Personal papers of Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853-1936)

  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The collection comprises the personal papers of Sir Henry Wellcome. It documents his personal life from early days through his marriage and divorce and the upbringing of his son, to the end of his life. Interests documented include his support for archaeological excavations in Palestine and Sudan, and his support for the missionary William Duncan and his Metlakhatla settlement in Canada. As a result of his holistic vision of his activities, there is also material on Wellcome's pharmaceutical business and his medical musuem project, although the bulk of the papers relating to these are held elsewhere. Also present are papers relating to other members of the Wellcome family, back to 1800.



Physical description

90 boxes and 21 outsize boxes





WA/HSW/ED/A Letters of introduction

WA/HSW/ED/B Correspondence

WA/HSW/ED/C Articles and publications



WA/HSW/LE/A Citizenship and life assurance

WA/HSW/LE/B Administration of affairs

WA/HSW/LE/C Business matters

WA/HSW/LE/D Property

WA/HSW/LE/E Will and estate


WA/HSW/MD/A Marriage

WA/HSW/MD/B Separation and divorce




WA/HSW/CO/Gen General (Misc)

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/A. 1881-1895

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/B. 1895

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/C. Feb 1895-Feb 1896

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/D. Feb-Jul 1896

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/E. Aug-Dec 1896

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/F. American Society Thanksgiving Dinner 1896

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/G. Jan-Apr 1897

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/H. May-Oct 1897

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/J. Nov 1897-Jul 1898

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/K. Aug 1898-Mar 1899

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/L. Apr-Oct 1899

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/M. Nov 1899-Jun 1900

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/N. Jul-Dec 1900

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/P. 1901

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/Q. 1902

WA/HSW/CO/Gen/R. 1903

WA/HSW/CO/Bus/A Business memoranda to Johnson 1901-1902

WA/HSW/CO/Bus/B Microfiche of letter books 1882-1905

WA/HSW/CO/Bus/C Miscellaneous correspondence

WA/HSW/CO/Bus/C.1 Early career

WA/HSW/CO/Bus/C.2 Khartoum 1901-1936

WA/HSW/CO/Bus/C.3 Physiological Research Laboratories 1902-1922

WA/HSW/CO/Bus/C.4 Wellcome Bureau of Scientific Research 1915-1925

WA/HSW/CO/Ind Individual correspondence files

WA/HSW/CO/Ind/A Extended correspondence/biographical files

WA/HSW/CO/Ind/B Personal correspondence


WA/HSW/ME/A. Early Material

WA/HSW/ME/B. 'The Metlakatla Case'


WA/HSW/AR/Jeb Jebel Moya

WA/HSW/AR/Lac Lachish

WA/HSW/AR/Lac/A. Field and Geological Reports

WA/HSW/AR/Lac/B. Correspondence and Administration

WA/HSW/AR/Lac/C. Presscuttings

WA/HSW/AR/Lac/D. Publications

WA/HSW/AR/Lac/E. Photographs

WA/HSW/AR/Lac/F. 'Lachish Letters'

WA/HSW/AR/Gen Other


WA/HSW/OR/A. African [Royal African] Society

WA/HSW/OR/B. American Society in London

WA/HSW/OR/C. Archaeological Society of Washington

WA/HSW/OR/D. China Publications Fund

WA/HSW/OR/E. Freemasonry

WA/HSW/OR/F. Imperial Vaccination League

WA/HSW/OR/G. Liege International Exhibition

WA/HSW/OR/H. Medical and Educational Mission to Sudan

WA/HSW/OR/J. Nicholls Testimonial Fund

WA/HSW/OR/K Royal College of Surgeons.

WA/HSW/OR/L. Royal Commission on Museums

WA/HSW/OR/M. Royal Geographical Society

WA/HSW/OR/N. Royal Society

WA/HSW/OR/P. Royal Society of Medicine

WA/HSW/OR/Q. Society of Apothecaries

WA/HSW/OR/R. Vermin Repression Society

WA/HSW/OR/S. Subscription lists, ephemera, notes


WA/HSW/PE/A Personalia

WA/HSW/PE/B Posthumous memorabilia





Acquisition note

Acquired from Sir Henry Wellcome on his death.

Biographical note

Several biographies of HSW have been published and readers are referred to these for further details. The most extensive is Robert Rhodes James, Henry Wellcome, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1994.

Biographical outline of Henry Wellcome:

1853 Born, Almond, Wisconsin, USA

1861 Wellcome family moves to Garden City, Minnesota where HSW attends school

1870 Job with Poole and Geisinger, pharmaceutical chemists, Rochester, USA

1872 Moves to Chicago; works and attends lectures at College of Pharmacy, Chicago

1873 Moves to Philadelphia

1874 Graduates from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy; dissertation about urethral suppositories

Pharmaceutical representative for Caswell, Hazard & Co, New York

1876 Pharmaceutical representative for McKesson & Robins, New York

1878 Expedition to Ecuador and Peru, study of cinchona forests

1879 Offer of partnership from Silas Burroughs, working for Wyeth & Co in London

1880 May Leaves USA for Europe

Sep Signs partnership with Burroughs to found Burroughs Wellcome & Co in London

Ships his 'library and museum' to London from USA

1881 Opens head quarters at Snow Hill, City of London

1882 Meets May French Sheldon, African traveller

1883 Begins manufacture of drugs in Wandsworth

1884 Coins 'Tabloid' trademark for pills

Meets Henry Stanley, explorer; provides him with Burroughs Wellcome travelling medicine chest

1885 Becomes Freemason

Awarded Bronze Medal of Royal Humane Society for saving a woman from drowning in the Thames

