Skip to main content

Parker Family Papers

Parker Family Papers

1 of 2
Open Finding Aid
small (250x250 max)
medium (500x500 max)
Extra Large
large ( > 500x500)
Full Resolution


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:Parker family
Title:Parker Family Papers
Quantity:2.5 linear feet (5 boxes)
Abstract:The Parker Family Papers consist primarily of shipping papers reflecting the thriving mercantile business of William Balch Parker (1772-1844) and his son, William Bradstreet Parker (1801-1878) of Salem.
Collection Number:MSS 144

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers
SERIES II. William B. Parker (1772-1844) Papers
SERIES III. Family Papers
SERIES IV. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Parker Family Papers consist primarily of shipping papers reflecting the thriving mercantile business of William Balch Parker (1772-1844) and his son, William Bradstreet Parker (1801-1878) of Salem. The collection also contains business and personal papers of William Balch Parker and members of the Parker and Watson families. The collection has been divided into four series.

Series I. Shipping Papers, 1799-1844, which includes ships' papers, shipping correspondence, and financial records, does not truly reflect the magnitude nor the prosperity of the mercantile trade which William Balch Parker and William Bradstreet Parker conducted with the West Indies, Europe, and the east coast of the United States. Only six of their twelve vessels may be found in this collection, and of these only the schooner/brig Argo and the brig Orient are well documented. The ships' papers include a number of vessels of which William Bradstreet was master (see Appendix II). In approximately 1824, William entered his father's mercantile business essentially as a shipmaster and business agent. The collection contains a sizeable amount of William's correspondence as a shipmaster with his father. These letters relay information regarding the state of markets, cargo prices, etc. Of note in the ships' papers is a letter from the master of the brig Alert and an undated international tide table. Shipping correspondence includes correspondence with foreign and domestic merchants, descriptions of William Balch's interests in shipbuilding, letters from business associates John Watson (William Balch's brother-in-law) and Benjamin Hawkes, and miscellaneous masters' correspondence.

Series II. William B. Parker (1772-1844) Papers, 1800-1845, includes correspondence relating to his stocks and leather tanning activities, letters from his wife's family, the Watsons, and financial papers. Besides household bills and receipts, the financial papers contain accounts and receipts generated from William's administration of estates, such as those of John Moriarty, William Foster, and John Watson (1747-1813). Also included here are bills for Abraham W. Parker's stay in the McLean Asylum for the Insane.

Series III. Family Papers, 1762-1845, contain financial papers of William Bradstreet Parker (1801-1878), Abraham W. Parker, miscellaneous Parker family members, and papers of the Watson family of Portland, Maine. Parker family news may be found in William Bradsteet's correspondence as master of the brig Argo, brig Effort, and brig Mercator, and William Balch's correspondence. The Watson family papers include correspondence regarding the family's land in Windham, Maine, legal and financial papers concerning the estates of Samuel Phippen, Sarah and Mary Hathorne, and John Watson (1747-1813), and a bill of sale for the schooner Betsey (1808). These papers also contain bills and receipts and legal sureties which relate to Abraham (1712-1790) and John Watson (1747-1813) as agents of Salem tax collector and tanner John Andrew.

Biographical Sketches

William Balch Parker, youngest son of Bradstreet and Rebecca (Balch) Parker, was born on April 28, 1772 in Groveland, Massachusetts. He went to Salem as a young man and was a merchant and ship owner, trading with the West Indies, Europe, and the east coast of the United States. In 1800 he married Abigail Watson (1775-1868) of Portland, Maine, and they had eight children. He died in Salem on May 1, 1844.

William Bradstreet Parker was a shipmaster and owner of several vessels based in New England, which were used in the mercantile trade between the West Indies, Europe, South America, and the East and West Coasts of North America. Parker was born March 7, 1801, the son of William Balch Parker (1772-1844) and Abigail Watson. Parker joined his father's trade early on; he was listed as shipmaster on his father's schooner Argo in 1818. He periodically served as master for a variety of other vessels and held a financial interest in many of them, frequently sharing ownership with other Salem businessmen such as Isaac Cushing and John F. Andrew. While he is associated with more than ten vessels, the majority of his maritime career involved the Mercator (Brig), Effort (Brig), Brazil (Bark), and Forrester (Ship). He shipped a variety of goods including but not limited to silk, cotton, pepper, sugar, coffee, indigo, potatoes, molasses, and corn as well as occasional passengers.

Parker was a member of the Salem Marine Society and the East India Marine Society. He married Ellen Parker in 1851 and eventually left the shipping business. Appointed director of the Naumkeag Bank in October 1851, he became president in 1869 and served in this position until his death. He also held leadership positions in the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company and the Salem Savings Bank; he served on Salem's Board of Alderman in 1853 and 1856. He died at his Pleasant Street home on December 24, 1878.

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.

Andrew, John, 1774-1829
Foster, William
Hathorne, Mary
Hathorne, Sarah
Hawkes, Benjamin, -1839
Moriarty, John
Parker family
Parker, Abraham W. (Abraham Watson), 1811-1845
Parker, William B. (William Balch), 1772-1844
Parker, William B. (William Bradstreet), 1801-
Phippen, Samuel
Alert (Brig)
Argo (Brig)
Argo (Schooner)
Arthur (Schooner)
Betsey (Schooner)
Brazil (Bark)
Effort (Brig)
Forrester (Ship)
McLean Asylum for the Insane
Mercator (Brig)
Orient (Brig)
Estates, administration of
Leather industry and trade
Ship building


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

Parker Family Papers, MSS 144, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Parker Family Papers are a reorganization and integration of 5 boxes of manuscripts, the 1964 gift of Mrs. George S. Parker, one envelope of additional papers donated by Mrs. Robert Barton in 1964, and a purchase made in December of 1986. Separated from the collection are the 1844 logbook of the Bark Brazil, and papers of William Pickering (see separation sheet).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, August 1984. Updated by Rachel Jirka, February 2009 and Catherine Robertson, January 2015.

Related Material

William Bradstreet Parker Papers, 1823-1854, MH 174

Papers of John Watson, 1811, 1814, undated, MSS 0.495

Appendix II

you wish to report:

Select the collections to add or remove from your search