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William Ashton Collection

Identifier: Mss. Coll. Ashton

Scope and Content

Ashton's medical notes begin the collection. Topics include the brain and flow of blood; rational medicine; the eclectic system; consumption; emotions; the nervous system; application of medicine; conditions of the system; compatibility of medicine; form of medicine; matera medica; therapeutics; forces and actions of medicine; treatment of gonorrhea and stricture; symptoms and treatment of syphilis; diseases attendant upon gonorrhea and syphilis; stimulants; doses of medicine; and use of acids.A manuscript notebook of prescriptions follows. Equivalencies of apothecaries weights begin the notebook, followed by instructions for making expectorants, ointments, linaments and other remedies for a variety of medical conditions. The notebook also includes a newspaper clipping addressing cures for cholera and consumption. Medical notebooks include information about topics covered in lectures. The collection also includes a June 18, 1869 letter from Dr. A.R. Brown of Albion, Michigan to Ashton, in which Brown informs him of a recent lawsuit in which he was involved regarding a patent. Brown also encourages Ashton to "have no fears or hesitancy in employing the Acupuncture set. Do it freely and report how you like it." Handwritten poetry and essays can also be found in the collection. Poetry includes verse regarding a man's bout with sickness and a selection titled "A Wife Wanted," written as though it was intended for publication in a newspaper. Essays include those titled "Working Miracles," "The Educated Mind, and "What Is Knowledge?" The latter selection is addressed to Eliza Ashton. Miscellaneous selections of notes include an envelope addressed to Ashton at Mt. Carmel, Indiana from Jno. Farquhar, a verse titled "On Lewd Women," and sentences about being a good son and a real gentleman. Notes on what appears to be a stage performance outline selections such as "Rob Roy or Isle of France," "Over the Water to Charley," "Jonny Come Kiss Me," and "Flowers of Edenborough." Notes regarding the Civil War discuss ideas concerning the powers of government, duty to the Union, whether the Southern states have a right to secede, causes of the war, equality, and abolitionists. A resolution from the Union Club of the Constitutional Union Association outlines the order of business in meetings of the club, while two passes dated September 3, 1862 document Ashton's permission to leave the city of Cincinnati and Newport, [Kentucky] to go home.Printed material in the collection includes a December 1867 issue of Prang's Chromo. This issue of a journal of popular art reveals how chromolithographs are made; letters from Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Frederic Church, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Bayard Taylor on chromolithography; hints on framing chromolithographs; and a price list of Prang publications, including rewards of merit, Sunday School room cards, albums, gifts for children, marriage certificates, and miscellaneous prints.The Budget of Novelties: Containing a Catalogue of Valuable Books and All the Latest Novelties & Curiosities for Everybody provides information on purchasing a variety of publications covering topics such as ballroom dancing, riddles and puzzles, curing bashfulness, magic and card tricks, letter-writing and business handbooks, ventroquilism, and taxidermy. A broadside titled "Last Week, at the Melodeon" provides information about performances of magic tricks such as the "Sleeping Arab," producing hundreds of American flags, cutting off noses, the "interminable bottle," and "wonderful productions from a lady's shawl."Issues of The Small Fruit Recorder and Cottage Gardener span from December 1869 through December 1870. Edited by A.M. Purdy and published in Palmyra, New York, this newspaper covered topics such as preparing planting beds, information on specific varieties of fruits, vegetables and trees, and cultivators. The collection also includes a broadside advertising the "monthly paper devoted solely to the cultivation of small fruits, flowers and vegetables" that features illustrations of varieties such as Wilson's Albany and Davidson's Thornless berries. Other advertising ephemera connected with the newspaper includes notices to distribute the paper to those "who would be likely to take an interest in getting up a Club for the Recorder" and a list of plants raised at the Palmyra Fruit Nurseries in Palmyra, New York that were available for purchase.


  • 1840-1874

Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries, Oxford, Ohio.

