PEAES Economic History in the Philadelphia Region Guide to Manuscripts and Print Resources for Research

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Historical Society of Delaware
505 Market Street, Wilmington, DE
Phone: (302) 655-7161


Contact Person:
Constance Cooper,


The Historical Society of Delaware’s, founded in 1864, holds over 1 million manuscript documents covering the period of this study. The diverse collections are strongest for early Wilmington and New Castle County merchants and millers. HSD’s collections on Brandywine Mills are extensive for the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and strong on mercantile activity, agriculture (including a considerable number of valuable diaries), and transportation. Finally, the HSD holds a significant number of late eighteenth and nineteenth century general store records. HSD does not have many finding aids or indexes to collections; however, searches of the card catalog will yield important sources and connections. Also please see: Carol E. Hoffecker, Delaware: A Bicentennial History (New York, 1977); J. Thomas Scharf, History of Delaware, 1609-1888, 3 vols. (Philadelphia, 1888); and M. McCarter and B. F. Jackson, Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of Delaware (Wilmington, 1882).


HSD holds an extensive collection of papers relating to Thomas Rodney (1744-1811), many of which have changed names over time. At HSD the current Rodney Collection. (ca. 24 boxes) is the same as the H.F. Brown Collection. It contains the papers of both Caesar and Tomas Rodney. Elsewhere, researchers will find correspondence between Thomas and his brother Caesar (1728-84), and between Thomas and his son Caesar A. Rodney (1772-1824); account books and a variety of bills and receipts relating to Rodney’s household and business expenses.

(1) Letters. Thomas Rodney served as colonel of the Eighth Delaware Regiment in the Revolutionary War. He later sat in the Continental Congress in 1781-3, 1785-7. He served as Judge of the Admiralty Court in 1778 and as Chief Justice of the Mississippi Territory for Jefferson in the first decade of the nineteenth century. While many of the letters relate to Rodney’s service in the Revolutionary War, others apply to political economy, and to agricultural and business matters. These letters sometimes describe problems that Rodney experienced with the family’s farms, including natural conditions and productivity. Agricultural letters and receipts offer data on the amount of labor required for the harvest and its cost (for example Box 10, Folder 2). Other letters provide price information for agricultural products, finished goods, and imported rum and sugar. Of particular note is a series of letters composed during the Revolutionary War that comment on the effect of the war on prices and agricultural output. Some letters discuss the terms and costs of shipping agricultural products especially flour and wheat. Another series of letters addresses the expenses for his slave.

Incidents relating to the collection of bank notes and debts are frequently noted, and Rodney discusses the young nation’s financial system especially its problems financing the Revolution. Other letters describe problems with fiat money, inflation, and depreciation. Rodney served as the executor for many estates and administered many personal bonds. Many letters discuss Rodney’s rental properties, payments for servants and their wages, and costs of wheat and other farm products.

A number of letters contain information regarding Rodney’s efforts to trade flour and wheat. After C. A. Rodney finished school in about 1789, he managed the sale of his father’s wheat in Philadelphia. These letters include a wealth of information describing the Philadelphia wheat market in detail, giving observations on the potential for trade as well as the costs involved after the 1780s. The elder Rodney owned shares in several vessels.

An Item of particular interest is an account of shirts and linens (Box 10, folder 2) to be made at the clothing “factory” in Newark, DE, operated by William Smith. The document lists the construction materials for the shirts, their specification and also lists the names of the women seamstresses and the number of shirts each made.

A further item of interest (located in Box 23, folder 24) is an essay composed by Rodney which discusses Tyrean dye and the possibility of using dyes made from various fish to aid in the production of dyed textiles.

Another essay, this none on commerce and international law (located in Box 22, Folder 11) discusses the growth of international law applying to commerce. In the essay, composed in 1797, Rodney focuses on the application of the international law to neutral carrying countries, which was of particular importance to Americans in this period.

See HSD card catalog, with subject cards for each letter.

(2). Account Books. The Rodney account books include: Thomas Rodney, Account Book, Dover, 1772-74, (1 vol.), Account Book, 1771-1799 (1 vol.; actually only for 1772-1778, plus memoranda for 1799), Thomas Rodney, Account Book and Diary, 1772-97 (1 vol.; for 1772-83, with diary for August 1797) and Thomas Rodney, Account Book, 1776-92 (1 vol.). They contain the personal accounts of Thomas Rodney, including cash payments to Philadelphia merchants for the purchase of various supplies and household goods, as well as rent payments to him. Other accounts related to cash loans, purchase of building supplies, and payments to laborers. Included in the 1771-1799 volume are accounts of Rodney's debts, including wages to domestic help, farm supplies, clothing, and candles. Many of the entries relate to the purchase of provisions including coffee and meat. The 1772-4 volume contains more detailed records for purchases by Rodney from stores in Dover and Philadelphia. Rodney bought many books and other printed materials from a variety of stores. The 1772-1797 volume contains entries for bonds and notes, the principle, interest, and dates due. The volume, Thomas Rodney, Account Book and Diary, 1772-97, contains entries for bonds and notes, the principle, interest and when they are due.

(3). Diaries in the collection include Thomas Rodney, Journal, August to September 1769 (1 vol.), Thomas Rodney, Journal, September to November 1769 (1 vol.), Thomas Rodney, Diary, 1791-2 (1 vol.) [located in Box 22, Folder 8], Thomas Rodney, Diary, 1800 (1vol.), Thomas Rodney, Diary, August to September, 1800 (1 vol.), Thomas Rodney, Diary, November 1802 to January, 1802 (1 vol.), Thomas Rodney, Diary, January 1802 to February 1802 (1 vol.), and Thomas Rodney, Diary, February to March, 1802 (1 vol.). They contain personal observations about local and national politics, political economy and business, Dover trade, and his own farms. He includes data assessing the progress of crops, the coming harvests and his plans for the fields in the future. See HSD finding aid.


Shipping Folder, I, contains a ledger sheet from the voyage of the sloop Sally in 1801. Its part-owner, Joseph Shallcross, was one of Wilmington’s most prominent eighteenth-century merchant-millers and West Indies traders. . Shallcross lived in Wilmington where he engaged in trade to the West Indies on his own account and with occasional partners such as Joseph Tatnall. HSD holds a ledger sheet from a voyage of the Sloop Sally, in 1801. Thomas Baker was the vessel's captain. See HSD finding aid.

The same Shipping Folder I also contains an undated statement of “the names, ports and tonnage of vessels belonging to the District of Delaware,” listing about one hundred vessels by home port; tonnage for New Castle, Wilmington, and Lewes; and frequency of vessel entries

William B. Thompson, Journal of “Ceres” Voyage, 1842 (1 vol.) is a journal kept at Wilmington, DE which documents a whaling voyage to the Pacific during Wilmington’s efforts to establish itself as a whaling port. Thompson served as a seaman on this voyage, which patrolled the Pacific Ocean with stops at many ports in the South Pacific. The journal contains a wealth of details that describe the pursuit, capture and harvesting of whales.


HSD holds a variety of papers relating to one of Wilmington’s most prominent eighteenth and nineteenth century families in the Shipley Family Papers (2 folders, 2 manuscript books, 1 box). William Shipley (1693-1768) arrived from England in 1725 with a wife and three children. In Wilmington he served as Chief Burgess (mayor) in 1739, formed partnerships and built the city's first foreign-trading vessel in 1740, and sent it to Jamaica with provisions and wood, returning laden with sugar, rum, and other tropical products, in that same year. A Journal, 1737, includes accounts for the outfitting and lading of Brig Wilmington in 1743, and Shipley's loans of cash to various individuals.

HSD also holds William Shipley, Account Book, 1739 (1 vol.) that includes accounts for the outfitting and lading of Brig Wilmington in 1743. The book reveals that Shipley had a fair amount of disposable income as he often lent cash to various individuals. At the back of the volume are detailed records recording purchases of materials for his brewery. The document also includes notations of work done by employees and wages paid. Many of the entries relate to cutting and hauling wood. Other entries describe the purchase of supplies and provisions. Some accounts relate to the purchase of goods, mainly flour, to serve as cargo for his vessels. Shipley also recorded the departure of vessels in the volume. Also included in the volume is a detailed account of the materials and labor Shipley paid for the erection of three brick houses in Wilmington in 1748. Several receipts and several letters are contained in the first of the two Shipley Papers folders relating to William Shipley.

William’s only son, Thomas (1718-1789) established an early mill on the Brandywine which his son Joseph (1752-1832) took over. Through Joseph’s initiative the mill business became quite prosperous. His son, Samuel (1777-1844) also engaged in the milling business. HSD’s collection contains a selection of correspondence (2 folders worth, ca. 50 items) relating to the management of the Shipley mill during Samuel’s management. The documents include discussions of grain prices, receipts for grain purchases and flour deliveries, some of which were owned by Samuel Canby of Philadelphia and John Cummins (1777-1833) of Smyrna. For more about Joseph’s youngest son, merchant Joseph (1795-1867), see Hagley holdings. There are also papers at HSD relating to the elder Joseph’s management of his mill; see finding aid. See also Halgey holdings for Joseph’s youngest son, the merchant—and most prosperous—Joseph (1795-1867).

James Latimer, Record Book, Disposal of Estate, 1807 (1 vol.) contains the settlement of the accounts of a prominent merchant who arrived in Newport, DE in 1736. He purchased a variety of lots in Newport before buying a lot on the Christiana Creek which he developed into a wharf and store. Latimer principally bought grain and flour from the surrounding area and sent it to Philadelphia and the West Indies. The record book contains a list of stocks and bonds owned by Latimer, his debts, an appraisal of his home and goods, and a list of his books. In all, the document reveals that Latimer was wealthy man who diversified his holdings among stocks, bonds, and real estate. The volume also contains a copy of Latimer’s widow's will.

