Table of Contents
Inventory of the Grinnell Family Papers
In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Cornelius Grinnell (1758-1850), the progenitor of the Grinnell family of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was a prominent New Bedford whaling captain and merchant. His son, Joseph Grinnell (1788-1885), began as a clerk for his father in New Bedford and by 1810 had started his own commission merchant firm, known as Fish & Grinnell, in New York City, N.Y., in partnership with Preserved Fish (1766-1846). Initially concerned with handling the oil and candle business of New Bedford merchants, the firm later branched out into other lines including packet ships to London and Liverpool, England. Upon Fish's retirement from the firm in 1825, Joseph Grinnell's brothers, Henry Grinnell (1799-1874) and Moses Hicks Grinnell (1803-1877), joined the company under the name of Fish, Grinnell & Company. The firm was reorganized again in 1832 when Joseph Grinnell retired and Robert Bowne Minturn (1805-1866), Henry Grinnell's brother-in-law, joined as a partner in Grinnell, Minturn & Company. The company then expanded into general shipping to Latin America, Cuba, China, and England. Joseph returned to New Bedford to begin his own shipping business.
Another son of Cornelius Grinnell, Cornelius Grinnell Jr. (1786-1830), learned the commission business in New York but returned to New Bedford to raise sheep. His son, Lawrence Grinnell (1811-1893), entered business as a clerk in the offices of Fish & Grinnell. He, too, returned to New Bedford where he opened a sperm oil and candle factory, later entering the insurance business.
Scope and Content Note
The bulk of material in this collection reflects the mercantile activities of Grinnell, Minturn & Company and its predecessors, from 1810-1892. These records encompass financial records, 1810-1841, 1884; legal documents, 1830-1843, including bills of sale for fractional interest in the ships Ceres and New England and for oil on board the Joseph Maxwell (Ship); incoming and outgoing business correspondence with William Phillips & Son and George R. Phillips, commission merchants at New Bedford, Mass., concerning the price of oil and the state of the oil market, 1821-1892; and a telegraphic key, 1877. Another substantial portion of material reflects the business activities of Joseph Grinnell and consists of incoming business correspondence, including letters from his relative, Preserved Fish, asking for Grinnell's assistance in his capacity as deputy collector of customs for the port of New Bedford, 1799-1861; financial records, 1829-1855; ship's papers, including bills of sale for fractional interests and insurance policies on cargo and catchings for such vessels as the ships Oneida and Persia; and an agreement, 1834. Other family members represented by correspondence, bills, ship's papers, and similar materials dating 1814-1859, are Cornelius Grinnell; his nephew, Charles Grinnell; Joseph Grinnell's brothers, Moses Hicks Grinnell and Cornelius Grinnell Jr.; Cornelius Grinnell Jr.'s sons, Lawrence and Francis Grinnell; and Elisha P. Grinnell.
Printed works which provide additional information on the Grinnell family and Grinnell, Minturn & Company are Ancestry Of The Grinnell Family (1931) and Howland Heirs (1919) by William M. Emery and South Street: A Maritime History Of New York (1934) by Richard C. McKay.
Arrangement of Collection
Information for Researchers
Access to Collections
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 50, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Individual items in this collection were given to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Mrs. Orin Q. Flint Sr. on 27 April 1935, and by William C. Phillips on 15 November 1938. Existing records reveal neither the source nor the accession date for the bulk of the material.
Processed by: Barbara E. Austen, ca. 1982
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 03 April 2012; box list appended by Mark Procknik, 09 April 2012
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Business records--Mass.--New Bedford
Business records--N.Y.--New York City
Commission merchants--Mass.--New Bedford
Customs administration--Mass.--New Bedford
Fish, Preserved, 1766-1846
Grinnell, Charles, 1783-1855
Grinnell, Cornelius Jr., 1786-1830
Grinnell, Cornelius, 1758-1850
Grinnell, Elisha P., fl. 1833
Grinnell, Francis, 1821-1914
Grinnell, Henry, 1799-1874
Grinnell, Joseph, 1788-1885
Grinnell, Lawrence, 1811-1893
Grinnell, Minturn & Company, New York City, N.Y.
Grinnell, Moses Hicks, 1803-1877
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--New Bedford
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--New Bedford--Policies
Merchant ships--Mass.--New Bedford
Merchants--N.Y.--New York City
Minturn, Robert Bowne, 1805-1866
New Bedford, Mass.--Commerce
New York (City)--Commerce
Passenger ships--N.Y.--New York City
Phillips, George R., 1830-1918
Phillips, William, 1801-1886
Shipping--N.Y.--New York City
William Phillips & Son, New Bedford, Mass.