February 13, 2008

The Project Unfolds

The Chew Family Papers is one of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's largest collections of family papers, spanning approximately 400 linear feet, and covering a period of nearly 300 years. This collection details the family's activities as lawyers and politicians, as well as the events of their daily lives.

The Chews were one of Philadelphia's wealthiest and most influential families. Benjamin Chew (1722-1810), his siblings, and descendants, played fundamental roles in shaping revolutionary and early federal America. They acted as lawyers for the Penn family, served on the Commission to determine the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland, held high public offices, and purchased large amounts of property in the Delaware river valley. As one of the largest slave-owning families in the mid-Atlantic region, the Chews maintained numerous farms and plantations, and kept careful documentation about their practices.

This collection contains rich materials for researchers interested in slavery in the North, as well as more specific information about the lives of the Chew's slaves. In one letter, a slave named Joseph asks to be transfered to another place of employment so that he may be closer to his wife. There are many more such stories in this collection.

The correspondence, journals, accounts, and land records of the Chews illuminate the lives of slaves and servants, women and children, laborers and surveyors. As we open each box and unfold more bundles, new stories emerge.


Don Rash said...

Tara, et al,

Nice work, and a good use of the blog to document it. Looking forward to seeing your progress.

Mark said...

I seek any written communication between the Chew girls and Rebecca (Becky) Franks. Apparently, Sally, Peggy and Betsy Chew were ladies of the Mischianza with Becky and it is possible that letters were exchanged during the late 1770s. Is there a finding aid that would reveal this information or will that be a product of your labors? Great work so far!

Cathleen Miller said...


There is no finding aid available yet, but there will be at the end of the project. In the meantime, I will keep an eye out for any such correspondence.

Phillip Seitz said...

Actually, if I recall this letter, Joseph has even found an employer who will pay the Chews more than they're currently earning off him already, as an inducement to them to make the move. This kind of entrepreneurship was a surprise to me when I first encountered it.