The partnership of Broom, Hendrickson and Summerl in Wilmington, DE, traded to the West Indies and Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. The partners in the firm were Jacob Broom, Isaac Hendrickson and Joseph Summerl. Broom, Hendrickson and Summerl, Account Book, 1792-4, (1 vol.) reveals that partners sent flour milled along the Brandywine to the West Indies in exchange for sugar and rum, and sent flour to Europe in exchange for manufactured goods. A second document, a 1792 letter from the partners to John Dauphin, supercargo on the schooner Pratt, is in Shipping Folder 1 (4 items), and contains instructions for distributing and purchasing West Indies goods; also included is an entry certificate for sugar, and an 1802 bill of sale from Isaac Hendrickson to John Hays, John Way and William Woodcock. Hendrickson sold all the merchandise on board the Schooner Polly, bound for New Orleans, for $1,100. The bill of lading lists thirty-four grindstones, sugar, coffee, farm products, textiles, and other items.

William Armstrong, Journal, 1792-3 (1 vol.) is a partial journal containing accounts kept by this English merchant engaged in foreign trade to Jamaica, Hamburg, Lisbon, Cadiz and the Canary Islands. The vessels mentioned in the journal are the Phoenix in partnership with George Kent and the ship Britannia. These vessels carried manufactured goods to the islands such as broadcloth, tallow, lead, leather, pipes, and coarse linens, and returned with wine, green tea, sugar, and cloves. Other entries in the journal reflect payments for freight, insurance and duties. It is unclear where he was based. Finally, some accounts are for the purchase of materials to make up outward voyages. See also Hagley entries.

Mathew Bail, Ledger, 1796-8 (1 vol.) contains the accounts of merchant Mathew Bail with Delaware merchants such as Summerl & Broom, and Lea & Brobson. Other accounts in the volume are for specific trading and shipping ventures; Bail owned portions of several vessels including the Brig Venus, and the Schooners Republican and Triton. While the ledger does not detail the cargo of each voyage, Bail generally purchased West Indies cargoes of coffee, sugar, and tobacco through the sale of flour and other dry goods. The account book contains detailed records for the Brig Active, owned in part by Bail, and which voyaged to the West Indies with flour and farm goods that were traded for coffee and other tropical goods. The accounts for this vessels detail the portions of the cargo owned by different investors, and administrative costs of the voyage such as duties, insurance, repairs, and refitting.

DHS owns a variety of documents relating to the varied business operations of the Lewden family of New Castle Hundred in Lewden Family Papers (2 folders). The senior member of the family, John Lewden (d. 1744) left his sons John, Jr. and Josiah a tract of land in New Castle upon his death. Josiah formed a commercial partnership with Robert Duhamel, "Lewden & Duhamel." From the West Indies Lewden shipped coffee, sugar, and cocoa to his contacts in Philadelphia and Delaware, Meanwhile, he also secured cargoes of manufactured goods for Port-au-Prince and St. Sebastian. Jeremiah’s letters comment on the Santo Domingan slave revolt of 1790 and prospects for trade, his observations of Toussaint and the burning city. The collection includes letters from Josiah Lewden to his father, David Hines, and others, as well as receipts and invoices. Lewden and Duhamel, Ledger of trade to Santa Domingo, 1801(1 vol.) provides a detailed record of Josiah Lewden and his partners’ activities at Santo Domingo, including voyages to Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Europe. In contains accounts with individuals (some in French), firms, and captains. Coffee, sugar, and “yellow soap” are listed most often, and the ledger has a detailed list of coffee duties paid.

John Jr, seems to have operated a farm on the Hundred, but he was also involved in some aspects of his brother’s trade. John Jr.'s son, Jeremiah (d. 1840) owned a tanyard in New Castle. The Society owns four volumes relating to Jeremiah’s business operations. Jeremiah Lewden, Ledger “E” contains a list of expenditures, tannery accounts with various individuals, and places of residence and occupation for some entries. Most payments are in cash. The ledger also shows that Jeremiah was an early investor in the Christiana Canal Company. A Receipt Book (1815-1841) refers to purchases of bark and lime for the tannery, foodstuffs, and services such as woodcutting and carding wool. A Daybook, (1809-1810, 1811-1812) consists of a mixture of daily business and personal accounts for Jeremiah’s house, farm, and tannery. This volume details prices and types of leather used in tanning.

The William Sharpe Folder (1 folder) contains a set of 9 letters from Captain William Sharpe to his Ann Catherine Sharpe (d. 1800) between 1790 and 1799. The letters, which originate from round the Atlantic Rim (Bristol, Amsterdam, Lisbon, the West coast of Africa, Elizabethtown, New Orleans), contain a combination of personal news and business instructions. The letters reveal that Sharpe depended upon his wife to manage their affairs in Delaware (collecting rent on their three houses, paying bills, etc.) and care for their three children under the age of seven in 1790. Sharpe represented merchant, John Metcalfe, but also traded on his own account. The letters detail the steps through which Sharpe obtained a vessel, the Sloop Dolphin, and then proceeded to sell various cargoes, and his and Metcalf's trade between European ports and West Africa. Sharpe’s vessel was seized in Mogardo, Morocco, and he had difficulties with Metcalf that resulted in breaking up the partnership. On his own, Sharpe focused on the Mediterranean and North African trade, and he built a house at Santa Cruz (now Agadir), South Barbary. The letters provide a look into the personal and business life of a late eighteenth century middling merchant trader/ captain, and reflect on the strains of war. See HSD unpublished Finding Aid.

James Latimer, Record Book, Disposal of Estate, 1807 (1 vol.) contains the settlement of the accounts of a prominent merchant who arrived in Newport, DE in 1736. He purchased a variety of lots in Newport before buying a lot on the Christiana Creek which he developed into a wharf and store. Latimer principally bought grain and flour from the surrounding area and sent it to Philadelphia and the West Indies. The record book contains a list of stocks and bonds owned by Latimer, his debts, an appraisal of his home and goods, and a list of his books. In all, the document reveals that Latimer was wealthy man who diversified his holdings among stocks, bonds, and real estate. The volume also contains a copy of Latimer’s widow's will. 

While Wilmington never became a major whaling port, there were attempts in the mid-nineteenth century to develop a whaling fleet to take advantage of the growing market for whale oil. The collection, Wilmington Whaling Company (2 folders), documents the efforts to establish a joint stock company in Wilmington in 1833 with a capital stock of $100,000. The documents consist of stockholder information and manuscript minutes of an early company meeting electing a board of directors. Investors included, James Canby, E. I. Du Pont, Edward Tatnall and about seventy other individuals. The Company’s vessel, the Lucy Ann, returned to port in 1837 after a successful maiden voyage to the southern Europe and the Indian Ocean. Included in the collection is a typed copy of exerts from the vessels log published by the Delaware State Journal after its return in 1837. The logbook, kept by Captain Parker, describes the pursuit, capture, and harvesting of whales.

HSD also holds a log kept by one of the whalemen, John F. Martin, on the Lucy Ann. The Journal of Whaleship Lucy Ann, 1841-4 (1 volume) is an illustrated record of the voyage; it details sailing condition, ports entered, and day to day operation of the vessel. Martin noted each whale killed and contacts with other vessels. See HSD unpublished Finding Aid.

Related to the John Pritchet documents (see below) are those for other members of the family in commerce. In Folder 3 of the Garrett Papers (in folder 3) Jesse Pritchet (d. 1805), eldest son of John Pritchet, formed a partnership with Isaac Starr under the name Starr & Pritchet of Philadelphia. This firm was dissolved in May of 1805. The papers relating to the dissolution of this firm consist of an estimate of the value of the firm’s property as well as the consignment of that property. Papers in the collection also document the voyage of the Ship Neptune , captained by James Taylor, bound for South America from Philadelphia in 1804-5; an insurance policy taken out by Pritchet for the vessel in 1804; and a bill of lading for butter. The documentation of this voyage resumes in 1805 with a letter from Pritchet just before his death commenting on the quality of foreign coffee and his anticipated success. Next, there are several accounts of the sale of the coffee and merchandise on the vessel. These accounts record freight and duty charges, and calculate net proceeds. Finally, another set of documents—the most numerous in the collection—concern the administration of Pritchet’s estate by Eli Mendinhall.

Jesse Pritchett wrote a letter on May 27, 1803 to his brother-in-law Nathaniel Richards of Wilmington, which is in this folder. It is a valuable lement about Pritchet's flagging fortunes in Charleston, South Carolina, where debt and dunning creditors detained his return to Wilmington. He describes the failure of several voyages from Hispaniola laden with coffee due to the vessels’ capture as prizes in 1800. The letter then documents his continued failed attempts to repay creditors. He closes the letter believing that it would be best to be jailed and declare bankruptcy, though he fears the shame, because his credit was already damaged severely.

The Hemphill Papers (1 folder) contain correspondence of merchant William Hemphill (1743-1823), a Wilmington merchant and ship owner, and his son James (b. 1774), and their trade to the West Indies in the late 1700s. William operated a grocery store on King Street in Wilmington as early as 1785 and then with his son from 1792 to 1798 when he left his son the business and began to concentrate on the sugar trade from the West Indies. William Hemphill was associated with Philadelphia merchants Thomas Lea, Robert Ralston, and others. Hemphill engaged in Revolutionary provisioning trade to West Indian islands Martinique and St. Kitts, whre he acquired sugar and rum for flour. Much of the correspondence discusses market conditions in various West Indian ports. Some letters also relate to trade to Europe and the American coastal trade. See unpublished HSD finding aid.

The A. G. Lewis, General Store Account Book, 1826-32, (1 vol.) operated in Newark, DE, during the mid-nineteenth century. Accounts show Lewis' purchases and sales of provisions, textiles, and livestock, reflecting prices and fees for services. As with many general stores during this period, Lewis sold items on credit but also received cash, goods and services in return for sales. Several entries apply to the sale of lands.

