The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Derby, Elias Hasket, 1739-1799
Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799)
2.25 linear feet (2 boxes)
The Elias Hasket Derby papers
include shipping, legal, business, and personal papers of Elias Hasket Derby
(1739-1799), including genealogical notes about the Derby family.
SERIES I. Business Papers
A. Ships' Papers
B. Accounts and Correspondence
SERIES II. Personal Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Elias Hasket Derby papers include shipping, legal, business, and personal papers
of Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799), including genealogical notes about the Derby
family. The bulk of the papers are ships' papers. This collection has been divided
into two series.
Series I. Business Papers consists of materials
relating to Derby's shipping and merchant business. It has been divided into two
subseries. Subseries A. Ships' Papers are arranged
alphabetically, and contain ships' orders, accounts of sales, disbursements,
invoices, bills of lading, and miscellaneous papers. Subseries
B. Accounts and Correspondence contains invoices and receipts, and
business correspondence to Elias Hasket Derby. In the accounts with Enos and Daniel
Briggs is a contract for the building of a vessel.
Series II. Personal Papers contains various items
relating to Elias Hasket Derby and his family. Included in this series are painted
portraits of Derby and his wife Elizabeth, Derby's last will and testament, and
related documents. Also included in this series are a number of documents relating
to the Derby family's genealogy, including charts with multiple generations. There
is also a photocopy of a certificate of masonry in French, dated 1766, and
photocopies of a broadside displaying a catalogue of books belonging to Elias Hasket
Derby to be sold at auction, after Derby's death.
Elias Hasket Derby was born in Salem, Massachusetts,
in 1739 to Richard (1712-1783) and Mary (Hodge) Derby. He was the founder of the
East India shipping trade and America's first millionaire. Instead of becoming a sea
captain like his brothers, Elias assisted his father in the management of their
expanding shipping business. As early as 1760, he had begun to assist his father
with this mercantile business, gradually assuming the entire control and management
of the shipping affairs.
At the commencement of the Revolution, the Derby shipping empire was completely
in the hands of Elias. The capture of three ships by the British turned his
interests away from commerce and towards retaliation. During the course of the war,
he owned, either solely or in part, at least twenty-five armed vessels, and had
shares in numerous others. Initially the vessels were privateers, but as the war
progressed, and Elias' interests began to return to commercial pursuits, the
privateers were supplanted by letters of marque.
The end of the Revolutionary War marked the beginning of Elias' East India
shipping trade. The privateers and letters of marque, while suiting the needs of the
war, were no longer suited to the coastwise and West Indian trade. Their increased
size and cargo capacity necessitated finding new markets and new commodities that
would bring a profit. While Derby ships continued trading on established routes of
trade (Europe, the West Indies, New York, and Philadelphia), additional vessels
sought new ports. The Light Horse was the first
American ship to sail directly to Russia. The Grand
Turk was the first American vessel to the isle of France (Mauritius) and
the first New England ship to go to Canton, China. The Astrea was the first ship to dock in Siam (Thailand). Derby ships
initiated trade with St. Helena, Cape of Good Hope, Bourbon (Reunion), Ceylon,
India, and Batavia. Although Elias continued to trade in traditional ports, and
search for new markets in Europe and Asia, he focused his trade on ports in the
Indian Ocean. To help organize the Derby trade in the East Indies, one of his sons,
Elias Hasket Derby Jr. (1766-1826) was dispatched to the Isle of France for a
three-year period, from 1788 until 1790. From 1785 until 1799, ships owned or
managed by Elias made at least 125 voyages to points in Europe, Africa, India, the
East Indies, and the Orient.
In addition to his shipping activities, Elias served as selectman from 1768
until 1772, and was a member of the Committee of Correspondence in 1774. He donated
money towards the erection of the new courthouse, and towards the building of the
naval frigate Essex. In 1795, Elias began building an
impressive mansion, designed by Samuel McIntire, for his wife, Elizabeth
(Crowninshield) Derby. Occupied only for a few months before Elias died in 1799, the
mansion was located at the present site of Derby Square in Salem. At his death,
Elias' estate was divided equally among his children: Elias Hasket Jr., John,
Ezekiel Hersey, Richard Crowninshield, Elizabeth West, Martha Prince, and Anstiss
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.
Silsbee, Nathaniel, 1773-1850
Astrea & Sukey (Vessel)
Grand Turk (Ship)
Hasket & John (Ship)
Salem Packet (Ship)
Estates, administation 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
This bulk of this material was found in the collection. Elias Hasket Derby
(1739-1799)'s last will was a donation from Dr. Richard Derby in April 1961
(accession #15,442). Papers for the schooner Sebastian,
the brig Swan, and the schooner Lexington were donated by S. William C. Waters in December 1951
(accession #12,574). The customs certificate for the brig Rose was a 1937 gift from Dr. E. D. Lovejoy. Correspondence to and from
Elias Hasket Derby Jr. (1766-1826) were added to the Derby Family Papers, MSS 37. Photocopies of a broadside displaying a catalogue
of books belonging to Elias Hasket Derby to be sold at auction was donated by
Captain George Cunha in September 1966 (accession #17,308).
Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, March 2015.
Derby, Perley. "Genealogy of the Derby Family," Essex Institute
Historical Collections 3 (1861): 154-67, 201-7, 283-89.
"Lives of American Merchants. Elias Hasket Derby," Hunt's
Lives of American Merchants, vol. 2 (New York, 1858): 17-100.
McKey, Richard H. "Elias Hasket Derby and the American Revolution," Essex Institute Historical Collections 97 (1961):
McKey, Richard H. "Elias Hasket Derby, Merchant of Salem, Massachusetts,
1739-1799." Thesis, Clark University, 1961.
McKey, Richard H. "Elias Hasket Derby and the Founding of the Eastern Trade,"
Essex Institute Historical Collections 98 (1962):
Peabody, Robert E. "Derby of Salem," Essex Institute
Historical Collections 49 (1908): 193-347.
Phillips, James Duncan. "The Life and Times of Richard Derby, Merchant of
Salem," Essex Institute Historical Collections 65
Account book of estate of Elias Hasket Derby, 1799-1803. MSS 636.
Derby Family Papers, 1716-1925. MSS 37.
Astrea (Ship) Logbook and Journal, 1798-1799. Log 1303.
The bulk of this material was found in the collection. Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799)’s last will was a donation from Dr. Richard Derby in April 1961 (accession #15,442). Papers for the schooner Sebastian, the brig Swan, and the schooner Lexington were donated by S. William C. Waters in December 1951 (accession #12,574). The customs certificate for the brig Rose was a 1937 gift from Dr. E. D. Lovejoy. Photocopies of a broadside displaying a catalogue of books belonging to Elias Hasket Derby to be sold at auction was donated by Captain George Cunha in September 1966 (accession #17,308).