four children, Sarah Bache (1798-1820), Benjamin Franklin Bache (1801-1881), Emma Mary Bache (1803-1813), and Catherine Wistar Bache (1805-1886).

Scope and content

The papers of Catharine Wistar Bache consist of 114 letters written by and to Catharine Wistar Bache, wife of Dr. William Bache of Philadelphia. Bache's major correspondents include Mary Eddy Hosack (wife of the physician David Hosack), Elizabeth Trist, and Mary Trist Jones. Primarily personal in nature, these letters discuss family and husbands, and contain numerous references to Catharine's father, Caspar Wistar, as well as to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Other letters discuss yellow fever and other diseases, education at William and Mary College, the war, and politics, and one letter refers to Benjamin Franklin's "sticcado" (a musical instrument).

The Trists were intimate friends of Thomas Jefferson. As a representative to the Continental Congress, Jefferson lodged at the home of Mary House, whose daughter Elizabeth Trist took on the role of surrogate mother for Jefferson's daughter. After the death of her own husband, Trist moved to Monticello with her son.

Collection information

Provenance

Acquired from Marian Carson, 1967.

Preferred citation

Cite as: Catherine Wistar Bache Papers, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Reformatted by rsc, 2003.

Related material

At the APS, see also the numerous collections related to Benjamin Franklin and to various members of the Bache family. The Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Princeton University houses a collection of Bache and Wistar Family Correspondence (call no. C0381).

The APS also houses the papers of Sarah Bache Hodge, daughter of Catherine and William Bache.

Early American History Note

This relatively small collection contains rich correspondence often directed to Catherine Wistar Bache, the daughter of prominent doctor Caspar Wistar and wife of Richard Bache’s son. The collection is one of the many to the Bache-Franklin collections at the APS. This specific collection contains numerous letters from other women, often wives and mothers, to Catherine. There are a few letters to Caspar Wistar and William Bache (Catherine’s husband), which often discuss current events, specifically Anthony Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the Whiskey Rebellion. The letters to Catherine discuss current affairs, such as the Yellow Fever epidemic and the War of 1812. More often, however, the letters relate family and personal matters. The letters primarily discuss husbands, family activities, children, and other such topics. Some of the early letters also touch upon gender relations and courtship. For instance, a male correspondent wrote Catherine that he has not received any letters from his “female correspondents” and was thus hoping “to renew the friendly intercourse,” and Mary Eddy discussed flirtations. The correspondence in this collection spans more than thirty years, and therefore also provides insight on the changing concerns of Catherine as a young single woman, wife, and mother. William Bache was sent to Louisiana in 1803 in an official post overseeing a hospital. Discussion of moving to Louisiana is included in the collection, during which references to “Captain Lewis” are made, likely Meriwether Lewis. Because of her position in society, these letters often provide portraits and anecdotes of prominent figures.

Indexing Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • College of William and Mary.

Genre(s)

  • Family Correspondence

Personal Name(s)

  • Bache, Catherine Wistar, 1770-1820
  • Bache, William, 1773-1820
  • Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790
  • Hosack, David, 1769-1835
  • Hosack, Mary Eddy, d. 1824
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
  • Jones, Mary Trist
  • Kemper, Jackson, 1789-1870
  • Madison, James, 1751-1836
  • Trist, Elizabeth
  • Wistar, Caspar, 1761-1818

Subject(s)

  • Early National Politics
  • Marriage and Family Life
  • Native America
  • Philadelphia History
  • Social Life and Custom
  • United States--History--War of 1812
  • United States--Politics and government--1783-1809
  • War of 1812
  • Women's History
  • Yellow fever--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia


Detailed Inventory
Catharine Wistar Bache Papers
1788-1822 114 items Box 1-2
to Miss Catharine Wistar.
1788 January 27 
to Catharine Wistar
1788 September 14 
to Catharine Wistar
1793 June 4 
to Catharine Wistar
1793 June 17 
to Catharine Wistar
1793 June 23 
to Catharine Wistar
1793 July 22 
to Catharine Wistar.
1793 August 23 
to Catharine Wistar
1793 November 14 
to Catharine Wistar
1794 August 5 
to Dr. William Bache.
1794 November 2 
to Dr. William Bache.
1794 November 8 
to Dr.William Bache.
1795 May 13 
to Catharine Wistar
1795 July 14 
to Catharine Wistar
1795 July 30 
to Dr. Caspar Wistar.
1796 April 23 
to Caspar Wistar
1796 June 11 
to Catharine Wistar
1796 July 21 
to Catharine Wistar
1796 July 27 
to Catharine Wistar
1796 October 26 
to Catharine Wistar
1797 April 3 
to Hannah Wahn
1797 July 8 
Contract (copy)
1797 September 
to Catharine Wistar
1797 November 7 
to Catharine Wistar
1797 November 20 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1797 December 28 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1798 February 4 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1798 July 13 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1799 November 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1800 September 8 
to William Bache
1802 November 29 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1803 April 8 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1803 June 27 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1803 August 4 
to Dr. William Bache
1803 August 18 
to Dr. William Bache
1803 August 27 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1803 September 7 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1804 October 8 
to Dr. William Bache
1804 October 22 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1807 April 8 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1807 July 2 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1808 November 30 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1809 June 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1809 June 30 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1809 July 5 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1809 July 10 

Abstract: Letter to Bache, discussing plans to visit Philadelphia and a recent visit from Thomas Jefferson.

This item has been digitized:
http://diglib.amphilsoc.org/fedora/repository/text:2390

to Catherine Wistar Bache
1809 September 15 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1809 September 28 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1809 October 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
[1809] October 24 

Abstract: Letter describing Trist's visit to Washington, D. C. and investigations into the real name of Mr. Brown. Includes two notes found in the same folder as this letter.

This item has been digitized:
http://diglib.amphilsoc.org/fedora/repository/text:2389

to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 April 23 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 May 29 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 June 8 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 July 1 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 July 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 August 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 August 17 Box Oversize
to Catharine Wistar Bache
[1810] September 15 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 December 28 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1810 December 29 
to Catherine Wistar Bache
1811 February 20 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1811 March 24 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1811 May 7 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1811 July 6 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1811 July 14 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
[1811] October 18 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1812 February 1 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1812 May 3 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1812 June 25 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1812 September 12 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1812 September 28 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1812 November 25 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1813 February 1 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1813 February 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1813 July 7 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1813 November 23 Box Oversize
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1813 December 13 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1814 August 22 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1814 December 21 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1815 July 12 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1815 November 23 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1816 April 24 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 January 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 June 10 
Hosack, Mary Eddy Wistar.
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 June 23 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 July 2 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 July 7 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 September 12 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 September 20 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 November 12 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1817 December 31 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1818 January 31 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1818 February 15 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1818 February 18 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1818 October 17 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1818 December 5 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
1818 December 17 
to Catherine Wistar Bache
1820 April 25 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 
to Catharine Wistar
undated 
to Catharine Wistar
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: January 6

to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: December 20

to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: October 10

to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: May 3

to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: June 24

to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: May 6

to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: Thursday

to Catherine Bache
undated 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 
to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: Tuesday

to Catharine Wistar Bache
undated 

Other Descriptive Information: wednesday noon

to "My dear Aunt"
undated