HSD’s Robinson-Elliot Papers (13 folders) relates to the business activities of Captain Jonathan Robinson (1738-1788) and his son Jonathan John Robinson (1788-1869). After a career as a sea captain, the elder Robinson became a merchant with a wharf on the Christiana River in Wilmington. The documents in the collection consist of a series of bills detailing a loan, the purchase of a 1/8 share in a vessel, and land sales. The papers of Jonathan John Robinson concern his commerce in Philadelphia, especially with the hardware trade. Later, he became a farmer. The collection includes several bills and receipts, limited correspondence, as well as articles of agreement between Robinson and several partners including, Frederick Dauphin, William Warner, and Allan Thompson. Three Cash Books spanning 1808 to 1813 contain entries for Robinson’s personal expenses.

Samuel Bush (b.1747), son of West Indies importer Charles Bush and a former captain, operated a weekly freight line between Wilmington and Philadelphia beginning in 1774. This enterprise, which would survive into the 19th century under the name, George W. Bush & Sons, was the first regular freight line to Philadelphia. In the late 1790s Samuel Bush traded on his own account to Philadelphia and the West Indies. Samuel Bush, Freight Book, 1789-94 (1 vol.), lists daily transports of flour, lumber, and salt. Some quantities are quite large. Each entry contains the name of the customer, a description of the goods carried and the cost.

HSD has collected their miscellaneous shipping records in one file, Shipping and Transportation (5 folders). These documents cover the period 1767 through 1850. Most of the documents are ship clearances or lists of cargoes on vessels originating or arriving at Philadelphia or Wilmington. Many of the vessels mentioned were engaged in the West Indies or coastal trade. The most common voyages exported flour and provisions and imported rum, sugar, coffee, and cotton. One folder contains typed lists of vessels landing in New Castle betweem 1799 and 1802. They list captain and ship, but no dates of arrival. Another contains records concerning mainly Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Orleans.

The Hollingsworth, Maxwell and Adams, Account Book, 1787-1798 (1 vol.) details a freight line operating near the Christiana Bridge that transported goods such as nails, bricks, and provisions from Delaware producers, and sugar, rum, and coffee from the Caribbean. Many of Delaware’s most prominent eighteenth-century residents appear in the book, and local customers are listed by name, debt, and dates of payments.

[For more about the Hollingsworths, see HSP and Maryland Historical Society]

The small collection of Brian Papers, 1799-1817 (14 items) has fragmentary documentation of Wilmington merchant James Brian (1758-1836) who traded with Philadelphia merchants Summerl and Brown. Goods discussed include tobacco and linen as well as their ships. Included in the file are a letter concerning French spoliation claims on the Brig Franklin and several torn pages from a ledger, 1770 to 1785, listing accounts with Wilmington individuals. An 1836 document lists personal goods to be auctioned from the estate of John Brian. See HSD unpublished finding aid.

The Brobson Papers , 1793-1823 (1 box) contain a variety of incoming letters and several other documents relating to the activities of two of Wilmington’s most notable merchants during the Early Republic. Included are 53 letters from the Philadelphia firm, Summerl and Brown, to James Brobson (d. 1834). Brobson was a Wilmington merchant who shipped mostly sugar and flour from Summerl and Brown in 1795. The assortment of letters addressed to William Brobson (d. 1850) reflect his position as a lawyer, and many relate to ongoing debates about public improvements and tariffs in the 1820s and 30s.

See the Clowes-Clark Papers (below).

See Gilpin Family Papers (below).

See Garrett Papers (below)


See Bringhurst Papers (below).

See Clowes-Clark Papers (below).


The HSD’s holdings relating to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal are located in three collections. A group of Wilmington merchants first seriously proposed the construction of a canal to link the Delaware and Chesapeake bays as a way to bring Maryland grain to the Brandywine mills. In 1802 a group of Philadelphians formed the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company with Delaware miller Joseph Tatnall as president. The company hired Benjamin Latrobe to begin construction. However, as costs mounted and the company was unable to secure government funding, it ceased operations. Only in 1824 did construction resume, this time with a more southerly termination—Newbold’s Landing (today Delaware City). Workers completed the 13.6 mile canal in 1829 at the staggering cost of $2.25 million. Used together the three collections could would serve as a valuable resource to scholars interested in both legal and economic matters relating to the political economy of major transportation initiatives.

The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Papers (1 file, 3 books) contain several contracts between the company and firms to work on the canal, copies of the original acts of incorporation, and a series of 10 pamphlets announcing various stages in the canal building process and reprinting the company’s General Reports. Finally, the collection includes a letter book kept by George Read, Jr. on behalf of the Company for 1826-1837, a list of stock subscribers for 1823 and the company’s minute book (1838-52) kept by company secretary H. D. Gilpin.

The second portion of the collection, Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Papers from Salem Historical Society (10 folders) the largest of the three segments, includes a variety of receipts, bills, and contracts relating to construction of the canal in the 1820s. Correspondence relating to technical matters is also contained in these files. Legal briefs and correspondence relating to the complications of construction are also contained in the collection. Several columes of company records are also contained in this collection. These include, General Accounts (1803-1806), Reports (1822-1824), Minutes of the Board (1836-1863), Dividend List (1853-1876) and a letter book (1822-1832). Broadsides listing canal rates between 1829 and1856 are also present. Finally, this portion of the collection contains a large selection of maps detailing the canal’s construction.

The final portion of papers is located in the Gilpin Collection. A series of letters written by H. D. Gilpin to Joshua Gilpin concern the progress of negotiations with Congress to solicit government funding for the canal during the 1820s.


HSD holds fragmentary records for several turnpikes. These records consist mainly of toll receipts and bills. Scattered throughout the general collection are correspondence concerning turnpikes, some of which HSD has cross referenced under turnpikes in the card catalog. Company records include:

Wilmington and Great Valley Turnpike Company (6 folders). Begun in 1811, this turnpike was to run from Wilmington along the east side of Brandwine Creek through West Chester to intersect the turnpikes in the Great Valley, PA. The collection includes the act of incorporation, a contract with Thomas Beeson to collect tolls, various receipts and bills for tolls, a lawsuit concerning excessive tolls, a petition from the inhabitants of Brandywine Village to have the tolls lowered, minutes from meetings discussing toll rate and toll keeper salaries, and partial records kept by the treasurer of the company (1826-33) that list general accounts of the turnpike. Listed are individuals and their outstanding tolls, annual receipts, and salaries of toll keepers. See HSH finding aid.

Minutes of the Wilmington Turnpike Company, 1809-1859 (2 vol.) This turnpike, authorized by the General Assembly, was intended to originate in Wilmington and intersect with the Pennsylvania line at the Gap and Newport Pike. The minutes list initial officers and subsequent elections of new officers. They also provides insight into the construction and operating decisions of the Board as well as its vision.

New Castle Turnpike Company, Account Book, 1811-1826 (1 vol.). Chartered in 1811 to connect New Castle with the new Wilmington Bridge. This account book contains a detailed list of initial stockholders and the amount of stock they held, plus some dividend payments.

HSD also holds several volumes of turnpike company stockholder lists. See, for example, Wilmington and Lancaster Turnpike, 1796 (1 item) and Wilmington and Kennett Turnpike Company, List of Original Stockholders, 1811-1848 (1 vol.)

Historians of transportation may be interested in parts of two collections. The New Castle County, Levy Court, Taxes, Poor, Roads, etc., (6 folders) contain documents concerning the maintenance and construction of roads in the county between 1766 and 1837. Included are a 1766 petition by inhabitants of Christiana and Mill Creek Hundred in regard to the damaged Center Road, everal court actions against individuals delinquent on their road taxes, and three statements of the Road Account for the years 1835 to 1837 reveal expenses paid for road construction and credits individuals for their labor. The Manuscript Diary of William David Lewis, 1830-1833 (6 folders) records Lewis’ (1792-1881) observations as a merchant, banker, and financier who helped finance the Frenchtown railroad in 1831 and 1832. See unpublished HSD Finding Aid


HSD has a small collection of railroad fare and rate broadsides from the period before 1850, and small amounts of correspondence cross-referenced under “railroad” in the card catalog.


Canby Family

Samuel Canby (1751-1832) was trained as a carpenter and cabinet maker, but upon completion of his apprenticeship, he engaged in the milling business on the Brandywine. Samuel’s son James Canby (1781-1858) continued his father's milling business and became an originator of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad and served as its president. He was also a president of the Union National Bank. Edmund Canby (1804-1848) became the family's fourth-generation miller. The HSD holds:

(1). Samuel Canby Accounts, 1773-1785 (1 vol.) contains a list of cash collected from sales at the mill, and loans to individuals. Purchases by Canby are for household items and mill supplies. However, the mill accounts are not contained in this volume. Entries show hiring of labor to perform farm tasks, and record sales from the farm. Another portion of an account book, bound with Samuel Canby Diary, 1779-1796 (1 vol. together) contains accounts with Joseph Tatnall and James Canby for the rental to other parties of farm land for grazing and haying, plus wage payments, transportation costs, and the prices received for hay.

(2.) Samuel Canby Diary, 1779-96 (1 vol.), Samuel Canby Diary, 1819-1825 (1 vol.) and Samuel Canby Diary, 1826-31 (1 vol.) contain a wealth of information about the weather and local news, observations about wheat harvests, and the milling business. Canby details his business associates, where they are based, the price of wheat in various areas, and the state of the market. He notes his suppliers and customers in the volume, procurement or grain, and the distribution of flour. Canby also recorded the entry of vessels and their cargoes. The diaries also reveal the seasonal pattern of milling. Also present in several of the volumes is information pertaining to Canby’s farm and garden; this information includes data on crops planted, when they were planted and their yields. Finally, the diaries contain, travel accounts, personal recollections and anecdotes. Unlike most account books, these diaries offer a crucial and rare tool to better understand the worries and thoughts of an eighteenth century miller/businessman. See HSD finding aid.

