Skip to main content

John Bertram (1796-1882) Papers

John Bertram (1796-1882) Papers

1 of 2
Open Finding Aid
small (250x250 max)
medium (500x500 max)
Extra Large
large ( > 500x500)
Full Resolution

JOHN BERTRAM (1796-1882) PAPERS, 1855-1889


Processing and conservation for the collection were funded by a grant from 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:Bertram, John, 1796-1882
Title:John Bertram (1796-1882) Papers
Quantity:2.75 linear feet (6 boxes)
Abstract:The John Bertram Papers contain the shipping and business papers of John Bertram (1796-1882), a Salem, Massachusetts, merchant who traded with Aden, Bombay, Madagascar, and Zanzibar.
Collection Number:MSS 104

Series List

SERIES I. Agency Records
SERIES II. Ships' Papers
SERIES III. Business Papers

Scope and Content Note

The John Bertram Papers contain the shipping and business papers of John Bertram (1796-1882), a Salem, Massachusetts, merchant who traded with Aden, Bombay, Madagascar, and Zanzibar. Because the bulk of the collection runs from 1865 to 1875, there is no information relating to the first decades of Bertram's business and little documentation of the company in the years before Bertram's death in 1882. The collection also contains very little information regarding Bertram's business activities in the United States. The papers are divided into three series.

Series I. Agency Records contains correspondence and accounts of the Arabian, African, and London agencies which handled Bertram's foreign trade. The bulk of the papers run from 1865 to 1870, providing little documentation of the business during the decade before the company's takeover by Ropes Emmerton & Company in 1882.

Series II. Ships' Papers does not reflect the extraordinary amount of trade which Bertram's vessels conducted with Aden, Zanzibar, and Madagascar. Additional ships' papers for chartered vessels and sales of cargoes may be found with the agency papers. Of interest in the papers of the bark Glide is master's correspondence describing an 1868 Bedouin uprising in Muscat.

Series III. Business Papers is comprised of correspondence, financial, legal, and estate papers. The business correspondence describes Bertram's financial affairs and the distribution of cargoes in the United States. It also includes letters (1873-1878) from business associate George Ropes to Bertram's agent George R. Emmerton. These letters discuss the settlement of Bertram and Ropes' business relations. Also of note is correspondence regarding the closing of the Arnold Hines & Company's African agencies in 1879. Legal papers include agreements between Bertram and his agents, and loan agreements made between his estate executors and the future members of Ropes Emmerton & Company.

Biographical Sketch

John Bertram was born in 1796 on the Isle of Jersey. In 1807, the Bertram family immigrated to Salem, Massachusetts. John Bertram began his seafaring career in 1812, and he quickly rose through the ranks to become a respected shipmaster. In 1832, he retired from the sea to develop his mercantile interests. Bertram became of the first and largest concerns to tap the profitable resources of Aden, Zanzibar, Madagascar, and the east African coast. Relying on his foreign agents to handle the actual trading, Bertram exported cargoes of American manufactured cotton cloth and kerosene, and imported coffee, hides, cloves, gum copal, and ivory. Bertram shared his business interests with a number of American merchants. Many of his 45 ships were owned in partnership with other Salem merchants, including Michael and Henry F. Shepard, Andrew Ward, John B. Silsbee, and James B. Curwen. Bertram increasingly cooperated with George Ropes of Boston and Arnold Hines & Co. of New York as more and more vessels sailed to those ports rather than to Salem. Upon his death in 1882, Bertram left a sum of money to be loaned to those of his agents who wished to continue his African business. Three of these agents, Edward D. Ropes, E. Augustus Emmerton, and George R. Emmerton, took the loan and formed the Salem firm of Ropes Emmerton & Company.

Besides his shipping concerns, Bertram developed interests in railroads, Californian gold, shipbuilding, and civic affairs. He was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1841, 1857, and 1863 and was a noted philanthropist. Bertram married three times: Mary Smith (d. 1837) in 1823; Clara Millet (d. 1847, widow of Captain J. H. Millet) in 1837; and Mary Ann Ropes in 1848. His daughter Jennie married George R. Emmerton, a Bertram agent and later a member of Ropes Emmerton & Company. John Bertram died on March 22, 1882.

