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James Chaney (1797-1884) Papers

James Chaney (1797-1884) Papers

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JAMES CHANEY (1797-1884) PAPERS, 1788-1885, undated

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:Chaney, James, 1797-1884
Title:James Chaney (1797-1884) Papers
Dates:1788/1885, undated
Quantity:10 boxes, 1 flat file (5 linear feet)
Abstract:The James Chaney Papers consist of business and personal papers for this Salem, Massachusetts merchant.
Collection Number:MSS 316

Series List

SERIES I. James Chaney Business PapersSERIES II. James Chaney Personal PapersSERIES III. George Leonard Chaney Papers
SERIES IV. James Henry Chaney Papers

SERIES V. William Green Papers

SERIES VI. William H. Ward Papers

SERIES VII. Miscellaneous Materials

Scope and Content Note

The James Chaney Papers consist of business and personal papers for this Salem, Massachusetts merchant. This collection has been organized into seven series.

Series I. James Chaney Business Papers consists primarily of bills and receipts for goods and services purchased by James Chaney. The papers are subdivided into James Chaney Business Papers (pre-Haraden and Chaney), Haraden and Chaney Business Papers, and James Chaney Business Papers (post-Haraden and Chaney).

The goods purchased appear to be primarily for resale. These included food products, liquor, beer, lumber and hardware, dry goods, clothing, boots and shoes, etc. During the period 1823-1824, Chaney was associated with Stephen Haraden in the firm of Haraden and Chaney. Their business activity involved selling general merchandise as well as an occasional small adventure on outward-bound vessels. After the dissolution of the relationship with Haraden, the materials show a gradual shift from general merchandise to a focus on dry goods and ready-made clothing, although for a short time after the separation from Haraden, Chaney appears to have been involved in victualing outward-bound vessels. This collection of bills and receipts is of great value for determining the wholesale costs of dry goods for the period.

The account books include a number of sales, stock, accounts, and daybooks kept by Chaney during his business career, including the accounts of Haraden and Chaney. They have been integrated into the appropriate subseries.

Series II. James Chaney Personal Papers contains materials of a personal nature such as household bills and receipts. Included in this series is collection of materials related to the construction of the family house at 14 Liberty Street, Salem. Included are bills/receipts and specifications for its construction as well as maintenance. Unfortunately it was difficult, in some instances, to determine whether the bills/receipts were business or personal. Because of this there will likely be personal material found with the business material and vice versa.

Series III. George Leonard Chaney Papers includes bills and receipts for clothes, clothing and shoe repair, and a subscription for the use of a gymnasium.

Series IV. James Henry Chaney Papers includes papers related to his service as a factor or agent for merchant Charles H. Miller in the palm oil trade in West Africa, including some personal adventures.

Series V. William Green Papers includes bills and receipts. There is no obvious relationship between Green and James Chaney, other than the fact that Green purchased goods from Chaney.

Series VI. William H. Ward Papers contains bills and receipts as well as business correspondence relating to sugar prices and shipments of coke from Pittsburgh to Niles, Ohio. There is no obvious relationship between Ward and James Chaney.

Series VII. Miscellaneous Materials includes bills and receipts; a small section of a Salem newspaper, 1833; three account wrappers, 1846, 1851, 1852/53; a New York Stock Exchange sales sheet, 1854; a list of merchandise belonging to H. C. Roberts shipped aboard the Manchester, undated; five bills/receipts paid by a Mary Hayes, 1828-1829; a letter dated 1885; and other materials.

Biographical Sketch

There is some uncertainly as to James Chaney's place of birth. He is listed in the Salem Vital Records as having been born 9 October 1797, from which one would assume he was born in Salem. However, death records in the Salem City Clerk's Office list his place of birth as both Vermont and New Hampshire. He died in Salem on 16 December 1884 in his 88th year.

Chaney was active in business in Salem in 1820 as evidenced from early bills and receipts in the collection. He appears first to have operated a general store selling dry goods, household items, etc., as well as other commodities such as meat and liquor. On 28 August 1823, he entered into a formal business relationship with Stephen Haraden, which was dissolved by mutual consent on 12 May 1824. They had used the firm name Haraden and Chaney for several months prior to the formal agreement as well as through the period of agreement. The firm dealt in general merchandise, including food, and participated in several small adventures on outward-bound vessels. Once separated from Haraden, Chaney continued to sell general merchandise and also appears to have regularly victualed outward-bound vessels. Gradually Chaney shifted from general merchandise to focus exclusively on the dry goods business. He conducted business at several locations in Salem, including 17 Central Street, 15 Fish Street, and 211 Essex Street. By the early 1850s the business was flourishing, as indicated by the volume of goods purchased. William B. Ashton succeeded Chaney in the business about 1853, having been employed by Chaney at his Essex Street location. After selling his business, Chaney continued to purchase dry goods at wholesale and appears to have continued conducting business in some form, but on a greatly reduced scale.

