Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the records of Boston import merchants Richard Clarke and Sons, Henry Bromfield (1727-1820), John Bromfield (1743-1807), and John Bromfield (1779-1849); and papers of the Bromfield, Clarke, and Allen families, including correspondence, financial records, and commonplace-books.

Biographical Sketches

Richard Clarke (1711-1795) was born in Boston, Mass. on 1 May 1711, the son of William Clarke and Hannah Appleton Clarke. He graduated from Harvard College in 1729. As a Boston merchant and agent of the East India Company, he operated his business as Richard Clarke and Sons with his sons Edward, Jonathan, and Isaac. One of Massachusetts' largest tea importers before the Revolutionary War, Clarke's shop on King Street drew large protests on 3 Nov. 1773 after he refused to resign his East India commission, and his tea was among that thrown into Boston Harbor on 16 Dec. 1773.

Clarke married Elizabeth Winslow on 3 May 1773, and the couple had 12 children. His daughter Susannah Farnum Clarke (1745-1836) married artist John Singleton Copley in 1769 and moved to London. A Loyalist, Clarke left Boston in Dec. 1775 and lived with the Copleys in London until his death on 27 Feb. 1795.

Henry Bromfield (1727-1820) was born in Boston on 12 Nov. 1727, the son of Edward Bromfield and Abigail Coney Bromfield. A merchant in Boston and London, he served for seven months in 1777 as a colonel in the Continental Army. After the war, he lived primarily at his farm in Harvard, Mass.

Bromfield married Margaret Fayerweather (1732-1761) in 1749, and the couple had five children: Margaret Bromfield (1750-1765); Henry Bromfield (1751-1837); Abigail Bromfield Rogers (1753-1791); Sarah Bromfield Pearson (1757-1831); and Edward Bromfield (1760-1761). After Margaret died of smallpox in 1761, Bromfield married Hannah Clarke (1734-1785), daughter of Richard Clarke, in 1762. Their daughters were Elizabeth Bromfield Rogers (1763-1833) and Lucretia Harris Bromfield (1765-1844).

John Bromfield (1743-1807) was born in Boston in 1745, the youngest son of Edward Bromfield and Abigail Coney Bromfield and the brother of Henry Bromfield. A Boston merchant, John married Ann Roberts (1749-1828) of Newburyport, Mass. in 1770, and the couple had three children: John, Edward, and Ann. Their son John Bromfield (1779-1849) was a Boston merchant and benefactor of the Boston Athenaeum, as well as many charitable causes.

Collection Description

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, accounts, receipts, manifests, and other business papers related to the import-export trade of Richard Clarke and Sons, Boston merchants and tea importers; the import-export trade conducted by Henry Bromfield, son-in-law of Richard Clarke; and the trade business of Henry's brother, John Bromfield, and John's son, John Bromfield. Among the Clarkes' papers are accounts of goods shipped on the Adventure and the Sarah in 1758; Richard Clarke's ca. 1760-1770 receipt book listing financial transactions with Thomas Boylston, Robert Breck, Henry Bromfield, W. D. Cheever, Caleb Davis, Edmund Quincy, Nathaniel Ropes, and others; Edward Clarke's letterbook (photocopy), accounts, and correspondence related to shipments of import commodities to Boston from 1758 to 1768; and an 11 Aug. 1769 letter from Richard Clarke and Son to the Merchants Committee consenting to the impoundment of a shipment of tea.

Business papers of Henry Bromfield include a bill of lading book, 1750-1764, containing entries for logwood, rum, and sugar; and a letterbook, 1773-1775, containing retained copies of business correspondence with foreign and domestic firms and letters to his brother Thomas discussing details of trade, events leading to the American Revolution, and personalities in Boston.

Papers of John Bromfield (1743-1807) and John Bromfield (1779-1849) date from 1755 to 1818. Of interest are papers related to the seizure in England of the ships Dolphin in 1773 and Industry in 1775; and accounts, receipts, manifests, and commodity prices for goods shipped on the brig Marie, 1794-1795. Correspondence of John Bromfield (1779-1849) describes business conditions at Hamburg in 1799; in England in 1804, including business with Theodore Lyman in Boston; and in England aboard the Marie during the 1808 embargo, including letters discussing the financial and physical dangers of delivering a shipment of goods from the United States. On a trip to Canton, China, from 1809 to 1811, Bromfield's letters describe life, business conditions, and events.

The Clarke family papers include a 1726 guardianship account of the William Clarke children kept by Mary W. Clarke Saltonstall; personal tax and rental receipts of Richard Clarke; and three letters from Clarke in London to his son-in-law Henry Bromfield, 1786-1791.

Bromfield family papers include household receipts of Ann Roberts Bromfield, widow of John Bromfield (1743-1807), who lived in Newburyport after her husband's death, 1807-1816; receipts of John Bromfield (1779-1849) while living in Boston, 1815-1818; letters and accounts of Edward and Eliza Bromfield, 1786-1795; and papers related to Edward Bromfield (1724-1746) and the loan of his portrait to Harvard Medical School, primarily letters from Frederic T. Lewis to Ellen Louise (Slade) Bigelow, 1927-1947.

Allen family papers include 1719 and 1733 deeds for lands at Muscongus (in present-day Maine) conveyed to the William Clarke family; letters from Daniel Allen in Kingston, Jamaica, to Katherine Allen in Boston discussing personal and family matters, as well as the 1714 shipment of an enslaved girl to Boston; and a 1714 letter from Eleazer Allen to Katherine Allen describing his business venture in South Carolina.

Other papers consist of deeds for land in Boston, Salem, and Pettisquamscutt (in present-day Rhode Island), 1672-1735, including a 1735 deed from Edward Hutchinson, et al. to Samuel Waldo and Middlecott Cooke for grist mills. Also included are two unidentified commonplace-books, ca. 1888.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Jean Wagnière, 1967. Additions were a gift of Daniel C. Wagnière, Georges H. Wagnière, and Frédéric Wagnière, May 2014.

Box List to the Collection

Box 1
Loose papers, 1672-1816
Box 2
Loose papers, 1759-1947
OS Box
Oversize papers
Vol. 1
Henry Bromfield bill of lading book, 1750-1764
Vol. 2
Richard Clarke receipt book, [1760-1770]

Preferred Citation

Bromfield and Clarke family 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.


Allen family.
Bigelow, Ellen Louise Slade, 1860-
Bromfield, Ann Roberts, 1749-1828.
Bromfield, Edward, 1724-1746.
Bromfield, Henry, 1727-1820.
Bromfield, John, 1743-1807.
Bromfield, John, 1779-1849.
Bromfield, Thomas, 1733-1816.
Clarke, Edward, 1737-1770.
Clarke family.
Clarke, Richard, 1711-1795.
Clarke, William, 1735-1761.
Lewis, Frederick Thomas, 1875-1951.


Richard Clarke and Sons (Boston, Mass.).


Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--China--Canton.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--England.
Canton (China)--Commerce--Massachusetts--Boston.
China trade.
Embargo, 1807-1809.
Real property--Massachusetts--Boston.
Real property--Massachusetts--Pettisquamscutt.
Real property--Massachusetts--Salem.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Causes.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photograph of a portrait of Edward Bromfield (1695-1756) removed to Portraits Small (Photo. 9.38).