Powel, Samuel, 1738-1793

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Samuel Powel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1738. The son of a prominent Welsh family, Powel is best known for his two terms as Mayor of Philadelphia, from 1775-17761 and from 1789-1790. The office of mayor lay vacant between his two terms; thus, Powel was the last colonial era mayor of Philadelphia, and the first mayor of the city after independence was secured. The second of three children, Powel graduated from the City College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1759. After spending several years in England, where he spent time with figures including Voltaire, the Pope, and the Duke of York, Powel abandoned his Quaker upbringings, converted to the Church of England, and returned to claim his inheritance in 1767.

Upon his return to the States, Powel wed Elizabeth Willing, herself both the daughter and niece of two previous Philadelphia mayors. His inheritance had left Powel with an obscene amount of wealth, including more than 90 properties in the Philadelphia era. In spite of this, Powel chose to purchase a home from Charles Stedman. This property, at 244 South 3rd Street in Philadelphia, stands today as a museum dedicated to the role played by Powel in both the founding of the nation and the relaxing of tensions after the Revolutionary War. Serving as an outpost for dignitaries, politicians, and those of high society, one of the Powel Home’s regular guests were George and Martha Washington.

After the Siege of Yorktown, George and Martha Washington occupied, for a time, the residence next door to the Powel House in Philadelphia. The Powels, noted entertainers of their time (insomuch that John Adams once called a dinner at their home a "most sinful feast") quickly became friends of the Washingtons, hosting the first President and the First Lady several times during their stay in Philadelphia. The President and First Lady would return the favor, hosting the Powels at Mount Vernon on many an occasion.

Better known now as Independence Hall, from 1753 to 1799, the structure located at 520 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia served as seat of the Pennsylvania colonial assembly, and later, state legislatures. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Powel’s biggest claim to fame, however, was the fervor in which he pledged himself to the Revolutionary cause. Although Powel would wait until the withdrawal of British troops from Philadelphia to sign the Oath of Allegiance, his passion for the revolutionary cause would earn him the title of “Patriot Mayor”. Upon the American victory in the Revolutionary War, Powel reclaimed his position as mayor, serving in the post until 1790. However, Powel’s political career did not end. After leaving the mayor’s office, Powel was elected to a term in the Pennsylvania, State Senate, a post in which he would serve until his death in 1793.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Powel family. Powel family papers, 1681-1938. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Robert Hare papers, 1764-1858, 1764-1858 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Dix, Dorothea Lynde, 1802-1887. Papers, 1798-1893 (bulk 1827-1887) Houghton Library
creatorOf Samuel Powel notes on metaphysics and logic, 1756 William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Morgan, George, 1743-1810. Letters and reports, 1777-1788. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Wharton, Charles Henry, 1748-1833. Letter, to Samuel Powel, 1792. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Powel, Samuel, 1738-1793. Letters , 1788-1790. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Powel family. Business papers, 1730-1778. Winterthur Library
creatorOf Young, Arthur, 1741-1820. Letter, to Samuel Powel, 1787. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Powel, Samuel, 1738-1793. Briefs of title, 1768-1909. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letter, to the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1790. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Powel, Samuel, 1738-1793. Powel Family Papers, Samuel Powel (1738-1793) Series, 1729-1791. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Livingston, Robert R., 1746-1813. Letter to Samuel Powel, 1788. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Meredith family. Meredith family papers, 1756-1964, bulk 1772-1873. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and the Useful Arts. Manufacturing fund ledger, 1788-1801. Hagley Museum & Library
creatorOf Muhlenberg, John Peter Gabriel, 1746-1807. Letter to Samuel Powel, 1788. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Hand, Edward, 1744-1802. Letters to Samuel Powel, 1790-1791. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Wynkoop, Henry. Letters, to the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1787-1788. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Bordley, J. B. (John Beale), 1727-1804. Letters and treatises on agriculture 1785-1788. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Benezet, Anthony, 1713-1784. person
associatedWith Bordley, J. B. (John Beale), 1727-1804. person
associatedWith Clymer, George, 1739-1813. person
associatedWith Coleman, William, 1704-1769. person
associatedWith College, Academy, and Charitable Schools of Philadelphia. corporateBody
correspondedWith Dix, Dorothea Lynde, 1802-1887 person
associatedWith Griffits, Samuel Powel, 1759-1826. person
associatedWith Hand, Edward, 1744-1802. person
associatedWith Hare, Robert, 1781-1858 person
associatedWith Library Company of Philadelphia. corporateBody
associatedWith Livingston, Robert R., 1746-1813. person
associatedWith Mathewson, Joseph. person
associatedWith Meredith family. family
associatedWith Morgan, George, 1743-1810. person
associatedWith Morris, Samuel, 1734-1812. person
associatedWith Muhlenberg, John Peter Gabriel, 1746-1807. person
associatedWith Pemberton, James, 1723-1809. person
associatedWith Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and the Useful Arts. corporateBody
associatedWith Physick, Edmund, 1727-1804. person
spouseOf Powel, Elizabeth Willing, 1743-1830 person
associatedWith Powel family. family
associatedWith Powel family. person
associatedWith Powel family. family
associatedWith Powel, Mary Morris, 1713-1759. person
associatedWith Proctor, Thomas, 1739-1806. person
associatedWith Rutherford, Robert, 1728-1803. person
associatedWith Washington, George, 1732-1799. person
associatedWith Wharton, Charles Henry, 1748-1833. person
associatedWith Wynkoop, Henry. person
associatedWith Young, Arthur, 1741-1820. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Philadelphia (Pa.)
Subject
Ethics--Early works to 1800
Logic--Early works to 1800
Land owners
Metaphysics--Early works to 1800
Philosophy--Early works to 1800
Real property
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1738

Death 1793-09-29

Male

Americans

English

Information

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