University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Eli K. Price



Manuscript Collection Number: 281
Accessioned: Gift, Anna D. Moyerman, 1972.
Extent: 2 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, legal doduments, printed materials.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: August 1993, by Rhonda R. Newton

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Eli Kirk Price (1797-1884) was a noted Philadelphia lawyer and legal reformer. He was born in East Bradford, Chester County, Pennsylvania, to a Quaker family descended from Philip Price, an early Pennsylvania settler.

Price attended Westtown, a Quaker boarding school. He then worked for Thomas P. Cope, a Philadelphia merchant, and studied law in his leisure time. After four years with Cope, Price entered the law offices of John Sergeant. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1822. Price became one of the leading Philadelphia experts on equity and real property law.

In 1845 and 1848, Price was a member of the new Board of Revenue Commissioners and wrote the 1848 report.

Price was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1854 to shepherd a bill consolidating various separate political entities into the city of Philadelphia. The “Consolidation Act” of 1854 became the new city charter and transformed the city from 1200 acres to 122 square miles.

Price was also instrumental in the passage of other important legislation reforming real property law and domestic relations law, before and after his senatorial career. He wrote “An Act Relating to the Sale and Conveyance of Real Estate” (1853), an act broadening the law of descent (1855), “An Act for the Greater Security of Title” (1856), and an act supplementary to the statute of limitations (1859). He also played an important role in the passage of an 1855 act protecting a wife’s property from her husband’s creditors and an 1856 act aiding deserted wives. He served in the State Senate through 1856.

In 1867, Price helped found the Fairmount Park Commission and served as chairman of the organization until 1884. He examined the titles of land purchased for the park and was the force behind the park’s acquisition of a variety of tree species.

Price authored a variety of publications:

Digest of the Acts of Assembly and of the Ordinances of the Inhabitants and Commissioners of the District of Spring Garden, 1833

Institutes of Morality for the Instruction of Youth, 1838

Memoir of Philip and Rachael Price, 1852

Our Unknown City Laws, 1855

Of the Limitations of Actions, and of Liens, Against Real Estate, in Pennsylvania, 1857

Memorial of Our Daughter, for her Child, 1862

Centennial Meeting of the Descendants of Philip and Rachael Price, 1864

The Propietary Title of the Penns, 1871

The History of the Consolidation of the city of Philadelphia, 1874

The Act for the Sale of Real Estate in Philadelphia, 1874

In 1828, Price married Anna Embree. They had three children, Rebecca Embree, John Sergeant, and Sibyl Embree. Rebecca was the subject of Memorial of Our Daughter.

During his lifetime, Price was active in many Philadelphia institutions. He served as president of the University Hospital, Preston Retreat, the Pennsylvania Colonization Society, and the Numismatical and Antiquarian Society. He was a trustee at the University of Pennsylvania, vice president of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Price died in Philadelphia in 1884.


Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1888. Vol. V. 117.

Biographical Sketches of James Embree, Philip Price and Eli K. Price. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881. 57-67.

Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1963. Vol. VIII. 211-212.

National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White & Co., 1990. Vol. X. 412-413.

Who Was Who in America. Historical Volume 1607-1896. Revised Edition. Chicago: A.N. Marquis Co., 1967. 495.

Scope and Content Note

The Eli K. Price Papers consist of two linear feet of legal material covering the period 1822 to 1886. Price was a leading Philadelphia real estate lawyer, a fact reflected in the collection. The collection is divided into three series. Series I covers Price’s correspondence; series II contains material from his law office; series III consists of materials from Price’s activities outside his legal practice.

Price’s correspondence in series I is arranged chronologically, consisting mainly of incoming letters to Price. The majority of the correspondence relates to cases that Price handled or his legal opinion on different issues. Other topics include impending legislation, Price’s writings, and contributions to various institutions. The most frequent correspondent was Edward Shippen Burd. Price was Burd’s attorney and agent, acting on his behalf in the period 1836 to 1841 while Burd was in Europe. Burd’s letters are primarily instructions for Price. Other correspondents include James Gibson, William Henry Raub, and Arthur W. Austin. There are a wide variety of correspondents beyond the few named here.

Series II contains the papers related to Price’s legal practice and is broken into subseries. Subseries II.1 contains court paper books from cases Price tried. These books contain the arguments used by the defendant and appellant, supporting legislation, and court decisions. These books are arranged chronologically by court date.

Subseries II.2 contains other legal material. Documents covering the period 1821 to 1861 include mortgages, agreements, and bonds. Receipts and ledgers document Price’s work as an agent for his clients and include tax receipts for different properties. The collection contains three wills, those of George B. Wood, Robert Hare, Jr., and Eli K. Price himself. This subseries also contains manuscript drafts of legal briefs, legislation, and speeches.

Subseries II.2 also contains a sampling of checks written by Price from 1821 to 1846, by J.B. Townsend from 1845 to 1851, and by Townsend and Price as executors of the E.S. Burd estate from 1848 to 1861.

Series III contains materials related to Price’s activities outside his legal practice. There is a small group of Pennsylvania Senate bills, many of which were proposed to Price while he was senator.

Price helped found Fairmount Park and served as the chairman of the Park Commission, activities represented by a small group of letters Price wrote to the park gardener. These letters document the Park’s attempt to grow a variety of trees on its grounds and in its nursery. Many letters document the source of acorns or seeds, including trees that were delivered to the nearby railroad station.

The collection also contains printed copies of speeches and articles by Price, arranged chronologically. Topics include upcoming legislation, liquor sales, and papers presented to the American Philosophical Society and the Numismatical and Antiquarian Society. Other printed materials include copies of a poem Price wrote and addresses given by others.

The Price papers are useful for the study of the 19th century Philadelphia legal community, the development of property law, and the growth of Fairmount Park.

Related collections:

Mss 424 N.B. Browne Papers

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

 	       Series I.Correspondence, 1822-1884

1    F1        1820s
     F2        1830-1838
     F3        1839
     F4        1840
     F5        1841-1844

2    F6        1845-1849
     F7        1850-1853
     F8        1854-1859
     F9        1860-1869
     F10       1870-1879
     F11       1880-1884
     F12       [n.d.]

               Series II.  Law office papers, 1821-1884

               Series II.1.  Court paper books, 1837-1887

3    F13       1837-1849
     F14       1850-1851
     F15       1851-1855
     F16       1856-1858
	 F17	   1859

4    F18       1861-1879
     F19       1882, [n.d.]

               Series II.2.  Other legal materials, 1821-1887

     F20       1821-1846
     F21       1847-1861, 1886
     F22       [n.d.]

     F23       Receipts and Ledgers, 1834-1887
     F24       Wills

5    F25       Legal Drafts – Briefs
     F26       Legal Drafts – Legislation and Speeches
     F27       Cancelled Checks

               Series III.  Activity-related papers

     F28       File of the Senate
     F29       Fairmount Park Commission

               Printed Speeches and Writings
6    F30       1836-1855
     F31       1867-1886, [n.d.]

               Printed Materials
     F32       Lectures
     F33       Poetry

     F34       Miscellaneous

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