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Ropes Emmerton & Company Records

Ropes Emmerton & Company Records

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Processing and conservation for the collection were 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:Ropes, Emmerton & Co.
Title:Ropes Emmerton & Company Records
Quantity:43.25 linear feet (79 boxes, 30 volumes)
Abstract:The records of Ropes Emmerton & Company, a Salem, Massachusetts, shipping firm, contain correspondence, financial, and shipping records which document the history and activities of the firm and their Arabian, Zanzibar, and Madagascar agencies.
Collection Number:MSS 103

Series List

SERIES I. Salem Office Records
A. Correspondence
B. Financial Records
C. Legal Papers
SERIES II. Partner and Agency Records
A. Arnold Hines & Company (New York)
B. Arnold Cheney & Company (New York and London)
C. L.A. Bachelder (Senior Agent)
D. Aden Agencies: Aden, Bombay, Busreh, Muscat
E. London Agency
F. Madagascar Agencies: Antananarivo, Majunga, Mananjara, Mozambique, Nossi Be, Tamatave
G. Zanzibar Agencies: Benadir, Zanzibar
H. Miscellaneous Agencies
SERIES III. Ships' Papers
SERIES IV. Pratt Read & Company Records
SERIES V. Miscellaneous Records

Scope and Content Note

The records of Ropes Emmerton & Company, a Salem, Massachusetts, shipping firm, contain correspondence, financial, and shipping records which document the history and activities of the firm and their Arabian, Zanzibar, and Madagascar agencies. The records span the years from the company's beginning in 1882, through its prosperous years into its decline. The records end seven years after the closing of the agencies and the dissolution of the company. Also included are records of Pratt, Read & Company, an ivory manufacturing firm which was taken over by Edward D. Ropes and E. Augustus Emmerton. The collection has been divided into five series.

Series I. Salem Office Records contain correspondence, financial records, and legal papers which give a general overview of the various activities of the company. These include business transactions in the United States, distribution and purchase of cargo, and accounts with foreign agencies. The cable books record copies of cables sent and received by Ropes Emmerton. The originals are located in agency correspondence. The shipping account books and purchase and sale accounts often contain both invoices of cargoes shipped to the United States and a tally of when and where these goods were sold. Of special interest in the legal papers are agreements between Ropes Emmerton & Company and their agents, masters, and foreign merchants. There is also a folder of legal and financial papers from the 1892 sale of the Zanzibar agency to Arnold, Cheney & Company

All accounts current and accounts of sales generated in the foreign agencies, as well as correspondence from Ropes Emmerton & Company to their agents, are located in Series II. Partner and Agency Records. This series contains correspondence, cables and accounts for the firm's partners, Arnold, Hines & Company and Arnold, Cheney & Company, and for the Arabian, Zanzibar, and Madagascar agencies. The agencies are arranged alphabetically by area grouping. Correspondence and cables sent by the agencies, originally mounted in letterbooks, have been dismounted. The original arrangement of reverse chronological order, however, has been maintained. Due to the overlapping of agents' jurisdiction, many of the major agency records contain correspondence and accounts of neighboring agencies. Agency accounts also contain sales of discharged cargo carried by Ropes Emmerton ships.

Series III. Ships' Papers contain not only records for the two ships owned by Ropes Emmerton & Company, Glide (Bark) and Taria Topan (Bark), but also records for ships chartered in cooperation with Arnold, Hines & Company. Bills of lading and invoices arranging for the travel of cargo from the east coast of Africa through the Suez Canal and to London are located with the consigning agency.

Series IV. Pratt Read & Company Records contain correspondence, monthly reports, inventories, and financial papers from 1883 to 1901. These papers reflect the company's profitable business of manufacturing ivory combs, and piano and organ keys.

Series V. Miscellaneous Papers contain six years of William G. Webb's receipts for the guardianship of John Kerivan's children. One folder of miscellaneous papers contains labels and a key to a safe deposit box.

