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Compass Newsletter Masthead
   Volume I, Issue 1
March 2005   

“My Darling Papa”: William Tecumseh Sherman in Falvey’s Special Collections

General William Tecumseh Sherman, known for laying waste to the South in his “March to the Sea” during the Civil War, shows a kinder, gentler side in letters to his young daughter Ellie, available in the Sherman-Thackara Collection in Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections. The Sherman-Thackara Collection, which provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of a notable American family during the late 19th century, was presented to Villanova College in the 1890’s by Sherman’s daughter, Eleanor Sherman Thackara, a Rosemont resident and a communicant of the Villanova Chapel.

Eleanor Sherman Thakara

Eleanor Sherman Thackara
This correspondence contains many letters from Eleanor to her father, General Sherman, and makes frequent references to public events and personalities. Another fascinating feature of the correspondence is the local color and references to many individuals, events and institutions in Philadelphia and the Main Line in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The collection also includes the love letters between Eleanor and her future husband, Alexander Montgomery (“Mont”) Thackara.

During the spring of 2004, the collection was thoroughly examined by three graduate history students from Dr. Karen Kauffman’s U.S. Women’s History course. Their resulting research papers can be found via the Special Collections homepage. These papers resulted from the students’ research: George Benton, The Sherman-Thackara Family Papers & Epistolary Art of Ellie Sherman: Gender Distinction in Addressing her Parents; Nicholas Markellos, The Sherman Letters: A Window into a Father and Daughter Relationship in Nineteenth-Century America and Meagan Schenkelberg, Hidden Passions: An Example of Victorian Courtship through the Love Letters of Eleanor Sherman and Alexander Thackara.

Eleanor Sherman Thackara (1859-1915) was one of six children of General Sherman and his wife, Ellen Ewing of Lancaster, Ohio. While living in Washington in 1879, Eleanor met Thackara, and on May 5, 1880, their wedding took place in the Shermans' Washington home. Among the guests were President Rutherford B. Hayes and members of the Cabinet and Congress.
Alexander Montgomery (“Mont”) Thackara

Alexander Montgomery (“Mont”) Thackara

Following their marriage, the young couple lived for a year in Boston, where Lieutenant Thackara was stationed. In the fall of 1881, he left the service to enter his father’s business in Philadelphia, where he and his wife made their home in Rosemont. During their years there, Mrs. Thackara and her four children attended the Chapel of St. Thomas of Villanova. Thackara, who had graduated from Annapolis in 1869 and seen duty at sea in European and Far Eastern areas, was appointed by President William McKinley to serve as a U.S. consul at Le Havre, France in 1897. He also served as consul general in Berlin from 1905 to 1913, and President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to be consul general in Paris in 1913. Eleanor Thackara died in Paris in 1915 and Alexander M. Thackara died in the American Hospital at Neuilly, France in 1937.

A “complimentary pass” for Gen. W. T. Sherman’s guest to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

A “complimentary pass” for Gen. W. T. Sherman’s guest to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

The Sherman-Thackara Collection consists of nine archival cases of family papers, correspondence, records and photographs. A unique part of the collection is Thackara’s correspondence, photographs and memorabilia which reveal an unusual first-hand picture of Navy life in the post-Civil War period.

You are welcome to consult this collection in the Special Collections room of Falvey Memorial Library. The Special Collections room is generally open Monday, Thursday and Friday from 2 to 4 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon, or by appointment (610-519-5182). A microfilm of the Sherman-Thackara papers is also available in the Library.

Bente Polites is Special Collections librarian.