Salmon P. Chase Papers
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873) was an influential Union official during the Civil War. He served as secretary of the Treasury from 1861 until 1864 and chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1864 until his death in 1873. He was a staunch abolitionist and proponent of a strong national banking system.
Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, and moved to Ohio in 1833. He quickly became a prominent attorney there and a steadfast abolitionist. In many of his cases he defended slaves or former slaves from the Fugitive Slave Law, which he aggressively opposed his entire professional career. A member of the Free Soil Party, Chase was elected to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate in 1849. While in the Senate, Chase continued his fight against slavery, speaking out against both the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Chase was elected governor of Ohio in 1855. There, he continued his fight for abolition, gained knowledge of financial institutions, and made a steady improvement of Ohio's finances. He was also influential in the creation of the Republican Party, and sought its nomination for the presidency in 1860. He lost that nomination to Abraham Lincoln. He was elected to the Senate again in 1861, this time as a Republican.
But soon after, President Lincoln recalled Chase from his second term in the Senate to become the secretary of the Treasury. This appointment was an act of political patronage meant to appease the strong support Chase had within the Republican Party, President Lincoln’s support base. At the Treasury, Chase oversaw the construction of the National Bank and worked with Jay Cooke & Co. to build a market for government bonds, a much needed source of revenue for the war effort. Chase several times attempted to resign the post of Treasury secretary, believing that he and Lincoln had too different views to work together effectively, but Lincoln repeatedly refused his resignation. In 1864, in an effort to molify the many Republican suppporters behind Chase who were beginning to doubt their loyalty to Lincoln, the President decided that the post of chief justice of the Supreme Court was a promotion that would be welcomed by the Chase faction and would satisfy Chase. The nomination and confirmation came as a surprise to Chase, however, as they were made by Lincoln while Chase was home in Ohio. Disinclined to accept the nomination, but fearful of the political fallout that would result from his refusal, Chase accepted his new appointment. Chase served as chief justice from 1864 until his death in 1873. His court was consumed with Reconstruction matters, including In Re Turner, which solidified a former slave's right to bargain freely with any employer, and several cases that dealt with Confederate debt repayment. He also oversaw the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.
Chase was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral for most of his time in Cincinnati. He was married three times, first to Katherine Garmiss, then to Eliza Smith, and finally to Sarah Bella Dunlop Ludlow. Chase saw only two of his six children grow out of childhood, Katherine Jane and Nettie. Katherine (called Kate) had a tumultous marriage to William Sprague, who became governor of Rhode Island, which ended in divorce. She was active in her father's political life, serving as hostess of his house and participating in abolition causes.
Chase died in 1873 in New York City. After a funeral service held in the Senate chamber and attended by President Ulysses S. Grant and the Cabinet, Chase was eventually buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
J. W. Schuckers served as a clerk in the Treasury Department and later as Chase's personal secretary. He wrote a biography of Chase, The Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase, which was published in 1874. Little is known of his life beyond these details.
This collection contains correspondence, notes, speeches, legal opinions, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks, as well as a group of papers belonging to J. W. Schuckers, Chase’s personal secretary and biographer.
Series 1 makes up the majority of the collection, and includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence. This correspondence is both personal and professional in nature. Chase’s correspondence covers a fair range of topics, including his law practices, his family, politics, abolition, and economics.
Series 2 is concerned with slavery. This small group of papers is primarily newspaper clippings and scrapbooks, as well as a small amount of correspondence and speech notes, all dealing with slavery and abolition.
Series 3 concerns Chase’s time as chief justice of the Supreme Court. The majority of the series contains notes on cases and legal opinions, as well as a few logistical papers.
Series 4 is miscellaneous papers. It contains some information about Chase's time as secretary of the Treasury, including records of the department and financial and debt reports, as well as a fair number of newspaper clippings. Many of the clippings are collected into smaller scrapbooks. There are also some loose newspaper clippings and whole newspapers on various topics, including politics and economics. Additionally, there are some photographs, maps, pamphlets, and catalogues.
Series 5 contains J. W. Schuckers's papers, which include biographical material on Chase, draft chapters of Schuckers’s biography of Chase, and personal and business papers including correspondence, investment information, and newspapers.
Series are primarily arranged alphabetically. Series 1, 4, and 5, are grouped by topic and then arranged alphabetically. The volumes are arranged by size.
