Shareholder Spotlight: Elizabeth Marshall (1768-1836)

Dana Dorman, Archivist, Library Company Papers Project

Receipt for a Library Company share dated 1733

Image: Receipt for a Library Company share, 1733.

We continue our monthly “shareholder spotlight” series by taking a closer look at Share #304 and its second owner, Elizabeth Marshall (1768-1836).

Shareholders have always been the backbone of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Starting with the first group of fifty tradesmen who formed the library in 1731, shareholders have provided crucial financial support each year for our mission to “pour forth benefits for the common good.”

We keep careful track of who has owned each historic share, and our list of 9,800+ shareholders includes signers of the Declaration and Constitution, merchants, doctors, soldiers, scientists, artists, philanthropists, politicians, and much more.

Share #304

This share was first issued to Christopher Marshall (1709-1797) on April 6, 1769. Like a number of previously profiled shares, that puts him among the shareholders of the Union Library Company, which merged into the Library Company on this date.

Christopher Marshall was an apothecary and chemist, and his shop was located on Chestnut Street, west of 2nd Street. Eighteenth century newspaper advertisements for his business note that it was marked with a sign of a large golden ball.

Illustration of Christopher Marshall

Image: Christopher Marshall (circa 1776-1890). Print. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Marshall is also remembered for the diary he kept during the American Revolution. Transcriptions of the diaries as well as the diaries themselves are available in the Christopher Marshall papers (collection #395) at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Share #304 next passed to Christopher’s granddaughter Elizabeth Marshall (1768-1836), who acquired it on May 13, 1822.

Elizabeth continued her grandfather’s legacy in more ways than one. She also followed him into the pharmacy business, just like her father did before her.

Her father Charles Marshall (1744-1825) was not a Library Company shareholder, but he could have benefited from the use of the family share. He too was a Philadelphia pharmacist, and served as the first president of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science from 1821 to 1824.

After her father’s apothecary business went bankrupt in 1805, Elizabeth opened her shop with his help in the front room of her family home on Chestnut Street near 2nd, according to an 1865 profile of her father.

She was not the first woman pharmacist in the U.S., but she is credited by many historians as being the second.

Elizabeth grew her business for the next two decades, adding staff and floor-space until the business included an ice house, laboratory, and wholesale warehouse according to that same 1865 profile of her father.

Print of the Marshall Apothecary showing a man and two boys at a counter

 Image: This 20th century illustration imagines Elizabeth’s grandfather Christopher Marshall (center) with her father Charles and uncle Christopher Jr. in Christopher’s apothecary shop. Robert A. Thom, 19. The Marshall Apothecary (1729-1825), 1954. Courtesy of ARTSTOR.

Elizabeth was also a supporter of libraries. She apparently signed the articles of incorporation of the Apprentices’ Library Company of Philadelphia in 1821, the year before she officially took ownership of Share #304.

When her father died in 1825, she sold the pharmacy business to two former apprentices, Charles Ellis and Isaac T. Morris.

Elizabeth died in 1836, but the share remained in the Marshall family until 1896, when it was acquired by Clement A. Griscom (1841-1912) on June 4, 1896.

Griscom was a hugely influential American figure in transatlantic shipping, and after his death, the share passed to his son Rodman E. Griscom on June 17, 1937. Share #304 has had nine owners total.

Not yet a shareholder?

Share #304 is currently available. We work hard to match potential shareholders with historic shares that match their interests, and we would love to match you with Elizabeth Marshall’s share or another option. To learn more, reach out to our Development Office at or 215-546-3181 ext. 136.