Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:766 1754-1898

Heard family business records


Business and personal records of the Heard family of Ipswich, Mass., commission merchants in the China trade during the 19th century. Records include personal and business correspondence, diaries, financial records, and legal documents.


  • 1734-1901

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Some materials may be stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Contact for more information.

Due to preservation concerns, researchers are required to use microfilm copies of papers when available. Please contact reference staff at for more information regarding this collection and use of microfilm.


400 linear feet (800 volumes, 272 boxes, 102 cartons)
The collection is broken into two distinct series, Heard family business records, 1734-1901 and Augustine Heard & Company China records, 1827-1892. See History of the Collection's Arrangement for a more detailed understanding of the arrangement.

Series I of the Heard family business records contains the business records and personal papers of several generations of the Heard family. The oldest group of papers, 1734-1888, is that of John Heard, who made his wealth from the manufacture and sale of rum, the outfitting of privateers during the Revolution, and trade with the West Indies. The largest and most important group of papers in the collection is that of Augustine Heard and his various partnerships. His papers cover, first, his travels as supercargo for Boston and Salem merchants who were trading in the Far East, then his activities as partner in the great shipping firm of Russell and Company. In 1836 he left Russell and Company and by 1840 he had become the head of his own firm, Augustine Heard and Company, founded with friend Joseph Coolidge.

The collection contains the business records and personal papers of Augustine Heard's four nephews John Heard 3rd, Augustine Heard Jr. (II), Albert Farley Heard, and George Washington Heard, Jr. (also known as George Farley Heard). Also included in the collection are records and papers pertaining to Heard's involvement in the Ipswich Manufacturing Company, Dane Manufacturing Company, Ipswich Mills, and Roxbury Land Company. Papers with indirect relationship to Heard family members include James Haughton & Company, Franklin Nail Works, John W. Stark, William Dodge, and Francis J. Oliver as agent for Morrison, Cryder & Company.

Series II of the Heard family business records contains the Augustine Heard & Company China records, 1827-1888. This material was created at the company's multiple China headquarters including Canton, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, as well as Yokohama, Japan. Records located in this series include business and financial papers, shipping papers, correspondence, insurance records, contracts, printed material, and miscellaneous material relating to Augustine Heard & Company.

Historical/Biographical Note:

Merchant family from Ipswich, Massachusetts principally engaged in the China trade. Augustine Heard (1785-1868) established Augustine Heard and Company in 1840 with partner and friend Joseph Coolidge. Heard managed the business before retiring leaving day to day operations to his four nephews. The records deal with Augustine Heard & Co. which carried on a commission business in China from 1840 to the spring of 1875. The first office was in Canton but in November or December 1856 the records were moved to Hong Kong for safety and the main office was established there in the fall of 1857. Branch offices were opened in Foochow, Shanghai, Yokohama and agents were established in other treaty ports. During the first few years the company handled the business of Jardine, Matheson & Co. since at that time England and China were at war. During this early period, Heard & Co., as well as others dealt in opium, which was secured from India and sold to the Chinese merchants from receiving ships. The Heards owned three quarters of Lady Hayes at Cumsingmoon from 1846 to 1854. In 1858 the Chinese government was forced to admit opium into the country and imposed a duty. After 1858 the huge profits from dealing in it probably disappeared. The United States government forbid its citizens from selling it to the Chinese but Heard & Co. continued to handle it.

Another source of profit was the first shipping on the Yangtze River after several ports were opened to trade. In 1867 Heard & Co. and Russell & Co. agreed to divide the steamboat traffic; the former took that between Hong Kong, Canton and Macao and the latter took that on the Yangtze River. After this date the company apparently prospered less and less and failed on April 19, 1875. There were several contributing causes. One was that Everett & Co., agents in the United States misappropriated funds. Another was that the possibilities for easy profits were disappearing in China and still another was the fact that the ablest of the brothers, Augustine, Jr. was not in China after 1871. An attempt was made to continue the business under a different name but that failed by the end of 1876.

John Heard (1744-1834) was born in Ipswich in 1744 to Mary Dane and Daniel Heard. He first entered the working class as a house wright, following in his father's footsteps. In 1766 he married Elizabeth Ann Story (1745-1775) and had three children, including John, Jr. In 1770 he went into the distillery business with his brother-in-law William Story, Jr., son of a distillery owner. He later became sole owner of the distillery and expanded the business after the Revolution by importing rum from the West Indies. He married Sarah Staniford in 1777 and they had nine children including Augustine, George Washington, and Mary Heard. He was appointed the Coroner of Essex County, a position he held from 1778-1796. He died in 1834.

