MSS 51:  Cummings Family Papers, 1675-1947 - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Inventory of the Cummings Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research LibraryProcessed by: Barbara B. Austen; machine-readable finding aid created by: Kermit DeweyFunds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.Inventory of the Cummings Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Scope and Content Note

Information for Researchers

Separations List

Administrative Information


Subject Headings

Inventory of the Cummings Family Papers

In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Cummings Family Papers
Date Span:
Cummings family
Mss Number:
Mss 51
5.5 linear feet
Business and personal papers of a Dartmouth and New Bedford, Massachusetts, family, 1675-1947.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Phone: (508) 997-0046

Biographical Note

Philip Cummings, the American progenitor of the Cummings family of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, was an early settler of Portsmouth, Rhode Island who moved to Dartmouth about 1686. He died in 1707. His great-grandson, Benjamin Cummings, was born in Dartmouth, Mass., in 1750. He served in several town offices, including surveyor of highways between 1784-1815 and selectman from 1798-1808. In addition to his civic duties, he also owned a saw mill and a grist mill, commanded merchant vessels, and operated a general store in partnership with his son, William Cummings (1783-1872). Upon Benjamin's death in 1831, William took his brother, John Cummings (1795-1864), as a partner in the store and called the business William Cummings & Company. To supplement their mercantile activities, William and John, along with their brother, Benjamin Cummings (1797-1863), invested in whaling vessels through agents such as Gibbs & Jenney of Fairhaven, Mass., and William Gifford and Charles R. Tucker & Company, both of New Bedford, Mass. Benjamin's son, Charles Smith Cummings (1830-1906), formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Abner R. Tucker (ca. 1818-1884), in 1853. The firm, known as Tucker & Cummings, was active at Dartmouth, Mass., in the grocery trade and in whaling as outfitters and agents. In 1881, Tucker withdrew from the business and his nephew, Benjamin Cummings (b. 1852), succeeded him in the firm C. S. & B. Cummings of New Bedford, Mass., which withdrew from whaling and concentrated on the grocery trade.

Benjamin Tucker Cummings, born in 1834, the son of John Cummings, was also active in whaling, serving as agent through his firm Gifford & Cummings, a partnership with his brother-in-law, Charles H. Gifford. Benjamin died in 1917. His nephew, Lawrence Belding Cummings (1881-1947), wrote an unpublished genealogy of the family just prior to his death.

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Scope and Content Note

The bulk of this collection reflects the business activities of members of the Cummings family at Dartmouth and New Bedford, Mass., from 1740-1881. Philip Cummings is represented by an indenture to which he was a witness, dated 1675 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Notable papers of Benjamin Cummings are select men's records, 1784-1808, which include warrants and petitions as well as several documents relating to his service as surveyor of highways and overseer of the poor. Supplementing these records are incoming business and personal correspondence, 1779-1823, including letters from his daughter and other relatives by marriage; legal documents, 1740-1828, principally consisting of deeds, several of which are for Benjamin's brother John Cummings; and financial records, 1776-1830, including promissory notes for Benjamin Cummings & Son, and for David Ryder, a relative by marriage.

The bulk of William Cummings' papers consist of ship's papers, 1829-1877, for vessels in which he and his brothers John and Benjamin had an interest, such as the Benjamin Tucker (Ship), whose papers include a complainant's brief in the Alabama Claims; Canton (Ship); and Marcella (Bark). These papers primarily consist of insurance policies but also include accounts, bills, and receipts. Financial records encompass accounts current, promissory notes, money orders, bills, and receipts, both personal and for William Cummings & Company that span the years 1816-1869. William's papers also include incoming business and personal correspondence from the years 1843 and 1858, as well as legal documents, 1821-1878.

Notable papers of John Cummings are deeds for land in Dartmouth, dating 1797, 1803, 1822-1863. These are supplemented by additional legal documents encompassing bond agreements, 1844-1845, 1862, and a bill of sale, 1832. Other materials include a letter to his brother William, ca. 1850, and incoming business and personal correspondence, 1856, 1862; along with financial records, 1829-1870. Papers for John's brother, Benjamin Cummings, include incoming and outgoing business correspondence, his will, and financial records, 1848-1863.

The papers of Charles Smith Cummings primarily consist of ship's papers for nine vessels for which his firm, Tucker & Cummings of Dartmouth, Mass., acted as agent. The bulk of these records are for the ship Brunswick and the barks Benjamin Cummings, Elliot C. Cowdin, and Nye, and encompass agent/owner account's, outfitting books, crew papers (including Whalemens' Shipping Papers), consular records, customs records, bills of exchange, bills of lading, bills of sale, oil gauges, bills, receipts, and memoranda concerning slops, outfits, and settlements, dating 1851-1864. Additional materials consist of oil gauges, a "tea account" book, stock certificates, and bills, ca. 1864-1881. The bills are both personal and for Tucker & Cummings and its successor, C. S. & B. Cummings.

