George W. Archer Historical Scrapbook, 1859-1930, MS 1678

George W. Archer Historical Scrapbooks, 1859-1930
Maryland Historical Society

(Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, March 1999.)

George W. Archer Historical Scrapbooks, 1859-1930
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Fax: 410.385.2105


Descriptive Summary

George W. Archer Historical Scrapbooks, 1859-1930

MS 1678

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674



143 N. Main Street

P.O. Box 366

Bel Air, MD 21014



GEORGE W. ARCHER, M.D., 1824-1907

Project Leader: David C. Hodge, Ph.D.




June 1998 Progress Report

The Archives Committee of the Historical Society of Harford Co., Inc., is conducting a project to identify, locate and collect in one place, copies of all the historical writings of Dr. George W. Archer. Dr. Archer was, by far, the most prolific historical and genealogical researcher who has ever lived in Harford County. To date it has been determined that he presented at least 39 oral papers (speeches) before the Historical Society; published at least 46 articles in local newspapers (many of which ran in multiple numbers of the papers); and produced about 10 other contributions, such as the address given at the dedication of the Bush Declaration plaque in 1900.

In 1895, Dr. Archer was commissioned by the Historical Society to prepare a county history for publication. He worked on this project as actively as he could throughout the remainder of his life and left us, among other things, a rough outline for such a book with 57 numbered chapters. Dr. Archer was never a well person after he returned to the county after serving as a Surgeon in the Confederate Army, and his health gradually deteriorated. During the last several years of his life he experienced repeated bouts of the Grippe, an influenza-like illness with very debilitating symptoms. Dr. Archer's correspondence files have been carefully studied and, until recently, it appeared that he really never got a history book ready for publication.

In June 1998, two documents were found in an old minute book of the Society which cast the project in a somewhat different light. First, a 1938 meeting record indicated that J. Alexis Shriver, then Secretary of the Society, had a complete manuscript of George W. Archer's history of Harford County, had engaged a lady to prepare typescripts from the manuscripts, and was talking to the John Hopkins Press about the cost of publishing the book. This was the first concrete inkling ever found that there really is (or was) a more or less complete Archer history book in manuscript form--somewhere. (And, possibly, in typescript form--somewhere.)

Second, a 1960 letter was found which indicated that Mr. Shriver divested himself of custody of the Historical Society's papers, and he decided to donate the papers to the Maryland Historical Society, the Hall of Records, and the Johns Hopkins University Library. We already knew that, when the Society's papers were returned to Harford County in 1976, we only received papers from the Maryland Historical Society. So that leaves the very real possibility that some of the missing materials may be at the Hall of Records in Annapolis, and/or in the Library of Johns Hopkins University.

Preserving Our Past For Your Future

The primary thrust of this project to date has been (1) to examine the Archives files of the Historical Society of Harford Co., Inc., in an effort to locate clean copies of the oral papers, and (2) to search microfilmed copies of local newspapers for articles published in those media. All materials located are being transcribed onto computer disks in preparation for whatever eventual use will be made of the material. Although the Society has a good collection of microfilm copies of local newspapers, there are some papers that cannot be found--The Bel Air Times, for example, does not seem to exist anywhere for the period 1887-1897.

Recently a visit was made to a repository outside Harford County, when the first visit was made to the Manuscript Collection of the Maryland Historical Society. This visit was very productive, in that it resulted in the identification of one previously unknown oral paper, one history book chapter that we do not have in the Archives in Bel Air, and seven previously unknown newspaper articles.

In addition, a distinctive feature of Archer's history book manuscripts was discovered. The history book chapter manuscript on Manors and Reserves, discovered in Baltimore, has topical sub-titles written at the top of each page. A search of the Archives files in Bel Air turned up four additional manuscripts that had sub-titles at the tops of the pages--and these four manuscripts are known not to be the bases for oral papers because Archer had reported that the original oral paper manuscripts of these four papers had been destroyed in a house fire. So now we have found five of the original history book chapter manuscripts! And we know how we will recognize future finds.

Other activities being pursued on this project include (1) checking the holdings of various Maryland libraries, (2) re-checking the Archives in Bel Air for information about newspaper articles, other writings, and history book chapters, and (3) trying to find a photograph or other likeness of Dr. Archer. Sadly, no one knows what he looked like.


28 June 1998





David C. Hodge, Ph.D.

12 July 1998

Summary: George W. Archer, M.D., prepared at least 39 articles for oral presentation before the Historical Society of Harford County, wrote at least 54 articles and letters to the editors of newspapers on historical subjects, and generated 10 or so other papers. In 1895 he was commissioned by the Historical Society to prepare a county history for publication. Based on a review of Dr. Archer's activities and correspondence, it is now believed that he was, in fact, nearing completion of Vol. I of a county history at the end of his life in 1907. Moreover, an apparently unsuccessful effort was made to publish this material in 1938. This chronology highlights his historical research and writing activities, and notes the delays he experienced due to health problems.