Historical Sketch

In 1882, John Bertram's (1796-1882) will provided a loan to any of his agents interested in continuing the shipping business which he had developed on the east coast of Africa. Edward D. Ropes, and George R. and E. Augustus Emmerton accepted the loan and established the successor firm Ropes Emmerton & Company. The new firm retained ownership of Bertram's vessels, the bark Glide and bark Taria Topan, and his foreign agencies in Aden, Madagascar, Muscat, and Zanzibar. They also continued the liaison established by Bertram with Arnold, Hines & Company, a New York shipping firm. Arnold, Hines & Company's function, however, developed from ships' husband to equal partner in all shipping ventures. All activities were divided equally between the companies from the chartering of vessels to shipping expenses incurred from the importing of African hides, rubber, ebony, copal, ivory, and cloves and the exporting of American kerosene and cotton sheeting. Arnold, Hines & Company conducted New York business while Ropes Emmerton's agencies oversaw the foreign trade.

By 1888, Ropes Emmerton and Arnold, Cheney & Company (the successor to Arnold, Hines & Company) were increasingly shipping their cargoes through the Suez Canal and to London, rather than around the Cape of Good Hope. As Arnold, Cheney & Company, now based in New York and London, began to dominate the market, Ropes Emmerton took a less active role. Ropes Emmerton sold their Zanzibar agency to Arnold Cheney in 1892. During the decade of its existence, partners in Ropes Emmerton & Company included George R., E. Augustus and J. M. Emmerton, Edward D. Ropes, Walter H. Trumbull, A.B. Webb, and C.B. Kimball. Many prominent Salem men served as their agents and ship masters, including Edward B. Trumbull, Leonard A. and Nathan A. Bachelder, J. Orne Ryder, and James S. Williams.

In 1883, Edward D. Ropes and E. Augustus Emmerton took over the ivory cutting and manufacturing firm of Pratt Read & Company. Others with interest in the company included members of Arnold Cheney & Company: George Cheney, Benjamin R. and William H. Arnold, and Joseph A. Jones. With these East African shipping merchants on the board of directors, the company had no lack of ivory with which to manufacture ivory combs, and piano and organ keys.

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.

Bachelder, Leonard A.
Bachelder, Nathan A.
Bertram, John, 1796-1882
Emmerton, E. Augustus (Ephraim Augustus), 1827-1901
Emmerton, George R., 1836-1888
Hathorne, William Hollingsworth
Kerivan, John
Ropes, Edward D. (Edward Dehonde), 1838-1902
Ropes, Edward D., 1864-1903
Ryder, J. Orne
Trumbull, Edward B., 1852-1934
Trumbull, William H.
Webb, W. G. (William George), 1821-1890
Williams, James S.
Alice Reed (Bark)
Annie M. Small (Ship)
Annie Reed (Bark)
Essex (Bark)
Glide (Bark)
Jane Adeline (Brig)
John Worcester (Ship)
Lizzie H. (Ship)
Lottie Moore (Bark)
Oakland (Ship)
Pharos (Ship)
Pilgrim (Bark)
Pratt, Read & Co.
Rembrandt (Ship)
Rose Welt (Ship)
Samar (Bark)
Sarah S. Ridgeway (Bark)
Stillman B. Allen (Bark)
Taria Topan (Bark)
Thomas A. Goddard (Bark)
Account books
Cargo handling--Hides
Cargo handling--Ivory
Freight and freightage--Hides
Freight and freightage--Ivory
Merchant agents--Aden--James S. Williams
Merchant agents--Bombay--L. A. Bachelder
Merchant agents--London--William H. Hathorne
Merchant agents--Madagascar--J. Orne Ryder
Merchant agents--Musqat--L. A. Bachelder
Merchant agents--Tamatave--J. E. Dawson
Merchant agents--Tamatave--R. M. Whitney
Merchant agents--Zanzibar--L. A. Bachelder
Merchants--Salem (Mass.)
Deep River (Conn.)
Salem (Mass.)


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

Ropes Emmerton & Company Records, MSS 103, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This collection is an integration and reorganization of approximately 55 boxes and 105 volumes. The collection is from an unknown source. Papers have been removed from the collection, including 4.5 boxes of John Bertram papers (see separation sheet for exact listing).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence K. Backman and Sylvia Kennick, May 1983. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, June 2017.

Related Material

Bennet, Norman Robert. "American in Zanzibar: 1865-1915." Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Vol. 105, pp 338-362.

Putnam, George Granville. Salem Vessels and their Voyages. Series II. Salem: Essex Institute, 1924.

Edward D. Ropes, Jr. Papers, 1882-1888, MH 201

Emmerton Family Papers, 1784-1891, MSS 24

John Bertram Papers, 1855-1889, MSS 104

Trumbull Family Papers, 1876-1899, MSS 105

Appendix I

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