Much of series 1-4 was microfilmed in 1987, and the microfilm reel numbers can be found in the microfilm index avaliable at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
This collection is arranged into five series:
1. Correspondence, 1824-1873, undated, 6.2 linear feet
2. Slavery, 1828-1865, undated, 1.2 linear feet
3. Supreme Court, 1860-1884, undated, .4 linear feet
4. Miscellaneous, 1833-1881, undated, 2.4 linear feet
5. Schuckers, 1830-1882, undated, 1.2 linear feet
This collection was purchased by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Much of Series 1-4 has been microfilmed. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania owns a negative copy of this material, which is not servicable to researchers.
- Bryant, William Cullen, 1794-1878.
- Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1795-1858.
- Cisco, John J.
- Colby, Abigail C.
- Cooke, Jay, 1821-1905.
- Cox, Jacob D. (Jacob Dolson), 1828-1900.
- Denison, Joseph A.
- Forney, John W. (John Wien), 1817-1881.
- Gallagher, William D., 1808-1894.
- Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872.
- Heaton, Thomas.
- Mellen, William P.
- Nelson, William, 1825-1862.
- Reid, Whitelaw, 1837-1912.
- Schuckers, J. W.
- Seward, William Henry, 1801-1872.
- Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh) , 1820-1891.
- Skinner, Josiah K.
- Smith, William Prescott.
- Sparhawk, Thomas.
- Stanton, Edwin McMasters, 1814-1869.
- Stevens, Thaddeus, 1792-1868.
- Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874.
- Townshend, Norton S., 1815-1895.
- Vaughan, John C.
- Wade, B.F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1800-1878.
- Webb, J. Watson (James Watson), 1802-1884.
- Slavery--Law and legislation--United States--History
- Slavery--United States--History
- Supreme Court justices
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Amanda Fellmeth
- Finding Aid Date
- The Digital Center for Americana pilot project was funded by the Barra Foundation and several individual donors.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
This series (1824-1873, undated) contains correspondence to and from Salmon Chase. The majority of the series is incoming correspondence. The incoming correspondence is made up mostly of single letters written to Chase. An index of each individual who is included in the incoming correspondence is available at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. There is also a fair amount of outgoing correspondence, in the form of letters and in letterpress books (volumes 1 through 8). There is also a box of copies of outgoing letters specifically relating to the Civil War, which are not bound into volumes. There is a small box of family correspondence, both incoming and outgoing. Finally, there is a small amount of incoming correspondence from college societies.
The incoming correspondence is fairly extensive, ranging from 1824 to the year of Chase's death, 1873. The letters are varied in their content. There is a fair amount of business transacted, as well as politics discussed and personal matters attended to.
The earliest writings, from the 1820s until the mid 1840s are mostly private matters, concerning the setting up of various acquaintences with positions and keeping up on the personal lives of various friends. There is also business corespondence having to do with law and Chase's practice as well as a few letters discussing abolition in the later half of the 1830s. Some of the more active correspondents from this period are Abigail Colby, Joseph Denison, Josiah Skinner, Thomas Sparhawk, and members of Chase's extended family.
Once Chase enters elected office, from 1849 until the outbreak of the Civil War, the correspondence is more focused on politics. Petitioners write to Chase seeking his aid and commenting on the slavery situation in Ohio and throughout the country. There are a significant number of letters of a personal nature as well. The outgoing correspondence includes Chase's description of his life in politics, as well as commentary on abolition movements of the day. There are far more individuals involved in correspondence in this period than the earlier years. Some of the more active correspondents in this period include William Gallagher, John Vaughan, Norton Townshend, and Edwin Stanton.
During the Civil War, 1861-1864, Chase's correspondence is mainly political in nature. Chase's outgoing correspondence focuses mostly on the outbreak of war and his installation as secretary of the Treasury. He expresses delight when any group of people act in strong support of the Union or of abolition. He also discusses the Treasury department in great detail, including plans to pay for the war, the national debt, and local economic fluctuations. Some of the main correspondents in this period include General William Tecumseh Sherman and General William Nelson, William Mellen and Thomas Heaton.
The collection includes far less correspondence from Chase's time in the Supreme Court (1864-1873). The incoming correspondence deals mainly with economic considerations and the national debt as well as petitioners seeking favorable judgement in cases. Some of the more active writers of this period include John Cisco, J.D. Cox, Whitelaw Reid, William Prescott Smith, as well as notable abolitionists, including Horace Greeley.
Series 2 contains some correspondence that deals exclusively with slavery. Series 3 contains a small amount of correspondence related to Chase's time on the Supreme Court. Series 4 contains small miscellaneous papers that appear to be unattributed letters or attachments.
