Skip to main content

Burd family papers

Identifier: MSS 0379

Scope and Content Note

The Burd Family Papers concern the business, legal, and personal affairs of the Burd family, prominent lawyers and landowners from Philadelphia, as well as the legal and business affairs of other branches of the extended family, including the Shippens and Coxes. The collection, spanning from 1703–1937, consists of three linear feet of material including correspondence, wills, deeds, estate records, ledgers, receipts, funeral notices, certification notices, legal items, stock records, and ephemera. The collection is divided into seven main series: I. business papers of Edward Shippen Burd, II. correspondence of Edward Shippen Burd, III. business and correspondence relating to Eliza Howard (Sims) Burd, IV. business and correspondence relating to other members of the Burd family, V. the Coxe family, VI. the Shippen Family, and VII. the business of other related families and ephemera.

The first series spans the period 1774–1859, and contains deeds, wills, receipts, mortgages, leases, account books, miscellaneous legal items, a passport, stock certificates, an insurance policy, and related ephemera. Also included are items pertaining to the legal dispute between Edward Shippen Burd and Joseph Sims, executor of Wooddrop Sims’ estate.

The second series spans the period 1800–1880, and concerns the legal, financial, and personal correspondence of Edward Shippen Burd. This series also contains two letters of introduction by Joseph Bonaparte, written to Charlotte Napoleon and Monsieur le Cardinal Fesch on behalf of Burd.

The third series spans the period 1814–1937, and deals with the correspondence and personal business of Eliza Howard (Sims) Burd, the wife of Edward Shippen Burd Included are deeds, checks, receipts, leases, and documents pertaining to the management and accounting of her estate. Also included are documents pertaining to the founding of the Burd Orphan Asylum, and the erection of a memorial statue of Edward Shippen Burd in St. Stephen’s Church.

The fourth series spans the period 1752–1861, and consists of items relating to other members of the Burd family; primarily Edward Burd (1750/51–1833) and his daughter Sarah (fl. 1835–1841). Included are deeds, correspondence, plot plans, receipts, contracts, an account book, and other miscellaneous items.

The fifth series spans the period 1817–1863, and consists of correspondence, as well as financial and legal items relating to the Coxe family, in particular Daniel W. Coxe (1769–1852) and his wife Margaret (Burd) Coxe (1781–1845). Included are wills, tax forms, bank statements, stock-related documents, and business related to the estate of Margaret Coxe.

The sixth series spans the period 1703–1864, and consists of items relating to the Shippen family; including correspondence, deeds, documents concerning a dispute with Eli K. Price and John Townsend, and other miscellaneous legal and financial items. Edward Shippen Sr. (1703–1781), Edward Shippen, Jr. (1728–1806), and Charles Shippen (n.d.) are the primary individuals concerned.

The seventh series spans the period 1791–1883, and consists of legal documents and correspondence concerning Catherine Yeates (daughter of Jasper and Sarah [Burd] Yeates), Mary (Shippen) McIlvaine, and Margaret McIlvaine; personal and business correspondence of Richard and Anastasia Lloyd; documents concerning Sims and Hopkins; legal and financial documents pertaining to Eli K. Price and John Townsend in their management of the Burd estate; and various ephemera.

The first four series, including three relating to Edward Shippen Burd and his wife Eliza Howard Sims Burd, constitute the bulk of the collection. In addition, the legal documents are generally arranged by genre within each series (e.g. deeds, bonds, receipts), unless there are not enough documents of any particular genre to justify this approach. In that case, they are filed together under the standard heading “miscellaneous legal documents.”

Though the scope of this collection deals with the Burd family throughout a long period which saw the eruption of several major wars, most notably the American Revolution and the War of 1812, there is surprisingly little written of these conflicts. Indeed, only one cryptic reference is made throughout the entire collection of military involvement or concerns of war, and that comes in a brief reference to a tour of duty made by William Tilghman to Edward Shippen Burd in a letter dated June 20, 1812. Indeed, in the convulsions of the American Revolution many wealthy families found themselves faced with financial ruin or confiscation of their property, but the silence of the records seems to suggest (rightly or not) that the Burd family escaped this fate. Moreover, the nature of the collection seems to suggest that none of the principal figures were involved in the military. Unfortunately, all of the data from the 1770s, 1780s, and 1810s concerns legal and financial business, none of which is particularly revealing.

