Biography and History

Samuel Comfort was born on 5 May 1837 on the family homestead near Morrisville, Bucks County, Penn., to George and Susan (Lower) Comfort. The Comfort and Lower families were both prominent members of the Society of Friends. Comfort studied with private teachers at Trenton Academy and demonstrated an exceptional proficiency in math and science. These interests led to various inventions, and by age 24 Comfort held over 12 patents in the U.S, and Great Britain. His inventions included mowing, reaping, sewing, and counting machines.

Despite his Quaker upbringing, on 8 October 1861 Comfort joined the Union Army as part of the “Anderson Troop” under the direction of Captain William J. Palmer, which guarded General D. C. Buell. After the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing, he was disabled by typhoid fever, but soon recovered enough to rejoin his company. Unfortunately, the fever returned and Comfort received an honorable discharge on 3 September 1862. By the spring of the following year, however, Comfort again enlisted in the military-this time as the captain of an independent cavalry, under special authority of the Pennsylvania governor, which he recruited from the area around his hometown and equipped at his own expense. Comfort successfully led his company through many operations, even while injured: despite receiving a wound in his right arm during a battle in Newmarket, Va., on 15 May 1864, Comfort stayed with his troops for two more days of fighting. In March 1865, Comfort was promoted to the rank of major and was subsequently present at General Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. In July 1865, Comfort was mustered out and honorably discharged from military service.

On 16 October 1866, Comfort married Elizabeth Jenks Barnsley, the daughter of John and Mary (Hough) Barnsley, from Newtown, Bucks County, Pa. The couple had one daughter, Emma Walraven Comfort, who went on to marry Harry Maule Crookshank in 1891.

After the war, Comfort first established himself as a manufacturer of agricultural machinery in Newtown. In 1871, he joined the petroleum refinery of Pickering, Chambers & Co., located in Titusville, Pa, which later became part of Standard Oil Trust. From 1879 to 1898 Comfort represented Standard Oil both domestically and internationally, including six years managing the business in western India. Concurrently with his work in the oil industry, Comfort was U.S. vice-consul (1894-1896) and consul (1896-1898) at Bombay. From 1900 to 1903, Comfort served as U.S. vice- and deputy-consul general at Calcutta. He was also a member of various clubs, military orders, and societies in the U.S. and India. By 1904, Comfort moved to London and retired from business.

While visiting relatives in Newtown, Comfort became ill and died on 11 October 1923; he was 86 years old.

Source: From the finding aid for C0407

  • Samuel Comfort Family Papers. 1860-1963 (bulk), 1799-1963 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0407

    This collection, which consists primarily of correspondence but also includes diaries, official and legal documents, ephemera, and photographs, largely relates to Samuel Comfort (1837-1923), a U.S. Civil War veteran, diplomat, inventor, and foreign representative for the Standard Oil Company in Europe and India. Documentation of Comfort's Civil War experience is particularly robust. To a lesser extent, the collection documents the family of Comfort's daughter Emma Walraven Comfort (1869-1954) and her husband, Harry Maule Crookshank (1948-1914), a distinguished physician who served as British Controller-General of the Daira Sanieh Administration in Egypt from 1897 to 1907. British Conservative politician Harry Frederick Comfort Crookshank (1893-1961) as well as several other members of the Comfort family, particularly Samuel's father, George Comfort (1808 -1887), are also represented.

  • Samuel Comfort Family Papers. 1860-1963 (bulk), 1799-1963 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0407

    This collection, which consists primarily of correspondence but also includes diaries, official and legal documents, ephemera, and photographs, largely relates to Samuel Comfort (1837-1923), a U.S. Civil War veteran, diplomat, inventor, and foreign representative for the Standard Oil Company in Europe and India. Documentation of Comfort's Civil War experience is particularly robust. To a lesser extent, the collection documents the family of Comfort's daughter Emma Walraven Comfort (1869-1954) and her husband, Harry Maule Crookshank (1948-1914), a distinguished physician who served as British Controller-General of the Daira Sanieh Administration in Egypt from 1897 to 1907. British Conservative politician Harry Frederick Comfort Crookshank (1893-1961) as well as several other members of the Comfort family, particularly Samuel's father, George Comfort (1808 -1887), are also represented.