MSS 94:  Burgess Family Papers, 1828-1866 - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Inventory of the Burgess Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research LibraryProcessed by: Judith M. Downey with assistance from Ruth E. Souto; machine-readable finding aid created by: Kermit DeweyInventory of the Burgess Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Scope and Content Note

Information for Researchers

Administrative Information


Subject Headings

Inventory of the Burgess Family Papers

In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Burgess Family Papers
Date Span:
Burgess family
Mss Number:
Mss 94
2.5 inches
Business records and personal papers of a Fairhaven, Massachusetts, family, 1828-1866.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Phone: (508) 997-0046

Biographical Note

Paul Cook Burgess was born in 1802 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He went to sea at an early age on a whaling voyage. He married Ann Hathaway (1808-1881) in 1827 and left her shortly thereafter to join the ship Chelsea of New London, Connecticut on a whaling voyage as mate. While away on this voyage, his wife gave birth to a son, Joseph Hathaway Burgess (1828-1907). Paul's next voyage was also out of New London aboard the ship Connecticut in 1831, serving as master. Within a few months of leaving home, Paul was killed while fast to a whale in 1831.

Joseph Hathaway Burgess entered into business in the wholesale and retail trade of oil and candle sales. He opened a business in Rochester, N.Y. in partnership with James G. Howland in 1850. This business was known as Burgess & Howland and also as The New Bedford Oil Store, Rochester, New York. By 1855, he, along with a new partner, Humphrey Smith, had moved the business to Albany, N.Y. The business was then moved to New Bedford, Mass., within a year. Burgess continued business on his own while also entering the soap manufacturing trade by 1859. He married Eliza Caroline Kelso Piatt (b. 1830) of New York in 1851. They had three children: William Piatt, Clara Nye, and Frank.

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Scope and Content Note

Papers in this collection reflect the activities of members of the Burgess family of Fairhaven, Mass., between the years 1828 and 1866. The material concentrates on Paul Cook Burgess, his wife Ann Hathaway Burgess, and their son, Joseph Hathaway Burgess. Papers for Paul Cook Burgess include correspondence, financial records and ship's papers, from 1829 to 1831. His correspondence consists primarily of letters written to him by Thomas W. Williams, a whaling agent of New London, Conn., regarding the sale of oil as settlement for the ship Chelsea voyage as well as preparations aboard the ship Connecticut. The financial records include accounts current with Williams for Burgess' voyage in the ship Chelsea along with a receipt for monies in the outfitting of the ship Connecticut. There are also ship's papers for the Connecticut consisting of a bill of sale and an insurance policy.

Papers for Ann Hathaway Burgess contain correspondence, bills, and receipts spanning the years 1828-1854. Her correspondence includes letters written to her husband in 1828-1829 as well as letters to her son in 1852-1854. The letters to her husband are while he is aboard the ship Chelsea and inform him of social events within the community as well as family matters including the birth of their son. Letters to her son, Joseph, are written while he is in Rochester, N.Y. They contain similar news of local events, such as work on the Fairhaven railroad, and family news including the death of her mother. Ann also advised her son on his health and gave her daughter-in-law advice regarding the care of the baby. The bills and receipts are primarily for the schooling of Joseph, 1833-1843. Later bills were paid by Ann's brother-in-law, Furman Reade Whitwell, who along with his family members, is also mentioned often in the letters.

Joseph Hathaway Burgess is represented by correspondence, financial records, legal documents, and business cards from the years 1850 to 1866. His correspondence, 1850-1853, is to his mother in Fairhaven while he is in Rochester, N.Y. He primarily discusses setting up his oil business and its success, his partners, his living situation in boarding houses in Rochester, activities in Rochester including a cholera outbreak, his visits to surrounding communities including to Nunda, N.Y. to see relatives, and, later, his married life including the birth of a son. There are also letters from Eliza Caroline Kelso Piatt Burgess to her mother-in-law, on the back of a few of Joseph's letters. She discusses living in Rochester, Joseph's health and her son, William Piatt.

