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Kimball Family Papers

Kimball Family Papers

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Processing and conservation for this collection was 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:Kimball family
Title:Kimball Family Papers
Quantity:32 linear feet (57 boxes, 12 volumes)
Abstract:The bulk of the Kimball Family Papers, 1821-1917, reflects the business activities of the Kimball brothers, Edward Dearborn (1810-1867), Elbridge Gerry (1816-1849), and Nathaniel A. (1822-1862).
Collection Number:MSS 84

Series List

SERIES I. Ships' Papers
SERIES II. Correspondence
A. Letterbook
B. Partners' and Agents' Correspondence
C. Merchants' Correspondence
D. Miscellaneous Shipping Correspondence
E. Lumbering Correspondence
F. Miscellaneous Business Correspondence
SERIES III. Financial Records
SERIES IV. Family Papers
A. Nathaniel Kimball (1777-1821) Papers
B. Sarah (Knight) Kimball (1780-1849)
C. Edward Dearborn Kimball (1810-1867)
D. Elbridge Gerry Kimball (1816-1849)
E. Nathaniel A. Kimball (1822-1862)
F. Frank Reed Kimball (1853-1924)
SERIES V. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Kimball Family Papers, 1821-1917, reflects the business activities of the Kimball brothers, Edward Dearborn (1810-1867), Elbridge Gerry (1816-1849), and Nathaniel A. (1822-1862). In addition to their West African coast and East Indian trade, their business ventures included the transportation of produce and lumber along coastal New England and on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The collection has been divided into five series.

Series I. Ships' Papers, 1832-1866, contains papers for the bulk of the vessels owned by the Kimballs. These papers, arranged alphabetically by name of ship, document the shipping business which the brothers conducted to the west coast of Africa, the East Indies, Pacific Islands, South America, and Asia. Of special note are the papers of the bark Salem, owned by Benjamin Knight of Ohio, whose Salem business was overseen by Edward. The miscellaneous ships' papers contain records for ships chartered or cargo consigned on non-Kimball vessels. Amongst these ships are vessels owned by David Pingree.

Series II. Correspondence, 1837-1866, includes a letterbook, intra-firm correspondence, correspondence with partners, agents, merchants, and miscellaneous shipping, lumber, and business correspondents. Subseries A. Letterbook (1846-1849) includes Elbridge's letters to ship masters, merchants, and agents.

Subseries B. Partners' and Agents' Correspondence includes letters between firm members and partners, and correspondence with shipping agents in Bathurst, Cape Coast, Accra, Sierra Leone, Havana, Jamestown, Marietta (Ohio), and Maine.

In order to reflect the Kimball brothers' various shipping trades, Subseries C. Merchants' Correspondence has been divided into regions and ports: foreign, domestic, prices current, and miscellaneous (see Appendix III for merchant houses, ports, and dates). Of special interest in miscellaneous foreign merchant correspondence are letters from the Kimball's nephew O.K. Gordon in Shanghai in which he tells of Chinese rebellions in 1860. Correspondence from New England merchants dominates the correspondence in miscellaneous United States cities. Of note here are letters from fellow Salem shipping merchant Charles Hoffman. Also located here are letters to and from merchants in unidentified cities.

Subseries D. Miscellaneous Shipping Correspondence contains letters regarding the potential sale or purchase of vessels, shipbuilding instructions, letters concerning crews aboard Kimball ships, and miscellaneous correspondence relating to ship cargoes. Additional references to shipbuilding may be found with the correspondence of Ohio partners and agents.

Subseries E. Lumbering Correspondence is generated from lumber operations in August, Belfast, and Bangor, Maine in which the Kimball brothers and David Pingree had an interest or for which they provided supplies. These letters discuss the obtainment of supplies, shipment of lumber, and the administration of the camps.

Subseries F.Miscellaneous Business Correspondence includes correspondence with Edward's former partner Stephen Hoyt, letters concerning the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Mills and the Salem Five Cent Savings Bank (Edward was president of both), the administration of the family farm in Plaistow, New Hampshire, the estate of brother-in-law Sewall Brown and uncle Dr. Edward Dearborn, the establishment of the Dearborn Academy, financial guardianship of Lizzie Swasey, interest in coal mines, and 1862 letters regarding the manufacture of guns for the Union Army.

Series III. Financial Records, 1830-1866, contains account books, insurance policies, and financial papers. Several of the earlier account books were maintained by Elbridge. One miscellaneous account book contains transactions of the Naumkeag Bank. Whereas the insurance policies on vessels or cargo are located in Series I. Ships' Papers, those on warehouses are filed here. Within bills and receipts are included outfitting bills and miscellaneous merchant receipts for the purchase or sale of goods.

Series IV. Family Papers, 1821-1908, contains the personal and legal records of Nathaniel (1777-1821), Sarah (Knight), Edward Dearborn, Elbridge Gerry, Nathaniel A., and Frank Reed Kimball. Within Edward's papers is his diary from a trip to South America on board the brig Ganges. His legal and estate papers include insurance on his dwelling house and the Calvary Church in Danvers (of which he was secretary), a power of attorney regarding the dissolution of his early firm Hoyt and Kimball, and estate accounts for Sewall Brown. Additional correspondence regarding the Brown estate's settlement is located in Series II. Subseries F. Miscellaneous Business Correspondence. Elbridge's papers include a diary from his journey to Africa and India (1838-1840), correspondence discussing the business of the family farm, and letters from his brothers Edward Kimball and David Pingree. Of note in Nathaniel's (1822-1862) papers are estate papers for Phebe Dearborn and John Swasey, and Nathaniel's auditor reports for the Dearborn Academy. Frank Reed Kimball's papers include financial and legal papers for the final years of the New York and Boston Manufacturing Company of which Frank was president. Additional personal bills and receipts may be located in Series III. Financial Records.

