Processing and conservation of this collection
was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Fox, Josiah, 1763-1847
Josiah Fox (1763-1847) Papers
11.25 Linear feet (20 boxes, 5 volumes, 1 flat
The Josiah Fox papers include
professional, personal, and family papers concerning the naval architect and
shipbuilder and also contain a series of transcripts of some of the original papers
as they were compiled by their collectors, Ernenst J. Wessen and Merle T.
SERIES I. Naval Architecture and Shipbuilding
A. Ships' Papers and Correspondence
B. Naval Yards
SERIES II. Personal and Business Papers SERIES III. Family Papers SERIES IV. Transcripts and Reproductions
Scope and Content Note
The Josiah Fox papers include professional, personal, and family papers concerning
the naval architect and shipbuilder and also contain a series of transcripts of some
of the original papers as they were compiled by their collectors, Ernenst J. Wessen
and Merle T. Westlake. The bulk of the collection related to Fox's work as a naval
architect, shipbuilder, and naval administrator from 1795 to 1809. The collection
has been divided into four series.
Series I. Naval Architecture and Shipbuilding Papers
includes ships' papers, correspondence, specifications, accounts, drawings, and
writings by Fox and others. This series has been divided into three subseries. Subseries A. Ships' Papers and Correspondence includes
materials related to specific ships and related correspondence. The ships' papers
are comprised of materials concerning the design or construction of a single
identified vessel. The papers relative to the frigates Chesapeake, Congress, Essex, President, and United States are the most complete. The inventory of the frigate Raleigh is notable for its detailed description of one of
the earliest American ships. The correspondence in this subseries includes incoming
and outgoing letters regarding the design and construction of vessels,
administration of the naval yards at Gosport, Virginia and Washington, D. C., and
appointments to positions in the War Department and later to the Navy Department.
There are a number of letters from the Secretary of the Navy, Ben Stoddart, and
other significant naval administrators and officers such as Joshua Humphries,
William Pennock, and Thomas Tingey. Of particular interest is the autograph letter
from Paul Revere to General Henry Jackson with Revere's estimates of the copper and
tin work for the USS Constitution (June 18, 1796). Two
letters from William Hall to Fox (June 23 and 27, 1807) contain a detailed account
of the battle between the USS Chesapeake and the HMS
Leopard and of events in Norfolk after the
confrontation. There are photocopies and transcripts integrated into the
correspondence of this series. It is not clear who did this or when the copies and
transcripts were created.
The letter books in this collection are almost entirely comprised of
correspondence concerning naval affairs. The first volume contains incoming
correspondence and an index. Volumes two and three are outgoing correspondence with
some memoranda concerning specifications and dimensions of various naval vessels.
These two volumes are also indexed. Volume four is outgoing correspondence with
similar memoranda but is not indexed. There are also folders with that contain
memoranda and notes on dimensions and specifications for warships of a designated
class. Similar material relating to more than one vessel or vessels of an
unidentified class is located in the Miscellaneous Specifications folder. Within the
specifications for a 36-gun ship are photocopies obtained from the Department of the
Subseries B. Naval Yards contains material related to
specific naval yards that Fox worked for. The Gosport Navy Yard materials folder
contains papers regarding supplies of timber, metal products, etc. specifically
associated with activities at Gosport. Of interest among the miscellaneous papers is
a petition from the laborers for a pay raise, estimates for the construction or
repair of docks, and a list of regulations in force at the yard. The Washington Navy
Yard papers contain similar materials related papers, lists of employees (some
including rates of pay), cost estimates for physical improvements, and a list of
Subseries C. Other includes miscellaneous naval
architecture and shipbuilding papers. The naval architecture literature folder
contains manuscript copies of writing by other individuals, including a description
of "a work to be published in 1805," The Elements and Practice
of Naval Architecture. Miscellaneous materials include papers on timber
and metal products needed for an unspecified ship at an unspecified yard.
Miscellaneous writings include a list of "Ships of War drafted by J. Fox - for the
United States (1799)," a draft memorandum regarding the Fox/Humphries controversy,
the associated article from Niles Register (1827), and
a holograph autobiographical statement written for the Secretary of the Navy in
1813. Of particular interest in the printed matter folder is a 1797 broadside
entitled "Regulation Respecting Salutes," a report on coastal fortifications (1806),
prints of various ornate figureheads, and stern configurations. The folder labeled
"File dividers" contains thin slats of balsa wood that Fox apparently used to manage
Series II. Personal and Business Papers includes
correspondence, account books, legal papers, and printed matter. The correspondence
is comprised of incoming and outgoing letters, mostly those received from family
members. Most of the family correspondence related to the business activities and
personal affairs of a number of relations in England and America. Frederick Beates
managed Fox's business affairs in Philadelphia, and so his correspondence is largely
concerned with investments. Of interest in the legal papers is Josiah's document of
certification as a shipwright in England. Other legal papers document purchases of
slaves and their manumission by Fox. The printed matter is almost exclusively
comprised of biographical news clippings on Josiah Fox.
