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Phillips Family Papers

Phillips Family Papers

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Processing and conservation of this collection was funded in part by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Phillips family
Title:Phillips Family Papers
Quantity:10 linear feet (21 boxes, 2 volumes)
Abstract:The bulk of the Phillips Family Papers is comprised of materials relating to Stephen C. Phillips' merchant house and other family business.
Collection Number:MH 4

Series List

SERIES I. Stephen Phillips (1761-1838) Papers
A. Ships' Papers
B. Shipping and Business Papers
C. Personal and Civic Papers
SERIES II. Stephen Clarendon Phillips (1801-1857) Papers
A. Ships' Papers
B. Shipping and Business Papers
C. Personal and Civic Papers
SERIES III. Phillips Family Relatives
A. Reverend George Phillips (1593-1644)
B. Wendell Phillips (1811-1884)
C. Willard Peele Phillips (1825-1901)
D. George William Phillips (born 1827)
SERIES IV. Phillips Family Businesses
A. Lumbering Papers
B. Forwarding Merchant and Railroad Shipping Papers
SERIES V. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Phillips Family Papers is comprised of materials relating to Stephen C. Phillips' merchant house and other family business. The collection has been arranged into five series.

Series I. Stephen Phillips (1761-1838) Papers includes ships' papers, shipping and business papers, and civic and personal papers extending from 1783 to 1838. Subseries A. Ships' Papers, arranged alphabetically by ship, are comprised of documents relating to vessels owned, mastered, or chartered by Stephen Phillips. Included are insurance papers, account books, accounts, memorials, and correspondence with ship masters and merchants regarding specific ships. Of particular interest are the papers of the schooners Joseph, Margaret, Mary, and the brig Sukey, which contain the memorials of Stephen Phillips concerning the capture of these vessels by French privateers.

Subseries B. Shipping and Business Papers includes documents relating to more than one ship, correspondence, accounts, and insurance papers. Financial materials relating to Stephen's partners Henry Prince and Nathan Peirce (Phillips' brother-in-law) are also found in this section. Many of these papers are prices current with personal holograph notes to Phillips on the inside leaves. These papers were used as sources of current market prices for various goods in specific ports, however they also document the impacts of military action upon maritime commerce.

According to James Duncan Phillips (see bibliography), Stephen Clarendon took charge of his father's shipping business in 1821. All shipping and business papers dated previous to 1821 have been retained with the Stephen Phillips Papers, while those generated after 1820 have been included in the Stephen Clarendon Phillips Papers.

Subseries C. Civic Papers contains some correspondence and memoranda, though the bulk is comprised of bills and receipts from the building of Phillips' house on Chestnut Street in Salem (1804-1805). Also included are bills of sale and receipts for pews from the Independent Congregational Church. Another item of interest is Phillips' lesson book (1783), which contains case studies and problems in practical navigation.

Series II. Stephen Clarendon Phillips (1801-1857) Papers extends from 1820 to 1861 and consist of ships' papers, shipping and business documents, and personal and civic material. Subseries A. Ships' Papers, ranges from 1821-1851 and includes account books, accounts, protests, and correspondence with captains and merchant houses regarding individual vessels that Stephen Clarendon owned, mastered, or chartered. Of interest is a letter from Captain James Cheever of the bark Peru describing a revolution in Peru.

Subseries B. Shipping and Business Papers (1820-1856) contains materials associated with more than one ship or for cargo carried on non-Phillips vessels. Of interest is an item from R.B. Forbes in Boston discussing the status of the China trade. The business papers also include documentation of financial transactions conducted for friends and the papers of the Salem and Lowell Railroad, which describe some of the related planning efforts and land purchases of the 1840s.

Subseries C. Civic Papers (1824-1855) contains a significant portion of materials related to his work in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives (1824-1829) and Senate (1830-1834). The miscellaneous committee minutes and notes include materials related to the building of a bridge across the Charles River from Charlestown to City Square in Boston (1828). Other papers reveal Phillips' continued political work on the local level during his tenure in the State House. The political printed matter includes a number of interesting newspapers: The Free World (Salem, Mass., 1848), Free State Rally and Texas Chain Breaker (Dec. 6, 1845); Essex Register (Mar. 28, 1839, contains Phillips' Mayoral Address to Salem), and Manufacturers and Farmers Journal and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser (Nov. 12, 1837). Other civic papers relate to Phillips' work with the Salem Lyceum, the American Unitarian Association, and the Sunday school.

