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Michael Shepard (1786-1856) Papers

Michael Shepard (1786-1856) Papers

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MICHAEL SHEPARD (1786-1856) PAPERS, 1813-1937


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

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:Shepard, Michael, 1786-1856
Title:Michael Shepard (1786-1856) Papers
Quantity:1 linear foot (2 boxes)
Abstract:This collection is comprised of the shipping and business papers of Michael Shepard and his son, Michael Webb Shepard. The bulk of the collection is related to Shepard's shipping activities at ports in East Africa from 1835-1855, when he traded in ivory, copal, textiles and cloves.
Collection Number:MSS 237

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers
SERIES II. Civic and Religious Papers
SERIES III. Michael W. Shepard Papers

Scope and Content Note

This collection is comprised of the shipping and business papers of Michael Shepard and his son, Michael Webb Shepard. The bulk of the collection is related to Shepard's shipping activities at ports in East Africa from 1835-1855, when he traded in ivory, copal, textiles and cloves. The collection is divided into three series.

Series I. Shipping Papers include ships papers, correspondence, ledgers, journals, memoranda, and notes relating to Michael Shepard's trading activities in Padang and Zanzibar. Although the majority of the ships papers concern Michael Shepard's shipping activities in East Africa from 1835-1855, some shipping material from 1852-1856 was actually produced by Shepard's son Michael Webb Shepard (born 1826) during the period when his father battled various illnesses. Shipping correspondence after 1865 is almost entirely comprised of letters to Michael W. Shepard from William. H. Nichols III, who acted as his agent in Zanzibar during this period.

The ledgers and journals in the collection are associated with Shepard's relations with a number of partners, agents and ship masters. Some of these volumes were started by Michael Shepard and continued by his son. Other volumes were kept by Michael W. Shepard even though some of the shipping information concerns events during his father's lifetime.

Series II. Civic and Religious Papers document Shepard's financial assistance on behalf of Salem area citizens. Shepard made himself available as an executor to a number of families who could not afford professional assistance in managing a deceased relative's estate. As a result the papers of the estates of various individuals not related to Shepard are found in his papers. Assignments were legal agreements whereby an individual in financial difficulty could assign legal title of his assets to an unbiased financial manager. Shepard accepted assignments from some local individuals in danger of bankruptcy.

Series III. Michael W. Shepard Papers include an 1848 diary describing a voyage to Pernambuco, Brazil and a subsequent trip up the Amazon River. The account books are largely concerned with personal investments in securities and real estate but also contain accounts related to a number of other Shepard family members, including the estate of his father.

Biographical Sketch

Michael Shepard was born on September 4, 1786, the fifth son of Jeremiah and Elizabeth (Webb) Shepard of Salem, Massachusetts. Little is known of his childhood or his introduction to the shipping business. Shepard became a successful merchant in Salem by specializing in trade with ports in East Africa. He maintained a fleet of vessels that circulated among the ports of Zanzibar, Musqat, Mocha, Aden, Majunga and Bombay and traded in ivory, cloves, copal, and textiles. His partnerships with John Bertram, B. Frank Fabens, and Charles Ward enabled him to exert considerable influence upon trading activities in the region. In the last years of his life he shared ownership of some vessels with his son Michael Webb Shepard, who eventually took control of the family's shipping interests upon his father's death.

Shepard was a well-respected individual in the community. He was the treasurer of the First Baptist Church of Salem and the Salem Baptist Association and was concerned with church matters including missionary work in America and abroad. On August 14, 1811 he married Matilda Fairfax Clarke, the daughter of Francis and Martha (Mansfield) Clarke. She passed away within a year. Shepard then married Matilda's sister, Harriot Fairfax Clarke on May 15, 1816. Together they raised nine children, at least six of which lived to maturity. Michael Shepard died October 10, 1856 after a long illness.

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.

Shepard, Michael Webb, 1826-
Shepard, Michael, 1786-1856
Swett, Sarah
Abandonment (Maritime law)
Account books
Clove trade
Copal trade
Estates, administration of
Neptune (Brig)
Voyages and travels
Voyages and travels--Amazon River
Voyages and travels--Pernambuco, Brazil
Young Rover (Bark)
Amazon River--Description and travel


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

Michael Shepard (1786-1856) Papers, MSS 237, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The origin of this material is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, August 1988. Updated by Catherine Robertson, April 2014.

Related Material

Michael Shepard Papers, 1786-1856, MH 23

Fabens Family Papers, 1706, 1797-1912, 1947, 1978, 1989, MH 94

Charles Ward Papers, 1746-1888, MSS 47

Papers of William Henry Nichols, 1862-1918, MSS 0.435

Neptune (Brig) Logbook, 1835, Log 319

Appendix I

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