Guide to the Collection
|Title:||Matthew Ridley papers
|Physical Description:||5 boxes (1
narrow, 1 pamphlet) and 20 vols. (14 in cases)
|Call Number:||Ms. N-796
|Microfilm Call Number:||P-178, 4 reels (microfilm) letterbooks
and diaries only.
|Repository:||Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215
This collection consists of the personal, business,
and family papers of merchant Matthew Ridley of Maryland and France, spanning
the dates 1717-1812.
Matthew Ridley (1746-1789) was born in England in 1746. In approximately
1770 he moved to America and settled in Baltimore, where he worked as the
manager of the Maryland branch of the London mercantile firm of Stewart and
Campbell. While in Baltimore, Ridley maintained a correspondence with Nancy
Richardson (ca. 1754-1784), who was still living in London. In 1775, Ridley
returned to England to marry her, and in 1777, Nancy gave birth to a son, Essex
Sherbourne Ridley (b. 1777).
The Revolutionary War made it difficult for Ridley to conduct business with
his contacts in America while he was living in England, and his allegiance to
and support for American independence apparently led him to feel that he was
being closely watched by the authorities. As a result, in late 1778 he
relocated to France, leaving his wife and young son in England. By July of
1779, he had returned to Maryland, leaving his family in Europe once again.
In March of 1781, Ridley was appointed agent for the state of Maryland, and
was sent to Europe to secure a loan for the state. Following a year in Paris,
he traveled to Holland in May of 1782, where in July he secured a loan of
300,000 fl. from the firm of Nicolaas and Jacob van Staphorst of Amsterdam. He
returned to Paris in August of 1782. During his time in France and Holland,
Matthew spent time with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
In September of 1783, Nancy (Richardson) Ridley gave birth to a second son,
Lucius Lloyd, who died in early January 1784. Weak from consumption, Nancy died
later that month, on January 21, with Matthew at her side.
After his wife's death, Ridley spent some time in London. In the Spring of
1786 he returned to Baltimore with his son Essex and his sister Jane and her
son. The following spring he married Catherine Livingston (1751-1813), daughter
of William Livingston, governor of New Jersey. He and Catherine had two
daughters, Susan Ann Livingston Ridley (Mrs. Theodore Sedgwick, Jr.,
1788-1867), and Matilda Frances Sherbourne Ridley (Mrs. Robert Watts,
1789-1862). After a prolonged illness, Matthew Ridley died in Baltimore on
November 13, 1789, six days before Matilda's birth.
The Matthew Ridley papers consist of three boxes of his correspondence,
eleven volumes of letterbooks, four diaries, one account book and a collection
of loose accounts, one miscellaneous volume; one unidentified notebook possibly
belonging to a John Ridley; and two volumes of math lessons, one belonging to
Matthew Ridley and the other to his son Essex Sherbourne Ridley. The
letterbooks and diaries are available on microfilm, P-178, reels 1-4. The
collection spans from 1717 to 1812, with the bulk of the collection falling
between 1771 and 1796. The collection is divided into three series: Personal
Correspondence; Business Correspondence; and Bound Volumes.
Of particular interest in this collection are letters and diary entries
that pertain to Ridley's business as agent for the state of Maryland in
1781-1782, during the Revolutionary War. One entire diary, Bound Volume 14, and
most of Letterbook 7, are dedicated to the time he spent in Holland in 1782
securing a loan for the state from the firm of Nicolaas and Jacob van
Also of interest are the many letters and diary entries that discuss the
Revolutionary War. A firm supporter of American independence, Ridley documented
the progress of the war in his diaries, and in his private business
correspondence the war is often discussed in terms of its effect on commerce.
While in Europe, Ridley was involved in the sale of military stores to America,
and these activities are documented throughout his correspondence and in a
collection of loose accounts.
The remainder of the collection documents Ridley's business matters as
manager of the Maryland branch of Stewart and Campbell, a London mercantile
firm, and in his private business endeavors. Information about his personal
life can be found in the series Personal Correspondence and in his diaries.
See separate description of a second collection of Matthew Ridley papers
(Matthew Ridley II). Three volumes of Theodore Sedgwick (1811-1859) travel
journals (1836; 1850-51; 1857) formerly kept with the Ridley Papers have been
removed and placed with the Sedgwick Family Papers.
