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Chaplin Conway (1797-1872) Papers

Chaplin Conway (1797-1872) Papers

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CHAPLIN CONWAY (1797-1872) PAPERS, 1848-1854

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:Conway, Chaplin, 1797-1872
Title:Chaplin Conway (1797-1872) Papers
Quantity:1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Abstract:The Chaplin Conway Papers contain fifty-three letters, written by Chaplin to his second wife, Sarah, during his long sea voyages to South America as shipmaster.
Collection Number:MSS 312

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The Chaplin Conway Papers contain fifty-three letters, written by Chaplin to his second wife, Sarah, during his long sea voyages to South America as shipmaster. The only exceptions are the earliest letter of the collection, written to Chaplin from his brother John, expressing sympathy on the death of his first wife (Folder 1), and two letters from Sarah, Chaplin's second wife, to her husband on board ship. The letters are arranged in chronological order. Each letter is folded to be a self-envelope, addressed on the outside, and many are stamped with a postal or shipping rate. Each letter indicates the date and Chaplin's location at the time of writing. Because of the necessity of waiting for a carrier for the letters, many of them are written in the form of journals, and include entries for many days.

The letters provide interesting details of the Salem-Brazil trade, giving the names of ships used in the trade, tracking the trade routes of Chaplin's vessels from one Brazilian port to another in search of favorable trading conditions, and delivering and receiving consignments. There are frequent references to the cargoes carried, both to and from Brazil, with rubber and hides among the important imports into Salem. Only a few comments by Chaplin relate to the political and social events of the time: He hopes "Old Zack" (Taylor) will be elected president. At one point he has taken on a crew member that he believes to be a runaway slave. There are a few brief comments on the population and nature of certain Brazilian ports.

Biographical Sketch

Chaplin Conway was born in 1797, possibly in North Cumberland, Virginia, to Ann and Chaplin Conway. He is known to have had at least one brother, John, who lived in Baltimore, Maryland, during the years covered by this collection of letters.

Chaplin Conway married Sarah Crowe of Baltimore. The date of the marriage is not known. Two children of the marriage, Henry Chaplin Conway and Sarah Caroline Conway, both died in childhood. Sarah, Chaplin's wife, died of "dropsy" on December 30, 1847, at the age of 53.

By April of 1848, Chaplin was betrothed to Sarah Smith Phelps of Salem. They were married on June 22, 1848. There were no children born of Conway's second marriage.

Chaplin Conway was employed as a shipmaster, engaged in the maritime trade between Salem, Massachusetts and Brazil during the 1840s and 1850s. He died in Salem on April 28, 1872, at the age of 75. At some time thereafter, his wife, Sarah Phelps Conway, moved to Chicago, where she died in 1902, at the age of 87.

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.

Conway, Sarah Smith Phelps, 1815?-1902
Husband and wife
Ship captains
Brazil--Commerce--United States
United States--Commerce--Brazil


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

Chaplin Conway (1797-1872) Papers, MSS 312, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by John C. Meleney on March 30, 2000 (Acc 2000.006).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Frances Malamy, August 2000.

Related Material

Galey, John H., "Salem's Trade with Brazil, 1801-1870," Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol.107, No.2, April, 1971.

Rattler (Brig) Logbook, 1847-1848, Log 599

Water Witch (Brig) Logbook, 1856-1857, Log 732

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