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Tilghman family papers

Identifier: MS 2821


Papers of three sons of Richard Tilghman II (1673-1738) and their descendents, including connecting families, such as the Chew, Allen, Lawrence, and Penn families, and genealogical records. Among these materials are the papers of Edward Tilghman (1713-1785), James Tilghman (1716-1793), Edward Tilghman, Jr., William Tilghman (1756-1827), Benjamin Chew Tilghman (1821-1901), and Richard Albert Tilghman (1824-1899). The collection also includes letterbooks, day books, accounts, property books, legal papers, pamphlets, maps, prints, drawings, photographs, ephemera, and records from the family estate in Queen Anne's County, "The Hermitage."


  • 1607-1969
  • Majority of material found within 1760-1880


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Sketches

The Tilghmans

The Tilghmans of America descend from Dr. Richard Tilghman (1626-1675) who, with his wife Mary, came to America in 1660 and settled at "The Hermitage," originally a four-hundred acre farm, in Queen Ann's County, Maryland. His son Richard Tilghman (1672-1738) married Anna Maria Lloyd (1676-1748), daughter of Philemon Lloyd (died 1685). Their son, Edward (I) (1713-1786), married first Anna Maria Turbett, then Elizabeth Chew (I) (born 1720), with whom he had seven children. Their fourth child, Edward (II) (1750-1815), married Elizabeth Chew (II) (1751-1842). Their second son, Benjamin (born 1785), married Anna Maria McMurtrie of Philadelphia. They had eight children, two of whom, Benjamin Chew Tilghman (1821-1901) and Richard A. Tilghman (1823-1899), produced much of the latter portion of the material in this collection.

Edward Tilghman (I)(1713-1786): Edward Tilghman of Wye, the fourth son of Colonel Richard Tilghman (1672-1738), was a judge and High Sheriff of Queen Anne's County. He was also a member of the Maryland State Assembly. Edward kept a detailed and complete record of most aspects of life at his Wye River plantation in Corsica Hundred. His accounts from 1740 to 1785 contain information about the cost of building, furnishing, and maintaining his home, about crops of wheat and tobacco, his annual net worth, and the cost for maintaining slaves per year. Much of his material within the collection consists of correspondence with his son, Edward Jr. He married first Anna Maria Turbett, then Elizabeth Chew (I), and finally Juliana Carroll.

Edward Tilghman, Jr. (II) (1750-1815): The third son by Edward (I)'s second wife, Elizabeth Chew, Edward Tilghman Jr., like many of the Tilghman men, studied law at the Middle Temple in England (1772-1774). Upon his return to the colonies, Edward Jr. became a prominent lawyer in Philadelphia, handling cases such as the William Cobbett libel trial and the issue of Robert Morris' land speculation. He also became a member of the Continental Congress. Of particular interest among his papers are letters to his father from the Middle Temple, so many of which provide a firsthand account of English sentiment on the eve of the Revolution. He married his cousin, Elizabeth Chew (II).

Benjamin Tilghman (III) (1785-circa 1852): Son of Edward Jr., Benjamin was a lawyer and merchant in Philadelphia. Most of the items relating to him reflect his mercantile career and interest in land investment. He married Anna McMurtrie (1787-1872).

William McMurtrie Tilghman (1815-1900): Son of Benjamin III and Anna McMurtrie. Though he studied law in the 1840s, William did not limit himself to a legal profession, but participated in various projects of his brothers, Benjamin Chew II and Richard Albert. He eventually took up the office of Secretary of the Schuylkill Navigation Company. William was the family historian, and it is largely thanks to him that this collection survives today. Much of his material relates to Tilghman genealogy. He married Catherine Ingersoll (died 1861).