(3) Edmund Canby (1804-1848) was prolific writer. The Edmund Canby, Diaries, 1822-1848 (17 vols.) trace this fourth-general miller's business in a descriptive narrative form, but are rich in detail about harvests, prices, and assessments of the economy generally. Canby describes the wheat harvest and the effects that the weather will have on wheat as well as other crops. He also assesses international markets for wheat and the factors affecting foreign demand, plus national duties and tariffs. Canby also reveals much of his personal politics and opinions in the volume. In almost poetic tones, Canby alternates from stirring declarations that the nation of farmers had the opportunity and duty to stand in support of freedom, to calculated observations upon the weather and the expected wheat harvest. See HSD finding aid.

Tatnall Family

The Tatnall Papers, 1760-1911 (5 folders), include miscellaneous papers for several generations of Tatnalls. Joseph Tatnall (1765-1813) was a prominent Quaker shipper, flour miller, and President of the First Bank of Delaware. He was the father-in-law of Thomas Lea (see above), with whom he was in partnership under the firm, Tatnall and Lea. One folder contains an undated agreement with John and Samuel Hollingsworth for Brandywine water rights, a discussion of overshot mills and two mill races, plans for the construction of a mill race (1760), confirmation of the construction of a private road laid out for Tatnall (1782), a receipt to Thomas Rodney that shows the amount paid for hoisting, storing, measuring, and delivering forty bushels of corn at the Tatnall mill in 1783; and a letter describing corn and wheat prices (1806).

Joseph Tatnall, Account Book, 1813-1827 (1 vol.) was kept by an unidentified individual who administered his estate. This volume lists a large volume of stocks and bonds that Tatnall owned at the time of his death, including those of individuals, the Delaware Canal Company, Wilmington Insurance Company, Philadelphia Bank, and various transportation companies. Tatnall also owned county and government bonds. Finally, detailed entries show the price of stocks and bonds as well as their dividend and interest payments in the early nineteenth century.

In the Society’s general Deeds collection there are a series of deeds that document the various land transactions made by Joseph’s son, Edward (1782-1856). Edward continued his father’s active career as a miller and merchant, and served as treasurer for the Wilmington and Great Valley Turnpike Company. His final report upon retirement is located in Wilmington and Great Valley Turnpike Folder (ca. 1850). See HSD unpublished Finding Aid.

Samuel Thomas owned and operated a mill on Drawyer’s Creek in St. George’s Hundred beginning in 1811. After his death his son Samuel took over the operation of the mill until it was sold to David W. Thomas. The HSD holds Samuel Thomas, Ledger Mill Accounts, 1814-1830 (1 vol.) which contains accounts for the younger Samuel's operation of his mill as well as other business and domestic accounts. An entry for the mill comments that he operated the mill in “joint concern with Gustavus Wilson.” However, no other evidence of a partnership can be found. Entries detail the names of wheat suppliers, the amount of wheat they supplied, and the price they received for it. The account book shows that Thomas sold wheat and flour for cash, and that he exchanged grain for goods and to settle accounts with other individuals. Thomas gave cash advances to some wheat suppliers based on their future wheat harvests, and he sold to a variety of customers and laborers at the mill.

Alexander Porter, Ledger, 1769-1783 (1 vol.) is a mill day book for the Hamburg Mill. Porter used New Castle area wheat; the ledger shows amounts purchased, flour prices and amounts sold, and Porter's payments of debts and loans of cash. The volume also reveals that Porter received payment in goods, such as rum and suger, which he in turn sold to farmers for more wheat. Finally, the back of the volume contains detailed records of the sale of various grades of flour to James Read.

Joseph Brinton, Ledger, 1809-11 (1 vol.) contains accounts for about ten different workers. Brinton owned a farm and mill in the small village of Beaver Valley, DE on Beaver Creek in Brandywine Hundred. The accounts in this volume record days worked, wages, and sometimes the task completed. These tasks mostly related to agricultural labor, especially threshing. The employees listed worked through almost the entire two year span of the accounts, but their labor was not steady within that period; some worked frequently, some did not. Brinton paid his workers in flour, wheat, other grains, dry goods, and provisions, liquor, and sugar. Located in the middle of the volume are undated geometry exercises written in a different hand. See HSD finding aid.

Samuel Glass, Account Book, 1837-48 (1 vol.) contains accounts for Glass's grist mill in Putnam, Ohio and general accounts for Glass's business at Mill Creek Hundred, Delaware. The Putnam account book is badly damaged, and lists individuals farmers bringing wheat to the mill, amounts accepted, price per bushel, and payments for wheat and flour. Barter and cash payments are indicated, and a lesser trade in provisions and dry goods, as well as wages to several workers (though the nature of the work is not recorded). Glass took in boarders, whose rents and stable fees in cash and services are recorded. The Mill Creek Hundred records begin 1848, and cover a wide range of personal expenses and wages to workers on this farm. Glass sold oats, wheat and wood from his farm. See unpublished finding aid at HSD

HSD holds several manuscript books documenting Thomas H. Howell's grist mill operations at Camden Mills. Howell, both deaf and dumb, attended the famous American Asylum in Hartford, CT as a young man, and then returned to Delaware to enter business. Seven volumes show his milling activity. The Thomas H. Howell, Ledger Book, 1827-1870 (1 vol.) spans the entire period of his business, but focus especially on 1840 to 1870, recording the sale of flour, grain, and agricultural products to a variety of customers who settled their accounts in cash periodically. At the front of the volume is a list of Howell’s expenses for physical maintenance of the mill. Also included in the collection are a series of overlapping daybooks. These are, Thomas H. Howell, Ledger Book, 1827-41 (1 vol.), Thomas H. Howell, Ledger Book, 1837-1849 (1 vol.), Thomas H. Howell, Ledger Book, 1840-4 (1 vol.), Thomas H. Howell, Ledger Book, 1841-51 (1 vol.), Thomas H. Howell, Ledger Book, 1847-51 (1 vol.), and Thomas H. Howell, Ledger Book, 1851-52 (1 vol.). These contain daily sales of flour and purchases of wheat by Howell, much of which was transferred to the account book above. Farmer-suppliers are named, and prices paid for their wheat are recorded. See unpublished finding aid at HSD.

The Thomas Lea Papers reveal the rise of a prominent milling family in Delaware. John Lea (d. 1798) emigrated from England to Chester County, PA with his wife on William Penn’s second voyage. Their son, John, married Mary Yarnell; their son, Thomas (1757-1824), moved from Chester County, PA, to Wilmington where he married the daughter of Wilmington miller Joseph Tatnall, Sarah Tatnall. Thomas Lea operated a series of mills on the Brandywine in association with his father-in-law. Together, they bought flour from the surrounding countryside, transported it to in their own vessels, milled it in their Brandywine mills, and then took it to Philadelphia for export. In 1812 Thomas Lea also purchased a saw mill and a grist mill at Red Clay Creek, where he also built a cotton-mill with 1,300 spindles before his death in 1824. Son William (1805-1876) joined Thomas in business and then took over the milling, forming William Lea and Sons in 1864. Subsections of the Papers include:

(1)   Thomas Lea, Account Book, 1773-1787 (1 vol.) This detailed record documents the sale of various grades and types of flour by Lea to a large number of customers. Lea received payments for flour in cash, materials for cooperage, wheat, and various services including porterage. The shear volume of entries in the account book reveal that Lea was a very active miller. In addition, he owned shares in several vessels that traded to Santo Domingo and St. Kitts, with John Morton, and which returned with West Indies rum.

(2)   The Thomas Lea, Ledger A, 1788-1809 (1 vol.), also referred to as the Lea Mills, Account Book, 1788-1809, details Lea’s close business ties with his father-in-law Joseph Tatnall. This volume also details the goods Lea acquired in the West Indies for his flour—coffee, sugar, and rum—and the merchants with whom he traded, such as Sunderson & Gray in St. Kitts, William Pyle in Antigua and Smith and Wykoff in New York. There are also two accounts for voyages to Ireland, and those detailing Lea’s ownership of stock and bonds. Finally, included with this account book are about twenty pages from a 1818 daybook kept atthe Lea Mills.

(3)   The Lea Mills, Account Book, 1775-1783 (1 vol.), also referred to as the Brandywine Account, Book, 1775-1783, lists daily activity, some of which was transferred into general account books (above). However, this volume also groups transactions by day and thus gives a clearer picture of daily life at the mill. This volume also contains wage information for hired labor from Delaware and Philadelphia that is not included in the account book above.

(4)   Thomas Lea and Sons, Receipt Book, 1817-22, (1 vol.) contains business receipts for debts and credits of Lea, at the end of his career.

(5)   Thomas Lea, Letter Book, 1820-2 (1 vol.) also relates to the end of Lea’s career. This volume contains copies of correspondence to Lea’s business associates. Among the most interesting and valuable aspects of this correspondence is Lea’s continual evaluation of both the domestic and international markets for flour. The letters also contain a wealth of information regarding the price of wheat and corn, the supply of wheat on area farms, and the effects of the weather and river level on those prices. Price negotiations also run throughout the correspondence between Lea and his grain suppliers, and between Lea and his flour customers. Other letters order wood and mill supplies, or apply to the vessels he operates. Finally, the letters also reveal conflicts between Lea and his suppliers and customers about the quality of wheat and flour.

(6)   Commonplace Book for Thomas Lea Mill, 1817-1846 (1 vol.) contains only partial information concerning weather, crops, harvests, and locusts. Most of the observations in the volume relate to the weather and its effects on crops, their transport, the ability of the mills to operate, and the price of wheat. Lea also recorded the coming and going of vessels and the state of road navigation. Finally, Lea also reported community news such as a robbery of the mail and an explosion at the Du Pont powder mills in 1818.

Supplemental to the Thomas Lea collections are those of James Lea, Jr. (b.1759) (brother of Thomas and son of John Lea). The James Lea, Jr. Receipt Book, 1784-1806 (1 vol.) contains receipts for rent payments, for work done, and for the settlement of Lea's accounts with area businessmen. Many transactions are personal.

The John Lea Journal, 1800-1801 (1 vol.) provids a daily log of small civil suits in New Castle County relating to outstanding accounts. John Lea recorded entries and signed to verify the settlement of debts. The entries provide few details beyond the names of the litigants, the settlement amount and the signature of Lea. See HSD unpublished Finding Aid, and Scharf, II, 634,788-9, 846.

