Collection ID: MS 448

Collection context


Sherman, Roger, 1839-1897
1770-1935, bulk 1870-1897
The papers consist of correspondence, business papers, and scrapbooks that document the professional career of Roger Sherman. The papers focus on Sherman's work on behalf of independent petroleum producers, especially his role in the struggle of the General Council of the Independent Producers of Petroleum against Standard Oil and in the legal battle over construction of the United States Pipe Line. The papers also highlight Sherman's political and editorial endeavors and his participation in numerous civic organizations in the Pennsylvania oil region. The collection includes correspondence, memorabilia, and other papers of several members of Sherman's family.
34 Linear Feet


Acquisition information:
Gift of T. W. Phillips, Jr. in 1946.
Rules or conventions:
translation missing: en.enumerations.resource_finding_aid_description_rules.Finding aid created in accordance with Manuscripts and Archives Processing Manual
Scope and Content:

The Roger Sherman Papers consist of correspondence, business papers, and scrapbooks which document the legal career of Roger Sherman. The papers focus on Sherman's work on behalf of independent petroleum producers of the Pennsylvania oil fields to fight monopolisitic practices which affected their ability to transport and sell oil. Sherman's roles in the struggle of the General Council of Independent Producers of Petroleum against Standard Oil and the Pennsylvania Railroad, in the legal battles of the United States Pipe Line Company, and in the movement to consolidate enterprises of independent oil producers to form the Pure Oil Company are reflected in the files. The papers also highlight Sherman's political and editorial endeavors and his participation in numerous civic organizations in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Correspondence, memorabilia, and other papers of several members of the Sherman family are also included in the papers.

The Roger Sherman Papers, which Thomas Wharton Phillips, Jr., Sherman's son-in-law, donated to the Yale University Library in 1946, were the basis of Chester McArthur Destler's,Roger Sherman and the Independent Oil Men. This volume fully describes Sherman's key role in the legal struggles in the Pennsylvania oil fields from the 1870s until 1897. Destler's footnotes will be helpful to the researcher trying to locate specific documents and topics within the Sherman Papers.

The Roger Sherman Papers, which span three centuries of the Sherman Family, are arranged in four series: I. CORRESPONDENCE, 1865-1897; II. BUSINESS PAPERS, 1842-1907; III. PERSONAL AND FAMILY PAPERS, 1770-1935; IV. SCRAPBOOKS, 1870-1897.

Series I and II relate to Roger Sherman's professional work and must be used together to locate all papers relating to specific legal cases or proposed legislation. Series III contains material relating to Sherman's civic and personal activities in Titusville, as well as papers of other family members including his father, wife, and children. Series IV includes Roger Sherman's scrapbooks, which document all phases of his life in Titusville. The bulk of the papers dates from 1870, soon after Sherman's move to Titusville, until his death in 1897.

CORRESPONDENCE, Series I, includes letterpress copybooks of Sherman's outgoing letters and approximately twenty boxes of incoming letters. The correspondence relates to all phases of Sherman's legal and political work. The files document routine legal work such as mortgages, estates, and land transfers as well as the significant anti-trust and anti-monopoly suits against railroads and oil cartels. Major corresponents include leaders of the Council of Petroleum Producers Union, such as Benjamin B. Campbell, Elisha Patterson, and Lewis E. Emery, Jr. and the organizers and officials of the Producers Oil Company, Ltd.; the Producers and Refiners Oil Company, Ltd.; the Petroleum Producers' Protective Association; and the United States Pipe Line Company. Emery, J. W. Lee, and A. D. Wood are frequent correspondents on topics relating to the organization of independent oil producers in the 1890s. Other correspondents include fellow lawyers such as George Shiras and individual clients such as Samuel Van Syckel, William H. Kemble, and Henry C. Ohlen. (A small quantity of Roger Sherman's personal correspondence is filed in Series III. This correspondence relates to family matters and some beneficent and social endeavors in Titusville.)

Letters in the letterpress copybooks are arranged chronologically but the volumes include alphabetical indexes to the names of correspondents. The incoming correspondence is arranged alphabetically within many chronological segments. These segments reflect the letter boxes in which Sherman originally filed incoming letters. Indexes in the letterpress copybooks can be used in attempting to locate the existence of incoming correspondence from a particular individual. No indexes to the incoming correspondence exist within the papers.

While the letterpress copybooks are labelled as either "Personal" or "Office," all volumes include letters which relate to Sherman's professional work. In the volumes marked "Personal" Sherman often copied letters concerning political matters and his work on behalf of independent petroleum producers. One, therefore, would need to review both the "Personal" and "Office" volumes to locate letters to any particular individual. For instance, letters to the journalist and reformer, Henry Demarest Lloyd, which relate to the oil producers efforts to fight monopolistic practices, can be found in the "Office" volumes, even though Lloyd had no business association with Sherman.

