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David King, Jr. (1839-1894) Papers

David King, Jr. (1839-1894) Papers

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DAVID KING, JR. (1839-1894) PAPERS, circa 1856-1885, 1917-1928

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:King, David, 1839-1894
Title:David King, Jr. (1839-1894) Papers
Dates:circa 1856/1885, 1917/1928
Quantity:4.25 Linear feet (4 boxes)
Abstract:The David King, Jr. Papers consists of correspondence, agreements, reports, meeting minutes, essays, journals, and more.
Collection Number:MH 135

Series List

SERIES I. Correspondence
A. Business and Personal
B. Family
C. Letterbooks
SERIES II. Russell & Company
SERIES III. Writings
Series IV. Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

The David King, Jr. Papers consists of correspondence, agreements, reports, meeting minutes, essays, journals, and more. It has been organized into four series.

Series I. Correspondence includes three subseries. Subseries A. Business and Personal consists primarily of letters from King's business associates at Russell & Company: Edward R. Cunningham; H. H. Warden; Paul S. Forbes; John M. Forbes; William H; Forbes; and Warren Delano. The majority of the correspondence is from Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Warden, both of whom were at different times, the president of the Shanghai Steamship Navigation Company. It appears that even after King's departure from China in 1873 he was still in frequent contact with his former associates.

Subseries B. Family primarily consists of letters written by King to his parents during his years abroad. Also included is a letter from King's uncles Edward and William King regarding a $5,000 letter of credit. A December 13, 1876 letter from Francis R. Rives to Ella, King's wife, concerns a name for the King's newborn daughter, who apparently was without a name for two months after her birth.

Subseries C. Letterbooks contain copies of King's correspondence to a variety of recipients and covers a twenty-one year period from 1862 to 1883.

Series II. Russell & Company, one of the oldest American trading companies in China and Hong Kong,includes correspondence, partnership agreements, and account statements. There are articles of agreement and statements of business for the Yang-tze Insurance Company and reports of the Board of Directors and meeting minutes for the Shanghai Steamship Navigation Company. The Yang-tze Insurance Company and the Shanghai Steamship Navigation Company were subsidiaries of Russell & Company.

Series III. Writings includes King's childhood essays on Christopher Columbus, arithmetic, Rhode Island, and French lesson exercises. The journal dated 1858-1859 relates King's journey to the Far East and contains copies of letters he wrote to his uncle, Edward King. A few of the journal pages and the end pages contain sketch drawings by King. The journal from 1860 relates King's journey from Shanghai to the Gulf of Pechili, which is located in northern China, near the Yellow Sea. The back of this journal contains handwritten notes by King regarding exports and imports from Shautung. Sometime during 1917 and from the period 1924-1928, information regarding stocks and bonds was recorded by an unknown individual; some entries have been done in pencil. The journal entitled "Memoranda" includes entries written by King pertaining to ship sailings, merchandise, business notes, and excerpts from letters addressed to him.

Series IV. Miscellaneous consists of reports and minutes from organizations such as the Shanghai Racquet Club and the Shanghai Autumn Meeting [may be related to horse racing]. There is also a Deed of Settlement for the China Fire Insurance Company and articles of agreement for the establishment of an English Freemasons Hall in Shanghai. Of particular interest in this series are a promissory note issued by The Comptoir D'escompte de Paris, Shanghai, King's passport issued in 1878 by the Counsel of Spain in Nassau, old Chinese receipts, and merchant business cards. An unknown author of an untitled poem has been included at the end of this series.

Biographical Sketch

David King, Jr. was born in 1839 in Newport, Rhode Island to Dr. David King and Sarah Gibbs Wheaton. He was the second of seven children. The King family was a prominent family in Newport dating back to 1799. King's father, a medical doctor, was one of the founders of the American Medical Association and an active member in Newport society. Dr. King was president of the State Board of Health of Rhode Island, a founder of the Newport Historical Society, and a member of the Redwood Library.

Deciding not to enter the medical profession like his father, Mr. King instead followed in the footsteps of his uncles, Edward and William King, who were active in the China trade. In 1858, at the age of nineteen, David King, Jr. set out for China on board the clipper Surprise.

King was employed for a short time at Wetmore, Williams & Company and then at Low & Company, before gaining employment with the prominent trading house, Russell & Company in June 1859. While in China, King married Helen Van Cortland Morris who died circa 1871.

King returned to the United States in 1873. A year after his return, he became engaged to Ella Louise Rives (born 1851) in November 1874. They married on January 7, 1875. King and Ella had two children: Maud Gwendolen born October 2, 1876 in Newport, Rhode Island; Philip born in Paris, France on June 12, 1879.

The Kings would spend the winter season in a rented house in New York City (in later years it would be Washington, D. C.) and the summers in Newport at Kingscote, his Uncle William's estate.

Like his father before him, King was active in Newport Society where he was a trustee for the Newport Hospital, a member of the Newport Reading Room, the Redwood Library, and the Newport Historical Society.

King died on March 8, 1894 in Washington, D. C. from peritonitis following a case of appendicitis. After a funeral service held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, King's remains were brought back to Newport, Rhode Island for burial near the King family plot at Island Cemetery.

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.

Cunningham, Edward R.
Delano, Warren, 1809-1898
Forbes, John Malcolm, 1847-1904
Forbes, Paul S.
Forbes, William H.
King, David, 1839-1894
Rives, Francis R.
Warden, H. H.
China Fire Insurance Company
Russell and Company
Shanghai Racquet Club
Shanghai Steamship Navigation Company
Yang-tze Insurance Company
Account books
China--Hong Kong


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

David King, Jr. (1839-1894) Papers, MH 135, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was a gift of Mrs. Anthony Rives in 1928 and 1929 (acc # 17,936 and 18,068).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Jennifer J. Quan, August 2012.

Related Material

Bard, Solomon. Traders of Hong Kong: Some Foreign Merchant Houses, 1841-1899. Hong Kong: Urban Council, 1999.

Clark, Arthur H. The Clipper Ship Era: An Epitome of Famous American and British Clipper Ships, Their Owners, Builders, Commanders, and Crews, 1843-1869. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1912.

Collins, Holly. "Kingcote's Coming of Age: A Sentimental Journey." Newport, Rhode Island: Preservation Society of Newport County, 2003. Retrieved from website July 23, 2012.'s_coming_of_age.pdf

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