Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding Aid to the Eli Taylor Sheppard Papers, ca. 1858-1927
BANC MSS 71/253 cz  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Eli Taylor Sheppard Papers,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1858-1927
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 71/253 cz
    Creator: Sheppard, Eli T.
    Extent: Number of containers: 3 boxes, 3 cartons, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 5
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Eli T. Sheppard papers: Chiefly relating to his diplomatic career as U.S. Consul to China and later as Advisor on International Law to the U.S. Minister to Japan. Includes correspondence, diaries,chitbooks, writings, certificates, scrapbooks and clippings. Includes some material pertaining to his ownership of the Madrone Vineyards near Sonoma in the 1880s.

    Miscellaneous family and other papers : Includes accounts of his father-in-law, Lewis Lewton, 1864-1889 (the earliest including accounts for the Ohio National Guard) and of the Lewton estate; records of the Glen-Ellen Viticultural Club (minutes, constitution and by-laws); account by Marguerite Brindley (E.T. Sheppard's daughter) of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English and Chinese

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], Eli Taylor Sheppard Papers, BANC MSS 71/253 cz, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Removed or Separated Material

    • Pictorial materials have been transferred to the Bancroft Library's Pictorial Collections.
    • Some published materials have been transferred to the Bancroft Library's book collection.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Eli T. Sheppard papers came as a gift to The Bancroft Library, June 16, 1971, from his granddaughter, Mrs. William E. Hilbert. A small number of additional items were received from the estate of Mrs. Hilbert, through the assistance of her cousin, Mrs. Evelyn Stewart.


    When the distinguished professor of history of the University of California at Berkeley, Henry Morse Stephens, returned some letters he had borrowed from Eli Taylor Sheppard, he wrote the former American Consul to China, "May I beg you to see that this most interesting correspondence...is preserved in some safe place, -I dare not suggest the Bancroft Library, -on account of its very real historical value." Fifty-four years later, the Bancroft Library, through the generous gift of Mrs. William S. Hilbert was indeed to receive the fascinating and rich collection of Papers of her grandfather, Eli Taylor Sheppard.
    Eli Taylor Sheppard, lawyer and diplomat, was born in Belmont County, Ohio, on September 26, 1842, and spent his early years on his father's farm. By 1858, he had begun teaching in the nearby Pumpkin Ridge county school. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted with the 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, serving until April 1863. Encouraged by Mr. John A. Bingham in his desire to read law, Sheppard entered the Union Law College in 1864, graduating with honors in March 1865. His early practice with the firm of Bingham, Stanton and Lewton led to his appointment as Proctor in Admiralty in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States, and in 1867 as Register in Bankruptcy.
    Soon after the visit in 1868 of the first Chinese Ambassador to the United States, the commercial exchanges between the two countries necessitated the sending of American officials to China. At the instigation of Anson Burlingame, who had been instrumental in the development of relations with China, Sheppard, eager to apply his knowledge of international law, applied for, and obtained an appointment as U.S. Consul to China in April of 1869. He took up residence in Chinkiang for two years, after which he was transferred, with the title of U.S. Consul for North China, to the port of Tientsin.
    Throughout these years, Mr. Sheppard gained a reputation for dealing with firmness and tact in such varied matters as his intervention in the case of the persecution of an American missionary at Chimi near Chefoo. His friendly relations with the metropolitan viceroy, Li Hung Chang, the real ruler of China, were instrumental in Sheppard's ability to adjust differences between China and the treaty powers, especially in the Formosan difficulty with Japan in 1873, and later in disputes arising between China and Japan concerning Korea and the Lew Chew Islands.
    At this time, however, his mentor, Mr. Bingham, now minister to Japan, urged Sheppard to come to Japan as Advisor in International Law. Upon his arrival in Japan in 1877, he found the country to be undergoing exciting changes in its transition from insular feudalism to the mainstream of international life, responsive to outside aid, and generally more in touch with the West than was China. Here Sheppard assisted in establishing a consular service modeled on European and American systems, worked in clarifying rights and duties of foreigners residing in China and Japan in relation to treaty revisions and extraterritoriality. Other legal questions to be untangled included the nature of the rights of foreign vessels in offshore Japanese waters, issues of naturalization, etc.
    Suffering from ill health, Sheppard decided to abandon his post, returning to California in 1881. He settled down temporarily in Napa, then near Sonoma, growing grapes at the Madrone Vineyards which he later sold to Senator George Hearst in 1889. After traveling in Europe, he resumed his law practice in San Francisco in 1890. He travelled to Mexico and Washington D.C., lectured at the University of California, Berkeley on international law and on the American Consular Service, and from 1912 spent his remaining years in Oakland, where he died in 1927.

    Scope and Content

    The correspondence, diaries and photographs, carefully preserved all these years, depict the day to day life of a diplomat --revolving around Chinese officials, intricate ceremonials, and ticklish questions of diplomacy, the whole interwoven with accounts of revolts and political intrigue. In addition to rich details of Chinese life and customs, and of travels throughout the country, one finds in these papers accounts of innumerable receptions, interaction with consuls from Germany, England, and France, as well as details of the delicate negotiations between the Chinese and the Peruvian commission over an accusation of coolie trafficking. Herein also are described small pox epidemics, the death of the old Emperor and the subsequent period of official mourning, negotiations to curb Chinese taxes on imported foreign goods, the Transit of Venus in 1874 with attendant scientific dignities, and the funeral arrangements for the United States Minister to China, Benjamin P. Avery.