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Collection Overview

Comfort, Samuel, 1837-1923.
Samuel Comfort Family Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1799-1963 (mostly 1860-1963)
8 boxes and 2.75 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-8


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.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists mostly of correspondence and also includes diaries, official and legal documents, and ephemera, such as clippings and programs and souvenirs, with some photographs and writings that primarily relate to Samuel Comfort and to a lesser extent the Crookshank family.

Most of the materials in Series 1. "Samuel Comfort," document Comfort's service during the Civil War. To a lesser extent, they document Comfort's involvement in the oil industry, his role as consul and vice-consul in India, his activities during the antebellum period, and his work with various patents and inventions. Other Comfort family members are also represented in the series, particularly Samuel's father, George Comfort, his mother Susan Lower Comfort, and his sister Annie Comfort (1842-1919) of Trenton, NJ.

Series 2. "Crookshank family" includes materials that relate primarily to Harry Maule Crookshank, including his time in Sudan and Egypt, and Emma Comfort Crookshank. Their son, Harry F.C. Crookshank, is also represented, and a few items relate to their daughter, Helen Elizabeth Crookshank.

Series 3. "Photographs" consists of primarily portrait and passport photographs as well as a couple group photographs of several members of the Comfort and Crookshank families. Also included is a Civil War photograph album, circa 1864, of soldiers, most likely members of the 20th Regiment of Pennsylvania Cavalry/Comfort's Volunteer regiment.

Collection Creator Biography:

Comfort, Samuel, 1837-1923.

Samuel Comfort (1837-1923), who played a prominent role in the American oil industry, was also a Civil War veteran, United States diplomat, and an inventor. Comfort was one of several children born to George Comfort (1808 -1887), son of Samuel Comfort and Rebecca Moon (1780-1835), and Susan Lower Comfort (1811-1888), daughter of Abraham Lower (1776-1841) and Susanna Stackhouse (1779-1856) of Philadelphia, Pa. The Comfort family, from Fallsington, a village located in Falls Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was one of the oldest and most established Quaker families in the area.

Samuel 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 United States and Great Britain. His inventions included a sewing machine that he developed with his cousin, Francis H. Jackson, as well as mowing, reaping, and counting machines.

Despite his Quaker upbringing and strong objections from his family, Comfort became a volunteer in the Union Army in October 1861, joining a select cavalry regiment under the direction of Captain William J. Palmer of Philadelphia, a cousin on Comfort's mother's side. Known as "Anderson Troop," the regiment was tasked with serving as a body guard for General D.C. Buell in Louisville, Kentucky. After the Battle of Shiloh (Battle of Pittsburg Landing), April 6-7, 1862, Comfort became disabled by typhoid fever and received an honorable discharge in September.

Spurred by President Lincoln's call for emergency enlistment after General Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, Comfort again enlisted in the military in the summer of 1863--this time as the captain of an independent cavalry unit, under special authority of the Pennsylvania governor. He recruited men from the Bucks County area and equipped them at his own expense. Initially assigned to special duty to escort General Cadwallader at Department Headquarters in Philadelphia, Comfort's unit, Company "L" of the 20th Cavalry Regiment, 181st Pennsylvania Volunteers, merged with Lt. Col. John E. Wynkoop's company in February 1864 whereupon the men were reassigned to the front. Stationed along the Shenandoah Valley, the 20th Regiment was involved in several battles, including the Battle of New Market (May 15, 1864), during which Comfort received a minor injury. Comfort was promoted to the rank of major in March 1865 at which time he was in General Deven's 2nd Brigade of General Merritt's 1st Division of General Sheridan's Cavalry Corps. His regiment was involved in the pursuit and resulting surrender of General Lee at Appomattox Court House. Comfort was mustered out and honorably discharged from military service in July 1865.

On October 16, 1866, Comfort married Elizabeth Jenks Barnsley (1844-1932), the daughter of John and Mary Hough Barnsley (a cousin of Ulysses S. Grant), from Newtown, Bucks County, Pa. The couple had one daughter, Emma Walraven Comfort (1869-1954).

After the war, Comfort worked for a couple of manufacturing companies in the Newtown/Yardley area before joining the pioneering petroleum refinery company, Pickering, Chambers & Co. (Titusville, Pa.) in 1871. Run by his brothers-in-law, Captain Pickering and Captain T.P. Chambers, the company, which later incorporated as the Keystone Refinery, eventually merged with Standard Oil Trust. Beginning in 1879, Comfort began to represent Standard Oil abroad, selling petroleum in Europe and elsewhere, and bringing his family along with him. In July 1893, Comfort was appointed Standard Oil's representative in Western India (Bombay), a position he held for over a decade.

While working in the oil industry, Comfort was appointed U.S. vice-consul (1894-1896) and consul (1896-1898) at Bombay. From 1900 to 1903, he served as U.S. vice- and deputy-consul general at Calcutta. Comfort was a member of various clubs, military orders, and societies in the U.S. and India, including the Union League of New York, the Bristol (Pa.) Lodge of Masons, the Bombay Chapter of Masons, the G.A.R., Loyal Legion, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

By 1905, Comfort retired and moved to London. He died at age 86 while visiting relatives in Newtown.