James Tilghman (1716-1793): The fifth son of Colonel Richard Tilghman, James was a Loyalist, though one whose fortunes survived the Revolution intact due to his compliance with colonial orders to remain in Chestertown. James was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. The following year he became the secretary of the Penn family's land office, where he not only made land purchase treaties with Native Americans, but also took part against the settlers in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania during the "Pennamite Wars." Within his series are records concerning his nephew James (born 1742), son of William, a merchant in Alexandria, Virginia; James' son James (born 1748); and another nephew named James (born 1743), son of Richard III, a lawyer in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. James Tilghman married Ann, daughter of Tench Francis, in 1743.

Tench TilghmanTench Tilghman (1744-1786): Son of James. Best known as an aide-decamp and close friend of General George Washington, Colonel Tench Tilghman, before 1775, had been a merchant in Philadelphia. Such was Tench's value in Washington's eyes that he was chosen to deliver the news of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown to Congress. Though Tench and his father differed in their political outlook, the two men continued to correspond during the war. In 1783 Tench married his cousin, Anna Maria Tilghman, with whom he had two daughters. Tench left the military for business and worked for a time with Robert Morris.

Richard "East India Dick" Tilghman (1746-1786): Son of James (1716-1793). Richard Tilghman, affectionately nick-named "East India Dick" by his family for his work with the East India Company, went to London in the late 1760s to study law at the Middle Temple. In 1777 Richard became Advocate for Bengal with the East India Company and left for India. He was there until 1780, returning to London for reasons of health, but was forced back to Bengal in 1783. Several years later Richard sailed once again for Europe, but died en route. Among his papers are those concerned with the settlement of his estate (c. 1799), his natural daughter Elizabeth, or "Betsy" (who became a ward of James upon the death of his son), and those documents pertaining to his experience with the East India Company.

William Tilghman (1756-1827): Son of James. At the height of his career William was Chief Judge of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Philadelphia. Like his father James and elder brother Philemon, William was a Loyalist. Philemon left the colonies with Maryland's last Proprietary Governor Robert Eden and joined the royal navy. William remained behind. Both he and his father were paroled to their Maryland plantations by 1777, later going on trial to regain their rights and property. James' parole and William's record of trial are part of the collection (see Boxes 8 and 11 respectively). William married Margaret Elizabeth Allen in 1794.

Matthew Tilghman (1717-1790) Maryland's "Father of the Revolution," Matthew Tilghman was not only a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-1776), but presided over it in 1776. His reports to his brother James about behind-the-scenes negotiations provide a unique glimpse of the Congress. Locally, he was one of those who helped transform Maryland from a province into a state, even contributing language to the Maryland Constitution. In 1741 he married his first cousin Anne, a daughter of James Lloyd (died 1723).

Benjamin Chew Tilghman (1821-1901) The son of Benjamin Tilghman, a lawyer, and Anna Maria McMurtrie, Benjamin Chew Tilghman studied law, but joined his brother Richard in business. They engaged in a series of scientific and technological experiments that produced several commercial ventures, most successfully a sand-blasting business they began in 1870. This work took them to England, where they had plants in Sheffield and Manchester, as well as elsewhere in continental Europe. Benjamin Chew Tilghman fought in the Civil War and was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863. Upon recovery he took command of the Third U.S. Colored Regiment out of Philadelphia. After the war Benjamin rejoined Richard. Benjamin oversaw the "Tilghman Patent Sand Blast Company, Ltd.," while his brother Richard ran the BC and RA Tilghman Company in America. Benjamin's nephews, Benjamin Chew Tilghman II and Richard A. Tilghman Jr. took over the business upon the death of their father. Richard A. Tilghman (1824-1899) Richard A. Tilghman was the son of Benjamin Tilghman, a lawyer, and Anna Maria McMurtrie. Upon completing college in 1841, Richard pursued chemistry and its commercial applications with his brother Benjamin Chew Tilghman. His first patent, in 1843, was a process to improve the manufacture of potassium dichromate or "chrome yellow." In time he licensed the process to the Baltimore Chrome Works. Richard was also interested in the power of steam, hydrolysis, and producing gas from coal. Richard's success invited imitators and in 1859 he fought a long case against Proctor & Gamble for infringement upon his hydrolysis patents. Richard and Benjamin, while partners, were separated from 1844 as each handled different aspects of their business. They corresponded constantly, however, and their letters comprise a sizable portion of the latter material in the collection. Richard married Susan Price Toland in 1860.

Benjamin Chew Tilghman (V) (1861-1911): Son of Richard Albert, named for his uncle, Benjamin Chew II, Benjamin Chew Tilghman followed his namesake in combining business and a military career. As a young man, he worked in the sand blast company, but took over the B.C. and R.A. Tilghman Company when his father died. His records include two indexed letterpress books, business letters, and items of personal interest to him, such as pamphlets about meteor craters in Arizona. He married Mary "Polly" McMichael.

A Note about "The Hermitage"

"The Hermitage," (or as it was originally known, "Tilghman's Hermitage") in Queen Anne's County was one of several Tilghman family homes, the other notable property being "Grosses," the seat of another branch of the family. Richard Tilghman, who arrived in Maryland in 1660, was granted the land patent upon which "The Hermitage" was built. The original patent was signed by Charles Calvert, Third Baron Baltimore and was still on display at the house as of 1980. Though the initial grant was only for 400 acres, succeeding generations greatly expanded the property. The first house is believed to have burned down in 1832. The current structure was built in 1859 out of the surviving eastwing of the first house. Much of the material evidence of generations of Tilghmans remains at "The Hermitage," including furniture and portraits. The grounds of the estate contain a family cemetery and stables modeled after those of the Spanish royal family. The gardens, and in particular the variety and age of many trees, have added to "The Hermitage's" fame.

Related families

Though the majority of the collection consists of the papers of the Tilghmans, it also contains valuable information about their relations and associates, such as the Allen, Lawrence, and Penn families. A family tree compiled by Robert Finch, included with this finding aid, shows the connections between the families. It also distinguishes Tilghmans of the same name (e.g. "Benjamin Tilghman," of whom there are six) from one another.

The Chew family

Benjamin Chew (1722-1810) was the fourth son of Samuel Chew of Dover, Delaware and an influential man in Philadelphia before and after the American Revolution. His father, Samuel Chew, served as Chief Justice of the Lower Counties of Pennsylvania (now in Delaware). Benjamin Chew, at the age of 15, studied law under Andrew Hamilton, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer. After Hamilton's death in 1741, Benjamin served as his father's assistant in Dover and then went to London to study law, returning in 1746 to establish a successful legal practice in Philadelphia. By 1755, although only 33 years old, he was the Attorney General of the Province of Pennsylvania as well as Speaker of the Delaware Assembly. By 1759 he was recognized as the leader of the Philadelphia Bar. Benjamin Chew was appointed Chief Justice of the Province of Pennsylvania by Governor John Penn in 1774, succeeding William Allen in that position, but he did not hold this position long because of suspected Loyalist views. He was arrested in 1777 for treason, but was released a year later. After his arrest, he took a decadelong hiatus from public life, taking up public office later as President of the High Court of Errors and Appeals from 1791 until the court's final dissolution in 1808. Benjamin Chew married first Mary Galloway (1697-1734). After Mary's death in 1755, he married Elizabeth Oswald (1757).

The Allen family

William Allen's (1704-1780) impressive career and achievements are largely forgotten as his attempt to remain neutral during the Revolution cost him everything (three of his four sons were Loyalists). He had been Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, the mayor of Philadelphia, and a successful business man. Educated at the Middle Temple (c. 1720) in London, William took advantage of his time abroad to tour England. He returned in 1725 when his father died. William joined the Governor's Council in 1727, when he was only 23, and four years later joined the Provincial Assembly. By 1742, he had become the leader of what was known the "Gentleman's Party" (1742), a group of Anglican and Presbyterian Assemblymen who opposed Quaker politics. Equally successful in business, William owned mines, iron works, and added to his fortune with spoils from privateering during the French and Indian War. While much of his capital went to lavish entertaining, William was philanthropic as well, founding the Pennsylvania Hospital and the College of Philadelphia. He was patron to artists, among them Benjamin West and John Singleton Copely, and to doctors, such as John Morgan and John Redman. William desired to remain neutral during the American Revolution, though he was an advocate for colonial rights and opposed the Stamp Act. William married Margaret Hamilton, daughter of Andrew Hamilton, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly.

Jamese Allen (1742-1778) was the third son of William Allen and Margaret Hamilton, the daughter of Andrew Hamilton, Attorney General of the Province of Pennsylvania. James Allen was likewise a lawyer, having trained for the law with Edward Shippen. He served as a Common Councilman of Philadelphia between 1767 and 1776. James Allen married Elizabeth Lawrence, the only child of John Lawrence [q.v.], son of Thomas Lawrence [q.v.]. Their children were Anne Penn Allen, who married James Greenleaf, Margaret Elizabeth Allen, who married William Tilghman [q.v.], Mary Masters Allen and James Hamilton Allen.

Andrew Allen (1740-1825), the second son of William Allen, is mentioned frequently within the collection. He was a Loyalist, but served as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress until the decision to declare independence was made. With his brothers, he then sought out the protection of British General William Howe. Another brother, William Allen, led the Pennsylvania Loyalist Corps during the American Revolution.

The Lawrence family

Thomas Lawrence (1689-1754) was active in the political life of Philadelphia and south-eastern Pennsylvania. In partnership with Edward Shippen, Lawrence began Shippen & Lawrence one of the most prominent Philadelphia firms engaged in the fur trade. Lawrence was most notable for his business acumen concerning land speculation. He owned, for example, much of what is now Reading, Pennsylvania. Politically, Thomas Lawrence helped negotiate a treaty with Native Americans at Albany, New York in 1745. He also served as mayor of Philadelphia several times between 1727 and his death in 1754. Both of his sons, Thomas Lawrence II and John Lawrence [q.v.], served as mayor of Philadelphia as well.

John Lawrence (1724-1799), Thomas' second son, married Elizabeth Francis, (daughter of Tench Francis and Elizabeth Turbett, and sister of Anne Francis, wife of James Tilghman (1716-1793)). They had only one daughter, Elizabeth Lawrence who married James Allen. John Lawrence was a noted Loyalist.

The Penn family

The descendents of William Penn (1843-1718), the English Quaker who was the founder of Pennsylvania, were involved both professionally and collaterally with the Tilghmans, as well as the Allen, Lawrence, and Chew families. Thomas Penn (1701/2-1775), a son of William by the founder's second wife, was much involved with cleaning up the estate of his blacksheep half-brother, William Penn, Jr., during James Tilghman's [q.v.] term as secretary of the Penn family’s land office. Two of Thomas' brothers, John Penn (1700-1746) and Richard Penn (1705-1771) also figure in this collection, as does their half-sister Letitia [Penn] Aubrey.

John Penn (1725-1795), last of his family to govern Pennsylvania—from 1773-1776—was a grandson of the province's founder by way of that worthy’s son Richard. In 1766 John married Ann Allen, the daughter of William Allen (1704-1780) [q.v.] and the sister of Andrew (1740-1825) [q.v.] and James Allen (1724-1778) [q.v.]. Both Allen brothers became Loyalist émigrés: William Tilghman (1756-1827), a Loyalist, but not an émigré, married James Allen's daughter Margaret Elizabeth Allen (1772-1798) in 1794; she probably was responsible for her uncle John Penn’s papers appearing in this collection.


37.63 Linear Feet (54 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Chew Tilghman, "The Hermitage," Centerville, Maryland, 1985.


A collection of truly national importance, the Tilghman Family Papers contain close to 7,500 items, among them letters, scrapbooks, letterbooks, and photographs. The collection is an invaluable resource for the years leading up to, and those that witnessed, the American Revolution, the first steps of the national government in Philadelphia, the creation of the state governments of both Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the Industrial Revolution. This collection is particularly strong with regard to prominent Loyalists. Among the correspondents of Richard, Edward, Edward II, James, Tench, and William Tilghman—to name only a few—were George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Robert Morris. The Tilghman Family Papers contain not only evidence of the great affairs and prominent figures of the burgeoning nation, but also a window into daily life in early America. These papers provide a glimpse into the lives of plantation owners and slaves, the military, the world of rebels and loyalists, legal practice, manufacturing, the public and private lives of women, and the world of one of the founding families of the United States, the Tilghmans. Compilation of this collection was largely the hard work of William McMurtrie Tilghman (born 1815), a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and secretary of the Schuylkill Navigation Company, who was an avid genealogist and family historian.

Scope and Contents

The Tilghman Family Papers are divided into ten series. Series I comprises the correspondence, records, and other materials relating to the most prominent and prolific writers among the Tilghmans in the collection, each of whom makes up a subseries (e.g. Subseries B: Papers of Edward Tilghman, Jr.). The last subseries in Series I, "Miscellaneous Tilghman Family Documents," contains the documents of other, less well represented Tilghmans. Series II contains Tilghman family genealogical materials. Those records pertaining to "The Hermitage" comprise Series III; ephemera Series IV; and photographs, Series V. Families related to the Tilghmans, specifically the Chew, Lawrence and Allen, and Penn families, each make up their own series (Series VI-VIII). An "Allied Families" series, Series IX, houses the extended kin of those families related to the Tilghmans and their relations whose documents are too few to warrant individual groupings. The last group, Series X, consists of land records.

Series I: Papers of the Tilghman Family Subseries A: Edward Tilghman (I) [Box 1; Flat Box A] Subseries B: Edward Tilghman, Jr. (II) [Boxes 2-6; Flat Boxes B & C] Subseries C: James Tilghman (including his son and two nephews, all James') [Boxes 7-9; Flat Boxes D-G] Subseries D: Richard "East India Dick" Tilghman [Boxes 9-10; Flat Boxes H & J] Subseries E: William Tilghman (II, 1756-1827) [Boxes 11-16; Flat Box J] Subseries F: Correspondence of Benjamin Chew Tilghman II & Richard A. Tilghman [Boxes 16-19] Subseries G: Papers of Benjamin Chew Tilghman II [Box 20] Subseries H: Papers of Richard A. Tilghman [Box 21] Subseries I: Miscellaneous Tilghman Family Documents (including Tench (1744-1786),Matthew (1717-1790), Benjamin Chew Tilghman, son of Richard A. Tilghman, (1861-1911), Philemon II (1760-1797), and others) [Boxes 22-25; Flat Boxes I & K]

Series II: Tilghman Genealogical Materials (including the personal documents and genealogical research of William McMurtrie Tilghman) [includes Over-size materials, separately housed] [Boxes 26-28; plus one Oversized, G-OS]

Series III: Records relating to "The Hermitage" [29; plus # of Flat Boxes]

Series IV: Tilghman Ephemera [Boxes 30-31]

Series V: Tilghman Photographs [Box 32]

Series VI: Papers relating to the Chew Family [Box 33]

Series VII: Papers relating to the Lawrence and Allen Families [Boxes 33-34]

Series VIII: Papers relating to the Penn Family [Box 35]

Series IX: Allied Families (a catch-all for families not represented well enough to fit into Series V-VIII) [Box 35]

Series X: Land Records [Boxes 37 & 38 include Over-size materials, Land-OS] [Boxes 36; 37 OS, 38 OS]

Guide to the Tilghman family papers
Under Revision
Caroline D. Bain, Jim Tschen Emmons and Robert Finch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-03-20: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States