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In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
The firm of J. & W. R. Wing & Company of New Bedford, Mass., was first organized in 1849 by two Dartmouth, Massachusetts, brothers: Joseph Wing (1810-1895) and William Ricketson Wing (1830-1908). Initially devoting their business to supplying seamen with clothing and other goods, the Wings soon began investing in whaling voyages and purchased their first whaler, the Oscola, 2d (Bark), in 1852. The youngest Wing brother, John (1833-1915), became a partner in the firm in 1857, just as J. & W. R. Wing & Company entered into its most prosperous period of activity. The Wings managed one of the largest fleets in the American whaling industry between 1860-1910 and ultimately owned all or the controlling interest in twenty-six vessels, including the barks A. R. Tucker, Andrew Hicks, Canton, Kathleen, Morning Star, and Sunbeam. Most of their efforts were directed toward the pursuit of sperm whales; however, in the 1870s, the Wings responded to a growing demand for whalebone by transferring several of their vessels--notably the barks Alice Knowles, Cape Horn Pigeon, and Charles W. Morgan--to San Francisco. West coast operations of the firm were managed by William R. Wing, who made regular trips to California to meet vessels returning from the Arctic and Okhotsk.
Despite the decline of the whaling industry after 1880, the Wings continued their activities as whaling agents as well as their business as outfitters, clothiers, dry goods dealers, and retailers of men's furnishings. The brothers also invested in several local textile mills and in various land development companies on Martha's Vineyard. Management of the company was assumed by William R. Wing's son-in-law, Charles Morgan Hussey (1856-1940) after the death of John Wing in 1915. The firm's involvement with whaling ended with a 1917 voyage of the Andrew Hicks (Bark), and J. & W. R. Wing & Company was sold to the Steiger-Dudgeon Company in 1923.
Records in this collection focus on the whaling-related activities of J. & W. R. Wing & Company from 1853-1918. Dominating these materials are various types of ship's papers, including agent and owner accounts of expenses and profits resulting from whaling voyages; crew papers, such as slops and outfitting charges, discharge records, crew lists, and receipts indicating payments received at the conclusion of voyages; bills of exchange and lading; returns and gauges on whale oil and bone; and bills and receipts relating to outfitting and ship repair costs and to sales of catches. These records, which concern voyages of twenty-three different vessels, also encompass letters and telegrams from shipmasters; consulate and custom house papers; notices and receipts for marine insurance; legal documents concerning Alabama Claims for the Brunswick (Ship); and correspondence, statements, awards, and similar materials relating to the 1893 seizure of the Cape Horn Pigeon (Bark) by Russian officials while cruising near the Bering Sea on charges of violating fishing laws.
Complementing these papers are ledger accounts; insurance records; bills of exchange and lading; bills and receipts; and other financial or purchasing and receiving records which chiefly concern the outfitting of the Wings' fleet and the shipment and sale of cargoes from 1877-1914. These documents also include a volume listing names and lays of crew members on the barks Alice Knowles, Andrew Hicks, Cape Horn Pigeon, and Charles W. Morgan, 1894-1906, and bills and receipts for taxes and personal expenses of William R. and John Wing.
In addition, this collection contains administrative agreements and contracts between the partners of J. & W. R. Wing & Company from 1867-1896 and a quantity of legal documents, 1837-1916. The latter materials principally consist of deeds for land purchased by the Wings at Worcester, Mass, and from the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company in Edgartown, Mass; leases for additional property from the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association; contracts, agreements, and specifications for buildings to be constructed at Edgartown; and correspondence, financial records, inventories, and memoranda relating to the estates of Joseph Wing, 1893-1901, and William R. Wing, 1907-1915. Concluding the collection is a small group of incoming business correspondence about the sale of whale oil and similar matters, 1865, 1907-1910, and a code book, lists of whaling signals and whale sightings, and memorandum, ca. 1833-1913.
Researchers should note that many business records of J. & W. R. Wing & Company are in the manuscript collection of the New Bedford Free Public Library. A complete list of these materials, as well as useful information about the firm, may be found in Martin Joseph Butler's 1973 doctoral dissertation, J. & W. R. Wing of New Bedford: A Study of the Impact of a Declining Industry Upon an American Whaling Agency. Microfilm copies of the public library's Wing records are available at the Old Dartmouth Historical Society Whaling Museum Library.
Arrangement of Collection
Access to the Collection
Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 35 [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Removed to Printed Collection
- Briefs relating to Alabama Claims for theBrunswick (Ship), ca. 1876. 4 items.
- Outfitting book, n.d.
Removed to Archives Collection
- Gift acknowledgment forms issued to George and Emily M. Hussey by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, 1904, 1907, 1915, 1924, 1934, 1936.
Most records in this collection were given to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Elizabeth M. Hussey on 30 April 1942 and 23 December 1968. These materials have been supplemented by a crew accounts book for the barks Stafford and Morning Star, donated by Maude L. Clark on 15 September 1950, and by records purchased by the Society prior to 1968.
Processed by: Patricia Albright and Judith Downey, with assistance from Henry Kettell and Henry Sherman, ca. 1982
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 01 November 2011
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection
Business records--Mass.--New Bedford
Clothing trade--Mass.--New Bedford
Commercial agents--Mass.--New Bedford
Decedents' estates--Mass.--New Bedford
Fishery law and legislation--Russia--Bering Sea
Hussey, Charles Morgan, 1856-1940
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--New Bedford
Inventories of decedents' estates--Mass.--New Bedford
Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association, Edgartown, Mass.
Men's furnishing goods
Merchant seamen--Mass.--New Bedford--Salaries, pensions, etc.
New Bedford, Mass.--Commerce
Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company, Edgartown, Mass.
Seizure of vessels and cargoes
Ships--Equipment and supplies
United States--Claims against Great Britian
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Claims
Wing, John, 1833-1915
Wing, Joseph, 1810-1895
Wing, William Ricketson, 1830-1908
A. R. Tucker (Bark)
Abraham Barker (Bark)
Alice Knowles (Bark)
Andrew Hicks (Bark)
Cape Horn Pigeon (Bark)
Charles W. Morgan (Bark)
John Dawson (Bark)
Morning Star (Bark)
Osceola, 2d (Bark)