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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:766 1859-1885 P561

John C. Phillips business records


Business records kept by Boston, Mass. shipping merchant John C. Phillips while he was in the employ of R.C. Mackay & Son and later head of John C. Phillips & Company. Phillips engaged in trade with India, China, South America and the West Indies.


  • 1859-1885

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Contact for more information.


7.5 linear feet (28 volumes, 2 boxes)

The collection contains the business records of John C. Phillips while he was in the employ of R.C. Mackay & Company, a Boston, Mass. merchant shipping firm with interests in Calcutta, India. Included are unbound shipping records pertaining to ship's cargo, accounts current, sales and invoices, journals, ledgers, cash books, and letter books. All of the financial records appear to be associated with the firm of R.C. Mackay & Co., with the exception of volume 8, trial balances for John C. Phillips & Co. The earliest letter books detail business transactions, while in Calcutta and later while Phillips was overseeing the foreign correspondence of the firm from Boston. Volumes 15-18 and 20 contain letters relating to the Danville silver mines that Phillips had invested in with correspondence with Alexander Trippel. There is also one volume of correspondence containing letters sent by Trippel to Phillips and an volume of unbound material consisting of pay rolls and cash accounts giving figures for the expenses of the mines.

Biographical Note:

John C. Phillips was born in Boston in 1838. He graduated from Harvard University in 1858 and was employed as a clerk in the office of R.C. Mackay & Son, a shipping firm owned by R.C. Mackay and his son George H. Mackay. In 1860, he sailed to Calcutta as supercargo of the ship Art Union. He remained in Calcutta for two years serving as an agent for R.C. Mackay & Son until 1862, when he returned to Boston and was in charge of the firm's foreign correspondence. While in India, Phillips lived with Mackay & Sons contact and business associate, Radha Kissen Mitter. Between 1865 and approximately 1877, Phillips was in partnership with R.C. Mackay's eldest son, William, in the general commission merchant firm William Mackay & Company, and later Mackay & Phillips. Phillips organized and operated his own firm, John C. Phillips & Company some time around 1877 in New York City with Augustus Floyd and E.W. Stevens acting as his forwarding agents. Phillips directed affairs from his home in Boston. The firm was dissolved some time in 1884. Phillips died in 1885.

In December, 1877, John C. Phillips purchased the Danville Mines(Silver) located in Danville, Nye County, Nevada. His agent in the transaction of thisaffair was Alexander Trippel, who became manager of the mines, andMr. Phillips acted almost wholly on his advice in the operation ofthe mines.There is one letter book, 1880-1884, in which all the lettersare from Alexander Trippel to Mr. Phillips, and from these lettersand Mr. Phillips' replies in Vol. 16,one may gather a very satisfactory picture of the mines. Mr. Phillipssaid at the outset that he would spend up to a total of $40,000 onthe mines. After spending $25.000 in excess of his limit, he andTrippel considered forming a 'stock company, to raise funds to furtheroperate the mines. Mr. Phillips stipulated that he would not endeavorto get any of his friends to buy stock in the mines; his reasonsfor this decision were wholly creditable to him. The stock companynever was formed however, and before he was, through Mr. Phillips hadexpended a total of $91,000. There was much trouble about obtainingclear titles to the mines.Mr. Trippel was optimistic to the very last, and seemed to behonest in his opinion that, silver would be found in paying quantities,if only they had a sufficiently large force working the minesto get it out. Phillips wrote that the work was to beshut down after Jan. l, 1882. Trippel at this time is in charge ofa copper mining company at Silver City, New Mexico though still keeping a supervision over the mines in Danville,and presumably continuing his correspondence with Mr. Phillips regardingthem.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Shipping records, 1859-1885
  2. Series II. Mining records, 1877-1884

Physical Location



Gift of John C. Phillips, Nov. 11, 1925

Phillips, John C., -1885. John C. Phillips Business Records, 1859-1885: 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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