Many of the volumes marked "Office" reveal the names of Sherman's legal partners, such as those for 1883 April - 1884 December, which include the letters of Samuel Minor and Roger Sherman. While Sherman was a member of the Standard Oil legal staff led by Samuel Calvin Dodd, Sherman delegated much of his routine Standard Oil legal business to Minor. Later "Office" volumes are from the office of Sherman and Grumbine. Two miscellaneous volumes contain outgoing letters relating to two specific endeavors, Sherman's active roll in the management of the Orion Oil Company, Ltd. and his work as legal advisor to the United States Pipe Line Company.

The letterpress copybooks date from 1875. The files of incoming letters date from 1865, though this early material is very small in quantity. Some of this early material dates from Sherman's partnership with M. C. Beebe. The incoming correspondence is not labelled as "Personal" or "Office" but rather is filed altogether, the exception being some special files at the end of the series for Orion Oil Company, the Producers' Protective Association, the Producers' Oil Company, and the United States Pipe Line Company. One should not asume, however, that all incoming correspondence relating to these organizations is arranged in these files.

Series II, BUSINESS PAPERS, is composed of legal briefs, depositions, abstracts of titles, legal notes, account books, dockets, printed copies of legislation, and other papers that relate to Sherman's legal practice and financial interests. In the beginning of the series there are thirteen boxes of loose papers which are arranged chronologically by date of creation. These papers were probably originally filed as case or client files with all items pertaining to a case filed together regardless of date. This original filing scheme could not be reconstructed since individual documents were not always marked to indicate the case to which they pertained. The chronological arrangement means that documents for any particular case may be scattered throughout several boxes of material.

Account books from Sherman's practice follow the chronologically arranged loose papers. These include ledgers and journals from the offices of Sherman and Beebe and Minor and Sherman as well as Sherman's own account books. There are also accounts for the Funk Farm Oil Company. Docket books, trial lists, registers of rights of way, and a minute book of the Orion Oil Company are filed under the heading "Other books" at the end of the series.

Series III, PERSONAL AND FAMILY PAPERS, includes papers of Roger Sherman's parents, wife, and children, as well as his own personal papers. Papers in the series are arranged alphabetically by the name of the family member who created or saved them and are then further arranged by topic or record type. The series begins with papers of the Conkling family, Sherman's mother's family. These include letters of Phoebe Conkling Sherman written to her family from Randolph, Tennessee, as well as financial and legal papers and other memorabilia of various family members. This is followed by correspondence of Sherman's son-in-law, Thomas W. Phillips, Jr., and financial records of Claudius B. Seymour, Roger Sherman's father-in-law and occasional financial partner.

The papers of Sherman's wife, Alma Seymour Sherman, include correspondence, financial records, and organizational papers, which document her interest in cultural and civic affairs in Titusville and her assumption of responsibility for her husband's investments following his death in 1897. Several files relate to her work with the Daughters of the American Revolution in preserving local historic landmarks and to her efforts in behalf of victims of the Titusville flood of 1892.

Following Alma Seymour Sherman's papers are correspondence, financial records, and memorabilia of Isaac D. Sherman, Nancy C. Sherman, and Phoebe Sherman. The papers of these Sherman family members are the oldest materials in the papers.

Roger Sherman's personal papers include account books, correspondence, diaries and reminiscences, bound volumes of pamphlets and paper books, and files relating to civic organizations in Titusville. The account books record household expenses while the correspondence is primarily that of family members. There are also letters relating to the health and education of Sherman's immediate family and letters concerning some local Titusville civic and cultural organizations.

Folders 464-474, which are labelled "Library," include indexes of Sherman's personal library. Boxes 59 through 61 include volumes of pamphlets and paper books which are also listed under the heading "Library." The volumes contain printed documents from legal cases in which Sherman was involved. A few loose pamphlets filed under this heading relate to legal affairs of the oil industry. There is also a souvenir pictorial volume on Titusville.

Other files of Roger Sherman's personal papers relate to local organizations in which Sherman took an active interest. There are extensive records for the Main Street Shakespearean Club. There are also files for the Titusville Relief Association. Photographs of the flood devastation are included in folder 485. The series also includes manuscripts of writings by Roger Sherman in folders 492-493 and a listing of articles by Sherman for theAmerican Citizenin folder 439.

The papers of Roger Seymour Sherman are arranged at the end of the series. The bulk of this material dates from Sherman's school years and includes notebooks from high school and law school. The last several folders of printed material represent newspapers, pamphlets, programs, and periodicals which are not attributable to any individual family member. The oldest item in the papers is in folder 525, a printed sermon delivered by Samuel Buell on the death of Charles-Jeffery Smith.

