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In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Peter Barney was born on Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1757. He began his career there as a tradesman and by 1800 moved his business and family to New Bedford, Mass. He first operated a boot and shoemaking business in the city and by 1804 had set up a mercantile business with his two sons, Paul (1781-1836) and George (1783-1811). The business sold household goods, fabrics, candles and food stuffs and was known as Peter Barney and Sons. The firm operated under that name until George left in 1809, when it then became Peter Barney and Son, operating until 1811.
Peter Barney had also established himself as an auctioneer in 1808 selling goods to settle debts for others. He continued to maintain his auction rooms until 1825. He also briefly formed a partnership with Elisha Thornton in the auction and commission business which lasted from 1818 to 1819.
Barney married three times and had seven children by his first wife, Sarah Coleman Barney (d. 1804). He died in New Bedford in 1838.
His eldest son Paul, after the dissolution of the business with his father, operated a ship chandlery and hardware business. He also served as an agent for Winslow Lewis & Co. of Boston, a manufacturer of patent cordage. He, like his father, also married three times and had two children, one each by the first two wives.
Paul's son by the second wife, George Howland Barney, was born in New Bedford in 1821. He began his career in the counting room of Charles W. Morgan and then moved into the counting room of his uncle, Edward Wing Howland, also a whaling agent. He also invested in several of Howland's vessels and inherited a considerable amount of property. He died at Nashawena in 1883.
Edward Wing Howland, the brother of Paul Barney's second wife, was born in New Bedford in 1804. He engaged in the whale fishery as an agent, owner and outfitter of whaling vessels along with his brother Cornelius and the above mentioned nephew. He died in New Bedford in 1879.
This collection contains the papers of various Barney family members from 1802 to 1881. A large portion of this collection includes the business records for the Barney’s family business, Peter Barney and Sons, 1804-1811, a company that moved this Nantucket man to the New Bedford area in 1800. These records contain the company’s financial records, 1804-1811, and Barney’s journals, 1804-1808. Materials of note include the day books (1804-1809), accounts current, ledgers (1811-1835) and also bills and receipts, (1805-1806). These records also include Barney’s journals from 1804 to 1808.
This collection also includes the papers of Peter’s eldest son, Paul Barney and his second wife, Eliza Coleman Barker Barney. Paul’s papers date from 1781 to 1836 and contain his correspondence, 1802-1830, and financial records, 1811-1843. Eliza’s papers span the years 1837-1855 and contain her correspondence, 1839-1855, legal documents, 1844-1855, and various bills and receipts, 1837-1838. Legal documents for Eliza also contain a bill of sale for the ship Pallas, 1884.
Papers for George Howland Barney span the years 1849 to 1883. Financial records, 1849-1882, consisting mainly of accounts, bills, and receipts constitute the bulk of these papers. Other notable items of George Howland Barney include a diary, 1876-1881, that documents expenses of the ship Onward at foreign ports, and a school notebook, 1836-1839, containing sample accounts and additional diary entries. George Howland Barney’s papers also include legal documents, 1862-1883, certificates and memos, 1839-1882, and his correspondence, 1880.
Edward Wing Howland's papers consist primarily of ship’s papers for six whaling vessels for which he served as agent or owner during the years 1844 to 1879. These ship's papers document voyages of the the vessels: Cornelius Howland (Ship), 1850-1871, Euphrates (Ship), 1846-1868, Lafayette (Ship), 1844-1848, Levi Starbuck (Ship), 1850-1866, Ohio (Ship), 1845-1879, and Onward (Ship), 1868-1870. Materials for these vessels consist mainly of crew accounts, but also include correspondence, agent/owner accounts, and a disbursement at foreign ports. Other notable materials of Edward Wing Howland include his financial records complete with his journal and a ledger, 1843-1879, his correspondence from 1871, and his estate records, 1870-1880.
Other family members represented in this collection include Cornelius Howland and Edward Merrill. Cornelius Howland’s papers span the years 1856 to 1881 and consist of his correspondence, 1873-1881, financial records, 1861, and a deed dated 1856. Papers for Edward Merrill, 1831-1851, 1872, contain his financial records that span the years 1831-1851 and 1872 as well as his legal documents, circa 1840. Materials of note include his journals from 1837 to 1843 along with his accounts with Charles W. Morgan.
Materials in this collection have been organized into sub-groups representing business records and personal papers of family members. These sub-groups are listed in the inventory in rough chronological order according to the birthdate of each person.
Arrangement of Collection
Access to Collections
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 103, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Materials in this collection were acquired by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society through an exchange with Nantucket Historical Association on 7 May 1987.
Processed by: Judith M. Downey, 9 May 1992
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey and Caitlin Hayes, 14 August 2012
Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1804-1879
Barney, Eliza Coleman Barker, 1797-1861
Barney, George Howland, 1821-1883
Barney, Paul, 1781-1836
Barney, Peter, 1757-1838
Business records--Mass.--New Bedford
Decedents' estates--Mass.--New Bedford
Distribution of decedents' estates--Mass.--New Bedford
Executors and administrators--Mass.--New Bedford
General stores--Mass.--New Bedford
Howland, Cornelius, 1802-1865--Estate
Howland, Cornelius, 1835-1893
Howland, Edward Wing, 1804-1879
Howland, Edward Wing, 1804-1879--Estate
Inventories of decedents' estates--Mass.--New Bedford
Lighthouses--Equipment and supplies
Merchant seamen--Mass.--New Bedford
Merchant seamen--Mass.--New Bedford--Salaries, pensions, etc.
Merrill, Edward, 1800-1884
Real property--Mass.--New Bedford
Ship chandlers--Mass.--New Bedford
Ships--Equipment and supplies
Whalemen--Mass. --New Bedford
Cornelius Howland (Ship)
Levi Starbuck (Ship)