The Gilpin Family Papers (15 folders) cover the businesses of Joshua Gilpin (1765-1841) and his brother Thomas Jr. (1766-1853), who together established a paper mill on the Brandywine at Kentmere in 1787. A Letter Book (1798) used by Joshua on a trip to Europe relates efforts to find information on paper-making, canals, pumps, and mineralogy. Also in the collection are sixty-six letters written by Henry Dilworth Gilpin (1801-1860) to his father Joshua during the 1820s, while Henry served as Treasurer of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company. See also materials at HSP and Division of Public Records, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA; and unpublished HSD finding aid.

The Derickson (or Derrickson) family of Christiana Hundred operated a mill on the Brandywine River at the start of the nineteenth century. Jacob Derickson (1781-1851) became a millwright and proprietor of the family’s mill. He also worked on his neighbors' mills, hiring several other millwrights and carpenters for this purpose. Jacob was a relatively prominent citizen, as he was named to the Brandywine Bridge Commission in 1809; he also owned a large amount of real estate that he rented out. The collection consists of five volumes of separately cataloged manuscript books.

(1) Account Books. Derickson’s Mills on the Brandywine, Ledger 1785-1805 (Note: This volume is also referred to as Cashbook, 1785-1805), shows Derickson's operations of grist and saw mills. The most frequent entries in the volume record the sale of various quantities and grades of flour to area consumers. The price per unit of flour is indicated after each entry. Flour was then exchanged for wheat, cooperage supplies, hardware, provisions, work services including work done, or cash. The accounts show the family was connected closely to other Brandywine millers and Wilmington and New Castle merchants. Derickson also sold a fair amount of sawn lumber in the form of cut board and posts of various sizes. Finally, accounts for workmen, including wage information is included in this volume.

Derickson’s Mills on the Brandywine, Account Book, 1832-3, 1836-7, 1839-40, 1847-8, 1850, 1858-9 (1 volume) lists accounts with both individuals and firms for repair and construction of others' mills. Each account is a tabulation of days worked by Derickson and his employees, with wages charged, as well as rent payments to Derickson.

(2) Derickson’s Mills on the Brandywine Cashbook, 1830-39 (1 vol.) contains a record of daily cash credits and debits made by Jacob Derickson. Income from rents was spent for mill and household needs. The document contains a list of his renters with the corresponding quarter rents that they owed him. Late payments are also noted with their penalties.

(3) Derickson Family, Ledger, 1835-1836, (1 vol.) (also known as Derickson Family, Account Book, 1835-1836) is a summary of accounts with individuals and firms. Credits and debits are listed simply as such and they offer no detail as to the nature of the transactions. However, used in conjunction with the account books above, scholars could discern more details. This volume also has an index which is missing from the account books above. Several of the individuals listed in the later account book (above) appear in this volume with notations of either “millright” or “carpenter” after their names. Finally, this volume lists accounts relating to transportation including the New Jersey Steam Boat Company and the sloops Mary and Matilda..

(4) Derickson’s Mills on the Brandywine Daybook or Journal, Account Book 1810-16 (1 vol.) is a daily record of Derickson’s mill repair activities for his Brandywine neighbors including Tatnall & Lea, Samuel Canby, the Shipleys, and the Gilpins. Entries document the number of days he and his employees labored at other mills and the wage rates he charged. He also recorded payments to his workers. Derickson received cash and commodity payments for his millwright work. Finally, Derickson lists several of his real estate purchases in this volume, some of which were in Philadelphia. See HSD unpublished Finding Aid.

The William Coleman, Account Book, 1791-1808 (1 vol) lists products made by Coleman, a silversmith of Lewes, DE, and their prices and his customers. Coleman made a wide variety of objects from chains to spoons and he received payment mostly in cash but also in the form of goods. There is at least one account with an employee.

John Kennedy, Ledger, 1841-1846 (1 vol.) provides a detailed record of the business activities of this shoemaker residing somewhere in New Castle County. Kennedy had over 250 customers for both new shoes and mended leathere goods. He received cash and goods (mostly provisions) for his work.

John Weldin, Account Book, 1843-56 (1 vol.) is a daybook that documents his business as a mid-nineteenth century wheelwright. The volume lists repairs Weldin performed, the name of the customer and the price of the repair. Items repaired include wagon wheels, tongues and shafts for wagons, plows, and wheelbarrows. Many of the terms are technical, relating to specific types of wheels and repairs. It also appears that he farmed and sold farm products.

The Society holds several items from steam engine and mill machinery pioneer, Oliver Evans (1755-1819). The Oliver Evans Papers ( 1 folder) contain his contract with John Fisher in 1808 to allow Fisher to install Evans’s patented mill machinery. Additionally, the collection includes a framed copy of a contract Evans signed in 1815 to install his machines at James C. Price’s Harmony Hill manufactory on White Clay Creek, New Castle, County. [See also, "Mills" for HSD, HSP, Winterthur, Hagley]

Brandywine Mills, Daybook, 1788-1789 (1 vol.), lists daily transactions including prices of different quality flour sold from the mill, and payments for transportation to Wilmington and Philadelphia, barrels, lumber, and other mill supplies. Names of farmers who supply wheat to the mill are also noted.

The Society holds several items from steam engine and mill machinery pioneer, Oliver Evans (1755-1819). The Oliver Evans Papers ( 1 folder) contain his contract with John Fisher in 1808 to allow Fisher to install Evans’s patented mill machinery. Additionally, the collection includes a framed copy of a contract Evans signed in 1815 to install his machines at James C. Price’s Harmony Hill manufactory on White Clay Creek, New Castle, County. [See also, "Mills" for HSD, HSP, Winterthur, Hagley]

The Bird-Bancroft Collection (70 boxes) is a large family collection of records relating to the firm, Joseph Bancroft & Sons. In 1822 tenant farmer John Bancroft (1774-1852) emigrated from England to Wilmington, where he started a household flannel manufactory, assisted by his wife Elizabeth Wood (1777-1845) and his children. By 1824 he rented a mill near Wilmington and formed a partnership (Brearer, Dirkin & Co.) with two other English emigres, Mark Brearer and Alexander Dirkin. The partnership collapsed in 1825, but John continued to operate the woolen mill until 1827 when low water conditions forced him to close it. He relocated to Delaware County, PA, where he rented the “Providence factory” and operated another wool mill until 1831. In that year he purchased 167 acres of land in Nether Providence Township, PA, and erected the “Todmoren” mill, which he operated under the name “John Bancroft & Son Company” until his death in 1852.

HSD’s collection contains assorted bonds (1824-47) held by John Bancroft; the article of agreement between Bancroft, Dirkin and Brearer, to form the woolen company, Brearer, Dirkin & Co., as well as the articles of dissolution; and correspondence concerning the settling of various debts. The collection also includes a series of account ledger sheets and sales ledger sheets for 1838 to 1840 concerning the sale of John Bancroft & Sons Co. textiles by the Philadelphia firm Farnum, Newhall & Bettle. The sales records are extremely valuable as they list materials sold, the quantities, and prices by month. The collection includes am 1842 certificate of bankruptcy for the firm, and assorted bills and financial statements. One of the more interesting documents to industrial historians is a series of notes in the hand of John Bancroft that contain technical calculations relating to specifications and productivity of a waterwheel, as well as an inventory of supplies needed for a cotton mill.

For accompanying records see Joseph Bancroft & Sons, Records, at Hagley, regarding the Rockdale mill operated by John’s second son, Joseph (1803-1874). See also HSD finding aid.

The Edmund Canby, Diaries, 1822-1848 (17 vols.) relate to both personal and business matters of this fourth generation Brandywine miller. In the diaries, Canby (1804-1848) reflected on the weather, the effects of floods on Brandywine mills as well as wheat harvests.

The small collection, Dayett’s Mill Documents, 1760-1865 (20 items) details the land ownership of the tract of land in Pencader Hundered, near Newark, on which Dayett’s mill stood by at least 1769. In addition to a variety of deeds, the collection contains a survey of the land completed in 1782. While not of much use alone, these records do detail how early mills gained a start.

The Poole Family Papers, 1821-38 (2 folders), contain correspondence by Delaware miller William Poole and his son, John Morton Poole concerning the milling business. William Poole (1764-1829), originally a silversmith, became a prosperous miller on the Brandywine River after his second marriage. Located in the Rodney Papers are a series of letter from Poole to Rodney relating to the state of domestic manufacturing as well as detailed discussions of wheat production and weights and measures. John Morton Poole (1812-1879) was trained as a machinist in Mattawan, NY, before returning to the mid-Atlantic for more extensive training at a variety of firms. In 1839 Poole opened a small machine shop on the Brandywine which eventually grew to become, J. Morton Poole Company, which produced a variety of innovative iron rolls used by millers. Pertinent letters show Poole’s apprenticeship, and several to his brother-in-law, manufacturer Joseph Bancroft, Poole reflect on the newest manufacturing and transportation technologies available. He also sends status reports on a set of looms being manufactured for Bancroft. Several letters also reflect on his machine making business, in partnership with Edward Bancroft in Providence, RI, and increasing wages rates due to rising demand for labor. Finally, several of the letters detail the failure of New England banks and businesses due to the Panic of 1837 and spreading fears.

The Gilpin Family Papers (15 containers) cover the businesses of Edward Gilpin (1740-1844), Joshua Gilpin (1765-1841), and his brother Thomas Jr. (1766-1853).

Edward Giplin was a merchant in partnership with John Ferris. Many of the letters in the collection relate to his carriage-making business, including orders for carriages and credit references. Some reveal Gilpin’s connections to the merchant Steven Lewis in Baltimore. A series of seven letters discusses the loss of the schooner Amazon, and efforts to collect insurance money on the vessel. Other letters discuss the prospects for trade in the West Indies and the effects of the French Revolution on trade.

