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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:766 1837-1867 A211

Adams family business papers


Business papers of shipping and commission merchant brothers Calvin and William H. Adams of Bangor, Maine and New York City.


  • 1837-1867

Conditions Governing Access

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


5.5 linear feet (8 boxes)

The Adams family business papers contain correspondence, ship's papers, financial records and crew lists for commission merchant shipping voyages taken by Bangor, Maine resident and ship captain William H. Adams and his brother Calvin Adams. The collection includes three series: Business correspondence; Ship's papers; and Financial and legal papers. The correspondence includes letters primarily sent to William H. Adams from his brother Calvin and others with instructions for voyages, the sale of cargo, cost of supplies and labor, general economic health, travels and occasionally family news and information. Much of the correspondence is of a routine nature with updates and general discussion of daily news. The bulk of the correspondence dates from 1855 to 1856.

The ship's papers detail merchant voyages to the West Indies, Europe, the Azores, South America, San Francisco and New Orleans from Bangor, Maine or New York City. Included are charter parties, crew lists, receipts, bills, accounts, cargo lists, and bills of lading pertaining to goods transported and purchased on behalf of customers. The bulk of the material was accumulated while on a specific merchant voyage and is organized by the name of the ship. The majority of the ships that were operated and or owned by the Adams brothers made more than one merchant voyage. The financial and legal papers of the Adams' include bills, receipts, accounts, powers of attorney, passports and miscellaneous financial records that document the Adams' merchant shipping business. This material is arranged chronologically. Also included in the Adams family business papers are printed nautical books most likely used by Calvin and William H. Adams when sailing to various ports. The nautical books contain piloting instructions, general landmarks, and navigation information.

Biographical Note:

Calvin and William H. Adams were brothers and ship captains and shipping and commission merchants based in New York City and Bangor, Maine during the mid 18th century. Calvin and William were born circa 1815 and 1818, respectively, in Nova Scotia and emigrated to the United States settling in Bangor, Maine in the early 19th century. Beginning in 1839, the Adams brothers were involved in merchant shipping as captains of the schooner Vanda out of Bangor, Maine transporting lumber from Maine forests to St. Thomas and Guadeloupe in the West Indies in exchange for sugar, tobacco, flour and other general merchandise. Merchant voyages were also made to Chile, Ireland, Italy, Cuba, the Azores, and San Francisco in various ships carrying lumber in exchange for various goods and commodities including molasses, animal hides, and cotton. Sometime around 1850, Calvin Adams retired from sea and began a shipping and commission merchant business located at 29 South Street in New York City. Calvin Adams had an eye for business and invested wisely in real estate and shipping. He held large interests in numerous ships including the Helicon, Donati, Harry of the West and Garibaldi. William continued to command his brother's ships on merchant voyages until at least 1864.

William married Louisa Maria Emery of Hampden, Maine in 1845. They had three children, Ella Louisa, William Henry and George Emery. William died in 1868 in Bangor.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Business correspondence, 1838-1864
  2. Series II. Ship's papers, 1839-1864
  3. Series III. Financial and legal papers, 1837-1867
  4. Series IV. Printed nautical books, 1826-1861

Physical Location



Purchase, 2009.

Related Material:

See also the Stetson family business records (Mss:201 1822-1880) for correspondence of William H. Adams with Emery, Stetson, & Company.

Processing Information

Processed: February 2013

By: Benjamin Johnson

Processing Note:

The crew lists were unfolded and are now stored separately from the ship's papers in a large flat box.

Adams Family. Adams Family Business Papers, 1837-1867: 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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