Benjamin Tucker Cummings' papers primarily consist of business records for his firm, Gifford & Cummings, and encompass accounts current from the years 1867 and 1877, as well as ship's papers, 1841-1881, for such vessels as the barks Bounding Billow and Mars, whose papers include records of Charles R. Tucker & Company, the original agents for the vessel. Supplementing these records are incoming business correspondence, 1865-1868, and the will of his mother, Elizabeth S. Cummings, 1873, and an executor's inventory of her estate, 1879.

The papers of Lawrence Belding Cummings reflect his research in compiling a Cummings family genealogy and encompass correspondence, 1932-1947, principally consisting of letters to and from William Tripp at the Old Dartmouth Historical Society concerning research questions; research notes, ca. 1920-1947, including holograph transcripts of documents as well as typed copies of family deeds dating 1687-1777; and an illustrated, typed copy of "Our Cummings Family," ca. 1947. Miscellaneous papers related to the Cummings family contain correspondence, custom house papers, bills and receipts, and memoranda, ca. 1777-1805, believed to have belonged to Cummings family members.

The final sub-group contains a typed genealogy prepared by David L. Cummings titled Ancestry of Thomas Booth Cummings of Bristol County, Massachusetts and Maui, Hawaii documenting the Hawaiian line of Cummings descended from Thomas.

In addition to these papers, the Old Dartmouth Historical Society has within its collections several objects relating to the Cummings family. Included in these holdings are pieces of china, framed pictures, and photographs. For a list of photograph holdings, please refer to the "Separations List" included in the finding aid.

Arrangement of Collection

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Access to Collections

Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.

Preferred Citation

New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 51, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]

Copyright Notice

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.

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Removed to Photographs Collection

- Photograph of Alice Mandell Beach.
- Photograph of Arthur Cummings.
- Photograph of Benjamin Cummings.
- Photograph of Benjamin Tucker Cummings.
- Photograph of Cynthia S. Cummings.
- Photograph of Elizabeth Olds Cummings.
- Photograph of Elizabeth P. Nichols Cummings.
- Photographs of Elizabeth S. Cummings. 3 items.
- Photograph of Emma H. Cummings.
- Photographs of Hetty Cummings. 4 items.
- Photographs of John Cummings (1795-1864). 2 items.
- Photographs of John Cummings (1847-1914). 2 items.
- Photograph of Julia Belding Cummings.
- Photograph of Julia Belding and Lawrence Belding Cummings.
- Photograph of Nancy T. Cummings.
- Photograph of Sarah S. Cummings.
- Photograph of William and Emma H. Cummings.
- Photographs of Cummings family. 2 items.
- Photograph of Bertha Mandell de Windt.
- Photograph of "Charley" Gifford.
- Photograph of Elizabeth Cummings Gifford.
- Photograph of Frank H. Cummings.
- Photograph of Helen S. Cummings Hunt.
- Photograph of John Cummings Hunt.
- Photograph of Prescott Hunt.
- Photograph of William Prescott Hunt.
- Photograph of Charles Jones.
- Photograph of Sarah S. Cummings Hunt.
- Photograph of John Kehew.
- Photograph of Nancy Cummings Kehew.
- Photograph of Alice Cummings Mandell.
- Photograph of Edward Mandell.
- Photograph of Edward Mandell Jr.
- Photograph of Nancy Slocum Olds Tucker Potter.
- Photograph of Lily Mandell Stone.
- Photograph of Benjamin R. Tucker.
- Photograph of Caroline Cummings Tucker.

Removed to Printed Collection

- Hawley, Frank. Whales and Whaling in Japan. Miscellanea Japonica II, a prospectus. Kyoto, Japan, 1958.
- Topsfield Historical Society. Isaac Cummings, of Topsfield Mass., and some of his descendants. Topsfield, Mass., 1899.

Removed to Broadside Collection

- Advertisement of Eben. Moulton, goldsmith and jeweler, ca. 1790.
- "To the Curious. Exhibition of Puppets." Notice, ca. 1790.
- Tripp, William H. Brief History of Bark Canton.

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The bulk of material in this collection was given to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Lawrence B. Cummings on 12 March 1947 and by Frances B. Nalle on 5 January 1954. Additional material was given by A. M. Forbes on 4 September and 16 December 1935, Mrs. Lawrence B. Cummings on 15 November 1951, and Mrs. Thomas R. Goethals on 9 May 1977.

