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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:766 1843-1864

Benjamin Newton business records


The business records of China trader Captain Benjamin Newton includes financial records and correspondence detailing his business dealings, 1836-1864.


  • Creation: 1836-1864


Conditions Governing Access

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


3 linear feet (2 boxes)

The Benjamin Newton papers contain personal and professional correspondence, shipping, and financial records pertaining to Newton's work as supercargo for various merchant firms involved in the China trade during the 1840s to 1860s. The bulk of Newton's business papers are financial and shipping records consisting of charters, agreements, bills, invoices, accounts, and accounts current with specific merchant firms.

The correspondence includes letters to well-known firms including Gordon & Talbot of New York City, Olyphant & Co. of Canton, and Augustine Heard & Co. of Canton. The letters highlight the movement of goods, market prices of merchandise, and the overall economic climate. Newton traded various goods including tea, rattan, spices, firecrackers, silk, and oils. Letters from Newton's nephew John B. Newton relate to his travels to California to seek business opportunities, the arrival of ships loaded with goods, sales of merchandise for profits, and overall economic climate in San Francisco, California. Benjamin's brother James and his nephew John B. collaborated in a San Francisco wholesale dry goods and commission merchant business and with Benjamin's connection to Augustine Heard & Co. the firm was able to import goods from China. Also included are personal letters from family members including his brothers Edward and James, 1844-1864.

Biographical Note:

Benjamin Newton was a native of Newport, Rhode Island. He acted in the capacity of supercargo and roving merchant for cargoes of many vessels rather than as master of a single ship. In1844-1845, he sailed with the Huntress to Canton and there helped disposeof her cargo. In 1847-1849 and 1849-1850 the Talbot sailed underCapt. Story and Capt. Blish to Singapore while Newton traveled byan overland route through Europe and met the ship at Singapore to sellits cargo. He did the same when the Esther sailed to Canton underCaptain Stevens in 1850. Newton acted as a sort of roving agent for the New York commission merchant Gordon & Talbot and the closely aligned Canton merchant firm Olyphant & Co. The founding partners in both Gordon & Talbot and Olyphant & Co. were also Newport families and it's mostly likely this connection that brought Newton to China. By 1852, Newton was back in the United States, first in Newport and later in New York City. Newton's brother James and his nephew John partnered in a San Francisco, California wholesale dry goods and commission business which Benjamin helped facilitate through his connections with Augustine Heard & Co.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Business papers, 1836-1864

Physical Location



Gift of Charles H. Taylor

Processing Information

Processed: November 2011

By: Benjamin Johnson



Newton, Benjamin. Benjamin Newton Business Records, 1836-1864
Baker Library
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Repository Details

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

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives 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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