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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:77 1685-1689 B747

Samuel Sewall journal

Scope and Contents

Journal kept by Samuel Sewall, who assumed his deceased father-in-law John Hull's retail and commission business in Boston, dated from 1685 to 1689. The volume contains general store accounts; invoices of goods sent and return cargo on voyages to Newfoundland, the West Indies, England, Europe, Virginia, and Connecticut; and expenses related to shipping such as outfitting vessels, cooperage, and maritime labor. Sewall traded lumber, oil, fish, iron, wheat, rum, fishing hooks and lines, dry goods, molasses, tobacco, salt, sugar, indigo, shoes, and occasionally Quaker texts. There are several “Bermuda cedar” accounts showing proceeds from cedar sold in Boston and London. Among the names in the volume are Sewall’s cousin Stephen Sewall of Salem, minister John Cotton (1640-1699), John Usher (1642-1722), treasurer of the Dominion of New England, shop keepers Thomas Savage and Christian Herridge, Edward Doty & Company, and John Morton of Plymouth. Sewall often accepted payment in barter: Captain Penn Townsend (1651-1727) was credited by French salt in July 1686; Bryant (or Brian) Maduket traded mackerel and labor for cash and cod hooks in September 1687; and in April 1688, sail maker John Painter bought a musket, for which he was to pay in “work or canvas.” The following month, he was credited for rigging and cod lines, and Sewall noted that the gun was returned to balance Painter’s account, “he being but a kind of a knave.” Mary Avery frequently bartered fabric she produced, such as 20 yards of black serge and a few yards of bunting in May 1687. In June 1687 there is an account for “the French contribution” involving transport of Indian corn; and in October 1688, an account with Massachusetts Bay Province related to storage and transport of shoes from Salem. In November 1688, several entries concern work at River House, formerly owned by Captain Daniel Henchman (1623-1685), such as carpentry, masonry, and hire of an enslaved man to clear the cellar. There are also several entries in late 1688 for a salary paid to Elizabeth Lane for unspecified services. Additionally included are accounts with John Fairweather (or Fayerweather) concerning fulling mill disbursements in March 1688/9.


  • 1685-1689


Conditions Governing Access

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


.25 linear feet (1 volume)

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Sewall (1652-1730; Harvard AB 1671) was a merchant, legislator, and colonial magistrate in Boston, Massachusetts. He served as a justice on the Superior Court of Judicature of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and in 1692 was part of the commission overseeing the Salem witchcraft trials. Prior to embarking on a career in politics and the judiciary, he married Hannah Hull, the daughter of Massachusetts mintmaster, merchant, and colonial Treasurer John Hull (1624-1683), in 1676, and thereafter helped manage his father-in-law's commercial business, which included operation of a general store in Boston, financing fishing voyages, and engaging in trade in the West Indies. Samuel Sewall continued to oversee John Hull's business interests after his death in 1683. He also was elected to the Board of Overseers of Harvard College in 1684.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by the Boston Public Library, 1933.

Digitization Funding

Collections and items have been digitized with the generous support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Processing Information

Processing Information To enhance discoverability, this collection was removed from an artificial collection of records of general stores in Massachusetts in January 2021. in foreign trade in December 2020.
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Baker Library
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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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