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Peele Family Papers

Peele Family Papers

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Processing and conservation for 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:Peele family
Title:Peele Family Papers
Quantity:15 linear feet (31 boxes)
Abstract:The Peele Family Papers reflect the shipping and merchant activities of Jonathan Peele, Jr., and Willard Peele of Salem, Massachusetts.
Collection Number:MH 5

Series List

SERIES I. Jonathan Peele, Jr. (1731-1809), Papers
A. Shipping Papers
B. Personal Papers
SERIES II. Willard Peele (1773-1835) Papers
A. Shipping Papers
B. Business Papers
C. Personal Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Peele Family Papers reflect the shipping and merchant activities of Jonathan Peele, Jr., and Willard Peele of Salem, Massachusetts. The collection has been arranged in two series.

Series I. Jonathan Peele, Jr. (1731-1809) Papers includes ships' papers, shipping account books, and personal papers. Subseries A. Shipping Papers, arranged alphabetically by ship, is comprised of documents relating to vessels owned or chartered by Jonathan Peele, Jr. The papers of ships owned jointly by Jonathan and Willard Peele reside with the Willard Peele Papers (Series II). Because the Peeles arranged their shipping records by ship and voyage, ships papers have been divided by voyage insofar as possible. Papers not associated with a particular voyage have been placed among an individual ships miscellaneous papers. Crew lists are available for most ships in the collection.

The papers of the ship Rachel's 9th voyage contain an account of the capture and detention of the ship by a Danish vessel in 1809. Of particular interest are the papers of schooner Rajah, the first ship to sail directly from Sumatra to Salem with a cargo of pepper. Materials concerning the condemnation of schooner Willard provide information on maritime property disputes.

Subseries B. Personal Papers provide little information about Jonathan Peele's home life but contain documents relative to his wife Margaret (Mason) and relations Sarah Peele and Hannah Carnes.

Series II. Willard Peele (1773-1835) Papers are comprised of ships' papers, shipping correspondence, account books, business papers, and personal papers. Subseries A. Shipping Papers contains documents relating to vessels owned or chartered by Willard Peele or co-owned with Jonathan Peele, Jr. The papers of ship Argonaut are notable for their documentation of the premature condemnation of the ship and the resultant legal action against the Merchants Insurance Company. The notebook of Captain Gamaliel Hodges contains extensive notes on the culture of native Sumatrans. The papers of the ship Perseverance include correspondence from part-owner J. Willard Peele in Antwerp. The majority of the shipping correspondence consists of market advices and prices current from ports in American and abroad. Also included is a series of letters (1821-1822, 1824) from Daniel Webster and his associate Alex Bliss regarding the spoliation claims of an anonymous group of Salem merchants. Researchers interested in the voyages of particular ships after 1810 should consult the "Index to Journals C and D" for access to accounts from particular voyages of individual ships. The shipping account book contains accounts from ships Aurora and Perseverance, and brig Jane.

Subseries B. Business Papers begins with documentation of the Ohio Company, formed to manage investments in Ohio real estate from 1800-1834. The papers of the Grosvenor/Rice School describe the search for a new school master and the annual meetings of the school trustees. They include letters from Levi Hedge, religious education and philosopher from Harvard University. The folder title reflects the earliest masters of the school, Ebenezer Grosvenor and John P. Rice since the documents did not actually identify the school's name. The papers concerning the Liberty Street Fire are comprised of lists of belongings lost by Salem citizens in the 1816 tragedy.

Subseries C. Personal Papers contain a number of interesting items. Among the correspondence is a letter from Daniel Webster urging Peele to run for Congress (October 22, 1822). In the accounts/receipts file are receipts for carvings by Samuel McIntire (June 13, 1810) and portraits executed by James Frothingham (November 18, 1820). The printed matter includes twentieth century restrikes of Willard Peele's business card and articles of incorporation for the following local institutions: the [Salem] Bank for Savings (1820), Commercial Bank (1819), Essex Fire and Marine Insurance Co. (1803), Gloucester Canal Corp. (1822), Merchants Insurance Co. (1823), Office of Discount and Deposit, Bank of the United States (Boston, 1817).

