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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:252 1808-1836 R842

Rotch family papers

Scope and Contents

The collection includes correspondence, bills, receipts for payment, a petty cash book, and other business records of members of the Rotch family, dating between 1808 and 1836. The bulk of the materials concern the business interests of William R. Rotch and Company of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Notable materials include reports from William R. Rotch's commercial agents and ship captains updating him on the current state of foreign markets such as Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Bilboa, and Madeira; bills from the merchants and craftsmen who provisioned and repaired William R. Rotch & Co. ships; and a petty cash account book listing the company's expenditures for 1819.

The collection also includes correspondence and business records relating to several other Rotch family members, including William Rotch, Jr., Joseph Rotch (1790-1839), and Benjamin Rodman (1794-1876). The records contain receipts and correspondence addressed to William Rotch, Jr., including an 1809 printed letter of solicitation from Horatio G. Spafford, a Hudson, New York, writer and geographer. The series also includes two “Bills for absences and omission of exercises and duties” from Harvard University, dated 1835 and 1836. The bills are addressed to B. S. Rotch, who is probably Benjamin Smith Rotch (1817-1882), son of Joseph Rotch, the grandson of William Rotch, Jr. and nephew of William R. Rotch.


  • 1808-1836

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information regarding access procedures.


.5 linear feet (1 box)

Biographical / Historical

The Rotch Family of Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts were heavily involved in the whaling industry through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Rotches were among the founders of New Bedford, Massachusetts, which became the world's busiest whaling port in the early nineteenth century. The children and grandchildren of family patriarch William Rotch (1734-1828) sent whaling ships around the world, traded with many ports of call, and enlarged their holdings through investments in warehouses, wharves, candleworks, and other enterprises.

Like other New Bedford whaling families, they benefited from the increasingly international nature of the whaling trade in the years following the War of 1812. As William Rotch’s grandchildren assumed leadership of the family business in the 1810s and 1820s, the family engaged in trade with markets around the world. The Rotch children intermarried with other wealthy New Bedford whaling families, especially the Rodmans and Morgans.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 1998.

Related Materials

Baker Library Special Collections holds several other Rotch family materials, including an 1851-1854 account book for Rotch’s Wharf in New Bedford (Mss: 734 1851-1854 R842) and an 1871 account book kept by William J. Rotch (Mss: 252 1871 R842). The Correspondence of Boston and Newport Merchants collection contains a number of Rotch family business letters (Mss: 732 1732-1790 B747).

Processing Information

Processed: October 2020 By: Baker Library Special Collections Staff

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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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