Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America

Archives related to: Borie, A. E. (Adolph Edward), 1809-1880

titleBorie family papers, 1791-1888.
repositoryThe Historical Society of Pennsylvania
descriptionJohn Joseph (J. J.) Borie, son of John and Elizabeth (Chambert) Borie, immigrated to the United States from his home in Villenea, France, in the early 1800s and pursued a mercantile career in the trade house of Laborde Millet. When his business brought him to Philadelphia, J. J. boarded at a popular lodge owned by Elizabeth Beauveau, who, in 1802, had escaped the atrocities of the Haitian Revolution with her five daughters. J. J. married one of Elizabeth’s daughters, Sophie in 1808, and the two established a permanent residence in Philadelphia, near 4th and Spruce Streets.

J. J. also opened his own self-named importing and shipping business, and a cotton mill in Manayunk with his brother-in-law Peter Laguerenne, which was known as Borie & Laguerenne. J. J. and Sophie had twelve children together, the most notable of whom was their eldest son Adolph, who followed his father into mercantilism. Adolph also held several noteworthy appointments including president of the Bank of Commerce in 1848, director of the Pennsylvania Company for Insurance on Lives and Granting Annuities, and Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of Ulysses S. Grant. He served in this latter appointment for only four months, but remained close friends with the Grants and even briefly joined them on their European excursion from 1878 to 1879.

Adolph died shortly after his return home from that trip in 1880. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth (nee McKean), and his estate was managed by his brother, Charles. The Borie Family Papers span a period from 1791 to 1888, and document the professional lives and personal relationships of J. J. Borie and his son Adolph. They were both involved in several Philadelphia trade houses that shipped goods to France, Mexico, and South America. Commercial records additionally document J. J.’s cotton mill, which he owned in partnership with his brother-in-law Peter Laguerenne, and the experiences of several Saint Domingue merchants during the Haitian Revolution.

Personal papers in the collection highlight the Bories’ travels through Europe and Adolph Borie’s close personal friendship with Ulysses S. Grant. Besides J. J. and Adolph Borie, other related individuals represented in this collection include Sophie Borie (wife of J. J. Borie); Susanna Beauveau Guibert (Sophie’s sister) and her husband Elias; Charles L. Borie (one of J. J. Borie and Sophie Borie’s sons), his wife Clementine McKean, and one of their sons Beauveau Borie. There are also a number of records at the end of the collection for which the creator could not be identified.

Biographical and Historical Notes
Adolph Borie was born in 1809 and became one of the most notable of J. J. and Sophie
Borie’s children. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1825, following which he went abroad to France to complete his education and to travel.

He returned to Philadelphia in 1828 and became a partner in his father’s merchant business, which was renamed J. J. Borie & Son. Following his father’s death, Adolph also partnered in two other trading firms with his brothers-in-law Henry Bohlen and Henry Pratt McKean. Those trade houses were known as Borie & Bohlen and McKean, Borie, & Company.

Throughout his career, Adolph earned a reputation as a respectable business man, and was elected president of the Bank of Commerce in 1848. He was also a manager of the Philadelphia Saving Fund, manager of Pennsylvania Hospital, director of the Pennsylvania Company for Insurances on Lives and Granting Annuities, president of the
Philadelphia Club, and a member of the Board of Trade.

In 1858, he was also elected a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and later became a member of the American Philosophical Society. Adolph was also very interested in civic matters and was a very generous supporter of the Republican Party. During the Civil War he equipped and financed many of the troops for the front, and in 1862 was one of the original founders of the Union League. He also established friendships with several influential men including General Ulysses S. Grant. The two were so close that when Grant was elected president of the United States in 1869, he appointed Adolph secretary of the navy, even though he was not qualified for the job. Although he was flattered, Adolph resigned from the appointment after four months, citing poor health as his reason for resignation.

Adolph and his wife Elizabeth (nee McKean, married in 1839), remained close friends with the Grants and often visited them at the White House. They also invited the Grants to visit them at their country home at Torresdale, located on the Delaware River. Adolph and Elizabeth also frequently used their home there, which they called “The Dell,” to entertain their nieces and nephews, because they had no children of their own. In 1879, Adolph briefly joined the Grants on their European excursion, and passed away shortly after his return home in 1880. His estate was managed by his brother Charles.
extent8 boxes, 6 vols., (5 linear ft.)
formatsCorrespondence Financial Records Notes Business Papers
record link
record source
finding aidFinding aid available online and in repository.
acquisition informationGift of Beauveau Borie, 1948.
updated03/16/2023 10:29:46