In Memoriam

David W. Maxey

The Library Company lost a dear friend on December 23 when Trustee Emeritus David W. Maxey died. Prior to joining our Board David served our neighbor, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, with great distinction, as a member of its Board of Councilors 1984-1993 (Chair 1991-1993) and as Councilor Emeritus from 1994. He served on the Library Company Board 1993-2000 (Secretary 1997-2000), and as an Emeritus member from 2000. David was drawn to these two organizations because of his deep love of history, and he requested that memorial contributions be sent to them.

I met David around 1985, when I became Librarian (now Director) of the Library Company and joined the nearby Franklin Inn Club. There I enjoyed stimulating and convivial lunchtime conversations with a wide variety of bookish types (librarians, novelists, scholars, journalists, dealers, and collectors). David was one of a number of lawyer/authors who populated the long table, including his good friends Arthur R. G. Solmssen and Seymour I. (Spence) Toll, also a Library Company Trustee (and President) himself.

After graduating from The Haverford School, David attended Harvard College, spent a year in France where he developed a great reverence for all things French, and then went to Harvard Law School. He joined the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath in 1960 and retired from that firm forty-one years later, having served in turn as an associate, a partner, a managing partner, and co-chairman. His specialty was real estate law.

David was a deeply religious man. He had both Catholic and Protestant forebears and great respect for both traditions, and he once said “It is hard for me to be entirely exclusive in orientation.” Yet he lived his life as a devoted Catholic, serving for many years as a lector at St. John Vinanney Church in Gladwyne. David was also respectful of the Jewish tradition and served for more than thirty years on the Board of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of St. Joseph’s University.

David was devoted to his family – his wife of fifty-five years, Catharine (Eglin) Maxey, and their children Paul and Margaret. He was an especially valued friend and advisor to me and to several Directors of HSP, his modest demeanor and wry sense of humor always accompanying his wise counsel.

A lawyer by profession, David described himself as an historian by avocation, but I think it would be more accurate to say that was his true calling. He was an avid reader with an insatiable curiosity about all manner of things; we recommended and exchanged books often. David attended many lectures and programs at LCP, HSP, and his other favorite venue, the American Philosophical Society, and he could usually be counted on to ask the first (and always incisive) question of a speaker. Beginning about forty years ago, David began to publish the fruits of his research into history, principally on Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in the 18th and early 19th centuries. His output, prodigious for someone with a day job, is truly impressive, and he won the 1991 Hughes-Gossett prize of the United States Supreme Court Historical Society for his article on James Wilson. David published three substantial monographs through the American Philosophical Society and ten other scholarly articles in several historical journals. He wrote with care and lawyerly precision, yet in an engaging style that brought great life to often abstruse subjects. Other historians, such as his friend Gary B. Nash, acknowledged his influence on their own work. In the interest of creating a permanent record of David’s scholarship, I here present a comprehensive list of his publications.

Published Writings of David W. Maxey

“The Union Farm: Henry Drinker’s Experiment in Deriving Profit from Virtue,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 107, no. 4 (1983): 607–629

“Of Castles in Stockport and Other Strictures: Samuel Preston’s Contentious Agency for Henry Drinker,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 110, no. 3 (1986): 413–446

“New Light on Hannah Barnard, A Quaker ‘Heretic,’” Quaker History, vol. 78, no. 2 (1989): 61–86

“The Translation of James Wilson,” Journal of Supreme Court History, vol.15, no.1 (1990): 29-43

“Samuel Hopkins, the Holder of the First U.S. Patent: A Study of Failure,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 122, no. 1-2 (1998): 3–37

“Inventing History: The Holder of the First U.S. Patent,” Journal of the Patent Office and Trademark Society, vol. 80, no. 3 (1998): 155-170

“The Honorable Proprietaries V. Samuel Wallis: ‘A Matter of Great Consequence’ in the Province of Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 70, no. 4 (2003): 361–395

“Madeira, Quakerism, and Rebellion: Reviving Henry Hill,” Quaker History, vol. 93, no. 2 (2004): 47–75

A Portrait of Elizabeth Willing Powel (1743-1830), American Philosophical Society, Transactions, vol. 96, part 4 (2006), xiii, 91 pp.

Treason on Trial in Revolutionary Pennsylvania: The Case of John Roberts, Miller, American Philosophical Society, Transactions, vol. 101, part 2 (2011), xiv, 212 pp.

“A Cunning Man’s Legacy: The Papers of Samuel Wallis (1736–1798),” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 136, no. 4 (2012): 435–456

Citizenship and the American Revolution: A Resolute Tory’s Abiding Status, American Philosophical Society, Transactions, vol. 106, part 3 (2016), xii, 90 pp.

“An Unsolved Mystery: Angelica Kauffman’s Elusive Self-Portrait,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 164, nos. 3-4 (December 2023): 268-295

John C. Van Horne

Director Emeritus