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Stephen Willard Phillips (1873-1950) Papers

Stephen Willard Phillips (1873-1950) Papers

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

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex StreetSalem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:Phillips, Stephen Willard, 1873-1955
Title:Stephen Willard Phillips (1873-1950) Papers
Quantity:10.75 linear feet (21 boxes)
Abstract:The Stephen Willard Phillips papers document this Salem, Massachusetts, man's professional activities as an historian and collector.
Collection Number:E 3

Series List

SERIES I. Professional ActivitiesSERIES II. CollectionsSERIES III. Civic ActivitiesSERIES IV. Photographs

Scope and Content Note

The Stephen Willard Phillips papers document this Salem, Massachusetts, man's professional activities as an historian and collector. A small portion of the collection is related to some of his civic activities. This collection does not document Phillips' legal or political work and provides little information relative to his family life. The collection consists of correspondence, financial materials, printed matter, holograph essays, and collections of stamps and manuscripts. The papers have been organized into four series.

Series I. Professional Activities represents the surviving evidence of Phillips' work as historian and collector. Papers attributed to Phillips and others (B1 F1) are mostly associated with the history and culture of Hawaii, with particular emphasis upon the activities of Captain James Cook. Other important items include a complete set of page proofs from the exhibition catalog The Hawaiian Portion of the Polynesian Collections in the Peabody Museum of Salem (1920) and research notes concerning voyages of the ship Wager from 1740-1746 (B1 F3).

Subseries B. Correspondence contains letters to Phillips as well as outgoing letters. The majority of the correspondence was received from book collectors, historians, and curators. Of particular interest are letters from Clarence Brigham (American Antiquarian Society), Worthington C. Ford (Massachusetts Historical Society), and Lawrence C. Jenkins (Peabody Museum of Salem). An enclosure in the Jenkins correspondence and a letter from an unidentified "Miss Allen" provide interesting insights into Hawaiian culture.

Subseries C. Diaries contains three volumes of diaries or day books.

Subseries D. Financial consists of various personal financial papers.

Subseries E. Printed Matter consists of a variety of ephemeral printed items. News clippings include a eulogy of Stephen Henry Philips [father] and notice of the opening of the Haverhill Historical Society's building, "The Buttonwoods", in 1904. This series also contains Phillips' Certificate of Naturalization, an exhibition poster of the ship Recovery of Salem, and a Merchants National Bank calendar with illustrations of historic houses in Salem (B15 F2).

Series II. Collections consists of manuscripts, autographs, printed items, scrapbooks, and illustrations divided into sub-series that reflect the intellectual organization intended by Stephen Willard Phillips. Subseries A. Stamp Collection Albums contains four albums of foreign and domestic stamps plus some loose stamps. Subseries B. Document Collections has been divided into five groups. Personal documents (B6 through 9 and 15) bear the signature of prominent individuals such as American Presidents, signers of the Declaration of Independence, British statesmen and admiralty, writers, and scholars. Many of the individuals represented were important figures in the history of Salem. For a comprehensive list of signatories, see Appendix I. The autographs consist of document fragments bearing the signature of other individuals (B9). Hawaiian materials (B15) include newspaper articles on the death of Queen Tamehamalu (1824), and a printed letter by Na Kekuanaoa to "The French Gentlemen" (1837). The Essex County materials consist of the eighteenth-century commission of officers in the Essex Regiment, seventeenth-century deeds and indentures from Haverhill, Massachusetts, and a subscription list of the First Regiment of Essex County from Salem (circa 1776). The miscellaneous folder (B2 F6) features early printing samples such as leaves from William Caxton's translation of Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legends, one of the twelve editions published at Westminster between 1485 and 1527.

Subseries C. Gorham Gilman Papers was apparently retained by Phillips as documentation of Hawaiian history. Gilman lived in Hawaii for at least 20 years and was eventually appointed "Hawaiian Consul at Boston." His papers document the intellectual conflict of the Hawaiian occupation, the provisional government, and the eventual annexation. Press clippings, poetry, ephemera, and additional correspondence relative to the Hawaiian question are located in Gilman's scrapbooks.

Subseries D. Charles Warren Stoddard Papers contains the papers of this South Seas adventurer and writer whose close relationship with the Hawaiian royal family is documented by the correspondence that Phillips saved. Correspondence that remains with the Stoddard papers includes letters from Hawaiian natives and residents written in English and French. Stoddard's scrapbook (B13) contains a number of articles regarding Joaquin Miller, an American writer who was apparently a close friend. [The scrapbook also contains letters from Minnie Myrtle Miller, Joaquin's wife.]

Subseries E. Woodbridge Family Papers was originally identified by Phillips as the Mary Woodbridge Papers, but the majority of the material related to other family members. Documentation of the Dudley Woodbridge estate is included along with William Woodridge correspondence and an insurance policy.

Subseries F. Miscellaneous includes a cargo list documenting a voyage on the ship Nixon to Rotterdam in 1804. There are two account books for the Dover Horse Railroad listing payroll and other financial information. An unidentified ship chandler's business ledger shows the accounts of prominent Salem citizens including George Crowninshield and Captain Joseph Orne (ship Essex). Other entries include William Jenkins (cabinetmaker), Dr. Edward A. Holyoke, and individuals from a number of eastern ports. Box 19 contains approximately 500 prints and illustrations that Phillips collected. Box 20 contains 11 maps, mostly of the South Pacific, but including one of Salem in 1793 as described by Benjamin Pickman and prepared under the direction of Stephen W. Phillips.

