Home
William Blair Townsend letter and receipt books, 1743-1805, bulk 1744-1777
William Blair Townsend letter and receipt books, 1743-1805, bulk 1744-1777
Title
William Blair Townsend letter and receipt books, 1743-1805, bulk 1744-1777
Description
The collection consists of two volumes, which date from 1743 to 1805, spanning his whole career as a merchant. Volume one is a letter book containing Townsend's business correspondence from November 23, 1743 to December 12, 1774. Most of the letters were written to American (many in North Carolina) and British (predominately in London) merchants. His earliest letters document his efforts to establish himself as a trader. Over time his letters turn to illustrate the common problems faced by many merchants: damaged goods, overpriced goods, embargos, and high freight costs. Particularly enlightening are his comments on the challenges of doing business throughout the French and Indian War and the years leading up to the American Revolution. He most frequently corresponded with London merchants Champion & Hayley, Lane & Booth, Lane Son & Fraser, Harrison & Ansley, and Leeds merchant Samuel Elam. In addition he frequently corresponded with Eliakim Palmer, colonial agent and merchant in London, as well as Dr. Walley Chauncy of North Carolina. He dealt in a wide variety of goods including molasses, rum, tar, medicines, pitch, saddles, tallow, hides, skins, pickled beef and pork, and wine. The letters also document Townsend's involvement in the slave trade through his occasional purchases of slaves.
Volume two is a receipt book which dates from January 29, 1744 to February 28, 1805. Receipts are mainly for Townsend's purchases and debts regarding his business ventures. The receipts also show the purchase of an occasional slave such as the one be bought on behalf of Benjamin Hallowell on September 22, 1748, and the domestic services of various women, including Hannah Hammond, who nursed his infant son, Thomas Hubbard Townsend, from September 22, 1753 to March 22, 1755.
William Blair Townsend was born July 6, 1723, son of James Townsend and Elizabeth (Phillips) Townsend. He died June 16, 1778, in Weston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College, class of 1741. He started business in Boston with Edward Wigglesworth as an importer of English and West Indies goods; by 1758 their partnership had dissolved but Townsend continued in business on his own account until his death.
William Blair Townsend letter and receipt books, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.
Other records relating to William Blair Townsend are in the Wigglesworth Family Collection at Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.
Creator
Townsend, William Blair , 1723-1778
Repository
Baker Business
Date
1743-1805
Format
.25
Language
eng
Type
Letter books-Massachusetts-Boston-18th century.
Receipts (financial records)-Massachusetts-Boston-18th century.
Sources
Citation
Townsend, William Blair , 1723-1778, “William Blair Townsend letter and receipt books, 1743-1805, bulk 1744-1777,” Colonial North American Project at Harvard, accessed March 28, 2017, http://colonialnorthamerican.library.harvard.edu/items/show/12117.