Series III. Phillips Family Relatives, 1636-1897, contains materials created by a distant ancestor, Reverend George Phillips (1593-1644), a relation from Watertown, Massachusetts, Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), and two of Stephen C. Phillips' sons, Willard Peele Phillips (1825-1901) and George William Phillips (born 1827).

Subseries A. Reverend George Phillips (1593-1644) is limited to three items. Two are undated theological notes and drafts of sermons, and the third is a reproduction of a letter to John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Subseries B. Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) includes a brief letter (circa 1870) to W.K. Heinzen regarding the Franco-Prussian War.

Subseries C. Willard Peele Phillips (1825-1901), includes correspondence received from W.H Osborn concerns coastwise trade and the financial affairs of Stephen C. Phillips.

Subseries D. George William Phillips (born 1827), includes correspondence which is concerned with insurance and financial matters, and reveals George's close financial relationship with his brother Stephen Henry Phillips.

Series IV. Phillips Family Businesses, 1849-1888, is divided into lumbering papers, and forwarding merchant and railroad shipping papers.

Subseries A. Lumbering Papers, 1854-1860, documents the day-to-day operation and sale (circa 1860) of the family's timber concern in Canada. The documents are primarily correspondence between George William Phillips, the overseer of operations at Three Rivers Quebec, Willard P. Phillips, the company treasurer, and Stephen C. Phillips.

Subseries B. Forwarding Merchant and Railroad Shipping Papers documents business conducted at Phillips Wharf from 1849 to 1888. Here a number of commodities such as coal, wood, and cotton were transferred to railroad cars for shipment to cities throughout New England via a number of local railroads including the Salem and Lowell Railroad. There were at least four corporate entities that operated at Phillips Wharf: Phillips, Goodhue, and Bowker, Phillips and Company, Phillips Wharf Corporation, and the Phillips Wharf Trust.

Series V. Miscellaneous Papers, 1809-1883, contains memoranda and printed matter.

Biographical Sketches

Stephen Phillips (1761-1838), a prominent Salem merchant, was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, the son of Deacon Stephen (1718-1801) and Elizabeth (Elkins) Phillips (died 1803). By 1793 he was placed in command of the brig Rose, owned by Elias Hasket Derby. In 1800, Stephen moved to Salem where he started a prosperous merchant business. He was the owner or partial owner of five vessels and consigned cargo on numerous others. These ships traded in Sumatra, Manila, Calcutta, and coastwise America.

Stephen Phillips was also active in religious organizations. He and others from the First Church formed the New Unitarian Society. He also supplied funds to build the church and purchase the land for the Independent Congregational Church at Barton Square.

Stephen's first wife Dorcas Woodbridge (1774-1803) had one child, Stephen Clarendon Phillips. After her death he married Elizabeth Peirce (1774-c.1858).

Stephen Clarendon Phillips (1801-1857), the only son of Stephen and Dorcas (Woodbridge) Phillips, was a Salem merchant whose ships traded in Batavia, Sumatra, Manila, the East Indies, the Fiji Islands, China, and South America. In addition to foreign trade, a number of his vessels engaged in whaling expeditions.

As Salem maritime commerce declined in the 1840s, overshadowed by the larger ports of Boston and New York, Stephen C. Phillips invested in other businesses and various ways of reviving maritime trade. In 1848 the Salem and Lowell Railroad was incorporated with Stephen C. Phillips as its president. It was hoped that the railroad, with a terminal at Phillips Wharf, would provide a faster route for coal and raw materials being sent to the Lowell and Lawrence mills than the Boston and Lowell Railroad. The railroad also helped transport lumber from the Phillips family timber business in Canada to Lowell and other mill towns. Stephen was also a partial owner of Phillips, Goodhue, and Bowker, a commission and forwarding merchant firm.

Stephen C. Phillips held a number of positions in local, state, and national government including: State Representative (elected 1824), State Senator (elected 1830), Congressional Representative for the Essex South District (elected 1834), Mayor of Salem (elected 1838), member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education (1843-1852), and Free-Soil Party candidate for governor (1848). He was also a member of numerous political, religious, social, educational, and historical societies and organizations.

