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Benjamin Crowninshield Family Papers

Benjamin Crowninshield Family Papers

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BENJAMIN CROWNINSHIELD (1758-1836) FAMILY PAPERS, 1727-1934, undated


Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

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:Crowninshield, Benjamin, 1758-1836
Title:Benjamin Crowninshield Family Papers
Dates:1727/1934, undated
Quantity:8.0 linear feet (11 boxes, 1 oversize folder)
Abstract:The Benjamin Crowninshield Family Papers include the shipping, business, and personal papers of Benjamin Crowninshield, his son Benjamin, Jr., and a series of other descendants of Jacob and Hannah Crowninshield. The bulk of the collection is made up of the writings of Benjamin Crowninshield, Jr, along with material related to the naval careers of Jacob Crowninshield (1799-1849) and his son, William Wallach Crowninshield (1823-1874).
Identification:MH 16

Series List

SERIES I. Benjamin Crowninshield (1758-1836) PapersSERIES II. Benjamin Crowninshield (1782-1864) PapersSERIES III. Jacob Crowninshield (1732-1774) PapersSERIES IV. Jacob Crowninshield (1799-1849) PapersSERIES V. Mary R. Crowninshield (1831-1916) PapersSERIES VI. Crowninshield Family PapersSERIES VII. Related Family Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Benjamin Crowninshield Family Papers include the shipping, business, and personal papers of Benjamin Crowninshield, his son Benjamin, Jr., and a series of other descendants of Jacob and Hannah Crowninshield. The bulk of the collection is made up of the writings of Benjamin Crowninshield, Jr, along with material related to the naval careers of Jacob Crowninshield (1799-1849) and his son, William Wallach Crowninshield (1823-1874). Finally, there is a significant amount of correspondence to and from Mary R. Crowninshield (1833-1916) along with papers of related families and friends. This collection has been arranged into six series.

Series I. Benjamin Crowninshield (1758-1836) Papers include ships papers, Custom House papers, accounts and receipts, estate papers, correspondence, and personal papers. This series is arranged into three subseries. Subseries A. Ships Papers include a ledger, day book, and detailed invoice for a shipment of jewelry on the ship Prudent. The ledger includes disbursements and charges relating to the detention of Prudent at Algeciras in 1800-1801, along with accounts for the ship America at Reunion. The day book holds various personal accounts, including material on rental properties, and shipping accounts for the ships Prudent and America. Additional papers are included for the ships Alexander and Belisarius, the sloop Commerce, the brig Eunice, and the schooner Peggy. Subseries B. Business Records include Custom House papers documenting Benjamin's work as collector for the Marblehead/Lynn district, along with folders for accounts and receipts and legal documents. Subseries C. Personal Papers include correspondence, the majority of which is made up of letters from William McLeod, a merchant agent that worked for Benjamin. There are also estate papers comprised of correspondence between executors John Crowninshield and Benjamin Merrill, along with notes, memos, and certificates from the Salem Marine Society, Essex Lodge, and the Bunker Hill Monument Association.

Series II. Benjamin Crowninshield (1782-1864) Papers include correspondence, notes, and writings from 1785 to 1871. This series is arranged into two subseries. Subseries A. Personal Papers include correspondence, accounts and receipts, newspaper clippings, three commission merchant cards, notes, and a portrait, presumably of Benjamin Crowninshield himself. Of particular note in the correspondence is a draft letter by Benjamin dated 1804, describing a conversation with Thomas Jefferson and a letter from Thomas Paine concerning Benjamin's subscription to "The Prospect" and current political affairs. Letters after 1810 are largely associated with efforts to obtain a military pension on behalf of his mother. Subseries B. Writings include journals, essays, reviews and collection writings. The New Orleans journals contain poetry and personal observation of the business climate and social character of that city. The journals written on board Cleopatra's Barge describe the progress of the voyage and the cultures of various European localities. Although some sections of the journal are not bound in chronological order, this material represents the most complete first-hand account of the voyage available. Volume 1 of the Cleopatra's Barge journal has been temporarily removed from the collection and is on exhibition in the Cleopatra's Barge exhibit in the Putnam Gallery in the Peabody Essex Museum. The essays and reviews are on topics of science, history, philosophy, and a number of pages of notes and portions of other essays. Collected writings are published materials most likely used as sources for Benjamin's own writings.

