Processing and conservation of this collection
was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Putnam, Oliver, 1777-1826
Oliver Putnam (1777-1826)
2.25 linear feet (5 boxes)
The Oliver Putnam papers record
the mercantile career and interests of this prosperous Newburyport, Massachusetts,
SERIES I. Oliver Putnam Papers
A. Shipping Papers
C. Personal Papers
SERIES II. Family Papers SERIES III. Miscellaneous Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Oliver Putnam papers record the mercantile career and interests of this
prosperous Newburyport, Massachusetts, merchant. The collection also contains papers
of Oliver's father, Newburyport blacksmith Oliver Putnam (1755-1818), and his
brothers Thorndike (1787-1858) and Joshua Putnam (b. 1798). The papers are divided
into three series.
Series I. Oliver Putnam Papers, 1793 to 1825, are
divided into three subseries. Subseries A. Shipping
Papers is comprised of account books, ships', and shipping papers. The
account books and ships' papers include many of Oliver's early adventures conducted
under the auspices of his employers, merchants Farris and Stoker. They also contain
a large number of the vessels which Oliver owned or chartered (see Appendix II). As
none of the ships are well documented, one can catch only a glimpse of the trade
which Oliver conducted with Europe, Calcutta, the West Indies, and coastwise
America. Of interest in the shipping papers are a number of undated items including
a biographical sketch of Captain Haraden of Gloucester, instructions for taking
lunar observations, charts of Matanzas Bay, and islands off the coast of Sumatra,
and an ink wash view of the Cape of Good Hope.
Subseries B. Correspondence contains shipping
correspondence from merchants in Boston, Europe, and the West Indies. Also included
is business correspondence regarding Oliver's interests in the United States and
insurance stocks, the Great Falls Manufacturing Company in Dover, and the
maintenance of his properties. The correspondence also contains a few letters from
Oliver to his father and one from a publisher expressing interest in his essays on
politics and economics.
Subseries C. Personal Papers consists of legal and
financial papers. The legal documents include deeds to the Hampstead, New Hampshire,
land and papers from the estate of Oliver's former employer and partner Ebenezer
Stoker. Of interest in the bills and receipts are accounts for the "Gentlemen of the
Assembly," apparently a society to which Oliver belonged, an undated house and farm
inventory, and a conversion memorandum to figure changes in the currencies of
various states. Additional personal business accounts may be found in the account
Series II. Family Papers, 1775-1875, contains papers
of Oliver's father, Oliver Putnam (1755-1818), and his brother Thorndike and Joshua.
Oliver Sr.'s papers include land deeds, receipts, and account book entries
pertaining to his Newburyport blacksmithing business, and correspondence with Boston
merchant Phineas Adams concerning the well-being of his sons Oliver and Thorndike
when they were at sea. Of interest are early letters which Oliver Sr. received from
his brother-in-law Benjamin Rea, his father Oliver Putnam of Danvers, and his
parents-in-law Eleazur and Sarah (Perkins) Lake of Topsfield.
Thorndike Putnam's papers contain letters received while he cared for the
Hampstead, New Hampshire farm, his estate accounts, and those of his wife Mary
(Chase) Putnam. Also included are miscellaneous papers of his son, Henry, and his
grandchildren, Oliver (1844-1897) and Laura.
The bulk of Joshua Putnam's papers relate to the Ship Marmion upon which Joshua sent goods during its 1819-1821 voyage to
Manila, Saigon, Samarang, and Rotterdam. The account book also includes a one-page
log of the Brig Rapid (undated) when William H. Nichols
Series III. Miscellaneous Papers, 1797-1855, include
an invoice of the Ship Ruthelia (1836) and papers of
Nathaniel Little of Hampstead, New Hampshire.
Oliver Putnam, a prosperous Newburyport, Massachusetts
merchant, was born in 1777 to Newburyport blacksmith and barroom keeper Oliver
Putnam (1755-1818) and Sarah (Lake) Putnam (1754-1811). At the age of 14 or 15,
Oliver Jr. entered the office of Newburyport merchants Farris and Stoker as a clerk.
Almost immediately he began to invest his own money in adventures sent out on his
employers' vessels. Soon Oliver rose to the position of supercargo, serving as clerk
and agent on voyages to Europe and South America. By 1800, he owned a number of
vessels in partnership with Farris and Stoker, and soon afterwards conducted his
business out of Boston as well as Newburyport.
Oliver acquired a sizeable fortune which he invested in United States and
insurance stocks, and real estate. One of his land purchases, a farm in Hampstead,
New Hampshire, became his home when ill health prompted him to go into
semi-retirement. Here he lived with his parents and his siblings, Thorndike, Joshua,
and Lucy, until his death in 1826. During the last years of his life, Oliver devoted
himself to the study of politics and economics. His collection of essays, Tracts on Sundry Topics of Political Economy, was
published posthumously in 1834. Oliver's interest in education also found fruition
in the Putnam Free School of Newburyport (trustees incorporated in 1838), which a
portion of his estate established and supported.
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.
Putnam, Henry, b. 1817
Putnam, Joshua, b. 1798
Putnam, Mary Chase
Putnam, Oliver, 1755-1818
Putnam, Oliver, 1777-1826
Putnam, Thorndike, 1787-1858
Farris & Stoker (Newburyport, Mass.)
Mahala Windsor (Brig)
Three Friends (Schooner)
Administration of estates
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 Oliver Putnam Papers are a reorganization and integration of 8 account books and
3 boxes of manuscripts. The collection is from an unknown source. Removed from the
collection are the following: a 4 page log abstract of the Ship Witch of the Wave (undated), a one-page 1810 log of an
anonymous vessel, and an undated receipt of Aaron Waite (see Separation Sheet for
Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, October 1984. Updated by Catherine
Robertson, March 2015.
Currier, John J. History of Newburyport, MA, 1764-1909.
Newburyport, MA, 1909.
Currier, John J. Ould Newbury: Historical and Biographical
Sketches. Boston: Damrell & Upham, 1896.
Noyes, Harriette Eliza. Memorial of the Town of Hampstead,
N.H. Boston: George B. Reed, 1899.
Putnam, Oliver. Tracts on Sundry
Topics of Political Economy. 1834.