Series III. Family Papers are composed of
miscellaneous deeds, accounts, and letters relating to a series of Fox's relations
and ancestors. The Anna (Miller) Fox correspondence received is mostly from Josiah
and is generally personal in nature. The genealogical notes were taken by mostly
unidentified individuals, and were used in the compilation of the genealogical chart
(See Appendix I).
Series IV. Transcripts and Reproductions contains
documentation of the two major accessions of Fox papers as they were maintained by
their collectors. The MSS calendar for the Wessen collection includes detailed
descriptions of the contents of letters and letter books collected by Wessen. It
also includes a discussion of sources available on the history of the American
Federal-era Navy and a commentary of the Fox/Humphries controversy. There are four
separate MSS calendars; they are the same except for some minor differences. The MSS
transcripts have been left in the numerical order that Wessen maintained, so that
citations to Wessen's MSS numbers can be traced using the transcripts. The "S"
numbers at the end refer to "supplement" manuscript numbers utilized by Wessen to
add material to his collection after the initial arrangement had been completed.
Materials from the Merle T. Westlake collection include a microfilm copy of the
papers and a bound transcript of the collection with provenance information in the
Josiah Fox was born on October 9, 1763 at Falmouth,
England, to John and Rebecca (Stevens) Fox. He was an apprentice at the Royal
Shipyard in Plymouth and completed his apprenticeship on his birthday in 1786. His
next years were spent touring British shipyards and eventually sailing with his
brother Henry on a number of European voyages. He arrived in America late in 1793
and was apparently introduced to members of the Washington administration by Andrew
Ellicot, a relative who was then Surveyor General at West Point.
Fox was initially hired as a clerk in the War Department pending an appointment
as a Naval Architect. Nevertheless he was employed making drawings for the Naval
Constructors with William Doughty. In 1795 he was appointed "temporary assistant
constructor" in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1796 he was transferred to Portsmouth, New
Hampshire. He returned to the War Department in Philadelphia the same year, and
remained there until the spring of 1798, when he assisted in the establishment of
the newly-formed Navy Department. In August he returned to Norfolk, was awarded the
title of Navy Constructor, and was charged with management of the nearby Gosport
Navy Yard until 1801, when he was dismissed from public service.
From 1801 to 1804 Fox was concerned with shipbuilding in the private sector, and
then returned to public service at the Washington Navy Yard, where he supervised
operations until the summer of 1809. He remained in Washington until 1811, when he
relocated in Wheeling, Virginia, intending to continue shipbuilding on the Ohio
River. Instead he purchased a farm at Colerain, Ohio, and settled there with his
family. At Colerain he became involved with Quaker affairs in the area and did not
return to public employment. His wife Anna died in 1841, and Josiah died at Colerain
in 1847, leaving six children.
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.
Chapline, Elizabeth Fox, 1797-1850
Chapline, Moses W.
Curtis, Anna Fox, 1799-1873
Curtis, Robert J.
Fox, Anna Miller, 1768-1841
Fox, Charles J., 1805-1895
Fox, Charles, 1748-1809
Fox, Francis D., 1811-1859
Fox, Henry, 1754-1827
Fox, John, 1724-1788
Fox, Julianna Updegraff, 1821-1866
Fox, Lovall, 1758-1814
Fox, Margaret, 1765-1828
Fox, Sarah Cooper, 1841-1935
Humphries, Joshua, 1751-1838
Miller, Peter, 1727-1794
Revere, Paul, 1735-1818
Stoddart, Benjamin, 1751-1813
Tingey, Thomas, 1750-1829
Wessen, Ernest James, 1887-1974
General Green (Ship)
John Adams (Frigate)
Potomac Bridge Company
Prince Frederick (Ship)
Spanish Lady (Brig)
United States (Frigate)
William Pennock (Ship)
Figureheads of ships
Washington Navy Yard
Gosport Navy Yard (Va.)
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 material is a reorganization of 13 boxes, four folders of manuscripts, and four
letter books received in two major accessions and several smaller gifts. Eight boxes
of papers and letter books are believed to have been purchased from Ernest J. Wessen
with money from the Kate S. Richardson Fund in 1935 (accession #9,640). These papers
were originally arranged and numbered by Wessen. The original documents from
Wessen's collection have been marked W-1, W-2, etc. and have been integrated into
the balance of the Fox papers. Wessen's typewritten transcripts of these papers have
been left in their original numerical order and placed at the end of the
Five boxes of papers were the gift of Merle T. Westlake in 1972 and 1974
(accessions #20,012 and #20,501). Four folders of papers and broadside concerning
the Gwynn family estate called "Lower Spargo" were received from Margaret Kennedy
(accessions #15,465, #15,953, and #16,082). Two letters, two indentures, and a poem
relating to various Fox family members were donated by Merle T. Westlake on behalf
of Harold Hilligas in 1986 (accession #24,179). Documentation of the dedication
ceremony for a historical marker relative to Josiah Fox was the gift of Mrs. E.