Series III. Jacob Crowninshield (1732-1774) Papers include the personal and business papers of Jacob Crowninshield and his wife Hannah Carlton Crowninshield. This series is arranged into two subseries. Subseries A. Personal Papers include papers for the sloop Resolution, personal accounts, estate papers, and a certificate from the Salem Marine Society. Subseries B. Hannah Carlton Crowninshield (1734-1824) Papers include accounts, receipts, correspondence, Merchant Bank notes, legal papers and indentures. There is also an inventory of the estate of Samuel Carlton, Hannah's father, and genealogical notes on the Carlton Family.

Series IV. Jacob Crowninshield (1799-1849) Papers include the personal and business papers of Jacob Crowninshield and his wife Harriet Wallach Crowninshield. This series is arranged into two subseries. Subseries A. Personal Papers include his seaman's papers, a letter book from Jacob's time on various ships in the United States Navy, personal accounts and receipts, and a biography of his military service. Subseries B. Harriet Wallach Crowninshield (1802-1885) Papers includes correspondence concerning the settlement of her late husband Jacob's affairs and efforts to procure a military pension for her.

Series V. Mary R. Crowninshield (1831-1916) Papers includes correspondence and artwork created by Mary. This series is arranged into two subseries. Subseries A. Correspondence and Personal Papers include correspondence, papers related to her role as executrix of her uncle Benjamin Crowninshield Jr.'s estate, and her obituary published in the Buenos Aires Herald. Correspondence is arranged chronologically and includes letters from her sister Harriet W. "Daffy" Bartleman, her uncle James Armstrong, her nephew Richard M. Bartleman Jr., and her brother William W. Crowninshield. William's correspondence concerns efforts to gain his release from Confederate custody in 1863 and from his time while stationed at Yokohama in 1869 to 1870. Richard M. Bartleman Jr.'s correspondence concerns his travels in South America, Spain, Switzerland, and Cuba and his work as United States Consul in Buenos Aires, Antigua, Malaga, Geneva, Valencia, Cadiz, Seville, Madrid, and Cienfuegos. Subseries B. Art Work includes autograph albums, a poetry copy book, and a drawing book from Mary's childhood and teen years.

Series VI. Crowninshield Family Papers include papers from various Crowninshield family members. This series has been arranged into five subseries. Subseries A. Hannah Crowninshield Armstrong (1789-1834) Papers include correspondence, receipts, and art work created by Hannah during her early adult life. Subseries B. Elizabeth Crowninshield Armstrong (1794-1870) Papers include correspondence, a drawing book, and a scrapbook of poems created by Elizabeth during her early adult life. Two of the items are inscribed with her alias, Ophelia Valenborg. Subseries C. William Wallach Crowninshield (1833-1874) Papers include ships papers, orders, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and a scrapbook of art work. Ships papers include the ships Bell of the West, USS Marblehead, USS Mayflower and USS Montauk. Official orders are from William's time with the United States Navy. The newspaper clippings relate to the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac and their confrontation at Fort Monroe, Newport News, Virginia in 1862, and the collision of corvette Oneida and steamer Bombay near Yokohama in 1870. Subseries D. Benjamin Carlton Crowninshield (1835-1875) Papers include ships' papers for the bark Lyeemoon, the ship Horatio, and the brig Spec. Subseries F. Crowninshield Family Papers include various items from the Crowninshield family. When known, the items are arranged chronologically by creator. There is a discharge certificate for Jacob Crowninshield (b. 1843) from his service with the 5th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War, correspondence and photographs of Edith Crane owned by Richard M. Bartleman, Jr., and correspondence from Harriet W. Bartleman. There is also a family narrative written by an unknown author. Unidentified items include diaries, lesson notebooks, prints, drawings, poetry, scrapbooks, and printed articles, newspapers, and pamphlets collected over the years. This material is arranged chronologically by subject.

Series VII. Related Family Papers includes papers of friends and families related to the Crowninshields. This series is arranged into three subseries. Subseries A. Elizabeth Hodges Clark (1855-1932) Papers include correspondence to Elizabeth Hodges Clark, a cousin of Mary R. Crowninshield's. The majority of the correspondence is from Mary and Harriet W. Bartleman. There is also correspondence from Lawrence W. Jenkins of the Peabody Museum and George Francis Dow of the Essex Institute that references possible donations from Miss Clark. Subseries B. Reverend William Bentley Papers include published sermons, sermon notes and two letters written by Reverend Bentley, one to James Madison in 1810 and the other to John Quincy Adams in 1817. Reverend Bentley was a close family friend to the Crowninshields. Subseries C. Wallach Family Papers includes the papers of Moses Wallach and Charles S. Wallach, relatives of Harriet Wallach Crowninshield. Letters from 1857 and 1859 are inquiries of the death of Joseph Abraham Wallach in Dutch Guiana (now known as the Republic of Surinam) in South America and the current state of his property.

Biographical Sketch

Benjamin Crowninshield (1758-1836) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on February 15, 1758 to Jacob Crowninshield (1732-1774) and Hannah Carlton Crowninshield (1734-1824). Known as "Sailor Ben," he served as midshipman on a British man-of-war at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. With the captain's permission he left the ship and joined the American militia, only to be wounded at Bunker Hill. He then began a successful career as a ship master and merchant, commanding a number of Crowninshield family vessels including the ships America, Belisarius, and Prudent. In 1817, his cousin George Crowninshield asked him to command the yacht Cleopatra's Barge on a pleasure voyage to Europe. He then served as Collector of Customs for the Marblehead/Lynn, Massachusetts district from 1821-1830. Crowninshield was a member of the Essex Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Salem, joined the Salem Marine Society in 1794, and became a member of the East India Marine Society in 1799. He married Mary Lambert (1760-1851) on November 9, 1780 and they had five children: Benjamin (1782-1864); Maria (1789-1870); Hannah (1789-1834); Elizabeth (1794-1870); and Jacob (1799-1849). Benjamin Crowninshield died in 1836.

Benjamin Crowninshield (1782-1864) was born in 1782 to Benjamin Crowninshield (1758-1836) and Mary Lambert Crowninshield (1760-1851). He attended school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later transferred to the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Known as "Philosopher Ben," he accompanied his father on the voyage of Cleopatra's Barge and kept a detailed journal of the trip. From 1816-1822, with the exception of his voyage in 1817, he represented his brother-in-law John Crowninshield's interests in New Orleans. He died unmarried in 1864.

Hannah Crowninshield Armstrong (1789-1834) was born on June 28, 1789 to Benjamin Crowninshield (1758-1836) and Mary Lambert Crowninshield (1760-1851). She was a talented portrait painter and artist. On March 29, 1819, she married James Armstrong (1794-1868) in the Crowninshield house in Salem, Massachusetts where the Reverend William Bentley resided. She died on May 4, 1834 at age 45. Armstrong later married Elizabeth Crowninshield (1794-1870) in 1836.

Jacob Crowninshield (1799-1849) was born on March 10, 1799 to Benjamin Crowninshield (1758-1836) and Mary Lambert Crowninshield (1760-1851). Jacob joined the United States Navy at age fourteen, moving up the ranks from midshipman to lieutenant to Inspector of Provisions in 1843. The highest rank he achieved was that of captain. On June 9, 1825, he married Harriet Wallach (1802-1885) and they had six children: Mary R. (1831-1916); William Wallach (1833-1874); Benjamin Carlton (1835-1875); Harriet Wallach (b. 1840); Daisey B. (b. 1842); and Jacob (b. 1843). In 1848 Jacob was ordered to command the USS St. Mary's of the Pacific Squadron. He was detached from that command in 1849 and died at sea on July 9, 1849, while returning from duty aboard the Pacific Mail Steamer Oregon.

Mary R. Crowninshield (1831-1916) was born in Danvers, Massachusetts on April 8, 1831 to Jacob Crowninshield (1799-1849) and Harriet Wallach Crowninshield (1802-1885). She grew up surrounded by relatives and friends who were a part of the United States Navy, Army, and government. She herself volunteered with the United States Sanitary Commission, a precursor of the Red Cross, during the Civil War. She lived in the Crowninshield home in Boston, at the corner of Chestnut and Mount Vernon Streets, only a block away from the Navy Yard. In her later years she traveled to different countries with her various relatives. She died on June 4, 1916 in Cienfuegos, Cuba, at the house of her nephew, Richard Milne Bartleman, Jr., United States Consul.

William Wallach Crowninshield (1833-1874) was born on April 4, 1833. He joined the United States Navy at age eighteen and rose to the rank of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant. During the Civil War he was in Confederate custody. By 1865, he was Acting Master in the United States Navy and one of several individuals who positively identified the body of John Wilkes Booth on board the USS Montauk. In 1866 he was court-martialed on charges of drunkenness while on duty. He was later stationed in Yokohama from 1869 to 1870. He died on January 3, 1874. Benjamin Carlton Crowninshield (1835-1875) was born on April 2, 1835. He was a merchant and served as First Officer aboard the ship Horatio. He died on December 24, 1875.

