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Samuel Putnam (1768-1853) Papers

Samuel Putnam (1768-1853) Papers

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SAMUEL PUTNAM (1768-1853) PAPERS, 1718-1876, 1915, 1932-1942

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:Putnam, Samuel, 1768-1853
Title:Samuel Putnam (1768-1853) Papers
Dates:1718/1876, 1915, 1932/1942
Quantity:3.5 linear feet (4 boxes)
Abstract:The Samuel Putnam Papers consists of legal papers, correspondence bills, receipts, notes, and an account book.
Collection Number:MSS 675

Series List

SERIES I. Business Papers
SERIES II. Personal Papers
SERIES III. Family and Other Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Samuel Putnam Papers consists of legal papers, correspondence bills, receipts, notes, and an account book. Several shipping papers of his brother, Ebenezer, are also included. The collection has been organized into three series.

Series I. Business Papers consists of legal papers, commissions as Justice of the Peace, correspondence, bills and receipts, and an account book. Correspondence includes letters from Judge Joseph Story (1779-1845) and William Cranch (1769-1855) and letters dealing with Timothy Pickering's (1745-1829) libel suit against William Carlton and the Salem Register. Other business letters concern legal cases and Putnam's rental properties. The account book lists cases he worked on and costs charged; most are in Essex County. This series also contains a few of Putnam's estate papers.

Series II. Personal Papers includes letters to and from family members as well as some notes and speeches written by Putnam. The deeds in box 2 folder 4 were marked "old deeds and papers relating to the Danvers farm."

Series III. Family and Other Papers contains correspondence by Putnam's family members as well as papers belonging to other Putnams. Included is a letter by loyalist James Putnam (1756-1838) to his brother, Ebenezer, and shipping papers. Katharine Loring's papers (box 2, folder 18) include a printed booklet about William Lowell Putnam (1863), a death notice for Frederic Ward Putnam (1915), correspondence, an essay about Louisa Putnam Peabody, and a copy of the obituary for Samuel Putnam (copied from the Salem Gazette, 1853).

Biographical Sketch

Samuel Putnam was born in Danvers, Massachusetts, on May 13, 1768, the son of Gideon (1727-1811) and Hannah (Brown) (1732-1813) Putnam, and was the only one of his parents' ten children to survive. He started school in Beverly; when he reached the age of ten, he studied at Philips Andover Academy. He graduated from Harvard College in the class of 1787, and then studied law with Judge Theophilus Bradbury in Newburyport. In 1790 he was admitted to the Bar in Essex County and in July 1790, began to practice law in Salem. In 1806, he represented Elizabeth (Derby) West in her divorce proceeding with Captain Nathaniel West.

In 1814 he was made associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court justice. In 1830, he wrote the opinion in Harvard College v. Amory which established the Prudent man rule in United States law. In that same year he served as chief justice at the trial of Joseph and Francis Knapp, who were accused of hiring Richard Crowninshield to murder Captain Joseph White of Salem. He served as state senator in 1808, 1809, 1813, and 1814. In 1825, Harvard granted him an honorary Doctorate of Law. He retired from the bench in 1842.

He married Sarah Gooll (1772-1864) in 1795 and they had eight children: Samuel Raymond (1797-1861); Hannah (1799-1822); Louisa (1801-1876); Mary Ann (1803-1845); Charles Gideon (1805-1875); Elizabeth Cabot (1807-1881); Sarah Gooll (1810-1880); and John Pickering (1813-1867).

From 1798 to 1833, Putnam and his family lived on Federal Street in Salem (now the PEM's Cotting-Smith Assembly House). After 1833, he lived in a rented house in Boston in the winter and on the family farm in Danvers in summer. He died in Boston on July 3, 1853, and is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery in Danvers.

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.

Clark, Anna
Cranch, William, 1769-1855
Crowninshield, Sarah Putnam, 1810-1880
Derby, Elias Hasket, 1766-1826
Derby, Richard, 1736-1781
Doust, John
Doust, William
Gerrish, Benjamin
Glover, Jonathan
Gray, Jane Loring, 1821-1909
Herrick, Ginger
Hutchinson, Israel
Hutchinson, Robert
Jeffry, Elizabeth Bowditch, 1735-1797
Loring, Katharine P., 1849-1943
Lowell, Elizabeth Putnam, 1807-1881
Mackmallin, Jonathan
Needham, George
Newhall, Ezra
Newhall, Samuel
Nichols, Benjamin Ropes, 1786-1848
Peabody, Louisa Putnam, 1801-1876
Peirse, Eunice
Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829
Porter, John, Jr.
Putnam, Andrew
Putnam, Archelaus
Putnam, Benjamin, d. after 1753
Putnam, Charles Gideon, 1805-1875
Putnam, Ebenezer, 1768-1826
Putnam, Frederick Ward, 1839-1915
Putnam, Gideon, 1726-1811
Putnam, Israel, 1730-1756
Putnam, James, 1756-1838
Putnam, John Pickering, 1813-1867
Putnam, Nathaniel, b. 1619
Putnam, Samuel Raymond, 1797-1861
Putnam, Sarah, 1772-1864
Putnam, Solomon, 1720-1752
Putnam, Tarrant, 1688-1732
Story, Joseph, 1779-1845
Taylor, Samuel
Towne, Daniel
Astria (Ship)
Essex Bridge Corporation
Governor Endicott (Brig)
Granite (Ship)
Jason (Ship)
Minerva (Ship)
Neptune (Ship)
Polly (Brigantine)
Rose (Brig)
Union (Brig)
Account books
American loyalists
Justices of the peace
Legal instruments
Letter writing
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

Samuel Putnam (1768-1853) Papers, MSS 675, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by Katherine Peabody Loring on June 28, 1926, and Susan G. Loring, in memory of Katherine Peabody Loring, on October 16, 1978. Twenty one letters from Putnam's children and all of the commissions as Justice of the Peace were removed from the Bradlee family collection and relocated here. Some documents were a gift from Mrs. Eben Putnam on March 6, 1945. The account book was a gift from Mrs. Augustus Loring on September 7, 1990. Five letters and three receipts were removed from our autograph collection and relocated here. One of those letters, dated 1817, was from the Margarette W. Brooks collection.

Processing Information

Collection processed by O. M. Sargent, May 1980 and Tamara Gaydos, May 2018.

Related Material U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

McAllister, Jim. "Essex County Chronicles: A 'Mighty Blusterer' to Some, Salem's Putnam Was a Legal Icon." The Salem News, 26 Apr. 2010,

Putnam, Elizabeth Cabot, and Harriet Silvester Tapley. The Hon. Samuel Putnam and Sarah (Gooll) Putnam: with a Genealogical Record of Their Descendants. Danvers Historical Society, 1922.

Tracy, Cyrus M. Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts: Embracing a History of the County from Its First Settlement to the Present Time with a History and Description of Its Towns and Cities. Boston : C.F. Jewett & Co., 1878.

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