Collection Title: Theophilus Sickels and Sickels Family Collection

Collection Number: MS 236

Dates of Collection: Bulk dates 1850-1910

Box Numbers: 1

RepositoryChester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Language: English, French

Project Archivist: Jasmine Smith, Librarian


Theophilus E. Sickels (1821-1885) build his reputation as a railroad engineer who worked in many parts of the United States, building railroad lines, bridges, and tunnels. Born in Philadelphia, his work as a lead engineer on the Baltimore Central Railroad first brought him to Kennett Square, where he met and later married Lydian Taylor, a cousin of Bayard Taylor. While his work sent him around the country and abroad, he spent as much time as his schedule allowed in his home in Kennett Square.

President Grant appointed Sickels to the Board of Engineers in 1874 with the charge to study the mouth of the Mississippi and recommend methods for maintaining water depth appropriate for commercial use. His travelogues discuss his time studying the rivers of Europe, West Asia, and Northern Africa that year in relation to that project.  Sickels served as a judge in the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia. He represented the American Society of Civil Engineers in Paris at the Universal Exhibition of 1878.

Sickels’ daughters, Rosalie and Mary, were the recipients of many of the letters in this collection, and Mary accompanied him on his 1874 trip.

Resources Used: West Chester Daily Local News, February 5, 1885. Personal Name: Sickels, T.Newspaper Clippings Collection, Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA. 

Kennett News and Advertiser (assumed). February, 1885. Personal Name: Sickels, T.Newspaper Clippings Collection, Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA. 

MS 236 Sickels Collection materials. Box 1, Folder 4: T.E. Sickels Professional Materials, 1857-1878. Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA.

Collections Scope:

This collection includes T. E. Sickels’ personal journals and travelogues, as well as some of his letters and professional documents. T. E. Sickels newspaper clippings are included. Some clippings document T. E. Sickels’ children and siblings. It also contains general Sickels family genealogical materials.

Information For Researchers:

  • Access:
    This collection is open to researchers.
  • Preffered Citation:
    Item information. Manuscript Collection 236: Theophilus Sickels and Sickels Family Collection. Box number, Folder number. Chester County Historical Society Library, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Collection Arrangement:

Items are grouped by type and then arranged in chronological order when dates are known. 

Related Material:

Sickels folder – CCHS vault family files

Collections Contents:

Folder #           Description

Bound    Theophilus Sickels’ Journals, 1850 – 1851 and 1853


1            Theophilus Sickels’ Travelogues, August – November1874, traveling with Mary in Europe at the direction of President Grant


2            Theophilus Sickels’ Travelogue, begins January, 1876, describes a solo crossing to Europe


3            Letters, 1869 – 1910,recipients include John E. Sickels, Mary, Rosalie, and T.E. Sickels,


4            T.E. Sickels Professional Materials, 1857-1878, includes letters, appointments (including appointment by President Ulysses S. Grant), Centennial Exhibition, and Universal Exhibition materials


5            Newspaper Clippings, late 19th century, some undated, coverage of T.E. Sickels and his brothers, David Banks Sickels and Frederick Sickels


6            Sickels Family Genealogy


7           Sickels Family Genealogy


8           Sickels Family Bible Records, T. E. Sickels and Lydian Taylor marriage certificate


9           Document copies