The Wilson family Papers preserves materials from four generations of a prominent family living in Liverpool, England; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Newark, Delaware. The family’s wealth and talents supported a large number of educational and philanthropical pursuits. In the mid-nineteenth century, brothers William S. Wilson, Thomas B. Wilson, and Edward Wilson collected thousands of natural specimens and books and donated them to a variety of museums and institutions of the mid-Atlantic, including the American Entomological Society (which Thomas B. Wilson founded), the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and the Franklin Institute. Another brother, Rathmell Wilson, served as trustee and President of the board of Newark College (University of Delaware), guiding and supporting the institution for over forty years. Rathmell Wilson’s descendants continued to play a prominent role as benefactors of the University for over a hundred years. In addition, the family played an important social role in the city of Newark, Delaware, until well into the twentieth century.
The Wilson family owned significant amounts of property in Newark on Main Street and on New London Road. Family papers include property maps and a Worker’s time book, which includes information on rent collection at various family properties. In addition, the mansion at Oaklands was the home of the Wilson family for three generations; where the Wilsons hosted Newark social events for over fifty years. The mansion was torn down by developer Hugh Gallagher in 1962, though the neighborhood where it once stood still retains its name. Family papers also reflect other ways the Wilsons affected Newark, from street, curb, and sewer development, to building the former St. Thomas Episcopal Church at Delaware Avenue and Elkton Street.