Augustine Heard (1785-1868) was born in Ipswich in 1785 to Sarah Staniford and John Heard. At the age of 18 he sailed to India as a supercargo and began a successful career as a merchant sailing from Ipswich to South America, Europe, India, and England. In 1830, Heard sailed to Canton, China and entered into the trading firm of Russell & Company at the age of 45. By 1838 he began his own China trading firm with his friend Joseph Coolidge under the name Augustine Heard & Company. After establishing the company as one of the largest in China, Heard returned to Ipswich and invested with his brother and brother-in-law in the Ipswich Manufacturing Company. He died in 1868.

George Washington Heard (1793-1863) was born in Ipswich in 1793 and graduated from Harvard in 1812. He married Elizabeth Ann Farley (1802-1865) in 1823 and had six children: John (1824-1894); Augustine (1827-1905); Margaret (1830-1831); Albert Farley (1833-1890); and George Washington (1837-1875), who later legally changed his name to George Farley Heard. He was involved in business in Ipswich until 1837 when he moved to Boston to become a partner in James Haughton & Company, a dry goods dealer. When the company failed he moved back to Ipswich and founded the Ipswich Manufacturing Company with his brother and brother-in-law. He died in 1863.

John Heard, Jr. (1775-1839) was the son of John Heard and his first wife Elizabeth Ann Story. He graduated Harvard in 1795 and studied law in Boston. He married Susan Oliver (1780-1863) and died in 1839. His half sister was Mary Heard (1796-1869). She was the daughter of Sarah Staniford and John Heard.

Augustine Heard, Jr. (II) (1827-1905) was born in Ipswich in 1827. He graduated Harvard in 1847 and sailed for China to learn the family business. He was employed in Canton and served as the head of Augustine Heard & Company. He married Jane Leep deConnick in 1858, daughter of a Belgian diplomat to Cuba. He served as a roving agent for Augustine Heard & Co. representing the firm in Europe. After the dissolution of the company he served as the US consul to Korea from 1890-1894. He died in 1905.

Albert Farley Heard (1833-1890) was born in Ipswich in 1833. He graduated from Yale University in 1853 and began working in the family firm in China shortly thereafter. He married Mary Allen Livingston in 1868, but later divorced without having any children. After Augustine Heard & Company filed for bankruptcy, Albert stayed in Europe and managed a metallurgical foundry in Bayonne, France for a number of years. After the death of his ex-wife he moved back to the United States and served as private secretary for William C. Endicott, Secretary of War. He died in 1890.

George Washington Heard, Jr. (1837-1875) was born in Ipswich in 1837. George W. Heard, Jr. legally changed his middle name to Farley. He sailed to China in 1859 as private secretary of the American delegation at the negotiation of the Treaty of Tientsin. After the Treaty negotiations were complete he entered his uncle's business as manager at Canton. He was the last of his brothers to serve the company. After the firm filed for bankruptcy he sailed for the United States aboard the S.S. Anadye, but died at sea in 1875.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:
  1. Series I. Heard family business records, 1734-1901
  2. ___ Subseries A. John Heard 1st (1744-1834), 1734-1888
  3. ___ Subseries B. Augustine Heard (1785-1868), 1805-1873
  4. ___ Subseries C. George W. Heard (1793-1863), 1816-1866
  5. ___ Subseries D. John Heard, Jr. (1775-1839), and Mary Heard (1796-1869), 1830-1870
  6. ___ Subseries E. Augustine Heard & Co. (1839-Apr. 19, 1875), 1839-1893
  7. ___ Subseries F. John Heard, 3rd (1824-1894), 1816-1901
  8. ___ Subseries G. Augustine Heard, Jr. (1827-1905), 1845-1892
  9. ___ Subseries H. Albert F. Heard (1833-1890), 1838-1893
  10. ___ Subseries J. George W. Heard, Jr. (1837-1875), 1847-1880
  11. ___ Subseries K. Ipswich Manufacturing Co., 1822-1864
  12. ___ Subseries L. Dane Manufacturing Co., 1841-1893
  13. ___ Subseries M. Ipswich Mills or Ipswich Cotton Mills, 1845-1861
  14. ___ Subseries N. Roxbury Land Co., 1836-1868
  15. ___ Subseries P. James Haughton & Company, 1839-1843
  16. ___ Subseries Q. Francis J. Oliver Agent for Morrison, Cryder & Co., 1828-1852
  17. ___ Subseries R. William Dodge, 1817-1833
  18. ___ Subseries S. Franklin Nail Works, 1836-1847
  19. ___ Subseries T. John W. Stark, 1823-1865
  20. ___ Subseries U. Heard House material, 1860-1875
  21. ___ Subseries V. Administrative Records, 1842-1875
  22. Series II. Augustine Heard & Company China records, 1827-1892
  23. ___ Subseries A. Business and financial papers, 1827-1891
  24. ___ Subseries B. Shipping, 1844-1875
  25. ___ Subseries C. Correspondence, 1842-1892
  26. ___ Subseries D. A. Heard & Co., Insurance Agents, Canton Office, 1841-1875
  27. ___ Subseries E. Agreements, Contracts, Powers of Attorney, 1841-1875
  28. ___ Subseries F. Chronological Miscellaneous manuscripts and printed material, 1844-1876
History of the Collection's Arrangement It is not possible to ascertain the collection's original order. A finding aid was prepared for Heard I and it is clear from the explanation of the record categories given there that this part of the collection was substantially rearranged.