Joshua and Thomas Gilpin established a paper mill on the Brandywine at Kentmere in 1787. Both brothers worked tirelessly, Joshua by visiting British mills and Thomas through invention, to improve the technology at their mill. Included in the HSD collection are a 1798 Letterbook used by Joshua during his trip to Europe. Letters in this volume relate to Joshua’s efforts to seek information on paper-making, canals and pumps, and mineralogy among other subjects. Other letters in the collection relate to European market conditions, farm conditions in New Castle County, business prospects in England, and land investment. On of the few letters written by Thomas in the collection is a contract to secure water rights for the brother’s mill. Other letters authored by Thomas discuss legal and land issues.

Also in the collection are sixty-six letters written by Henry Dilworth Gilpin (1801-1860) in the 1820s to his father Joshua, while Henry served as Treasurer of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company. These letters discuss canal business during its period of construction. Many of the letters relating to canal business are updates on the sale of canal subscriptions. Others discuss the proceedings of canal meetings and the progress of the construction of the canal. See accompanying materials at HSP and Division of Public Records, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA.

See Bringhurst Papers (below)

See Shipley Family Papers (above)

See Garrett Papers (below)

A series of independently catalogued account and ledger books relate to the tanyards of the Corbit family at Cantwell’s Bridge (now Odessa), Delaware. William Corbit operated the in Odessa until his death in 1810, when his son Pennell (d. 1819) took possession. The Pennell Corbit, Daybook, 1810-13 (1 vol.) and Pennell Corbit, Daybook, 1813-16 (1 vol.) list daily sales of various hides and the prices for each, entries for the cash and in-kind payments of debts, and lists of individuals who brought skins for sale. Additionally, there are accounts for employees of the Corbits, which list daily work completed and payments. Together the volumes offer a wealth of information that would allow the reconstruction of the tanyard’s production.

Daniel Corbit (1798-1877) purchased the tanyard in Cantwell’s Bridge at the age of twenty-one and ran the yards to great success until he retired in the late 1850s. Corbit also speculated in land, and was a wheat and peach grower. The collection of volumes relating to his operations are: Daybooks 1821-31 and 1831-49; Ledgers, 1829-1837 and 1831-1840; and a Daybook, 1846-52, for the partnership D. Corbit and Co. Documents relating to his son’s activities include Daybooks, 1810-1813, 1813-1816, and 1817-1820.

Together the daybooks and account books provide insight into the early nineteenth century leather tanning industry. Most accounts in the volumes apply to the purchase and sale of hides and leather as well as various supplies for the tanyards. Of particular interest are the daybooks which list daily activity and sales and the lists of customer names in the ledgers and daybooks.

The Corbits received payments in both cash and flour, textiles and hardware in exchange for hides. The Daybooks also indicate the prices of various types of treated hides, and list tannery employee information including hours worked, wages and duties performed. See also J. M. McCarter and B. F. Jackson, Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of Delaware (Wilmington, 1882); and Scharf, II, 1007.

[Note to researchers: these volumes are sometimes referred to as “Cantwell’s Bridge Daybooks”. All have been renamed as listed above.

The Bonney and Bush, Receipt Book, 1836-49 (1 vol.) contains receipts relating to the operation of a machine shop and foundry operated by Jonathan Bonney (d. 1838) and Charles Bush (1805-1855). The company later became the Lobdell Car Wheel Company, which purchased and transported raw metals and coal to their ship, and sold iron and iron goods. See HSD finding aid.


John Pritchet (d. ca. 1779), an inhabitant of Brandywine Hundred, in New Castle County, DE, operated a farm that grew oats, wheat and corn. John Pritchet, Settlement of Estate, 1779-1788 (1 vol.) is an account book kept by Issac Starr who administered the estate. The volume shows the sale of Pritchet’s 1779 harvest, and the disposition of Pritchet's considerable land holdings, including in White Clay Creek Hundred. His daughter, Pheobe, married Eli Mendinhall, a prominent Delaware family that acquired a portion of the Pritchett estate. See Scharf, 935.

Isaac Starr (d. ca. 1813) of Wilmington, was partner in Starr & Pritchet (see above), and a grain dealer in the Brandywine Valley. The Isaac Starr, Receipt Book, 1760-1806, (1 vol.) contains records of payments to individuals for wheat and other grains from farmers, which were in turn transported to local millers, including Thomas Shipley and Joseph Tatnall. Starr owned a schooner. The receipts also document the changing price of grain since they include detailed notation of quantities and payments over a long period of time. Later entries in the volume show tax payments and rent collections. Several documents in Starr Folder (1 folder) show yearly payments to John Welsh, a house carpenter. See also documents related to the estate of John Pritchet and business records of Jesse Pritchet.

Joseph Weldin of Brandywine Hundred was a farmer who owned and sold sheep. The Joseph Weldin, Account Book, 1785-91 (1 vol.), Joseph Weldin, Account Book, 1790-5 (1 vol.) and Joseph Weldin, Account Book, 1791-9 (1 vol.) offer a wealth of information. In the earliest of the account books bark and portage costs fill the debit side of the ledger while cash and some goods, including corn and wheat, balance the accounts on the credit side. Entries indicate payments to a laborer. The second volume, Joseph Weldin, Account Book, 1790-5 is a daybook recording store transactions, prices for bricks, bark, beef, and building materials, and payments Weldin made in cash. The end of the volume also has a brief summary of household cash expenditures for 1795. The final volume, Joseph Weldin, Account Book, 1791-9 contains an account of expenses and sales for the years 1791 to 1799. Most of the purchases are for provisions and clothing. Among the consumables purchased are a considerable amount of rum and sugar as well as various kinds of meats. One series of entries concerns payments workers for “dressing worsted”, “combing”, and “weaving” wool from his sheep. Weldin also sold butter, sheep, and wheat.

John Springer, Receipt Book, 1814-1827 (1 vol.) contains notations indicating his payment of outstanding debts. Springer ws a farmer who sold milk and eggs to various individuals. His accounts also show that he exchanged goods for labor and employed farm laborers regularly.

See John R. Sudler, below, "Miscellaneous"

Richard McWilliam (or McWilliams) emigrated from Ireland and arrived in New Castle County between 1735 and 1740. He was appointed to be a justice of the peace and a recorder. He became Chief Justice, 1773 to 1777. His son, Richard McWilliam (1754-1786) was named Chief Justice thereafter. HSD holds some of the younger McWilliam’s personal and household accounts. These volumes, Richard McWilliam, Account Books, 1782-85, 1783-6 (2 vols.), consist of a daybook (1783-86) and an account book (1782-85). Together, these volumes describe the management of a gentlemen’s farm and household in the eighteenth century. Entries list purchases of goods for home consumption, payments to workers for labor on his farm, for farm supplies, and for market sales of rye and wheat to several prominent Brandywine millers. Finally, the account books list rent that McWilliam collected from his tenants in cash and in goods. As recorder of deeds for Newcastle County, McWilliams accrued sundry expenses which he recorded. Several pages of these accounts are collected in Richard McWilliam Folder (1 folder) along with some land papers.

[get years]

Although most of the documents in the Chauncey P. Holcomb Collection (40 folders) are land deeds not directly relevant to this volume, some letters have value for their discussion of Holcomb's experiments with various farming techniques.

The Agricultural Society of New Castle County (2 vols.) contains one Minute Book (1836-1872) and one Ledger (1860-1861) that document the activities of this society from 1836 to 1872. The third such organization in the county, it promoted improvements in agriculture and held fairs. The Minute Book contains the Society’s charter from the state as well as its statement of intent to advance horticulture and the "rearing" of silk. The organization had 159 original subscribers, and offered premiums for the best of a variety of livestock, produce, and silk. Included in the Minute Book are detailed reports from various committees on the best sort of livestock and seed as well as reports in the actions of other agricultural societies. The Ledger Book lists premiums by individuals, as well as accounts of subscribers.

Four letters to the Philadelphia Society for the Promotion of Agriculture ( 1 fol.) (this Society’s records are housed in the library of Pennsylvania State University), dated between 1792 and 1822, are illuminating. The earliest letter in the group (1792) discusses the Hessian fly's ravaging of New Castle County’s wheat crop. Steps to resist the fly are also discussed. A second letter (1820) details the method, advantages , results and costs of burning mud for fertilizer. One letter, from F. H. Holtzbecher of Newark (dated 1821), discusses the potential advantages to producing flax if a machine to clean it existed. The letter also details flocks of sheep and soil conditions on his farm. In the final letter (1822), Joshua Gilpin discusses his experiments with growing cotton in Delaware and his belief that it could be cultivated further North than planters believed.

The Johns Papers (1 folder) detail the administration of an eighteenth century Maryland tobacco farm. Kensey Johns (no dates found) operated a tobacco plantation located near Sudley, MD in Anne Arundel County where an ancestor, Richard Johns (d. 1717) settled after emigrating from Wales. Included in the small collection is Johns’ account for the sale of nine hogsheads of tobacco in 1750 to the captian of the vessel Friendship, John Sedgwick. The document shows duties and shipping costs for tobacco, as well as commission rates and tobacco customers. Also included are the 1763 accounts that Johns kept with Lord Baltimore as collector of the quit rents for Anne Arundel County. Some papers involve Kensey Johns of New Castle. DE, possibly a contemporary relative.

Bates and Hillard, Receipt Book, 1816-1838 (1 vol.) contains records of payments made by this Dover, DE commercial house for wheat and corn purchased from local farmers, including the frequently-names John Brown. Entries also show tax payments.

Sluyter Bouchell, Account Book, 1778-1783 (1 vol.). Bouchell was a farmer and doctor who owned land at Bohemia Manor, MD and New Castle County, DE. This day book contains accounts for Bohemia Manor meat and wheat sales, as well as for money lent out, hiring agricultural labor, and services provided to him at the farm. See HSD finding aid.

Britton Family, Account Book, 1756-1801 (1 vol.) contains farm accounts for the Britton family, probably kept by Richard Britton, for wheat, corn, and rye as well as for butter and chickens. Many payments are in cash but some are in goods and services, such as carpentry work on the spring house. Household expenses, transportation costs, and wages are included. See unpublished finding aid at HSD.