Biography of William Ashton

A native of Ashton-under-Lyne in the county of Lancashire, England, William Adolphus Ashton was born in 1803. For generations, the Ashton family had worked with and designed textiles, as this area was central to cotton manufacturing. As a result, Ashton became interested in cotton miller Robert Owen's factory reform efforts. Ashton was a member of the Manchester and Salford Social Community, which believed that Owen's plan for a proposed Villages of Cooperation could be made to work on a much smaller scale than the population of 500 that Owen envisioned. As a result, Ashton and six other families came to America from Manchester in 1834 to establish a cooperative community, finally settling in Franklin County, Indiana. When the community failed two years later, Ashton returned to his old trade of textile designing for his livelihood. Although there was no textile manufacturer in Cincinnati, one firm made oilcloth and table covers. Ashton joined the firm in June 1836. He traveled throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee to sell his product. During the 1840s, Ashton designed textiles for J. Briggs and Company of Frankfort, Pennsylvania, selling them to many leading mills in the East. Ashton's designs predominantly featured Greek Revival patterns, paisley motifs, and sprigged floral patterns. In 1848, Ashton and partner Almon Sawyer established the Great Western Oil Cloth and Window Shade Manufactory in Cincinnati. These window shades featuring painted landscapes were made to order for private homes, businesses and steamboats. To create the shades, muslin was first stiffened; then, the outline of the design was applied to the cloth by copying, tracing, stenciling or pouncing. After the design had been outlined on the cloth, the transparency was painted. Ashton operated a flatboat on the Ohio River to facilitate the transportation and sale of his creations. Ashton left the window shade business in 1857. One of Ashton's ambitions was to become a physician. From 1851 to 1854, Ashton studied medicine at the Cincinnati Eclectic Medical College, receiving a degree in 1855. He practiced medicine in Cincinnati for eight years, and also served as a trustee and treasurer of the medical college. Following his retirement in 1862, Ashton returned to his farm, which was part of the original lands owned by the cooperative community he established. Supervising the running of his farm and pursuing his interest in horticulture, Ashton lived in a brick house he had built near Scipio, an unincorporated community in the northwest corner of Morgan Township in Butler County, Ohio. Situated at the intersection of State Routes 126 and 129 on the state line with Indiana, Scipio was laid out by Joseph Alyea in 1827. A post office was established on February 15, 1823, under the name "Philanthropy." Ashton died in 1870.


.75 cubic feet


This collection of papers pertaining to William Ashton includes manuscripts, including medical notes, letters, essays, and poetry; printed material, featuring agricultural publications and newspaper clippings; and artistic ephemera, such as a wallpaper design of Ashton's.

Statement of Arrangement

Series I: Manuscripts Sub-Series I: Medical Notes Sub-Series II: Letters, Essays, Poetry and Notes

Series II: Printed Material Sub-Series I: General Topics Sub-Series II: The Small Fruit Recorder and Cottage Gardener Sub-Series III: Agricultural Booklets and Articles Sub-Series IV: Newspaper Clippings

Series III: Artistic Ephemera

Series IV: Oversized Materials

Acquisition Information

In the late 1950s, Edgar W. King found the items in this collection in a chicken house in southern Indiana that belonged to a descendant of William Ashton's. King donated the collection in 1976.

Related Materials

The Miami University Art Museum holds other materials of Ashton’s, most notably his mahogany drawing box, which contains his brushes, drawing tools and original water colors. The museum also has some circa-1829 unused folio sheets of Ashton’s Whatman paper, which he used for his designs; similarly watermarked Whatman paper was used for the original John James Audubon prints.

The museum’s collection also includes ten loose leaf notebooks of mounted drawings and sketches (most in color) for fabrics, window shades and wallpapers. Three antique scrapbooks bound in marbleized paper feature hundreds of samples. Some of the designs are accompanied by Ashton’s marginal notes.

The museum’s Ashton-related material also includes correspondence and a manuscript copybook or “scriptory” that Ashton kept for practicing ornamental penmanship, dated February 13, 1818. Printed material can also be found in the collection; books include The Painter’s and Varnisher’s Pocket Manual: Containing Rules and Instructions in Everything Relating to the Arts of Painting and Varnishing, with Full Instructions for the Processes…To Which Is Added, a Statement of the Diseases and Accidents to which Painters and Varnishers are Peculiarly Liable, with the Simplest and Best Methods of Prevention and Remedy (Knight & Lacey, 1825) and A Practical Treatise on Dyeing and Calico-Printing: Including the Latest Inventions and Improvements; Also a Description of the Origin, Manufacture, Uses and Chemical Properties of the Various Animal, Vegetable and Mineral Substances Employed in These Arts, by Clinton G. Gilroy (Harper & Bros., 1846).

Framed portrait photographs of Ashton and his second wife, Sarah Heap, can also be found at the art museum.

Miscellaneous uncataloged materials pertaining to William Ashton are housed at the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. These items include miscellaneous papers relating to Ashton’s interest in social reform; cooperative social and commercial ventures; mechanics’ institutes and their libraries; the trade union movement; commerce and currency reform; fraternal organizations; Ashton’s medical career; and contemporary advertising material. For more information, visit:

Other collections pertaining to Ashton can be found at the Indiana Historical Society. One collection of papers consists of handwritten notes, printed materials, and drawings and sketches related to Ashton’s training at the Eclectic Medical Institute in Cincinnati and his medical career. Another collection includes notebooks and papers describing disease symptoms, treatments and recipes for medicines, together with a diary of Ashton’s son, Samuel, a farmer near Mount Carmel, Ohio.

Guide to the William Ashton Collection
Finding aid prepared by Betsy Butler
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections Finding Aids Repository