University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Alfred Gratz Family Papers

1802 - 1894
(bulk dates 1880 - 1892)

Manuscript Collection Number: 320
Accessioned: Moyerman gift, December 1972.
Extent: .5 linear ft. (ca. 60 items).
Content: Correspondence, contracts, reports, bank books, invoices, receipts, certificates, bond
of indemnity, eviction notice, property deed, and cancelled checks.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: July 1995 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

The five members of the Philadelphia Gratz family who have documents in this collection are Hyman Gratz (1776-1857), Simon Gratz (b. 1773), Joseph Gratz (1785-1857), Henry S. Gratz (1859-1922), and Alfred Gratz (1855-1938).

Hyman, Simon, and Joseph Gratz were brothers, born to the prominent Philadelphia merchant, Michael Gratz. Their sister, Rebecca Gratz, was the prototype of the heroine in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and a noted Philadelphia philanthropist. The three brothers, who fought in the War of 1812, were prominent Philadelphians as successful merchants and financiers, and as patrons of the arts and leaders in the Jewish community.

During the War of 1812, Simon and Hyman Gratz, with Charles Wilkins, supplied great quantities of saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder. The saltpeter was mined from the Mammoth Cave which they owned. Joseph Gratz served as a member of the First Troop Philadelphia City Calvary.

Simon Gratz, as a Federalist, helped prepare for a possible British invasion of Philadelphia, by representing the Middle Ward in raising funds for the Committee of Defense.

Hyman Gratz became a director of the Pennsylvania Company for Insurance on Lives and Granting of Annuities in 1818 and in 1837 was elected the company's President, an office which he held until his death in 1857. Hyman, greatly interested in art, served as a director (1836-1857) and Treasurer (1841-1857) of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Hyman Gratz, who was a leader in Mickveh Israel Congregation in Philadelphia, left a deed of trust which (after making provisions for his relatives) provided for the establishment and maintenance of a "college for the education of Jews residing in the city and county of Philadelphia." Following the death of Hyman Gratz's last heir in 1893, Gratz College was founded.

Henry S. Gratz, the grand nephew of Rebecca Gratz, was born on June 22, 1859. He attended the Faires Classical Institute in 1873 and later studied at Lawrenceville. Following his education, Henry Gratz traveled west and established an extensive cattle ranch near Folsom, New Mexico. In 1898 he returned to Philadelphia, where he was President of the Athletic Club, a life member of The Union League, and an avid balloonist. Interested in aeronautics, Henry owned his own balloon and made a number of trips over Philadelphia. Henry Gratz died in December 1922.

Insurance and advertising executive Alfred Gratz was a descendent of the prominent Philadelphia Gratz family. His business interests centered in the Girard Fire Insurance Company and the Mechanics Insurance Company of Philadelphia. He was a director for Mechanics Insurance Company, as well as for the Susquehanna Coal Company, Amparo Mining Company, and the Lykens Water Company.

Alfred Gratz was elected Register of Wills for Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, in 1888. As Register of Wills, Alfred Gratz was also the ex-officio Clerk of Orphans' Court. Alfred Gratz died at his Spruce Street, Philadelphia home on January 1, 1938.


"Alfred Gratz." The New York Times. January 2, 1938. p. 41.

Cohen, Charles J. Memoir of Rev. John Wiley Faires. Philadelphia: Private printing for C. J. Cohen, 1926. pp. 341-342.

Morais, Henry Samuel. The Jews of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: The Levytype Company, 1894. pp. 269-273.

Philipson, Rabbi David. Letters of Rebecca Gratz. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1929. pp. ix-xiii.

Simpson, Henry. The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, Now Deceased. Philadelphia:: William Brotherhead, 1859. p. 448.

Wolf, Edwin, II. and Maxwell Whiteman. The History of the Jews in Philadelphia: From Colonial Times to the Age of Jackson. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1957. pp. 286-293.

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

Scope and Content Note

Although the Alfred Gratz Family Papers span the dates 1802-1894 (bulk dates 1880-1892) and include documents related to five members of the Gratz family, the papers chiefly are comprised of correspondence and documents generated during the initial years following Alfred Gratz's election as Register of Wills for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1888.

