Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Sinclair Family Papers, 1837-1858

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2011

Summary Information
Title: Sinclair family papers
Creator: Sinclair, Thomas, b. 1835
Inclusive dates: 1837-1858
Bulk dates: 1853-1858
Extent: 62 items
The Sinclair family papers consist of correspondence written by members of the Sinclair family and their friends in the mid-19th century. Thomas Sinclair's incoming correspondence comprises the majority of the collection and includes a number of letters from his mother, Eliza Cameron, and several female acquaintances.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1998. M-3441.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Sinclair Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Thomas Sinclair was born on October 20, 1835, and lived in Steubenville and Carrollton, Ohio. Around 1853, he moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a clerk. He married Catherine Brooks Dohrman in 1859 and the couple later returned to Steubenville, where Thomas became a druggist. Their son, Dohrman James Sinclair, became a banker and philanthropist.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Sinclair family papers consist of 62 letters written by members of the Sinclair family and their friends in the mid-19th century.

The earliest items are letters from Thomas S. Sinclair in Steubenville, Ohio, to Ellen Legget of Carrollton, Ohio. Sinclair, who may have been a suitor, wrote of his feelings toward Ellen and his lack of experience corresponding with women (March 6, 1837). In another early letter, John Sinclair related news of a new telegraph line opening between Chicago and Detroit to his brother, Robert Sinclair (March 1, 1848).

After 1850, the majority of items are incoming letters to Thomas Sinclair from his mother, Eliza Cameron, and female acquaintances. Cameron's letters pertain to news from Carrollton, Ohio, particularly related to illnesses and deaths. In her letter of March 22, 1851, she shared an account of the death of her other son, John, and she later asked Thomas how he could move away after her brother's "Death in a foren land" (January 26, 1852). After Sinclair moved to Erie, his mother continued to report on her other children, her social life, and her finances. In her letter of November 9, 1853, she referred to rental properties that she wished to sell (November 9, 1853). She frequently offered her son advice or admonished him for various faults.

Thomas Sinclair also received letters from several female acquaintances during the 1850s. Sarah Sutherland ("Sak") often confronted issues of gender relations and marriage. Following the Erie Gauge War, she expressed her optimism about the progress of women's rights (February 5, 1854). Though she married and encouraged Sinclair to follow suit, she wrote that of her "[intent] to have you for my second husband" (December 21, 1854). Other female friends referred to Sinclair's flirtations and expressed their occasional frustration with his actions; for example, a woman named Nellie called him "Mr. 'Heart-smasher'" (August 18, 1857). Eliza Burton wrote more about her own feelings and aspirations, lamenting the recent path of her life in a letter on March 4, 1856. Burton later worked at a school in Knox, New York, and expressed her despair after hearing of the death of a mutual friend, "Ammi" (July 3, 1858).

Subject Terms

    • Carrollton (Ohio)
    • Ravenna (Ohio)
    • Women--United States--History.
    • Burton, Eliza.
    • Cameron, Eliza.
    • Ford, Sarah Sutherland.
    • Sinclair, James.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   14, Small Collections  
    Sinclair family papers [series]
    Folder   11  
     March 25, 1837-July 11, 1853
    Folder   12  
     October 2, 1853-December 9, 1854
    Folder   13  
     December 21, 1854-July 6, 1857
    Folder   14  
     July 27, 1857-October 4, 1858
    Folder   15  
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Derby, George, and White, James Terry. The National Cyclopædia of American Biography... Volume 16. New York: James T. White and Company, 1918.