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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:733 1823-1869 H

James Hunnewell business papers

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, account books, and other papers of a Boston merchant engaged in trade in Hawaii and other Pacific islands. Although the bulk of the collection relates to James Hunnewell, there are business papers of James F. Hunnewell, Charles Brewer, and Henry A. Peirce. There are letters from a number of missionaries, including a few native ones. There are extensive ship papers and a dozen logbooks; ships represented by the most material include the Eliza Warwick, John Gilpin, Polynesia, Syren, and Washington Allston. There are papers relating to the Kansas Aid Fund (the Middlesex County Committee for) and the Sailors' Home Society, of Honolulu.

Correspondence with women in James Hunnewell's papers include letters from Susannah Hunnewell to her husband in the Sandwich Islands that discuss religion and the difficulty of living far apart. For all but seven months of the first eleven years of their marriage, James Hunnewell was living in the Pacific. The collection also includes seven letters from Elizabeth Dorr, secretary of the Dorchester Sailor's Friends Society, concerning the donation of books to be placed in a ship's library for the "spiritual renovation of our brethren of the deep."

Missionary S. M. Bingham (married to Rev. Hiram Bingham) wrote three letters to James Hunnewell. Her letters mainly discuss her hopes for his conversion. Two letters from Lucy Whiting (S. M. Bingham's sister) concern Sophia and Lucy Bingham (daughters of the Binghams) who were sent back to the United States to be educated.

Maria Chamberlain, the widow of Rev. Levi Chamberlain, wrote four letters to James Hunnewell while living in Honolulu. Topics include her financial situation, her children, selling her home, her work as a missionary, and the education of Maria Kekela, a Hawaiian girl being raised by one of the missionary women.


  • Creation: 1809-1883
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1823-1869


Conditions Governing Access

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


37 linear feet (135 volumes, 34 boxes, 17 cartons)

Biographical / Historical

James Hunnewell was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1794. He set sail on a merchant voyage to Hawaii in 1823. He returned twice more and began a commission business purchasing sandalwood from Hawaiian natives. Hunnewell also ventured into the whaling industry, sugar trade, and fur trade. Henry Peirce became partner with Hunnewell in 1828 and by 1830 with Hunnewell back in Boston, his firm merged with C. Brewer and Company. Hunnwell died in 1869.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

James M. Hunnewell, 1933.

Existence and Location of Copies

Parts of this collection are available on microfilm. Selected items from boxes 1, 3, 6, 7, and 8 are available on Order number 98-1754, reel 16. Selected items from box 13 are available on Order number 98-1754, reel 17. Shaw and Gray letters available on Order number 82-4489, reel 1.

Baker Library
September 2018
Description rules
Language of description

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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