James Chaney married Harriet Webb (b. 30 January 1803; d. 26 November 1900), the daughter of Henry and Joanna (Burrill) Webb, on 5 August 1827. He was a member of both the First and Second Baptist Societies (which became the Central Baptist Society) in Salem at various times. In 1833 he paid pew tax to both societies. Chaney was also a member of the Salem Charitable Mechanic Association.

James and Harriet Chaney had four children: Harriet Webb Chaney (b. 25 August 1828; d. 18 November 1896), Mary Webb Chaney (b. 26 March 1830, married Edward Read on 16 June 1859), James Henry Chaney (b. 2 June 1832), and George Leonard Chaney (b. 24 December 1836, married Caroline I. Carter, d. 19 April 1922). See additional genealogical information on the attached chart.

In 1837 James Chaney had a brick house constructed at 14 Liberty Street, Salem, on the northwest corner of the intersection of Liberty and Charter Streets. James and Harriet Chaney occupied the house until he died in 1884, and Mrs. Chaney remained in the house until her death in 1900. Subsequently the Reverend George Leonard Chaney and his wife, Caroline I. Carter Chaney, occupied the house. Their son George Carter Chaney (Harvard College and Law School 1894) joined them about 1904; he lived with his parents until 1910. The Chaneys continued in residence until George Leonard Chaney died in 1922. His widow remained in the house until about 1925 when the house was vacant. George Carter and W. Evande Jewett Chaney then occupied the house until she died in 1952. George remained in the family house until his death in July 1953. The house remained vacant for a few years and the address disappears from the city directories in 1956; it was probably razed at about that time as part of Salem's Downtown Urban Renewal Program.

Stephen Haraden was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on 18 January 1785, the son of Joseph and Lydia (Haraden) Haraden. He moved to Salem in 1799. He first married Rachel Bancroft on 11 June 1811 (d. 6 Nov 1842). After her death, he married Ann Rose, daughter of Brackley and Rachel C. Rose, on 25 December 1844 (d. 18 January 1862). Little is known beyond his relationship with James Chaney, except that he was a master mariner and a member of Essex Lodge AF & AM, having served as Master in 1834. Haraden died in Waltham, Massachusetts, on 13 October 1871.

George Leonard Chaney, the fourth of James Chaney's children, graduated from Harvard College in 1859 and then Meadville Theological School. He served as minister of the Hollis Street Church (Unitarian) in Boston from 1862 to 1878. During his stay in Boston he served as a member of the Boston School Committee. Subsequently he was appointed southern superintendent of the American Unitarian Association and founded a number of churches in the south. Mr. Chaney also wrote extensively, including several juvenile books (see Phillips Library catalog).

James Henry Chaney, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on 2 June 1832, the third child of James and Harriet Webb Chaney. He went to sea, signing on as a “boy,” aboard the ship Thomas Perkins in 1849 for a journey around the world. Subsequently, he continued as a mariner, rising to the rank of master. He served as master of the barks Fire Fly and Manchester owned by Edward D. Kimball, Thomas P. Pingree, Charles H. Miller, and Nathaniel A. Kimball. In the early 1860s, Chaney served as a factor for Salem merchant Charles H. Miller in the West African palm oil trade. He died on 24 August 1862.

William Green was chief mate aboard the brig Susan, owned by Robert Brookhouse and Nathan Robinson. He died at St. Helena on 28 July 1830 at age 23.

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.

Haraden, Stephen, 1785-1871
Haraden & Chaney
General stores
House construction
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

James Chaney (1797-1884) Papers, MSS 316, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This collection is a combination of five library accessions: #90013 was purchased on 18 May 1990; #91045 was purchased on 14 November 1991; #94021 was purchased on 12 August 1994; and #94022 was a gift to the museum on 14 August 1994. Additional material (receipts, stock inventories, and a clothing pattern) was purchased on April 26, 2002 (acc #2002.040) and integrated into the collection.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert F. Craig, July 2001. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, March 2009, and September 2019.

Related Material

Boston City Directory, various dates.

Hitchings, A. Frank, comp. Ship Registers of the District of Salem and Beverly. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1906.

Leavitt, William, "History of Essex Lodge of Freemasons,"Essex Institute Historical Collections, 3 (1861): 212.

Salem City Directory, various dates.

Salem Evening News, 20 April 1922, 22 April 1922, 20 July 1953.

Salem, Massachusetts, Records of the City Clerk.

Salem, Massachusetts Vital Records, 6 vols. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1916-1925.

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