William Redwood account books
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
William Redwood, son of Abraham Redwood and his second wife Patience Phillips, was born in 1726 in Newport, Rhode Island. He worked for a number of years in partnership with Elias Bland. Together as local merchants, they imported goods from Britain, China, and India for their customers. Redwood moved to Philadelphia 1772 where he continued his mercantile pursuits.
In addition to these New England connections, the Redwood family (through Abraham's marriage to his first wife, Mehetabel Langford) also owned an estate on the island of Antigua in the West Indies. The estate was maintained by a number of Redwood's half-siblings. When his nephew Jonas Redwood died, Redwood traveled to Antigua to help take care of the estate. He lived there from 1782 to 1787 and helped run a plantation located on the estate.
Redwood returned to Philadelphia in 1787 and continued his work as a merchant. He married twice, first to Hannah Holmes, daughter of Samuel and Hannah Holmes, and second to Sarah Saunders, daughter of Joseph and Hannah Saunders. Each marriage produced several children. For a time, Redwood helped keep track of the finances of Joseph Saunders's estate after his death. William Redwood died in Philadelphia in 1815.
The William Redwood records are comprised of ten financial volumes, journals, daybooks, and ledgers. They span Redwood's career from Newport to Philadelphia to Antigua and date from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s. Redwood's records are exceptionally thorough and highly legible. The Antigua journal (Volume 5) and daybook (Volume 6) contain detailed plantation records, including the hiring and upkeep of workers (with notes on race), frequent recapturing of runaway slaves (who are usually identified by name), a high turnover in overseers, crop plantings, and commerce in farm products.
Other volumes in the collection document Redwood's trade and import business, along with his involvement in specific voyages, including voyages between Newport and Philadelphia as well as to Canton and London. Both the Newport (Volumes 1-2) and Philadelphia (Volumes 3-4, 7-10) account books contain numerous records on trade in a vast array of items from fabrics, knives and forks, clothing articles, to pins, buttons, and sealing wax. In addition to these regular home goods and others, like pens and papers, Redwood also dealt in foodstuffs. These volumes indicate trade spices, salt, cocoa, flour, muscovado sugar, molasses, raisins, coffee, tea, liquors (especially rum), beef, and cheese. Other items of note that appear in Redwood's record include planks of various wood, saltpeter, goat hair and wigs, gold dust, cooperage oil, and indigo.
These volumes also document Redwood's customer base. A number of members of old Philadelphia families appear regularly, such as Thomas and Joshua Gilpin, Edward and Isaac Penington, John Chew, James and William Logan, Thomas and Charles Wharton, Samuel and Levi Hollingsworth, and Clement Biddle. Other business associates who regularly appear include Captain Valentine Wightman, John and Robert Barclay (of London), William Sansom, Thomas Penrose, and William Lippencott, as well as several members of Redwood's own family.
- Business records--Pennsylania--Philadelphia--19th century
- International trade--18th century
- International trade--19th century
- Merchants--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--18th century
- Merchants--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--19th century
- Merchants--Rhode Island--Newport
- Newport (R.I.)--Merchants--18th century
- Philadelphia (Pa.)–-Merchants-–18th century
- Philadelphia (Pa.)–-Merchants-–19th century
- Slavery--West Indies--18th century
- Trade--China--18th century
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
- Finding Aid Date
- Processing made possible by generous donations from David Hoffman and Edith Newhall.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.