In addition to .5 linear feet of correspondence and documents related to Alfred Gratz, the papers include ten documents related to Hyman Gratz, Simon Gratz, Joseph Gratz, and Henry S. Gratz. The documents include receipts, deeds, a stock certificate, a membership certificate, letters, and a bond of indemnity. A description of each of these items is included in the series notes.

The material related to Alfred Gratz consists of bank deposit books, correspondence, receipts, bills, reports, cancelled checks, and contracts. Much of the correspondence consists of letters of recommendation for candidates seeking appointment by Gratz to the Philadelphia Register of Wills Office or the Orphans Court. Other correspondents include Pennsylvania Auditor General Thomas McCamant, who wrote Gratz regarding the assessment and payment of collateral inheritance taxes to the state for the estates of deceased Philadelphia area citizens, and the architectural firm of Moses and King, who oversaw of the construction of a stable for Gratz.

Among the correspondence are receipts and bills for services and goods, Gratz's drafts of reports which summarized the receipts and expenditures for the office of the Register of Wills and for Orphan's Court. Other reports projected the department's anticipated needs for salaries and supplies, recorded collateral inheritance tax sent to the state Treasurer, and summarized legal opinions related to current cases involving wills, estate appraisals, widow's benefits, or possible tax fraud.

Finally, the Alfred Gratz series includes six bank deposit books for four Philadelphia banks. Five of the six deposit books record deposits and withdrawals from accounts overseen by the Office of the Register of Wills.

The Keystone National Bank book appears to be for a personal account belonging to Alfred Gratz.

Arrangement Note

The Alfred Gratz Family Papers consist of five series which coincide with the five Gratz family members for which material is present. Documents or correspondence in each series is arranged in chronological order.

Series I. "Hyman Gratz Documents" includes four documents, one of which has been removed to the oversize section. Series II. "Simon Gratz Document" consists of a single document signed by Simon Gratz. Series III. "Joseph Gratz Documents" consists of three manuscripts documenting business concerns of Joseph Gratz. Series IV. "Henry S. Gratz Documents" includes two manuscripts related to Henry S. Gratz. Series V. "Alfred Gratz Correspondence and Documents" consists of ten folders of letters, reports, and other documents.

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

 1         Series I.  Hyman Gratz Documents, 1802-1850
     F1   Includes an 1802 property deed for a Philadelphia lot and tavern (witnessed by
          Hyman Gratz), a letter to Gratz regarding a divorce (1844), an eviction notice
          authorized by Gratz (1846), and a letter of recommendation (1850).  4 items

          Series II.  Simon Gratz Document, 1809

     F2   Document of a notary public's attempt to collect an overdue bill at the request of
          Simon Gratz for his client Samuel Meeker.  1 item

          Series III.  Joseph Gratz Documents, 1818 and 1831 

     F3   Includes invoices billed to the account of Joseph Gratz for shipments from London
          (1818 and 1831) and a bond of indemnity related to Philadelphia property owned
          by Gratz (1818).  3 items

          Series IV.  Henry S. Gratz Documents, 1880 and 1893

     F4   Includes Henry Gratz's membership certificate for the Historical Society of
          Pennsylvania (1880) and a certificate for stock in The Schomacker Piana Forte
          Manufacturing Company (1893).  2 items

          Series V.  Alfred Gratz Correspondence and Bank Books,

          Series V.1.  Correspondence, 1887-1891

     F5   1887-1888
     F6   1889 Jan-Jul
     F7   1889 Aug-Dec
     F8   1890-1891 and [n.d.]
          Series V.2.  Bank deposit books, 1882-1894
               With the exception of the Keystone National Bank of Philadelphia deposit
               book (which appears to be a record of a personal account for Alfred
               Gratz), the bank books are for accounts overseen by the Register of Wills.

     F9   The Keystone National Bank of Philadelphia, 1882-1889

          Merchants' Trust Company of Philadelphia
     F10  1889 Dec-1891 Feb
     F11  1891 Mar-Jun
     F12  1891 Jun-1894

     F13  Peoples Bank, 1889 Sep-Dec
     F14  The Real Estate Title Insurance & Trust Company, Philadelphia, 1889-1891 Jun

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