University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Graff Family Papers

1750 - 1856

(bulk dates 1756 - 1829)

Manuscript Collection Number: 395
Accessioned: Gift of Moyerman Family, 1972
Extent: .6 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, receipts, and contracts
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: April 2000, by Teresa Morris

for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:

Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Jacob Graff (1727-1780), a German immigrant, was a bricklayer, builder, and landowner in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. Jacob Graff married Catherine Able and together they had ten children, six of whom survived. The known names of the survivors include Henry, John, and Jacob (1751-1793). Jacob Graff and his son Jacob were merchants also, but it is difficult to distinguish the two in the papers because both were referred to as Jacob Graff.

The Graff family was a prosperous one. They made large purchases and paid wages for multiple day laborers. The National Park Service confirmed Jacob Graff as the landlord of the house where Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence.

The grandsons of Jacob Graff, through his son Jacob, were Frederick (1774-1847) and Charles (b. 1779). Frederick Graff was an engineer and architect in Philadelphia, where he was instrumental in planning and building the municipal waterworks at Fairmount. It is likely that Charles Graff was the partner in the Pleasants and Graff business. It is unclear if this business is a direct successor of his father’s mercantile business.

Two other businessmen, Sam Pleasants and Frederick Shinkel, are represented in this collection. Sam Pleasants was also a merchant whose records show him as a contemporary of Charles Graff and the Pleasants and Graff business. Frederick Shinkel was a builder and contemporary of the elder Jacob Graff.


Donaldson, Thomas. The House in which Thomas Jefferson Wrote the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia: Avil Printing Company, 1898.

Graff Family Papers, 1760-1788. The Winterthur Library. Winterthur, Del.

Frederick Graff Papers, 1798-1829. The Winterthur Library. Winterthur, Del.

Simpson, Henry. The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, Now Deceased. Philadelphia: William Brotherhead, 1859.

Note: Biographical information is also derived from documents and correspondence in the collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Graff family papers primarily depict the business lives of three generations of merchants and tradesmen in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Philadelphia. The majority of the receipts, letters, and contracts with dates spanning 1750-1856 represent the business affairs of Jacob Graff, his son Jacob, and his grandsons Frederick and Charles Graff. Records from Frederick Shinkel and Sam Pleasants are also included in the collection. Records of Pleasants and Graff, a mercantile business, date from 1821-1829.

The collection is arranged in eight series. Series I consists of the records of Jacob Graff and his son Jacob. Both father and son are written in records as Jacob Graff until the elder’s death in 1780. After that date, the father was referred to as Jacob Graff Sr. As a result, their records are arranged chronologically and no attempt was made to separate the records of father and son. Series I also includes receipts that were pasted to other receipts. Separation of these joined items threatens the physical integrity of the items and they are left in tact.

Frederick and Charles Graff are represented in Series II and III. Frederick Graff’s papers represent his involvement in the family concern as landlords of several Philadelphian properties. The papers of Charles Graff concern some landlord business and his service as Guardian of the Poor in 1818 (F8). An additional series is devoted to the Pleasants and Graff business, primarily receipts. The remaining series concern records for miscellaneous or unattributed Graff family members. The records include contracts for renting or leasing Philadelphia properties and other business receipts.

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series I.  Jacob Graff
          This series represents the business records of Jacob
          Graff and his son Jacob.  They include receipts for
          bulk purchases of lumber, tin, nails, cloth, salt, and
          other dry goods.  Since both father and son were known
          as Jacob, no distinction between their records is
          possible before 1780.
          Series I.1.  Receipts, 1750-1793
          Includes a 1761 receipt for Shinkle and Graff merchants
     F1   Jun 1751 - Dec 1759

     F2   Jan 1760 - Dec 1769

     F3   Apr 1770 - Dec 1778

     F4   Sep 1780 - Jul 1789

     F5   Nov 1790 - 1799

     F6   undated or multiple attached receipts

          Series II.  Frederick Graff
          This series includes receipts for rent, poor tax and
          real estates taxes.

     F7   Receipts, 1807-1817
          Series III.  Charles Graff
          Receipts from Charles Graff's business transactions.
          There are receipts from his work as Guardian of the
     F8   Letters, 1813-1844

     F9   Receipts, 1799-1839 and undated

     F10  Poor Requests, undated

          Series IV.  Miscellaneous Graff Materials
          This series contains receipts for various Graff family
          members including Charles, Frederick, Ana, Mrs. Charles
          Graff, John and Francis.

     F11  Contracts, 1812-1850

     F12  Receipts, 1796-1856
          Includes Undertaker’s bill for the estate of Mrs. Anne
          Graff, 1856.

2         Series V.  Sam Pleasants
     F13  Account sheet, 1793

          Series VI.  Pleasants and Graff
          This series includes receipts and letters from the
          partnership of Pleasants and Graff.  Most records
          represent the incoming and outgoing receipts of a
          commercial or dry goods store.
          Series VI.1  Pleasants and Graff, Letters, 1828-1829

     F14  1828 Jan - Jun
          1829 Sep

          Series VI.2  Pleasants and Graff, Receipts

     F15  1821-1826

     F16  1827 Jan - Jul

     F17  1827 Aug - Dec

     F18  1828

     F19  1829

     F20  undated

          Series VII.  Frederick Shinkel
          Includes receipts for dry goods and property taxes.
     F21  Receipts, 1756-1809

          Series VIII.  Miscellaneous Receipts

     F22  Foreign Language receipts (German)

Back to the UD Special Collections Home Page

+ Return to List of Manuscript Finding Aids by Title

This page is maintained by Special Collections
Last modified: 01/19/11
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014