Table of Contents
Inventory of the Cooper Family Papers
In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
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.
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
Information for Researchers
Access to Collections
Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 85, [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 on 2 August, 1983 by Mercator C. Kendrick.
Processed by: Judith M. Downey
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey and Catherine Labelle, 26 July 2012
Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection
Account books--Sag Harbor, N.Y.--1833-1850
Cooper, Gilbert H. 18??-18??--Estate
Cooper, Maria J.
Cooper, Mercator, 18??-1872--Estate
Cooper, Nathan, 17??-18??--Estate
Decedents' estates--N.Y.--Sag Harbor
Home economics--N.Y.--Sag Harbor--Accounting
Howell, Maria J. R. Cooper
Japan--Foreign relations to 1868
Passenger ships--Calif.--San Francisco
Roys, Thomas Welcome, ca. 1816-1877
Whalemen--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc.
Women--N.Y.--Sag Harbor--Social conditions