Queer Places:
Princeton University (Ivy League), 110 West College, Princeton, NJ 08544
Church of the Messiah Cemetery Gwynedd, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA

Nicholas Biddle Wainwright (July 12, 1914 - October 25, 1986) was an historian and antiquarian. He was a member of the Horace Walpole Society, elected in 1961, honorary member in 1982. He wrote the standard book on Philadelphia lithography and also the authoritative book on A. Kollner, an early Philadelphia lithographer. He also authored "Landscape and Genre Painting of Nineteenth Century Philadelphia" and "Collections of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania: 1824-1974." He was a president of the Philadelphia Library Company, director emeritus of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.

Nicholas Biddle Wainwright was born on July 12, 1914, at Saranac, New York, the third son of Clement Reeves Wainwright and Eugenia Dixon of Philadelphia. He spent his early years in Chestnut Hill before he enrolled at St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island, from which he graduated in 1932. At St. George's he was a member of the tennis team and was active in dramatics. In the fall of 1932 he entered Princeton University. There, he majored in history and was a member of the Cap and Gown Club. His Princeton yearbook, the Nassau Herald for 1936, noted that Wainwright was "an Episcopalian and a Republican," a tag that would follow him for years, and predicted that he "will probably engage in the insurance business."

After graduation he did work briefly for the Insurance Company of North America but, in the midst of the Great Depression, Wainwright may have found prospects for an insurance career somewhat bleak. Or, he may simply have been bored. In 1938 he found more congenial employment at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where he had done research for his senior thesis while at Princeton. He was appointed Assistant Librarian at a salary of $1,200 a year. He had been on the job for less than a year when Julian Boyd, the Society's Librarian (Director), tendered his resignation and Wainwright, at age 25, found himself charged with the day-to-day administration of the Society.

In 1936 Wainwright had joined the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry. When the Troop was called up for active duty in February 1941, Wainwright was commissioned a second lieutenant and stationed at Indiantown Gap. Although he did not see service overseas, promotion came rapidly. In 1944 he reported to the Princeton Alumni Weekly that he was a cavalry captain, serving as an aide to the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command. He was demobilized from Fort Bragg in 1946.

Wainwright returned to the Society as Assistant Librarian in 1946, but in 1948 the Society's Board changed his title to Research Librarian and freed him from administrative duties. In 1950, at the suggestion of the Society's Director, Norris Williams, Wainwright was appointed Editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, a position he held so successfully for thirty years.

In the following year Wainwright was elected President of the Library Company of Philadelphia. He presided over the Library Company's renaissance under Edwin Wolf, 2nd, working with Wolf and Norris Williams to bring about the Library Company's move to Locust Street and nurturing the happy symbiotic relationship that now exists between the two institutions.

Indeed, the 1950s were happy, fulfilling years for Wainwright. In 1953 his A Philadelphia Story: The Philadelphia Contributionship (1952) won the Athenaeum of Philadelphia's Award of Literary Merit. On February 27, 1954, he married Christine Henry (1912-2001). In 1958 he produced the invaluable Philadelphia in the Romantic Age of Lithography, one of the few Society publications to go through two printings. And, in 1959, the year the University of North Carolina Press published his George Croghan, Dickinson College awarded him a Doctor of Letters degree.

With the retirment of Norris Williams, Wainwright became Director of The Historical Society in September 1965. In June 1966 he stepped down as President of the Library Company, whose Board paid tribute to his "wise guidance, careful planning, foresight and wisdom" in its Annual Report for 1966. He continued as the Society's Director until 1974, when, upon retirement, the Board named him Director Emeritus.

Throughout Wainwright's career at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, he identified his professional interests with the well-being of the Society. In 1939, for example, he convinced members of the Cadwalader Family to place their enormous family archive at the Society. The acquisition of the Cadwaladcr Papers not only benefited the Society, but was to be of great importance to Wainwright's scholarly career; from that collection, he produced two books, George Croghan, Wilderness Diplomat (1959) and Colonial Grandeur in Phil-adelphia: The House and Furniture of John Cadwalader (1964), as well as eleven articles published in the PMHB. As Editor of the PMHB, he vastly improved the state of knowledge about Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic region by encouraging work that drew upon the Society's collections. As historian, he added significantly to Philadelphians' understanding of their past. Indeed, the bibliography of Wain-wright's publications, appended to this biographical note, lists numerous books and articles on subjects as varied as the history of the Philadelphia Electric Company to Sidney George Fisher's diary. Blessed with a clear vision of the worthwhile and meritorious, he collected, preserved, edited, and published documents and histories that survive as legacies to the city he loved and understood so well. "And, despite the discouragement of our era," he reported to his Princeton class's forty-year class book, "he remained an Episcopalian and a Republican."

Nicholas Wainwright died on October 25, 1986, at his home in Gwynedd.

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