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John B. Coyle (1805-circa 1885) Papers

John B. Coyle (1805-circa 1885) Papers

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JOHN B. COYLE (1805-circa 1885) PAPERS, 1856-1882, 1958

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:Coyle, John B., b. 1805
Title:John B. Coyle (1805-circa 1885) Papers
Dates:1856/1882, 1958
Quantity:0.75 linear feet (2 boxes)
Abstract:The John B. Coyle papers consist of two items, a typescript of a personal diary, which covers the years 1856 to 1882, and a photocopy of the typescript diary pages for the years 1856 to 1860.
Collection Number:MH 63

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The John B. Coyle papers consist of two items, a typescript of a personal diary, which covers the years 1856 to 1882, and a photocopy of the typescript diary pages for the years 1856 to 1860.

The personal diary is a collection of typescript pages of a personal diary kept by John B. Coyle between January 1, 1859 and December 21, 1882. The years 1857, 1877, and 1880 are not represented. The typescript was executed in 1958 by a great-granddaughter of Coyle (possibly Emily L. Graves) living in Waltham, Massachusetts, as indicated by an introductory letter to the material, which is signed "Sis." Parenthetical material that appears to be the transcriber's interpretation of annotations placed by the author is also included. The transcriber indicated that many annotations were not transcribed, particularly those containing financial information.

The bulk of the diary entries are typical of most diarists: comments about travel, weather, and health matters, with few details beyond that. Most business comments are very sketchy and lack detail. In many entries, insufficient information is presented to determine the location referenced. One of Coyle's duties, at least early in the time period represented, was to oversee construction of vessels, largely built in New York, by the Englis (or Euglis) Company. His comments in this regard are usually related to how the weather affected the progress of construction.

Biographical Sketch

John B. Coyle was born October 6, 1805. Coyle began his career on April 20, 1834, as an engineer aboard the steamship McDonough. He later became an executive for, and most likely owned interest in, a number of steamship companies that were centered in Portland, Maine, and active in coastal passenger and freight service. These companies included: Boston and Portland Steamship Company; New England and Nova Scotia Steamship Company; Portland Steam Packet Company; Portland and New York Steamship Company; and the International Steamship Company. His duties required frequent travel to Boston, New York, and Halifax. The text of Coyle's diary indicates that he was a member of the board of directors for each of the companies mentioned and was elected managing director and treasurer of the Portland Steam Packet Company on June 22, 1874.

Coyle was a religious man and frequently attended two church services (usually at two different churches) on a given Sunday. He had a curious interest in Spiritualism, but never embraced it. On April 18, 1830 he married Sabrina Merrill. They lived in Portland, Maine, and later in its suburb, Westbrook. John and Sabrina appear to have had two sons, George and John, and several grandchildren. John Coyle died sometime after 1882. Note: all of the above information was gleaned from Coyle's diary text.

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.

Boston and Portland Steamship Company
International Steamship Company
New England and Nova Scotia Steamship Company
Portland and New York Steamship Company
Portland Steam Packet Company
Steamboat lines
Voyages and travels
Portland (Me.)


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 B. Coyle (1805-circa 1885) Papers, MH 63, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was deposited in the library in June 1975 (accession #20,685) by Mrs. Stephen Phillips.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert F. Craig, December 1998. Updated by Hilary Streifer, December 2014.

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