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Hook Family Papers

Hook Family Papers

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HOOK FAMILY PAPERS, 1797-1862, undated

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:Hook family
Title:Hook Family Papers
Dates:1797/1862, undated
Quantity:0.5 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:This collection consists primarily of correspondence between members of the Hook family of Salem and Boston, Massachusetts.
Collection Number:MSS 342

Series List

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists primarily of correspondence between members of the Hook family of Salem and Boston, Massachusetts. Many of the letters are of a personal, informal nature, while others deal with the furniture making and organ building businesses. In addition, there are children's copybooks, records of accounts with local merchants, plans for furniture design, and envelopes addressed to the organ builders. The collection as a whole reveals the day-to-day life led by prosperous business people in early nineteenth-century Salem.

Letters in Folder 1 are to Eliza Hook from her family and friends, and letters in Folder 2 are to other Hook family members, again mostly from family and friends. These letters reflect daily life in early nineteenth-century Salem and Boston among active, well-educated citizens. They describe visits and partings, illness and death, suitors and courtships, sermons and lectures, and travel and meetings with dignitaries like John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster. Very little of an unpleasant nature is mentioned, although two letters (1837) to Eliza from Elias concern James Franklin's recent death, one letter (1839) refers to a 20-year estrangement between two members of the family, and another (undated) refers to dissension within the South Church (Salem) choir.

Letters in two folders pertain to William Hook. In Folder 3 are five letters concerning the delivery and sales of his furniture. Furniture pieces mentioned include counting house desks, night cabinet tables, dining tables, small secretaries and folding writing desks. Some of these pieces were sold on consignment in New Orleans (1834-1835) or to a Captain Thomas Cloutman writing from Valparaiso, Chile (1835). In Folder 4 are three letters to William Hook from his sons Elias and George Greenleaf Hook concerning details of bank loans to the organ company. They also refer to the sale and delivery of organs to Beverly, Massachusetts, Buffalo and Albany, New York, and Baltimore, Maryland. Also included is one promissory note to William Hook from his sons.

Folder 5 contains three other letters pertaining to the organ company. Two (1857, 1862) are addressed to Elias and George Greenleaf Hook, and one (1838) to George Ward in New York, New York, from George Kingsley praising the superior quality of Hook organs.

Additional Hook family papers include children's copybooks and lessons (Folder 6), miscellaneous family accounts such as payments for medical treatments, musical instruments, dressmaking supplies, carpentry supplies, and poll taxes (Folder 7), and plans and specifications for a worktable or desk, for capitals or other decorative parts of furniture, and for a "Captain Fairfield sofa" (Folder 8).

Biographical Sketch

William Hook was born in Salisbury, Massachusetts, on February 19, 1777, the son of Edmund and Elizabeth (Pike) Hook. As a boy he was apprenticed to a joiner and cabinetmaker in Salisbury, New Hampshire. In 1796 he came to Salem, Massachusetts, and in 1800, he set up business for himself in Salem as a cabinetmaker where he made furniture for the leading families of Salem for many years. He married Abigail Greenleaf on March 2, 1800, and was the father of seven children, all born in Salem, but whose names and birth dates were not recorded in Salem records. William Hook died in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on May 15, 1867.

Eliza Hook, daughter of William and Abigail Hook, is the primary correspondent in this collection; however, little information about her life is available. For most of the time before 1838, when her correspondence in this collection ends, she apparently resided in Salem and did not marry.

Elias (1805-1881) and George Greenleaf (1807-1880) Hook, sons of William and Abigail, are the other major correspondents in this collection. They resided in Boston after 1832 and made nearly six hundred organs during their careers as organ builders.

The remaining siblings included William, James Franklin (died in 1837), and Emeline (1818-1895). Again, little information is available about them.

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.

Hook, Elias, 1805-1881
Hook, Eliza
Hook, George Greenleaf, 1807-1880
Hook, William, 1777-1867
Hook & Hastings (Firm)
Organ builders--Massachusetts--Boston


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

Hook Family Papers, MSS 342, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by Richard E. Oinonen on January 10, 2000 (acc# 2000.037). Two letters from Elias Hook to Eliza Hook (Folder 1) and a letter to George Ward from George Kingsley (Folder 5) are of unknown provenance.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Lee Jacoby, October 2003.

Related Material

Bushby, William, Genealogical Line of William Hook, Cabinet Maker of Salem, Mass. [No imprint] 1959.

Todd, Frederick W., Humphrey Hooke of Bristol and his Family and Descendants in England and America During the Seventeenth Century (New Haven, Conn.: Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor Co., 1938).

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