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Phillips Family Papers

Phillips Family Papers

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Processing and conservation for this collection was funded by a grant from 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
Dates:bulk 1849-1888
Quantity:9 linear feet (17 boxes, 5 volumes)
Abstract:The bulk of the Phillips Family Papers is comprised of family business papers and runs from 1849 to 1888.
Collection Number:MSS 58

Series List

SERIES I. Stephen Phillips (1761-1838) 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. Stephen Henry Phillips (1823-1897)
B. Willard Peele Phillips (1825-1901)
C. George William Phillips (born 1827)
D. Stephen Willard Phillips (1873-1955)
SERIES IV. Phillips Family Businesses
A. Lumbering Papers
B. Forwarding Merchant and Railroad Shipping Papers
C. Other Phillips Enterprises
SERIES V. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Phillips Family Papers is comprised of family business papers and runs from 1849 to 1888. The collection has been arranged into five series.

Series I. Stephen Phillips (1761-1838) Papers, which extends from 1794 to 1835, includes ships' papers, shipping and business papers, and civic and personal papers. Ships' papers are arranged alphabetically by ship and are comprised of documents relating to vessels owned or mastered by Stephen Phillips. They include insurance papers, account books, accounts, and correspondence with shipmasters and merchants regarding a specific ship. Shipping and business papers (folder 4) includes documents relating to more than one ship, miscellaneous correspondence and accounts, and insurance notes. Of particular interest is the shipping memorandum book (1820-1823) which includes comparisons of prices current in foreign ports, notes on the manufacture of opium and other products of India, and notes on shipbuilding. While Stephen Phillips' personal and civic papers contain correspondence and memorandums, the bulk is comprised of bills and receipts from the building of his house on Chestnut Street (1804-1805).

Series II. Stephen Clarendon Phillips (1801-1857) Papers contains ships' papers, shipping and business papers, and civic papers. Subseries A. Ships' Papers, range from 1820 to 1849, and includes account books, accounts, protests, and correspondence with captains and merchant houses regarding vessels which Stephen C. Phillips owned. Of interest are the protest papers and accounts relating to the gale damage rendered to the ship St. Paul on its 1840 run from Manila to Salem (Volume 1).

Subseries B. Shipping and Business Papers, 1820-1856, contains papers for more than one ship or for cargo carried on non-Phillips vessels. The business papers also include documentation of miscellaneous financial transactions conducted for friends, and an early report to the petitioners for the Salem and Lowell Railroad. Of interest in the miscellaneous shipping and business correspondence are letters to and from J. Willard Peele in Manila discussing the status of the China trade. The account memorandum book of 1839-1841 and the 1828-1837 account book also contain accounts of Phillips' guardianship of Alfred C. Appleton.

Subseries C. Civic Papers, 1824-1855, documents Stephen Clarendon Phillips' involvement in such civic societies as the Salem Lyceum, the American Unitarian Association, and the Sunday School. Most of the memorandum books (1831- circa 1831) related to his years in the Massachusetts Senate and the United States Congress.

Series III. Phillips Family Relatives, 1809-1943, contains the papers of Stephen C. Phillips' sons: Stephen Henry Phillips (1823-1897), Willard Peele Phillips (1825-1901), and George William Phillips (born 1827); and the papers of grandson Stephen Willard Phillips (1873-1955).

Subseries A. Stephen Henry Phillips extends from 1846 to 1890, the bulk related to his 1883-1884 work representing the United States in Alabama claims cases. These papers involve claims made by fishermen who suffered damages incurred by Confederate vessels.

Subseries B. Willard Peele Phillips, 1849-1871, includes accounts of the ship Elizabeth, originally owned by his father (see Stephen Clarendon Phillips Papers for papers of the vessel prior to 1849). Papers as Collector of Customs, a position Willard held from 1861-1865, are comprised mainly of petitions for the position of inspector at Beverly and Salem. His business, civic, and personal correspondence include evidence of his interest in capturing Confederate privateers and the Barton Square Independent Congregational Church. Also here are his licenses and tax receipts as a wholesale dealer and the bills from the estate of his father-in-law Francis Boardman.

Subseries C. George William Phillips includes a diary which documents his years at Harvard University (1844-1847) and his job at the Essex Railroad Office in 1846.

Subseries D. Stephen Willard Philips, 1902-1943, consists primarily of the collection of funds and the restoration of the Peirce-Nichols house, an Essex Institute project of which he was the treasurer. Also included are miscellaneous letters regarding his donations to the Essex Institute and other individuals.