Series IV, SCRAPBOOKS, contains twenty-three volumes which chronicle Roger Sherman's career and personal life in Titusville. The volumes are arranged as they are numbered. The volumes are not in strict chronological order since initially Sherman designated some volumes as "Political" or "Local" but gave others specific titles such as "Oil and Standard." The volumes contain invitations, newspaper clippings, handbills, programs, occasional letters, and the like. One can find general information Sherman compiled on oil, pipe line projects, railroad transportation, and petroleum pricing, as well as material directly related to Sherman or to other family members. Sherman's activities in legal suits and local politics are well-documented as are cultural events and the Titusville flood. At the end of the series there are an additional two boxes of invitations, programs, calling cards, and the like which are similar to materials found in the preceding scrapbooks. Much of the material in box 78 appears to have been collected by Alma Seymour Sherman.

Biographical / Historical:

Roger Sherman was born in Randolph, Tennessee on July 28, 1839. He was admitted to the Arkansas bar and served in the Confederate Army prior to moving to the Pennsylvania oil fields in 1865. Roger Sherman was for years the outstanding lawyer of the old Pennsylvania oil region, a leading Democratic politician, and the inspirer of two successive movements of independent petroleum producers and refiners in their attempt to restore free enterprise to their industry. His father was Dr. Isaac De Blois Sherman of Pompey, New York, who moved to Syracuse to practice and for a few years edit the Jacksonian Democratic organ, the Argus, in 1831-1833. Roger Sherman's mother was Phoebe Conkling, aunt of Roscoe Conkling, a Republican congressman and senator from New York. Roger Sherman was born in Randolph, Tennessee, on the banks of the Mississippi River, on July 28, 1839, where his father had gone to practice and engage in business four years earlier, after succumbing to the western "fever."

A few years later Dr. Sherman moved to Arkansas. (He was killed on his plantation by unknown hands during the Civil War.) Roger had only two years of preparatory school and began supporting himself at the age of fifteen. After several years of outdoor work as chainman for civil engineers he read law and was admitted to the Arkansas bar. He joined the cavalry of General Nathan B. Forrest after the outbreak of the Civil War. At the end of the war, finding his Arkansas home in ruins and the outlook there hopeless, Roger Sherman visited relatives in Michigan and then moved to the newly developed oil region of Pennsylvania. With it he identified his fortunes for the remainder of his life.

From 1865 to 1868, Roger Sherman practiced law in Pithole City, the spectacular center of a short-lived boom. When the great fire of January, 1868, destroyed Pithole and left Sherman again penniless, he moved first to Pleasantville and then to Titusville, where he established a legal practice. In 1871 Sherman married Alma Seymour. They had two children, Alma Janet and Roger Seymour Sherman.

From 1868 to the mid-seventies, Titusville was the center of the petroleum-producing industry and the site of an increasing number of refineries. Because of his position as the town's outstanding lawyer, Roger Sherman was drawn into the struggles between the independents and the attempts of the Erie Ring and then Standard Oil to monopolize the industry. When the lines of conflict were drawn in 1872, he aligned himself with the independents and for some years was a central figure in the fight of the General Council of the Independent Producers of Petroleum against Standard Oil. As part of this conflict he became a manager of the Petroleum World (1879-1881) to which he contributed. Similarly, he became active in state Democratic politics in an attempt to curb the power of corporations.

In 1882, after the independent producers' movement had disintegrated, Roger Sherman entered the service of Standard Oil as an attorney under a five-year contract. He tendered his resignation after only a year of this service, only to have it rejected. It was not until 1887, therefore, that he resumed independent practice. Before this he founded and edited the weekly Titusville Citizen (1885-1889), as the Democratic Party organ. In 1884 he ran for mayor of Titusville and was beaten by a small majority.

From 1887 until his death ten years later, he was associated with the revived movement of the independent refiners and producers who sought to give effective competition to the Standard Oil Trust. The struggle terminated after Roger Sherman's death, in the organization of the Pure Oil Company, the basis for which he had laid in persuading the independents of the imperative need to combine forces if they were to survive. During this period it was he who planned the strategy and fought the legal battles that were incident to the construction of the United States Pipe Line from Butler to the Atlantic Ocean. As part of this struggle, Roger Sherman undertook the preparation of a comprehensive criminal suit under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act against the leading officials of Standard Oil. Owing to his death in September 1897, it was never initiated. In this last abortive effort, as in his Democratic politics and leadership of the independents, Roger Sherman was impelled by the ideals of the Jacksonian era, with its love of individual liberty and hostility to monopoly and special privilege.

Sherman died in New York City on September 19, 1897.

Extracted from Chester McArthur Destler's "The Roger Sherman (Titusville, Pennsylvania) Collection," The Yale University Library Gazette, 1947 January.


The papers are arranged in four series: I. CORRESPONDENCE, 1865-1897. II. BUSINESS PAPERS, 1842-1907. III. PERSONAL AND FAMILY PAPERS, 1770-1935. IV. SCRAPBOOKS, 1870-1897.


Sterling Memorial Library
Yale Campus
New Haven, CT, USA
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