Processing and conservation for this
collection was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Kimball Family Papers
32 linear feet (57 boxes, 12 volumes)
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.
SERIES I. Ships' Papers SERIES II. Correspondence
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Pingree, David, 1795-1863
Pingree, T. P. (Thomas P.)
Reed, Frank D.
Ropes, John F.
Ropes, Samuel, Jr.
Silver, John M.
Varney, Samuel, active 1812
Voorhees, Lewis D.
Ann Elizabeth (Brig)
David R. Aiken (Brig)
Fire Fly (Bark)
General Taylor (Bark)
General Warren (Brig)
Grace Darling (Schooner)
John Dunlap (Schooner)
John Swasey (Bark)
Kimball & Hoyt
Kimball & Miller
New York & Boston Manufacturing Co.
S. W. Porter (Bark)
Samuel Cook (Brig)
St. Katherine (Brig)
Susan Wardwell (Schooner)
Tam O'Shanter (Brig)
Banks and banking
Estates, Administration of
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.
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
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.
Collection processed by Prudence Backman and Sylvia Kennick, January 1983. Updated by
Catherine Robertson, November 2014.
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.
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.