Tours are now available Thursdays-Sundays, 12pm to 4pm. Visit our Tours page to learn more and schedule yours today.

Cliveden-house-coloring-page white


The mid-nineteenth century at Cliveden

House picture 2

The 1850s were a pivotal time in the history of the United States. The country was careening toward Civil War with increasing conflict around the institution of slavery, heightened by three national political decisions in the 1850s: the Fugitive Slave Act, the Compromise of 1850 and the Dred Scott decision. The American economy was in crisis by 1857 adding to the strain. The country was in a struggle for control. 

The household at Cliveden mimicked the turmoil of the nation. The death of Benjamin Chew Jr. in 1844 sent the household into a twenty-year conflict, both in and outside of the courts. As in the United States, family members struggled for power and control. Servants were deposed in court. Fights, both physical and verbal, broke out between a mother and her children and siblings while others in the household and community watched. Tensions were aggravated by substance abuse. Battles were won and lost. This exhibit explores this critical period in the history of the United States and Cliveden, how it impacted one household and connections that can be made to life today.

Dramatis Personae

A multitude of people made up the cast of characters that surrounded Cliveden in the mid-19th century. Due to the family turmoil people moved in and out of the household as tensions ebbed and flowed. Here are some of the participants:

Katherine Banning Chew

Katherine Banning Chew (1770-1855) - Mother, Executrix, Widow

Benjamin Chew III

Benjamin Chew III  (1793-1864) - Son, Colonel, Lawyer


Mary Bowman (1793-1864) - Sister, Housekeeper, Witness

Matthew Banner

Matthew Banner (b. 1810) - Laborer

Michael McMann

Michael McMann (b. 1817) - Farmer

Biddy McMann

Biddy McMann (b. 1817) - Servant

Margaret McMann

Margaret McMann (b. 1832) - Servant

james smith

James Smith (1785-1871) - Husband, Coachman, Father

Susanna Douglass

Susanna Douglass (b. 1791) - Businesswoman

Elizabeth Buddy

Elizabeth Buddy (b. 1800) - Servant

Henry Banning Chew

Henry Banning Chew (1800-1866) - Son, Lawyer, Enslaver

William White Chew

William White Chew (1803-1851) - Son, Politician, Writer

Anne Sophia Penn Chew

Anne Sophia Penn Chew (1805-1892) - Daughter

Second Saturdays

Anthony Banning Chew (1803-1851) - Son, Agent

Main House Sign #3 v2

Schedule a tour of Cliveden

Tours are now available Thursdays-Sundays, 12pm to 4pm, beginning on the hour. The last tour of the day is at 3pm. Visit the Tours page to learn more.

Interested in learning more?

To view the Chew family's properties in the Mid-Atlantic region, view the Google map to the left. To learn more about Cliveden's work, history, and our connection to other historic sites and organizations, visit our Research page.

james smith, henry b chew

This exhibit is generously supported by The Haley Foundation.