The Matthew Ridley Papers consist of items acquired by two separate
sources. All of the correspondence, nine of the letterbooks, and the remaining
bound volumes except for the four diaries kept by Matthew Ridley were the gift
of Dr. Charles L. Nichols, March 9, 1922. One letterbook (July 18, 1783 - May
7, 1785) and the four diaries were given to the Society by Mr. Alexander
Sedgwick on March 8, 1923.
The letterbooks and diaries are available on microfilm, P-178, reels 1-4
The collection is organized into the following series:
|I. Personal Correspondence, 1771-1812
|A. Correspondence with Nancy (Richardson) Ridley, 1771-1782
| B. Family Correspondence, 1771-1812
|II. Business Correspondence, 1772-1786
|III. Bound Volumes, 1717 - 1793
| A. Letterbooks, 1770 - 1788
| B. Diaries, 1777 - 1784
| C. Account Books, 1776 - 1785
| D. Miscellaneous, 1717-1793
|I. Personal Correspondence,
|A. Correspondence with Nancy (Richardson) Ridley,
These letters cover the time period before Matthew and Nancy's marriage,
while Matthew was in America, and the period after their marriage when they
were apart for a period of approximately four years. During these years, Nancy
remained in London, while Matthew went to France in order to conduct business
with clients in America during the Revolution, to Baltimore, and back to Europe
where he worked as agent for the state of Maryland. The letters discuss
day-to-day affairs, their desire to see one another, and the health of their
|Box 2||Folder 1-5||1782
|Box 2||Folder 6-10|| B. Family Correspondence,
This subseries includes a small amount of correspondence between Matthew
Ridley and his mother, sister, and father-in-law, Captain Richardson. It also
includes correspondence between Essex, Matthew's son by his first wife, and
Catherine, Matthew's second wife. The bulk of these were written in the years
1795 and 1796, six years after Matthew's death. Catherine had become Essex's
legal guardian, and in the letters she refers to him as her son. Also included
is later correspondence between Susan Ridley, the first daughter of Matthew and
Catherine, and her future husband Theodore Sedgwick.
|Box 3||II. Business Correspondence,
Included here are letters between Matthew Ridley and the many business
contacts he made both as a merchant and as agent for the state of Maryland. Of
particular interest are the many letters that discuss the effects of the
Revolutionary War on various aspects of commerce. The letters are to and from
many different people, but there are a select few who make up a large portion
of the series: Mark Pringle, John Hunt, William Russell, John Holker, and
|III. Bound Volumes,
1717 - 1793
1770 - 1788
On Microfilm, P-178, Reels 2-4
June 12, 1770 - May 11, 1776
(P-178, reel 2)
These letters mainly discuss Ridley's business interests as manager of the
Maryland branch of Stewart and Campbell, a London mercantile firm. The
Revolutionary War is also discussed, mostly in terms of how it is affecting
2-3 September 29, 1778 - April 13, 1779
(P-178, reel 2; volume 3 not microfilmed)
These letters were written when Matthew Ridley moved from London to Paris.
Of interest are the letters Matthew wrote to his contacts in America upon his
relocation to France, describing the hostile conditions in England that
prevented him from writing earlier, and repeatedly asserting his allegiance to
America. Ridley was concerned with an American law involving penalties for
those who left the colonies after August 1775. He also wrote of his interest in
securing an appointment as U.S. Consul in Nantes. The letters focus mainly on
business and the war. This volume is housed with Volume 3, which contains
duplicate letters covering most of this time period.
July 21, 1779 - September 8, 1781
(P-178, reel 2)
These letters were written when Ridley was living in Baltimore. They
primarily relate to his personal business, and after March 1781 they pertain to
his position as agent for the state of Maryland.
November 30, 1781 - February 23, 1783
(P-178, reel 2)
These letters discuss personal business, and cover the time when Ridley was
in Paris and Amsterdam. While Ridley was in Amsterdam, this letterbook was kept
by someone else, possibly Mark Pringle. Many of these letters are in French.
See also Letterbook 7 for Ridley's time in Amsterdam.
|Box 4||Folder 1||Vol. 6||Letterbook,
December 25, 1781 - June 14, 1784
(Not on microfilm)
This book contains multiple copies of letters. They relate mainly to
business. They cover the time of Mrs. Ridley's death, but make very little
mention of it. This volume is housed in Box 4 and is not on microfilm.
February 16, 1782 - June 16, 1783
(P-178, reel 3)
This book includes letters both from and to Ridley, primarily during the
time Ridley spent in Amsterdam securing a loan for the state of Maryland.