Joseph's legal documents are his partnership agreements for the business in Rochester. In 1850, he formed a partnership with James G. Howland and Charles S. Hathaway for the sales of oils and candles under the firm name of Howland & Burgess. By 1851, however, Hathaway had withdrawn from the partnership. The firm was also known as the New Bedford Oil Store, Rochester, N.Y. In 1855, Burgess formed a partnership with Humphrey Smith and continued the same type of business, first in Albany, N.Y. and then moving to New Bedford, Mass. The business card is for Burgess & Smith of New Bedford, manufacturers of oil, candles and soap. The financial records are a journal, 1863-1866, for Burgess in business alone primarily in the soap manufacturing trade in New Bedford. The volume records the sales of whale and sperm oil as well as different types of soaps.

Materials in this collection have been organized into sub-groups representing individual members of the Burgess family. Papers have been organized into series by type of document and are arranged in chronological order. My Dear Husband by Genevieve M. Darden (1980) is a published work that may serve as a guide to these papers. An additional publication that may also provide information on the Whitwell family and their relatives in New York is My Dearest Anna by Mary Rathbone Acker (1981).

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 94, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]

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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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The materials in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Genevieve M. Darden on 17 April and 10 December 1985. Additional Burgess family papers are at the Millicent Library in Fairhaven, Mass.

Processing Information

Processed by: Judith M. Downey with assistance from Ruth E. Souto, 9 June 1989

Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 23 April 2012; box list appended by Timarie Malo, 6 December 2012

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Sub-group 1: Paul Cook Burgess Papers, 1829, 1831 [10 items]
Correspondence, financial records and ship's papers.
Series A: Correspondence, 1829-1831
Box 1
Folder 1
1829, 1831
Series B: Financial Records, 1831
Folder 1
Accounts current, 1831
Folder 2
Receipts, 1831
Series C: Connecticut (Ship) Papers, 1831
Folder 1
Bill of sale, 1831
Folder 2
Insurance policy, 1831
Sub-group 2: Ann Hathaway Burgess Papers, 1828-1829, 1833-1843, 1852-1854 [28 items]
Correspondence and bills and receipts.
Series A: Correspondence, 1828-1854
Folder 1
Folder 2
Series B: Bill and Receipts, 1833-1843
Folder 1
Sub-group 3: Joseph Hathaway Burgess Papers, 1850-1853, 1855-ca.1856, 1863-1866 [1.5 inches]
Correspondence, financial records, legal documents and business cards.
Series A: Correspondence, 1850-1853
Folder 1
Folder 4
Typed transcript of letters prepared by Genevieve M. Darden
Series B: Financial Records, 1863-1866
Volume 1
Jorunal, 1863-1866
Legal Documents, 1850-1855
Folder 1
Partnership agreements, 1850, 1855
Business Cards, ca. 1856
Folder 1
Burgess & Smith, circa 1856

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Subject Headings

Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1863-1866
Burgess & Smith, New Bedford, Mass.
Burgess family
Burgess, Ann Hathaway, 1808-1881
Burgess, Eliza Caroline Kelso Piatt, b. 1830
Burgess, Joseph Hathaway, 1828-1907
Burgess, Paul Cook, 1802-1831
Businessmen--Mass.--New Bedford
Fairhaven, Mass.--Description
Fairhaven, Mass.--Social life and customs
Hotels, taverns, etc.--N.Y.--Rochester
Howland & Burgess, Rochester, N.Y.
Howland, James G. b. 1824
New Bedford Oil Store, Rochester, N.Y.
Rochester, N.Y.--Description
Rochester, N.Y.--Social life and customs
Soap trade--Mass.--New Bedford
Whaling--Conn.--New London
Whitwell, Furman Reade, 1793-1861
Williams, Thomas W., 1789-1874
Women--Mass.--Fairhaven--Social conditions

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Vessel Names

Chelsea (Ship)
Connecticut (Ship)

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