This extensive collection documents the lives of the Maryland and Pennsylvania branches of the Chew family through seven generations. In addition to the collection’s emphasis on the Chew family and their connections within Philadelphia’s elite, the papers provide a perspective on the lives of many of the Chews’ slaves and servants, and offer insights into family relationships, women’s history, health, religion, legal history, the Revolutionary and Civil wars, politics, trade, land management and settlement, surveying, industrialization, and the growth and development of the city of Philadelphia. The focus of the collection revolves around Benjamin Chew, his son Benjamin Jr. and his offspring. Both father and son were influential lawyers, and together amassed large quantities of land in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. Benjamin Chew Jr.’s land holdings and estate became a major point of contention within the family after his death in 1844. This dispute, which continued for over forty years, was devastating to the Chews’ family relationships and fortune, and is a central focus of the collection.
The collection is divided into twenty-nine series, with over half of these dedicated to individual family members or family groups. Other series document the family’s land holdings, Cliveden, their home in Germantown; the family’s genealogical research; and their substantial map collection. The materials range in date from the seventeenth through the twentieth century, but the richest documentation is on nineteenth century life in the mid-Atlantic region. The collection contains business and financial records, cartographic material, correspondence, ephemera, legal documents, personal papers, and other materials created and collected by the Chews during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
An unaccessioned (as of 7/19/10) addition to this collection is a date book from 1918 that appears to have belonged to Elizabeth Brown Chew. The book, titled "Year Book, Philadelphia Real Estate Board" has three sections. The first is contains information about the Real Estate Board--member lists, legal information, and a bibliography. The second part is the date book in which Elizabeth recorded the daily events from the Chew’s offices in Philadelphia. She wrote especially detailed information about David Sands Brown Chew's (abbreviated "DSBC") whereabouts during the year and his interactions with various family members (also abbreviated, i.e. ""SC" for Samuel Chew," MMB" for Martha Morris Brown, etc.). The final part of the book contains numerous advertisements for local businesses. There are also some clippings, business cards, and notes placed loose within the book.