PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records




Manuscript Group 349
1 cubic foot

Samuel Frederic Houston (b. 1867 - d. 1952) was a lay leader of the Protestant Episcopal Church, a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, and for more than fifty years a business executive of the Real Estate Trust Company of Philadelphia. He was born in Philadelphia, the son of Henry Howard Houston and Sally B. Bonell. His father helped to develop the Pennsylvania Railroad. Houston graduated in 1893 from the Episcopal Academy and went on to get a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He was on the Penn varsity football teams of 1884 and 1885. Upon graduation in 1887, Houston took a job in his father's office.

Henry Houston died in 1895 leaving an estate of $14,000,000. Samuel Houston was appointed executor and one of the trustees of the estate. The Real Estate Trust Company of Philadelphia (RETCO) was chosen to manage the funds of Henry Houston's estate since Sam's brother-in-law had helped to found the firm. This was the beginning of a life-long affiliation between Houston and the RETCO (see MG-338 for materials relating to RETCO). The Houston estate helped spur real estate development in Chestnut Hill and Germantown. David R. Consta, biographer of the Houston family, claims that between 1897 and 1907 Sam Houston put $75,000 of his own money into the RETCO, probably because of its connection with his father's estate. By 1938, the Henry Houston estate was said to be worth about $38,000,000. Sam Houston became a RETCO director in 1896, a vice president in 1903, president in 1928 and chairman of the board from 1943 until his death in 1952. Among the other companies whose boards he served on was the Guaranty Trust and Deposit Company.

Samuel Houston was a member of the National Council of the Episcopal Church, vice president of the Church Historical Society and a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Houston was reelected deputy to every Episcopal triennial general convention from 1922 to 1952.

Houston had lifelong ties to his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. From 1898 until his death, he was a member of the university's board of trustees and also served on the board of the University Museum. Houston was a major contributor to Houston Hall, Penn's student union which was named after Sam's father.

He was married twice, in 1887 to Edith Atlee Corlies and in 1902 to Charlotte Harding Shepherd Brown. When he died, Houston was survived by three daughters, a stepdaughter, a sister, twenty-two grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren.

Houston received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from The University of Pennsylvania and was made an officer in the French Legion of Honor.

This collection consists of three letterpress copybooks of outgoing letters from Houston. Focused upon the last period of Houston's life, the letters reveal an active man with diverse interests. While the letters relate mainly to routine business, especially with the RETCO, there is also substantial correspondence concerning his social and personal life. Notable Philadelphia families such as the Henrys, the Woodwards, and the Peppers are recipients of Houston's letters as are his children and grandchildren.

PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records