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John Wood (born 1780) Papers

John Wood (born 1780) Papers

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JOHN WOOD (born 1780) PAPERS, 1806-1853


Processing and conservation of 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:Wood, John, b. 1780
Title:John Wood (born 1780) Papers
Quantity:2 linear feet (4 boxes)
Abstract:The John Wood Papers mostly consist of letterbooks generated by the commission and shipping merchant business which John Wood established with his sons, John Henry (1810-1841) and Albert (1812-1853), following his financial failure in 1826.
Collection Number:MSS 162

Series List

SERIES I. John Wood Papers
SERIES II. John Wood & Sons Papers
SERIES III. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The John Wood Papers mostly consist of letterbooks generated by the commission and shipping merchant business which John Wood established with his sons, John Henry (1810-1841) and Albert (1812-1853), following his financial failure in 1826. Also included is a small amount of material documenting John Wood's original shipping business. The collection is divided into three series.

Series I. John Wood Papers, 1819-1826, contains correspondence, financial, and legal papers which briefly illuminate the breadth of trade which Wood conducted with the West Indies and United States coastal states prior to his bankruptcy. The correspondence contains letters with foreign and domestic merchants, with John Stone, Wood's agent in Puerto Rico, and with his brother William Wood, a shipping merchant in Portland, Maine. Also included is master's correspondence with the captains of Wood's vessels, the brigs Ann, George, Otter, and other miscellaneous ships, and letters regarding general financial business. The financial and legal papers contain shipping papers of the brigs George and Otter, including a protest of the brig George's violation of quarantine laws, and the bankruptcy indenture which sequestered Wood's vessels and property in 1826.

Series II. John Wood & Sons Papers contains letterbooks, account books, and miscellaneous papers starting from 1828, when John Wood established his commission merchant business, to 1853, when Albert Wood died. The letterbooks, which consist of merchant correspondence, cover this entire period and reflect the growth of the firm over the years. Aside from business accounts and merchant correspondence, the miscellaneous papers include personal and business letters to John Wood from his sons Horatio and George Augustus, and correspondence regarding real estate.

Series III. Miscellaneous Papers, 1806-1840, contains miscellaneous merchant correspondence and shipping papers of the schooner Ivanhoe (which was run ashore by a steamship in the Mississippi River in 1834), the schooners Pembroke, Nun, and Ada, and the Jew. Also included is an 1817 cargo book from an unidentified vessel and directions for sailing the Gulf of Finland.

Biographical Sketch

John Wood was born to Daniel and Sarah Wood on March 25, 1780, in Topsfield, Massachusetts. From 1807 to 1827, he worked as a Newburyport shipping merchant and was the sole or partial owner of at least twenty vessels. However, in approximately 1826, his once profitable mercantile business was ruined by financial failures. His property and vessels were taken over by administrators Philip Coombs and Stephen Tilton in order to settle his debts.

By 1828, Wood reentered the mercantile business, though now he served as a commission merchant selling goods imported by others. It appears that John's sons, John Henry (1810-1841) and Albert (1812-1853), worked as clerks for their father at this time. Soon, however, the sons became equal forces in the business, and in 1833, the firm took the name John Wood & Sons. As their business prospered, the Woods were able to begin investing in ships once again and reestablishing their own shipping business. With eyes toward the future, Wood also became an incorporating member of both the Newburyport Boston & Haverhill Steam Boat Co. and the Newburyport Railroad Co. in 1846.

Wood married Elizabeth (?) and they had seven children together. Wood's death date is unknown.

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.

Coombs, Philip, fl. 1860-1869
Stone, John
Tilton, Stephen
Wood Horatio, 1807-1891
Wood, Albert, 1812-1853
Wood, George Augustus, b. 1816
Wood, John Henry, 1810-1841
Wood, William
Ada (Schooner)
Ann (Brig)
George (Brig)
Ivanhoe (Schooner)
Jew (Schooner)
John Wood & Sons (Newburyport, Mass.)
Nun (Schooner)
Otter (Brig)
Pembroke (Schooner)
Account books
Merchants--Portland, Me.
Newburyport (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

Due to their fragile condition, the mold damaged documents in box 4, folder 6 are restricted from general use. Photocopies of these items have been integrated into the main body of the collection. In addition, a number of the letterbooks have sustained mold damage. These have been cleaned and folders containing these volumes have been marked. Caution must be used when handling these items.

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

John Wood (born 1780) Papers, MSS 162, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The John Wood Papers are a reorganization and reintegration of papers culled from three boxes of Davenport and Wood manuscripts, two account books and seven letterbooks. The collection is from an unknown source.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, January 1985. Updated by Catherine Robertson, March 2015.

Related Material Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

John Davenport Papers, 1791-1838, MSS 163.

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