Biographical Sketches

Jonathan Peele, Jr. (1731-1809), Salem mariner and merchant, was born July 17, 1731, the son of Jonathan and Sarah (Willard) Peele. He made many voyages to the West Indies before the American Revolution and was master and part owner of a number of vessels. During the Revolution he participated in the Rhode Island Expedition of 1778 and was owner of the ship Hector commanded by John Carnes, his nephew. As a merchant after the war, Peele made his fortune initiating the pepper trade with Sumatra. He married Margaret Mason August 30, 1750, and they raised three daughters and two sons.

Willard Peele (1773-1835) was born November 30, 1773 in Salem, the eldest son of Jonathan and Margaret (Mason) Peele. Willard held part interest in his father's lucrative voyages to Sumatra and assumed responsibility for the family shipping business about 1800. His ships engaged in trade at ports throughout Asia, Europe, and South America. Peele served as a trustee and executive for a number of financial institutions in Salem, including the Commercial Bank and the Merchants Insurance Company. Willard married Margaret Appleton, and together they had four children.

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.

Bliss, Alexander, 1792-1827
Carnes, Hannah
Grosvenor, Ebenezer, 1768-1788
Hedge, Levi, 1766-1844
McIntire, Samuel, 1757-1811
Peele, J. Willard, 1804-1871
Peele, Jonathan, 1731-1809
Peele, Margaret Mason
Peele, Willard, 1773-1835
Rice, John P.
Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852
Argonaut (Ship)
Aurora (Ship)
Bank for Savings
Bank of the United States (1791-1811)
Bird (Schooner)
Bonetta (Ship)
Commercial Bank
Endeavour (Ship)
Essex Fire & Marine Insurance Company (Salem, Mass.)
Fox (Schooner)
Freedom (Ship)
Gloucester Canal Corporation
Hannah (Schooner)
Helen (Brig)
Horizon (Schooner)
Jane (Brig)
Merchants Insurance Company (Boston, Mass.)
Neptune (Schooner)
New Hazard (Brig)
Ohio Company (1747-1779)
Perseverance (Ship)
Plato (Ship)
Rachel (Ship)
Rajah (Schooner)
Sally Ann (Ship)
Two Sisters (Ship)
Willard (Schooner)
William Gray (Bark)
Abandonment (Maritime law)
Account books
Capture at sea
Commission merchants
Crew lists
Education--Salem (Mass.)
Estates, administration of
Fires--Salem (Mass.)
Pepper (Spice) industry
Salem (Mass.)
United States--History--Spoliation claims


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

Peele Family Papers, MH 5, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Peele Family Papers consist of personal and business documents, correspondence, and account books removed from the Phillips Family Papers, which were donated to the museum by the estate of Stephen Phillips (acc #19,823). The shipping account book was a gift of Mrs. Richard Seamens (acc. #15,605).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, April 1987. Updated by Catherine Robertson, July 2014.

Related Material

Hitchings, A. Frank and Stephen Willard Phillips. Ships Registers of the District of Salem and Beverly Massachusetts, 1789-1900. Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1906.

United States. Circuit Court. Decree of the Circuit Court of the United States in the case of the ship Argonaut. Massachusetts, 1823.

Nathaniel Appleton Papers, 1799-1848, Fam. Mss. 21

Willard Peele (1773-1835) Papers, 1795-1871, MSS 66

Phillips Family Papers, 1636-1897, and 1794-1943, MH 4 and MSS 58

Richard D. Tucker (b. 1833) Papers, 1820-1896, MH 223

Story Family Papers, 1832-1899, Fam. Mss. 979

Appendix I

Appendix II

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