In 1891, Emma Walraven Comfort (1869-1954), a graduate of Vassar College, married Harry Maule Crookshank (1849-1914), the son of Captain Blackman Chichester Graham Crookshank (1819-1860) and Helen Elizabeth Bilton. They had two children: Harry Frederick Comfort Crookshank (1893-1961) and Helen Elizabeth "Bessie" Comfort Crookshank (1895-1948), both unmarried.

Descended from a distinguished military and political Scotch-Irish family, Harry Maule Crookshank was a physician and surgeon who served as British Controller-General of the Daira Sanieh Administration in Egypt from 1897 to 1907. Educated at Boulogne, Cheltenham College, and University College Hospital, he acted as Surgeon to the British Red Cross Society during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871); and Surgeon in charge of the ambulances of the Turkish Army on the Bosnian Frontier during Serbo-Turkish War (1876-1878). From 1879 to 1883, he helped form the St. John Ambulance Department of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in London.

In July 1883, Crookshank was appointed by the Foreign Office as a member of the British Cholera Commission to Egypt and took charge of the Gendarmerie Cholera Camp at El-Wardan. In October of that year, he was selected to head the Egyptian Prisons Administration; and from 1884 to 1897, he served as Director General of Prisons and Convict establishments before serving in the Daira Sanieh Administration. For his service, Crookshank received numerous awards and distinctions, including being appointed a Pasha in 1890. A prominent Mason, he established the District Grand Lodges of Egypt and Sudan, and served as District Grand Master for 20 years.

Harry Frederick C. Crookshank, a distinguished World War I veteran, was a British Conservative politician who served as Minister of Health from 1951 to 1952, Leader of the House of Commons from 1951 to 1955, and Lord Privy Seal from 1952 to 1955. After serving in the war, Crookshank became a member of the Diplomatic Service, serving at the British Embassies in Constantinople and Washington D.C., before being elected to Parliament as a representative of Gainsborough, a position he held from 1924 to 1956. He was appointed a member of Privy Counsellor in 1939; was invested as a Companion of Honour in 1955; and appointed 1st Viscount Crookshank of Gainsborough in 1956. Like his father, Crookshank was a prominent Freemason and held important offices in the Grand Lodge of England. Crookshank died of cancer at his home in London at age 68.

Collection History


Gift of Edward R. Barnsley, 1965 1965 (AM 18492).


During 2013 processing, the Roberts correspondence (AM 18491) was removed and made into a separate collection: Walter B. Roberts and Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company Correspondence (C1469).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Faith Charlton in 2013. Finding aid written by Faith Charlton in 2013.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Samuel Comfort Family Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-8

Find More

Related Materials

Bound Manuscripts Collection. First Series, 1600-2000, C0199 ("Letters and Diaries of the Two Ely Brothers, Officers in the 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry")

Bucks County Historical Society: Comfort Family Diaries, 1896-1945, MSC 677

Historic Fallsington, Inc.: Historic Fallsington, Inc. Manuscript Collection, 1729-1984, 02 (Comfort family papers)

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: Papers of Captain Harry Frederick Comfort Crookshank, Viscount Crookshank, statesman, 1925-61

Subject Terms:
Appomattox Campaign, 1865.
Diplomatic and consular service, American -- India -- 19th century.
Diplomatic and consular service, American -- India -- 20th century.
Egypt -- Politics and government -- 1882-1952.
Great Britain -- Foreign relations -- Sudan -- 19th century.
Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
Inventions -- United States -- 19th century.
Inventors -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
New Market, Battle of, New Market, Va., 1864.
Patents -- United States -- 19th century.
Petroleum -- United States -- Refining -- 19th century.
Petroleum industry and trade -- India -- History -- 19th century.
Petroleum industry and trade -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Physicians -- Great Britain -- 19th century.
Quakers -- Pennsylvania -- Bucks Co. -- 19th century.
Sewing machines -- United States -- 19th century.
Shiloh, Battle of, Tenn., 1862.
Society of Friends -- Pennsylvania -- Bucks Co. -- 19th century.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Cavalry operations -- Sources.
Women's history.
Genre Terms:
Clippings -- 19th century.
Clippings -- 20th century.
Correspondence -- 19th century
Correspondence -- 20th century
Diaries -- 19th century
Diaries -- 20th century.
Photographs -- 19th century.
photographs -- 20th century.
United States. Army of the Cumberland
United States. Army of the Ohio
United States. Army. Pennsylvania Cavalry Volunteer Regiment, 20th (1863-1865).
Standard Oil Company
Comfort family.
Crookshank family.
Comfort, Annie, 1842-1919.
Comfort, Elizabeth Barnsley, 1844-1932
Comfort, George, 1808-1887.
Comfort, Susan Lower, 1811-1888.
Crookshank, Emma Comfort, 1869-1954.
Crookshank, Harry Maule, 1849-1914.
Crookshank, Harry, 1893-1961
Bucks County (Pa.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
Egypt -- History -- British occupation, 1882-1936 -- Sources.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources.