Grandson of Jonas and Rebecca Machado Phillips, Henry Mayer Phillips was a Philadelphia lawyer with ties to powerful railroad and telegraph interests. Elected to Congress in 1856, he supported preserving the Union by maintaining a careful balance between free and slave states. Like the Phillips family as a whole, he took a conciliatory, even pro-southern position on the issue of slavery in the territories. A life-long Mason, art collector, director of the Philadelphia Academy of Music, member of the American Philosophical Society, and philanthropist, Phillips was at once a Democrat, a nationalist, and a conservative. His silver desk set came to reside in South Carolina with descendants of his sister and brother-in-law, Catherine and Montgomery Moses.