Redick Collection Provides New Look at W&J’s Earliest Days

Created: August 18, 2016
Last Updated: January 15, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 18, 2016) – Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) is now home to a prized collection of letters and other documents owned by David Redick, one of the College’s earliest benefactors.

Redick served on the Washington Academy Board of Trustees in the early 19th century. He is credited with purchasing the books for the College’s first library with a grant gifted to the school by Benjamin Franklin.

“David Redick was one of the people who really helped get the College up and running,” said College Archivist Amy Welch. “These documents are insight into Redick as a person. It allows us to present a more well-rounded portrait of him.”

Redick came to western Pennsylvania from Scotland as a land surveyor. He helped the Hoge family design street plans for the City of Washington, and was later an attorney in the region. He also served as the vice president of the Supreme Executive Counsel of Pennsylvania, one of the state’s early governing bodies.

Not long after the founding of Washington Academy – later Washington College, and then Washington & Jefferson College –Redick traveled to Philadelphia, then the nearest major city, to buy textbooks for the College’s library. The receipt from that transaction is part of the newly-acquired collection.

Redick’s own home served as the College’s library from 1792 to 1803, and five of the original texts are owned by U. Grant Miller Library.

Welch found the compilation of Redick’s personal letters, receipts, and business transactions listed for sale on a rare books website. Stephan Loewentheil ’72, a W&J Board of Trustees member and rare book dealer, helped authenticate the contents. The College purchased it with a grant Loewentheil provided, and is documenting the pieces for the College’s archives.

“It’s very rare for collections of materials of this age to come out on the market. Not a lot of material survives from this time period in western PA because it was the frontier,” Welch said. “These documents would be of interest to people researching the history of western Pennsylvania because of his work in surveying and his involvement in politics, and also because his family did become so entrenched in the region.”

The Redick Collection is not yet available for public view, but the archives of U. Grant Miller Library are open to the public during the library’s normal business hours. To access the College’s archives, contact Welch at awelch@washjeff.edu.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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