Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


The Morse family business papers consist of the records of the Boston merchant shipping firm Gray and Morse, owned by Samuel T. Morse and Frederic Gray, including correspondence, financial information, leases, merchant insurance certificates, and documents related to specific voyages. The collection also contains account and stockholder information for the merchant shipping firm Gorham and Gray and other companies in which Samuel T. Morse invested, as well as Morse's personal financial papers. A portion of the collection consists of the financial papers of other members of the Morse family, real estate papers, and estate documents.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Eliakim Morse (1759-1858), was a merchant and ship owner in Watertown, Massachusetts. His parents were Rev. Dr. Ebenezer Morse (1718-1802) and Persis Bush (1727-1788). Eliakim Morse married Mary Eddy (1766-1800), daughter of Benjamin Eddy, in 1780, and had two children: John and Benjamin. After Mary’s death, Morse married Mary Hunt (1778-?), daughter of William Hunt.

Samuel Torrey Morse (1816-1890), third son of John A. H. Morse (1789-1817) and Frances Hicks Torrey (1792-1865) after John Torrey (1813-?) and Benjamin Eddy (1814-1894), was a commission merchant in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a partner in the shipping firm Gray and Morse with Frederic Gray, which operated from 1843 to 1862. He was also involved in the shipping firm Gorham and Gray, owned by Frederic Gray and William Gorham, which preceded Gray and Morse. Samuel T. Morse married Harriet Jackson (Lee) Morse (1826-1911), daughter of Henry and Mary Lee, in 1848, and they had three children: Frances Rollins (1850-1928), Henry Lee (1852-?), and Mary Lee (1855-?).

Collection Description

The Morse family business papers, 1776-1890, consist almost exclusively of the business correspondence and financial and legal papers of Samuel T. Morse and his Boston-based merchant shipping firm, Gray and Morse. Documents include accounts, contracts, claims, marine insurance policies, and shipping agreements. A portion of these documents relate to specific voyages to India, Europe, Cuba, and China by ships such as the Rockall, which made eight voyages for Gray and Morse, Burmah, Matchless, and Soldan, among others. Also included are the business papers of companies in which S. T. Morse was a partner or investor, such as the shipping firm Gorham and Gray, the Boston Hemp Manufacturing Company, the Texas and Louisiana Land and Lumber Company, and the Texas Pine Land Association.

The second series of the collection consists of the personal financial papers of Samuel T. Morse and the financial papers of members of the Morse family. This series includes paid bills, accounts, real estate documents, and papers concerning the estates of various family members. A small group of documents relate to a spoliation claim started by Dr. Eliakim Morse and continued by his heirs. Morse’s ship, the Galen, was captured by a French privateer on a voyage from Boston to England in 1798. Morse and his grandsons spent close to one hundred years attempting to obtain compensation from the French government for the loss of their ship. Other personal papers include correspondence and documents related to S. T. Morse’s trip to Europe in 1879. Family members named in the papers include Samuel Torrey Morse, Harriet Jackson Morse, John Torrey Morse, Sr., Eliakim Morse, Rev. Dr. Ebenezer Morse, William Hunt, Henry Lee, Sr., Henry Lee Jr., Benjamin E. Morse, and George Higginson.

Acquisition Information

Most likely donated by Frances Rollins Morse in addition to a separate bequest in 1928.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Business Papers, 1832-1890

Series one consists of the business papers relating to the Boston, Mass. Merchant shipping establishments and land investment firms owned and/or invested in by Samuel T. Morse and partners. These firms include the merchant shipping firm Gray and Morse, owned by S. T. Morse and Frederic Gray; the merchant firm Gorham and Gray, owned by F. Gray and William C. Gorham, in which Morse was a partner; and the Texas and Louisiana Land and Lumber Co. and the Texas Pine Land Association, in which Morse and Gray invested. Also included are papers relating to the Boston Hemp Manufacturing Co., of which Gray was a director and the treasurer.

A. Gorham and Gray, 1832-1844

Arranged by type and chronologically.