The correspondence is arranged by topic: incoming, outgoing, family correspondence, Civil War letters, letters from college societies. The incoming correspondence is arranged alphabetically and the remaining groups are arranged chronologically.Physical Description
7.1 Linear feet ; 16 boxes, 8 volumes
This small series contains items specifically related to slavery. The majority of the series is made up of newspaper scrapbooks, filled with clippings relating to slavery. There is also a folder containing what appears to be notes taken by Chase on the topic of slavery, as well as lecture notes. There are also some papers relating to anti-slavery conventions as well as several documents outlining resolutions and opinions made by conventions, state and local bodies, and prominent people.
The newspaper scrapbooks span from the 1820s until the beginning of the Civil War. They include articles about legislative activity regarding slavery, particularly the Fugitive Slave Law and the Kentucky and Missouri compromises; judicial activity regarding slavery, including trials and cases of former slaves, people who helped slaves, and also of free blacks; and notices regarding the import or sale of slaves.
The papers regarding anti-slavery conventions are mostly calls to the public to participate at the conventions. They include petitions signed and sent to public figures, as well as letters to the public and to officials. The resolutions and opinions contain various items, including resolutions produced by groups, local bodies, or individual people stating an intention to take some action regarding slavery.
A small amount of correspondence deals exclusively with slavery.
Folders are arranged alphabetically.Physical Description
1.0 Linear feet ; 10 boxes
This small series contains materials related to Chase's tenure as chief justice of the Supreme Court, 1864-1873. The majority of the series is made up of notes about cases and unofficial opinions. There are some official opinions, and some logistical items, such as papers outlining the jurisdiction of the federal courts and the allotment of justices, as well as a small amount of correspondence relating specifically to cases.
Most of the notes in this series lack specific case titles or dates. There are some notable cases, however, including Ex Parte Milligan, a Reconstruction case in which the court found that using military tribunals to try civilian cases was unconstitutional when a civilian court existed. The Allotment of Justices folder documents the allotment of Circuit Court justices. The correspondence is mainly from petitioners asking Chase to rule a certain way on a specific case.
Folders are arranged alphabetically.Physical Description
0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box
This series contains diverse materials. It includes newspaper clippings and scrapbooks, speeches, as well as notes and possibly letter fragments on both political and non-political topics. It also contains a fair number of political pamphlets and some catalogues. One box of the series is composed entirely of notes on speeches. There are also papers that are not political in nature and seem to be miscellaneous notes.
The speech notes are arranged in individual folders where the topic or title of the speech could be determined. There are several speeches that touch on various topics, including abolition, the Fugitive Slave laws, economics, education, and the Civil War. All of the speeches are exclusively political.
There are several folders of papers containing notes and suggestions for the Treasury Department as well as the National Bank. There are also papers relating to politics in Ohio dating from 1833 until 1849, and again during Chase's time as governor.
The series also includes a bit of religious material, including several newspaper scrapbooks on the Episcopal Church as well as circulars published by various churches. The catalogues advertise various products including felting material and women's clothing. There are some drafts of poetry. There is also a single photograph in Box 21, Folder 1 which is labeled as D.B. Sturgeon.
Volumes 9-14 are included in this series and consist of journals, and miscellaneous notebooks. There are six flat files associated with this series, including large, intact newspapers as well as maps and roll call vote tallies.
This series is arranged by type and then alphabetically by folder.Physical Description
2.3 Linear feet ; 16 boxes, 6 volumes, 6 flat files
The majority of this series in made up of Schuckers's business papers. There is a bit of correspondence, as well as some materials that appear to have been used to write his book on the life of Chase, including drafts of chapters of his book.
The Chase biographical material includes research into Chase's family history, geneological materials, and obituary notices. There is also some correspondence between Schuckers and third parties relating to the biography.
Schuckers's papers are very much related to his business as a lawyer and his investments. There is a fair amount of material relating to land, railroad, and mine speculation as well as other investments. Schuckers's business correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, is included and is exclusively business in nature, relating to his law firm or his investments. There is also a flat file containing maps of a railroad with which Schuckers was involved.
This series includes a collection of his personal and business checks, written between the years 1865 and 1880. Also included are what appear to be essay notes on economic activity, the National Bank, and specie payments.
There are two volumes, of Schuckers's journals, which discuss primarily family matters and occasionally economic issues.
This series is arranged alphabetically by folder, with the Chase biographical material grouped together in Box 22.Physical Description
1.2 Linear feet ; 3 boxes, 2 volumes, 4 flat files