July - Published newspaper article(s) on Harford's revolutionary war activities in conjunction with the national centennial.



Maryland Biographic Cyclopedia indicates that GWA returned from the Civil War an invalid, and was not practicing medicine. He was writing prose and poetry for publication. No mention of historical or genealogical research activities.



September - Dr. Forwood asks GWA to help start a county historical society. Invites him to present a paper at the first meeting, 26 September 1885 (but GWA's first oral paper was delivered in December 1885).

October - Dr. Forwood asks GWA to develop a medical history of Harford County.

November - Dr. Forwood anticipates completion of GWA's paper on the bombardment of Havre de Grace in 1814, which was presented to the Historical Society on 5 December 1885; and notes that GWA has been officially appointed by the county medical society of write the historical account note above.




GWA prepares 39 papers for oral presentation to the Historical Society, and writes numerous articles for local newspapers.



December - Wm. A. Stewart's letter to the editor of the Aegis, Scraps of Harford's History: Who Will Gather the Fragments and Write a Complete History of the County? might have stimulated GWA to become more active in systematic historical research.




May - GWA gets estimate on cost of printing a county history book.

July - GWA gets 5 estimates on cost of printing a county history book.

October - Historical Society votes to establish a Committee to contact GWA about preparing a county history. GWA suggests that money for travel expenses to do historical research could be advanced against profit from the book. This was agreed to by the Committee.

November - A Committee of the Historical Society formally requests GWA to prepare a county history.

December - GWA states that he has never seen a history of any county in Maryland, or anywhere else; he indicates that he should study a group of county history books to see what they covered, and use that information to decide what to include in his book.


December - GWA agrees to prepare a county history for publication.

December - The Committee clarifies the difference between writing and publishing a county history. GWA is to write it; the Society is to arrange for publishing it.




January - Historical Society Committee reports back that GWA had been contacted, and that he had agreed to prepare a county history; he leave the publishing of it to others. He states that there is much information in Baltimore and Annapolis that needs to be consulted, and he will do so before beginning to write the book. GWA states that he is making plans go to Baltimore and Annapolis to do the historical research.

February - GWA publishes letter to editor of Bel Air Times and HDG Republican, indicating that he has agreed to write a county history.

April - Has been unable to go to Baltimore or Annapolis to do research. Had trouble arranging for accommodations.

May - Had to leave Baltimore before his research was completed, due to extreme heat.

November - Expects to be in Baltimore and Annapolis within a week to do research. Wants to borrow $30 from Steve Williams (his nephew) to defray travel expenses. Will pay him back out of the profits from the book. Wanted Steve to comment on his proposed outline and appendixes for book. Got the Grippe while in Baltimore and had to curtail his research.




February - Has been very ill. Concerned about the security of papers left in Steve's office; thinks they should be in the safe after all.

March - Mentions some sort of change in his financial situation. Has had to resort to doing genealogical research for money in order to support himself. Also states that he can no longer practice his profession [did he ever?], is very old (72), in precarious health, and totally deaf.

April - GWA reported progress to Historical Society. He specifically requests members to identify any sites that should be photographed.




November - Bush Declaration celebration being planned for 1900. GWA is upset because people are referring to the Bush Declaration as a declaration of independence.

September - Reports that a year or two ago the original MSS of his oral papers about settlements in Gunpowder Neck were destroyed in a house fire. He had loaned them to Rev. Geo. A. Leakin at Lake Roland, whose house subsequently burned down.

December - Is working on book as health permits.




February - Has not begun the actual writing of the book. Keeps finding new information to research.


March - Still making progress on history of county. Genealogical research, which is essential to pay his bills, takes time away from historical research. Has been collecting historical material for two years and is about to start writing.

June - Starts extensive correspondence about the status of the Bush Declaration. There are a number of letters to different people over a period of several months, and none of the letters mention any progrss on the history book.

November - Collecting information about county churches for history book.

December - Book is delayed due to health problems, and finding many more topics to research.




January - Trying to get historical materials back from S. B. Bradford.

March - Has been laid up with the Grippe for six months.

September - History book delayed by repeated episodes of Grippe.

October - Plus notice in HDG Republican that his history book has been delayed a year by illness, but that he intends to have it to the printer within six months.