Gorham and Gray, owned by William C. Gorham and Frederic Gray, was a merchant firm in Boston, Mass. Samuel T. Morse was also a partner in the firm, which pre-dated Gray and Morse. Records are arranged chronologically by type and consist of correspondence, papers relating to shipping ventures, bills of lading, paid bills, invoices, promissory notes, accounts current, and accounts of sales. Records also contain insurance policies taken out on merchandise, prices current from London, St. Petersburg, Batavia, Archangel (Arkhangelsk), and Canton, a lease for a storefront on Central Wharf, and an account book. There is a small amount of business correspondence, including copies of letters from Frederic Gray to S. C. Gray, Baring Brothers & Co., and John Thomas & Co., two letters to Frederic Gray from S. C. Gray, and a letter to William Gorham from an unidentified correspondent.

Box 1Folders 1-4
Correspondence, 1841-1843
Box 1Folder 5
Voyages, 1841-1843
Box 1Folder 6
Accounts, 1841-1843
Box 1Folders 7-9
Paid bills, 1841-1844
Box 1Folder 10
Promissory notes, 1842, 1844
Box 1Folder 11
Invoices, 1839, 1841-1842
Box 1Folder 12
Bills of lading, 1841-1843
Box 1Folder 13
Accounts current, 1841-1843
Box 1Folder 14
Account sales, 1841, 1843
Box 1Folders 15-16
Insurance policies, 1841-1843
Box 1Folder 17
Prices current, 1832, 1841-1842

B. Gray and Morse, 1842-1862

The business papers of the merchant shipping firm Gray and Morse—principles Frederic Gray and Samuel T. Morse—located on Central Wharf in Boston, Mass. Date from 1833-1862. The firm shipped goods and materials primarily to India but also made ventures to England, France, China, Brazil, Mauritius, Canada, and other cities in the United States. The business records consist mainly of correspondence and financial papers, including receipts, bills, invoices, balance sheets, and exchange receipts. Also included are papers relating to specific voyages, insurance policies, leases and agreements, and a small group of prices current.

1. Correspondence, 1843-1862

Arranged chronologically.

Papers consist of business correspondence to Gray and Morse and Samuel T. Morse from Frederic Gray, R. Hutchinson, Robert Habersham, Horace Gray, Charles Jackson, H. Ganahl, George Macintosh, Kesler & Walmsley, Weston & Gray, William Phelps, William Gray, Joshua Ecroyd, Baring Brothers & Co., C. F. Bis, Russell & Co., John King, Francis Rollins, John Martin, and many others. The letters relate to the buying and selling of goods, shipping ventures, delivery notifications, and other financial and business matters. Some concern the disasters of the ship Rockall, and others relate to a coal mine in which Gray and Morse considered investing.

Box 1Folders 18-24
Box 2
Box 3
Box 4
Box 5
1858-1862, undated

2. Voyages, 1844-1860

Arranged by ship and voyage and chronologically .

Records relating to specific voyages of ships owned by or carrying goods for Gray and Morse consist of contracts, freight lists, bills of lading, sales accounts, insurance policies, invoices, and correspondence. Some voyages have more documentation than others. Ships include Eliza Warwick, Thomas B. Wales, Burmah, the Bark Mary Adams, Soldan, Rockall, Matchless, and Phantom, among others. Most voyages were made to and from Calcutta and Madras (now Kolkata and Chennai), India, but others were made to Liverpool and London, England, Le Havre, France, Shanghai, San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York City carrying hides, linseed, gunny cloth, twine, ginger, and dyes. A significant portion of the records relate to the ship Rockall, which was damaged on its third voyage in 1853 in Le Havre, France and again in Calcutta on its sixth voyage in 1856. In addition to the general documentation, the papers of these two voyages include bills, protests of the ship, inspection reports, government paperwork, and accounts of losses. Certain freight lists, ship protests, and account sheets are oversized.

