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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:766 1840-1889

William Appleton and Company records


The business records of Boston, Massachusetts shipping merchant William Appleton and Company and successor firm Samuel Hooper and Company, 1813-1889.


  • Creation: 1813-1889


Conditions Governing Access

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


75 linear feet (91 volumes, 91 boxes)

The business records of William Appleton and Company and successor Samuel Hooper and Company contain financial material, correspondence and shipping papers that document the Boston, Massachusetts based merchant shipping business founded by William Appleton, James A. Appleton, and Samuel Hooper in 1841. The bulk of the loose papers include letters and accounts current from merchant firms, bankers and agents in various parts of the world including Augustine Heard & Co., Russell & Co., and Baring Brothers. The financial records include bills, invoices, and accounts that document the day to day business operations of the firm from the 1840s to 1880s. The firm dealt in various commodities including textiles, teas, spices, lumber, and coffee. The shipping papers are organized by individual ship and contain crew lists, bills of lading, accounts, payroll, letters, and insurance records. These records document the life of a ship, occasionally through a number of voyages. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence between William Appleton and Company and its ship captains, local purchasing agents, merchant firms, and partners. Personal papers include diaries of William Appleton and Samuel Abbot Lawrence and letter books of William Appleton and his family including his wife, Mary Ann Appleton and daughter, Sarah Appleton Lawrence.

Biographical / Historical

William Appleton (1786-1862) was born in North Brookfield, Massachusetts and moved to Boston at an early age where he was employed in a store that bought and sold goods and crockery from the West Indies. Between 1826 and 1841 he was in business for himself owning a counting-house. In 1841 he partnered with his son James Amory Appleton and Samuel Hooper (1808-1875) in the merchant shipping firm, William Appleton and Company. In 1851, Franklin Gordon Dexter and John H. Reed were admitted as junior partners in the counting house, which had expanded and was conducting a large volume of business in the China trade. In 1859, William Appleton retired from the firm leaving Dexter and Hooper as partners. The partners renamed the firm Samuel Hooper and Company, which continued until after Hooper's death in 1875. Hooper had been working for his father-in-law, William Sturgis, as a junior partner in Bryant, Sturgis & Co. William Appleton and Company's first business transaction was trading hides in California. Bryant & Sturgis had been dealing in the Pacific hide market for nearly twenty years and Hooper had been involved as a junior partner in the firm. With Hooper and former Bryant & Sturgis supercargo, Henry Mellus acting as their agent in California, William Appleton and Company made a handsome first profit. The company continued to ship cargoes to California in exchange for hides and gold. In addition, the firm had numerous international connections including Augustine Heard & Co. and Russell & Co. in Canton, Martin Murray and Company in India, and Peele, Hubble and Company in Manila. Coarser textile manufactures along with some raw cotton, grains and lumber were shipped to China and the East Indies in exchange for tea, silks, mattings and rice from China; hemp, sugar, indigo and coffee from Manila; and tin, pepper, and coffee from Batavia. The firm also purchased coffee in Rio de Janeiro, which they exchanged for cotton in New Orleans to be shipped to Liverpool. Cary and Company were the agents in New York and J.C. Burnham and Company represented them in New Orleans and Havana. During the 1870s, the company restructured its investments relying heavily on manufacturing and railroads.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Gordon Dexter, 1927. 16 volumes of diaries and letter books, 1813-1861, were gift of W. Appleton Lawrence, 1950.

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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