Special Collections Department
Girvin Family Papers
Manuscript Collection Number: 394
Accessioned: Gift of the Moyerman Family, 1972.
Extent: 1 linear ft. (ca. 400 items)
Content: Correspondence, receipts, income tax returns, insurance cards.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: August 1999, by Teresa M. Morris
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
Born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Dr. Robert Girvin was graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1862. Robert Girvin used his skills as a doctor during the Civil War before beginning a practice on Walnut Street in West Philadelphia. After the Civil War, Robert Girvin married Susan Bell Harper of Philadelphia. He was a resident physician at Philadelphia Hospital and Presbyterian Hospital, and a consulting obstetrician at Philadelphia Hospital. He was also a member of the Philadelphia College Medical Society.
One of Robert Girvin's sons, John Harper Girvin, followed in his father's profession, and specialized in obstetrics and gynecology with a practice in West Philadelphia. An alumnus of the college and medical school of the University of Pennsylvania, John Girvin served as secretary of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia for sixteen years. John Girvin was a practicing physician, though he appears to have been more involved with medical research than his father. At the University of Pennsylvania he taught courses in obstetrics and gynecology, while also working at the university hospital. John Girvin never married and died at home in West Philadelphia in 1938.
Dr. and Mrs. Robert Girvin had a long-term friendship with German composer Reinhold L. Herman (1849 - 1919). Herman was a composer of operas, chamber music, cantatas and overtures. He conducted at the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston and the Meyer Symphony Concerts in Berlin. He also taught and performed in Berlin and New York. Many of his letters to Dr. and Mrs. Girvin are postmarked from New York, sometimes with a Carnegie Hall address. An intimate friend of Dr. Girvin, Herman was a frequent visitor to the Philadelphia household. Many letters between Herman and Robert Girvin concern travel plans for Herman's visits to Philadelphia; or plans for traveling places in the company of the Girvins. After Dr. Girvin's death, Herman continued to correspond with Mrs. Girvin, but the tone of the letters changes: they are less chatty and more formal.
Sources:"Dr. John H. Girvin Philadelphian was Secretary of the College of Physicians," New York Times, 24 October 1938.
Atkinson, William B. A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary American Physicians and Surgeons. Philadelphia: Brinton, 1880.
Thompson, Oscar and Bohle, Bruce. The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians. 11th ed. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1985.
Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. Philadelphia: A History of the City and its People. Volume 3. Philadelphia: S. J Clarke Publishing, 1912.
Note: Biographical information is also derived from documents and correspondence in the collection.
Scope and Content Note
Highlights of business correspondence to Dr. Robert Girvin include late 1880s letters from Theodore Pruden about the Girvin and Mylin bog in Toms River, New Jersey. Also notable are the letters pertaining to a Dunlow Coal Company lawsuit. Dr. Girvin appears to have been a member of a company attempting to complete payment to the Dunlow Coal Company. The personal correspondence of Dr. Robert Girvin includes letters to Girvin from the family of Isabella Agnew. These letters indicate Robert Girvin was the executor of this disputed estate. Of particular interest about the Reinhold Herman letters are the details about Herman's social and business life. Herman's letters mention in passing news such as "the golden wedding of our Emperor and we have the Exhibition now; the waves of politics are going high and the business-outlook is not quite encouraging yet" (June 26, 1879).
The correspondence of Mrs. Robert Girvin has much less depth over the time span of the collection. Notable among her letters are those from her son reassuring her about her financial situation after her husband's death (F8).
Dr. John Girvin's personal correspondence includes a group of letters from an unidentified woman with initials W.W.P. From her home in Syracuse, New York, this woman wrote very intimate letters to John Girvin about their relationship and also about local happenings. Dr. John Girvin's business letters are sparse. Most notable are two letters from a New York doctor concerning a pregnant teenager sent to John Girvin's care in Philadelphia during her confinement.
The family letters from Europe to John Girvin in April - July 1902 are highly detailed. Mrs. Girvin wrote to John Harper Girvin almost daily, often writing jointly to him and his brother Robert M. Girvin, Jr. His sister Helene wrote frequently to him, though not every day. Other correspondents are "Edith" and "Jane," who are not clearly identified from the letters, but might be relatives of John Girvin. There is also a letter from Helene to Robert Jr. (F19). The Girvin women traveled to many countries beginning with Italy in April 1902. In May, they visited Italy, Switzerland, and Paris. In June, they visited Scotland, Paris, London, and Oxford; and in July, they stayed in London, Amsterdam, and Heidelberg.
The second series of the collection consists of various receipts of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Girvin and Dr. John H. Girvin. These receipts offer a panoramic look at domestic and business accounts and other financial matters.
I. Correspondence, 1869-1910 1. Dr. Robert M. Girvin 2. Mrs. R. M. Girvin (Susan) 3. Dr. John Harper Girvin 4. Girvin Family II. Receipts, 1863-1902 1. Dr. Robert M. Girvin 2. Dr. John Harper Girvin 3. Estate of Dr. Robert M. Girvin
1 Series I. Correspondence, 1863 - 1910 This series contains letters to Robert M. Girvin, John H. Girvin, Mrs. R. M. Girvin, and Robert Girvin, Jr. A mixture of business and personal correspondence Series I.1. Robert Girvin, Business, 1882 - 1896 Subjects covered in this series include the Girvin and Mylin Bog and the Dunlow Coal Company lawsuit. F1 1882 - 1888 F2 1893 - 1899 F3 1 letter, n.d. Series I.1. Robert Girvin, Personal, 1869 - 1900 Subjects covered in this series include the dispute over Isabella Agnew's estate and a plea from a woman for employment assistance. The Herman letters consist of his news and arrangements for visiting the Girvins. F4 1869 - 1893 F5 1895 - 1900 F6 Undated letters and drafts F7 Letters from Reinhold Herman, 1876 - 1891 Series I.2. Mrs. R. Girvin, Personal, 1869 - 1904 Included are letters from her son John and also included are condolence letters about her husband's death. The Herman letters concern visiting the Girvin home. F8 Letters, 1869 - 1901 and undated F9 Letters from Reinhold Herman, 1896 - 1904 F10 Draft n.d. 2 Series I.3. John Girvin, Business, 1895 - 1902 This set includes two letters about a pregnant teenager, Carrie. F11 1895 - 1902 Series I.3. John Girvin, Personal, 1897 - 1910 Includes multiple letters from W.W.P., multiple condolence letters from friends and colleagues, and letters from his sister Helene. F12 1897 - 1910 F13 Undated F14 Drafts Series I.3. John Girvin, Personal, 1902 This set includes letters from his mother, sister Helene, and other female correspondents during their trip to Europe. F15 Apr F16 May 3 F17 Jun 3-15 F18 Jun 16-30 F19 Jul 1-8 F20 Jul 10-30 Series I.4. Girvin Family Two letters to "Dr. Girvin." Unclear to which Girvin the letters are written. F21 1884 May 7 1892 Feb 1 Series II. Receipts, 1863 - 1902 This series consists of business and household receipts from all three predominant family members. 3 Series II.1. Robert Girvin, Business and Personal, 1863 - 1902 This set includes receipts from livery stables, medical suppliers, journal subscriptions, natural gas providers, church giving, rent and a federal tax bill. F22 1863 - 1873 F23 1881 - 1902 Series II.2. John Girvin, Mrs. R. Girvin and the estate of Robert Girvin, 1900 - 1902 F24 1900 - 1902
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