Series III. Civic Activities documents two of Phillips' major projects. Subseries A. Peirce-Nichols House Preservation consists of correspondence and reports relative to an Essex Institute project for which Philips was treasurer. Subseries B. Punhou School/Oahu College documents fundraising for the private school in Hawaii for which Phillips, James M. Hunnewell, and William R. Castle were trustees.

Series IV. Photographs consists of approximately 600 photographs of Hawaii, family members, friends, artwork, and places of interest to Phillips. Many of the photographs are unidentified and undated.

Biographical Sketch

Stephen Willard Phillips was born in January 9, 1873 in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Stephen Henry and Margaret (Duncan) Phillips. Before Stephen was two years old the family moved to San Francisco, where his brother James Duncan was born. Soon afterward the family relocated to Haverhill, Massachusetts, and then to Danvers, where the two boys attended Grammar School No. 4 and later Danvers High School. As a young man Stephen developed an interest in outdoor activities, particularly camping and canoeing and exhibited an energetic and adventurous spirit. These qualities led him to read the works of Francis Parkman and sparked an interest in the voyages of Captain James Cook.

Stephen then attended Harvard, capping an exemplary educational experience with an AB conferred magna cum laude in 1895. The completion of the LLB in 1898 suitably prepared him for a legal career which began at the Boston firm of Putnam. In 1899 Phillips married Anna Pingree Wheatland and soon opened his own practice, specializing in financial management and "trust work." Phillips served several terms on the Salem City Council and a two year term in the State Legislature while maintaining his interests in history and Hawaiian ethnology. He collaborated with A. Frank Hitchings in the production of the important reference work Ship Registers of Salem and Beverly, 1789-1900 which was first published serially in Essex Institute Historical Collections beginning in 1903 and later published in a single volume in 1906.

In 1920 Phillips and Lawrence W. Jenkins, Director of the Peabody Museum, collaborated on an exhibition of Hawaiian holdings in the museum's Polynesian collections. The resultant catalog was entitled The Hawaiian Portion of the Polynesian Collections in the Peabody Museum of Salem. The success of this exhibition and his continued research undoubtedly led to Phillips' appointment as Honorary Curator of Pacific Ethnology in 1926. In 1936 Phillips was elected President of the Essex Institute, a reflection of his historical research and his continued activities in both institutions.

Phillips held a number of posts in other local historical organizations such as the Club of Odd Volumes and the Salem Athenaeum and was also a member of the prestigious Putnam Club. Nevertheless, his greatest loyalties were conferred upon the Peabody Museum and the Essex Institute until his death in Salem on July 6, 1955.

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.

Benbow, John, 1653-1702
Brigham, Clarence, 1877-1963
Caxton, William, 1422-1491
Cook, James, 1728-1779
Cornwallis, William, Sir, 1744-1819
Corwin, Jonathan, 1640-1718
Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams, 1772-1851
Ford, Worthington Chauncey, 1858-1941
Gardner, John, 1736-1816
Hancock, John, 1737-1793
Holyoke, Edward Augustus, 1728-1829
Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
Irving, Washington, 1783-1859
Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
Jenkins, Lawrence Waters, 1872-1961
Jenkins, William Paul, 1923-2012
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
Na Kekuanaoa
Orne, Joseph, 1683-1748
Parkman, Francis, 1823-1893
Phillips, Stephen H. (Stephen Henry), 1823-1897
Queen Tamehamalu
Saltonstall, Richard, 1897-1979
Sherman, Roger, 1721-1793
Stoddard, Charles Warren, 1843-1909
Washington, George, 1732-1799
Whittier, John G. (John Greenleaf), 1807-1892
Woodbridge, Dudley
Woodbridge, William, 1755-1836
American Antiquarian Society
Dover Horse Railroad
Essex (Ship)
Essex Institute
Haverhill Historical Society (Haverhill, Mass.)
Massachusetts Historical Society
Nixon (Ship)
Oahu College
Peabody Museum of Salem
Peirce-Nichols House (Salem, Mass.)
Punahou School
Recovery (Ship)
Wager (Ship)
Historic buildings--Conservation and restoration
Hawaii--Description and travel
Hawaii--History to 1893
Massachusetts--History--18th century
Massachusetts--Salem--History--18th century
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783


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

Stephen Willard Phillips (1873-1950) Papers, E 3, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The papers held by the Peabody Museum of Salem (Box 16) were donated by Stephen W. Phillips' estate (acc #19,823). The origin of the Stephen W. Phillips papers at the Essex Institute is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia Kennick, July 1982 and Robert P. Spindler, November 1986. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, December 2015.

Related Material

Whitehill, Walter Muir. The East India Marine Society and the Peabody Museum of Salem; a Sesquicentennial History. Salem, MA: Peabody Museum, 1949.

Whitehill, Walter Muir. "Stephen Willard Phillips". Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. 91. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1955.

Stephen Henry Phillips Papers, 1893-1950, E 4.

Papers of Stephen Henry Phillips, 1846-1890, undated, MSS 0.203

Phillips Family Papers, 1636-1897, MH 4

Phillips Family Papers, 1794-1943, MSS 58

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