Box 6Folder 1
E. Warwick, 1st voyage, 1844-1845
Box 6Folder 2
E. Warwick, 2nd voyage, 1845-1846
Box 6Folder 3
Thomas B. Wales, 1846-1847
Box 6Folders 4-5
North Bends, 1846-1848
Box 6Folder 6
Gertrude, 1847-1848
Box 6Folders 7-8
Burmah, 1st voyage, 1847-1849
Box 6Folder 9
Superb, 1848
Box 6Folder 10
Burmah, 2nd voyage, 1848-1849
Box 6Folders 11-12
Burmah, 3rd voyage, 1849-1850
Box 6Folder 13
North Star, 1849-1850
Box 6Folders 14-15
Mary Adams, 1849-1850
Box 6Folders 16-18
Mary Ann, 1849-1853
Box 6Folder 19
Eurotas, 1849-1850
Box 6Folder 20
Ilzaide, 1849-1851
Box 6Folder 21
George & Emily, 1850
Box 6Folder 22
Kensington, 1850
Box 6Folder 23
Susan, 1850
Box 7Folders 1-2
Soldan, 1st voyage, 1850-1851
Box 7Folders 3-4
Rockall, 1st voyage, 1850-1852
Box 7Folders 5-6
Soldan, 2nd voyage, 1851-1852
Box 7Folders 7-9
Rockall, 2nd voyage, 1852-1853
Box 7Folder 10
William Penn, 1852-1854
Box 7Folders 11-19
Rockall, 3rd voyage, 1853-1854
Box 7Folder 20
Matchless, 1st voyage, 1853-1855
Box 7Folder 21
Polynesia, 1854
Box 7Folders 22-25
Rockall, 4th voyage, 1854-1855
Box 8Folder 1
Matchless, 2nd voyage, 1855
Box 8Folder 2
Cabot, 1855
Box 8Folder 3
Hippogriffe, 1855-1856
Box 8Folders 4-13
Rockall, 5th voyage, 1855-1856
Box 8Folder 14
Justyn, 1856
Box 8Folder 15
Audubon, 1856
Box 8Folders 16-22
Rockall, 6th voyage, 1856-1857
Box 8Folder 23
Martha, 1856-1857
Box 8Folder 24
Rockall, 7th voyage, 1857-1858
Box 8Folders 25-26
Rockall, 8th voyage, 1858-1860
Box 8Folder 27
Phantom, 1860
Box 8Folder 28
Miscellaneous ships
Oversize Box 1Folder 1
Oversize documents removed from boxes 6-8 (see individual notes in boxes)

3. Financial records, 1842-1862

Arranged by type and chronologically.

Records include bills paid by Gray and Morse taxes, advertising, insurance, freight, storage, wharfage, trade goods, and shipping; invoices issued to Gray and Morse for lading and trade goods, such as rice, sherry, and starch; accounts current with B. E. Morse (Benjamin E. Morse), F. Field, Esq., Brown, Shipley, & Co., Francis T. Rollins, Atkinson & Rollins, Baring Brothers & Co., R. Hutchinson, and others; bills of lading for goods and materials in many ports; thirds of exchange issued to Gray and Morse and others, including Amory Davis, Esq., George Macintosh & Co., William Phelps, Esq., Hurlet & Campsie Alum Co., and C. F. Ris, Esq.; balance sheets created monthly by Gray and Morse from January, 1858 through April, 1862; and other business papers relating to sales and accounts.

Box 9
Bills paid, 1842-1850
Box 10
Bills paid, 1851-1860
Box 11Folders 1-5
Bills paid, 1861-1862
Box 11Folders 6-7
Notes paid, 1843-1859
Box 11Folders 8-21
Invoices, 1842-1855
Box 11Folders 22-26
Accounts current, 1844-1861
Box 11Folders 27-30
Bills of lading, 1843-1845
Box 12Folders 1-15
Bills of lading, 1846-1862
Box 12Folders 16-22
Thirds of exchange, 1843-1862
Box 12Folders 23-27
Balance sheets, 1858-1862
Box 12Folders 28-32
Other records, 1844-1862, undated

4. Leases and agreements, 1844-1861

Arranged chronologically.

Papers consist of leases for a storefront on Central Wharf, credit agreements, shipping agreements, and ship-building contracts made between Gray and Morse and others, including William Pearson, John D. Williams, Sampson & Tappan, John Taylor, and Lee Caflin, among others.

Box 12Folder 33

5. Merchant insurance, 1842-1862

Arranged chronologically.

