Caspar Wistar (glassmaker)

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Caspar Wistar (born Caspar Wüster) (February 3, 1696 – March 21, 1752) was a German-born glassmaker and landowner in Pennsylvania..[1]

One of the first German colonists in Pennsylvania,[citation needed] he became a leader of that community and prospered in land transactions. He “arrived in Philadelphia in 1717 with nearly no money; at the time of his death in 1752, his wealth outstripped that of the contemporary elite more than immigrant’s path to achieving the American Dream."[2]

He was the father of Richard Wistar, Sr. (1727-1781), glassmaker and landowner in Pennsylvania and the grandfather of Caspar Wistar (1761-1818), the physician and anatomist after whom the genus Wisteria is named.


Caspar Wistar, the son of a forester, spent his first 21 years in Waldhilsbach, a village in the Palatinate near Heidelberg under the reign of the Elector of the Palatinate Prince Philipp Wilhelm (1658-1716). According to family tradition, he was born in the village's Foresthaus (Forester’s house).[3]

He grew up during the tumultuous Nine Years' War (1688-1697) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713) which caused hardships and instability for the people of the Palatinate due to invasions by the French and British.

Wistar served as a foresters' apprentice, but government reforms limited his professional opportunities, so he decided to emigrate to the United States.[4]

He left the Palatinate in 1717, forgoing his father’s hereditary title and position to seek out a new life across the Atlantic Ocean.[5]

He arrived in Pennsylvania in 1717 (according to his memoir, with only nine pennies to his name)[4]. Upon his arrival, he was registered under the surname "Wistar". He 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.

His brother, John (born Johannes Wüster) (1708–1789) emigrated to Philadelphia in 1727. His brother Johannes WÜSTER) (John WISTER (1708–1789)) settled in the Germantown district, and was registered under a variant of the surname, “Wister.” To this day there exists two spellings of the family name.[6] 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.


  1. ^ Owen, J. Victor. "Historical American Glass". Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  2. ^ Penn State University Press, Immigrant and Entrepreneur, The Atlantic World of Caspar Wistar, 1650–1750 Rosalind Beiler, accessed August 31, 2014.
  3. ^ Beiler, page 27-49, [FOOTNOTE: 18 Robert C. Moon, The Morris Family of Philadelphia: Descedants of Anthonty Morris, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, 1898), 356-7.]
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ [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 ."
  6. ^ 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.

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