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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:733 1785-1806 H864

Humphrey Howland account books

Scope and Contents

Two account books of merchant and shipowner Humphrey Howland (1759-1812), of New Bedford, Massachusetts, containing records of a general store, trade of whale oil and fish and Howland's commissions on sales, operation of a spermaceti works and a wharf, and coastwise shipping and West Indies voyages. Volume one is a daybook with entries related to shipping, shipfitting, wharfage, dockage, and storage of commodities, sales of general merchandise, and wages paid to employees of the spermaceti works and maritime laborers, dated 1785-1806. Vessels that docked at his wharf included the Surprise, Industry, William, Triton, and Nancy. $$b Volume two is a ledger dated 1783 to 1806, which includes accounts of the new store Howland opened with Jeremiah Mayhew in 1789; customers who bought merchandise like flour, Bohea tea, salt, dry goods, and spermaceti candles; ships owned by Howland and other merchants; wharfage and dockage; and sailors and laborers employed by Howland. Ship accounts contain charges for painting, graving, outfitting, and related work. Some payments were made in barter: Ruth Bowdish exchanged four weeks of nursing for fabrics; rock blower Phillip Mason traded two days of work for a silk and cotton handkerchief and cash delivered to his wife. An account against an African American named Samuel Johnson, possibly a whaleman, contains charges for wharfage, storage of whalebone, Howland's commission, and cash, credited by cash received for gallons of oil; Johnson signed a receipt for the balance he was owed in 1793. Other names in the volume include Exator (or Extor) Dick from the sloop Nancy, printer John Spooner, painter Charles Church, Joseph Quonewell, and whalers William Rotch, Sr., William Rotch, Jr., and Joseph Rotch. There is an index to accounts at the end of the ledger.


  • 1783-1806

Conditions Governing Access

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


.5 linear feet (2 volumes)

Biographical / Historical

Humphrey Howland (1759-1812) was a merchant and ship owner in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He owned shares in the sloop Betsey and ship Hope, and he also owned a wharf and was partner in a spermaceti works. As a merchant, he traded dry goods, feathers, hoop iron, bar iron, tea, and commodities from the West Indies.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Clara Bennett.

Processing Information

Processed: January 2019 By: Brooke McManus

Howland, Humphrey, 1759-1812. Humphrey Howland Account Books, 1783-1806 (inclusive): A Finding Aid
Baker Library
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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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