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Gratz family (Philadelphia) papers

Identifier: P-8

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains correspondence, legal documents, and miscellaneous items concerning the personal lives and business interests of Barnard, Michael, and Rebecca Gratz.

Included in the collection is personal correspondence of Barnard and Michael Gratz with their brothers Hayim and Jonathan in Europe (1756, 1759), and their cousins, the Henry (originally Bloch) family (1756-1801), also in Europe. It also includes the correspondence of the Henry family itself (1754-1760), letters between Barnard and Michael Gratz (1760-1787) to Solomon and Rachel Etting (1794-1798). There are also letters from Patrick Rice (1787), Eleazar Levy (1778), and from Moses Michael Hays. Of special interest are two printed letters from Palestine (now Israel) to Michael Gratz requesting financial assistance (1763); the last will and testament of Michael Gratz, written before he left London for America (1759); and a letter from Manuel Myers, president of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, to Michael Gratz, giving his permission for Gershom Mendes Seixas to marry Gratz and Miriam Simon in Lancaster (1759).

Included in the business papers and correspondence are letters from Meyer Josephson in Yiddish (1761-1767), Nachman Ben Moshe (1764), and Joseph Simon (1771, 1784); letters from General Augustine Prevost (1773, 1789), Peter Livingston (1768), and Isaac Hart of Newport (1769); various deeds, leases, and other legal documentsl; and the account of Michael Gratz with his sons, Simon and Hyman (1797-1814). Among the witnesses for the deeds is Aaron Levy. Of special interest is a waste book (temporary account book) of accounts, in English and Yiddish, apparently kept by Michael Gratz soon after his arrival in Philadelphia (1759-1760); a certificate of Kashrut in Hebrew signed by Abraham I. Abrahams of Congregation Shearith Israel for meat shipped by Michael Gratz to Barbados (1767), and papers dealing with the Gratz brothers' relationship with George Croghan. Among the latter are items pertaining to the Illinois and Wabash grants (ca. 1779), and maps of Croghan's Lake Otsego lands (1774), and of Gratzburgh (1786), both located in New York State. Also included is a map of land owned by Michael and Barnard Gratz in Montgomery County, Virginia (1786). Related is a document signed by Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, granting land in Montgomery County to Michael Gratz.

This collection also contains personal letters written by Rebecca Gratz to various family members and friends. Her primary correspondents were her brother, Benjamin Gratz, of Lexington, Kentucky, and his wives, Maria Gist Gratz and Anna Maria Boswell Gratz. A substantial collection of letters from her friend, Maria Fenno Hoffman, wife of Ogden Hoffman, attorney general of New York State, is also included. The collection also contains several letters to Rebecca Gratz, including one from her mother (1799); several from Slowey Hays (1806-1832); several items pertaining to the Jewish Sunday School of Philadelphia, the Female Benevolent Society of Philadelphia, and the Orphan Society; a receipt for payment of United States income tax, along with a list of silver on which tax was paid (1862); and papers relating to Rebecca Gratz's estate.


  • undated, 1753-1916


Language of Materials

This collection is in English, with some Hebrew and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

For reference questions, please email:

Biographical Note

Barnard Gratz (1738-1801) was born in Langendorf, Upper Silesia. He emigrated to the United States, settling in Philadelphia, in 1754. Together with his brother Michael Gratz (1740-1811), he ran a successful trading business. Among other activities, they sold kosher meat to the West Indies, and conducted an extensive and sometimes dangerous Indian trade with the western areas of the United States. The Gratz family supported the United States during the revolution; Barnard Gratz was a signatory of the Non-Importation act. In addition, Barnard Gratz founded the first Philadelphia synagogue, Mikveh Israel. The family trading business was carried on by two of Michael's sons, Simon (1773–1839) and Hyman (1776–1857).

Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869), one of ten children of Michael and Miriam Simon Gratz, was perhaps the most prominent Jewish woman of the Early Republic. After an elite education at the Young Ladies Academy in Philadelphia, Gratz became active in a variety of charities. She founded and helped run the Female Association for the Relief Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances, the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum, and the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society. She corresponded extensively with her far-flung extended family, her friends, and her peers.


5 Manuscript Boxes (OSF 1, Folders 1-2, OSF 2, Folders 1-3), 1 map folder (MAP 1)

3.5 Linear Feet


This collection contains correspondence, legal documents, and miscellaneous items concerning the personal lives and business interests of brothers Barnard (1738-1801) and Michael Gratz (1740-1811). It also contains the correspondence of Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869), Michael Gratz's daughter.

Arrangement Note

This collection is arranged by family member.

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Acquisition Note

Gifts of Judge Mayer Sulzberger, 1915-16; Miss Eleanor Cohen, 1918-19; Miss Henrietta Clay, 1931; Elsie O. and Philip D. Sang Foundation, 1979; Yosef Goldman, 1984, Yosef Goldman, 1984; Eleanor and Morris Soble, 1989; Sidney Lapidus, 2004.

Digitization Note

The collection is digitized in its entirety, with the exception of Box 1, Folders 19 and 24; Box 2, Folder 3; and Box 5, Folder 12.

Related Material

AJHS holds many related archival collections, such as the Congregation Mikveh Israel (Philadelphia, Pa.) records (I-26), the Etting family collection (P-143), and the Mordecai family papers (P-116).

The LBI Archives has digitized a letter book, containing correspondence from 1769-1772, belonging to Michael Gratz (AR 1042).

The American Philosophical Society (APS) Manuscripts Department also has a large collection on the Gratz Family of Philadelphia (Mss.Ms.Coll. 72).


Nine letters included in this collection were transcribed, translated, and published in "Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society," vol. 34 (1937).
AJHS Library also holds many published works about the Gratz family.

Processing Note

This collection includes the merging of the following collections: P-185, P-180, P-9, P-615, P-429, P-436, P-557.

Guide to the Gratz family (Philadelphia) papers, undated, 1753-1916 P-8
Finding aid written by AJHS Staff and Kevin Schlottmann
© 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • September 2014: Container list added, description and EAD extensively edited.
  • August 2016: Added dao links by Eric Fritzler.
  • March, June 2020: EHyman-post-ASpace migration cleanup

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

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New York NY 10011 United States