October - States that S. B. Bradford has deliberately withheld historical material from him for the benefit of Walter Preston, who has announced that he will have on sale by November 1st a History of Harford County. GWA states: This must necessarily be a pitiable production, unless he has stolen all the works of myself and some 1/2 dozen of the working members of our Society which have been prepared from original records and read before the Society and published in newspapers and in pamphlet form.

November - States that he thinks his opposition to Bradford's Bush Declaration of Independence stimulated Bradford to support Preston's private printing of the history book.




January - Has read Preston's book and thinks it is really a terrible piece of work. States that Preston stole GWA's historical writings and the writings of others to put in the book. GWA seems to think that Bradford aided and abetted Preston in retaliation for GWA's arguing that the Bush Declaration was not a declaration of independence.

February - Has been collecting historical material for five years but has written little. Requests a copy of Magee's talk on the Aborigines, so he can include some of the material in his history book.

April - Anticipates receiving $100 from his brother, Steve's, estate. Says he is destitute, has received no genealogy commissions, cannot afford medicine or decent paper to write on. Has been delayed for a year due to ill health.

November - Talks about hostility between Gorrell, who bought the Aegis in 1894, and himself. Also had a problem with the editor of the Democrat who was a member of the Historical Society but was forever running down its members. States that he hopes to complete the writing project before his 80th birthday [1904]. States that he wants his book to be thoroughly researched from start to finish--not like Preston's!

December - Again states that Preston, and another third-rate Bel Air lawyer, S. B. Bradford, took advantage of his health problems, and stole his historical writings.




February - He has three Scrap Books of about 200 pages each, with printed papers which were contributed to the Society or published in the newspapers.


August - ...I have for the last three years been preparing for publication a History of this county....

September - Has written more than enough to make a volume about the size of Scharf's Chronicles of Baltimore. The MSS still have to be corrected and updated. The book will be issued in two volumes. I think the first had better be published as soon as ready.

I have really been trying to find out why the Good Lord afflicts me with bad health and lets so many other miserable sinners, who are engaged in much more disreputable kinds of business than writing a History of Harford Co., go stalking around with neither an ache nor a pain....

I hope to have it ready for the printer in the course of a few months....

October - Is getting concerned about losing more MSS in a house fire, and gives some to his cousin for safe keeping. [See notes at September 1899.]

December - Will soon have enough material to make 800 octavo pages, bringing events to about 1800. I think this should be issued whenever ready as Vol. I. Vol. II will require but a comfortably short time.




January - I think that when I have completed it down to the close of the Rev. War it would be well to publish the work as Vol. I, which will make a book about the size of Scharf's Chronicles of Baltimore. Vol. II to follow when completed.

May - Hopes to have the final version of Vol. I to the printer by the coming autumn [Fall, 1904].

September - Was threatened with moving his residence, and not being able to accommodate all his historical reference material at the new location. But this did not materialize.

November - Begs for money; speaks of poor health; has to cut own fire wood; is doing genealogical research for money to live on.




May - Progress hindered by ill health.

October - Is doing his best with the history book the very end, either of the History or of my life.

Winter - Had to move to another residence because his landlord closed the house and moved to Baltimore for the winter; GWA could not take his reference material with him to his temporary residence.




January - Is making no more promises about when the book will be finished.

March - Complete to end of Rev. War. 1776-1850 completed in spots.

March - To Dr. J. M. T. Finney, regarding his health. Mentions sunstroke in Texas, and repeated episodes of Grippe since end of Civil War. And of course he is totally deaf (due to an accident during the war, which he does not mention).

April - Correspondence about Mecklenburg Declaration (another non-declaration of independence). Wants to get more information about that old fraud Herman Husband.

June - Hopes to have first volume of 400 pp. finished within a year.

September - Continued sickness prevented him from visiting Baltimore.

December - Has been doing little except getting his fragments assembled.




January - Has enough material for first of two volumes, and hopes to have that volume issued within one year.

February - GWA died on 16th.




J. Alexis Shriver wrote letter to editor stating it is time to publish some of Archer's work.



According to Historical Society minutes, Shriver is actively trying to get Archer's book published.



A complete MS for volume I of the book has not yet been found. (A few MSS of book chapters have been located.) GWA left us a proposed outline and table of contents, and copious notes about topics yet to be researched.



From the above, it appears that GWA worked from mid-1895 to early 1902 primarily collecting and analyzing historical information and doing historical research in Baltimore, Annapolis and possible elsewhere. He began the actual writing of the book in late 1900 and continued until the end of his life in. (His activities were frequently interruped by attacks of the Grippe, an influenza-like viral infection.) It appears that he had drafted significant parts of the book by September and December, 1903, and by early 1906. Vol. I (up through the Revolutionary War) may have been substantially complete by the time of his death, in February 1907.