The estate papers of members of the Burd family include wills, receipts, and other legal items pertaining largely to the settlement of accounts between executors and beneficiaries. The wills of Edward Shippen Burd, Eliza Howard Burd, James Burd, Daniel W. Coxe, Margaret Coxe, Maria and Samuel Chew, and Edward Shippen are found in this collection, and these provide an informative, though limited, source of information on family relationships. It is interesting that these papers stretch occasionally over several decades, indicating the dilatory nature of action on the part of executors as well as the legal battles which frequently ensued in settlement of estates. Examples of this are to be found in the dispute between Edward Shippen Burd and Joseph Sims over the management of the Sims estate, and several decades later in the case of the Shippen family against Eli K. Price and John Townsend, executors of the Burd estate.

The numerous receipts in the collection show the economic activities of members of the family (goods purchased and loans made), though lacunae in the records make it difficult to track activities with any consistency. Stock certificates and receipts found in the collection indicate that both Edward Shippen Burd and Daniel W. Coxe invested in the stock market, and it is likely that other members of the family did as well. Burd invested heavily in the developing infrastructure of Pennsylvania, particularly in railroad companies, whereas Daniel Coxe invested in banks. Significantly, railroads and banks together represent two of the primary sources of economic growth for the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Though there is a great deal of correspondence in the collection, virtually all of it is of a legal or business nature, and thus very little can be discerned about personal relationships or biographical information. There are a few exceptions, the most notable of which are two letters of introduction, written by Joseph Bonaparte on behalf of Edward Shippen Burd. Joseph Bonaparte (1767–1844), Count of Surveilles and once King of Spain, was the brother of the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. After the defeat of the French forces at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the political backlash which followed, Joseph fled to the United States in an attempt to escape possible capture and imprisonment by the English. Though generally welcomed in America, however, his presence caused some concern among members of the government who feared that it might result in international complications, so President Madison refused to receive him. Bonaparte rented a house in Philadelphia, where he resided for several years. During this time he purchased land in New Jersey and built Point Breeze, an estate on which he was to live for the remainder of his life.

While in Philadelphia, Bonaparte made the acquaintance of a number of prominent individuals, one of whom was Edward Shippen Burd. The letters in this collection, written in French to his niece Charlotte Napoleon in Florence, and his uncle Monsieur le Cardinal Fesch in Rome, probably accompanied or preceded Burd on one of his numerous trips to Europe. In the letters, dated to 1838, Bonaparte refers to Burd as “one of my oldest and dearest friends,” and requests that his friend be received with the same hospitality with which he had always been received at Burd’s Philadelphia home.

One interesting feature of this collection is the number of signatures of notable individuals from Philadelphia, many of whom played a prominent role in regional and national affairs. Indeed, as Philadelphia was the nation’s capital from 1790–1800, it was naturally home to distinguished jurists and statesmen. Several important families with whom Burd maintained close contacts were the Ingersolls, Cadwaladers, and Tilghmans. Jared Ingersoll, Jr. (1749–1822) and his grandson Edward Ingersoll (1817–1893) were both prominent lawyers in the Philadelphia region. Jared was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1791, and aside from his legal career he was involved in politics as well. In 1780 he was elected a member of the Continental Congress, from 1790–1799 he enjoyed the position of U.S. District Attorney, and served in several other local positions. Thomas Cadwalader (1707–1799) was a prominent Philadelphia physician who was intimately involved in civic affairs, and displayed an open opposition to the Stamp Act. His son, John Cadwalader (1742–1786) served in the Maryland legislature for several years, and also distinguished himself fighting against the British in campaigns at Brandywine and Germantown. Another John Cadwalader (1805–1879) was a noted jurist and politician, whose appointments included counsel for the Bank of the United States from 1830, Vice-Provost of the Law Academy of Philadelphia, and Judge of the U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania in 1858.

Edward Tilghman (1750/51–1815) was a noted lawyer whose family had always enjoyed special privileges from the Crown. During the Revolution, however, he sided with the colonies, and even fought in several campaigns. Benjamin Tilghman (1821–1901) studied law, but is most noted for his inventions, which include the sand blast, steel shot, and the production of paper from wood fiber. He also served as an officer in the Union army during the Civil War. Other prominent individuals whose names appear in this collection are Philadelphia jurist Benjamin Chew (1722–1810); surgeon D.J. Brinton (1832–1907); and Horace Binney (1780–1885), a lawyer, justice, and national politician who was an outspoken member of the Federalist party, and widely considered one of the leaders of the Philadelphia bar.

