Biographical / Historical
Samuel Shinn Ash, son of Dr. Caleb and Rebecca (Shinn) Ash, was born Feb. 2, 1829, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Caleb Ash was described as a “radical Quaker and Reformer.” His marriage to Rebecca Shinn was the first to be solemnized in the new Cherry Street Meeting House; the bride's family had taken the Orthodox side in the Separation of 1827 and did not attend the ceremony.
The family moved to Darby in 1834, and here Samuel Shinn Ash received his early education. At 15, he joined the Franklin Institute, of which he remained a life-long member. Apprenticed as an engineer and machinist, he joined the firm of Howard and Son (later Howard and Ash) and subsequently worked to perfect a stamp-perforating machine for the manufacture of U.S. postage and revenue stamps. At the termination of the Government contract, he joined the furniture and upholstery firm of Amos Hillborn, where he remained until his retirement in 1897.
In 1859 he married Sarah Jane Schofield, daughter of Oliver W. and Mary Jackson Schofield of Darby. Her twin sister was Lydia A. Schofield, a prominent peace activist, and a her younger sister, Martha Schofield, was a prominent educator. Three sons and one daughter were born to Samuel and Sarah Schofield, the youngest son and the daughter surviving their parents. A number of the letters in the collection concern the loss of the two older sons, at ages of 14 and 21 respectively.
Throughout their lives, Samuel Shinn Ash and his wife were active members of their Meeting. He was not only a minister much in demand for a variety of spiritual services, but they were active in a wide range of philanthropic activities, antislavery, peace and temperance movements, women's rights, and education. As clerk of the First Meeting of Friends' Educational Association, he was one of the founders of Swarthmore College. Samuel Shinn Ash died in 1911, and Sarah Ash died in 1912. Their daughter, Mary Schofield Ash, married George Herbert Jenkins in 1903.