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Elizabeth Ashburnham receipt book

Identifier: MSS 0096-Item 0003

Scope and Contents

This receipt book was kept by Elizabeth Ashburnham of Wilmington, Delaware, between 1824 and 1866 to record her expenditures, primarily payments for boarding and taxes.

In this receipt book, Elizabeth Ashburnham maintained over forty years of records on her expenditures for various goods and services. After Ashburnham made a payment, her creditor would record the date, the amount received, and his or her signature in Ashburnham’s receipt book, providing her with confirmation that her debt was paid.

Records in the book proceed chronologically from both front-to-back and back-to front. The front-to-back records were kept from October 29, 1824 to April 2, 1864. These entries primarily consist of payments for boarding to John Brown, although there are several entries for the payment of taxes. On July 2, 1857, Ashburnham began paying her board to Elizabeth A. Smith, who was acting on behalf of Sarah Brown. The Browns charged Ashburnham $19.50 quarterly for her board from April 1830 until April 1864.

The back-to-front records were kept from August 3, 1824 to May 26, 1866. Several of the entries in this section relate to payments for goods and work around the house, including chair upholstery, painting, and plastering. There are also several entries from John Brown regarding Ashburnham’s board. In an entry dated December 30, 1837, John Brown noted that Ashburnham had paid in full for his “Sister Sarah’s part of the house situated in High Street changed to face the street.” The rest of the entries record Ashburnham’s payment of city, borough, and county taxes. Such charges include county, road, school, poor, and water taxes.

The receipt book includes several pencil inscriptions on the inside of the front cover recording Ashburnham’s expenditures.

The volume is bound in marbled paper over boards with a tan leather spine.


  • Creation: 1824 August 3-1866 May 26


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth Ashburnham was born around 1774, probably in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1822, Ashburnham was living at 66 Main Street in Wilmington, Delaware, with Elizabeth Springer. In conjunction with Hannah Springer, Ashburnham sold the property to Elizabeth Springer in August 1824, around the same time she began paying board to John Brown.

It appears that Ashburnham never married, but she was likely a relative of Elizabeth Ashburnham Brown, who lived in Wilmington, Delaware, in the early- to mid-nineteenth century. Brown married Captain Franklin Smith, also of Wilmington, Delaware, on July 12, 1831. The couple had one child, Elizabeth Ashburnham Smith, who was born on May 10, 1832. As this receipt book shows, Elizabeth Ashburnham Smith began collecting board from Ashburnham to pay Sarah Brown in 1857. Ashburnham Smith was also the administrator of Ashburnham’s estate following her death in 1868. Elizabeth Ashburnham Smith married Henry Ryan Bringhurst on August 20, 1868.

John and Sarah Brown are frequently mentioned in the receipt book. The nature of the familial relationship between Elizabeth Ashburnham and the other Browns is not clear. John Brown was born on September 25, 1780, in Ireland. He was a weaver by trade and reported owning property worth about $2500 in the 1850 census. Sarah Brown, probably his sister, was born in Delaware in approximately 1784. John died on June 6, 1857, and is buried in the family vault at the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

The receipt book indicates that Elizabeth Ashburnham paid John Brown, then Sarah, for boarding. In the record of the 1850 census, Ashburnham appears to have owned no real estate, but the 1860 census lists $1200 in real estate and a personal estate of $1500. If John was indeed a relative, it is possible that she inherited this property upon his death.

The Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library owns a sampler likely worked by Elizabeth Ashburnham when she was seven years old.

Leach, Josiah Granville, 1842-1922. History of the Bringhurst family; with notes on the Clarkson, De Peyster and Boude families. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1901., p. 72.

Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library On-Line Collection, “Elizabeth Ashburnham sampler, 2011.0036.001” (accessed January 17, 2018)

Wilmington, Delaware, City Directory for 1862 (accessed via on January 17, 2018)

”Final Settlement of Elizabeth A. Ashburnham, July 30, 1868 (accessed via on January 17, 2018)

Indenture between Ashburnham and Springer, August 26, 1824, Delaware Land Records, 1677-1947 (accessed via

The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, July 15, 1822 (accessed via on January 17, 2018)

1850 Federal Census (accessed via on January 17, 2018)

1860 Federal Census (accessed via on Januray 17, 2018)

Information derived from the collection.


1 volume : 91 pages ; 21 cm


This receipt book was kept by Elizabeth Ashburnham of Wilmington, Delaware, between 1824 and 1866 to record her expenditures, primarily payments for boarding and taxes.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 1941

Related Materials

This item forms part of MSS 0096 Account Books and Ledgers collection.

Related Materials in other Repositories

Elizabeth Ashburnham sampler, 2011.0036.001, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library.

Shelving Summary

Item 0003: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0096

Processing Information

Processed by Marrette Pearsall, 2012. Further processing and encoding by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, January 2018.

Finding aid for Elizabeth Ashburnham receipt book
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2018 January 18
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA