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Abstract

These papers concern business and legal affairs, and include Price's writings on the law of real and personal property, and private wrongs. Also includes a letter to Daniel Webster.

Background note

Eli Kirk Price (1797–1884, APS 1854) was a lawyer. Price was particularly well-known for his expertise in real estate law. He played a leading role in many civic and learned organizations and commissions in Philadelphia, including the group that established Fairmount Park. He served as Vice President of the American Philosophical Society from 1877 to 1884.

Price was born in 1797 in East Bradford, Chester County, Pennsylvania, one of eleven children of Rachel and Philip Price, members of the Society of Friends. Young Eli received a classical education at Westtown School, a private Quaker school near his home. In 1814 he was apprenticed to the shopkeeper John W. Townshend of West Chester, and a year later he entered the well-known shipping-house of Thomas P. Cope (1768-1854, APS 1843) in Philadelphia. Price then spent a year with J. C. Jones, Oakford & Co. to further his mercantile training. Presumably due to poor prospects in a profession that was increasingly depressed, Price decided to study the law. He became a student of the Philadelphia lawyer and politician John Sergeant (1779-1852, APS 1813) and in 1822 was admitted to the bar.

Price’s mercantile training turned out to be an asset for his legal work since it facilitated a better understanding of shipping and commercial law, an area in which he initially specialized. Eventually he turned his attention to real estate law. It was in this field that he distinguished himself as a particularly skilled expert.

Price maintained a private practice but his legal services were also frequently solicited on behalf of public causes. In 1843 Price was selected a member of a revenue commission charged with revising the property tax assessments in Pennsylvania. The result of the revaluation was a significant increase in the state’s tax revenue. In 1851 Price wrote an essay in which he argued against a proposal to lift the tax exempt status of churches, colleges, asylums and other charitable institutions. Two years later, Pennsylvania Governor William Bigler (1814-1880) requested that Price draft an act that was “designed to promote the alienability of real property and vest in the courts the jurisdiction to determine the propriety of the disposition of a title in a case provided for in the statute.” The so-called Price Act was signed into law in April 1853.

Price was the author of several additional acts, most notably the Act of May 4th, 1855, which, among other points relating to the rights and duties of husbands and wives, and parents and children, enabled the wife to become a femme sole trader, to own her own earnings, and to dispose of her property. In addition, in 1854 he was a sponsor of the consolidation bill that combined the governments in the County of Philadelphia into one entity.

In 1853 Price, who was an active supporter of municipal reform, was nominated by like-minded citizens for the State Senate. Despite his lack of confidence in the integrity of the “elective franchise,” which he deemed “almost valueless,” he accepted the nomination. He was elected later that year. As a state senator he opposed the Prohibitory Liquor Bill on the grounds that the proposed prohibition of the “manufacture and sale of alcohol and ardent spirits” violated the rights and liberties of the people. Not surprisingly, this action earned him much criticism from members of the temperance movement. His supporters, on the other hand, applauded what they saw as an unwavering loyalty to his convictions and to the Constitution.

Price published numerous essays on a broad range of legal topics, but his interests extended beyond the study and practice of law. In 1852 he published a biographical memoir of his parents Rachel and Philip Price; ten years later he wrote a memorial of his daughter Rebecca for her child. In 1872 he completed a history of Philadelphia that had been solicited by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. That same year he also published a critical essay about the relatively new theory of evolution. While Price eventually accepted the abstract idea of evolution, he questioned to what extent it could be considered operative.

Price was involved in many civic and learned organizations and projects. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1854 and served as its Vice President from 1877 to 1884. In the 1870s he was chairman of the committee in charge of executing the trust of François André Michaux (1770-1855, APS 1809), a French botanist and fellow member of the American Philosophical Society. Price shared with Michaux a particular interest in trees; in fact, Price was an ardent advocate of the protection of American forests. He was also one of the original members of the city’s Park Commission, founded in 1867. As its chairman he was responsible for acquiring for the city the land tracts that later comprised Fairmount Park.

In 1872, Price helped coordinate efforts to celebrate the Centennial in Philadelphia. One outcome of his involvement was the decision to refurbish Independence Hall in time for the festivities. In 1879 he received the Silver Medal of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, of which he was the president. He also served on the Board of the University of Pennsylvania and as President of the Pennsylvania Colonization Society. In addition, he was President of the University Hospital and the Preston Retreat, a maternity hospital in Philadelphia.

Price was married to Anna Embree. They had three children, including John Sergeant, who was named after his father’s mentor.

Scope and content

This collection consists of twenty-three items relating to Eli Kirk Price. They are dated between 1820 and 1853, with the bulk dating to the 1820s.

The collection sheds light on some of Price’s professional activities as well as the causes he supported. Several items detail with Price’s work as a lawyer. Of interest is a transcript of a court case dealing with a dispute over land in West Chester. Two “negro servants,” who had each been bequeathed five acres of land by their master, testified at the trial (1820). Included in the collection is also Price’s legal argument in the case Delaware Insurance v. Archer and Others (n.d.), as well as essays concerning private wrongs, personal property, and real property. Other material that discusses law suits includes the letter from Rawle (1841) and the letter from Wharton to Hollingsworth (1853).

Included in the collection are three petitions recommending Price for the appointment of solicitor of the Northern Liberty Bank. Two are signed by a number of prominent citizens, including John Child, Joseph Ely, Thomas Martin, Abraham L. Pennock, James Sellers and Samuel B. Morris. There is a letter of recommendation from Thomas P. Cope and Sons, with whom Price received his mercantile education (23 September 1828). Two additional letters recommend Price for the position of solicitor of the Spring Garden District of Penn Township (November 1830). The six letters from Richard Oakford as well as I. C. Jones of Oakford & Company to Archer, Price and Jones concern matters relating to the tea trade, including difficulties in the trade with Canton and efforts to get Congress to reduce the duty on tea (1829).

Also included is material related to Samuel Brown’s efforts to get a patent for his “Engine to raise water…by means of the Combustion of gas.” There is a letter by Price to Daniel Webster, then Chairman of the Judiciary committee of the House of Representatives, in which Price urges Webster to support Brown’s application. Brown’s application was approved, as a copy of the act of Congress that granted the patent indicates (1824).

An item that sheds light on Price’s philanthropic efforts is the draft for a lecture on the “Impolicy of Slavery,” to be delivered before the Association for the Education of Men of Colour (1824).

Collection information

Provenance

Received and accessioned, 1957 (1957 1529ms).

General physical description

35 items.

Early American History Note

Eli Price was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer who became a member of the APS in 1854. This small manuscript collection is primarily related to his legal career and financial dealings. Court records and other legal documents comprise much of the collection. There are other types of documents as well, including some correspondence about international trade, business, and politics. The most notable letters include one to Daniel Webster regarding patent applications, a series of letters on lobbying efforts to reduce the tariffs on teas coming from Asia, and an essay by Price on the “impolicy” of slavery that he delivered to the “association formed for the education of men of colour.”

Indexing Terms

Genre(s)

  • Business Records and Accounts
  • Essays.
  • General Correspondence
  • Legal Records
  • Manuscript Essays

Personal Name(s)

  • Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884
  • Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852

Subject(s)

  • African American
  • Commercial law -- United States.
  • Early National Politics
  • Education
  • International Trade.
  • Law
  • Personal property.
  • Real property.


Detailed Inventory
Papers
  Request Series
Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884.
Argument of John Jacobs vs. Is.Green;
Aug., 182012-3/4x8Request File

West Chester, A.D. 48p.,end. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning dispute over land.

General physical description: 12-3/4x8

Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884.
Letter to Dan[ie]l Webster;
182410x8Request File

[ca.] A.L.S. 4p. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning Samuel Brown, his inventions and desire for patenting them.

General physical description: 10x8

United States. Congress.
An act to authorize the issuing of letters patent to Samuel Brown;
Feb. 28, 18249-3/4x8Request File

Washington D.S.: H[enry] Clay, Speaker..., Daniel D. Tompkins, vice President..., approved James Monroe. Copy. 1p. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) ----Copy with variations.

General physical description: 9-3/4x8

Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884.
On the impolicy of slavery;
[1824]13-1/4x8Request File

A.D. 21p.and end. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Lecture given the Association for the Education of Men of Colour.

General physical description: 13-1/4x8

Carmalt, Jonathan, et. al..
Letter to the President, Directors and Company of the Northern Liberties Bank;
Sept. 23, 182810x8Request File

Philadelphia, L.S.: Jona[tha]n Carmalt and 24 others. 2p. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Petition recommending E. K. Price as solicitor. 24 signatures.

General physical description: 10x8

Cope, Thomas P., & Sons.
Letter to the President, Directors & Company of the bank of the Nor[ther]n Liberties;
Sept. 23, 182810x8Request File

Philadelphia, L. 1p.and add. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Recommends E. K. Price as solicitor.