The insurance policies were primarily taken out by Gray and Morse on goods, ships, or specific voyages against fire, natural disasters, and human destruction. Policies were issued by the National Insurance Company, Tremont Insurance Company, Boylston Fire and Marine Insurance Company, Neptune Insurance Company, Suffolk Insurance Company, Merchants Insurance Company in Boston, and the Liverpool and London Fire and Life Insurance Company, among others.

Box 13Folders 1-19

6. Prices current, 1845-1849

Arranged chronologically.

Prices current were printed primarily in Calcutta. Others were printed in Madras, London, Genoa, Leghorn (Livorno), and Trieste.

Box 13Folders 20-27

C. Boston Hemp Manufacturing Company, 1833-1858

Arranged by type and chronologically.

The Boston Hemp Manufacturing Company records consist of stock statements and certificates, stock notices in newspapers (see oversize), sales of manufacture, accounts of the amount of yards spun at the company works, accounts of expenses, balance sheets, settled notes, bills, and accounts, interest accounts, and outstanding debts. Records also include minutes and resolutions of meetings of the stockholders and a letter from William Gray to his uncle, Horace Gray, another director of the company, regarding measures the company should take to reduce the liability of its stockholders. Frederick Gray was a director, and later, the treasurer.

Box 14Folder 1
Stock statements, 1849-1850
Box 14Folders 2-3
Sales of manufacture, 1847-1850
Box 14Folder 4
Accounts of yarn spun, 1850
Box 14Folder 5
Expenses, 1849-1850
Box 14Folder 6
Balance sheets, 1842-1850
Box 14Folders 7-13
Bills paid, 1847-1858
Box 14Folder 14
Outstanding debts, 1842, 1846-1852
Box 14Folder 15
Other papers, 1833, 1842-1850
Oversize Box 1Folder 2
Oversize documents, 1843-1844, 1848

D. Texas and Louisiana Land and Lumber Company, 1887-1890

Arranged chronologically.

Frederick Gray and Samuel T. Morse both invested in the Texas and Louisiana Land and Lumber Company, which was established in February, 1887 to purchase timber land in Texas and Louisiana and sell the stumpage to saw mills in the area. Papers related to the company consist of the charter, stockholder bulletins, maps of the land owned, lists of stockholders, and letters to Samuel T. Morse, from N. D. Silbee, the president of the company, and Horatio R. Fletcher.

Box 14Folders 16-17

E. Texas Pine Land Association, 1888-1890

Arranged chronologically.

The Texas Pine Land Association was established in 1888 to purchase timber land in Texas and sell the stumpage to saw mills in the area. The Texas and Louisiana Land and Lumber Company endorsed and recommended the enterprise to their stockholders. Samuel T. Morse invested in the company. Papers related to the company consist of the prospectus, stockholder bulletins, and two notes written by Morse listing the stockholders and his investment in the company.

Box 14Folder 18

II. Family Papers, 1776-1890

The Morse family papers consist primarily of Samuel T. Morse’s paid bills and accounts. The remainder includes the financial records of family members, real estate records, estate papers, and a small amount of family correspondence.

A. Samuel T. Morse personal financial papers, 1862-1889

Arranged by type and chronologically.

Samuel T. Morse’s financial papers consist primarily of his paid bills. The bills were paid by Morse for taxes, household expenses, services, merchandise, and food. Morse’s financial papers also include papers related to his transfer of his power of attorney to John T. Morse in 1878 in preparation for a trip to Europe, pages of sums, and papers relating to a shipment Morse sent from Florence to Boston in 1879.

Box 15
Paid bills, 1862-1872
Box 16
Paid bills, 1873-1878
Box 17
Paid bills, 1879-1883
Box 18
Paid bills, 1884-1888
Box 19Folders 1-9
Paid bills, 1889
Box 19Folders 10-11
Other financial papers, 1873, 1878-1879, 1881-1888

B. Family financial papers, 1794-1899

Arranged by subject and chronologically.

Family financial papers consist primarily of documents related to Eliakim Morse’s ship, the Galen. The ship and its cargo were seized by a French privateer during a voyage from England to Boston in 1798. The papers include information about the ship’s voyage, letters and accounts of losses related to the ship’s capture, correspondence and other documents related to the spoliation claim started by Eliakim Morse and continued by his heirs after his death, and bills for the purchase of a new ship called the New Galen. The remaining financial papers consist of bills paid by Eliakim Morse, a small group of records related to E. Morse’s business partner, Samuel Torrey’s Meridian venture, the financial records of John T. Morse, written instructions for doing accounts, and account sheets by an unidentified creator.

