In 1857, when brothers Minshall and Jacob Painter inherited the property that is now Tyler Arboretum from their father, Enos Painter, they set about establishing a collection of over 1,000 ornamental plants for their own scientific study. They even built the Painter Library to house their growing natural science collections and equipment, as well as their extensive and valued book collection. The Minshall and Jacob Painter private collection was key in laying the foundation of the beauty that is Tyler Arboretum today.
But Minshall Painter left his mark not only on Tyler Arboretum but around Media, PA. Minshall is also credited with serving on the local school board and getting the Delaware County seat moved from Chester (City) to Media. In fact, on Orange Street across from the intersection with Linden Street, you can find a sign that credits Minshall with naming the town “Media.” However, it is not clear why “Media” was chosen – some report that it was because of the central location of Media borough in the county, while others report that the name may come from the biblical area of Medea.
Personally, I feel the most valued contribution outside of Tyler Arboretum that Minshall Painter made to Media was being one of the founders of the Delaware County Institute of Science. On September 21, 1833, a group of five individuals with an interest in science and natural history came together to establish DCIS. Minshall Painter was one of the five founders and the first secretary of the organization. He purchased a half block of land along South Avenue from Jasper to Front Street and secured the funds (much out of his own pocket) to construct the building that still stands today. You can learn more about the history of DCIS from their website. Admission to the museum is free and open on Monday, Thursday, and most Saturday mornings.
Minshall also recorded weather observations and was an enthusiastic genealogist – he compiled notes and collected deeds and other papers pertaining to many Quaker families of Delaware and Chester Counties.
Jacob Painter was not as active in the community as his brother Minshall. As noted on this website from Swarthmore College:
Jacob Painter, while sharing Minshall’s scientific interests, was a student of language and a poet … The brothers acquired a printing press which they used to publish a number of essays on language, a system they developed for scientific nomenclature, and genealogical compilations. They were active in civic and Quaker affairs and members of Chester Monthly Meeting, attending Middletown Meeting until their resignation in 1842. While no longer formally members of the Society of Friends, they continued their interest in “liberal” Quaker concerns, including abolition and women’s suffrage, and collected classic Quaker texts.
And what about the Minshall House? Located at the intersection of Providence Road and Front Street, the Minshall House (circa 1750) is believed to be the oldest house in Media, approximately 260 years old. The house is located on the land Thomas Minshall purchased from William Penn in 1681, but there is no record that Minshall Painter (the great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Minshall) ever lived in the house. The house is open for tours on Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Minshall lived to 72 years of age, but his hard work and impact still lives on in Media, PA!