Publication Date

December 1, 2013

Perspectives Section

In Memoriam

“Meticulous” Historian of Colonial Pennsylvania and Archivist

Sally Schwartz, specialist in the history of colonial Pennsylvania and archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), died in Hyattsville, Maryland, on January 19, 2013. She was 60 years old. Born in Philadelphia on October 16, 1952, she obtained her BA summa cum laude from the University of Delaware in 1974. She pursued her graduate education in history at Harvard University, where she earned her MA a year later and her PhD in 1981. Working under Bernard Bailyn, Schwartz carried out extensive research at archives and libraries in and around Philadelphia to complete a doctoral dissertation entitled “‘A Mixed Multitude’: Religion and Ethnicity in Colonial Pennsylvania.” It carefully examined the ideas and behavior of the diverse ethnic and religious groups that coalesced into what Schwartz styled “a pluralistic and broadly tolerant society” during the 18th century. Considerably revised, her thesis was published by New York University Press in 1987 bearing a new subtitle: The Struggle for Toleration in Colonial Pennsylvania. Bailyn praised the “meticulous detail of her research, the exhaustiveness of her bibliographical control of the material she was working with, and the extraordinary care she took in getting every phrase of the text and every detail of the annotation exactly right.” He refers to her study frequently in his own work. The reviewer for the American Historical Review (December 1989) echoed these sentiments, observing that 1,602 footnotes accompanied the 302-­page text. In the William and Mary Quarterly (April 1989), a reviewer called the volume a “solid general introduction to colonial Pennsylvania society” that would stand as a valued reference guide to the region’s social history. While still a graduate student, Schwartz demonstrated her advanced scholarship by publishing versions of chapters of her dissertation: chapter 2 in Pennsylvania History (1983) and chapter 1 in Social Perspectives (1986). Schwartz also published two articles in Delaware History. One, “The Old State House: A Study of Its Origins and Construction,” appeared in 1977; the other, “Cantwell’s Bridge, Delaware: A Demographic and Community Study,” made its appearance three years later.

At Harvard, Schwartz served as a teaching fellow. Her first full-­time position was at Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings), where she rose from assistant to associate professor between 1981 and 1988. Soon after her book was published, Schwartz accepted a position at Marquette University, remaining there until 1995. Never entirely comfortable in classroom teaching —­she greatly preferred research and writing—­Schwartz entered the University of Wisconsin–­Milwaukee, earning a master’s degree in library and information systems in 2001. Two years later, Schwartz found employment at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, where she performed both reference and processing duties on federal documents in NARA’s custody. She soon joined the ranks of the Academy of Certified Archivists. During the summer of 2012, Schwartz was diagnosed with throat cancer, which resisted chemotherapy and caused her untimely death. She is survived by her mother, Annie, and her sister, Anita.

James Friguglietti
Montana State University Billings (emeritus)

Julius Ruff
Marquette University

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