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John Fisk (1744-1797) Papers

John Fisk (1744-1797) Papers

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JOHN FISK (1744-1797) PAPERS, 1774-1897


Processing and rehousing of this collection were funded by grants from the following Essex Institute corporate members: Gulf of Maine Research Group, Bursaw Oil Corp., and Salem Laundry Co.

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:Fisk, John, 1744-1797
Title:John Fisk (1744-1797) Papers
Quantity:2.5 linear feet (1 box, 7 volumes)
Abstract:The John Fisk Papers primarily record Fisk's shipping enterprises and mercantile affairs.
Collection Number:MSS 226

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The John Fisk Papers primarily record Fisk's shipping enterprises and mercantile affairs. The ledgers, journals, and waste books, 1787-1797, accurately summarize his storefront activities. Lists of goods sold in his stores as well as those shipped on his vessels are found throughout the waste books and sales accounts (B1 F2). Of particular interest in the waste books are Fisk's yearly summaries, January 1, 1789 to January 1, 1794, of all his property (real estate, financial assets, store inventories, and personal holdings).

Fisk's activities as a ship owner and merchant are documented only in the Account of Sales, Invoice Book, and Orders (B1 F2). This volume provides a brief overview of the nature of his shipping transactions through instruction letters to sea captains and invoices of cargo shipped on Fisk and non-Fisk vessels. There are no ships' papers for his vessels in this collection.

The miscellaneous business and personal papers include receipts, a letter to Fisk as general of the militia, and estate papers. Additional estate accounts are also located in the 1793-1797 waste book (volume 7). A copy of the 1683(?) will of John Browne ( -1685?) will also be found in B1 F4.

Biographical Sketch

John Fisk (1744-1797) was born on April 11, 1744, the son of Rev. Samuel (1689-1770) and Anna (Gerrish) Fisk of Salem, Massachusetts. A prominent Salem merchant whose vessels traded with ports in Spain, India, and the West Indies, Fisk also operated three stores in Salem and one in Boston. Among the commodities he sold were coffee, tea, raisins, lemons, iron hoops, oil, tar, and salt.

According to Pierce, "'At the time of the Revolution [Fisk] commanded the first vessel of war commissioned in the service [the privateer Tyrannicide]. At the close of the war, he was commissioned a Colonel, then a Brigadier, and finally a Major General in the State Militia, which position he held until his death, in 1797. He was a man of princely hospitality, of enterprising spirit, and of benevolent impulses. He took great interest in the various religious and charitable movements of the day, and contributed freely to their support. He was thrice married, but left no male issue."

His wives were Lydia Phippen (1745-1782), Martha Lee (d. 1785), and Sarah Wendell (1745-1804). He died on September 28, 1797.

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.

Browne, John, d. 1685?
Estates, administration of
Salem (Mass.)
Account books


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

John Fisk (1744-1797) Papers, MSS 226, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material is an integration and reorganization of seven volumes and one folder. The receipt book, 1781-1782, was purchased July 10, 1903. Volumes 1 through 7 were the gift of Mrs. Eben Putnam on May 9, 1945. The remainder of the collection is a gift from Mrs. Eben Putnam on August 15, 1941 and March 17, 1944. The Winchester Town Archives donated a promissory note and an account now in Box 1, Folder 3, on November 17, 1998 (accession #1998.064).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence K. Backman, April 1987. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, September 2015 and Tatiyana Bastet, July 2019.

Related Material Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Pierce, Frederick Clifton. Fiske and Fisk Family: Being the Record of the Descendants of Symond Fiske, Lord of the Manor of Stadhaugh, Suffolk County, England, from the Time of Henry IV to Date, including All the American Members of the Family. Chicago, IL: W. B. Conkey Co., 1896.

Commission of appointment as Commander of the armed Brig called Tyrannicide to John Fisk by the major part of the council of Mass. Bay, May 9, 1776, E182.F57 C666.

Letter from John Fisk, Ipswich, 1794, with information concerning American shipping to the West Indies, HE745.F575.

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