Document Type


Publication Date



This essay analyzes changes in the way Quaker writers represented the landscape of Pennsylvania, particularly the economic features of its built environment, over time. I argue that the promotional writing of William Penn constituted an “official” represent at ion of the landscape, using the genre of imperial georgic to highlight the colony’s productive and lucrative potential for an audience of investors while minimizing the role of indentured servitude, African enslavement, and Indigenous dis-possession in the process of economic development. Eighteenth- century Quaker reformers, however, developed a more “vernacular” portrayal of the landscape that was attentive to the privations of those who inhabited its built environment. In reading the journals of Elizabeth Ashbridge, John Churchman, Jane Hoskens, Daniel Stanton, and John Woolman, I show how Quaker reformers ironically moved beyond the limits of Penn’s vision because of the degree to which they took his articulated ideals seriously.


Originally published in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 2021. Volume 145. Issue 3. Pages 193-218.