His first wife was Jane Appleton Peele (died 1838), daughter of Salem merchant Willard Peele, with whom he had eight children. Upon her death, he married her sister Margaret Mason Peele (died 1883), with whom he had four children. Stephen C. Phillips died in a fire aboard the St. Lawrence River steamer Montreal, while returning from a visit to the family's lumber operations.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Boardman, Francis
Phillips, George W. (George William), b. 1827
Phillips, George, 1593-1644
Phillips, Stephen C. (Stephen Clarendon), 1801-1857
Phillips, Stephen H. (Stephen Henry), 1823-1897
Phillips, Stephen, 1764-1838
Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884
Phillips, Willard P. (Willard Peele), 1825-1901
Pierce, Nathan, 1749-1812
Prince, Henry, 1764-1846
Brooklyn (Ship)
Brtiannia (Ship)
Cashier (Schooner)
Charles Weigman (Brig)
Charlotte (Ship)
Clinton (Ship)
Columbus (Ship)
Comet (Brig)
Culloden (Ship)
Derby (Bark)
Eliza (Ship)
Fenelon (Brig)
Italy (Ship)
Izette (Ship)
John (Brig)
John (Ketch)
John C. Calhoun (Schooner)
Joseph (Schooner)
Leonidas (Ship)
Lotos (Ship)
Maine (Brig)
Malay (Bark)
Margaret (Schooner)
Mary (Schooner)
Moses D. Phillips and Company
Nancy Ann (Brig)
Peru (Bark)
Peru (Brig)
Phillips Wharf Corporation
Phillips, Goodhue, and Bowker (Salem, Mass.)
Plato (Ship)
Return (Brig)
Rochester (Schooner)
Rose (Brig)
Salem and Lowell Railroad
Salem Lyceum (Salem, Mass.)
Spy (Brig)
St. Paul (Ship)
Sukey (Brig)
Tim Pickering (Brig)
Union (Ship)
Account books
Administration of estates
Capture at sea
Commission merchants
Cyphering books
Mayors--Salem (Mass.)
Navigation--Study and teaching
Politics, Practical
Phillips Wharf (Salem, Mass.)
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Phillips Family Papers, MH 4, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Phillips Family Papers consist of personal and professional documents, account books and memorandum books donated by the estate of Stephen Phillips (acc #19,823). Stephen C. Phillips letters to Joseph Blunt (acc #12,946) were purchased as were additional Stephen C. Phillips letters and pamphlets, Salem and Lowell Railroad papers, and a Phillips, Goodhue, and Bowker letterbook (acc #12,451). The Phillips and Company account book was received from James Duncan Phillips (acc #11,604). Papers associated with Stephen Henry Phillips, Stephen Willard Phillips, Willard Peele, and other Salem families, have been removed. All maps, photographs, and illustrations have also been removed.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, March 1987. Updated by Catherine Robertson, July 2014.

Related Material

Bradlee, Francis B.C., The Boston and Lowell Railroad, the Nashua and Lowell Railroad, and the Salem and Lowell Railroad. Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1918.

Hurd, D. Hamilton. History of Essex County, Massachusetts: with Biographical Sketches of many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men. : Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis and Co., 1888.

Phillips, Albert Merritt, comp., Phillips Genealogies. Auburn, Massachusetts, 1888.

Phillips, James Duncan. "Captain Stephen Phillips," Essex Institute Historical Collections. 76(1940): 97-135.

Phillips, Wendell. No Slave-Hunting in the Old Bay State: An Appeal to the People and Legislature of Massachusetts. New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1860.

Phillips, Wendell. The Stephen Phillipses. Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1938.

Felt Family Papers, 1750-1924, MH 95

John Hancock Andrews Papers, 1719-1874, MSS 2

Nathaniel Appleton Papers, 1799-1848, Fam. Mss. 21

Osgood Family Papers, 1661-1932, MSS 189

Peele Family Papers, 1753-1871, MH 5

Phillips Family Papers, 1794-1943, MSS 58

Stephen Henry Phillips Papers, 1893-1950, E 4 and MSS 0.203

Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society Records, 1834-1866, MSS 34

Willard Peele Papers, 1795-1871, MSS 66

Appendix I

Appendix II

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