Whitall, John S.

John S. Whitall papers [should this be Whitall family papers?], 1774–1845.
2 boxes, plus 2 oversize folders (0.83 linear feet).
About John S. Whitall

John Siddon Whitall was a merchant in Philadelphia. This was his second career; as a young man, he sailed as a supercargo in the West India Trade. In 1815, his business investments failed. Because of these losses, his son John Mickle Whitall (b. 1800), then 15, was obliged to leave school to be apprenticed as a ship hand on the William Savery. Beginning in 1818, he made several voyages to the Far East, including Calcutta and Canton. By 1822 he sailed as Chief Mate aboard the ship Dorothea. In 1824, Whitall was contracted by Whitton Evans to oversee the construction of a new sailing ship, the New Jersey, the largest “Indiaman” yet constructed in Philadelphia, and was given command as captain. Between 1824 and 1829, he made several voyages to Canton. In 1829, Evans died and the ship was sold; Whitall retired from the sea and became a merchant. His firm, like his father’s, eventually failed, but he found success as a partner in a glass business in Philadelphia.

About the collection

This is a collection of the papers of John M. Whitall and John S. Whitall. The majority of the items in the collection belong to John M. Whitall; a small group of letters document John S. Whitall’s relationship with and subsequent marriage to Sarah Mickle. The collection focuses primarily on four voyages to Canton (1824, 1826, 1827, and 1828) made by Captain John M. Whitall aboard the ship New Jersey. Materials include business and personal letters from John M. Whitall to his father and other family members, and business letters related to the ship New Jersey; charts covering the route to Canton, the first stop being Liverpool (where Whitton Evans lived); bills of lading, invoices, receipts, promissory notes, and custom house bonds; an account of crew wages; log books (1824-1827) for New Jersey; a journal with “Observations on Thermometer and Barometer” made during two of the voyages to Canton (1827-1829); and journal containing coastal drawings of islands in the South China Sea and algebra exercises. Other items in the collection include: an oversized manifest of cargo and insurance certificate; a reproduction photograph of Captain John M. Whitall; and several samples of silk from China. In addition to papers related to New Jersey, the collection contains some records of other ships, including William Savery (log books, 1817-1820), Mary Lord, and Nancy.

  • China–Commerce–United States
  • United States–Commerce–China
Types of material
  • Bills of lading
  • Business records
  • Diaries
  • Ships’ logs
Reference files
  • China-Commerce-USA
  • China Trade
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