Table of Contents
Inventory of the Aiken & Swift Records
In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Members of the Swift family were chiefly involved in mercantile activities and the whaling industry at New Bedford, Massachusetts, from 1859-1904. William Cole Nye Swift (1815-1892) began his career as a live oak contractor in the family business. IN 1849, he became a merchant and was associated with Eben Perry (1822-1897) which developed into the form of Swift & Perry. They served as agents for several whaling vessels out of New Bedford. In 1865, they hired William H. Aiken (1834-ca. 1888) as their bookkeeper and in 1875, Frederick Swift (1852-1915), son of W. C. N. Swift, joined the firm as a clerk. In 1879, the firm was named Aiken & Swift with William Aiken and Frederick Swift as partners acting as whaling agents. By 1881, they had expanded their operations to San Francisco, California, and in 1885, solely operated from there. Frederick Swift remained a whaling agent after Aiken's death until 1893 when he became involved in manufacturing companies.
Scope and Content Note
Materials in this collection reflect the involvement in the whaling industry by Swift & Perry and Aiken & Swift at New Bedford, Massachusetts, and San Francisco, California, from 1859-1904. The majority of the records are ship's papers, 1859-1888, containing lists of whales sighted with locations, crew accounts, letter of instruction to a captain, and a list of correspondence sent and received by a captain. Most of these materials relate to George F. Winslow (1837-1914) as Captain of the barks Commodore Morris, 1873-1884, and Desdemona, 1894. There is also a volume of memoranda, 1880-1904, probably kept by Frederick Swift, which contains lists of vessels which sailed each year with their crew from the ports of New Bedford and San Francisco. Most are annotated especially for Aiken & Swift vessels.
Arrangement of Collection
Information for Researchers
Access to Collections
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 71, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Materials in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Orville N. Swift on 20 April 1920, Mrs. Walter Wheeler on 28 February 1946, Andrew G. Pierce III on 27 April 1963, and Anna Jarvis on 28 April 1979.
Processed by: Judith Downey, ca. 1982
Encoded by: Mark Procknik, 27 February 2012
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1887-1888
Aiken & Swift, New Bedford, Mass.
Aiken, William H., 1834-ca. 1888
Business records--Mass.--New Bedford
Merchant seamen--Mass.--New Bedford--Salaries, pensions, etc.
New Bedford, Mass.--Commerce
Perry, Eben, 1822-1897
San Francisco, Calif.--Commerce
Swift & Perry, New Bedford, Mass.
Swift, Frederick, 1852-1915
Swift, William Cole Nye, 1815-1892
Winslow, George F., 1837-1914
Commodore Morris (Ship)
Daniel Webster (Bark)
Jacob A. Howland (Bark)
Jireh Perry (Ship)