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

Subseries A. Lumbering Papers, 1854-1860, documents the day-to-day running of the family's timber concern in Canada, the financial problems of the company and its sale circa 1860. The papers are primarily comprised of correspondence among George William Phillips, the overseer of operations at Three Rivers Quebec, Willard P. Phillips, the company treasurer, and Stephen C. Phillips. Also included is correspondence with Nicholas G. Norcross of Lowell, one of the firm's partners.

Subseries B. Forwarding Merchant and Railroad Shipping Papers documents business conducted at Phillips Wharf from 1849 to 1888. These papers reflect the quantities of coal, grain, flour, lumber, sugar, plaster, cement, and other commodities which were shipped over the Salem and Lowell Railroad and other railway lines. Included is correspondence from the last year of business (1854) of Phillips, Goodhue, and Bowker, a forwarding merchant firm in which both Stephen C. and Willard P. Phillips were involved. The station agents' correspondence, primarily of the Salem agent Edward H. Knight, and Phillips Wharf accounts reflect the uninterrupted flow of trade at the Wharf. Included in the printed material are annual reports of the Illinois Central, Salem and Lowell, Lowell and Lawrence, and Northern Railroads.

Subseries C. Other Phillips Enterprises includes receipts, reports, and a prospectus relating to the Ice Company at Haggett's Pond, the Salem Ice Company, the Argillite and Greenup Coal and Iron Company, and other concerns in which the Phillips' were interested.

Series V. Miscellaneous Papers, 1809-1883, contains bills of unidentified Phillips' accounts, legal papers, memorandum, photographs, and printed material. Of note is the U.S. Coastal Survey Proposals (1832) drawn up by Commodore Charles Morris, Charles Wilkes, and others.

Biographical Sketch

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.

Appleton, Alfred C.
Boardman, Francis
Peele, J. Willard, 1804-1871
Phillips, George W. (George William), b. 1827
Phillips, Stephen C. (Stephen Clarendon), 1801-1857
Phillips, Stephen H. (Stephen Henry), 1823-1897
Phillips, Stephen Willard, 1873-1955
Phillips, Stephen, 1764-1838
Phillips, Willard P. (Willard Peele), 1825-1901
Pierce, Nathan, 1749-1812
Prince, Henry, 1764-1846
Brookline (Ship)
Derby (Bark)
Dolphin (Schooner)
Eliza (Ketch)
Elizabeth (Ship)
Emerald (Ship)
Georgetown (Schooner)
Heraclide (Ship)
Malay (Brig)
Nancy Ann (Brig)
Patriot (Bark)
Peru (Brig)
Phillips, Goodhue, and Bowker (Salem, Mass.)
Sapphire (Ship)
St. Paul (Ship)
Sukey (Brigantine)
Sukey (Schooner)
Union (Ship)
Account books
Administration of estates
Architecture--Conservation and restoration
Lumber trade
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, MSS 58, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Phillips Family Papers are a reorganization and integration of 11 boxes, 1 diary, 2 letterbooks, and 13 account books. Several miscellaneous folders were added from the Willard Peele Papers. The bulk of the collection comes from an unknown source. The following items were purchased or donated: the provision list of the ship Brookline (1834) and the ship St. Paul's account books (1836-1844 and 1844, 1848) donated by George H. Allen before 1930; the bark Patriot's account book (1821) donated by George H. Perkins in 1909; letters from Stephen C. Phillips to L. Johannot (1829) and H.A.S. Dearborn (1833), the 1966 gift of Stephen Phillips; a military pass donated by Willard P. Phillips in 1861; the account book (1810-1811) of the ship Union purchased of Howard Corning in 1943; and an account memorandum book (1839-1841) and two letterbooks (1820-1823 and 1832-1834) of Stephen C. Phillips purchased with the Thomas Cole Bequest, 1924.

Removed from the collection and added to other collections are several folders of Willard Peele's accounts, correspondence, and insurance papers, shipping papers of John H. Andrews, Joseph Peabody, and Captain George V. Jordan, account books of Andrew and William Heath, land deeds of the Ward and Kinsman families, a letterbook of Eugene Mayer, one map and two lithographs.

All items removed from the collection have their original location marked on the back.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia Kennick, July 1982. 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.

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

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

Felt Family Papers, 1750-1924, MH 95

John Hancock Andrews Papers, 1719-1874, MSS 2

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

Phillips Family Papers, 1636-1897, MH 4

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

Willard Peele Papers, 1795-1871, MSS 66

Appendix I

Appendix II

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