The Treaty Elm: A Symbol of Peace

Treaty Elm Box
The Treaty Elm Box was found in the Berks History Center Museum Collection during the Collections Management Initiative

The “Treaty Elm” was an enormous tree which stood near the present day neighborhood of Kensington in Philadelphia. Tradition holds that William Penn pledged an oath of friendship with the Lenape Indian Chief Tamanend at the treaty elm in 1682. While there is no definitive documentation of this meeting, the Treaty Elm came to symbolize Penn’s desire to live in harmony and peace with Native Americans.   After the tree fell during a storm on March 5, 1810, relic hunters salvaged pieces of its wood in order to create mementos of the famous tree.

Today, artifacts crafted from this wood can be found in the collections of several museums.  However, it was with some surprise that we recently discovered a treaty elm box in our collection. While we are not exactly sure of its connection to Berks County, it is inscribed by its maker, a Philadelphia merchant named Benneville D. Brown (1779-1863). Brown was related to several Berks County families including the Keims and Bertolets.

Researched & Written by Bradley K. Smith

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2 thoughts on “The Treaty Elm: A Symbol of Peace

  1. Legend has i that Conrad Weiser also had “treaty tees” around the “White Sand Spring” of the now Bethany Children’s Home. Many of the natives would meet there/ carve their initials or “signage” in to the beech and elm trees and hike to the top of Weiser’s Mountain to now “Eagle’s Peak” He hosted many protestant religious groups there the same way during his lifetime. None of trees have survived due to the blights in the early 1900’s. Carl, the Archivist

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