General physical description: 10x8

Mott, James, et. al..
Letter to the President, Directors & Company of the Bank of the Northern Liberties;
Sept. 23, 18289-3/4x8Request File

Philadelphia, L.S.: James Mott and 20 others. 2p. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Petition recommending E. K. Price as solicitor. 21 Signatures.

General physical description: 9-3/4x8

Jones, I.C., Oakford & Company.
Letter to Eli K. Price, Washington;
Jan. 5, 182910x8Request File

Philadelphia, A.L.S. 1p.and add. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning duty on tea.

General physical description: 10x8

Oakford, Richard.
Letter to I. C. Jones;
Jan. 9, 182910x8Request File

New York, L. 1p. Copy. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning duty on tea. On same sheet as I.C.Jones, Oakford & Co. to E.K.Price; Jan. 10, 1829.

General physical description: 10x8

Jones, I.C., Oakford & Company.
Letter to Samuel Archer or Eli K[irk] Price, Washington;
Jan. 10, 182910x8Request File

Philadelphia, L. 2p.,add. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning duty on tea. On same sheet is letter from R.Oakford to I.C.Jones; Jan.9,1829.

General physical description: 10x8

Jones, I.C., Oakford & Company.
Letter to Eli K[irk] Price, Washington;
Jan. 12, 182910x8Request File

Philadelphia, L. 3p.and add. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning duty on tea.

General physical description: 10x8

Jones, I.C., Oakford & Company.
Letter to Eli K[irk] Price, Washington;
Jan. 24, 182910x8Request File

Philadelphia, L. 2p.and add. (see E.K.Price.Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning duty on tea.

General physical description: 10x8

Jones, I.C., Oakford & Company.
Letter to Eli K[irk] Price, Washington;
Feb. 9, 182910x8Request File

Philadelphia, L. 1p.and add. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning duty on tea.

General physical description: 10x8

Armitage, Benjamin.
Letter to Eli K. Price, Philadelphia;
July 31, 18299-3/4x8Request File

New York, A.L.S. 1p.and add.,end. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Business.

General physical description: 9-3/4x8

Smith, George Washington, 1800-1876.
Letter to Eli K[irk] Price, Philadelphia;
Dec. 14, 182910x7-3/4Request File

Kittanning, A.L.S. 1p.and add.,end. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Business.

General physical description: 10x7-3/4

Watmough, John Goddard, 1793-1861.
Letter to the Board of commissioners of Penn Township;
Nov. 6, 18309-3/4x8Request File

Philadelphia, A.L.S. 1p.and add.,end. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Recommends E.K. Price as solicitor.

General physical description: 9-3/4x8

Pennock, Abraham Liddon, 1786-1868, et.al..
Letter to the board of commissioners of Spring Garden District [Penn Township];
November 183012-1/2x7-3/4Request File

D.S.: Ab[raha]m L. Pennock and 15 others. 1p.and end. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Recommends E.K.Price as solicitor. 16 signatures.

General physical description: 12-1/2x7-3/4

McClure, William, b.1807 (?)..
Letter to Eli K[irk] Price, Philadelphia;
Sept. 17, 183513-1/2x8Request File

Harrisburg, A.L.S. 2p.,add.,end. Mutilated. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Legal matters.

General physical description: 13-1/2x8

Rawle, Charles C..
Letter to Eli K[irk] Price, Philadelphia;
Oct. 19, 184110x8Request File

Harrisburg, A.L.S. 1p.and add.,end. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Business. Regarding Mr. Duffield's suit against Fisher.

General physical description: 10x8

Receipts
1843 Request File

Several receipts for work done, wood purchased, etc, made out to Price.


Personal Name(s): Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884

Wharton, J. J..
Letter to J. G. Hollingsworth;
Feb. 23, 18538-1/2x6-3/4Request File

A.L.S. 2p. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.) Concerning a case in which Price is the attorney.

General physical description: 8-1/2x6-3/4

Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884.
Argument of the Delaware insurance company vs. [Samuel?] Archer and others.
undated13x8Request File

A.D. 18p. Draft. Mutilated. (see E.K.Price. Papers; 1820-1853.)

General physical description: 13x8

Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884.
Concerning private wrongs.
undated12-1/2x7-3/4Request File

A.D. 12p. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.)

General physical description: 12-1/2x7-3/4

Price, Eli K., (Eli Kirk), 1797-1884.
Concerning real property.
undated13x8Request File

A.D. 11p.and end. (see E.K. Price. Papers; 1820-1853.)

General physical description: 13x8

Concerning personal property
undated Request File