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Museum of the American China Trade Records

Museum of the American China Trade Records

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Open Finding Aid


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:Museum of the American China Trade
Title:Museum of the American China Trade Records
Quantity:0.5 linear feet (1 box, 1 flat file)
Abstract:The Museum of the American China Trade records contain governance records, correspondence, programming records, and miscellaneous items.
Collection Number:MH 167

Series List

SERIES I. Museum Governance
SERIES II. Correspondence
SERIES III. Programming

Scope and Content Note

The Museum of the American China Trade records contain governance records, correspondence, programming records, and miscellaneous items. The majority of these items are dated from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. This collection has been divided into four series.

Series I. Museum Governance contains materials from the Museum's governing bodies. Included in this series are proposed committees and advisory board, meeting agendas, meeting minutes, reports, applications for membership, and invitations to join the Museum. Included in the invitations is an invitation to join the Keechong Society.

Series II. Correspondence contains various forms of correspondence to and from the Museum and its founder. The majority of the correspondence is between H. A. Crosby Forbes and Francis B. Lothrop, a fellow collector and trustee of the Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Other correspondence includes business-related correspondence, and letters from the Museum such as annual appeals, notices of meetings, and invitations. The invitations include Museum-related events, as well as Keehong Society events. Also included in this series is the Museum's newsletter; unfortunately, some issues are missing.

Series III. Programming contains materials about programs and conferences sponsored by the Museum, the Museum's American Alliance of Museums accreditation, brochures, and a printout about the first Keechong Club's meeting minutes.

Series IV. Other contains miscellaneous items such as articles and news clippings about the Museum and its collection, images of Houqua II, a famous Canton merchant, and miscellaneous notes.

Historical Sketch

The Museum of the American China Trade was founded by Dr. H. A. Crosby Forbes (1925-2012) in 1964, at Forbes' family home, the Forbes House Museum, in Milton, Massachusetts, (originally referred to as the Captain Robert Bennet Forbes House). It was the Museum's mission to utilize its collection as a foundation for the scholarly study of the artifacts of the China Trade. It was intended to be an institution devoted to the study of the early East-West trade, and to the fuller understanding, through research and exhibitions, of the enduring artistic legacy of that trade.

The Museum published its first book in October 1975, Chinese Export Silver, 1785-1885 authored by its founder. It also sent out regular newsletters beginning in the fall of 1965; the first one was called The Capt. R. B. Forbes House, Register. The second newsletter was titled, Museum of the American China Trade Newsletter; it is unclear when this newsletter began and the first ended, but it was being sent out in 1971. In 1972, the newsletter once again changed its name to China Trade Register in 1974. The Museum, later called the Museum of China Trade, received accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1982. In 1984, the Museum merged with the Peabody Museum of Salem, and became the Peabody Museum's Department of Asian Export Art.

The friends' organization of the Captain Robert Bennet Forbes House was called the Keechong Society. It was the purpose of this society to preserve the history of an important era in America's past when relations between the Chinese and American people were mutually profitable and were based on courtesy and respect. The Society, whose name derives from the Chinese word for the merchant house Russell & Co., supported the Forbes House and the Museum.

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.

Forbes, H. A. Crosby (Henry A. Crosby)
Houqua, 1769-1843
Lothrop, Francis Bacon
Keechong Society
Peabody Museum of Salem
China trade
China trade silverwork
Historic house museums
Museum curators
Museum exhibits
Museum publications
Milton (Mass. : Town)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

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

Museum of the American China Trade Records, MH 167, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by the Museum of the American China Trade.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, February 2017.

Related Material

Forbes House Museum. "History." Accessed February 6, 2017.

Peabody Essex Museum. "Asian Export Art." Accessed February 6, 2017.

Related Collections

H. A. Crosby Forbes Papers, 1988-2003. Acc. 2011.062

H. A. Crosby Forbes Research Papers, undated Acc. 2011.057

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