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Jason Chamberlain Ledger on Hemp Production and Farming


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

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Chamberlain, Jason, 1804-1901

Jason Chamberlain (1804-1901) was born in Vermont and migrated west, living in Kentucky and Missouri from the decades preceding the American Civil War through the Reconstruction period. He operated a farm and hemp production business near Sedalia, Missouri, that relied on enslaved laborers prior to the Civil War. In 1860, he was recorded as enslaving 12 people, including 9 men and 3 women. Beginning in 1866, he employed free African American and immigrant laborers.

Consists of a lengthy manuscript ledger, along with a small number of related receipts, advertisements, and letters, providing insight into hemp and other agricultural production in Missouri and Kentucky before, during, and after the American Civil War. These materials document the employment of African American and immigrant laborers in the period immediately following the Civil War on a farm that formerly used enslaved laborers. The ledger contains two separate accounts in one volume, the first being the account of an unknown Kentucky hemp and dry goods merchant spanning the period from 1846 to 1851. The second spans from 1853 to 1880 and documents the activities of Jason Chamberlain (1804-1901), a Missouri farmer and hemp producer who may have taken over the former account owner's business. Chamberlain's entries record debits to his employees for farm and dry goods and credits for their labor. The first owner of the account sold textiles such as cotton, silk, calico, linen, and buttons, as well as candy, sundries, tea, coffee, tobacco, indigo, hemp, and rope. Their hemp and rope accounts are summarized on five pages which give the monthly total sales from 1847 through 1851. Chamberlain initially sold mostly hemp and rope in the 1850s, adding meat, livestock and grains following the Civil War as his farm expanded. From the late 1860s until his last entry in 1880, Chamberlain also began to purchase a significant amount of livestock.

Most notable are Chamberlain's careful records of African American and immigrant laborers on his farm immediately following the end of the Civil War and during the Reconstruction era. As early as March 1866, he records the employment of Fieldings and Jess, each of whom is described as a man of color, and notes their purchases of clothing and cash loans. Jess was paid $15 per month. Marshall, Robert and John Huston, who are described as boys of color, were employed in early 1866 and paid $8, $15, and $10 per month respectively. In 1867, two laborers with the surname Pitman, who are not identified by race or nationality, are paid $26 per month. Their work schedules are carefully recorded and their tasks include "cutting poles," sowing seed, mending fences, and herding cattle. In 1868 Chamberlain also records two immigrants he employs, identified only as "England" and "Emigrant Carlston." Approximately 130 people are listed in Kentucky from 1846 to 1851, including Henry Duncan and Abraham Saundes, who are described as men of color. Others include Robert Baird, James Truman, Joseph Beach, David Graham, Joseph Deer, Jason Burks, A. Sanders, Daniel Cook, Samuel Porter, Thomas Sheapheard, John Van Vleat, M. Willis, C. Sampson, William Montgomery, Charles Rice, and John Gill. Approximately 160 people are listed in Missouri ledger from 1853 to 1880, including men and boys of color. In addition to those listed above, other names include Thomas Chamberlin, Ed Pitman, William Taylor, Kelch and Field, Mike, Edmund Roberson, and Honey Bop.

The ledger is accompanied by about fifty receipts dating from 1866 to 1881, mainly from Sedalia, Missouri, along with several advertisements and letters. Among these materials are an invoice from Philip Hahn saddle company; trade cards for Henock & Jacobs for men's and boy's clothing and John Kullmer & Son for feed and sale stable; an advertisement for Charles Hobereht's saddlery and harness business; and a broadside about a horse named Woolford that Chamberlain was offering for sale. There are also three letters addressed to Chamberlain regarding financial matters, as well as a draft of a letter likely from Chamberlain to his mother.

Arranged by material type.

Purchased from Antipodean Books, Maps & Prints in December 2019 (AM 2020-45).

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This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in January 2020. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in January 2020.

No materials were removed from the collection during 2020 processing.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
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Collection Inventory

Ledger, 1846-1880. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Receipts and Advertisements, 1866-1881. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Correspondence, 1870s. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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