In 1870, Mary Ellet (b. 1780) composed a reminiscence of her life. The resulting document (of which HSD has a photocopy; the original is privately owned), Mary Ellet, Autobiography, 1870 (1 vol.), provides a unique view into the life of a nineteenth century merchant and farm wife. Mary’s husband, Charles Ellet, was a hardware merchant in Philadelphia before moving his family out of the city to various farms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In her autobiography, Mary recounts her role in the family economy and on the farm.

The Clowes-Clarke, Family Papers, 1789-1927 (1 box) contain correspondence relating to the agricultural and commercial activities of this extended family in Delaware and other states. The majority of the collection relates to the period 1815 to 1830, when Isaac Clowes (b. 1772) corresponded with his daughter Sarah Clowes Beaver and her husband Thomas, who moved from Delaware to Ohio in 1817. Their letters discuss Isaac's depressed financial situation and the poor state of Delaware agriculture. They offer explicit comparisons between Delaware and Ohio agricultural conditions and commodity prices. The correspondence of Isaac’s sister, Aletta Clowes Clark (1761-1832) and her daughters Sarah Clarke Truitt (1792-1871) and Elizabeth Clarke (b. 1789) also reflect on poor agricultural conditions in the first quarter of the 19th century in Delaware. Letters between John Truitt (d. 1829), Sarah’s husband, and Aletta discuss Truitt’s involvement in the lumber trade to the West Indies as well as North Carolina agricultural conditions and commodity prices. Finally, the collection closes with letters from Isaac to his sister Aletta describing his inventions related to a sawmill, a windmill, and devices for the sinking of wells, for the furling and unfurling of ship sails and for stopping holes in vessels at sea. Later in life he also worked on inventions for a steam carriage, a canal steam, boat, and an evaporating salt works. See HSD unpublished finding aid.

David Wilson (1735-1820) was the chief grain dealer at Cantwell’s Bridge (now Odessa) in the late eighteenth century. Wilson purchased wheat from surrounding farms and then sold it to millers. It appears that Wilson bought wheat on his own account and served as an agent for some millers. The Historical Society of Delaware’s holdings relating to Wilson consist of six volumes filed individually that fit into three categories: daybooks, 2 account books, and 3 wheat books.

(1) A Daybook, 1774-98, indicates that Wilson bought wheat from area farmers on commission for George Evans, 1774-1798. Each entry lists purchases by Wilson from individual farmers and amount of wheat they sold, its weight, and its price. This volume shows fluctuations in the price of wheat through the end of the eighteenth century, and it also documents fees he collected for storing wheat and freight charges he paid to Baltimore to the business of Moody, Hulton and Company, among others.

The ledger portion of the volume (1825-9) notes Wilson’s personal purchases of household items. Also, this portion contains freight accounts with the Baltimore comapny of Moody, Hulton and Company. These entries list customers, the goods they sent, and freight charges for each item.

(2) The Wheat Book, 1769-85 and Wheat Book 1811-23, list wheat purchases by individual, the number of bushels, weight, and price. The volumes also show wheat production for individual farmers and because there are records for a significant number of years, scholars could estimate patterns of wheat production in the area, and local price swings. As is the case with the daybook above, it appears that Wilson bought wheat on his own account and for another grain dealer.

(3) The Account Book, 1816-20, Account Book, 1820-15, and Account Book, 1825-28 contain Wilson’s general accounts. Much of the information in the other books would have been transferred to account books such as these, but since the account books largely span different years, there is not much redundancy. These volumes also reflect his payments to laborers, and detail the purchase of household goods. Note: The volume, Account Book, 1816-20 is actually a journal or daybook of household and business expenses listed together. These records also list accounts for the outfitting, repair, and provisioning of several vessels owned (or at least managed by) Wilson, including the Sloop Ann and the Sloop Betsey & Mary, and freight costs. See HSD unpublished finding aid and Scharf, II, 1005.


In HSD’s Broadside Collection is a 1797 broadside listing New Castle inn keeper’s rates.

John Serrill (or Serrell) was a general store proprietor in Wilmington. The John Serrill, Account Book, 1782-98, (1 vol.) documents sales of provisions, liquors, coffee, tea, flour sugar, household goods such as candles, textiles (finished and unfinished), and hardware. Serril specialized in rum sales, often by the quart, to daily customers. Customers paid in cash or received good on credit; settlement of accounts was only occasional; Serrill took in flour, butter, and other farm goods as payments. Entries are fullest for 1782-1789.

HSD holds several anonymous account books relating to eighteenth century retail trade: Anonymous, Journal, 1772-4 (1 vol.) is an account book for a general store or dry goods store at Okeshion [now Hockessin], DE. The journal records the daily sale of dry goods, groceries, ceramics, textiles, rum, tobacco, and sugar. An Anonymous, Journal, 1786-8 (1 vol.) was kept by a Wilmington shopkeeper who sold dry goods, groceries, and lumber. Wilmington’s prominent late eighteenth-century residents have accounts listed in this volume. This shopkeeper seems to have specialized in the sale of textiles, and rented wharf space for the Brig, Christiana, but he also sold lumber in relatively large quantities. See HSD finding aid.

In 1870, Mary Ellet composed an Autobiography (1 vol.) which provides a unique view of a nineteenth century merchant and farm wife. Mary’s husband, Charles Ellet, was a hardware merchant in Philadelphia before moving his family to various farms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The autobiography recounts economic affairs in the store and on the farms during the 1840s-50s. HSD owns a photocopy; original is privately owned. See unpublished HSD finding aid.

William Townsend, Ledger, 1849-1863 (1 vol.) documents business at Townsend’s Frederica, DE store. After four years working in Hugh Macurdy’s wholesale and retail business in Philadephia, Towsnend (1809-1894) established a general store in Kent County, DE, in 1830 and then Frederica. The Ledger details transactions for grain and lumber as well as his part ownership of a vessel used to ship merchandise to New York and Philadelphia. See HSD unpublished Finding Aid.

Robert West (ca. 1764-1833) lived in Lewes, DE, where he operated a general store. The Papers of Robert West (1 folder) contain a few selected notes and bonds held by West. A volume, Robert West and Sons, Daybook, 1816-1823 (1 vol.), record daily transactions at West’s general store. The store sold a wide range of goods including textiles, provisions, and hardware. Prices are listed for each item. Accounts were paid by a combination of goods, services, and cash. The volume portrays the business operations of what seems to be a typical antebellum Delaware general store.

In the William Larkin Account Book, 1825-30 (1 vol.) researchers will find entries for debt settlements, including reasons for the debt and means of settlement. Larkin was a Wilmington grocer and merchant with a store at 10 West High Street. He sold flaxseed, hats, and employed many individuals to help on city projects. See unpublished HSD Finding Aid.

David Nivin (Nevin) and his son Samuel operated a store in Christiana Bridge. The David and Samuel Nivin Daybooks, 1797-1798, 1799-1800 (2 vol.) contain daily activity at the partners’ store. Items sold include rum, wine, sugar, flour, hardware, lumber, and finished clothing and textiles. Entries of prominent New Castle County residents show consumption patterns. While most purchases seem to be on credit, some entries indicate that the Nivins accepted grain. He also operated a flour mill which he purchased from Sheriff Thomas Kean in 1792 until he sold the mill to William Foulk in 1798. Nivin’s Flour Mill, Ledger, 1792-1796 (1 vol.) lists transactions relating to the mill. The ledger not only indicates sales to customers, but also purchases of wheat and flour shipped on particular vessels. The information in the Ledger could help scholars determine prices as well as the production levels of the mill. Finally, the Ledger contains wages and terms of work for several employees.

John Ferris (1746-1828) was a hardware retailer in Wilmington, DE. The Ferris Papers (6 folders) consist of business correspondence, as well as orders and receipts. After marrying into the Gilpin family, Ferris formed a partnership with Edward Gilpin and opened "Ferris and Gilpin Hardware" (1799-1805) and traded to Philadelphia regularly. There are also several bills of lading for shipments by "Nicholson and Heth" from Manchester, VA, and a list of Maryland Money held by subscribers in Delaware in 1791. The collection also contains information on Ferris’ household expenses.

The Robert Kirkwood, Receipt Book, 1783 (1 vol.) is a small volume of receipts for debts paid by Captain Robert Kirkwood of Newark, DE, a war veteran. It appears that Kirkwood traveled to Philadelphia relatively frequently for business with prominent city merchants. HSD also holds two volumes entitled, Robert Kirkwood, Journal, 1777 (1 vol.) and Robert Kirkwood, Journal, 1780-2 (1 vol.), which record the actions of the Delaware Regiment in the Revolutionary War. Kirkwood kept the journals on behalf of his commanding officer.

James L. Devon, Account Book, 1845-7 (1 vol.) is a partial account book for a dry goods store at 428 Market Street, Wilmington, DE. Devon sold a wide variety of goods including textiles (both finished and unfinished), small hardware, and household items for credit and cash. See unpublished HSD Finding Aid.

John and Joseph Evans, Account Book, 1789 (1 vol.) contains general accounts for a store on the eastern shore, Maryland. Entries are for general merchandise, giving purchaser and price information, credit, cash, corn, and muskrat payments. There are also several notations that they held goods for individuals and sold them on consignment, and that they sent goods to various Maryland and Delaware store owners on consignment for a five percent commission. The second half of the account book is a satirical account of late eighteenth century Delaware and national business and politics. The author of the satire is unknown, but almost certainly was one of the Evans’. See HSD finding aid.

In 1870, Mary Ellet composed an Autobiography (1 vol.) which provides a unique view of a nineteenth century merchant and farm wife. Mary’s husband, Charles Ellet, was a hardware merchant in Philadelphia before moving his family to various farms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The autobiography recounts economic affairs in the store and on the farms during the 1840s-50s. HSD owns a photocopy; original is privately owned. See unpublished HSD finding aid.