July 18, 1783 - May 4, 1785
(P-178, reel 3)
Although these dates overlap with Letterbook Six, the two volumes contain
different letters. Some are written on the same day as those in Book Six. Some
of these letters are in French. They include both personal and official
August 27, 1784 - November 12, 1784
(P-178, reel 4)
These letters were written while Mr. Ridley was in England, after his wife's
death. They are mostly related to Ridley's personal business. In September,
Ridley discussed his plans to return to America in the spring.
July 24, 1786 - October 18, 1787
(P-178, reel 4)
This book starts upon Ridley's arrival with his son and sister in Baltimore,
a year after he planned. In April 1787 he wrote of his marriage to Kitty
Livingston, and soon after of his sister's death. These letters are more
personal in nature, and convey a feeling of depression on the part of Mr.
Ridley. He also wrote of being ill.
October 21, 1787 - March 5, 1788
(P-178, reel 4)
These letters involve both business and personal matters. Of interest is one
letter to someone who is to sell three of Ridley's slaves. Reasons for the sale
are given, as are evaluations of the slaves' characters. Ridley's illness is
discussed throughout these letters.
| B. Diaries,
1777 - 1784
On microfilm, P-178, reel 1
|Box 5||Vol. 12||Diary,
October 24, 1777 - February 17, 1778
The majority of this diary consists of updates about the Revolutionary War,
which he gets from copies of an American newspaper. There are some entries that
involve business as well.
|Box 5||Vol. 13||Diary,
November 20, 1781 - May 8, 1782
This diary includes more details about Ridley's everyday life, such as the
day's weather or his dining companion. The entries describe traveling through
France, and mention some meetings with Benjamin Franklin. The war remains the
primary subject, and he writes more about business, including his efforts to
secure a loan for Maryland.
|Box 5||Vol. 14||Diary,
May 9, 1782 - September 22, 1782
This diary covers the time period when Ridley was in Amsterdam securing the
loan for the state of Maryland from Nicolaas and Jacob van Staphorst. The
entries revolve mainly around those efforts. The diary also describes his
return to Paris in August of 1782.
|Box 5||Vol. 15||Diary,
September 23, 1782 - January 23, 1784
This diary includes both personal and business information. Entries discuss
his son's birth in September of 1783 and death in January of 1784. It is
important to both Mr. and Mrs. Ridley that the child is buried in a Protestant
burying ground. He writes of his wife's death the day she died, and of his
having been there at the time. His last entry is the day she was buried,
January 23, 1784.
| C. Account Books,
1776 - 1785
This series contains a daybook of commercial transactions (February 1, 1776
- August 21, 1778), as well as a collection of loose accounts. Covering the
time period between 1782 - 1785, the loose accounts consist of accounts kept by
Ridley for the state of Maryland, including bills of exchange with Nicolaas and
Jacob van Staphorst and shipments of military stores to Maryland.
|Vol. 16||Account book,
February 1, 1776 - August 21, 1778
|Box 4||Folder 2-3||Loose accounts,
This series consists of four miscellaneous bound volumes. The first (Bound
Volume 17, 1717-1751) is an unidentified notebook primarily containing business
records, including accounts of a salt mill in Portsmouth, England. The volume
may have been kept by a John Ridley. The series also includes a math lesson
book belonging to Matthew Ridley (Bound Volume 18, 1761), a book of notes also
belonging to Ridley (Bound Volume 19, 1769-[178-]), and a math lesson book
belonging to Essex Sherbourne Ridley (Bound Volume 20, 1793).
|Vol. 18||Math lesson book belonging to Matthew Ridley,
|Vol. 19||Book of notes belonging to Matthew Ridley,
1769 - [178-]
|Vol. 20||Math lesson book belonging to Essex Sherbourne Ridley,
Matthew Ridley papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in
the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers
desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should
search the catalog using these headings.
|Holker, John, 1719-1786.
|Ridley, Catherine Livingston,
|Ridley, Essex Sherbourne, b.
|Ridley, Nancy Richardson, ca.
|Sedgwick, Susan Anne Livingston
|Sedgwick, Theodore, 1780-1839.
|Stewart and Campbell (London,
(Netherlands)--Description and travel.
|State governments--Officials and
States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Economic aspects.
States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Foreign public opinion.
States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Foreign relations.
|Voyages and travels.