Other items of interest include a passport and fire insurance policy of Edward Shippen Burd, a copy of a portrait of Edward Shippen Burd (F19), an informational booklet from 1937 about the Burd School for Girls in Philadelphia, and survey plans drawn up for properties owned by Edward Burd. Unfortunately, no suitable context is provided for these plans, and it is not always certain which properties are being surveyed.


  • Creation: 1703–1937
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1800–1860


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use andReproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

The Burds were a distinguished family of Scottish origin, whose members were engaged in both the legal and military professions, and were also prominent landowners in Pennsylvania. Edward Shippen Burd’s grandfather, Col. James Burd (1726–1793), was born near Edinburgh, Scotland, and settled on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania after his marriage in 1748 to Sarah Shippen, a member of the prominent Shippen family of Lancaster and Shippensburg. He joined the military as an officer at the outbreak of the French and Indian War, eventually earning the rank of Colonel by 1758. From 1756–1757 he was in command of Fort Augustus, near Shamokin, Pennsylvania, and from 1764–1770 he held the office of Justice of Lancaster County. In 1774, a year before the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain, Col. Burd was instrumental in garnering local support for the colonial congress in its opposition to the Crown, and by the following year was assisting in the military organization of Lancaster County as a member of the Committee of Safety. His direct military involvement in the Revolutionary War was brief, however, as he resigned his post in December 1776 due to frustrations over the mismanagement of troops.

James Burd’s son, Edward Burd (1750/51–1833), was a nephew of Pennsylvania Chief Justice Edward Shippen (1729–1806), with whom he studied law as a young man. He was a member of the Berks County Bar, practicing in Reading, Pennsylvania until 1776, when he joined the colonial army as a volunteer. He was captured at the Battle of Long Island in that same year, but once he was freed his ill health kept him from re-enlisting in the service. Instead, he continued his legal career, winning an appointment to the High Court of Errors and Appeals. In 1778 he married Edward Shippen’s daughter Elizabeth, and as a result Edward Burd was appointed by his new father-in-law (and uncle) Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, a position he held until 1805. Edward Burd owned a number of properties in the city of Philadelphia, and lived in an area that was inhabited by other prominent lawyers and judges of the day, including Jared Ingersoll, Joseph B. McKean, and Edward Tilghman. He also built a house on the Schuylkill River, naming it “Ormiston” after the birthplace of his father.

Edward Shippen Burd, a prominent and wealthy lawyer, was born in Philadelphia on December 25, 1779, and was the only son of Edward and Elizabeth (Shippen) Burd. In 1800 he was admitted to the bar, and in 1810 he married Eliza Howard Sims, daughter of Wooddrop and Sarah Sims. Eliza inherited a large estate from her father, an estate which was placed under the executorship of the reverend William White, Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, and her uncle Joseph Sims. Beginning in 1814 a dispute arose between Edward Shippen Burd and Joseph Sims, and the latter was dismissed as executor in 1822, to be replaced by Edward Burd. Edward Shippen and Eliza Burd had eight children. However, five of them died before the age of four years, and the remaining three -- Elizabeth (1815–45/6), Margaret (1819–1844), and Wooddrop (1822–1837) -- predeceased both of their parents. The loss of all his children proved to be too much of a shock for Burd to bear, and he died on October 17, 1848. He was buried in St. Stephen’s Church in Philadelphia, an institution which he had helped to found years before. Eliza Burd honored her husband by commissioning the erection of a monument to him at St. Stephen’s Church, and several years later conceived the idea of establishing a school for fatherless girls. She died in 1860, but her will provided for the principles and funding of this institution.

Edward Shippen, son of Edward and Sarah (Plumley) Shippen, was born in Philadelphia on February 16, 1729. Edward’s father was a prosperous merchant, who encouraged his son to study law, and by age 17 Edward was working with noted Philadelphia lawyer Tench Francis. In 1748, Edward traveled to London to continue his legal studies at Middle Temple, working for several years as a barrister as well. Afterwards he returned to the colonies, and in 1752 was appointed Judge of the Court of Admiralty in Philadelphia. Over the next two decades he developed a distinguished legal career, winning appointments to several other prominent positions. However, when the revolution broke out in 1775, his professed loyalty to Britain resulted in the loss of several key appointments, as well as a severe restriction on his movements.

