Processing and conservation of this collection
was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Dorr Family Papers
1 linear foot (2 boxes)
The Dorr family papers are
composed of ships' papers, correspondence, account books, bills, and receipts
associated with Ebenezer Dorr, his sons John and Joseph, and other family
SERIES I. Dorr Family Ships' Papers SERIES II. Ebenezer Dorr Papers SERIES III. John Dorr Papers SERIES IV. Joseph Dorr Papers SERIES V. Miscellaneous Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Dorr family papers are composed of ships’ papers, correspondence, account books,
bills, and receipts associated with Ebenezer Dorr, his sons John and Joseph, and
other family members. Although the papers extend from 1780 to 1865, the bulk of the
collection is related to the family’s shipping activities from 1793 to 1825. It
should be noted that within this collection, correspondence between family members
has been filed with the recipient. The collection has been divided into five
Series I. Dorr Family Ships' Papers contains
documents related to vessels owned or chartered by members of the Dorr family that
sailed to South America, Europe, and Canton. The papers of the ship Astrea are comprised of a 1789 agreement and invoice for
a cargo of furs to be transported and sold at Canton by James Magee. Material
associated with the ship Esther concerns the
condemnation of the vessel at Lima in 1823 for an alleged violation of Peruvian
trade regulations. The papers of the ship Jenny are
transcriptions. It is not known where the originals are, or when the transcriptions
were created. See Appendix I for additional information on the voyages of the Dorr
Series II. Ebenezer Dorr Papers includes
correspondence, bills, receipts, and papers of Elias Norberry's estate. The earliest
correspondence is largely related to trade at Amsterdam with the Akker and Heineken
merchant house. Other correspondence includes letters from Joseph and Andrew C. Dorr
on family shipping activities. The bills and receipts in this section are mostly for
Series III. John Dorr Papers are comprised of
correspondence, account books, and some miscellaneous papers. Most of the earliest
letters are those written by Joseph Dorr while in Paris and London. Joseph
apparently acted as shipping agent for the family business while in those cities,
and his correspondence is associated with market conditions in Europe and the
progress of specific purchases and sales. Letters from Henry and Sullivan Dorr
contain some personal information and news of friends and acquaintances. In
addition, Sullivan Dorr's letters from 1843 to 1846 concern the progress of
negotiations on claims against the Peruvian government for losses on the 1821 to
1823 voyage of the ship Esther. John Dorr's waste books
contain shipping and business accounts for a number of vessels. There are also
entries for real estate transactions, the Ebenezer Dorr estate, and accounts of John
Jacob Astor in the two volumes.
Series IV. Joseph Dorr Papers contains correspondence
which is mostly from Ebenezer and John Dorr regarding European shipping activities.
Of particular interest are the letters from Richard J. Cleveland (1812 and 1822)
supporting the initiation of hostilities in the War of 1812 and discussing the
relative merits of marriage and bachelor life.
Series V. Miscellaneous Papers contains family and
non-family papers. The family papers are comprised of a deed to Amy (Plympton) Dorr,
Ebenezer's (1738/9-1809) mother, for land in Medfield from the Joseph Plimpton
Estate (dated 1799) and a copy of a single letter from Sullivan Dorr to William S.
Wetmore of Lima, Peru. The non-family papers include accounts for an unidentified
house, a copy of the decree of the "Supreme Director…of Chile" concerning reform of
commercial regulations (dated 1822), and a copy of a convention between the United
States and Peru (dated 1846).
Ebenezer Dorr was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on March
20, 1738/9. He was initially a leather dresser in Boston, and later a merchant,
establishing a store at 27 Long Wharf, Boston. He formed a mercantile partnership
with Caleb Davis of Boston as early as 1761. Ebenezer and his sons became involved
in the early fur trade on the Pacific Northwest coast, as part of their trading with
China (Corning, 73). Dorr married Abigail Cunningham in 1762, and they raised at
least four sons before Abigail's death in 1798. After Abigail died, Ebenezer married
Eliza Flink. Ebenezer died in 1809.
Joseph Dorr was born December 3, 1767 to Ebenezer
(1739-1809) and Abigail Dorr. Joseph became a shipping partner with his brother,
John, and in 1796 they maintained an office at 10 Kilby Street in Boston, under the
firm name of J. and J. Dorr. Joseph died October 24, 1831 in Paris, France.
John Dorr was born October 2, 1770 to Ebenezer
(1739-1809) and Abigail Dorr. John became a shipping partner with his brother,
Joseph (1767-1831) in their firm, J. and J. Dorr. He married Esther Goldthwaite in
1793. John died in August 1855.
Andrew Cunningham Dorr was born August 11, 1772 to
Ebenezer (1739-1809) and Abigail Dorr. He was involved in the family shipping
business, but his role has not been precisely defined. He married Charlotte Plimpton
in 1802. Andrew died on May 28, 1842.
Sullivan Dorr was born October 20, 1778 to Ebenezer
(1739-1809) and Abigail Dorr. He was the Dorr family's agent in Canton from 1799
until 1803. In 1804 he returned to America and married Lydia Allen of Providence,
Rhode Island. He became President of the Washington Insurance Company and a Trustee
of Brown University. Sullivan died in 1858.
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.
Astor, John Jacob,
Cleveland, Richard J.,
Abandonment (Maritime law)
Estates, administration of
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
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