Biographical Sketch

The business ventures of the Kimball brothers, Edward Dearborn (1810-1867), Elbridge Gerry (1816-1849), and Nathaniel A. (1822-1862), evolved from the early activities and interests of Edward and Elbridge Kimball. Edward's early career included New England coastal trading in produce and lumber. In 1842, he expanded into Ohio-Boston produce trading. He also began to use Midwestern shipbuilders for the building of his vessels. Elbridge's early business activities appear to have been limited to the consignment of cargo on vessels primarily to South America and Zanzibar. The bulk of his cargo was carried by the ships of his brother-in-law, David Pingree. In approximately 1845, when David Pingree's interest in trade was waning, Edward and Elbridge, along with their brother, Nathaniel, combined their interests and activities to develop the Kimball shipping industry. Edward apparently made the bulk of the decisions for the firm, especially after the death of Elbridge in 1849. Nathaniel functioned primarily as a secretary and accountant. Although the emphasis of the brothers' trade was with the west coast of Africa, their vessels also sailed to the East Indies, the Pacific Islands, South America, Australia, and Asia. Edward also continued his produce trade with Ohio. The brothers owned few vessels outright. Among their partners were C.H. Miller, T.P. Pingree, and Frank D. Reed.

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.

Brown, Sewell, 1798-1850
Dearborn, Edward, Dr.
Hill, Samuel, 1777-1825
Hoffman, Charles, 1797-1878
Hoyt, Stephen d. 1878
Ingalls, Collin
Kimball, Edward Dearborn, 1810-1867
Kimball, Elbridge Gerry, 1816-1849
Kimball, Frank Reed, b. 1835
Kimball, Nathaniel A., 1822-1862
Kimball, Nathaniel, 1777-1821
Kimball, Sarah Knight, 1780-1849
Knight, Benjamin, 1767-1843
Luscomb, Joseph W.
Miller, Charles H., merchant
Moulton, Issac K.
Mullen, John
Nelson, Charles
Pingree, David, 1795-1863
Pingree, T. P. (Thomas P.)
Reed, Frank D.
Ropes, John F.
Ropes, Samuel, Jr.
Silver, John M.
Tibbets, Ebenezer
Varney, Samuel, active 1812
Voorhees, Lewis D.
Webber, Josiah
Adelphia (Brig)
Angola (Bark)
Ann Elizabeth (Brig)
Antares (Schooner)
Buckeye (Bark)
Choctaw (Brig)
Clara (Schooner)
David R. Aiken (Brig)
Dearborn Academy
Draco (Brig)
Elizabeth (Brig)
Emperor (Ship)
Europa (Ship)
Fire Fly (Bark)
Gambia (Brig)
Ganges (Brig)
Gem (Bark)
General Taylor (Bark)
General Warren (Brig)
Grace Darling (Schooner)
Gustavus (Brig)
Hamilton (Brig)
Hayward (Brig)
John Dunlap (Schooner)
John Swasey (Bark)
Kedar (Bark)
Kimball & Hoyt
Kimball & Miller
Louisa (Brig)
Malaga (Brig)
Manchester (Bark)
Mexico (Schooner)
New York & Boston Manufacturing Co.
Northumberland (Brig)
Ohio (Brig)
Orlando (Bark)
Pamelia (Brig)
Paulina (Brig)
Planet (Brig)
Potomac (Brig)
Rolla (Brig)
Ruby (Brig)
S. W. Porter (Bark)
Salem (Bark)
Samuel Cook (Brig)
St. Katherine (Brig)
Susan Wardwell (Schooner)
Swan (Schooner)
Tam O'Shanter (Brig)
Virginia (Brig)
Witch (Bark)
Account books
Banks and banking
Cargo--Palm oil
Estates, Administration of
Lumber trade
Merchant houses--New York--R. W. Ropes & Co.
Merchant houses--Philadelphia--C. H. Grant
Merchant houses--San Francisco--Charles Nelson


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

Kimball Family Papers, MSS 84, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The bulk of the Kimball Family Papers was donated in 1958 by the family of Mrs. Frank Reed Kimball. In 1979, two additional boxes were donated by Mrs. Mary Kimball Holland and two diaries, one lithograph, and several photographs of the Kimball house were placed on deposit.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence Backman and Sylvia Kennick, January 1983. Updated by Catherine Robertson, November 2014.

Related Material

Hoyt, Joseph B. "Salem's West Africa Trade, 1835-1863, and Captain Victor Francis Debaker." Essex Institute Historical Collections, volume 102, 1966.

Morrison, Leondard Allison and Stephen Paschall Sharples. History of the Kimball Family in America, From 1634-1897. Boston: Damrell & Upham, 1897.

Frank Reed Kimball Papers, 1819-1928, MSS 307

Kimball Family Deeds, 1671-1798, Fam. Mss. 523

David Pingree Papers, 1810-1939, MSS 901

Appendix II

Appendix III

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