The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Derby, Richard, 1712-1783
Richard Derby (1712-1783)
0.25 linear feet (1 box, 1 flat file)
The Richard Derby papers
include shipping and business papers of Richard Derby (1712-1783), his son Richard
Derby Jr. (1736-1781), and other family members.
SERIES I. Business Papers SERIES II. Other
Scope and Content Note
The Richard Derby papers include shipping and business papers of Richard Derby
(1712-1783), his son Richard Derby Jr. (1736-1781), and other family members. The
collection has been divided into two series.
Series I. Business Papers contains ships' papers,
accounts, and business related correspondence. Included in this series is an appeal
on behalf of the ship Ranger, which was captured by
British privateers during the Seven Years War in 1761, and taken to the Bahamas
where it was confiscated. There is one piece of correspondence from Richard Jr.
discussing a delayed shipment.
Series II. Other contains items not directly related
to Richard (1712-1783) or Richard Jr.'s (1736-1781) shipping business. This
includes: a collection of maxims by an unknown author, and correspondence to Lucy
and Nancy Brown from a Dr. Clark. This series also includes a letter from a Richard
Derby (born circa 1835) to his mother, Mrs. E. Hasket Derby, who was likely Mary Ann
Derby, the wife of Elias Hasket Derby (1796-1840).
Richard Derby, the founder of the Derby shipping empire,
was born in 1712 to Richard (1679-1715) and Martha (Hasket) Derby. Before
establishing himself as a merchant, Richard mastered the sloop Ranger from 1736 until 1738, the schooner Volant from 1741 until 1742, the sloop Jolly
Bachus in 1743, and the schooner Exeter in
1745. He was also part owner of the Volant and Exeter. By 1746, Richard had begun importing cargo to
Salem from London. He appears to have retired from the sea soon after, leaving his
sons, Richard Jr. (1736-1781), John (1741-1812), and son-in-law, George
Crowninshield, to captain his vessels. From 1750 until 1775, Richard owned at least
twenty vessels and carried cargo on numerous other ships. His ships traveled to the
West Indies, the Spanish peninsula, Canada, and South Carolina. They carried cargoes
of fish, rum, timber, grains, sugar, cocoa, wine, coffee, and salt. At least five of
Richard's ships engaged in fishing voyages, especially in the early years of his
merchant business. While Richard's shipping business prospered greatly, he also
experienced financial setbacks through the capture of his ships during the French
and Indian War. By 1775, Richard appears to have completely relinquished control of
the shipping business to his son, Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799).
Richard's life did not solely revolve around his prosperous business. From 1756
until 1763, he served as a collector of excise taxes. He operated a distillery from
1760 until 1781. He served on the Massachusetts General Court from 1769 until 1773,
was a member of the Governor's Council in 1774, 1776, and 1777, and was an ardent
supporter of the Revolution. Richard married twice. His first wife, Mary Hodge
(1713-1770), had six children: Richard Jr., Mary, Elias Hasket, John, Martha, and
Sarah. In 1771, he married his second wife, Sarah (Langley) Hersey, the widow of Dr.
Ezekiel Hersey. Richard died December 8, 1781.
Richard Derby Jr. was born on January 6, 1736 to
Richard (1712-1783) and Mary (Hodge) Derby. As a young man he studied medicine, but
ended up becoming a merchant. When his father retired from the sea after 1746,
Richard (1736-1781) took over captaining some of his vessels. Richard was also a
patriot, and during the Revolution took part on the Committee of Safety and
Correspondence. He was also a representative to the General Court from 1769-1773; a
counselor from 1774 to 1777; a delegate to the Provincial Congress from 1774 to
1775; and in 1778 he was appointed one of the state agents for prizes in the Middle
Richard was married twice. His first wife was Lydia Gardner whom he married on
September 13, 1759. He and Lydia had eight children together: Richard, Samuel,
Johnathan, Charles, Lydia, Mary, Elizabeth, and Thomas. He married his second wife,
Lucy Smith, on March 5, 1778. Richard died in December 8, 1781 (Derby 154-167).
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.
Derby, Richard, 1736-1781
Derby, Richard, b. circa 1835
Hasket and John (Ship)
Three Sisters (Schooner)
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 Richard Derby papers include shipping and business papers of Richard Derby (1712-1783), his son Richard Derby Jr. (1736-1781), and other family members.
Antelope (Ship); Betsy (Sloop); Hasket and John (Ship); Mary (Schooner); Patty (Schooner); Ranger (Brigantine); Ranger (Ship); Three Sisters (Schooner); Salem (Mass.); Derby, Richard, 1736-1781; Derby, Richard, b. circa 1835; Fisheries; Letters; Privateering; Shipping
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.