Box 19Folders 12-19
Spoliation claim, 1794-1889, undated
Box 19Folders 20-26
Family financial papers, 1795-1885, undated
Oversize Box 1Folder 3
Oversize documents, 1899, undated

C. Real Estate, 1790-1887

Arranged chronologically.

The family real estate papers relate primarily to five properties in Boston: 34 Chauncey Street, Nos. 4 and 5 Dock Square, and Nos. 55 and 57 Commercial Street, a house on Marlborough Street, and a house on Mount Vernon Street. They also relate to Samuel T. Morse’s summer house in Beverly, Mass. Papers include leases, work agreements, accounts and bills for work completed, receipts for rent collected, and insurance policies on the properties. The papers also include Samuel Morse’s lease for his house on Marlborough Street, Henry L. Morse’s lease for his house on Park Square, and Eliakim Morse’s records of land agreements and an insurance policy on his house on Galen Street.

Box 20

D. Estate papers, 1776-1890

Arranged chronologically by estate owner.

The bulk of the estate papers deals with the estate disbursements of William Hunt and Dr. Ebenezer Morse, for whom Eliakim Morse acted as executor. Also included are the estate papers of John Hunt, William Hunt’s grandfather, Eliakim Morse’s, and Henry Lee, Harriet J. Morse’s father. A portion of the sub-series consists of the estate papers of Harriet J. Morse, S. T. Morse’s wife, for whom he acted as trustee. These papers include accounts current with the other trustees, Henry Lee and George Higginson, balance sheets, dividend lists, and tax returns.

Box 21Folders 1-3
John Hunt, 1776-1813, undated
Box 21Folders 4-6
Rev. Dr. Ebenezer Morse, 1792-1818, undated
Box 21Folders 7-29
William Hunt, 1782-1823, undated
Box 22Folders 1
Eliakim Morse, 1800, 1809, 1831, 1841, 1858
Box 22Folders 2-3
Henry Lee Sr., 1867-1868
Box 22Folders 4-16
Harriet J. Morse, 1863-1890, undated
Oversize Box 1Folder 4
Oversize estate papers, 1858, 1866, 1868-1869

E. Miscellaneous personal papers, 1802-1889

Arranged chronologically.

The small group of personal papers consists of correspondence, most of which are letters to John T. Morse, passports for Samuel T. and Harriet J. Morse and their daughter, Frances R. Morse, silhouette sketches, notes on the Cyrillic alphabet, a recipe for curing the mange in dogs, and two manuscript copies of an address by William Purcell arguing for the unconstitutionality of the Embargo Laws presented to the Massachusetts District Court in 1808.

Box 22Folders 17-24

III. Newspaper Clippings, 1888, undated

Clippings related to Eliakim Morse’s French spoliation claim. Also included are clippings related to science and financial outlooks.

Box 22Folder 25

Preferred Citation

Morse Family Business Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Lee, Henry, 1782-1867.
Lee, Henry, 1817-1898.
Morse, Benjamin E., b. 1816.
Morse, Ebenezer, 1718-1802.
Morse, Eliakim, Dr., 1759-1848.
Morse, Harriet Jackson, b 1826.
Morse, John Torrey, 1840-1937.
Morse, John Torrey, Sr.
Morse, Samuel Torrey, 1816-1890.


Galen (Ship).
Rockall (Ship).
Boston Hemp Manufacturing Company (Boston, Mass.).
Gorham and Gray (Boston, Mass.).
Gray and Morse (Boston, Mass.).
Texas and Louisiana Land and Lumber Company.
Texas Pine Land Association.


China trade.
Decedents' estates.
French spoliation claims.
India trade.
Insurance, Marine--Massachusetts--Boston.
Merchant ships.
Real property--Massachusetts--Boston.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--China.
Boston (Mass.--Commerce--Cuba
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--England--London.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--Europe.
Calcutta (India)--Commerce--Massachusetts--Boston.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--India--Calcutta.
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918.
London (England)--Commerce --Massachusetts--Boston.