Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Eli Taylor Sheppard Papers,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1858-1927
Collection Number: BANC MSS 71/253 cz
Sheppard, Eli T.
Number of containers: 3 boxes, 3 cartons, 1 oversize folder
Linear feet: 5
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.
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
[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
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.