Processing Information

Processed by: Barbara B. Austen, ca. 1982

Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 16 April 2012

Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection

Sub-group 1: Philip Cummings Papers, 1675 [1 item]
Sub-group 2: Benjamin Cummings Papers, 1740-1830 [5 inches]
Incoming business and personal correspondence; select men's records; legal documents; and financial records.
Sub-group 3: William Cummings Papers, 1816-1878 [7.5 inches]
Incoming business and personal correspondence; legal documents; ship's papers; and financial records.
Sub-group 4: John Cummings Papers, 1797, 1803, 1822-1870 [2 inches]
Incoming and outgoing business and personal correspondence; legal documents; and financial records.
Sub-group 5: Benjamin Cummings Papers, 1848-1853, 1861-1863 [23 items]
Incoming and outgoing business correspondence, a will, and financial records.
Sub-group 6: Charles Smith Cummings Papers, 1851-1881 [3 linear feet]
Ledgers; ship's papers for nine vessels; oil gauges; "tea account;" stock certificates; and bills.
Sub-group 7: Benjamin Tucker Cummings Papers, 1841-1881 [5 inches]
Incoming business correspondence; legal documents; ship's papers; and accounts current.
Sub-group 8: Lawrence Belding Cummings Papers, ca.1920-1947 [8 inches]
Incoming and outgoing personal correspondence, research notes, and Cummings genealogy.
Sub-group 9: Miscellaneous Family Papers, ca.1777-1805 [12 items]
Correspondence, Custom House Papers and Bills and Receipts.
Sub-group 10: Thomas Booth Cummings Papers, 2007-2008 [1 volume]
Genealogy of Thomas Booth Cummings.

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Subject Headings

Account books--Dartmouth, Mass.--1854-1880
Alabama claims
Business records--Mass.--Dartmouth
Business records--Mass.--New Bedford
C. S. & B. Cummings, New Bedford, Mass.
Charles R. Tucker & Company, New Bedford, Mass.
Commission merchants--Mass.--Dartmouth
Commission merchants--Mass.--New Bedford
Cummings family
Cummings, Benjamin Tucker, 1834-1917
Cummings, Benjamin, 1750-1831
Cummings, Benjamin, 1797-1863
Cummings, Benjamin, b. 1852
Cummings, Charles Smith, 1830-1906
Cummings, John, 1795-1864
Cummings, Lawrence Belding, 1881-1947
Cummings, Philip, d. 1707
Cummings, Thomas Booth, ca. 1821-1877
Cummings, William, 1783-1872
Dartmouth, Mass.--Commerce
Dartmouth, Mass.--Genealogy
Dartmouth, Mass.--Officials and employees
Gibbs & Jenney, Fairhaven, Mass.
Gifford & Cummings, New Bedford, Mass.
Gifford, Charles Henry, 1833-1908
Gifford, William, 1798-1866
Grocery trade--Mass.--Dartmouth
Grocery trade--Mass.--New Bedford
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--Dartmouth
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--Dartmouth--Policies
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--Dartmouth--War risks
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--New Bedford
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--New Bedford--Policies
Insurance, Marine--Mass.--New Bedford--War risks
Maui, Hawaii--Genealogy
Merchant seamen- -Mass. --New Bedford
Merchant seamen--Mass.--New Bedford--Salaries, pensions, etc.
Municipal officials and employees--Mass.--Dartmouth
New Bedford, Mass.--Commerce
New Bedford, Mass.--Genealogy
Public records--Mass.--Dartmouth
Roads--Mass.--Dartmouth--Maintenance and repair
Ship chandlers--Mass.--Dartmouth
Ship's papers
Shipmasters--Mass.--New Bedford
Tucker & Cummings, Dartmouth, Mass.
Tucker, Abner R., ca.1818-1884
Tucker, Charles Russell, 1809-1876
United States--Claims against Great Britain
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Claims
Whaling--Mass.--New Bedford
Whaling--Mass.--New Bedford--Agents
William R. Rotch & Company, New Bedford, Mass.

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Vessel Names

A. R. Tucker (Bark)
Abbott Lawrence (Brig)
Addison (Ship)
Alto (Bark)
America (Bark)
Ansel Gibbs (Ship)
Aponagansett (Ship)
Benjamin Cummings (Bark)
Benjamin Tucker (Ship)
Bounding Billow (Bark)
Brighton (Ship)
Brunswick (Ship)
Canton (Bark)
Canton (Ship)
Columbus (Ship)
Elizabeth (Bark)
Elliot C. Cowdin (Bark)
Fabius (Ship)
Friendship (Ship)
Gay Head (Bark)
Helen Mar (Bark)
India (Ship)
James and Lucy (Sloop)
Janet (Bark)
Leonidas (Brig)
Liverpool (Bark)
London Packet (Ship)
Marcella (Bark)
Mars (Bark)
Mary Robinson (Ship)
Mary and Susan (Bark)
Minerva (Bark)
Minerva (Brig)
Montreal (Ship)
Nye (Bark)
Osmanli (Bark)
Russell (Bark)
Sea Flower (Bark)
Sharon (Ship)
Sophia (Ship)
Spartan (Bark)
Sun (Bark)
Triton (Ship)
William Gifford (Bark)

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