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John McDowell papers

 Collection 0104-MDHC

The collection consists of letters written to the lawyer and educator John McDowell (1751-1820) of Peters Township, Cumberland, now Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Among the correspondents is Charles Goldsborough, member of Congress and Maryland's last Federalist governor. Subjects include personal and family affairs, anti-war feelings, and the democratization of Maryland.


  • 1790-1818
  • Majority of material found within 1811-1818

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


29 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection consists of letters written to John McDowell between January 31, 1790 and December 21, 1818, the majority of which are written between 1811 and 1818. Most of the letters are from Charles Goldsborough, the last Federalist governor of Maryland, and were written during his term in Congress and immediately after, but prior to being elected governor of Maryland. The remaining letters are from four correspondents - two relatives of Charles Goldsborough, a minister, and a nephew of John McDowell.

Charles Goldsborough, 1765-1834, a lawyer and politicians, was born near Cambridge, Maryland. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and was admitted to the bar in 1790. Goldsborough's political careers included serving as Maryland state senator (1791-1795 and 1799-1801), United States congressman from the 8th district of Maryland (1804-1817), and governor of Maryland (1818-1819). John McDowell was both his mentor and friend. The correspondence is largely a discussion of personal life and family affairs. Notable exceptions are the letters of 1812 in which Goldsborough discusses his anti-war feelings and letters from 1816 to 1818 in which he discusses the democratization of Maryland and his disinclination to run for governor. The content of the letters from other correspondents consists of discussions of family affairs and requests for advice about education and careers.


John McDowell, (1751-1820), a lawyer and educator, was born on February 11, 1751 in Peters Township, Cumberland, now Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He was graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1771, where he served as a tutor until 1782. He moved to Cambridge, Maryland, and was admitted to the bar and practiced law. In 1789, McDowell turned his attention, once again, to teaching. He was professor of mathematics and principal of the newly-formed St. John's College at Annapolis for the next sixteen years. For a brief period, 1806-1810, he was professor of natural history and provost at the University of Pennsylvania, but resigned these positions due to frail health. He returned to Maryland in 1815 and was elected to board of visitors and governors at St. John's College. He spent the last two years of his life living with his sister in Peters Township, Pennsylvania, where he died on December 22, 1820, and was buried. John McDowell, although plagued by a frail constitution throughout his life, distinguished himself through outstanding scholarship and leadership in education.


The collection is organized as one series.

Series 1
Correspondence Received

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The John McDowell papers were purchased from William J. B. Burger in November 1988.

Processing Information

The collection was arranged alphabetically by correspondent's last name with an internal chronological arrangement and placed in acid-free folders.

Guide to the John McDowell papers
Processed by Alice M. LaSota.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742