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J. Thomas Scharf collection

Identifier: MS 1999


The collection consists of the personal papers and the documents collected by John Thomas Scharf, an historian. Also included are the papers of Philadelphia historian Thompson Westcott. Topics covered in Scharf's personal papers are methods of historical research and the Baltimore Sesquicentennial in October 1880. The collected documents owned by Scharf include Confederate States of America naval records, 1863-64, Maryland state documents, 18th-19th century, and other original manuscripts. Westcott's papers include Philadelphia court documents, 1730s-1830s.


  • 1730-1892


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.


14.09 Linear Feet (29 full Hollinger boxes; 2 flat boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Papers belong to Johns Hopkins University and placed on deposit at MHS; Part of the papers allegedly is a gift; Mr. W. Hall Harris (gift); Jan 1948 (Deposit No. 296); Gift Oct 1898.

Separated Materials

Maryland State documents, including marriage returns, from this collection were transferred to the Maryland State Archives.


J.T. Scharf and Thompson Westcott collected the contents of this collection during the late 19th century. Scharf purchased Westcott's papers in 1888. In 1891 Scharf donated his collection to the Johns Hopkins University in order to encourage the study of Southern history.

(See Johns Hopkins University Circulars 89 (June 1891): 110-13 in Appendix I.)

Since Hopkins did not develop a collection on Southern history, the Scharf materials were placed on depositaat the Maryland Historical Society in January 1948. It does not appear that all the materials listed in the Johns Hopkins University Circular were transferred to the Maryland Historical Society. Most notably missing are the manuscript materials on New York and Missouri.

It was estimated in 1972 that the Scharf Collection manuscript items in the Maryland Historical Society numbered about 50,000 and that roughly 80% of these were Maryland state documents. During 1973 and 1974 the state documents were photocopied for the Hall of Records. In the summer of 1975 the state documents were transferred to the Hall of Records to be indexed and microfilmed.

The manuscript items of the Scharf Collection remaining in the Society in May 1978 are Scharf's correspondence, research notes, drafts of writings and Thompson Westcott's correspondence and notes. There are also some Philadelphia court records and a small number of miscellaneous original manuscripts.

Scope and Contents

John Thomas Scharf (1843-98) was a Confederate soldier, lawyer, historian, and antiquarian. The nucleus of this collection is the documents he colledted and notes he compiled in writing numerous local histories of Maryland, Baltimore City and County, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Westchester County, New York, and Delaware. He also wrote a history of the Confederate States' Navy. A biographical sketch of Scharf is in Appendix II.

A smaller portion of the collection is that of Thompson Westcott (1820-88) lawyer, journalist, and historian of Philadelphia. Westcott and Scharf collaborated on a history of Philadelphia, and on Westcott's death Scharf purchased some of Westcott's papers, largely his correspondence, notes, and the Philadelphia documents Westcott collected. A biographical sketch of Westcott is in Appendix III.

The manuscripts of the J. Thomas Scharf Collection can be divided into four categories: the personal papers of J. Thomas Scharf; the personal papers of Thompson Westcott; Maryland and Pennsylvania state documents and Confederate naval documents; and other original manuscripts.

Scharf's personal papers consist of incoming letters (1866-92), his research notes, and drafts of his various histories of Maryland. An especially large part of his personal papers is biographical research on Marylanders. There are 5 boxes of copied newspaper obituaries and 4 boxes of completed biographical questionnaires Scharf solicited from over 400 individuals.

The largest part of the Scharf Collection is the Maryland state documents Scharf collected. Many were acquired during his tenure as Commissioner of the Land Office of Maryland from 1884 until 1892. These state documents, an estimated 80% of the total collection, were separated from the collection in July 1975 and sent to the Maryland Hall of Records to be indexed and microfilmed. The work is still in progress as of May 1978.

The Pennsylvania state documents are still at the Society. These documents wererpresumably collected by Thompson Westcott, and acquired by Scharf through a purchase of Westcott's papers. This group of documents is almost entirely comprised of Philadelphia court records (ca. 2,000 items). Especially prominent are petitions for tavern licenses with some returns of overseers and jurors.

Another type of official document in the Scharf collection pertains to the Confederate States Navy. Scharf collected about 1,500 such documents presumably while writing his history of the Confederate States Navy. These documents (1863-1864) are largely financial and originated in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Thompson Westcott's personal papers are a small number of incoming letters (1841-88). These pertain largely to his research on the history of Philadelphia.

The fourth category of manuscripts in the Scharf Collection is original manuscripts other than Maryland or Pennsylvania state documents. These are largely non-official papers, but there are a few state documents. It is assumed these items were also collected by Scharf or Westcott. The items do not have any unifying subject, and they have been listed as separate items.

J. Thomas Scharf personal papers

Scharf's personal papers consist of his incoming letters, biographical files, research notes, and drafts of his writings.

The incoming letters (1866-92, ca. 600 items) relate to Scharf's historical interests and go up to the period when he gave his papers to the Johns Hopkins University. The letters touch on Scharf's writings as well as his methods of collecting source material. The letters of 1874 RE: Chronicles of Baltimore; 1875 RE: History of New York; 1881 RE: History of Baltimore City and County; 1882 RE: History of Western Maryland; 1886-88 RE: History of the Confederate States Navy; and 1889 RE: "Biographical Dictionary of Maryland."

A large part of Scharf's letters deal with Baltimore's Sesqui-Centennial celebration in October 1880. Scharf was the Committee's secretary, and he collected all the letters about the celebrations and preparations whether addressed to himself, to the Committee president, Mayor F.C. Latrobe, or to the Committee Chairman Francis P. Stevens.

