Valerie Bertinelli and James Claypoole’s Letter Book

In Season 5 of TLC’s show Who Do You Think You Are?, Episode 4 (aired on August 13, 2014) features famously Italian actress Valerie Bertinelli. On the show, Valerie finds out more about her English heritage and discovers that James Claypoole is her 8 times great grandfather. Claypoole was good friends with William Penn and played a leading role in Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania. In the episode, Valerie visits Friends House in London (of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain) and reads excerpts from “James Claypoole’s Letter Book.” Friends Journal reviewed this book in our November 15, 1967 issue; read the full review below. The episode also includes a brief history of and the religious persecution of Quakers in seventeenth-century England. James Claypoole is buried at the Arch Street Meeting House Burial Ground in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Watch a 6-minute recap of the episode below (full episode is also available on TLC’s website here):

The following review was published in the November 15, 1967 issue of Friends Journal.

James Claypoole’s Letter Book

London and Philadelphia, 1681–1684

Edited by Marion Balderstone. The Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. 256 pages. $7.50.James Claypoole book

Want to know how much you would have paid for twelve white beaver hats in Philadelphia in 1683? Or for 5,000 acres of Pennsylvania land? Or for twelve silver-hafted knives? All this and much more you can learn from this repository of hitherto untapped source material on the early days of the Quaker experiment in Pennsylvania, admirably edited for publication by Marion Balderston (herself a former Philadelphia Friend) from the thousand Claypoole letters possessed by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

When James Claypoole followed his good friend William Penn from England to the New World, he left behind him a thriving business as a factor. In Philadelphia he promptly reestablished his mercantile enterprise, and again he prospered, although at this distance it is hard to see how he could conduct his commercial dealings effectively when merchandise was continually disappearing in transit, customs officers had to be bribed, and to get goods from abroad or an answer to a letter frequently took half a year.

Claypoole played a leading role in Penn’s colony, being treasurer of the Society of Free Traders, assemblyman, judge of the provincial court, member of the Provincial Council, signer of Penn’s Frame of Government, and a busy “public Friend.” Active Friend though he was, however, his Quakerism apparently did not include a pacifistic attitude toward those with whom he did business; he was forever quarreling with them and recording his fulminations in his “letter book“—which is, of course, one of the things that make it an interesting document.

—F.W.B.

Previous Book Next Book