1886 Sydney branch of Burroughs Wellcome & Co opens, followed after 1900 by branches in Cape Town, Milan, New York, Montreal, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Bombay

Publishes The Story of Metlakhatla, in support of William Duncan's missionary work with Native Americans

1888 Burroughs launches unsuccessful legal action to dissolve partnership

New factory built in Dartford

1894 Wellcome Physiological Research laboratory opened at Charlotte Street, London

1895 Burroughs dies; HSW gains sole control of the company

1896 CJS Thompson employed to research history of medicine and collect objects and books

Wellcome Chemical Research Laboratories opened. Frederick Belding Power as Director

Ends involvement with Freemasonry

1901 Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories, Khartoum, established. Andrew Balfour as Director

Marries Syrie Barnardo

1903 Mounteney Henry Wellcome born

Systematic collecting begins for the planned Historical Medical Exhibition

Honorary degree from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy

1907 Wellcome Floating Laboratory on the Nile established

Motor car tour of France, Spain, Portugal

1909 Separation from Syrie

1910 Naturalisation as a British subject

Archaeological excavations begin at Gebel Moya, Sudan

1913 Wellcome Bureau of Scientific Research, London opened. Andrew Balfour as Director

Historical Medical Exhibition opens, Wigmore Street. Renamed Historical Medical Museum and re-opened on permanent basis.

1915 Divorce from Syrie

1921 Employs Ada Misner as secretary

1920 Wellcome Entomological Research Laboratories opened

1924 Wellcome Foundation Ltd established

1928 Hon LLD, Edinburgh University

1931 Foundation stone laid for Wellcome Research Institution, Euston Road, London

1932 Knighthood

Hon Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons

Fellow, Royal Society

Archaeological excavation begins at Lachish near Jerusalem

Will composed: assets to be left in Trust to further medical research and history

1936 25 Jul Died in London

1987 Memorial plaque in St Paul's Cathedral erected by Wellcome Trustees; ashes interred in St Paul's churchyard

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

As a result of the complex administrative history of the papers and also of Wellcome's holistic vision of his various enterprises, readers are strongly advised to consult the catalogues of the institutional archives of these activities. The archive of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum is held as WA/HMM. The archive of the Wellcome Foundation Ltd. (WF/) is currently undergoing cataloguing; sections are made available as they are completed.


Royal Geographical Society: Wellcome's materials relating to Sir H M Stanley

Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: various materials including photographs, journals of expedition members and artist's sketches and paintings, connected with the excavations at Gebel Moya and smaller sites in the Sudan.

Harrowby Manuscripts Trust, Sandon Hall: papers of Capt Johnston-Saint.

The Sudan Archive at Durham University holds papers of several of Wellcome's associates.

British Museum: finds from the Lachish excavations of the Wellcome/Colt and Wellcome/Marston expeditions.

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Location of duplicates

WA/HSW/PE/C.14 is available on microfilm (AMS/MF/143). In addition, papers relating to Gordon of Khartoum and the Bureau of Scientific Research are available on microfilm (AMS/MF/141).

Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

3 boxes of material relating to Geneviève Ward, consisting of photographs, paintings, newspapers cuttings and articles.


List of Abbreviations:

HME Historical Medical Exhibition

HSW Henry Solomon Wellcome

WARENE Wellcome Archaeological Research Expedition to the Near East.

Ownership note

For the most part this collection of papers was inherited by the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre of the Wellcome Institute (now part of the Wellcome Library's Archives and Manuscripts department) at the time of the actual physical separation of the Wellcome Institute from the Wellcome Foundation Ltd at the beginning of 1990. It was in considerable disarray, partly due to the somewhat artificial severance of personal material from the records of business activities, but also due to the papers themselves having been separated and subsequently discovered in different locations within the Wellcome Building.

By the time of cataloguing, a good deal of damage had been done to any archival integrity these papers may once have possessed. At least one important group of papers, HSW's correspondence with Sir HM Stanley and Lady Stanley, and related papers relevant to Stanley and African exploration, was given to the Royal Geographical Society in 1936, presumably subsequent to HSW's death. This was probably not the only section of the papers to receive this rather cavalier treatment. Some papers were also sent for salvage during World War II, but it is not clear what these were.

Furthermore, it would appear that efforts were made to acquire material of biographical interest from members of HSW's family (and possibly also from friends). Documentation on acquisition and disposal is far from complete, and items acquired from other sources do not seem to have been maintained distinct from Sir Henry's own archives. These additions may indeed have commenced prior to HSW's death.

By the time to material arrived at the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, parts of the collection had also been organised and even indexed, according to somewhat dubious archival principles, although even these apparently organised sequences suffered from anomalies and inconsistencies. In a number of cases, items had not merely been placed in artificial subject conjunctions, but within existing, and presumably closed, files long after HSW's death. Letters had also, in some cases, been removed from correspondence files and inserted, for example, into the Autograph Letters Collection in the Wellcome Institute Library.

In 1991 Lesley Hall undertook a preliminary sort and brief list of the collection in order to make it accessible to HSW's biographer, Robert Rhodes James. At this stage, while it was impossible to reconstitute an original order, except where a particular group of papers had been left more or less intact, scattered material of like nature was, as far as possible, brought together. The arrangement which Dr Hall designed has, in general, been maintained for the preparation of this catalogue.

In 1991 any personal material which had strayed into the Autograph Letters Collection of the Library or the records of the Wellcome Institute, was also retrieved. Conversely, files which had strayed into the collection of personal papers from the records of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum were separated out.

In 1997 some material which had been confused with the records of HSW's business activities was returned by Glaxo-Wellcome and photocopies or microfilms were obtained of material which straddled both interests, the originals of which remain with the Company.

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