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Table of Contents
In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Between ca. 1760-1900, members of the Rotch family of Nantucket and New Bedford, Mass., played a vital role in the development of their communities as centers of the whaling industry. The family's close association with New Bedford began in 1787 with the emigration of William Rotch Jr. from Nantucket, where he had been trained in the counting house of William Rotch Sr. & Sons. Young Rotch established his own business which, in turn, launched the careers of three of his sons, William Rodman, Joseph, and Thomas, as merchants involved in different aspects of the whaling industry. Business ventures directed or financially supported by the Rotches between 1787-1896 included William Rotch Jr. & Sons, William R. Rotch & Company, Rotch Wharf Company, Rotch Candle House, and New Bedford Cordage Company. Members of the family also held a vital interest in numerous local banks and textile mills. While most Rotches were merchants and businessmen, the family also included a notable inventor and other individuals not involved in commercial pursuits.
Papers in this collection reflect the activities of Rotch family members between 1764-1947. In particular, these materials focus on the business affairs of William Rotch Sr. (1734-1828), William Rotch Jr. (1759-1850), three of the younger William's sons, William Rodman (1788-1860), Joseph (1790-1839), and Thomas (1791-1840), and Joseph's son, William James Rotch (1819-1893). Dominating the collection are correspondence, directors' minutes, ships' papers, legal documents, financial accounts, and other records of William Rotch Jr. & Sons, 1789-1863, William R. Rotch & Company, 1813-1859, Rotch Wharf Company, 1831-1896, and Rotch Candle House, 1839-1849, as well as similar documents reflecting other Rotch family commercial interests. A related group of materials, dating from 1768-1870, consists of the business, personal, and estate records of James Arnold (1781-1868), partner and son-in-law of William Rotch Jr.
This collection also encompasses papers concerning noncommercial activities of various Rotches. Notable among these items are specifications and patents, ca. 1797-1822, for improvements in whaling and fishing equipment and domestic devices invented by Francis Rotch (1750-1822), and correspondence, journals, and memoirs written by various Rotch women. The latter documents, dating from about 1821-1910, concern family life, religious attitudes, travel experiences, and social activities of Mary Rotch (1777-1848), Anne Waln Morgan Rotch (1800-1884), Eliza Rotch Farrar (1791-1870), and Anne Hudson Morgan (1850-1947).
Materials in the Rotch 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. Business and personal papers remain intermingled within each sub-group, thus reflecting the arrangement scheme used by the Rotches themselves. Whenever possible, correspondence has been chronologically divided by year, then alphabetically arranged within each year by name of writer. Other papers, organized into series by type of document, are arranged in chronological order except for ship's papers, which are grouped according to name of vessel. Researchers should note that most of the correspondence of William Rotch Sr. consists of transcripts. The locations of the originals of these documents is described in the Collection File for Mss 2. Published works which may serve as guides to persons and businesses represented in this collection include The Rotches, by John M. Bullard (1947) and Joseph L. McDevit Jr.'s The House of Rotch (1978).
Arrangement of Collection
Access to Collections
Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 2, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 United States Code 552a) governs the use of materials that document private individuals, groups, and corporations.
Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a reproduction if the document does not infringe the privacy rights of an individual, group, or corporation. These specified conditions of authorized use include:
- non-commercial and non-profit study, scholarship, research, or teaching
- criticism or commentary
- as a NBWM archives preservation or security copy for research use
- as a research copy for deposit in another institution
If the researcher later uses a copy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," the researcher is personally liable for copyright. privacy, or publicity infringement and agrees to indemnify the New Bedford Whaling Museum from any legal action as a result of the error. Permission to obtain a photographic, xerographic, digital, or other copy of a document does not indicate permission to publish, exhibit, perform, reproduce, sell, distribute, or prepare derivative works from the document without permission from the copyright holder and from any private individual, group, or corporation shown or otherwise recorded.
Permission to publish, exhibit, perform, reproduce, prepare derivative works from, sell, or otherwise distribute the item must be obtained separately in writing from the holder of the original copyright (or if the creator is dead, from his/her heirs) as well as from any individual(s), groups, or corporations whose name, image, recorded words, or private information (e.g. employment information) may be reproduced in the source material. The holder of the original copyright is not necessarily the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The New Bedford Whaling Museum is not legally liable for copyright, privacy, or publicity infringement when materials are wrongfully used after being provided to researchers for "fair use."
This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if fulfillment of the order is judged in violation of copyright or federal or state privacy law. This institution also places restrictions on the use of cameras, photocopiers, and scanners in the research room.
Related Manuscript Collections
Mss 130: Rotch Family Papers
Removed to Photographs Collection
- Five photographs of Rotch family members, homes and businesses, ca. 1830-1960.
- Three daguerreotypes of Rotch family members, ca. 1850.
- Seven prints of Rotch fleet and whaling scenes, ca. 1930.
Removed to Printed Collection
- Great Britain. An Act for the Further Increase and Encouragement of Shipping and Navigation, 1786.
- Great Britain. An Act for the Further Increase and Encouragement of Shipping and Navigation, 1790.
- Harvard University. Proceedings of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Graduation of the Class of 1841, 1892.
- Hicks, Elias. A Doctrinal Epistle...Purporting to be an Exposition of Christian Doctrine Respecting the Nature and Office of Jesus Christ, 1824.
- Hole in the Wall: or a Peep at the Creed-Worshippers, 1828 (2 copies)
- Farrar, Mrs. John. Recollections of Seventy Years, 1866.
- Ricketson, Daniel. History of New Bedford..., 1858.
Removed to Maps Collection
- Cartes Taride. Environs de Paris ..., ca. 1920.
Removed to Broadside Collection
- "Pavilion of the Gigantic Whale, Charing Cross," 1827.
- Rotch coat of arms. (2 drawings)
Removed to Objects Collection
- Sixteen military and fraternal medals, ca. 1890-1940.
- Seven military insignia for a uniform, ca. 1917.
- Two patches, ca. 1917.
The major portion of papers in this collection were given to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society on 17 May 1946 as a bequest from the estate of Francis Rotch. Other materials were either purchased by or donated to the Society between ca. 1928-1981.
Processed by: Ellen Hassig Ressmeyer, with assistance from Patricia J. Albright and Helen Frasier., ca. 1982
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 29 April 2011; box list amended by Mark Procknik, 23 June 2011
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Account books--Nantucket, Mass.--1769-1779
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1788-1896
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1817-1868
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1839-1849
Account books--Providence, R.I.--1773-1800
Account books-New Bedford, Mass.--1831-1896
Arnold, James, 1781-1868
Arnold, Jonathan, 1706-1796
Arnold, Sarah Rotch, 1786-1860
Arnold, Thomas, 1752-1826
Benevolent institutions SEE Charities
Bullard, John Morgan, 1890-1965
Business records--Mass.--New Bedford
Charitable bequests--Mass.--New Bedford
Coastwise shipping--Mass.--New Bedford
Commission merchants--Mass.--New Bedford
Decedents’ estates--Mass.--New Bedford
Discoveries (in science) SEE Patents
Domestic relations--Mass.--New Bedford
Estates of decedents SEE Decedents’ estates
Factors SEE Commission merchants
Farrar, Eliza Rotch, 1791-1870
Friends in Massachusetts
Merchant ships’ papers SEE Ships’ papers
Morgan, Anne Rotch Hudson, 1850-1947
New Bedford, Mass.-- Industries
New Bedford, Mass.--Benevolent and moral institutions and societies
New Bedford, Mass.--Charities
New Bedford, Mass.--Commerce
New Bedford, Mass.--Docks, wharves, etc.
New Bedford, Mass.--Poor
Plummer, Richard C, 1801-1831
Poor relief SEE Charities
Quakers SEE Friends
Relief (Aid) SEE Charities
Roach family SEE Rotch family
Roache family SEE Rotch family
Roch family SEE Rotch family
Roche family SEE Rotch family
Rotch, Anne Waln Morgan, 1800-1884
Rotch, Benjamin Smith, 1817-1882
Rotch, Benjamin, 1764-1839
Rotch, Benjamin, 1793-1854
Rotch, Francis Morgan, 1822-1863
Rotch, Francis, 1750-1822
Rotch, Francis, 1788-1874
Rotch, Francis, 1863-1918
Rotch, Francis, 1885-1945
Rotch, Joseph, 1790-1839
Rotch, Mary, 1777-1848
Rotch, Thomas, 1767-1823
Rotch, Thomas, 1792-1840
Rotch, William James, 1819-1893
Rotch, William Jr., 1759-1850
Rotch, William Rodman, 1788-1860
Rotch, William Sr., 1734-1828
Ships’ documents SEE Ships’ papers
Social welfare SEE Charities
Sperm-oil SEE Whale oil
Swift, Eliza Morgan Bates, 1879-1923
Travelers, Women--Mass.--New Bedford
Welfare SEE Charities
Whale fisheries SEE Whaling
William R. Rotch & Company, New Bedford, Mass.
William Rotch Jr. & Sons, New Bedford, Mass.
William Rotch Sr. & Sons, Nantucket, Mass.
George and Albert (Ship)
Governor Strong (Sloop)
Henry Taber (Bark)
James Arnold (Ship)
L. C. Richmond (Ship)
New Hazard (Brig)
Ocean Wave (Bark)
William Thatcher (Brig)
William and Eliza (Ship)
William and Mary (Schooner)