Guide to the Collection
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.
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-?).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
4. Leases and agreements, 1844-1861
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.
5. Merchant insurance, 1842-1862
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.
6. Prices current, 1845-1849
Prices current were printed primarily in Calcutta. Others were printed in Madras, London, Genoa, Leghorn (Livorno), and Trieste.
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.
D. Texas and Louisiana Land and Lumber Company, 1887-1890
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.
E. Texas Pine Land Association, 1888-1890
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.
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.
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.
C. Real Estate, 1790-1887
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.
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.
E. Miscellaneous personal papers, 1802-1889
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.
III. Newspaper Clippings, 1888, undated
Clippings related to Eliakim Morse’s French spoliation claim. Also included are clippings related to science and financial outlooks.
Morse Family Business Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
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.