Raymond Mitchell in 1980 (accession #22,349).
In 1991, 81 papers were donated by Merle Westlake. These were originally
obtained by John Campbell, a Cadiz, Ohio, collector, and were bought by Merle
Westlake in 1982. All of these papers have been marked with the accession number
25,832 and were added to the bulk of the collection in chronological order.
In 1993, Margaret Kennedy of Barton, Ohio donated a journal (1833-1841) in the
handwriting of Josiah Fox, and a book consisting of a typed version of the journal,
an article which Merle Westlake wrote for the Pennsylvania Historical Society, and
some notes and photographs (accession #20,206). The original journal was in the
possession of Virginia Wiley Stidd, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, who gave it to
Margaret Kennedy to give to a museum.
In 1995, Merle Westlake donated 98 papers which were given to him by Mrs.
Raymond Mitchell of Colrain, Ohio, who received them from Harold Hilligas of
Ashland, Ohio. These have been marked 26,940 HH, and were added in chronological
order. At the same time, Mr. Westlake also donated 20 papers which were given to him
by Esther Fox Maxey, of Salem, Virginia, a great-great-granddaughter of Josiah Fox.
These have been marked 26,940 EFM and were added to the collection in chronological
order. Additional materials from another Westlake donation (accession #2014.012)
have been integrated into this collection.
Five photographs and one negative were removed from this collection and
transferred to the Photography department. Five drawings and three drawing curves
were removed and transferred to the Maritime History Department.
Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, March 1988. Updated by Robert G. Graves,
June 1996 and Hilary Streifer, May 2015.
Josiah Fox. MH 0.155.
Research Notes on Josiah Fox Family, undated. Acc.
The Josiah Fox papers include professional, personal, and family papers concerning the naval architect and shipbuilder and also contain a series of transcripts of some of the original papers as they were compiled by their collectors, Ernenst J. Wessen and Merle T. Westlake.
Potomac Bridge Company; Adams (Frigate); Argus (Brig); Augusta (Brig); Chesapeake (Frigate); Clotilda (Schooner); Congress (Frigate); Constellation (Frigate); Constitution (Frigate); Crescent (Frigate); Drake (Brig); Enterprise (Schooner); Epocha (Schooner); Essex (Frigate); Etna (Ketch); Experiment (Schooner); Franklin (Brig); General Green (Ship); Hornet (Brig); L'Insurgente (Vessel); John Adams (Frigate); Leopoard (Frigate); Mercury (Vessel); Nautilus (Brig); Niger (Ship); Paragon (Ship); Philadelphia (Frigate); Portsmouth (Ship); President (Frigate); Prince Frederick (Ship); Raleigh (Frigate); Siren (Brig); Spanish Lady (Brig); United States (Frigate); Viper (Brig); Vixen (Brig); Wasp (Sloop); William Pennock (Ship); Yeopin (Schooner); Gosport Navy Yard (Va.); Chapline, Elizabeth Fox, 1797-1850; Chapline, Moses W.; Curtis, Anna Fox, 1799-1873; Curtis, Robert J.; Fox, Anna Miller, 1768-1841; Fox, Charles, 1748-1809; Fox, Charles J., 1805-1895; Fox, Francis D., 1811-1859; Fox, Henry, 1754-1827; Fox, John, 1724-1788; Fox, Julianna Updegraff, 1821-1866; Fox, Lovall, 1758-1814; Fox, Margaret, 1765-1828; Fox, Sarah Cooper, 1841-1935; Hall, William; Humphries, Joshua, 1751-1838; Miller, Peter, 1727-1794; Pennock, William; Revere, Paul, 1735-1818; Stoddart, Benjamin, 1751-1813; Tingey, Thomas, 1750-1829; Wessen, Ernest James, 1887-1974; Westlake, Merle; Account books; Deeds; Figureheads of ships; Frigates; Naval architects; Naval architecture; Shipbuilding; Slaves--Emancipation; Slavery--United States; Warships; Washington Navy Yard
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.
This material is a reorganization of 13 boxes, four folders of manuscripts, and four letter books received in two major accessions and several smaller gifts. Eight boxes of papers and letter books are believed to have been purchased from Ernest J. Wessen.