Heard II was first sorted by Jardine, Matheson & Co. representative G. J. Yorke in Hong Kong in 1935. A calendar of a portion of letters received by A. Heard & Co. offices in China (1845-1849) was made under the supervision of professor David Owen while the collection was held at Yale. (These records can be found in Series I, Subseries V. Administrative Records, 1827-1892.) In May 1942 this collection of material of Augustine Heard & Co. was transferred to us from Yale University which had received it from Jardine, Matheson & Co. in 1936. In a hong in China the worms had eaten into many of the books so that when they arrived here they were very dusty and dirty. The unbound material was sorted in 1942-1943 and the papers arranged up to 1854.

After the collection was transferred to Baker Library in 1942, the unbound material up to and including the year 1855 was sorted and, it seems, rearranged. As a result, Owen's calendar can no longer be easily used as the letters it describes have apparently been dispersed. Later, in 1956-1957, the rest of the collection was organized. This portion was weeded and substantially rearranged. An electronic finding aid for Heard II was prepared which included an index to both Heard I and II, as well as several lists. Keyword searching this electronic finding aid has rendered the indexes and lists no longer applicable. When this electronic finding aid was prepared, the material in Heard II was intellectually rearranged for ease of use. Like materials were grouped together and organized under appropriate subseries titles.

From 1986-1991, the entire collection was microfilmed.

Physical Location



The Heard Collection came to Baker Library in four lots. The first, Heard I, was purchased from Alice Heard in 1931. It was accessioned as 525 volumes in 1939. This material now makes up Series I. Heard I, Part 2 was a gift of the Ipswich Historical Society in 1984 consisting of 3 manuscript boxes. This material is now located in Series I, Subseries U. A letter book, given as a gift by John Heard in 1941, had been placed with Heard I, Part 2. This letter book is now located in Series I, Subseries U, Item 4.

Heard II consists of 503 volumes, 103 cartons and 4 boxes. It was originally part of a 1000 cubic foot body of records from Jardine, Matheson & Co. found in a Hong Kong warehouse in 1934. (Jardine, Matheson & Co. had been trustee for the liquidation of A. Heard & Co. in 1875.) The collection originally went as a gift to Yale in 1935, but was transferred to Baker Library in 1942. This material is now located in Series II of this finding aid.

A small part of the Heard Collection has been sent elsewhere. Some medical notes (1814-1815) were transferred to the Harvard Medical School, and papers concerning the education of some family members at Harvard (1803-1823) were transferred to the Harvard University Archives.

Alternative Format Available:

The entire collection of Heard Family business records is available on microfilm (670 reels, 35 mm).

Related Materials

See also Elizabeth Heard papers for correspondence of Augustine Heard's nephews to their mother Elizabeth Heard.

Processing Information

This collection was first processed in the 1940s and since has been microfilmed. In an effort to keep the material in the same order as the microfilm, the original physical organization of the collection has been maintained. Material is organized by Heard family member and company. Within each series a letter has been given to each type of material, i.e.: administrative records, day books, correspondence, etc. Each letter corresponds to a type of material for a certain Heard family member or company. For example, John Heard's administrative records are AA with a numeric volume or box indicator following the letter sequence.

It has been difficult to draw a hard and fast line in the division of Augustine Heard's papers. Heard's personal and family papers have been placed in Subseries B as have all of his business papers up to 1841. A. Heard & Company was established in 1841. All of Augustine Heard's business papers after 1841 have been placed in Subseries E. His correspondence of 1839 with Joseph Coolidge, Jr., has been placed under Subseries E because it relates to the founding of A. Heard & Co. To learn of all his activities the papers under each division should be examined.
Processing Information Preservation and description of 18th century material in this collection were supported by the Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.
Link to catalog
Heard Family. Heard Family Business Records, 1734-1901: A Finding Aid
Baker Library

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.

Baker Library | Bloomberg Center
Soldiers Field Road
Boston MA 01263 USA
(617) 495-6411