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.

Armstrong, James, 1794-1868
Bartleman, Harriet W., b. 1840
Bartleman, Richard Milne, 1834-1884
Bartleman, Richard Milne, b. 1863
Bentley, William, 1759-1819
Carlton family
Carlton, Samuel
Clark, Elisabeth Hodges, 1855-1932
Crowninshield Family
Crowninshield, Benjamin Carlton, 1835-1875
Crowninshield, Benjamin, 1758-1836
Crowninshield, Benjamin, 1782-1864
Crowninshield, Daisey, b. 1842
Crowninshield, Elizabeth, 1794-1870
Crowninshield, George, Jr., 1766-1817
Crowninshield, Hannah Carlton, 1734-1824
Crowninshield, Hannah, 1789-1834
Crowninshield, Harriet Wallace, 1802-1885
Crowninshield, Jacob, 1732-1774
Crowninshield, Jacob, 1799-1849
Crowninshield, Jacob, b. 1843
Crowninshield, John, 1696-1761
Crowninshield, John, 1771-1842
Crowninshield, Mary Robinson, 1831-1916
Crowninshield, William Wallach, 1734-1824
Dow, George Francis, 1868-1936
Jenkins, Lawrence Waters, 1872-1961
McLeod, William
Merrill, Benjamin
Paine, Thomas, 1737-1809
Wallach, Charles S.
Wallach, Joseph Abraham
Wallach, Moses
Wallach, Robert
Buenos Aires Herald (Argentina)
Bunker Hill Monument Association
Marine Society at Salem
Account books--Massachusetts--Salem
Alexander (Ship)
America (Ship : 1795-1815)
America (Ship)
Armored vessels
Belisarius (Ship)
Belle of the West (Ship)
Bombay (Ship)
Carib (Ship)
Cleopatra's Barge (Yacht)
Commerce (Sloop)
Customs administration
Estates, Administration of
Eunice (Brig)
Horatio (Ship)
Lyeemoon (Bark)
Marblehead (USS)
Mayflower (USS)
Merrimac (Frigate)
Monitor (Ironclad)
Montauk (USS)
Naval ships
Oneida (USS)
Peggy (Schooner)
Phoenix (Brig)
Porpoise (USS)
Prudent (Ship)
Resolution (Sloop)
Shipping--Canary Islands
Shipping--Massachusetts--Boston (Mass.)
Shipping--Washington (D.C.)
Spec (Brig)
St. Mary's (USS)
New Orleans (La.)--Description and travel
Salem (Mass.)
Account books


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Request 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

Benjamin Crowninshield Papers, MH 16, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Prudent (Ship) ledger and day book were the gift of William C. Endicott in November 1918. The Custom House certificates were acquired from E. B. Rushford in 1963. Additional Crowninshield family papers, along with the related family papers, were donated by Dr. Reinier Beeuwkes on September 20, 2011 (acc. 2011.041) and October 20, 2011 (acc. 2011.052). Business papers of Benjamin Crowninshield and Hannah Crowninshield were removed from MSS 0.37 and incorporated into this collection. Estate papers and correspondence from Hannah Crowninshield was removed from MSS 4 and incorporated into this collection. A logbook for USS St. Mary's was removed from this collection and has been added to the logbook collection.

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Robert P. Spindler, December 1987. Updated by Halley Grogan, December 2012.

Related Material

Bentley, William. Diary of William Bentley, D. D. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1905-1914.

Crowninshield, Francis Boardman. The Story of George Crowninshield's Yacht Cleopatra's Barge. Boston, Mass: Private Print, 1913.

Cummings, Abbott Lowell. "The House and It's People." Essex Institute Historical Collections. Vol. 97. p. 82-97.

Edwards, William C. and Edward Steers, Jr. The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.

Ferguson, David L. Cleopatra's Barge. Boston, Mass: Little, Brown & Co., 1976.

Portraits of Shipmasters and Merchants in the Peabody Museum of Salem. Salem, Mass: Peabody Museum, 1939.

Clifford Crowninshield Papers, 1692-1861, MSS 97, MH 17

Crowninshield Family Papers, 1697-1909, MH 15, MSS 4

Crowninshield Family Charts, Mss. Gen. 1, located in Cabinet 2, Drawer 9

James Armstrong Papers, 1814-1868, MH 31

USS St. Mary's (Sloop of War), log book, Log 2124

Benjamin Crowninshield Family Tree

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