John Penn ("the American")

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For other people named John Penn, see John Penn (disambiguation).
John Penn
2nd Chief Proprietor of Pennsylvania
In office
Preceded by William Penn
Succeeded by Thomas Penn
Personal details
Born January 28, 1700
Slate Roof House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died October 25, 1746
Hitcham, Buckinghamshire, England
Profession proprietor of Pennsylvania
Religion Quaker

John Penn (January 28, 1700[1][a] – October 25, 1746[2]) was a proprietor of colonial Pennsylvania. He was the eldest son of the colony's founder, William Penn, by his second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn. He was the only one of Penn's children to be born in the New World (in the Slate Roof House in Philadelphia) and was hence called "the American" by his family.


Penn was raised by a cousin in Bristol, England, where he learned the trade of merchant in the linen trade. As a result of his father's will and by his mother's appointment, he received half of the proprietorship of Pennsylvania.[3]

On May 12, 1732, John with his brothers Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, as the proprietors of Pennsylvania, signed an order to create a commission. This order was directed to Governor Gordon, Isaac Norris, Samuel Preston, James Logan, and Andrew Hamilton, Esquires, and to the gentlemen James Steel and Robert Charles. The commission, which was to be made up of at least three or more of these individuals, was given full power on behalf of the proprietors for the "running, marking, and laying out" of any boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. This was in accordance with the signed agreement between the Penn brothers and Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore on May 10, 1732.[4]

He returned to Pennsylvania in September 1734, and attended the meetings of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council, but went back to England in 1735, to support the colony's rights in the boundary dispute with Maryland.[5] The ultimate resolution of this dispute was the surveying of the Mason–Dixon line. Penn, his brother Thomas, and their agents were responsible for the infamous "Walking Purchase", which swindled the Lenape Indians out of more than one million acres (400,000 ha) of Pennsylvania.[6]

He never married and died in Hitcham, Buckinghamshire, England,[2] without issue, and was buried at Jordans.[7] His will left his rights in the province and lower counties to his brother Thomas Penn.


  1. ^ Barratt (1913), in a figure caption before p. 25, gives the date February 29, 1700. Jenkins (1903), p. 374 gives the date "Jan. 29, 1699-1700" (meaning it was in 1700 if you start the year on January 1, or 1699 if you start the year on March 25, as was the custom in the American colonies at that time).


Works Cited[edit]

  • Barratt, Norris Stanley (1913). Colonial Wars in America. Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – via Google Books. 
  • Dunaway, Wayland F. (1948). A History of Pennsylvania. New York, New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc. pp. 59, 87–88. 
  • Jenkins, Howard Malcolm, ed. (1903). Pennsylvania, Colonial and Federal: A History, 1608-1903. 1. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Historical Pub. Association. p. 401 – via Google Books. 
  • Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, Record of Births, Deaths, and Burials, 1688-1826. (2014) Images of manuscript. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]., Provo, UT.
  • Proud, Robert (1798). The History of Pennsylvania in North America. Philadelphia, PA: Zachariah Paulson, Jr. pp. 208–209 – via Google Books. 
  • Rawle, William Brooke (1899). "The General Title of the Penn Family to Pennsylvania". Pennsylvania magazine of history and biography. 23. 
  • "Walking-Purchase". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  • "William Penn". Edited Appleton's Encyclopedia. Historic.US. n.d. Retrieved September 19, 2016. 

External links[edit]