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Charles F. Guillou papers

Identifier: MSS 2/253

Scope and Contents

The collection, 1818-1899, contains autobiographical reminiscences and sketchbooks documenting the naval career and voyages of surgeon Charles F. Guillou. Also included are several letters, family papers and obituaries, and photographs.

Series 1 contains several volumes of Guillou's incomplete autobiographical reminiscences, describing his childhood; education, classmates, and faculty at the American Classicaljand Military Lyceum; experiences in Cuba in 1836; courtship and marriage; and a canal boat voyage from Louisiana to Cincinnati. The reminiscences also describe several weeks in 1839 during the voyage of the U.S. Sloop of War, "Peacock", as part of the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842). Guillou narrates the voyage from Chile to West Antarctica, then back to Tierra del Fuego, where he and several shipmates were stranded on shore. Guillou conveys distrust of the abilities of Charles Wilkes, leader of the Exploring Expedition. The series also contains a lengthy letter describing Guillou's experiences in China in 1846, including his impressions of William P. C. Barton; notes on his career and experiences in Hawaii; and an outline of reminiscences.

Two of Charles F. Guillou's sketchbooks and some unbound drawings, 1838-1872, are in Series 2. The sketchbooks function as pictorial logs of Guillou's naval voyages. The first sketchbook documents the United States Exploring Expedition's voyage from the Azores to South America (including descriptions of Guillou's experience at Tierra del Fuego), Tahiti, Hawaii, Fiji, Oregon and California, and Mexico, from September 1838 to January 1842. The "Columbus" sketchbook covers the voyage from Brooklyn, N.Y., to South America, Hong Kong, Amoy in China, Japan, Hawaii, California, and Chile, from May 1845 to October 1847. The 55 unbound sketches complement the sketchbooks and also include drawings of Egypt and Italy.

Series 3 contains several miscellaneous letters, 1845-1899, of Charles F. Guillou, including an undated holograph letter and photograph of King Kamehameha IV of Hawaii; Dinah Postlethwaite Guillou; and Margaret A. Guillou; and a letter from H. K. [...] with an accompanying 1782 letter from George Washington to General Knox.

Series 4 contains biographical and genealogical material on the Guillou family, 1861-1947, including memorials of Charles F. Guillou's father, Victor Gabriel Guillou, and brother, Constant Guillou, and family recollections of Mary Guillou Redfield. Photographs of Guillou and family members, 1859-1899, are in Series 5. Miscellaneous material, 1861-1894, including calling and business cards, a passport, newsclippings, and Charles F. Guillou's Bible are in Series 6.


  • 1818 - 1899


Biographical / Historical

Charles Fleury Bien aime Guillou, naval surgeon, was born in Philadelphia on 26 July 1813. He married Dinah Postlethwaite (b. 1817) in 1852; they had one daughter, Margaret A. Guillou Blackmore, and an adopted daughter, Eloise ("Polly") Thibault. Guillou died of pneumonia in New York on 1 January 1899. In Philadelphia, Guillou studied medicine with a naval surgeon, Thomas Harris, and, in 1836, received an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He also attended courses at the Medical Institute of Philadelphia and the Therapeutic Institute of Philadelphia. In 1836, Guillou was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy. He served aboard the "Peacock" as part of the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) under Charles Wilkes. In 1842, he helped William P. C. Barton to organize the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. While Surgeon of the "Columbus" in 1845, he was present at the ratification of the first treaty between the United States and China. Guillou was later assigned to the U.S. Frigate "Constitution" and attended Pope Pius IX. He was assigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard as Surgeon aboard the Receiving Ship "North Carolina", circa 1852. He resigned from the Navy in 1854 to assume charge of a Marine Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii.

During his sojourn in Hawaii, Guillou was Court Physician to King Kamehameha IV, the first secretary of the Hawaiian Medical Society, and Italian Consul. He left Hawaii in 1866, moving first to Petersburg, Va., then to New York City, where he became a manufacturing pharmacist.


1 Linear feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The Charles F. Guillou Papers were donated to the Historical Collections of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Mrs. C. T. Blackmore, wife of Charles Thomas Blackmore, a grandson of Charles F. Guillou, in June 1974. Some additional material was donated in 1976. A large collection of family silver, medals, an instrument case, and other objects were separated from the papers during accessioning and transferred to the Mutter Museum. Several pieces of furniture apparently intended as part of the donation could not be located at the time of accessioning.

The collection was processed and catalogued in 1992.

The holograph letter from George Washington was originally separated from the collection and placed in Vault Manuscripts. It was reunited with the collection and placed in Series 3 in 2023.
Charles F. Guillou papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States