Skip to main content

Richard P. Waters (1807-1887) Papers

Richard P. Waters (1807-1887) Papers

1 of 2
Open Finding Aid
small (250x250 max)
medium (500x500 max)
Extra Large
large ( > 500x500)
Full Resolution

RICHARD P. WATERS (1807-1887) PAPERS, 1837-1866


Processing and conservation of this collection was funded in part by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Waters, Richard Palmer, 1807-1887
Title:Richard P. Waters (1807-1887) Papers
Quantity:0.25 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The collection has been divided into three series: Shipping Papers, Consular Papers, and Personal and Miscellaneous Papers.
Collection Number:MSS 230

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers
SERIES II. Consular Papers
SERIES III. Personal and Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The collection has been divided into three series: Shipping Papers, Consular Papers, and Personal and Miscellaneous Papers.

Series I. Shipping Papers include correspondence, bills, and receipts. The shipping correspondence provides documentation of trade conducted on behalf of Salem merchants. Correspondence between Waters and Said Bin Sultan of Muscat reveals the degree of intimacy reached between the two men and the extent of their common business affairs. All untranslated letters in Arabic are located in this section.

Series II. Consular Papers include diplomatic correspondence with His Highness Said Bin Sultan. A dispatch signed by U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster regarding trade on the East Coast of Africa is also located in the Consular Correspondence. Arrivals/Departure lists contain information concerning other ports of call, number of crew members, and values and types of cargoes landed for each vessel not written on the consular form.

Series III. Personal and Miscellaneous Papers include Social Debating Society Minutes which provide interesting insights on the opinions of Salem residents on a number of contemporaneous social and political issues.

Biographical Sketch

Richard Palmer Waters (1807-1887) was born at Salem, Massachusetts on September 29, 1807, the youngest child of Robert and Lydia (Gellison) Waters. Because of the early death of his father, Richard assumed an adult's responsibilities at an early age. The bulk of his education was received in the counting houses of Salem, and by his twenty-fifth year, he was master of a small retail store. Throughout his life he was allied with the abolitionist cause and was a supporter of the Crombie Street Church. In the early 1830s Salem merchants such as Michael Shepard and John Bertram took an active interest in trade with Zanzibar. With their assistance, the endorsement of ex-Senator Nathaniel Silsbee and an introduction to President Jackson by Stephen C. Phillips, Waters became the first American Consul at Zanzibar. While in Zanzibar he acted as an agent for a number of Salem merchants, including David Pingree and Benjamin and George West. The fortune he made in Zanzibar enabled Waters to purchase the Cherry Hill Estate in North Beverly upon his return to American in 1845. Waters was elected to the State Legislature in 1855 and was an active member of the Essex Agricultural Society, the Essex Historical Society and the Essex County Natural History Society. He died unmarried at Cherry Hill on May 19, 1887.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Sa‘īd bin Sulṭān, Sultan of Zanzibar, 1791-1856
Waters, John G., 1796-1860
Social Debating Society (Salem, Mass.)
Consular documents
Letter writing
United States--Diplomatic and consular service--Zanzibar


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Richard P. Waters (1807-1887) Papers, MSS 230, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The origin of the Richard P. Waters Papers is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, September 1987. Updated by Catherine Robertson, January 2014.

Related Material

Bennett, Norman Robert, "Americans in Zanzibar: 1825-1845." Essex Institute Historical Collections. 95 (3): 239-262.

Bennett, Norman Robert, "Americans in Zanzibar, 1845-1865." Essex Institute Historical Collections. 97 (1): 31-56.

Berman, Edward H. "Salem and Zanzibar, 1825-1850: Twenty-Five Years of Commercial Relations." Essex Institute Historical Collections. 105 (4): 338-362.

Eilts, Hermann Frederick. "Ahmed Bin Na'aman's Mission to the United States in 1840: The Voyage of Al-Sultanah to New York City." Essex Institute Historical Collections. (98) (4) 219-277.

Northway, Philip E. "Salem and the Zanzibar-East African Trade, 1825-1845." Essex Institute Historical Collections. 90 (2): 123-153.

"Richard Palmer Waters: A Sketch." Bulletin of the Essex Institute, 20: 174-191.

Richard P. Waters Papers, 1831-1939, MH 14

you wish to report:

Select the collections to add or remove from your search