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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:766 1750-1845 B879

Moses Brown papers


Moses Brown was a Newburyport, Mass. landowner, shipbuilder, and shipping merchant. The collection includes correspondence and business papers for Brown's activities as a sugar, molasses, and rum trader.


  • 1750-1846 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1790-1803

Conditions Governing Access

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


6.5 linear feet (9 boxes)

The papers date from 1750 to 1846, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1790 to 1803. Included is correspondence, business papers consisting of financial papers, shipping papers, and legal papers, and distillery house orders for rum. Correspondence includes letters to Moses Brown by ship captains, merchants, and domestic and foreign agents. The letters that relate to the price of goods, cargo purchased and sold, updates on voyages to the southern cities in the United States, the West Indies, and Europe, and shipping details. Business papers include shipping papers consisting of bills of lading, sailing orders, crew lists, ship manifests, and ship account books; financial papers including receipts, bills, invoices for sales and cash disbursements, account statements, and prices current; and legal papers such as contracts, agreements to purchase real estate, and cases involving the illegal seizure of ships owned by Brown. Also included are distillery house orders for rum.

Biographical Note:

Moses Brown was a prominent landowner, shipbuilder, and merchant from Newburyport, Massachusetts, who invested in the sugar, molasses, and rum trade during the late 18th and early 19th century. Brown was born on October 2, 1742 in Newbury, Mass., the youngest of thirteen children to Joseph, Jr. and Abigail Pearson Brown. He was apprenticed to a chaise maker when he was a boy. After his apprenticeship he moved to Newburyport to start his own chaise making and repair business. Using some of the earnings he made before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Brown invested in the importation of sugar and molasses from the West Indies. He profited considerably from this investment and, following the war, he devoted his full effort to this business by exporting lumber, meat, fish, and dry goods and importing sugar and molasses to distill rum. He expanded his holdings by purchasing ships and widespread real estate, especially wharves, warehouses, and distilleries along the Newburyport waterfront. By 1790 Brown was the second wealthiest man in Newburyport and would soon become its largest real estate holder. His fleet of ships sailed to the Carolinas, West Indies, and parts of northern Europe. He was a very active investor with several other prominent Newburyport merchants, especially William Bartlet, in such undertakings as the Newburyport Marine Insurance Company, the Merrimack Bank, Plum Island Company Turnpike, the Newburyport Woolen Manufactory, and the Andover Theological Institution. In 1791 he bought Tristram Dalton’s home at 94 State Street in Newburyport and lived there until his death on February 9, 1827.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Correspondence, 1788-1817
  2. Series II. Business papers, 1750-1846
  3. Subseries A: Shipping papers, 1783-1845
  4. Subseries B: Financial papers, 1769-1846
  5. Subseries C: Legal papers, 1750-1823
  6. Series III. Distillery house orders, 1792
  7. Series IV. Miscellaneous material, 1795-1802, undated

Physical Location



Purchase, 2003.

Accession no.: M-03-004

Related Materials

Moses Brown Papers, 1792-1801. Milne Special Collections. University of New Hampshire.

Moses Brown Papers. South Caroliniana Library. University of South Carolina.

Moses Brown Papers, 1777-1815. General Library. Department of Special Collections. University of California-Davis

Moses Brown Papers. Southern Historical Collection. Manuscripts Department, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Processing Information

Processed: March 2009

By: Benjamin Johnson Preservation and enhanced description were supported by the Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.

Brown, Moses, 1742-1827. Moses Brown Papers, 1750-1846 (inclusive), 1790-1803 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Baker Library
Language of description

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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