The Robert Kirkwood, Receipt Book, 1783 (1 vol.) is a small volume of receipts for debts paid by Captain Robert Kirkwood of Newark, DE. Unfortunately, the volume gives little detailed information other than amounts of transactions and the individuals involved. It appears that Kirkwood traveled to Philadelphia relatively frequently.

John Ferris (1746-1828) was a hardware retailer in Wilmington, DE. The Ferris Papers (6 folders) consist of business correspondence, as well as orders and receipts. After marrying into the Gilpin family, Ferris formed a partnership with Edward Gilpin and opened "Ferris and Gilpin Hardware" (1799-1805) and traded to Philadelphia regularly. There are also several bills of lading for shipments by "Nicholson and Heth" from Manchester, VA, and a list of Maryland Money held by subscribers in Delaware in 1791. The collection also contains information on Ferris’ household expenses.

Benjamin Coombe, Daybook, 1796-1804 (1 vol.) contains the daily transactions of Coombe’s general store which he operated in Frederica, DE. The book lists products sold including provisions, coffee, flour, beef, as well as hardware, textiles and liquor. Contained at the back of the volume and Coombe’s accounts with customers, including by slaves.

John A. Duncan, Papers, 1835-1851, (13 letters) of incoming letters written by hardware store owner Duncan (1806-1868) to shipping agents. Duncan also served President of the National Bank of Wilmington and Brandywine, and on the boards of several other companies. Of value to readers of this volume are three letters from W. S. Boulden (Duncan's supercargo) to Duncan in 1849 and 1850 concerning the passage of the Brig Tecumseh to California and its success in selling lumber, and two concerning shipments to Rio de Janeiro and the purchase of a cargo of coffee for Philadelphia. Another letter, from 1851, regards a shipment of machinery and fixtures for a saw mill.

Quaker Dr. Joseph Bringhurst fled the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793 to live in Wilmington, DE, where he opened one of the first apothecary shops in the new nation on Market Street. The collection, Bringhurst Papers (8 fol.) contains a variety of receipts from Philadelphia shops that Bringurst patronized in securing supplies. Today the Bringhurst Apothecary shop has been reconstructed in Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT. Bringhurst also served as the Secretary of the Manufacturing Society of Wilmington. Included in the collection are Minutes for November 25, 1815, December 9, 1815, January 10, 1816 and a list of subscribers for 1816. William Young served as president of the organization, which pressured the federal Congress for protection on behalf of the 41 wool and cotton mills within a district of 20 miles on the Brandywine. Members of the association included Louis M. Lane, Isaac Briggs, and E. I. Du Pont. Also included in the collection is a 1776 document from Samuel Nottingham of Long Island, freeing his slaves on the island of Tortola. The collection also includes a letter from Robert Fulton to Joseph Bringhurst (1811) soliciting investment for a steamship line Fulton proposes from Philadelphia to Boston via Wilmington. See unpublished HSD Finding Aid.


See Mills and Manufacturing above, for many records in the large collections of family papers held at HSD.

See Joseph Bancroft & Son papers (above)

See James Latimer Papers (above)

See Shipley Family Papers (above)

See Tatnall Papers (above)

See Rodney Family (above)

See Garrett Papers (below)

William Canby (1822-97) a Quaker businessman and farmer continued the family diary-writing tradition. The William Canby, Diaries, 1837-1898 (6 vols.) are valuable for the local, family, and farming news they contain. Canby was involved with several banks, the Wilmington City Railway Company and the Agricultural Society of New Castle. See HSD finding aid.

The Aquilla Lamborn, 1805, 1817, Daybook (1 vol.) shows business of the Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of New Castle in 1843, including payments to workers for wages, hardware, shoes, and washing. Laborer records also detail days worked, wages, and the form of payment. Heaviest hiring occurred in April and July.

HSD’s collection Business Papers (6 folders) contains a wide variety of fragmentary business records for the years before 1850. Most of these documents are miscellaneous stocks, bonds, and pages from various account books. There are also a variety of deeds and receipts.

Contained in the Bayard Family Papers (81 folders) are five letters about a loan Stephen Girard and his partner David Parish gave the United States Treasury, and complaints Girard voiced concerning the withdrawal of specie from his Philadelphia bank in 1813.

The Bank of Delaware was chartered in 1795 and survived until its liquidation in 1929. This bank, also known as the National Bank of Delaware was the first in the state. HSD’s records are spotty. The Bank of Delaware, 1795-1930 (2 folders) collection includes cancelled checks and bank notes, an undated “memorandum of rules for governance of cashiers,” correspondence relating to bank activities, and selected minutes and lists of stockholders. See Scharf, 732.

HSD holds scattered tax lists for the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: Brandwine Hundred Folder contains a copy of the 1738 poor tax assessment list. New Castle Taxables, 1771, is a list of taxable inhabitants. New Castle County Folder #6, Taxes and Assessments (1 folder) contains a November 27, 1792 assessment list for Mill Creek Hundred. Christiana Hundred, 1798, is a tax list prepared by Robert Armstrong. Delaware General File, Early Lists Folder, contains a partial 1815 and full 1816 income tax list for the 1st Delaware district. Assessment, Tax List for Borough of Wilmington, 1826, lists Wilmington residents and the estimated value of their property. New Castle Papers, Town (Box 82C, Folder 4) includes Brandywine Hundred Tax lists for 1845 and 1850. Wilmington, 1845-57 and 1860 Water, City, County and Poor Tax Records, contains fairly comprehensive tax records for mid-nineteenth century Wilmington. See HSD's unpublished HSD Finding Aid.

Bank Notes and other Currency (71 sheets) is a collection of mounted bank notes from Delaware and surrounding states. The notes date from the 1760s through the nineteenth century. While not eminently valuable, they could be of aid to scholars looking for visual evidence or for information about the spread of particular bank’s notes.

HSD holds several papers relating to Eleazer McComb (d.1798), Revolutionary war Captain and delegate to the Continental Congress, in the published Delaware State Papers and Caesar Rodney Papers (see below). McComb served as auditor for the state of Delaware charged with administering the debts Cesar Rodney claimed against the state due to expenses Rodney incurred for the state during the Revolution. Rodney accused McComb of mismanagement of the accounts and the settlement dragged out for more than a decade. McComb filed a proposal, included in this collection, for the formation of a state bank to manage the state’s finances; this is in the Delaware State Papers. See also M. McCarter and B. F. Jackson, Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of Delaware, Wilmington, 1882.


The James Hamilton, Market Account Book, 1799-1801 ( 1 vol.) reveals much about domestic consumption. Hamilton, probably of Delaware, kept this account book between April 1799 and September 1801. He recorded the purchase of various types of food and their prices, but not where he made purchases. There are also a number of entries relating to the hiring of African-American workers. See unpublished HSD finding aid.

HSD holds extensive papers of George Read II (b.1765), son of George Read, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a Chief Justice of Delaware. The younger Read served as the United States district attorney for Delaware for thirty years. The documents pertinent to this survey consist of a series of detailed household account books, labeled George Read, Account Books, 1786-91, 1797-1799, 1806-13, 1814-20 and 1830-6 (5 vol.). The volumes document the daily administration of one of Delaware’s most prominent homes, including the purchase of food, furniture, and other household goods, payments of wages to household staff, documents about a slave he owned, and some travel accounts. See HSD finding aid.

The James Hamilton, Market Account Book, 1799-1801 ( 1 vol.) reveals much about domestic consumption. Hamilton, probably of Delaware, kept this account book between April 1799 and September 1801. He recorded the purchase of various types of food and their prices, but not where he made purchases. There are also a number of entries relating to the hiring of African-American workers. See unpublished HSD finding aid.


In the Bayard Family Papers (above) is a letter from Thomas Jefferson upon his leaving the White House in 1809 to Joel Barlow concerning a “dynamometer” that Jefferson wanted to borrow in order to prove that the plow he designed was more efficient than a plow sent to him by the Agricultural Society of the Seine in France. See also Girard Papers at HSP.

The Garrett Papers (8 folders) contain information on a variety of subjects, including Eli Mendinhall's (part of the Garrett family through marriage) execution of James Prichett’s will, several accounts of Pritchett’s ship, Neptune in 1805, business papers of Wilmington Quaker abolitionist Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), accounts of an iron and hardware store at Second and Shipley Streets, and family letters composed between 1835 and 1839 from Thomas to his brother Phillip in Philadelphia about the Wilmington Cotton Factory owned by Thomas Garrett and Jacob Pusey. One letter discusses wages and conditions for a family of workers (including three children). Several letters also give Thomas’ observations about the financial situation in Wilmington during the Panic of 1837. See unpublished HSD finding aid.

While most of the documents in the Holcomb Collection, 1840-1939 (40 folders) are land deeds not directly relevant to this volume, some letters contain detailed comments on agriculture. Chauncey P. Holcomb practiced law in Ohio and Philadelphia before settling on a farm in New Castle Hundred, Delaware. Many letters in the collection are to his brother Franklin in Connecticut, and relate detailed assessments of northern Delaware farming conditions, economic policy and local political vies of farmers. Holcomb, who was active in the New Castle Agricultural Society, experimented with various farming techniques.

The John R. Sudler Medical Account Books, 1830-1872 (12 vol.) show that John R. Sudler (b. 1800) kept detailed records for his medical practice, and kept his farm accounts in the same volumes. There are three ledgers (1830 to 1872) and nine daybooks (1831-1865). Sudler, born in Milford, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and established a practice in Bridgeville, DE. While living there he established a large farm where he cultivated peaches and strawberries. The daybooks contain employment data for several laborers including amount worked, terms of employment, and wages paid, transportation of food and farm construction materials, and loads of beef.

Early Wilmington Documents (10 folders) contains a variety of documents pertaining to the early history of Wilmington. Of particular interest to scholars of political economy is a set of correspondence and petitions concerning the erection of a public market house in the 1730s, and the protracted discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of such a building. See HSD unpublished Finding Aid.

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