Caspar Wistar (glassmaker)

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Caspar Wistar (born Wüster) (February 3, 1696 – March 21, 1752) was a German-born glassmaker and landowner in Pennsylvania. One of the first German colonists in Pennsylvania, he became a leader of that community and prospered in land transactions. He was the grandfather of Caspar Wistar, the physician and anatomist after whom the genus Wisteria is named.


He was born in Hilsbach (Waldhilsbach), Rhenish Palatinate in Baden, the son of a forester.[1] Wistar served as a foresters' apprentice, but government reforms limited his professional opportunities, so he decided to emigrate to the United States.[2] He arrived Pennsylvania in 1717 (according to his memoir, with only nine pennies to his name)[2] and worked at various manual trades, including soapmaking and the manufacture of brass buttons.

He became a British subject in 1724 and joined the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) in 1726. He married Catherine Jansen in 1727; they had seven children. With the support of Quaker merchants and political leaders, he set up a glass factory and began buying land and selling it to new immigrants from Germany. His land deals made him one of the richest men in Pennsylvania.

Caspar's brother John (born Johannes) emigrated a decade after Caspar did.[3] While Caspar anglicized his name to "Wistar", John spelled his "Wister". The two each founded prominent Philadelphia-area families, and the difference in spelling persisted.


Caspar Wistar and Catherine Jansen had seven children:

  • Richard Wistar (died 1781); married Sarah Wyatt. He was a leader in prison reform.
  • Thomas Waln Wistar; married Mary Waln. Their son was Caspar Wistar the Younger.

(one other son)

(two other daughters)

Other descendants include Isaac J. Wistar, figure in the American Civil War and founder of the Wistar Institute. Caspar Wistar was also the great-uncle of diarist Sally Wister.[4]

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  1. ^ [1] "On Dec. 7, 1738, a German immigrant named Caspar Wistar recruited four craftsmen from his homeland to help him launch his empire of glass in to the sandy forests of Salem County ."
  2. ^ a b Kummer, Insa. "Caspar Wistar." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 1, edited by Marianne S. Wokeck. German Historical Institute. Last modified September 25, 2014.
  3. ^ Sarah Wister and Albert Cook Myers, Sally Wister's journal: a true narrative; being a Quaker maiden's account of her experiences with officers of the Continental army, 1777-1778; Ferris & Leach, 1902, p. 10.
  4. ^ Albert Cook Myers, ed., Introduction, Sally Wister's Journal: A True Narrative: Being a Quaker Maiden's Account of Her Experiences with Officers of the Continental Army, 1777-1779, Ferris & Leach, Philadelphia, 1902.

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