Processing and conservation of this collection
were funded by a grant by a gift from the Pingree family heirs.
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Perkins, Thomas, 1758-1830
Thomas Perkins (1758-1830)
3 linear feet (5 boxes, 3 volumes)
The Thomas Perkins papers
contain correspondence, account books, and legal and estate papers of this Salem,
Massachusetts, ship owner and businessman.
SERIES I. Correspondence SERIES II. Business Records SERIES III. Legal and Personal Papers SEEIES IV. Estate Records
Scope and Content Note
The Thomas Perkins papers contain correspondence, account books, and legal and estate
papers of this Salem, Massachusetts, ship owner and businessman. The bulk of the
collection documents Perkins' later business affairs and the settlement of his
estate. It has been divided into four series.
Series I. Correspondence documents only a fraction of
Perkins' extensive business affairs. Letters are primarily from Perkins' business
associates David Pingree and Michael Shepard. Written to Perkins after his
retirement to Topsfield, they describe not only financial transactions, but also
daily events in Salem, in particular the numerous business failures which occurred
in 1829. Of interest are the letters by both Pingree and Shepard describing the
murder of Joseph White in April, 1830 and the subsequent murder trial in
Series II. Business Records contains account books,
stock certificates, insurance policies, and receipts. The account books contain
records of Perkins' shipping investments, loans, and farm accounts. The ledger in
Box 5 (1787-1829) is a yearly summation of Perkins' goods and property. There is
only a single folder of shipping papers; most of Perkins' shipping records were
probably destroyed by fire along with his partner Joseph Peabody's in the 1880s.
Although Perkins owned seventeen vessels, there are records for only two – the
schooner Saucy Jack and the brig William Charles. There are papers for several additional vessels: brig
Cynthia, sloop Dolphin, schooner Eliza, brig Phoenix, and sloop Three
Friends. The two folders of receipts pertain primarily to farm and
Series III. Legal and Personal Papers contain deeds
for various Topsfield and Rowley farm properties belonging to Thomas and his father
Moses Perkins. The land was left to David and Asa Pingree and later records can be
found in the David Pingree's papers (MSS 901). The
folder of miscellaneous papers contains a certificate of Perkins' military service,
a vote of town of Reading regarding a poor house, and empty wrappers.
Series IV. Estate Records pertain to the executor's
attempts to collect on Perkins' loans and their accounts with Perkins' numerous
Thomas Perkins was born in Topsfield, Massachusetts, in
1758, the third son of Moses Perkins (1733-1805) and Anna Cummings Perkins
(1734-1825). His father was a cooper by trade.
Thomas Perkins had very little formal education and before the revolution worked
as a cordwainer in his native town. During the Revolution, Perkins served as first
mate and later master of the privateer brig Ranger.
Perkins' first mate on the Ranger was Joseph Peabody
(1757-1844), who later became a prosperous Salem merchant and Perkins' business
partner. In 1783, Perkins served as Peabody's first mate on the brig Three Friends owned by Jonathan Gardner.
During the eight years of his shipping partnership with Peabody, Perkins owned
eight vessels and built himself a considerable fortune. In 1810, Perkins went into
business for himself. Although he continued to own vessels, the focus of his
business switched to loaning money to companies and municipalities. Perkins also
invested in real estate, including the Franklin Building, a commercial building in
Salem. By 1819, Perkins had retired to Topsfield, leaving merchant Michael Shepard
to act as his Salem agent.
Perkins never married and acted a benefactor to his siblings and their children.
His sister Annar Perkins (1771-1853) was married to Asa Pingree (1770-1834). When
Pingree's saw and grist mill in Bridgton, Maine, failed, Perkins purchased the
Pingree homestead in Rowley, Massachusetts, which he put under Pingree's management.
Perkins also became the mentor of their son David Pingree (1795-1863) whom he had
trained in Michael Shepard's merchant firm and later had managed his own financial
affairs. David Pingree was named executor of Perkins' estate and inherited the bulk
of his fortune when Perkins died in 1830.
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.
Peabody, Joseph, 1757-1844
Perkins, Moses, 1773-1805
Pingree, David, 1795-1863--Correspondence
Shepard, Michael, 1786-1856--Correspondence
White, Joseph, 1747 or 1748-1830
Saucy Jack (Schooner)
Three Friends (Sloop)
William Charles (Brigantine)
Executors and administrators--Massachusetts
Massachusetts--Crime and criminal affairs
Rowley (Mass.)--Agriculture--Farms and farming
Rowley (Mass.)--Land records
Salem (Mass.)--Business, industries, and trades--Shipping
Salem (Mass.)--Legal affairs
Topsfield (Mass.)--Agriculture--Farms and farming
Topsfield (Mass.)--Land records
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 was donated by Pingree family heirs.
Collection processed by Caroline Preston, October 1985. Updated by Tamara Gaydos,
Eastman, Joel Webb. "David Pingree's Iron Works." Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Vol. 103, 1967. Page
Endicott, William Crowninshield, and Walter Muir Whitehill. Captain Joseph Peabody; East India Merchant of Salem
(1757-1844). Salem: Peabody Museum, 1962.
Perkins, George A. "The Perkins Family." Historical
Collections of the Essex Institute. Vol. 22, 1885 p. 200. and Vol. 23,
1886 p. 53.
Pingry, William M. Genealogical record of the descendants
of Moses Pengry, of Ipswich, Mass.: so far as ascertained/collected and arranged
by William M. Pingry. Ludlow, Vt.: Warner & Hyde, printers, 1881.