Scharf's letters also contain 11 letters (1873, 1885-89) from Jefferson and Varina Davis about Scharf's contemplated biography of Davis. These letters plus one more are published in The Journal of Mississippi History 10 (April 1948): 118-31.

Other topics covered in Scharf's letters are: Democratic politics in Maryland in the letters of Montgomery Blair (1877) and Arthur [UNK] Gorman (1880's); the erection of a monument to Baron deKalb in Annapolis (1886); and bill collection work Scharf did for Dun, Barlow and Co. of New York (1870's). Scharf's incoming letters are in Boxes 1-5.

Scharf's biographical files consist of two types. First there are completed questionnnaires for his anticipated Biographical Dictionary of Maryland. Scharf sent hundreds of questionnaires to Maryland men and women, and over 400 completed ones are part of his papers. These questionnaires were often completed by the individual himself and give quite detailed information. A list of the men and two women and a description of the questionnaire appear in the Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin 15 (August 1974): 140-146 and in Appendix IV. The questionnaires are in Boxes 6-9.

A second type of biographical data is Scharf's holograph copies of newspaper obituaries. These were apparently copied to be used for necrologies in his various Maryland histories. The obituaries have been organized alphabetically and include individuals from the 18th and 19th centuries. These are in Boxes 10-14. There are also a few biographical sketches written by Scharf. These are organized alphabetically and are in Box 15.

Scharf's holograph drafts of his histories and his notes are sometimes difficult to distinguish. An attempt has been made to divide the two types. Many of the drafts are not identified, but there are writings on Western Maryland, the Civil War, "The Baltimore Post Office," the Confederate Navy, and the Chronicles of Baltimore in Box 16. Box 17 has drafts of the Chronicles of Baltimore and the History of Baltimore City and County. Box 18 has drafts of the History of Baltimore City and County and reminiscences. Box 19 has writings on fire and military companies. Boxes 20-21 have Scharf's notes.

Thompson Westcott personal papers

Westcott's personal papers are largely incoming letters (1841-88, n.d.). These deal with his research on Philadelphia. In January 1867, he began a weekly newspaper column on Philadelphia history which appeared in the Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch. His letters are mainly from people asking for further information as a result of these columns or those supplying additional data. The letters do not appear to be Westcott's complete correspondence for this period. There are also a few letters about Westcott's research on John Fitch and on a history of the Civil War.

Westcott's other papers are a few legal documents, some newspaper clippings, a map of Philadelphia, and an auction broadside. A bank book dated 1840 appears to belong to him. The cut signatures among Westcott's papers probably were cut from the Philadelphia court documents. Westcott's personal papers are found in Box 26.

Official documents in the J. Thomas Scharf collection

Maryland State documents

These Colonial and early national period state documents were removed from the Scharf Collection in July 1975. They are at the Maryland Hall of Records and can be consulted there. When the Hall of Records has completed its project these documents will have been indexed and microfilmed.

Philadelphia Court documents

This collection includes about 2,000 documents of various Philadelphia courts. Most of the documents are petitions to the Mayor's court for licenses to run public houses or taverns. Interspersed with the petitions are tavern bonds. Both types date from 1732, 1760's, 1778, 1790's, 1800-30. These documents have not been sorted by year. They are in Boxes 27-29.

The court documents also contain some returns for overseers of the poor and for jurors, as well as non-tavern petitions, land deeds, and documents for inquests. These date from the 18th and early 19th centuries but have not been sorted by year. They are in Box 30.

A third category of court documents are letters of three Philadelphia business firms. The letters appear to have been used in lawsuits concerning debts. The three firms were: Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan (1760s); Little and Lardner (1772); and Willing, Morris and Swanwick (1745-57, 1789, 1795). The dates refer to the dates of the documents. These items are in Box 31.

Confederate States Navy records

Scharf collected about 1,500 records of the Confederate States Navy. These appear to be the records of the assistant paymaster in Shreveport, Louisiana, Edward McKean. The records cover the years 1863 and 1864 and are largely vouchers for expenses authorized by McKean. The expenditures were for travel expenses of naval personnel, repairs to ships, purchases of provisions and supplies, and payments to pilots, mechanics, and slaves working on CSN ships. The vouchers are organized by quarter, the bulk of them covering the second quarter of 1863 through the third quarter of 1864.

In addition to the vouchers there are a few miscellaneous financial records for the same period: provisions received by Edward McKean (1863-64); transfer role of officiers attached to the naval station and vessels at Shreveport, Louisiana (1863-64); steward's monthly reports of provisions on board C.S. Ram. Missouri (March, May, June, July, September); steward's monthly reports of provisions on board the C.S. Steamer "Webb" (November 1863 - September 1864); and general pay and receipt rolls (1863-64).

There are also 30 letters (1863-64) that deal largely with CSN business in and around Shreveport.

Other original manuscripts

In addition to the Maryland and Philadelphia government documents, the Scharf Collection includes a number (ca. 100) of state documents and other original manuscripts presumably collected by Scharf or Westcott. These items do not appear to have a unifying topic so they have been sorted by the state or country in which they originated and then by date. The states represented are: Georgia, Kentucky,

Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Canada, England, and Mexico. These items are in Boxes 31 and 32 and a listing of each item is in the Container List.

Guide to the J. Thomas Scharf collection
Under Revision
Cynthia H. Requardt
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-01-07: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States