MSS 85:  Cooper Family Papers, 1794-1957 - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Inventory of the Cooper Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research LibraryProcessed by: Judith M. Downey; machine-readable finding aid created by: Kermit DeweyInventory of the Cooper Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Table of Contents

Historical Note

Scope and Content Note

Information for Researchers

Administrative Information


Subject Headings

Inventory of the Cooper Family Papers

In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Cooper Family Papers
Date Span:
Cooper family
Mss Number:
Mss 85
5 inches
Business and personal papers of a Sag Harbor, New York, family, 1794-1957.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Phone: (508) 997-0046

Historical Note

Mercator Cooper was born in Sag Harbor, New York, circa 1804. He sailed as a whaleman out of Sag Harbor in 1822 on the Andes (Ship). In 1832, still out of Sag Harbor, Cooper began serving as captain for whaling voyages mostly in the South Atlantic. As captain of the" Manhattan (Ship), Mercator Cooper rescued 22 shipwrecked Japanese sailors and returned them to their homeland. Japan, at the time, was closed to the west, and though they were grateful for his kindness and humanitarianism, the Japanese still asked him to leave and never come back. He was also responsible for procuring for America one of the first maps of Japan, which proved useful for later attempts to open Japan to the West. Cooper is also credited as being the first sailor to set foot on the Antarctic in 1852, while serving as captain of the" Levant (Ship). Mercator Cooper died in 1872.

Mercator Cooper was married twice and had 3 children with his second wife, Maria J. R. Cooper. Other family members represented in this collection are his father, Nathan Cooper (1794-1826) and his brother Gilbert Cooper, with whom he sailed.

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Scope and Content Note

Materials in this collection include documents relating primarily to Mercator Cooper, his father, Nathan, and his wife, Maria. Materials in this collection are arranged into Sub-groups by family member.

Documents of note belonging to Mercator Cooper’s Father, Nathan Cooper, include his will along with other ship’s papers and estate records.

The bulk of the collection is dedicated to Mercator Cooper where included are the ship papers for the vessels that he captained. Vessels represented in this collection include the ships Manhattan, 1843-1846, Franklin, 1839-1850, and Levant, 1851-1856. Materials of note for these vessels include customs records, correspondence, ship’s passports, crew accounts, bills of sale, memoranda, bills, and receipts. Also included among papers for the Levant is a list of passengers from Hong Kong to San Francisco in 1854.

Accession B83-54.21, a Japanese book of heraldry obtained by Mercator Cooper is also included in the collection.

Financial records in this collection consist of accounts and receipts; legal documents, including deeds, estate records pertaining to Cooper’s brother Gilbert (with whom he sailed) and himself, certificates; obituaries; along with genealogies and stories relating to Japan. There are also financial records belonging to Cooper’s wife, Maria J. Cooper, consisting of an account book and an acrostic.

Miscellaneous family papers consist of documents belonging to Cooper’s wife, Maria, and include a school tuition bill and an ode written for the 225th anniversary of Southampton.

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 85, [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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Materials in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society on 2 August, 1983 by Mercator C. Kendrick.

Processing Information

Processed by: Judith M. Downey

Encoded by: Kermit Dewey and Catherine Labelle, 26 July 2012

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Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection

Sub-group 1: Nathan Cooper Papers, 1791, 1794-1797, 1802, 1805-1806, 1817, 1826 [6 items]
Ship's papers and estate records.
Sub-group 2: Mercator Cooper Papers, 1829-1877, 1905, ca.1950, 1957 [2 inches]
Correspondence; ships' papers; financial records; legal documents; and certificates, obituaries, genealogies and stories relating to Japan (including B83-54.21 Japanese book of heraldry obtained by Captain Cooper).
Sub-group 3: Maria J. Cooper Papers, 1828-1850 [2 items]
Financial records and acrostic.
Sub-group 4: Miscellaneous Family Papers, 1821, 1865 [2 items]
Olive Cooper papers and Maria J. R. Cooper Howell papers.

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Subject Headings

Account books--England--1794-1797
Account books--Sag Harbor, N.Y.--1833-1850
Cooper family
Cooper, Gilbert H. 18??-18??--Estate
Cooper, Maria J.
Cooper, Mercator
Cooper, Mercator, 18??-1872--Estate
Cooper, Nathan
Cooper, Nathan, 17??-18??--Estate
Cooper, Olive
Decedents' estates--N.Y.--Sag Harbor
Farms--N.Y.--Sag Harbor
Home economics--N.Y.--Sag Harbor--Accounting
Households--N.Y.--Sag Harbor
Howell, Maria J. R. Cooper
Japan--Foreign relations to 1868
Passenger ships--Calif.--San Francisco
Roys, Thomas Welcome, ca. 1816-1877
Ship's papers
Shipmasters--N.Y.--Sag Harbor
Whalemen--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc.
Whalemen--N.Y.--Sag Harbor
Whaling--N.Y.--Sag Harbor
Women--N.Y.--Sag Harbor--Social conditions

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Vessel Names

Argonaut (Ship)
Franklin (Ship)
Hercules (Ship)
Levant (Ship)
London (Ship)
Manhattan (Ship)

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