Guide to the William C. Thornton Papers, 1805-1854


Correspondence of the related Compton, Thornton, Treadway, and Wainwright families of London, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, centering around William C. Thornton.

Collection Details

Collection Number
William C. Thornton papers
Thornton, William C.
0.5 Linear Feet
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials in English

Collection Overview

The following description has been transcribed from the card catalog, which was composed in 1951:

The central figure of this correspondence, which is largely that of the related Compton Thornton, Treadway, and Wainwright families of London, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, is William C. Thornton. By 1817 he was associated with John G. Smith and Co. of Richmond. Between then and May 1820, he took a position with the U.S. Bank in Richmond. Within a few years he had left the bank and was in a mercantile business near Prince Edward Court House, Virginia, with his brother-in-law, Thomas Treadway, Sr. After two years, he sold out and went to New York, where he went into business with Thomas Treadway, Jr., Thomas Sr.'s nephew. He later entered the U.S. Bank in Philadelphia, where he remained until the early 1840s when he returned to business.

In a letter of August 1805, Townsend Compton writes from London about several members of his family and the fear there of an invasion by Napoleon's forces; in Dec. 1816, he writes of the depression in England, blaming Pitt's measures for nearly ruining the country, and stating that Spain and Ferdinand VII would disgrace a nation of barbarians. A later letter from Compton (May 1, 1820) comments further on England's depression, and speaks of the success of actors Kean and Matthews.

There are also letters to Rachel, Rebecca, and Abraham M. Church; James Martin; letters from Medmor Goodwin (1817); Mary Treadway in 1826 to Rebecca Thornton, wife of William C. Thornton; letters to Rebecca from her sister Caroline in Farmville; Sarah H. Thornton and M.F. Thornton to their uncle, William J. Wainwright; a series of letters starting in Oct. 1839 from T.T. Treadway at the University of Virginia to his aunt and his cousin, Edward C. Thornton of Philadelphia; Elizabeth Russell Norwood of Boston to her friend Mrs. William Wainwright (including a letter from Aug. 1842 regarding women's rights); a letter from T.T. Treadway of Prince Edward in 1842 discussing slaveholding; a letter from Newton, CT., in Jan. 1844 about temperance debates and lectures; letters to Sarah A. Thornton from her friends; and a letter from Mary Treadway in Dec. 1852 commenting on Uncle Tom's Cabin.

More Biographical / Historical Info


Arranged chronologically.

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More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], William C. Thornton Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1805-1854
(3 folders)

Historical Note

Banker of Richmond, Va., and Philadelphia, and merchant near Prince Edward Court House, Va., and in New York, N.Y.

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The William C. Thornton Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1951.

Processing Information

Processed by RL Staff, date unknown.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 8-27-1951