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Merrick, Lee & Company Records

Merrick, Lee & Company Records

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Processing and conservation of this 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:Merrick, Lee & Co. (Boston, Mass.)
Title:Merrick, Lee & Company Records
Quantity:7 linear feet (13 boxes, 8 volumes)
Abstract:The Merrick, Lee & Company records document the wholesale dry goods business of John Merrick Jr. of Boston, John Clarke Lee (1803-1877) of Salem, and William Sturgis (1782-1863) of Boston.
Collection Number:MSS 127

Series List

SERIES I. Correspondence
A. Intra-Firm Correspondence
B. Merchant Correspondence
SERIES II. Financial Records
A. Account Books and Account Currents
B. Invoices and Bills of Lading
C. Sales
D. Miscellaneous Accounts
SERIES III. John Merrick Jr. Personal Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Merrick, Lee & Company records document the wholesale dry goods business of John Merrick Jr. of Boston, John Clarke Lee (1803-1877) of Salem, and William Sturgis (1782-1863) of Boston. Covering 1823 to 1832, the records reflect only the first nine years of this Boston-based firm which flourished until 1850. These years correspond to that period during which Lee was associated with the company. He left in approximately 1830 due to ill health (see MSS 129 for personal and miscellaneous business papers which Lee produced during the later portion of his life). The collection is divided into three series.

Series I. Correspondence, 1825-1832, contains the company's articles of agreement, intra-firm correspondence between Lee and Merrick, correspondence with foreign merchants, and with domestic merchants. Intra-firm correspondence includes detailed information concerning the British dry goods market and provides a fascinating glimpse at the inner workings of a wholesale commission merchant firm. Foreign and domestic merchant correspondence documents the interaction between wholesale shippers Merrick, Lee & Company, their foreign agents and merchants in Europe and England (most notably Manchester, Liverpool, and London), and domestic merchants who placed orders for goods with the Boston firm.

Series II. Financial Records includes account books, account currents, invoices, and bills of lading, account sales, and miscellaneous accounts. The general business accounts, comprised of ledgers, journals, daybooks, and account currents, provide an overall view of Merrick, Lee & Company's business operations. The invoice books, invoices, and bills of lading itemize those goods which were shipped to the United States from foreign ports. These include lists of merchandise shipped on vessels which were used often by Merrick, Lee & Company, such as the Amethyst, Emerald, Spartan, Herald, Topaz, Jasper, Majestic, and Robin Hood. The account sales, which include accounts sold at auction, reflect the final disposition of goods, whether they were sold wholesale at auction, used to fulfill consignment orders, or sold through other merchant firms in the United States. Miscellaneous accounts contain notes, cash books, bonds, bills, and receipts.

Series III. John Merrick Jr. Personal Papers is comprised of one folder of correspondence from family and friends, and bills and receipts.

Historical Sketch

Merrick, Lee & Company was a prosperous wholesale dry goods business founded by John Merrick Jr. of Boston, Massachusetts, John Clarke Lee (1803-1877) of Salem, and William Sturgis (1782-1863) of Boston (who joined the company five years after its inception). The Boston-based firm flourished until 1850. John Lee left in approximately 1830 due to ill health. Merrick, Lee & Company served primarily as commission merchants, filling orders for British goods placed by United States merchants. They also bought large stores of goods which they subsequently sold at auction or shipped to other merchant firms in Philadelphia, Providence, New York, and New Orleans. The coordination needed to import such large quantities of cloth, globes, buttons, blankets, umbrellas, etc. was facilitated by Lee residing in Boston to oversee the disposition of goods, while Merrick moved among the British manufacturing cities collecting exports.

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.

Lee, John Clarke, 1804-1877
Merrick, John, Jr.
Sturgis, William, 1782-1863
Amethyst (Ship)
Emerald (Ship)
Herald (Ship)
Jasper (Ship)
Majestic (Ship)
Robin Hood (Ship)
Spartan (Ship)
Topaz (Ship)
Account books
Textile fabrics


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

Merrick, Lee & Company Records, MSS 127, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Merrick, Lee & Company Records are a reorganization and integration of three letterbooks, 29 account books, manuscript material removed from one scrapbook, and 18 boxes of manuscripts. The bulk of the letter and account books were donated by Mrs. Francis H. Lee in 1914. The remainder of the collection is from an unknown source.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, June 1984. Updated by Catherine Robertson, January 2015.

Related Material

Wilson, Reverend E. B. "Memorial of John Clarke Lee." Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Vol. 15, 1878. pp. 35-62.

Lee Family Papers, 1680-1917, MSS 129.

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