Thomas Paine National Historical Association Collection

In 2009, the Thomas Paine National Historical Association partnered with Iona University to preserve and develop its rich collection of writings and other items by and about Thomas Paine. Founded in 1884, the TPNHA archive spans nearly three centuries, ranging from manuscripts and artifacts belonging to Paine and his contemporaries, to the vast institutional records and correspondence of the Historical Association itself: documents related to progressive era luminaries like W.E.B. DuBois and Charles Beard as well as the development of photography and media in the early twentieth century, through the educational activism of the mid twentieth century. The collection is a vast one, relevant to scholars across a wide range of chronological and disciplinary fields, and is particularly strong on the historical memory of Thomas Paine, institutional political and social justice movements, and early American material and print culture.

The collection is supported by the generosity of Sid Lapidus, who provided an extensive library of secondary literature to supplement and contextualize the primary documents in the TPNHA archive. The Lapidus Collection will be available for researchers to use as of May 2018.

Collection Overview

The TPNHAC contains printed, archival, visual, and material object holdings of interest to researchers and scholars of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The Collection encompasses many thematic categories; among these are Thomas Paine’s life and work, the American and French Revolutions, transatlantic politics, radicalism, and reform movements of the 18th and 19th centuries, labor radicalism and politics in the Antebellum United States, the free thought, women’s rights, and slavery abolition movements, Gilded Age and Progressive Era politics and reform movements, World War I, and the decline of progressivism in the 1920s. The Collection, moreover, will be of interest to researchers interested in broader themes concerning the intersection of media, communication, and political economy, as well as historical memory and commemoration.

The Collection’s materials fall into six broad categories:

The Collection’s comprehensive holdings of Paine’s works include many rare editions of famed publications like Common Sense, Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason, as well as lesser-known but equally important works such as Agrarian Justice and dozens of pamphlets and public letters, and many collections of Paine’s works published during and after his life. In addition to Paine’s works, the TPNHAC houses material objects, including a writing kit and pocket watch belonging to Paine.

A core strength of the collection is works that responded to Paine’s ideas dating to the 1780s and after. These include more than a dozen biographies of Paine published during and shortly after his lifetime, several dozen critiques of Paine’s works, pamphlets and periodicals by English journalist William Cobbett, reports of Paine’s 1791 British trial for sedition, and miscellaneous publications in dialogue with Paine’s thought in various ways.

Materials of interest to researchers of the American and French Revolution include the full print run of The Pennsylvania Magazine (1775-1776), Paine’s own revolutionary writings like Common Sense and the American Crisis essays, publications concerning Paine’s activities during the French Revolution, and miscellaneous works concerning the both Revolutions and their impact on transatlantic politics.

Among the Collection’s holdings are almost two dozen letters and manuscripts by and relating to Thomas Paine. These include manuscript letters to and from Paine, manuscript letters and documents by writer and journalist William Cobbett, a manuscript letter from Paine to James Madison, another to Senator Garat during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, and a collection of roughly thirty New England and New York newspapers from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Thomas Paine National Historical Association (TPHNA) was founded in 1884 to promote free thought, social and political reforms, and the ideas and influence of Thomas Paine. The Collection holds the Association’s institutional records, including meeting minutes, correspondence, official publications, and miscellaneous ephemera relating to the Association’s activities. Additional TPNHA materials include prints, visual works, and material objects relating to the Association and Thomas Paine.

Finally, the TPHNAC houses the William Van der Weyde Collection. Van der Weyde was the president and secretary of the TPNHA in the early 20th century, as well as a professional photographer. Items include Van der Weyde’s personal and professional correspondence relating to a wide variety of Progressive Era concerns, as well as correspondence on behalf of the TPNHA. The Van der Weyde Collection also contains plates and prints of his photographs, a fascinating window into early 20th century photographic practice.

For general inquiries or more specific information on particular collections or items in the TPHNAC, please contact the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at