Fortunately for Shippen, his judicial stature was such that these were not permanent recriminations, and in 1784 he was appointed Judge of the High Court of Errors and Appeals of Pennsylvania, a position he held until 1806. He was appointed to other judicial posts as well, including Associate Justice in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which he held from 1791 to 1799. In that year, Chief Justice McKean was elected governor, and appointed Shippen to take his place as Chief Justice, a position he held until 1805. Edward Shippen was a member of the American Philosophical Society, as well as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, which bestowed upon him an honorary LL.D. degree in 1790.

In 1753, Edward Shippen married Margaret Francis, daughter of prominent lawyer Tench Francis, who for many years was the agent in America of the Penn family, and who at one point was Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Together, Edward and Margaret had seven children: Elizabeth (b. 1754), who married Edward Burd; Sarah (1756–1831), who married Thomas Lea of Philadelphia; Mary (b. 1757), who was the second wife of Dr. William McIlvaine; Edward (1758–1809), who married Elizabeth Juliana Footman; Margaret (1760–1804), who married Benedict Arnold; John Francis (1762–1763); and James (1766–1769). In 1805, as a result of failing health, Shippen resigned his position as Chief Justice, and on April 16 of the following year he died.

Daniel W. Coxe, son of William (1723–1801) and Mary (Francis) Coxe, was born in Philadelphia on September 20, 1769. Daniel was a descendent of one of the oldest families in Philadelphia, and like Edward Shippen Burd was a descendant of Tench Francis. His father, William Coxe, was a prominent judge who held numerous positions; he was a member of the Philadelphia Council, Alderman, a member of the Independent Company of Foot, a trustee of the College of Philadelphia, and a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Daniel Coxe was a successful merchant and landowner, and in 1800 he married Margaret Burd (1781–1845), daughter of Edward and Eliza Shippen Burd mentioned above. They had no children, and lived for the first eight or nine years of their marriage in a house built for them in Philadelphia by Margaret’s father.

Daniel Coxe’s financial investments and business ventures were rather varied. Aside from owning numerous shares in bank stocks, he owned several vessels which regularly traded goods with England, and he owned “Belleville,” an estate on the Schuylkill River. From 1800–1805 he was the director of the Insurance Company of North America, in 1807 he served as one of the managers of the Philadelphia Assembly (a post he shared with several others, including Edward Shippen Burd), and in 1814 he was one of the founders of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Coxe was also active politically, though largely in response to economic concerns. Like other merchants, Coxe faced severe financial losses during the War of 1812 due to spoliation by Great Britain and the United States, and he served on a committee of Philadelphia citizens to draft a petition of complaint to President Madison. Coxe also delivered a speech at a meeting in 1825 concerning the proposed Allegheny and Susquehanna Canal.

Daniel Coxe had numerous siblings, including the Hon. John Coxe, who was President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, and the Hon. Tench Coxe (1755–1824), who was a merchant as well as a member of the Continental Congress. Daniel Coxe died on June 4, 1852, at the age of eighty three years.

Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania. ed. by John W. Jordan, LL.D. vol.1 Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1978. Dictionary of American Biography. ed. by Dumas Malone. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Eberlein, Harold Donaldson & Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard. Portrait of a Colonial City: Philadelphia 1670–1838. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1939. Jackson, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Philadelphia. Harrisburg: The National Historical Association, 1931-3. Jackson, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Philadelphia. Harrisburg: The National Historical Association, 1931-3. Lewis, John Frederick. The History of an Old Philadelphia Land Title: 208 South 4th Street. Philadelphia: Patterson & White, Co., 1934. Ross, Michael. The Reluctant King: Joseph Bonaparte, King of the Two Sicilies and Spain. New York: Mason Charter, 1977. Simpson, Henry. The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians Now Deceased. Philadelphia: William Brotherhead, 1859.


3 linear foot (1372 items)


The Burd Family Papers concern the business, legal, and personal affairs of the Burd family, prominent lawyers and landowners from Philadelphia from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, as well as the legal and business affairs of other branches of the extended family, including the Shippens and Coxes.


Gift of the Moyerman family, 1970.

Related Materials in this Repository

MSS 0281 Eli K. Price papers

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  2. Boxes 2-3: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  3. Oversize boxes 1-2: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)


Processed by Arthur Siegel, September 1998. Encoded by Natalie Baur, March 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly, February 2016, and Tiffany Saulter, May 2016.

Finding aid for Burd family papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 24
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA