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Reed and Forde papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

John Reed and Standish Forde established their partnership as merchants near the end of the American Revolution (approximately 1778) in Philadelphia. The pair did well enough in a short number of years to import on credit a large quantity of dry goods from suppliers in England. In an attempt to liquidate their goods and avoid bankruptcy after the collapse of the post-war boom, Reed and Forde speculated in lands in Kentucky and western Virginia, establishing a store at Tenmile Creek and later, Natchez. From 1785 to 1792, they engaged in heavy trade with Spanish settlements along the lower Mississippi, including New Orleans in addition to settlements west of the Ohio. In addition to these ventures, they also loaned money to various prominent figures including Edmond Randolph and Robert Morris. The two managed to stave off their creditors until the death of Standish Forde in 1806 or 1807 at which time the partnership folded and John Reed was held responsible for the remainder of their debt.

The contents of the Reed and Forde papers cover the years 1759-1829. The collection consists of twenty-five boxes of loose leaf original and copied manuscripts containing a rich quantity of correspondence to and from Reed and Forde both individually and as partners, as well as that of John Reed’s son, John Reed, Jr. The boxes also contain numerous documents related to shipping as well as land papers, legal documents, and French language documents. In addition to these boxes, the collection also contains thirteen bound volumes consisting of letterbooks, ledgers, day books, waste books, and account books. Correspondence ranges from 1789-1792, with correspondants including James Wilkinson, Daniel Clark, Daniel Cox, Captain Abner Dunn, Clement Biddle, Robert Morris, John Nicholson, J. Ball, Thomas Morgan, and numerous other merchants which illustrate the partners' business transactions and land ventures in the Floridas, New Orleans, Kentucky, Virginia, west of the Ohio, Mississippi, and other territories. Also included are land records, indentures, warrants for land in various estates ranging from 1764-1816; James Wilkinson's letter to Captain Dunn, on trade with Florida by Kentuckians, 1789; an agreement with James Wilkinson to ship goods to the Mississippi and the Spanish country, 1790; French legal papers concerning goods shipped to St. Pierre, Martinique and other places; Reed and Forde letterbooks, 1787, 1788-1790, 1793-1794, 1801-1803.

Ledgers range from 1776-1779 and 1779-1780; daybook, 1785-1791; account books, 1766-1784; daybook of Reed and Forde estates, 1808-1815; John Reed letterbook, 1808-1814; Joseph Boggs waste book, 1791-1792; Samuel Israel letterbook, 1804-1807; Joseph Graisbury (tailor) ledger, 1759-1773; Reed and Forde commonplace book, 1782-1790, which contains a list of invalids belonging to the Pennsylvania Line; memo booklets, 1777-1819.

Included among the business papers are: Forde and Reed bankbooks, Bank of Pennsylvania, 1793-1805; Bank of North America, 1782-1791; Bank of the United States, 1792-1796; Andrew Summers' bankbook of North America, 1790-1791; apprentice indentures, 1784-1795; bonds and notes, 1782-1801; lottery sale records, 1773-1802; Forde journal of a trip to New Madrid, Tenn., 1790, and one from New Madrid to New Orleans, 1790-1792; his certificate of membership in the Hibernian Society, 1793; John Reed bankruptcy papers, 1801-1814; will of Rebecca Cappers, 1793; and other items.

Also included in the collection are letters and papers pertaining to Robert Morris, ranging from 1795-1802 which deal with his financial difficulties and assignment of his property. Also included are papers and letters of John Reed, Jr. ranging from 1814-1823, describing his service in the Navy, his active duty in the West Indian waters on the U.S.S. Congress, Guerriére, Constitution, Independence, and Macedonian.

Purchased, 1911.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Megan Sheffer Evans.
Finding Aid Date
; 2014
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Correspondence, 1776-1782.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1783-1789.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1790- July 1794.
Box 3
Correspondence, August 1794- July 1796.
Box 4
Correspondence, August 1796- July 1798.
Box 5
Correspondence, August 1798- March 1799.
Box 6
Correspondence, April 1799- December 1799.
Box 7
Correspondence, January 1800- April 1803.
Box 8
Correspondence, May 1803- April 1805.
Box 9
Correspondence, May 1805- 1829, undated.
Box 10
Correspondence, 13 March 1782.
Oversize 1
Shipping and Miscellaneous Accounts, 1768- June 1790.
Box 11
Shipping and Miscellaneous Accounts, July 1790- November 1798.
Box 12
Shipping and Miscellaneous Accounts, December 1798- December 1829, undated.
Box 13
Shipping and miscellaneous accounts, 1781-1807, undated.
Oversize 2
Small Shipping Accounts Books, Commonplace Book, Checks, Drafts, Orders, and Promissory Notes, c.1780-c.1805.
Box 14
Ships A-F.
Box 15
Ships G-L.
Box 16
Ships M-Z.
Box 17
Ships, Assorted, 1782-1794, undated.
Oversize 3
Shipping: Bills of Lading, Bills of Sale, Charter Party, Miscellaneous, and Ships Policies.
Box 18
Land Papers.
Box 19
Land papers, 1805.
Oversize 4
Legal Cases, French Documents 1793-1807, Robert Morris Papers 1795-1802.
Box 20
Miscellaneous Subjects.
Box 21
Reed and Forde Letter Book, 1787.
Volume 1
Reed and Forde Letter Book, January 1788- January 1790.
Volume 2
Reed and Forde Letter Book, 1793-1794.
Volume 3
Reed and Forde Letter Book, 1796-1798.
Volume 4
Samuel Israel's Letter Book, October 1804- September 1807.
Volume 5
John Reed's Letter Book, 1808-1814.
Volume 6
Joseph Graisbury's Ledger, 1759-1774.
Volume 7
Miscellaneous Parts of Account Books, 1766-1784.
Volume 8
Reed and Forde Ledger, 1776-1779.
Volume 9
Reed and Forde Day Book, 1785-1791.
Volume 10
Joseph Bogg's Waste Book, 1791-1792.
Volume 11
Reed and Forde Invoices 1792-1794, Letter Book 1801-1803.
Volume 12
Reed and Forde Estate Day Book, 1808-1815.
Volume 13

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