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.

Bertram, John, 1796-1882
Emmerton, E. Augustus (Ephraim Augustus), 1827-1901
Emmerton, George R., 1836-1888
Ropes, Edward D. (Edward Dehonde), 1838-1902
Ryder, J. Orne
Trumbull, Edward B., 1852-1934
Webb, Francis R.
Webb, W. G. (William George), 1821-1890
Williams, James S.
Essex (Bark)
Glide (Bark)
Ropes, Emmerton & Co.
Sachem (Bark)
Slide (Bark)
Taria Topan (Bark)
Account books
Cargo handling--Hides
Cargo handling--Ivory
Estates, Administration of
Freight and freightage--Hides
Freight and freightage--Ivory
Merchant agents--Aden--E. Augustus Emmerton
Merchant agents--Aden--Edward D. Ropes
Merchant agents--Aden--Francis R. Webb
Merchant agents--Aden--Rustomjee Sorabjee Kharas
Merchant agents--Bombay--E. Augustus Emmerton
Merchant agents--Bombay--Francis R. Webb
Merchant agents--Bombay--William George Webb
Merchant agents--Boston--George Ropes
Merchant agents--Musqat--E. Augustus Emmerton
Merchant agents--Musqat--Francis R. Webb
Merchant agents--New York--Arnold, Hines & Co.
Merchant agents--New York--Maclean Marris & Co.
Merchant agents--Salem--George R. Emmerton
Merchant agents--Tamatave--J. Orne Ryder
Merchant agents--Tamatave--James S. Williams
Merchant agents--Zanzibar--Edward D. Ropes
Merchant agents--Zanzibar--Francis R. Webb
Merchants--Salem (Mass.)
Salem (Mass.)


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

John Bertram (1796-1882) Papers, MSS 104, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The John Bertram Papers are a reorganization and integration of 4.5 boxes of manuscripts removed from the Ropes Emmerton & Co. Records (MSS 103), 3 agency letter and account books, 2 estate account books, and other material removed from the Shipping Collection. The papers and volumes are from unknown sources. Removed from the collection are several envelopes.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, May 1983. Updated by Anne E. (Holmer) Deschaine, April 2012, July 2014.

Related Material

Atwood, Edward S. "Memorial of John Bertram." Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Vol. 21. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute Press, 1884. 81-96.

Bennet, Norman Robert. "Americans in Zanzibar: 1865-1915." Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Vol. 98. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute Press, 1962. 36-61.

Berman, Edward H. "Salem and Zanzibar: 1825-1850." Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Vol. 105. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute Press, 1969. 338-362.

Gannon, Fred A. Two Merchants of Salem: Philip English and John Bertram. Salem, Mass.: Newcomb & Gauss Co., 1961.

John Bertram of Salem, Mass. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Haagen Printing & Offset, 1964.

Charles A. Benson Journals, 1862-1880. Kept aboard the bark Glide. MSS 15.

Emmerton Family Papers, 1784-1891. Papers related to bark Tom Corwin. MSS 24, B1, F6.

John Bertram (Ship) Logbook, 1851, Log 646.

John Bertram (Ship) Logbook, 1851-1852, Log 1675.

John Bertram (Ship) Logbook, 1852-1853, Log 667.

John Bertram (Ship) Logbook, 1853-1855, Log 679.

John Bertram (Ship) Logbook, 1854, Log 1676.

Rattler (Brig) Logbook, 1840, Log 328.

Rattler (Brig) Logbook, 1840, Log 421.

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

Ropes Emmerton and Company Records, 1873-1902, MSS 103.

Tom Corwin (Bark) Logbook, 1849-1850, Log 628.

Tom Corwin (Bark) Logbook, 1850-1851, Log 639.

Appendix I

you wish to report:

Select the collections to add or remove from your search